Friday, July 3, 2015

The Nature of Rhetoric and the Rebel Flag

Over the last twenty years conservatives have complained that liberals win most arguments because they control the news media, entertainment and the public schools. In effect that they control the culture. And while this is undoubtedly true, I think even more important is the fact that they have successfully defined the terms of most every debate. They have defined the words we use in discussing the biggest issues.

If you can define the meaning of words you will win almost every argument. Here are just a few words the left has defined to their benefit; choice, equality, gun control, fairness, social justice and now marriage. Recently, they have even shaped the debate over the rebel flag by a subtle change in meaning. The debate on the meaning of the rebel flag is not really a liberal vs. conservative debate, but it is an example of the latest cause of the politically correct. More on that later.

First, some common examples of word redefinition. Do you want potatoes with your steak or do you want rice? This is a common question in my household when discussing dinner plans. This is a choice, and of course we all like choices. In the early 70's the left turned the issue of abortion into a matter of choice. To terminate a life or give birth to it. It was no longer a debate between pro-abortion and pro-life, instead it became pro-choice vs. anti-choice. The word choice makes a huge difference in winning the hearts and minds in any debate.

Another big example, is 'Equality'. From the Magna Carta to the American Revolution the word equality meant equal treatment under the law. In his book "The Constitution of Liberty", Friedrich Hayek describes equality as having three main conditions. All laws are general, they are not arbitrary, and everyone is subject to them. Today the meaning of equality is the opposite. Equality now involves the state intervening to control outcomes it deems as ideal. That is outcomes it deems as promoting the left's concept of 'Equality'. Another phrase the left likes for equality is "social justice." In some cases they take things that can't be equal and declare it so. The most recent example is gay marriage.

I remember years ago hearing conservatives proclaim "We support traditional marriage." They even would pass out buttons and bumper stickers with that slogan. And as soon as I saw that campaign I thought the debate is over and we have lost it. Conservatives simply should have held to the position that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. By claiming that they were in favor of "traditional marriage" implies that there are multiple forms of marriage. Eventually the public decided to merge "same sex marriage" and "traditional marriage."

There are other examples of the bastardization of the concept of equality. Through government contracting, subsidies, and the tax code the massive power of the state is used to promote 'equality', through unequal laws. The tax code is a good example. If you make what the government deems as too much money or more than your "fair share", another example of the left's verbal handiwork, your tax rate goes up. Now at an equal rate you would still pay more, but in the effort to achieve what the government deems as 'equality' they progressively increase the tax rate on certain individuals. And on others they give a lower rate. Another example would be affirmative action. Two candidates are not given equal treatment as Hayek would have defined it.

The very term "gun control" implies that something is out of control. Rather than say we are going to make it harder for citizens to buy guns the left says we want gun control. As if some sort of control is needed on the 2nd amendment. For example they don't argue we need speech control. Well, actually, I take that back campaign finance laws are a way to control political speech.

I could go on and on, but, I will tie this in with the Rebel flag. Notice I said 'Rebel' flag and not 'Confederate'. flag. It seems like a subtle difference, but it is significant.

In 1862 General Pierre Beauregard designed the Battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. CNN reporters and others call this the confederate flag. Beauregard told his men to carry it into battle and it would give them strength and courage.

Now in the last few weeks of the war the crumbling confederate government pinned its hopes on the Army of Northern Virginia and adopted its flag as the flag of the confederacy. However, predominately the confederate flag, colloquially called the "stars and bars" is a different flag. If you were to show the "stars and Bars" to Ashleigh Banfield or any other liberal 'news' personality they would not recognize it.

But there is a significant difference in referring to it as a Rebel or Confederate flag. The former implies rebellion, which encompasses more than just constitutional secession. Rebellion can mean any opposition to the existing order. Occupy wall street, the tea party, the anti-draft movement of the 1970's are in my opinion all examples of rebellion. On a personal level a girl dating a member of a biker gang may be a form of rebellion against her parents.

In the hit 1970's show "The Dukes of Hazard" Bo and Luke Duke drove a car with the rebel flag on top. In my humble opinion it symbolized their rebellion to local law enforcement. As I recall the words from the theme song, "Just good old boys who've been in trouble with the law since the day they were born." I don't think Bo and Luke Duke were racists, but I didn't watch every episode of the show and I was 12 years old the last time I saw an episode.

But if we call it a Confederate flag it implies support for not only of secession, but also slavery. It is taught that the war between the states was fought over slavery, that is only partly true, but people believe that narrative. The fact that President Lincoln in his first inaugural address said he wouldn't interfere with slavery if the south stayed in the union or that there were slaves states that fought for the union, or the fact that most southerners didn't own slaves are facts to be ignored.

The left has defined the terms of the debate and tell a history of America through a 21st century politically correct lens. We need to counter by not conceding to them the power to define the words we use in the debate of ideas. If not we will lose almost every debate.

Post Script. Today I learned that the owner of the Dukes of Hazard car, the General Lee, Bubba Watson, is going to paint over the flag, which in my opinion desecrates the car. The airbrushing of American history and her symbols continues.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Liberals Are Now in Firm Control Of the Supreme Court, I blame Sean Hannity

Based on the last two decisions it is clear that the Supreme Court is now reliably liberal. I for one blame Sean Hannity, Well, at least in part.

The Republican Party was in effect dead from 2006, when Democrats took over the House and Senate until 2010 when they retook the House. During this period Democrats took the White House and were able to nominate two liberals to the Supreme Court.

When a medical examiner completes an autopsy there is only one cause of death. Sure the victim might have had lots of things wrong with him, but there is only one cause of death. For the Republican Party it was Iraq. The unpopular war brought down the Bush administration and gave us Democrat majorities in the House and Senate.

Some background, people who were not conservatives pushed the Iraq war. The proponents were neo-conservatives. They were old Scoop Jackson Democrats. They had become disillusioned with the Democrat Party and wanted a more muscular and activist foreign policy. They were still liberals on social issues, they just wanted a stronger more agressive military. In 1980 they turned to Ronald Reagan. By the 1990’s they were obsessed with the thought of getting rid of Saddam Hussein, and building a Democratic Iraq. They believed the spread of Democracy would bring about Woodrow Wilson’s dream of world peace and stability through Democracy. All that was required was a US military invasion, and taxpayer money to rebuild the country.

Now in selling the war they enlisted Sean Hannity, the Fox News and radio host radio host whom claimed to be a Reagan conservative, so he might be able to give the neo-conservatives some cover.

Certainly he never believed that the US military should overthrow and rebuild a foreign government. But that didn’t stop Hannity from claiming Reagan would have backed such a land war in the middle east.

An example, in the closing years of the Reagan Administration there was a proposal to send US troops into Panama to overthrow dictator Manuel Noriega. Reagan vetoed the idea. He didn’t support using the military to overthrow a government. And certainly he would never believed in the nation building fantasies of the neo conservatives.

Now there is the example of the 1983 invasion of Grenada, but that had nothing to do with nation building, rather that was about enforcing the Monroe Doctrine.

Hannity always would rail against ‘RINOS’ (which stands for Republicans in name only),but Sean Hannity is the ultimate RINO. He backed the Iraq war because a Republican President wanted it. Making it worse Hannity claimed Reagan would have done the same.

Sadly, Republicans in Washington went along. We now have Barack Obama and a solidly liberal Supreme Court. Thanks Sean!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Former Senator Jim Webb Comments on the Confederate Flag Controversy

Wise words from former Virginia Senator James Webb:

"This is an emotional time and we all need to think through these issues with a care that recognizes the need for change but also respects the complicated history of the Civil War. The Confederate Battle Flag has wrongly been used for racist and other purposes in recent decades. It should not be used in any way as a political symbol that divides us.

But we should also remember that honorable Americans fought on both sides in the Civil War, including slave holders in the Union Army from states such as Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware, and that many non-slave holders fought for the South. It was in recognition of the character of soldiers on both sides that the federal government authorized the construction of the Confederate Memorial 100 years ago, on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

This is a time for us to come together, and to recognize once more that our complex multicultural society is founded on the principle of mutual respect."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Move Over Caitlyn Jenner, The Country Now Turns Its Attention to The Confederate Flag

Safe to say the South Carolina shooter Dylann Roof is a racist and a murderer. To walk into a Church and kill 9 people is an evil act, which deserves the death penalty. A more evil act is hard to imagine.

A few days after the murders the American news media found a picture of Roof with a confederate flag. This was proof for the media and the intelligentsia that the flag is a racist symbol, which actually they determined years ago, but even worse the very sight of the flag encourages and incites violence.

My guess is Roof was a racist monster long before he laid eyes on the confederate flag, South African flag or Rhodesian flag. In other words correlation is not causation.

It is called the rebel flag or confederate flag, but specifically it was the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. In fact it was designed right here in Fairfax county, less then a mile from where I write this post. But is the confederate flag a racist symbol?

Flags mean different things to different people. Years ago, I had an intern working for me from Argentina. Well, as a staunch anglophile I had a small British flag on my desk. I didn’t think much of the fact that I had the flag there, but the sight of the “Union Jack” offended my intern. You see as an Argentinean she grew up during the Falklands war. The British were occupying some of her country's islands. I am sure the British flag offends many around the world, especially from people in the former British colonies.

To my intern the British flag was a symbol of occupation, I saw the flag as a symbol of a great empire that produced Shakespeare and Jane Austen. Which one of us was correct?

Should I have taken the flag down? That might have made her happy, but what about my freedom of expression? My ancestors were English, and I was displaying the flag in part to express pride in my heritage.

Having grown up in a southern state, albeit it in Northern Virginia, I saw plenty of confederate flags. I knew students in Middle and High School who had the flag in their locker and in their rooms at home. The most common motive for displaying the flag was not race rather it was a sign of rebellion. The obstreperous students would display it to show defiance to authority, such as their parents, teachers etc. The battle flag is a powerful symbol for rebellion. And isn’t rebellion a virtue at times?

As a side note it is amazing how times have changed. In the 1980's a student in Fairfax county public schools had the freedom of displaying the confederate flag. I can't imagine the county allowing that anymore. Fairfax county public schools have become very PC. They have even adopted a transgendered bathroom policy. Conceivably the little boy can use the girls room, but he better not bring the confederate flag with him.

I also see the confederate battle flag at county music concerts. Are those people displaying the flag racist? Well, maybe some, but for the most part it is a cultural symbol, which is not based on hatred rather based on their love of the south, country music, girls in cowboy boots...etc.

The meaning of the flag is merely a matter of opinion. There is no right or wrong answer. We should be tolerant of different opinions, but should not accuse people that like the flag of being racists.

Dylann Roof does not have the power to make the final definition of the Confederate flag. I understand that there are people who are sincerely offended by the flag, but the first amendment protects freedom of speech and expression. Displaying a flag is constitutionally protected.

I hope the country starts to focus on real problems, not bemoan vague symbols they can’t ban.