VALUES IN DIFFICULT TIMES
2021 October 17, Sunday

     In a prior essay I emphasized the importance of having values in politics. The premise of this essay is that it isn't enough that we're preserving a positive value structure in our time. We must ensure that a positive value structure is available for generations to come. We learned that lesson sadly from 2017 through 2020.

     Elsewhere I have made the case for having values and what those values should be. In the past half century these conservative values have also been called "libertarian" values. Somehow our conservative, right-wing, Republican community has maintained those values reasonably well and still I'm going to sleep each night wondering if I'm going to succumb to a Final Solution as the Democrats seize more power when their legitimate efforts fail.

     I criticize Nineteenth-Century Marxist values for neither lack of good intent nor compassion but for their failure to make a better world. Followers of those values and followers of those following their values have killed 262 million of their own citizens in horrible ways. I have a bigger picture of success than good intent and compassion and those values fall short where conservative American Constitutional values have succeeded.

     This is an interesting apparent contradiction. We should follow values in the face of pain and then I say we should choose our values based on their ability to create a world without the same pain. Let me repeat that with two new adjectives. We should follow values in the face of short-term pain and then I say we should choose our values based on their ability to create a world without the same long-term pain. We should choose our course based on getting where we want to go and then we should stay the course in the face of momentary distractions. This justification for values based on long-term success has been called "utilitarian."

     Marx's values don't get us where we want to go even if they appear to give us brief relief from life's inequities. Fortunately for those of us who believe in values and this utilitarian foundation, short-term and long-term are easy to tell apart. The short-term relief of socialism and left-wing racial policies go sour within a few months while the long-term anguish becomes clear within a year and for centuries.

     Just as there are other values, there are other justifications for values. There are religious foundations for conservative values going back to the Ten Commandments and Old-Testiment law. There are "normative" justifications not involving religion such as the writings of Ayn Rand where these principles are taken as a given and correct foundation for human interaction. There are popularity arguments that most people prefer to live in a world where life, liberty, livelihood, property, and contract are treated as basic in human interaction. I believe the longer-term utilitarian approach gives good values and can help us resolve the issue of maintaining those values.

     Whatever the foundation, American's successful history from 1789 through 1912 has been correlated with embracing conservative values and I believe that correlation is there because those value are the source of our success. As we deviated from those values our success diminished to the point where I believe our nation reached its zenith around 1966 and has lost more than it has gained since then. I believe we have more technology but less economic security. There are several positive social changes that are, in my opinion, outweighed by an acceptance of idiocy and hate.

     The Republican Party has been closer to these libertarian values than the Democratic Party and that alignment has become closer and closer in the past few decades. I feel Republican acceptance of bigger government and pro-life abortion propaganda are weaknesses in that armor, but the alignment of Republican and conservative values and the alignment of Democrat and Marxist-style hate have become clearer and clearer of late. Those unconvinced after the goofiness of 2020 are likely never going to see this, but their platitudes and rhetoric without foundation in logic or values makes it clear this is their lack of vision rather than true alternative opinions.

     So why do I feel our conservative values as stated have failed us? Because a sea of valueless hate has succeeded in winning support from nearly half our country and has allowed Democrats to use outright violence and theft when propaganda hasn't been enough. Their political machine is able to invade our country without basis, values, logic, fact, or even popularity. Democrats stole the 2020 election, Republicans had two and half months to prevent a catastrophic inauguration, and, somehow, nobody in positions of authority did anything about it. I believe many of those Republicans were "Never-Trumper" people counting on others to save the day without themselves being identified with Donald Trump and I believe many of those Republicans were grossly incompetent or cowardly. I also believe our "nicer" values of respecting people of different opinions blocked us from retaliating when our opponents had no such respect or restrictions. Being a pacifist is great, but it doesn't work well on the actual combat battlefield.

     We need some clarification of how our values operate in the face of valueless disrespect and a willingness to do anything and to hurt anyone to win.

     My work story is all too typical, it happens over and over again to bright people with good values. When I worked for big companies, I found myself working for incompetent or vindictive people. Whether they got there from the Peter Principle or nepotism or favoritism or just astonishly poor judgment on the part of those making promotion decisions, the result is the same. What I found in several of the large companies I worked for is that I found myself hampered by my unwillingness to "stoop to their level" while they felt no such restriction on their behavior. Lying and sabotaging projects is routine in their circles, especially if they can stick it to somebody they don't like. Lest this take the tone of whining about my own failures, I'll point out that I would be much happier if I were the only victim of this sort of nastiness. Over and over again the brightest people I know in large institutions have repeatedly found themselves attacked by vile, evil people in their management and unable to find the moral resources to respond in kind.

     Our legal system has some specific loopholes in its moral code for this very purpose. We're not supposed to kill people, but there are specific conditions where we make exceptions. The law as I understand it in most American places is that responding to a imminent threat of physical harm, threat of rape, and forced entry are circumstances allowing one to kill another person. (No matter what people from New York or Boston may tell us, stealing somebody's parking space is not an justification for homicide.) Whatever we may think of the legal code, the message is there are specific conditions where the global moral code has local exceptions.

     Our political adversaries have constructed a code of behavior not only promoting their ends but also allowing for defending their actions against those of differing opinion. It's a lot easier for them when there are no moral restrictions on their behavior, when news and entertainment media tolerate and venerate the kind of behavior we've seen from violent action groups from the old White Knights to the recent ANTIFA and BLM. It's also a lot easier when there's no embarrassment at a grotesque lack of perspective, when decades of Democrat racism are swept under the rug in favor of moments of national rage about Rodney King and George Floyd.

     The result of our unwillingness to stoop to their level, or even to take careful steps in that direction, has resulted in virtually total takeover by the Democrats (and by the idiots running our big corporations). Did you ever see the movie Mississippi Burning? FBI agent Alan Ward (William Dafoe) is a young, naive fellow trying to follow his moral code and the rules while older Rupert Anderson (Gene Hackman) realizes they have to do some bad things themselves while being careful not to become monsters themselves and eventually convinces Agent Ward to use the FBI's teeth and claws to battle the beast of small-town, Klan racism in Mississippi in 1964.

     The summary of using our values against those without values is, "Nice guys don't finish nice."

     There is a world where ladies don't sip tea with their pinky fingers in the air at the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan and men don't eagerly run around limousines to open doors for their ladies. There is a world where there are worse things people can do than serving red wine with fish or white wine with Filet Mignon. I like living in a world where I can worry about whether the ballet has enough funding to produce the shows I want to see. I recognize there is a darker world that has to be there to make sure we have these nice things.

     When I look at the situations where the bad people systematically win over the good people, the overwhelming commonality is that the good people refused to cross lines the bad people didn't know or care about. This is true in business, in law enforcement, and in politics.

     One standard example A is, "If you could go back in time and kill Adolf Hitler as a young boy, then would you do it?" Never mind the physics, what are the ethics? Let's make it easy, it's Hitler with 100% certainty and no alternative, no devil's tricks. Kill the boy and the Holocaust with all its pain doesn't happen, let him live and it's World War II with thirteen million people dying in gas ovens. The catch is you have to kill the boy.

     Part of the above quandary is B what a friend of mine called "the trolley problem." A runaway train is about to kill five people in the tracks, you can divert the train so it kills another, different person, but you have actually to do something to make a net gain of four lives and somebody dies who would not die if you do nothing.

     A simpler question C is what is appropriate retaliation or retribution for harm done? It's not simpler by nature, but simpler as we have a whole system of penal law designed over many centuries to answer the question of what should happen to people who have done bad things.

     I'll ask the more-difficult question D of what should happen to somebody who is likely to do something bad or, more interesting, does something which may or may not turn out bad. Penal law has something to say on the matter, a person who shoots into a crowd is guilty of some crime whether or not his bullet finds its way into a bystander's body.

     Another question E, more relevant in politics than elsewhere, is one of perspective. Should morally-complaint alternatives be weighted by how much good or harm they do? Should we be obliged to follow one pathway over another because one does more good or less harm than the other?

     We can expand our ethical search to probabilities F. In our kill-Hitler case A, suppose the chance this cute little boy is Hitler is reduced to 90%, or even 10%? Or the deaths are only likely rather than certain for B the trolley problem? What if D two people shoot into our crowd, somebody dies, and there's no way to tell which shooter did the damage? (Maybe the shooters used shotguns so there are no gun ballistics reports to identify which was the shooter.) In the event of future consequences of present actions E how small a likelihood of a great consequence creates ethical imperative for action. How many wrong-action actors are required for a bad consequence to count as a bad decision?

     It matters G what we do to fight evil. The guys in the movie "Inglourious Basterds" carved swastikas in the foreheads of former Nazis. It's ugly and painful, perhaps in proportion to their crimes, perhaps not, it's certainly embarrassing to walk through life branded as an agent of evil, but the evil-doer victims of the carved swastikas weren't disabled or handicapped by Aldo Raine's revenge. Hannibal Lechter disemboweling an informant was over the top in our ethical exploration here.

     The reason I'm dwelling on these things is the line may be thinner than we would like between the ethical compromise required to defend good against evil and enough moral corruption to make us just like them.

     Tens of millions of voters knew enough to understand the face of evil when they voted in the last election. Are they all guilty? Do they deserve retribution? Even if they were complacent with the fraudulent voter counts, do they deserve punishment for voting what they thought was right?

     Okay, the voters themselves may be outside the reach of ethical response to evil. We failed to un-fix the election because we were above that sort of response. That's why Americans supported so much evil for the past two centuries. Nobody said "NO," nobody offered resistance, nobody used deadly force to defend our country while our opponents felt no such restrictions. Any doubts I might have had were quashed when I sat in the audience of renowned folk-music performers since 2016 November and heard seven folk musicians give their allegiance to the politics of folk-singer Pete Seeger who supported Stalin and Hitler in his youth and never repented until the end of his days in 2014. Seeger's causes were many and varied and, except for siding with the conservative civil-rights movement over George Wallace and his Democrats in the 1960s, were significantly aligned with the bad sides of history.

     We can look back on 1865 June 19, "Nineteenth." We Republicans sat back comfortable that the Democrats were finished, done, obliterated, and crushed. The lashings of slavery were over for good! When the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan crawled out of the rubble like a roach infestation, we did nothing. We said they had the right of free speech and the right to hate people of color, and when that free speech became cross-burnings and lynchings, we showed them respect they didn't deserve. A campaign of mockery and shame might have stopped them then and there. The pseudo-science of eugenics might have been quelled, especially when their freedom of expression became black women strapped down and sterilized from 1907 all the way to 1981. (Really. I'll point out the Spanish Inquisition starting in 1492 continued its horrors through 1834, forty-five years after the signing of our Constitution.) Those supporting socialism in Russia, Germany, Cuba, and China should have been loudly embarrassed with their noses rubbed in the shit they promoted.

     More recently, when the freedom of speech and human-rights bullshit of ANTIFA and BLM extended to looting businesses, hurting and killing people, burning down buildings, and blowing up cars, wasn't it time to speak up? We had all three houses, Representative, Senate, and White, along with the Supreme Court and we couldn't put these criminals in jail because we didn't want to make waves? We had a fraudulent election, outright stolen, and eleven weeks from knowing that until an inauguration that would pack those same three houses with fraudulent votes, the Supreme Court expanding to twelve justices, and the voting population by enfranchising non-citizens.

     We all knew what was going to happen, but we were silent because we didn't want to appear rude. Really? Is our ethical framework so rigid that we can't defend ourselves against attacks so dire and basic? Poignant pages posted on Facebook won't do it. Somewhere between using the criminal justice system to prosecute these criminals and use of deadly force by hundreds of millions of armed patriots is the right answer. We are real patriots who believe in our country, real patriots who fought for civil rights for blacks and women, real patriots who work for our own living, real patriots who believe in American values even when they support the other party in a dispute. Why weren't we arresting a thousand election lawbreakers each day starting 2020 November 4 after the stolen election? (Should we not have started impeachment proceedings against Joe Biden on inauguration day and again and again as they did against Trump just because we're better, nicer people?)

     Just in the past year, why weren't the promoters of a pandemic panic held accountable? Whatever we think of COVID-19, it can't be right that the lockdowns and masks and panic came two months before the early cases appeared? Why weren't the George Floyd rioting goons dealt with?

     Let me suggest two moral imperatives that aren't directly part of human life, liberty, livelihood, property, and contract. First is something similar to the Old-Testament eye-for-an-eye. Intolerable behavior must have unbearable consequences. Those consequences should not be greater than the threat of the bad actions and the burden of proof should be on the avenger, but it must be done. Second is compulsion to defend what is right while being careful not to trample others. We all have a responsibility to act. I implored everybody I could reach in positions of relative power that we had a ticking clock to act to correct our election fraud. I pointed out over and over again that we could respond to the threat of COVID-19 without threatening civil liberties.

     Here's my message. A set of values must preserve and expand the dignity and prosperity and liberty of its followers, and it must also defend itself so future generations can derive those same benefits. We only did the former while our opponents have steadily undermined our future for two centuries in America. The time has come for us to change and to embrace not only the present but also our future with whatever force is required.

     When our country, our dignity, and our values are slapped in the face as progressive Democrats have done for two centuries, we have to slap back. It isn't nice, it isn't pretty, and it requires judgment to stay as faithful as we can to our own values while we deflect their amoral actions. We have to keep a gun by our political bedside and to sleep with one eye open. In 2017 and 2018 I joined my Republican friends in our complacency. President Trump stood for so many good things while his opponents stood for so many bad things we figured we were safe for a long time. For those of us who have Hannukah candles instead of Christmas trees we had a president standing at the Wall in Jerusalem as opposed to Democrat ANTIFA, BDS, BLM, and the Mod Squad emerging to solve the Jewish "problem" in the United States. Racism was ebbing, employment and prosperity were waxing, poverty was waning, and pride in America was rising. The right people with the right values were in power, the public was happy about it, and they voted that way. When that success was threatened we were unprepared and unwilling to act and that has to change right now.

     Alas, there will be "collateral damage" and innocent people will be hurt. It's all about managing trade-offs. It's like our Second Amendment where the consequences of restricting weapons of death are greater than the consequences of letting Democrats have guns. It's like Thomas Jefferson's assertion that a just criminal justice system is going to let guilty defendants walk away to prevent punishing innocent people. It's like COVID-19 where the panic cost more lives than the pandemic. Freedom isn't safe.

     It isn't enough to be a good person and to do good things. It is also essential to make it possible and easier for others to be good and to do good now and in the future.

    

If you like what you read here (Hah!), then here are my other American-issues essays.

Today is 2022 July 3, Sunday,
2:01:02 Mountain Standard Time (MST).
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