“(Søren) Kierkegaard…has opened our eyes to the shallowness of much of our pseudo-Christian life, and to the outright deception in politics which Christianity has been made to serve.”
- William Hubben
“The people starve because their superiors eat too much in taxes. The more laws there are, the more thieves and bandits will multiply.”
– Lao Tzu
“I thought it went without saying that when the Soviet Union collapsed and the eastern states opened up, we would be plagued by a new kind of criminality in Sweden and Western Europe. And that is what happened.”
– Henning Mankell
“You do have a distinctive voice for a truck driver. You don’t have a southern accent, and you speak in full sentences. Why is it that all truckers talk with a southern accent? I’m dispatching a couple guys from fucking Saskatchewan and they talk like the Dukes of Hazzard. What is that?
“They’re perpetuating a myth, Gary. A myth is a way of looking at life that doesn’t exist, never did exist, but give people a worldview they can understand and accept.”
- Finn Murphy
“Perhaps there are people in today’s society that feel so powerless they no longer partake in what we call democratic society. Instead they devote themselves to rites. If this is the case, our nation is in trouble.”
– Henning Mankell
You don’t need to wear a swastika armband to behave like a Nazi (German National Socialism) or a Fascist (Italian Fascism, the Spanish Falange, or the French Action Française). And you don’t have to memorize Hitler’s Mein Kampf or Mussolini’s speeches in order to think like a Nazi or a Fascist. You merely need to believe that the end justifies the means, and act accordingly, legally or illegally.
After all, slavery was legal not so long ago. So was the Holocaust, according to German law as spelled out in the Nuremberg Decrees of 1935. The degradation of and contempt for women continues to this day, as demonstrated by the President of the United States, Donald Trump, in his attack upon Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, at a Republican Party rally in Mississippi on October 2, 2018, and by Trump’s hand picked candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court, Bret Kavanaugh, in his mendacious rant directed at Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27, 2018.
A number of Trump supporters who call themselves Christians have written OpEds over the past few months to my local newspaper, the Bismarck Tribune, explaining that, while they might have some objections to a serial liar and sexual assaulter as President of the United States, his “pro-life, pro-faith, pro-constitution, pro-America agenda” is what keeps the “liberals” and the “radical left” from winning.
Of course! How could I fail to see the logic in this argument! “Pro-life,” as in President Trump’s failure to provide life support for the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, as opposed to the full and fulsome support of U.S. government resources for the citizens of Houston in the wake of a similar disaster. “Pro-faith,” as in the Muslim ban. “Pro-constitution,” as in Trump’s clear and continuing interference in the operations of the Justice Department and the FBI. “Pro-America,” as in Trump’s personal trade war with the world which has destroyed many small businesses and the present and future for farmers in North Dakota and much of the country.
The biggest problem with believing in a left-wing conspiracy is that there is no left wing, much less a left-wing conspiracy, in the United States in 2018. And there never really was, except, of course, the one imported by gangster governments of the, now defunct, Soviet Union.
Nowadays, the gangster tradition is alive and well in Russia, the home of yesterday’s Soviet Communism, and today’s Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump’s new “daddy.” Putin believes that the end justifies the means just as much as did Lenin, Stalin, Hitler or Mussolini, the end being his own power, “the divine right of KGB bosses.” Donald Trump’s biological daddy, Fred, believed, like other Princes of Dark Money, in “the divine right of money bags.” The means, fair or foul, legal or illegal, never really matter to these guys.
But means really do matter in the Constitutional Republic like the United States. They mattered deeply to our Founding Fathers, and they matter today. Once in our history, when they ceased to matter, the resort was to naked force, and we engaged in a violent Civil War, 1861-1865. Many of the issues of that Civil War, “the ends,” are still being debated today, but we have yet to dissolve once again into the wrenching national violence of appeals to naked force. Not quite yet.
Perhaps Americans should follow a modified suggestion of historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. that we look at our politics from the perspective of a circle which includes a debate about means, “fair” or “constitutional” at the top, and “foul” or “unconstitutional” at the bottom, rather than just a semi-circle which debates only the ends of politics, with private sector bias on the right, and public sector bias on the left. While this perspective might not diminish the heat of debate, it could dissipate many illusions that fan the flames.
On a piece of paper, or on a dinner plate in your mind’s eye, draw a vertical “line of property.” To the right of that line you would put the ends of private ownership or control, and to the left, you would put the ends of public ownership or control.
Next, draw a horizontal “line of fairness, or constitutionality” across the middle of your circle. You would put above that line, political parties, corporations, unions, non-governmental organizations and individuals who not only praise the rule of law, human rights, and civil liberties but actually adhere to them. You would put below that line those organizations and individuals who don’t really give a shit how they satisfy their objectives and are willing to break any laws or ethical boundaries to get there.
As far as political ideologies go, it’s not difficult to place the former Communist Soviet Union below the line of constitutionality and to the left of the line of property. Today’s criminal elite in Russia, however, while still well below the line of constitutionality, more properly belongs to the right of the line of property, as they have greedily snapped up Russian national assets for their private uses. The Republican Party, willfully, or in ignorance, has failed to notice that significant shift in ends, but not in ruthless and cunning means. Either that...or they approve.
Hitler and Mussolini were great boons to the corporate, propertied class unless they were Jews. IBM, for example, saw nothing wrong, until after Pearl Harbor, with providing computer punch card technology for Heinrich Himmler’s Final Solution (see Edwin Black, IBM, and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation, New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001). Thus, Nazism and Fascism are logically below the line of constitutionality and to the right of the line of property.
Above the line of constitutionality, definitions are less simple. Take the case of the community of Flint, Michigan versus the ideology of private ownership of their municipal waterworks and resultant poisoning of their citizens under Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI). A “left-wing” public waterworks drawing clean water from the Great Lakes gave way to a “right wing” privatized outfit drawing contaminated water for the people of Flint from the nearby Flint River, for the ends of private profit rather than the public good. For “conservatives” who would conserve clean water in that community and for “liberals,” who saw more constructive outcomes in public ownership and regulation than private ones, the better place for this decision was to leave the waterworks to the left of the line of property.
In most decisions regarding the line of property though (short of public safety, public health, infrastructure and access to education) liberals and conservatives find themselves to the right of the line of property in their endorsement of the engines of free enterprise, large or small. There ain’t a dime’s worth of difference.
Politics as a “Circle” may not solve arguments about means and ends in today’s toxic atmosphere, but it does make things more obvious; providing explanations, not excuses. It may, in fact, raise more questions than answers, but that is not a problem for those who wish to become less ignorant about the subject.
It was a Christian (Catholic) historian, Lord Acton, who coined the phrase “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It was a Socialist journalist and novelist, George Orwell, who coined the phrase “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” Both the “Right” and “Left” agree: despite all rationalizations, the end never justifies the means.
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