Thursday, May 22, 2014

Moving Lips Part 2: The Critical Deficit

Nearly ten years ago, I wrote the following at Eternity Road, in reference to an encounter a friend of a friend – a hairstylist – had with a crazy person who walked into her shop, demanded service, and then proceeded to go crazy on her:

The problem [i.e., with loonies walking about unconfined and unsupervised] is rooted in the disappearance of a little sign that once hung on the wall of every store, barbershop, tavern, and bordello in America:

We Reserve The Right To Refuse To Serve Anyone

You can still find that little sign in some shops, but legal changes have emptied it of its significance. For all practical purposes, no one who sells any good or service to the "general public" -- that is, with no requirement for prior introduction, specification, and negotiation -- can refuse to serve anyone, without risking both civil and criminal consequences.

So the loonies have their way with folks such as Heather's hairstylist friend.

America's loony population is not evenly distributed over the fifty states. They tend to concentrate in cities, with the greatest densities observable in the coastal megalopolises such as Los Angeles and New York. There's a lot of information buried in there, actually. Since loonhood normally includes a ravenous appetite for the attention of others, the loony will automatically go to where that can be had. Large cities offer the most potential victims, and large American coastal cities, which are utterly under the spell of leftist moral relativism, unearned guilt, and legally mandated "compassion" for the unfortunate, will naturally be the worst off.

Granted that there are degrees of loonhood. Heather's friend didn't suffer any physical damage from her encounters; she was merely offended and somewhat shaken by them. But a fearless researcher with a good pair of walking shoes could easily turn up a dozen far more radical cases, some physically threatening, in a single afternoon's stroll on the streets of New York.

It's not against any law to be an irritating, irrational whiner. It's not against any law to complain baselessly about one's treatment by some hardworking, longsuffering tradesman. It's not against any law to shout imprecations or outright threats at the objects of one's disaffection, with the exception of government officials in the performance of their duties. But damn it all, there used to be curbs on this sort of thing -- unofficial but quite stringent curbs that kept it out of the faces of the decent and honest, so that we could count on civility and courtesy even from complete strangers.

The more severely diseased of the loonies were confined for their own protection. Those with milder strains of the virus were told to "keep moving." And that is exactly as it should be.

Those who've read extensively of your Curmudgeon's blather will find this opinion unsurprising. Indeed, it seems to be widely shared. So why can't we act on it?

The answer is uncomfortable to ponder. We're afraid.

Well, some of us are afraid…and some of us aren’t:

I stopped into a church today intending to pray the whole Rosary (all 15 decades) sitting before Our Lord reposed in a tabernacle. I got through the Joyful Mysteries when a crazy man/professional panhandler entered the church begging for handouts. He zeroed in on me and wouldn’t relent. I tried to ignore him. Then… he touched me.

Now I’m engaged. It’s on. He curses me, turns and faces Our Lord in the tabernacle, curses Him, and then spits at Our Lord in the tabernacle. Now, this is where it gets… interesting. Crazy panhandler dude then wheels back on me and says, “Why don’t you go back? Why don’t you go back where you came from?” Over and over again. Now, I guess there is a certain general quality to that statement, but I found it interesting considering that the creature that was saying this had just cursed and then spit upon Our Blessed Lord reposed in the tabernacle. Hmmmm. Maybe someone doesn’t like me being here in Riverville. Edifying!

There were two men, excuse me, “men”, who were associated with the church sitting behind me, so I enjoined them to render assistance. [What I just did in that last sentence is called "foreshadowing". Can you guess how THAT turned out??] They replied that there was nothing they could do. Ah, the battle cry of the post-Christian “man”: THERE’S NOTHING I CAN DO! So crazy panhandler dude, seeing that I’m on my own, decides to get bold. I drew him back away from the tabernacle, still trying to enjoin the “men” to get involved. Then, crazy panhandler dude charged me. And here is where the mental preparation pays off. He was about 15 feet away, and when he charged I thought three things in this order:

  1. Trust in God and fear no man.
  2. Move straight forward into the attack.
  3. Meekness is power under control.

So, when he charged, I lifted my chin maintaining drilling eye contact, threw back my shoulders, dropped my daypack that was in my left hand in an “I’m getting ready to beat your ass in the two-fisted manner of the old school” sort of way, and stepped forward to meet him.

And you know what he did? Aw, guess. Go ahead.

Yup. Player stopped short and backed up.

He then continued to curse me and circle. I maintained drilling eye contact while still trying to enjoin the “men” to, oh, I dunno, at least STAND UP. Nada. And crazy dude charged me again. Same drill, same results. And then again. Finally, a woman, who I think was also on staff at the church, came in and at least had the stones to yell at the crazy dude. Finally, the crazy dude slunk off, and I left, after telling the “men” that their non-response response was a farce. And I finished the Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries at another church later. And then I went to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, prayed for the crazy dude at the elevation of the Consecrated Host, received Holy Communion for him, and asked Our Lord to give ME whatever temporal punishment is required to make reparation for the crazy dude spitting at Him in the Tabernacle.

[Applause to David DeGerolamo for the link to the above.]

Ann Barnhardt is not a large woman. She wasn’t armed that day…at least, if she was, she omitted to say so. And as noted above, there were two adult men in the church with her. But she acted in her own defense, to confront and cow a larger and probably stronger opponent.

She had to. There was no one else in the church with a shred of character.

Character can be variously interpreted, but among American men, it’s traditionally been held to comprise an interlocking set of personal virtues:

  • Honesty,
  • Responsibility,
  • Justice,
  • Courage.

Those virtues are at the heart of the American mythos: our notions about what we are as a nation and our pre-eminence in the world. Our convictions about ourselves propelled us into several wars in which, strictly speaking, there was no American interest at stake. We’ve upheld the mythos in all but a very few occasions.

Well, actually, we didn’t. Our men at arms have upheld it for us. The rest of us mostly watched it on TV.

An informal, popular definition of the “manly man” is “the man who runs toward the sound of the guns.” This might overemphasize the martial mindset, but it is nevertheless striking in its penetration. He who exhibits personal courage – who willingly moves toward strife and violence, on the chance that he can contribute usefully to the resolution thereof – is more likely than not to possess the other critical virtues that make up character. He who hangs back, hoping that others will do what’s necessary, is more likely than not to be weak in the other virtues as well.

America’s all-volunteer armed forces tend to collect the former. That’s not to say that there are no cowards in uniform; every army has a few. But now that conscription is, for practical purposes, a dead letter, it takes an unusual degree of blindness to enlist with confidence that one will never see combat.

Note that from its inception, the Obama Administration has labored to weaken our military, to cleanse it of commanders of demonstrable patriotism and proven ability, and to undermine the soldier’s historical supports for courage under fire.

Part of today’s courage deficit in American men can be laid to the many laws that have disarmed us. Every such law is an abomination; the politicians who proposed and pushed for them ought to have been hanged for their presumption. But as usual, there’s more to the story.

Today, when private citizens intervene to halt a violent altercation, they put themselves at legal risk. That wasn’t always the case. Neither was it always the case that police arrived at such an incident “with guns blazing,” rendering everyone involved equally at hazard. Even the testimony of bystanders that Smith was a “good guy” trying to protect a victim from a mugging isn’t guaranteed to be sufficient to protect him from harassment – sometimes by the “justice system,” and sometimes from a lawsuit in civil court. The incentives to remain uninvolved, especially if one is unarmed, are several and large.

There’s more yet. From early in the Twentieth Century, public education came to be the default mode by which American children are schooled. The public schools are overrun with teachers and administrators who are determined that boys shall not be boys: that is, that they shall be conditioned out of their innate energy and aggressiveness, and that they shall be propagandized against the manly virtues at every opportunity. In effect, masculinity is now a liability for American boys, likely to get them in trouble when displayed in any fashion.

A twelve-year assault on masculinity by authority figures capable of inflicting innumerable punishments and humiliations on their victims is a tough thing to countervail, before, during, or afterward.

The political assault on manly courage is only the latest episode in the campaign to reave us of our character. Honesty? Responsibility? Justice? Which of these has not been assaulted by one or another political development? Are we still resolved to meet our own obligations and pay our own way? Are we still resolved to protect and support those who depend on us for protection and support? Do we still spurn the unearned, refuse the illicit, and eschew the “easy score?”

The State has already convinced many that they have no enforceable obligations: not to see to their own defense, nor to care for their children, nor for the elders, nor for themselves. The incursion into the medical industry followed naturally. Despite what several politicians nominally on the Right have promised, I wouldn’t bet that they’ll make a sincere effort to undo it. Too much power and too many rice bowls are at stake…and too many Americans turn ugly when you threaten to retract a freebie.

What has most of the jabber been about these past four years? Health care? Glory be to God! A man of character looks after his own health. He bears the consequences of his mistakes in his own flesh and from his own wallet. He doesn’t abuse his body with tobacco, alcohol, drugs, or sloth, and then insist that he has a right to have his maladies corrected – painlessly, of course! – at someone else’s expense.

Given all that, it’s something of a surprise that there are any Americans with character remaining.

The previous essay dealt specifically with the evolution of political deceit. But political deceit, like any political practice, will only flourish if it finds a niche – a habitat -- within which it’s profitable for the practitioner. Nearly two centuries ago, Thomas Babington Macaulay foresaw and spoke of what we suffer today:

The day will come when a multitude of people will choose the legislature. Is it possible to doubt what sort of a legislature will be chosen? On the one side is a statesman preaching patience, respect for rights, strict observance of public faith. On the other is a demagogue ranting about the tyranny of capitalism and usury and asking why anyone should be permitted to drink champagne and to ride in a carriage while thousands of honest people are in want of necessaries. Which of the candidates is likely to be preferred by a workman? When Society has entered on this downward progress, either civilization or liberty must perish. Either some Caesar or Napoleon will seize the reins of government with a strong hand, or your Republic will be as fearfully plundered and laid waste in the twentieth century as the Roman Empire in the fifth, with this difference, that the Huns and Vandals who ravaged Rome came from without, and that your Huns and Vandals will have been engendered within your country, by your own institutions.

The vulnerability of Americans to demagoguery didn’t arise instantaneously. It had to be carefully nurtured from a judiciously planted seed: the Progressive Era policies of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Their machinations were welcomed by segments of our populace that were small at first. Those segments grew in tandem with the growth of the welfare state: each popular program gave rise to other programs of similar nature, while persons whose responsibilities had been taken off their backs by the State attracted others who desired the same benefits. Success always inspires emulation.

That dynamic has poised us at the edge of an economic and fiscal cliff. A nation half of whose people are “on the take” is determined that its “score” shall be protected and extended, no matter what that might do to those who retain enough responsibility to pay their own bills. And the politicians who’ve risen to high office by pandering to the characterless will allow no changes that might weaken their support.

To sum up: We have largely been reaved of the character that once defined the American man. Politicians began the process, and became bolder about it as ever more Americans “signed up” to be swaddled by the Omnipotent State. “Educators” have prosecuted the cause remorselessly for a century. Most poignant and painful of all, the best of us tend to separate from the rest of us by their election of military service, a wholly honorable and praiseworthy thing, but a choice which deprives us of their example in almost all cases.

And here’s where the “moving lips” motif kicks in: we continue to tell ourselves that “We’re Number One!” We continue to prate about how America is the Land of the Badass: Don’t mess with us or we’ll stomp you!

Who’s doing the lying now?


Anonymous said...

WRT the "Right to refuse service..."

If you haven't already read this interesting little book, you will probably enjoy it:

Liberty of Contract (David N Mayer, 2001, Cato Institute

"This book shines a powerful light on a fundamental constitutional right that the Supreme Court abandoned more than 70 years ago-the freedom of individuals to bargain over the terms of their own contracts. Vital to economic and personal liberty, this right has been continuously diminished by the country's regulatory and welfare state. Beginning in 1897 with the Supreme Court's historic Lochner decision, the Court safeguarded this right for 40 years by declaring that laws that interfered with the freedom of people to bargain over the terms of their own contracts were unconstitutional. Then in 1937, as part of the New Deal, the Court abandoned its protection for the liberty of contract." (Amazon commentary)

Best Regards,
(in the NC woods)

David DeGerolamo said...

Cross posted on Also sent to Ann Barnhardt.

YIH said...

But as usual, there’s more to the story.
Yup, and it ain't just 'government'; ''corporate america'' is just as guilty if not more so!
With all private employers ''Rule #1'' is NO WEAPONS OF ANY KIND AT ANY TIME! (on company premises - including parking areas)
Today, when private citizens intervene to halt a violent altercation, they put themselves at legal risk.
About a year ago I'd heard on the news about a pizza delivery guy who delivered to a local motel.
He knocked on the door to get greeted with a gun.
He was a FL CCW holder and yes, was armed. And dropped the bastard. When I heard that on the radio I quipped ''that dude's been canned already''.
Legally, the shoot was legit, under FL ''stand your ground'' and he wasn't even arrested.
Though I don't recall which company he (formerly) delivered for I knew that as soon as his boss got wind of what happened he was terminated immediately. Even though the car was his own, the gun was his own and the CCW was his own, he was wearing the company hat and on company time.