I wish ye all a… what? A “happy” Fourth of July? Happy, when man/boy relationships will soon be demanding the legitimacy of marriage, as we see in Europe? When you may soon be hounded out of a restaurant because the owner finds that you have made a politically incorrect post on Facebook? When parents are already taking their kids to the old ballpark and having to explain to them what the LBGTQ promotion is all about? Well, enjoy the fireworks… and don’t get indigestion on your hotdog.
Speaking of things queer… what did I read in Star Parker’s columns (whose name I misspelled earlier, apparently) a week ago? That the LBGTQ rainbow flag reminds her of the Stars and Bars in its symbolizing of suppressed speech (I think that was the analogy’s crux)? And, in a later post, that the near-fatal beating of abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner by South Carolina Representative Preston Brooks in 1856 is a precise historical analogue to Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ being shamed out of a restaurant? Did I imagine that? Or… Ms. Parker, have you, too, lost your ever-loving mind?
Our radical Left today, tout court, is the modern incarnation of the Southern Confederacy: that’s what I seem to be picking up from more and more “conservative” commentators.
Simply on the evidence of the prisoner-of-war question (reviewed briefly in Part One), a rational, fair-minded adult would be forced to conclude (as were the Union’s own officers, in several cases) that the North’s operations were much the most cynical, statist, and ruthless thing going in 1864. Yet twenty-first century America—or a significant part of its intelligentsia—has decided to remember the Confederacy as our own closest brush with goose-stepping Nazism. This is precisely Glenn Beck’s argument for preserving Southern monuments: that they remind us of the diabolical infamy that once poisoned a sector of our society, and that they should therefore stand forever as a cautionary kind of scarlet latter throughout the South. Now we can add Bolshevism to Nazism.
It is, in fact, hardly surprising that Star Parker would echo Glenn Beck. He has served as her publicist and benefactor in recent years—a service for which I give him due praise. Yet I find it distressing that canny observers like Parker should be lured by the Beck mystique into equating the Confederacy with the Third Reich—and now, it appears, with Antifa. Along with deploring Southern prisons as anticipating Treblinka and Auschwitz, Beck is also the loudest contemporary magnifier of the Sumner-Brooks incident. I have little doubt that Parker absorbed it from one of his diatribes. Sumner’s brutal caning is supposed to have been (sayeth the prophet) a kind of dry run for a KKK lynching, with the Senator’s advocacy of abolition the sole catalyst of the homicidal South Carolinian smackdown. To hear Beck spin the tale, you’d never know that the feud had been simmering away for some while and that scurrilous, personally insulting language had flowed from both sides. Brooks, indeed, had originally considered dueling with his senatorial adversary, but he decided that Sumner lacked sufficient gentlemanly credentials to be so honored.
Another recent Beck “adoptee” is Dinesh D’Souza, a genuine martyr for free speech cast into prison by the Obama “Justice” Department. The other night I saw a very brief excerpt of D’Souza’s forthcoming documentary—saw a briefer portion than the brief one aired, because my blood pressure instantly spiked and I hammered the “off” button. Abraham Lincoln, that lion of liberty who plunged his nation into war solely to strike off the chains of Southern slaves, was juxtaposed with another irrepressible champion of the people, Donald Trump. Fireworks, flags waving… all stand—and no knees, please. I suppose Trump could also have been Churchill, since “Confederate” is code for “Nazi”.
I share Beck’s deep admiration for D’Souza… and for Star Parker, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz. I am so familiar with the Beck universe, in fact, because I tried for years to tag along with his broadcasts, despite their causing me to cry foul from time to time. The maligning of Debra Medina (Rick Perry’s quondam competitor for Texas governor) and Geert Wilders (whose name the Beck crew can’t pronounce but whose heart they have read) are but two cases that leap to mind. Beck, alas, has repeatedly demonstrated a tendency to reach across the aisle to his ideological enemies and to join these detractors in savaging shared sacrificial victims. Trump is only the most spectacular example of such “outreach”–and is actually fair game insofar as his conservative convictions seem very hard to locate; yet Beck’s “never Trump” opposition has already morphed into a MAGA baseball cap worn on the set (hence the green light to D’Souza’s Lincoln/Trump conceit).
The point of such hop-scotching along the boundary line of principle is perhaps to acquire some cred as a free thinker who works with both sides and only wants truth and goodness to prevail. (“I’m not a partisan… you see? I just shot one of our guys for you!”) Yet I don’t really see such cynicism operating in Glenn Beck at a conscious level: I think his motive is a more pathological compulsion to keep heads spinning (perhaps, especially, his own: witness the frequent public confessions—“I was so wrong then! It was my fault, mea maxima culpa!”). Occasionally some minor, remote, or uninteresting figure comes available to slip into a load-bearing crevice of the cloud-climbing Beck edifice… and in that crack the figure must forever dwell. Better that one should be squeezed beyond recognition than that The Prophetic Vision should come toppling down.
I see relative innocents like Parker and D’Souza being swept up in the rhetorical tornado of Beck and other dynamos of mass media whose impulses draw them toward tradition (and who therefore cling to words like “Christian” and “conservative”). Ben Shapiro is probably in the group, though an Orthodox Jew. Even Louie Gohmert played along during Beck’s exhibitionist “soccer balls and teddy bears” expedition to South Texas (a microscopically short-term and unhelpful response to the ongoing use of children as pawns in border politics).
The magnetism of this man’s charism upon younger or less dynamic figures is a shame… but probably inevitable. I once felt that attraction myself; but the slandering of my ancestors—of people like my father’s father and my mother’s mother—as a race of irredeemably vile, degenerate human beings snapped my last tie to the microphone and the megaphone of Glenn Beck. Those people, to be sure, had flaws, and well they knew it—and bitterly did they pay for it. Yet we hope (do we not?) to see a Christian, especially one whose professions are so stentorian, to understand that even the footsoldiers who wore the Nazi uniform were not all utterly evil.
I leave this week’s ramble in the hope that I have raised two points worthy of consideration. One, of course, is that the Southern Confederacy has endured well over a century of being deliberately, wickedly caricatured—and that naive thinkers have now been duped to accept the cartoon as a fixed historical constellation. There really are a lot of analogous distortions ongoing in contemporary academe and the news media, if such things interest you! The vast majority of these are launched by the Left, but…
But my second and final point is that we are witnessing the birth of a new “catch-all defamation” from the Right. Conservative luminaries have for years quite justifiably protested their being labeled “Nazi” because they think that the two sexes should have separate restrooms or because they think that a nation should have a border. Some among them, driven to distraction by the unfairness of it all, have apparently found an abundant puddle of mud to sling back: “Confederate”. You call me a Nazi… I’ll call you a Confederate. Take that! “The Deep South that nurtured the KKK, you know, voted solid Democrat for decades.” How many times have I heard this enthymeme from Beck and others—as if the party of Truman, even, were that of LBJ? And then the same mouths, within an hour, will opine from their other side, “JFK wouldn’t recognize his party if he were alive today!”
The only constant in this shifting equation, it seems, is that Southerners have always been wicked racists… and you, Linda Sarsour, are a Confederate! And you and you, Saul Alinsky and Margaret Sanger, are Confederates! Stars and Bars to you, Louis Farrakhan!
The irony is that Glenn Beck—or so I thought (so he said)—opposed Donald Trump precisely for exploiting this ruinous “us/them” instinct in a nervous, resentful electorate. Now Glenn has found his own one-size-fits-all category of villain. His example often makes me recall the classic Claude Rains line from Lawrence of Arabia: “A man who tells half-truths is worse than a liar—because a liar only conceals the truth, but a man who tells half-truths has forgotten where he put it.”