Saturday, October 30, 2010


now that the war is through with me
I'm waking up, I cannot see

that there's not much left of me

, Metallica

Whenever I take up a newspaper,

I seem to see Ghosts gliding between the lines.

There must be Ghosts all the country over,

as thick as the sand of the sea....

We are, one and all, so pitifully afraid of the light

, Henrik Ibsen

We say the world has moved on;

maybe we really mean that it has begun to dry up

--The Dark Tower
, Stephen King

We’re Americans. To be critical in time of war?
Even the democrats are smart enough
to keep their mouth shut on this
--Boston Legal
, Witches of Mass Destruction


Where does hope begin and pessimism disappear? It's a fine line, but for Ranger, pessimism is the order of the day.

Where are we as a nation, and is it even appropriate to call our polyglot population a society? What is our national identity?

Historically, multi-cultural national entities dissolved, breaking into smaller, ethnically-identified groups. The Roman, Holy Roman Empire, French, Napoleonic, Ottoman, Hapsburg, Austro-Hungarian, Czarist Russian, Soviet Union are examples. The nations of Europe are currently struggling with the concepts of human rights and dignity, while eschewing immigrant populations.

How will Europe and the U.S. absorb immigrants while maintaining a national identity? Germany's Chancellor Merkel spoke for many recently:

"Speaking to a meeting of young members of her Christian Democratic Union party, Merkel said the idea of people from different cultural backgrounds living happily 'side by side' did not work.

"She said the onus was on immigrants to do more to integrate into German society."

"This [multicultural] approach has failed, utterly failed" (Germany's multiculturalism has "Utterly failed").

Immigrants are and should be welcome, but there is also an expectation that that they integrate and elevate themselves to the values of Western society. It is reasonable that host societies dictate the terms by which these people are accepted as citizens.

The expectation has always been that the language and customs of the host nation be assimilated by the new citizens. In addition to rising to the best levels of the new society, the immigrant can and should add their own positive value to their adopted homes.

The strife host nations like the U.S. feel arises from the fact that so many of our jobs are being exported and lost. Globalization is killing our industry and negatively impacting our trade balance. While it is not they who outsourced our jobs, that combined with a high unemployment rate for our citizens make hard for many to see the good in integrating 20 million + illegals.

Democracy cannot thrive when we have so many unemployed and so many more losing their tenuous grip on a middle class existence as the dire economic situation grinds on. Assets and resources trump philosophy at such times. As in the Gunslinger series, the world has moved on, yet we remain the same, losing ground daily to those powers fast on our tail.

So we distract ourselves
with something we can do well -- firing weapons that go "boom", and preening our machismo. But how can the U.S. successfully fight wars to impose a de-centered concept of democracy? Coming from a crisis mode, the U.S. foolishly (cavalierly?) tries to deliver the democracy slipping through our fingers into the clenched fists of reluctant and unwilling societies.

Here's the pessimism: How can we believe that globalization is an absolute good for
us when the facts indicate otherwise? Our high and recalcitrant unemployment rate is the result of removing trade barriers -- the U.S cannot compete with Chinese or Third World peasant-captive workers.

Housing, banking and the economy more than shaky,
Our infrastructure is crumbling, yet the wars are the one thing pressing on, unwaveringly. Our national identity is out of focus, yet the ship of state founders on, seemingly rudderless.

Are we becoming a ghost ship?

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Blogger BadTux said...

Democracy cannot thrive when we have so many unemployed and so many more losing their tenuous grip on a middle class existence as the dire economic situation grinds on.

I will also add, however, that democracy cannot thrive when a large and growing slave class does an increasing amount of the real work of the society. Slavery killed ancient Greek democracy, indeed it was slave rebellions that destroyed Sparta, and having 20,000,000 slaves -- which is what the "illegals" basically are, slaves, having no legal rights and subject to abuse by their masters with no recourse to the law on their part -- cannot be healthy for America and Americans today, any more than it was healthy for the South in 1861. Slavery made the South a sick society, a sick society which the healthier non-slave society of the North fairly easily defeated once the North found generals capable of pouring piss out of a boot and taking advantage of the North's superior robustness, and slavery cannot be any better for today's American society because slaves both displace free men, and create a focus of animus which takes our eyes off the real problems of the nation.

None of us are free when one of us are chained. That, more than anything else, is why the problem of the "illegals" *must* be solved if American democracy is to persist... but, alas, democracy appears to be not much a priority today. Siiiiiighh....

Sunday, October 31, 2010 at 3:08:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Hi Bad Tux,

Agreed that the illegals "create a focus of animus which takes our eyes off the real problems", and it sure is tailor-made for our needs (for distraction) now. We'll have something tomorrow on how very easy it wold be to resolve this "problem", if we were serious.

As to the very true statement, "None of us are free when one of us are chained," I take that in an ecumenical sense. No one asked the illegals to come, after all.

I might take issue with your Civil War pronouncement re. "the North's superior robustness", but that;s another time.

Sunday, October 31, 2010 at 4:43:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

Lisa: I would say that Bad Tux pretty much pegs it.

The South was a very fragile polity where it was a polity at all. It was an economic basket case even before 1860; in the terms of mid-century Victorian economics it was barely an economy at all. Socially it was brutally disparate, with an agricultural squireocracy forced into political partnership with hardscrabble farmers and undercapitalized manufacturers in a poorly governed congeries of states. Militarily it benefited from interior lines and the truly wretched generalship of the U.S.

As BadTux points out, once the North managed to get their military head out of their ass the social and economic weaknesses doomed the South.

Sunday, October 31, 2010 at 10:35:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

And as for the present day U.S...

Our "national identity" is very different from the Europeans and always has been. One reason we've been able to assimilate the waves of immigrants we have is that

a. We have no national "character" based on things like language, race, or social similarity. We are defined by our Constitution and our acceptance of a similar set of governing principles. And

b. we have always been willing to accept that our citizens have one standard of behavior for public life - that is, the legacy of English civil law and the social contract that springs from Magna Carta and the Enlightenment politics of the 18th Century colonies - and another for their personal life. So you might speak Italian or Yiddish at home but you had to speak standard English and wear a coat and tie if you wanted to get elected alderman.

The recent wave of immigrants is a little different since the Hispanic immigrants are arriving to find fairly large Hispanic communities in the cities and towns they settle in, so the process of assimilation is slower.

Still, most of the second generation speaks English and by the third are nearly indistinguishable from native-born citizens. I honestly don't see immigration as an existential threat to the U.S.


Sunday, October 31, 2010 at 10:52:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...


Now what I do see is a coming social dysfunction brought on by the return of Gilded Age inequity and the loss of low-skill work to offshore competition.

I'm generally not one that argues for tariffs, but it's hard not to see the connection between the economic growth that was assisted by the high tariffs of the early industrial era and the relatively rapid decline in employment that has followed the easing of trade barriers and the offshoring of many manufacturing and now even service work.

But will raising tariff barriers resurrect the old employment-intensive industries? I doubt it. The economics of 2010 are the economics of efficiency and technology; the old laboring jobs appear to be gone forever. The fate of the laboring and lower managerial class seems dire, with a shrinking job market overwhelmed with more and more people looking for work.

The country has been here before. But it's difficult to see the combination of labor radicals, muckraking journalists, socially liberal reformers and good government activists that helped coalesce into the "New Deal" re-emerging in the 21st Century.

Sadly, I think this time we may be headed for a fairly long period of social and economic decline. Not some sort of terrible disaster, just a slow descent into increasing social stratification, governmental dysfunction, and overall political and societal ossification.

Sunday, October 31, 2010 at 11:01:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

But of course the situation is far from as simple as you state. Fleeing starvation in a failed state is hardly the sort of "gosh darn it they just wandered over here" that you posit. Given the choice of starvation or slavery, the majority of human beings will, alas, choose slavery. The situation is convenient both for our elites, who get their own private slave class, and for Mexico's elites, who do not have to deal with the disaster that their economic policies of loot and pillage have created in the agricultural heartland of Mexico.

Regarding the robustness of Southern society in the antebellum period, note that I am a native Southerner and spent some years studying Southern history -- the real history as expressed in contemporary economic accounts and letters, not the burnished history created by the Daughters of the Confederacy and their ilk in the post-Civil War era. There are a multitude of things I could tell you about the economic weaknesses of the South in the pre-war period especially in the 1850's as economic distress swept the South, about the effects of slavery upon even the education of the planter class in the South (which was abysmal, many plantations failed because the proprietor lacked even basic arithmetic skills and lost track of his accounts until forced into bankruptcy by his creditors), about the poor motivation, training, and morale of most Southern soldiers (the majority of whom deserted months before the final end of the Confederacy, indeed, armies which had over 100,000 soldiers on paper were a ragged shell of less than 20,000 by the end because the rest of the soldiers had deserted), and so forth. But then we would be all night writing tomes that really are not that interesting, just to reach the final conclusion that slavery warped and distorted Southern society into a shape which was not viable without secession and war, and which was not viable *with* secession and war if the North pursued war with any sort of vigor.

That's what slavery does to societies. Unfortunately, slavery is very convenient for society's elites, since slaves have no rights. The existence of a large slave class in America today is not the sole fly in the soup of the American soul, indeed there are sufficient flies in the soup of what passes for "American society" that only a frog could love it at this point in time, but happened to be the fly that this frog... err, penguin... attacked today. So carry on, carry on...


Sunday, October 31, 2010 at 11:14:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Chief and Badtux,
Did you all read my essay?
I'm confused by your cmts re; the south , slavery and all that stuff.
Help- i've been hi jacked!
It is fool hardy to open our shores to millions of immigrants when we are having a hard time dealing with our own problems.
I am a second gen American that followed FDC's template. I'm not anti-immigration which would be contradictory to my life, but we as a society do have the right ans responsibility to limit the flow , as the situation demands.
We are no longer the America that you descibe, we do havwe a culture that we have acquired- just look at MTV , if you doubt this contention.
If i accept the legitimacy of the concept that we are responsible for every one , to include Guatemala immigrants, then i must accept the wars , which are based on the same basis.
We can't do it all.

Monday, November 1, 2010 at 9:31:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Bad Tux,

As for the Mexicans (and every other illegal immigrant) -- no doubt they're seeking a better life in Valhalla. But the thing is, we, like every nation, have rules about how you enter. May father's brother -- a Canadian -- waited many long years to obtain his citizenship.

They is lots o' po' folks out in this world, but the U.S. can't take them all now, can we?

As for the hijacking:

I know you to be historically well-informed. I am a border-state girl, and have no predilections on that account. I just abhor hypocrisy everywhere I see it. Certainly, slavery was going to bite this country in the arse; Jefferson and others saw that. And certainly, slavery is wrong.

And yet, we exploited it, just like every other colonial power -- that is, until we decided we wouldn't, and you have half of the country hanging behind like the Neaderthals you all once were, except they lack for the industry. They've just been shoveling the raw materials your way. Mr. Lincoln was not the compassionate man we are made to believe he was when we're in 4th grade; he was a consummate politician.

As for education today ("the effects of slavery upon even the education of the planter class in the South"), set awhile and I'll tell you a tale or two ...

Monday, November 1, 2010 at 10:40:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

In 4th grade I was taught that Lincoln was an evil man who stole the property of the Southern planters, and that the Negros were better off under slavery because Negros were inherently inferior and incapable of caring for themselves, so I'll have to just ROFL at your "compassionate man" thing, heh. Yes, I grew up in the *DEEP* South, as in, the last state to have Federal troops withdrawn in the aftermath of the Civil War...

Regarding the question of 20 million slaves, you appear to believe that I endorse the large-scale migration of the 3rd world to the United States. That is not what I was saying at all. What I was saying is that if there are people here, they need to either have the same rights as citizens or be sent back to where they came. Slavery is corrosive to a society

Finally, the whole point of the original post was talking about culture, and about how the United States' "culture" is in a state of meltdown. My own point here was that slavery is inherently corrosive of culture. For one thing, slaves rarely adopt the culture of their slave-masters. That is an issue the Europeans are struggling with right now -- you have people in France, for example, who were born there, whose parents and grandparents were born there, yet who do not have French citizenship nor the full rights of a Frenchman because they lack that all-important "French blood". Why should they adopt the culture of a society which refuses to give them the same rights as all other members of that society?

Monday, November 1, 2010 at 12:10:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

b.t. says:

"if there are people here, they need to either have the same rights as citizens or be sent back to where they came. Slavery is corrosive to a society"

Agreed. And Since slavery is your concern, even even beyond the case of illegals and slavery we could speak of the intangible slavery of some of our own indigenous, a very invisible crime.

(As for Mr. Lincoln, I thought the myth was that he is the savior of the black man as he fought to end slavery, and he had to break the backs of all those nasty white Southern men in order to do it. Leastways, that's Mr. Lincoln's legacy in this here neck o' the woods.)

Monday, November 1, 2010 at 12:37:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lisa and Ranger,

It's easy to feel nostalgia for America of the 1950's with its trimmed lawns, white-framed houses and people who spoke the same language and believed, or pretended to believe, the same things.

And it's true that dark-skinned, Spanish-speaking illegals don't quite fit in. Yet, almost without exception, the newcomers merely wish to mow your lawn, clean your house and, in short, to be of service.

And, Lisa, as an ex-pat gringo I can assure you that Mexicans do not view the United States as "Valhalla." How could they think that of a place where they are denied legal protection, exploited in the labor market, and held in contempt by the natives?

While "No one asked the illegals to come, after all," they had other, more pressing reasons to come. Hungry bellies, crying children, a man's sense that he is nothing if not able to support his family.

According to government statistics, which are probably optimistic, half of Mexico lives on less than a U.S. dollar a day. To put this into context, a liter bottle of Coke costs roughly U.S.$1.40.

Mexican poverty cannot be dismissed O'Reily fashion as a function of governmental corruption. The Mexican government is corrupt, but no more so that yours. An even cruder analysis is that Mexicans are lazy and therefore deserve to be poor. Actually, Mexicans work far harder and longer than most Americans can imagine. If you doubt that, just look around at the "illegals" busy tending to your life-style requirements.

And finally I want to say that globalization has done more than facilitate the movement of goods and financial services. It has also tended to normalize human suffering. The reduction in job opportunities that North Americans experience because of the presence of "illegals" has raised the living standards of millions of people in Mexico and Central America. I don't blame you for feeling resentful. But Lisa and Ranger, if you would travel to these countries and see the way people live in places like the garbage dump in Lima or amid the open sewers in Veracruz, you would wish that you had more to give.

Podunk Paul

Monday, November 1, 2010 at 4:15:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


First, I should say this is Ranger's piece. We are all immigrants, and I would begrudge no one the opportunity to better his lot in life. If you heard the tales of either of my parents and grandparents, and the terrifically circuitous routes they took in order to have a better life, you would know that I understand what you are saying.

My response to B.T. was that his quotation is very nice and lofty, but we can't just let everyone in; as he later says, deport or naturalize -- take a stand.

I know the Mexicans to be a very industrious people, though none are "busy tending to [my] life-style requirements." And I also know from friends that when you are eating grasshoppers in Chiapas State, America is Valhalla.

If poverty is NOT a function of government corruption (nor lack of initiative), then what is it? By no means am I heartless, but no, I don't wish I had more to give. I see my missionary contacts going down and giving and feeling very pious about it, and I look across the street and see poverty in my neighborhood. Charity begins at home, and we've got a ways to go.

Monday, November 1, 2010 at 11:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I am not anti- anybody, but we need reality checks.
In my town we have a lot of illegal Mexican type workers to harvest our tomatoes.
Hard workers and good people.
No argument from me, but they are illegal.And i must ask why my largely 8th generation legal Americans WON'T WORK IN THE FIELDS, but gladly accept ssi.
It's a societal issue, if we removed the hard working Mex types , then we'd be forced to make Americans work OR THERE'D BE NO HARVEST.Now ain't that America!!!

My comment applies to everybody whether white, black, brown skinned or in-between-IF YOU CAN'T FEED EM, DON'T BREED EM.
The fact that over breeding is a problem is not my concern.Let the Vatican start a relief project.

Now further on immigrants.
My grandparents on both sides came to this country to do filthy , dangerous work as coal miners. My Dad worked the mines and fought in a war. My cousins are still in the mines of Pa.
OK- so what?!
We did so legally and the family NEVER TOOK A PENNY OF GOVT MONEY.
Why do we feel guilty and propose otherwise?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 8:38:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

What you learn in school today-by TOM PAXTON.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 9:44:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

You cut to the chase when you ask why the French colonial immigrants do not integrate into French society.
This is a distinct issue separate from the German guest worker topic.
All problems MUST HAVE A MUTUALLY ACCEPTABLE MIDDLE GROUND to facilitate accomodation.
Lacking this we see extremism, endless wars, ethnic strife and genocide.
When societies are brittle they surely will break.
ISTM that all of western society is in a template with no logical precedents to guide our futures.Our past performances are dismal, but yet we are supposed to learn from history.
The future is a fearful place, and i admit that this guides my thinking as surely as it does our leaders and citizens.
What we need to do as a first step is to identify what is the actual fear/threats that we should address.
Unfortunately we can't focus on today, let alone tomorrow.
I often wonder if there are problems beyond our ability to solve.
I will digress, but all history in the US justifies ww1 and 2 and all that jive, when in reality they were the harbingers of confusion and dissolution of stability.
The problems of today are the results of 500 , and maybe 5000 years of warfare.
And we continue the march.
Thanks for your cmts.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 10:00:00 AM GMT-5  

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