Sunday, January 15, 2017

Oikophobia Pushes Me to Board the Trump Train (Reservedly)

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, my family is building a house on ten acres of pastureland in Rappahannock County, one of Virginia's most sparsely populated areas. As this planned rural retreat becomes a reality, I grow more and more excited. I look forward to embracing what my brother Matt and I refer to as "the good life": a life dominated by nature, by quiet, and by neighborliness. I look forward to getting to know the farmers, fruit growers, and small business owners in Amissville and nearby Little Washington -- folks who, by 17.8%, gave their county to Trump.

There will be downsides to this move. I will have to travel more to find work. Our cell phone service won't be as reliable, and the same goes for our television and internet. But one thing I'm certain I won't encounter, despite my family members' various disabilities, is disrespect or cruelty. I am confident of this because I have met many of my future of neighbors and have found them to be kind and friendly. I am confident of this because I've visited similar communities elsewhere in Trump's America and have found the people in those places to be equally decent and unassuming.

The folks in Trump's America are not perfect, of course; nobody is. They may have beliefs and opinions that you find irrational or downright repugnant. But does that mean they will round up all the foreigners, gays, and ethnic minorities and expel them as soon as they get the chance? Nope. Not even close.

In the wake of the election, it has amazed me how many unbelievably privileged leftists have attacked and denigrated Trump's America based on nothing but ignorance and stereotypes -- not to mention how many unbelievably privileged leftists have complained about being victimized.

Take, for example, Meryl Streep's extended whine at the Golden Globes, during which she had the gall to complain that "all of us in this room, really, belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it. Hollywood, foreigners, and the press." For someone so downtrodden, Streep seems to be doing quite well. But beyond that, has she ever considered the possibility that two out of those three groups have done things that deserve our opprobrium?  Or that the third group - foreigners - are only resented if they arrive here illegally or demand that we abandon our classically liberal traditions?

The wealthy denizens of Hollywood cycle through relationships faster than shit flows through a goose. Apparently, fidelity and self-sacrifice are concepts foreign to many of these professional pretenders. Meanwhile, my own father, who's itching to move to Trump country as soon as possible, has stayed married to one woman for thirty-eight years despite trials that likely would end Hollywood's more ephemeral unions, including Mom's chronic illness and Dad's extended military-imposed absences from home. Who, do you think, do I admire more?

"So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick 'em all out, you'll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts," Streep then claimed. But this too is total BS. If all of leftist Hollywood dropped off the face of the planet tomorrow, a lot of space would be freed up for Americans who've entertained the idea of pursuing film but have hesitated because of Hollywood's demonstrable hostility to non-leftist beliefs. And while it would take a while for the members of the new entertainment class to learn the craft, the industry would eventually be rebuilt -- and maybe this time, we would be treated to more truly original stories instead of endless reboots and tired left-wing agitprop.

I was also not impressed by Streep's pleas for empathy. I was not impressed because her entire speech was an exercise in abandoning empathy. She clearly has no idea what it feels like to be a working-class American who has to listen to rich people like her mock his tastes in entertainment and his overall lifestyle on a regular basis. And yes, working-class Americans have been endlessly insulted and harassed by their supposed "betters" for quite some time. As Mike Rowe once observed, if there's a plumber in a Hollywood production, he's showing butt-crack. If a reporter goes out to engage the working class, it is often to set a snare for some innocent Christian family with typical Christian beliefs about human sexuality -- a family who will then be subject to a media storm driven by coastals who don't actually know them as human beings and don't care about destroying their livelihood.

So, yes -- it was a dickish move for Trump to mock that reporter's disability (assuming that was in fact what he intended to do) - but I don't think the vast majority of his supporters like him because "he makes fun of the disabled." They like him because he made fun of a reporter - a member of the very aristoi that has persistently bullied them for not embracing "orthodoxy." While I don't normally condone revenge, I understand the impulse. And personally, I wish leftists in Hollywood and elsewhere would actually recognize their own culpability when it comes to how divided and angry our political landscape has become. Trump would not have been a viable candidate if the left had not spent the last eight years pushing its agenda to the point of absolute insanity and accusing the innocent of every social ill under the sun.

Seriously - who's actually going to respond appreciatively to crap like this:

Well, gee, that's the ticket! In order to get respect, I just need to stop being an evil asshole. Awesome. I'll get on that right now.


Let's do a mini-fisk of this garbage, shall we?

...those towns have nothing going for them. No infrastructure, just a few bars and a terrible school system.

It's interesting you would mention school systems. I was exploring the results of the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress earlier today, and do you want to know what I discovered? When you account for important demographic characteristics like minority enrollment and free/reduced lunch rates, the Trump states perform at levels wholly comparable to the performance of the Clinton states. As it turns out, while there are very high performers among this election's blue states (clustered in New England, mainly), there are also very low performers as well. So I'm not buying that leftist-run school systems cannot also be terrible -- especially since I live very close to overwhelmingly leftist Washington DC and consequently hear a lot of news about the DC school system's disastrous academic results and overall incompetence.

And as for the lack of infrastructure -- well, I'll address that below.

So if you want jobs, clean up your act and make your town a place people like us want to live in. Add fiber internet.

Has it occurred to you that fiber internet costs money? That a municipality has to convince the purveyors of fiber internet that building such infrastructure there will be worth the risk? That people can't just install fiber internet themselves and need the cooperation of a corporation that sells the tech? What you are doing here is blaming less advantaged people possessing limited resources for not living the way you live. It's tantamount to looking down on the people who lived in mid-20th century Appalachia for not having indoor toilets. "Clean up your act, hillbillies. Stop crapping in outhouses."

Make it a point to elect a progressive city council and commit to not being bigots.

"Stop thinking the way you think and start thinking the way I think, you racist-y racists!" Well, there's only one legitimate response to that:

We especially don't want to live in states where the majority of residents are still voting for things that are against their own interests just because they don't want brown people to thrive.

Because you, madam, are better qualified to decide what is in the best interest of the working class than the members of the working class themselves? Honestly, this particular sentence pisses me off more than anything else she's said so far; it perfectly encapsulates the left's repeatedly-debunked-by-history belief that distant technocrats know better than the locals what must be done to improve their lives. I'm sorry, but fuck you. You are not there. You clearly don't know their true motivations or what they're actually going through. You, therefore, don't have the requisite on-the-ground knowledge to make decisions on their behalf.

As I suggested in the title of this post, I'm now on the Trump train, and leftists like Streep and Byerley are the reason I'm here. I still don't like the guy - and I plan to watch him like a hawk over the next four to eight years - but I'd rather throw in my lot with Trump's supporters than with the snobbish jerks who think they're superior to the rest of us.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Personal Update

Dear readers,

No, I am not dead. However, I am trying to sort out some health issues that have been bedeviling me since Thanksgiving. The good news? I now have a workable action plan that will, hopefully, improve my overall condition and consequently allow me to post more often.

In the meantime, if you are a regular reader (Hi, Chris Lopes!), please don't go away! I'm planning to get a post done this weekend on the unbelievable - and unwarranted - snootiness of the leftist elite in the wake of Trump's election. Beyond that, I will pop in every two weeks to let you know that I'm still here and still engaged in the world.

God bless,
Stephanie S.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

No Post Tonight

I've been feeling under the weather since Sunday, so our regularly scheduled post for today will have to be pushed back to Saturday. Many apologies for the inconvenience!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Few Final Remarks on Hamiltongate

Before I launch into some more discussion of the Hamilton incident last Friday, I'd like to share another fantastic song from the show as a gesture of good faith.

Listen to the respect with which Manuel-Miranda treats Washington. Here, our first president is portrayed, without irony, as a hero who voluntarily steps down from his seat of power, consequently teaching us that America's institutions were crafted to transcend and outlast the fame of any one person. Such a number implicitly rebukes cults of personality and leader worship -- one message among many in this show that are undeniably timely.

The text of Hamilton also does something that I think is vitally important in this age of identity politics: It invites people of very different backgrounds to embrace American heroes, American ideas, and an American identity as their own. Too often, the social justice left discourages its favored groups from finding any inspiration from our history, effectively segregating minority populations from the American heritage entirely. Whether accidentally or no, this only enhances people's sense of "otherness" and existential discomfort. Manuel-Miranda's approach, on the other hand, is much healthier; instead of dismissing Alexander Hamilton and his contemporaries as "dead, white males" whose biographies have nothing to offer to Americans of color, he shows how our Founders' struggles and triumphs are universally edifying.

Which brings me to one reason why the now infamous Friday night curtain call still rankles. To echo Robert Pondiscio's remarks in the New York Daily News, the cast members didn't let Manuel-Miranda's art speak for itself. Or, to put it another way, they assumed that Pence was so incredibly dense - so lacking in any sort of human feeling - that he would fail to grasp the pro-diversity message described above without having it explicitly spelled out in simple words.

Further, the speech wasn't delivered in a vacuum. Context matters. Intonation matters. Truth matters. Several writers and commentators whom I respect greatly have dramatically missed the boat by focusing on the superficial mildness of the words and not on the event in toto. Consider, for example, the audience in attendance: a crowd of overwhelmingly liberal Manhattanites who are already convinced Trump and Pence represent a threat to their rights despite much evidence that flatly contradicts their views. These are people whose smug sense of superiority didn't need to be strengthened or legitimized -- yet Dixon (and presumably the rest of the cast, who allowed Dixon to speak on their behalf) went ahead and flattered these folks anyway. I'm sorry, but to those of us who don't live in that particular milieu, that was gross as hell and needed to be called out.

Consider too where they were. Dixon was not just a private citizen addressing a politician; he was also, essentially, an employee of a business talking to a paying customer. And if you've ever worked customer service, you know you always put your personal opinions aside at the moment of a business transaction. Nobody here is questioning anyone's right to dissent; what many of us do question is the appropriateness of the time and place. Dixon and the other cast members could've invited Pence back stage for a private conversation later; if making their concerns heard was their only motivation, such a conversation would've succeeded brilliantly. But when Dixon tells the audience to film his remarks and spread them far and wide on social media, an additional - and more problematic - motivation becomes strikingly apparent. This wasn't just about exercising one's right to question our incoming executives; this was also one giant virtue signal meant, once again, to congratulate an already unaccountably arrogant group of people on their supposed "right thinking." And quite frankly, we conservatives are sick to death of listening to these Pharisees endlessly trumpet how great they all are when their actions don't justify their pride.

I'm happy that Pence was not offended and responded to the speech with equanimity and grace -- but that does not mean we should set aside this incident's troubling undertones or refrain from critiquing the people involved.

Oh, and by the way: Trump doesn't actually believe in safe spaces -- at least, not in the leftist sense. Haven't you figured out yet that the soon-to-be Cheeto 'n Chief is the ultimate troll?

And with that, I'm going to head out for my Thanksgiving break. I shall return next Wednesday with a post (or two) on the beauty of Constitutional federalism. I hope all of you have a peaceful holiday in the meantime!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Shut Up and Sing

(Or, in this case, rap about the national debt.)

I was planning to write a long post/civics lesson today about the federal system and why, despite being designed over 200 years ago, it is still perfectly suited to our current age. But then this happened...

... and it struck a nerve.

It struck a nerve because I've been a huge booster of Hamilton to skeptical relatives, acquaintances, and readers; indeed, I've shared favorite songs from the show on this blog on two separate occasions. I also spent eight hours round trip on a cramped and uncomfortable bus to see this show in New York because I simply couldn't wait for the inevitable tour stop in DC.

I think Hamilton richly deserves its eleven Tony Awards. It is, right now, my go-to example when I try to explain the difference between art that genuinely stretches the boundaries and art that merely postures and celebrates ugliness. In the show itself, there is no present-day political grandstanding; while Manuel-Miranda does take artistic licenses, he is honest about Hamilton's personal flaws and treats his other primary subject - America itself - with respect -- and even an infectious joy. There are mentions of slavery - because, given the period, how can you avoid it - but overall, Hamilton is brimming with the faith that all Americans - even "orphan immigrants" - can "rise up" and make an impact if they work hard enough.

Hamilton has amazing - and fundamentally conservative - things to say about the American idea. Unfortunately, the performers behind it had to go ahead and muck it up, thereby guaranteeing that many of my right-leaning friends will avoid the show from this day forward.

Why - why - do you always do this, leftists? When people go out to see a Broadway show - or any artistic performance, really - they are not looking to be hectored. They want to enjoy your talent, not listen to your presumptuous speeches. You, of course, have every right to express consternation over the prospect of a Trump presidency, but do it on your own time. It is neither appropriate nor fair to subject a paying audience to your supposed "protest."

To steal from Laura Ingraham, just shut up and sing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Reflections on the Trumpocalypse

First of all, I want to apologize for the unannounced month-long hiatus. A bout of depression hit, and it didn't do much for my muse.

Strangely, though, that depression lifted on election night. Mind you, I still don't like Donald Trump; indeed, I eventually voted third-party. But whatever my intellectual objections to the Republican candidate, something inside me evidently feared Hillary Clinton all the more -- and when the prospect of her presidency decisively evaporated, I was both shocked and slightly giddy. In fact, it has taken me until now to come down from the unexpected high.

So what do I make of this result in the more sober light of day? I think I'm going to frame my thoughts in the form of three letters addressed to the various constituencies involved.


Dear Trump Supporters (Reluctant or Otherwise),

You got me. I was wrong.

I thought Trump was going to be an utter disaster for the GOP. Obviously, I underestimated how averse to Hillary Clinton the electorate would be. I did not predict how profoundly her corruption and globalist bona fides would dampen enthusiasm and drive down turnout among the Democrats' usual constituencies.

I was #NeverTrump to the end, but please understand that my antipathy towards Trump was not accompanied by antipathy towards his backers. In reality, I actually agree with you on many issues. I agree that we must sincerely grapple with the negative effects of globalization. I agree that we have a right to defend our borders and enforce our immigration laws. And I agree that the media and the rest of the supposed "elite" need to be humbled with extreme prejudice. I didn't believe Trump had the right answers to these pressing issues - and I still don't - but when it comes to your general sentiments regarding the state of our nation and its desperate need for a reset, I am 100% in your corner.

I didn't oppose Trump because I wished to virtue signal or because I wanted to prove I was smarter than everyone else. I just wasn't convinced Trump would uphold Constitutional principles. That being said, I sincerely hope Trump will be the change we all desire -- that he will actually reinvigorate our love for the classically liberal federal system the Founders established and consequently ensure our domestic tranquility.

Sincerely, etc.


Dear #NeverTrumpers,

We have work to do. As movement conservatives, we can no longer be satisfied with our status quo. We have to start listening to Trump's voters and addressing their specific concerns.

What do we really have to offer to the working class besides bromides on lowering taxes and reducing regulatory burdens? As manufacturing has continued to move off shore, many have seen their previously stable communities crumble all around them. Reliable jobs have disappeared, and so too have support systems that once gave lives meaning. What are we going to do at the ground level to rebuild social capital and restore people's dignity and purpose?

We're already out there preaching libertarian economics, but I think we need to reconnect with and emphasize the more communitarian side of our intellectual heritage. I for one plan to search through the wisdom of my own faith tradition - and seek out our Founders as well - for possible solutions to our problems. Will you join me on this journey?

God bless, etc.


Dear Leftists,

A few of you actually get why you lost (see also: Jonathan Pie). But the rest?

The election results were not in your favor -- and it was entirely your fault. When you cry "ist!" and "ism!" so many times without good cause, people stop listening.

You yelled "ist!" and "ism!" at John McCain when he ran for president -- even though he was, by all reasonable standards, a moderate Republican. You yelled "ist!" and "ism!" at Mitt Romney -- even though he presided over the institution of the Affordable Care Act's predecessor in Massachusetts and has been, throughout his life, a deeply charitable person. For the past several decades, you've portrayed every Republican, no matter how benign, as the second coming of Hitler. So when you did the same to Trump, the electorate tuned you out.

I happen to agree that Trump was an awful candidate -- but I could prove that with his actual actions and his actual words. You, on the other hand, decided to exaggerate - and sometimes outright lie about - Trump's flaws. Moreover, your identitarian ideology kept you so focused on the fact that Hillary Clinton has a vag that you completely missed her manifest lack of fitness for the presidential office. This only cemented the voters' distrust.

Your behavior in the wake of Trump's election has also not served you well. Some of you are lying about being the targets of supposed hate crimes, which makes genuine victims less likely to be believed. Some of you are rioting in the streets, disrupting the lives of people who, by the way, probably also voted for Clinton. Many of you are spreading claims that Trump will destroy the rights of LGBTQ citizens/minorities/immigrants/the disabled -- claims that, so far, have no empirical basis in reality. Many of you are unjustifiably scaring your children, modeling emotional incontinence instead of rationality and principled dissent. And lastly, all of you are ignoring the Trump supporters who have been beaten or otherwise intimidated because of their vote. Congratulations, guys, for continuing to demonstrate why many Americans despise you and your beliefs.

Might I make a suggestion? If you want people to be more receptive to your concerns, maybe you should try persuasion instead of coercion and respect instead of condescension. And maybe - get ready for a truly radical idea - you should give genuine federalism a try instead of attempting to force your lifestyle on people without their consent. I'm perfectly happy to let San Francisco be San Francisco. Perhaps you should reciprocate and allow Provo to be Provo. If you let more cultural decisions be made at the local level, perhaps our national politics would no longer be a blood sport, and we could all feel more empowered and more in control of our own surroundings.

Just some thoughts, etc.