Monday, January 15, 2018

Assertions Of Ownership

     Have you ever thought about what it means to own something? I’ve written about the criteria involved in a just claim of ownership, and the rights associated with it as well. However, those essays were about the ownership of items of tangible property, whether real or movable. (This one, which addresses whether a private citizen should be allowed to own a weapon of mass destruction, provides a good summary.)

     But what does it mean to “own” an issue?

     Have you ever heard a claim of that sort, Gentle Reader? I have, and not just once. Such claims nearly always come from the Left, which has claimed to “own” the issues of race relations, women's rights, the environment, war and peace, and several other subjects of general discussion.

     Just in case you aren’t wearing your Galactic Intellect Enterprises® Left-Liberal Decoder Ring, here’s the translation: When a leftist says “We own [insert issue here],” he really means “Don’t you filthy conservatives dare to disagree with my wholly arbitrary and largely unsupported statements on this subject.” It’s arrogant and childish, of course, but that’s the Left for you.

     What troubles me is the way we in the Right habitually allow them to get away with it.

     Quite a number of years ago, long before I elected to self-publish my fiction, I sent a copy of On Broken Wings to a distant friend for her comments. She was impressed by it, and asked if she could submit it to the weekly book discussion club she attended. Of course I said yes. I had no idea what would happen next.

     Two of the members of that club were lesbians. There are homosexual characters, and one bisexual character, in my novel. That alone was enough to enrage the lesbians in my friend’s club. They deemed it unacceptable that a nasty old heterosexual man – good heavens, he’s a Catholic! — should dare to write about homosexuals or bisexuals in any context. They condemned On Broken Wings, a novel that’s garnered effulgent praise from readers all over the English-speaking world, for that reason and no other.

     I shrugged it off. However, recently I’ve received similar statements of condemnation about Innocents. The phenomenon of claims to “own” some issue is plainly alive and kicking, as if my Gentle Readers couldn’t tell from contemporary fusillades over race, sex, et cetera.

     SMITH: Mr. Vidal, wasn’t it a provocative act to try to raise the Vietcong flag in the park in the film we just saw? Wouldn’t that invite—raising the Nazi flag during World War II would have had similar consequences.
     VIDAL: You must realize what some of the political issues are here. There are many people in the United States who happen to believe that the United States policy is wrong in Vietnam and the Vietcong are correct in wanting to organize their own country in their own way politically. This happens to be pretty much the opinion of Western Europe and many other parts of the world. If it is a novelty in Chicago, that is too bad, but I assume that the point of the American democracy—
     BUCKLEY: (interrupting): —and some people were pro-Nazi—
     VIDAL: —is you can express any view you want—
     BUCKLEY: —and some people were pro-Nazi—
     VIDAL: Shut up a minute!
     BUCKLEY: No, I won’t. Some people were pro-Nazi and, and the answer is they were well treated by people who ostracized them. And I’m for ostracizing people who egg on other people to shoot American Marines and American soldiers. I know you don’t care—
     VIDAL (loftily): As far as I’m concerned, the only pro- or crypto-Nazi I can think of is yourself. Failing that—
     SMITH: Let’s, let’s not call names—
     VIDAL: Failing that, I can only say that—
     BUCKLEY (snarling, teeth bared): Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddam face, and you’ll stay plastered.
     SMITH: Gentlemen!

     [From a televised 1968 exchange over the Vietnam War between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley]

     It’s my practice to take a strong line with leftists, regardless of the subject. They dislike that, and do their best to shout me down. As it happens, I can’t be shouted down; I have a bull elephant roar that causes cancer in laboratory rats and kills canaries outright. Beyond that, I usually possess the evidence required to support my stances. They don’t.

     The Left’s claims to “own” an issue are attempts to preclude rational examination of it for precisely that reason. As Victor Marguerite once wrote, “The Fascists cannot argue, so they kill.” But of course! If you can’t prevail by the rules of reasoned discussion, abandon the rules. Prevail by intimidation or coercion. That’s what would-be totalitarians have done throughout history.

     While the Left hasn’t yet resorted to murder on any noticeable scale, the threshold for that sort of “response” is drawing near. My reason for saying so is simple: things have been going very poorly for left-wing policies and left-wing regimes, and far too well under the Trump Administration.

     When the evidence cannot be hidden or disputed – when it becomes all too clear, as Margaret Thatcher so memorably put it, that “the facts of life are conservative” — the Left becomes violent. It’s their eternal fallback position. And we in the Right cannot allow ourselves to be dismissive or passive about it.

     Conservatives have a tendency to dismiss rhetorical strokes that imply or suggest violence. Consider Terry McAuliffe’s recent verbal offer of violence toward President Trump. That sort of thing usually gets nothing more than a dismissive laugh from us. I contend that the time for flippancy about such statements has passed.

     We’re already being assaulted in both public and private places. Our habit of ignoring violent rhetoric, or waving is aside as unimportant, might be part of the reason.

     Expressions of anger and outrage, at the very least, are appropriate toward the persons who make such remarks. More extreme responses might be even better, depending on the context and the persons involved. Unfortunately, an invitation to an exchange of pistol fire in the pre-dawn light is no longer legal in most states, though some jurisdictions might be willing to look aside.

     There comes a time when gentlemanly decorum must give way to doubled fists. To refrain from doing so encourages the brutes and bullies that have never observed the constraints of civilized discourse. It doesn’t “take two to fight,” contrary assertions from empty-headed peaceniks notwithstanding; it only takes one. What takes two is making peace. Moreover, the requirements are often unpleasant:

     “Peace means something different from ‘not fighting’. Those aren’t peace advocates, they’re ‘stop fighting’ advocates. Peace is an active and complex thing and sometimes fighting is part of what it takes to get it.” – fantasy writer Jo Walton

     Verbum sat sapienti.


Ed Bonderenka said...

"sometimes fighting is part of what it takes to get it"
On the playground, I often did not get peace until I took on the bully.
Interestingly enough, I didn't have to win. Just fight.

Col. B. Bunny said...

Same with me, Ed.

Linda Fox said...

Those women (the lesbians) clearly aren't capable of reading complicated issues without injecting their own biases into the mix. The question was, given the situation in Innocents, was the main character's motivation reasonable and moral? The fact that such people of indeterminent gender exist - no intent on their part, just one of nature's quirky surprises - means that a society has to have a humane response to the situations that will arise.