Would Natty Bumpo Have a Crisis on his Hands if his Health Insurance Didn’t Cover Catasrophic Scalp Injury?

by D. W. Sabin on August 27, 2009 · 15 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Culture, High & Low,Politics & Power

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Washington, CT. The unanimously anointed Soothsayer of the American Republic, Alexis de Tocqueville is deservedly credited with divining the essential and lasting traits of the mythological American. That he did so, long before there really was such a collective thing as a national identity only serves to make his achievement all the more remarkable. He discerned it all…our restlessness, our physicality, our endless busyness and cocksure, open-faced optimism. But there was someone else, a fellow French national in fact who first hit upon the two most defining aspects of the American Character. On the one hand, we are joyfully independent but collective partisans in a civil communion of the future and on the other, we are malcontents, chucking the group-grope in favor of following the sun towards the western horizon. Both are revolutionaries of a sort but both, by all rights, should not inhabit the same sphere of national ends. But we do, to varying degrees of success or messiness over the years. Currently, the bumpy equipoise is more than a bit agitato and the competing forces are being used to great effect by the various hucksters who prod the national beast for their own malign ends. It would seem to me however, that a little of this “crisis management” goes a long way. True to form, if we do not watch out, we’ll once again come to unnecessarily destructive blows over aims and ends which we will have forgotten by the time the fists really fly. Such are the wages of socio-political schizophrenia.

Tocqueville’s worthy predecessor was a man named J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur. Born of minor French nobility on December 31, 1735 and armored with a Jesuit Education, the future Classic American visited England as a young man and there, he became an enthralled Anglophile. After his English sojourn, he entered the service of the French Colonial Militia as a surveyor in time to watch the French lose Quebec to the British he so admired. Moving to the Colony of New York in 1759, he married a colonial girl and bought a farm in the rich black dirt country of Orange County, New York, just north of the Hudson River Narrows. Instantly loving the agrarian life on the frontier, he took up writing so as to fully plumb and realize his infatuations with life in the furrows at the edge of the world.

In 1779, his peacefulness aggressively jarred by the American Revolution, de Crevecoeur attempted to travel back to France on family business but was intercepted by the British forces occupying New York and charged as a spy. Freed after a three month incarceration, he traveled to England where he published a volume of essays entitled “Letters From an American Farmer”. He anticipated little from this initial literary endeavor but to his joy and surprise, the book became the first big sensation by an “American” author in Europe. This book was the first publication to attempt a description of the colonists as a unique and culturally diverse people comprised of agrarian independent citizens living a new form of life. He frequently used the latin term “Ubi panis ibi patria”………”where my bread is, there is my homeland” as the prime logos of the nascent American.

With success on his shoulders, he returned briefly to France and was reunited with his father. After the Treaty of Paris in 1783, Crevecoeur returned to New York to find his American Idyll transformed to nightmare. His wife had been murdered, his farm burned to the ground and his children had vanished. Eventually regaining custody of his children, he settled in Manhattan where he launched a career as a diplomat , serving as French Consul in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. During this time, he expanded his original book into a three volume version which was ultimately translated into many languages and served as the essential description of that mysterious New World thing that would come to be known in the Old World as an “American”. The Cottage Industry of the American Dream was off and running. Decades later, Tocqueville would add his own indelible and more widely appreciated stamp.

Sadly, at the end of his life, trapped in France by their revolution and in hiding as an aristocrat, Crevecoeur was denied freedom by the American Ambassador James Monroe and so never again saw his beloved agrarian paradise. J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur met his maker on November 12, 1813 in Sarcelles, Val d’Oise, France.

Crevecoeur’s three volume book is roughly divided into four parts. It is presented as the correspondence of a “Farmer John” to a wealthy friend in England . In the first section of the book, the reader is treated to an unabashed love letter to the life of a gentleman farmer within a dispersed community of like-minded transplants. The fecundity of the landscape is discussed at great length and one is treated to a brief description of a variety of folk-occupations that were required of a freeholding farmer. Crevecoeur is revealed as a combination philosopher, husbandman, naturalist and sociologist and his various ruminations are exultant in their enthusiasms for the new life that had replaced Europe’s fusty and frequently tyrannical drudgery. Here, he remarks upon the endless challenges and joys of the farming life and composes a definition of the American that still stands today if we want it so:

“What then is the American, this new man? He is neither an European nor a

descendent of an European: hence that strange mixture of blood, which you

will find in no other country. I could point out to you a family, whose grandfather

was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French

woman, and whose present four sons now have four wives of different nations.

He is an American , who, leaving behind him all his antient prejudices and

manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the

new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He becomes an

American by being received in the broad lap of our great alma mater. Here

individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labours

and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world. Americans are the

western Pilgrims, who are carrying along with them that great mass of arts,

sciences, vigour, and industry which began long since in the east. They will

finish the great circle. The Americans were once scattered all over Europe.

Here, they are incorporated into one of the finest systems of population which

has ever appeared, and which will hereafter become distinct by the power of

the different climates they inhabit.  The American ought therefore to love this

country, much better than that wherein either he or his forefathers were born.

Here, the rewards of his industry follow, with equal steps, the progress of his

labour. His labour is founded on the basis of nature, self-interest: can it want a

stronger allurement? Wives and children, who before in vain demanded of

him a morsel of bread, now, fat and frolicksome, gladly help their father to clear

those fields whence exuberant crops are to arise, to feed and clothe them all,

without any part being claimed, either by despotic prince, a rich abbot, or a

mighty lord. Here, religion demands little of him; a small voluntary salary to the

minister and gratitude to God: can he refuse these? The American is a new

man, who acts upon new principles; he must therefor entertain new ideas and

form new opinions. From involuntary idleness, servile dependence, penury,

and useless labour, he has passed to toils of a very different nature, rewarded

by ample subsistence.—This is an American”.

After  touching upon the different qualities of each region, he alludes to the fact that while America might not have as many “variety of tinges and gradations which may be observed in Europe”, he asserts that “we have colours peculiar to ourselves”. Coast dwellers will by dint of occupation and latitude be different from those settlers of the forest or mountains. Then, he presciently describes how the American will be stamped with a deep imprint from this fortuitous continent we occupy. Fittingly and because it is, after all, a Frenchman in the analysts chair, Crevecoeur posits a kind of Terroir of Mankind, where we, like our produce, become unique products of the land we occupy:

“Men are like plants. The goodness and flavour of the fruit proceeds from the

peculiar soil and exposition in which they grow. We are nothing but what we

derive from the air we breathe, the climate we inhabit, the government we

obey, the system of religion we profess, and the nature of our employment.”

It is important here to acknowledge that these initial parts of the book were first written when the colonies were still subjects of the English King. Despite our building resentments….felt earliest amongst the Planters and those urban elite engaged in trade, early colonists enjoyed the protection of the Sovereign but suffered very little in the way of imposition. The early American was literally a “freeman” and subject only to the various restrictions and opportunities of their own character at work within a challenging environment. As an important summary to this initial section of the book, Crevecoeur presents a description of the life of a Scottish immigrant from the barren Hebrides Islands and how this simple but hardworking man advanced his way in the world through a combination of his own hard work, the business-like charity of his fellow citizen and the productivity of the land. One shares in the sweet awe of the opportunity life affords us here and how the old adage of “the harder I work, the luckier I get” holds no middling truth in this land.

The next section of the book revolves around a visit to the seafaring island cultures of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard where the landscape was less productive and diverse but the people, primarily Quakers, were rich in contentment. Crevecoeur speaks highly of the neat and ordered townscapes, the thrift and hard work of the people and their simple, forthright religion. He describes elements of the Whale trade at length and in a moment of love for the female that is almost feminist, he describes how the spouses of the whalers frequently dispatch the business of the household for extended periods with aplomb. He describes one handsome woman of forty as arising from the mutual meditations of their Sunday gathering and executing as fine a disquisition on the spiritual and temporal affairs of their lives as any man could achieve.

If there is any downside to his observations on life surrounded by the sea, it is in the age-old tradition of beating up on the lawyers. I am reminded of early descriptions from yankee dairies about the atrocious roads they endured in crossing the “Land of Steady Habits” called Connecticut and how the same generally squalid trait continues today. But here, in honor of our good friend Farmer Stegall Esq. and his voluntary exile among his hogs and cattle, I will share Crevecoeur’s not-so-gentle diatribe against the Tribe of Barristers who continue to freight our existence with that plastic thing called The Law.

“One single lawyer has of late years, found means to live here, but his best

fortune proceeds more from having married one of the wealthiest heiresses of

the island than from the emoluments of his practice: however, he is sometimes

employed in recovering money lent on the main, or in preventing those

accidents to which the contentious propensity of its inhabitants may sometimes

expose them. He is seldom employed as a means of self-defence, and much

seldomer as the channel of attack; to which they are strangers, except the fraud

is manifest and the danger imminent. Lawyers are so numerous in all our

populous towns, that I am surprised they never thought before of establishing

themselves here: they are plants that will grow in any soil that is cultivated by the

hands of others; and, when once they have taken root, they will extinguish every

other vegetable that grows around them. The fortunes they daily acquire, in every

province, from the misfortunes of their fellow citizens, are surprising! The most

ignorant, the most bungling member of that profession , will, if placed in the most

obscure part of the country, promote litigiousness, and amass more wealth,

without labor, than the most opulent farmer with all his toils. They have so

dexterously interwoven their doctrines and quirks with the laws of the land, or

rather they are become so necessary an evil in our present constitutions that it

seem unavoidable and past all remedy. What a pity that our forefathers, who

happily extinguished so many fatal customs, and expunged from their new

government so many errors and abuses, both religious and civil, did not also

prevent the introduction of a set of men so dangerous. “

Alarmingly, he goes on a bit more but we should not want to see Brother Caleb water yon hog wallow with tears. I am only relieved that Crevecoeur never hired a landscape architect to tart up his beloved “Pine Hill”.

Leaving the tidy windblown islands off the Main, Crevecouer, in the guise of a visiting Russian, then pays a visit to the famed early Botanist John Bartram at his lush farm outside Philadelphia. In addition to saluting the cheerful acceptance by this esteemed Quaker of an un-announced guest , Crevecoeur discusses Bartram’s manumitted former slaves at length and in particular, during a peaceful repast where all assembled at the same table for victuals. He describes the various diking of the Schuylkill river that has afforded several good fields in rich floodplain and provides extended glimpses of the happy naturalism of America’s first botanic champion.

After all of this celebratory if gentle adulation of the New World, her manifold opportunities and multifarious people, Crevecoeur descends abruptly into the dark heart of the American and paints a picture of frustration, unease and escapism that stubbornly continues into this day. This is the altar-ego of the optimistic, can-do American . Farmer John, deprived of sleep with his fearful family at the mercy of marauding agents turned loose by revolution, he solicits lodging from a distant Indian sachem who obliges gladly. While fitfully listening for noises and movement in the dark, his family barricaded in the cellar, Farmer John muses on the disaster and disorder that has befallen the settled frontier since Revolution descended. He imagines a renewed life farther out into the western woods where he can reclaim the individualism, safety and mutually reinforcing community lost to him as he nervously awaits doom. Here, he abandons his love for the transplanted European and exalts instead, the simplicity of the original Native American Indian. He had no doubt either known of or met Sir William Johnson, the so called “White Savage” and Indian agent for the crown among the fabled Iroquois and fancied himself as that combination ex pat European, early American and native forest-dweller, combining the best facets of the two distinct lives. These two figures, Crevecoeur’s “Farmer John” and the “White Savage” Johnson became models for James Fenimore Cooper’s “Natty Bumppo” in the “Leatherstocking Tales” of which “Last of the Mohicans” is the most widely heralded.

Here, even before the Revolution had found a happy denouement and long before the epic migrations and settlement of the 19th century….. or the vast hordes channeling through Ellis Island during the early years of the last century…here we have the bookends of the American Identity…or what has been referred to as “The Continental Mind.” Utopian communalism leavened by independent thinking and self-reliance on the one hand and on the other, a desperate frustration, almost paranoia at what has been lost and vague notions of how one might light out for the farther frontier to escape the clutches of the perverted hordes who want to destroy the very thing they extol. These two competing “Americans” have both informed our civic life and been manipulated by those who cadge the citizen under the rubric of “politics”. We have seen it during war time and now once again, we are watching this same epic American Mock-Battle unfold over the so called “Crisis of Health Care”. Crisis, as usual, is not being wasted by either side and battle lines are being drawn over misinformation that builds for lack of critical discourse regarding what…exactly…we are fighting over.

What I find most distasteful about the current imbroglio is not that there is argument but that the argument is so inchoate and un-illuminating. A box-checking , leveling, profligate, armed and frequently dangerous Florence Nightingale is in one corner of the ring and in the other, a frustrated, cornered and increasingly agitated Natty Bumppo, sharpening his buck knife on a gleaming whetstone. What is becoming obvious to me in this latest debate is that both sides have become politically sophisticated in their own way and have reached an impasse where the point at which they meet is something not even “Farmer John” expressed as he warily watched for marauders out his front door: Cynicism. This cynicism has placed a heavy European Cloak upon the American Freeman and he cannot now see through the shroud to meet our common challenges with mutual honesty and respect. Everything now is a “crisis” and the boy has called wolf for so long that the wolf is tamed and we must invent new demons both real and imagined, like that of the well-dressed Menshevik corporatists boating us as a lusty band of Brooks Brothers Pirates while we attempt to live out our final days in relative peace and decent health.

I have no idea what is going on in this “Health Care Crisis” and I doubt anyone really does. I do know that whatever results from the high-tech fracas will be some oddball creature assembled in a laboratory of dysfunction and in no way will it be a native plant. The success of the American as the transplanted fruit of a Terroir of Mankind has been weakened by industrialized artificiality and regional homogenization. Aside from a very few and reducing locales, there is increasing degree of no there, there…..no historic or unique regional identity nor, in many areas, any material reason at all to love the place we live nor enjoy anywhere else for its differences. This cultural and regional deracination was the only real way to achieve the victory of branding over substance that has been promoted in our commodified existence. Government, in this context is Big Business. In response to this very public elopement, Lobbying was a naturally occurring development, perhaps even a prudent one for a time as a result of increasingly complex law and a bigger spending government. These lobbyists are now an albatross about our necks, making us smell a crisis afoot when in reality, it is simply the dead and dirty bird of Old European-style Special Interests hanging around our necks. Cynicism and all the old fears are a rococo decoration encrusting the real debate like camouflage.

The Frontier Ethic has long exhausted the landscape and has indeed “completed the circle” described by de Crevecoeur. It has run squarely up against our most difficult but potentially enriching frontier to date: a maturing Republic, dimly aware of its foundational principles and intent upon continuing the unique polity that so entranced Farmer John even though there is no longer any physical frontier. The Checks and Balances the Framers adopted from the Athenian philosopher-king Solon were added to the Republican virtues of Cicero and together within a vast planting field, they have allowed both the Utopian and the Independent strains of our identity to grow a uniquely American life that is part Frontier and part City On a Hill. We depart from these truths at distinct hazard and if we do not fail to heed the signs all around us, we will become the last European nation of the 20th Century to descend into the flames of self-destruction….or at the very least, decadent, impoverished and mouldering decay. The Settled Utopian and the Frontiersman can and should continue their arms-length but fruitful discourse even though it would appear that there is no longer anywhere for the frontiersman to nourish his stand-offishness.

The Settled Utopian will continue to bring technological innovation and cultural expression to the land just as the Frontiersman occasionally seeks a new frontier with the Utopian or more vitally, checks the self-absorbed and frequently intemperate or impractical urges of the Utopian. These are competing impulses with contrary motives but they have made the Americans what they are. We have one principle job now and it is to remember that we are all Americans and are doing ourselves an old-fashioned disservice when we describe a policy debate on our collective health as some kind of “Crisis”. Crises beget confusion and because we see crisis everywhere now, confusion is everywhere as well.  As a result, we would not recognize the real crisis of heedless factionalism confronting us if we tripped over it. The circle is completed and it is time to look inside it in a spirit of exploration to see what we might find…… instead of peering into it and inventing all manner of phantoms that do not exist. There are enough bureaucratic phantoms in this not-quite Free Market, not quite Socialized mongrel of American Health Care not to be making more up as we go along. Were we to be honest and forthright with one another, we could return to the exaltation and sweet awe of our American fate here amongst the furrows of our agrarian sensibilities. Like it or not, we inhabit a world banging hard up against a future that will require much from us. While we squabble, we remain distracted from the truth and are apt to slouch into a “solution” that fights monopoly with more monopoly, thus insuring that the subjects of cost control or price competition are never addressed. If there is one thing we have come to learn over the last 16 years, our government, such as it is, avoids the truth like the plague and like the Sophists, think man and his government to be the measure of all things. As a result, our debt to GNP ratio is something that should turn the mildest Quaker into a raving and tomahawk pumping Mohawk.

In September, when Natty Bumppo attempts to liberate Florence’s fevered brow from her empathetic skull, somebody is going to have to watch costs and ultimately pay the bill. That, dear reader, is our job…to put shoulder to plow and raise enough ruckus so that the issue is met head on. This will…. of course, require as much listening as talking and just to make sure nobody can accuse me of mere grumbling, I shall offer the following fiscally aware health care plan I have named : “Dirty Dick’s Health Care Off Track Betting Parlor”. Given the established fact that the average American gambles mightily on their health with all manner of sordid behaviors and compulsions, I think it high time we move our health care to Las Vegas and perhaps buy up their growing empty homes in foreclosure as out-patient locales. We can turn the health program and diagnosis over to parimutuel betting and plow that money generated into a fund that covers those less able to care for themselves. Needless to say, some organizations will attempt to beat the odds with racehorse quality results while once in a while, some ancient delta bluesman who smoked filterless camels and ate bacon-grease soaked ham hocks for breakfast his entire life will pay out big. This is a true Public-Private partnership that will insure our beloved Las Vegas will remain the wonderful family vacation center it truly is. Siegfried and Roy can even add field medical triage to their tiger act. Given the fact that on any given day, one can view five blocks of visiting Chinese tourists lining up to take their picture in front of the statue of Siggy and Roy, this will be a swell way to recapture some of that Chinese Interest money we’re going to be shoveling their way for the next dynasty or two.

I’m just trying to be helpful here.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar AML August 27, 2009 at 1:15 am

Filterless camels and bacon-grease soaked ham hocks: Yum. Sounds like my grandfather. Thats about the diet he ate growing up, though he smoked rather than ate his cigs. At nearly eighty years old, he’s not in the worst shape. Wrestling the hogs to turn them into real meat (brilliant!) and getting corn out of the @!&#ing ground is hard work and keeps the old ticker ticking (he doesn’t do too much farming any more, though). But while the farm is fallow, here I am sitting in suburbia on my laptop at two in the morning preparing to enter an institution to teach me how to “promote litigiousness, and amass more wealth,
without labor, than the most opulent farmer with all his toils.”

avatar Bob Cheeks August 27, 2009 at 5:28 am

No one utilizes vocabulary as well as D.W. in humorously expressing sundry historical, political, and cultural concepts. Reminds me of Brother Kauffman though the delivery is different. And, with that said, my minor critique is that there are two essays here rather than one….and two good ones at that.

My primary criticism falls along the lines of what appears to me to be the author’s ambivilance e.g. that a gentleman who has acknowledged the invidious deeds of Leviathan writes:
“What I find most distasteful about the current imbroglio is not that there is argument but that the argument is so inchoate and un-illuminating.”

“Inchoate,” I dunno, looks like to me you got a rather large, socialist central gummint trying their damnedest to shove nationalized health care down America’s throat! So what is it you’re confused about? That the un-washed are trying their best to corner their lying, cheating, dirt-bag congressmen and actually demanding answers to THEIR questions rather than listening to the inchoate BS issuing forth from Washington City? That these same Americans have the common sense to know that any gummint solution is going to expand socialism to the degree that we all must become Obamites to get health care? That these contretemps are not about ‘health care,’ they’re about gummint control!

These people understand that they must first STOP Obama and the socialist Democrats and then they must require a seat at the table or they know they’re going to get screwed AGAIN by the gummint!

Is there any wonder why some of them are carrying guns to these meeting? D.W., these Americans aren’t confused about a damn thing, they know exactly what’s going on and for the first time in my life they’re standing up, just like their ancestors, and actually demanding that their morally impoverished representatives do their job.

And, by God, sir, count me one of them!

+

avatar D.W. Sabin August 27, 2009 at 10:21 am

AML….good luck in your law schooling and don’t second guess it ..but do try and retain an encompassing awareness of the Natural Laws that underpin the society as you parse the civil law which you will be studying. Law school is quite a discipline and I envy you it. Best of luck to the old man!

Cheeks,
Thanks, once again for your various observations and you are right, this is two if not three essays and I am only disappointed you failed to embrace the third volume of the essay involving my proposed Health Care Off Track Betting Plan. Sure things like these come only rarely.

I do not question the motivations, urges nor even judgement of the various folks throwing rotten tomatoes at their summering Representatives, I only wish they would have started doing this a long time ago and on issues across the board. What I do find continuing disappointment in is the lack of critical analysis over our mongrel public and private health program already in place. According to the current debate, we must either chose some kind of Federalization of Health Care or not touching what already exists or maybe but another Mongrel Construct that satisfies “political realities”. As to Federalization of it…the most recent Federal Spawn is the Homeland Security Dept, ensconced out in that historic Mental Hospital and everyone knows my opinion on that gaily Kafkaesque farrago. But before that, we had the establishment of the Department of Energy, begun during the Carter Years to …ahem….”reduce our reliance on foreign energy”. This has worked swimmingly and the agency is but one of many whirring away in Foggy Bottom creating little beyond best intentions while consuming millions of tax dollars. You could likely fill the gas tank of every American for at least 5 years on what the Energy Department has spent to date and achieved virtually nothing.

As to the neither Free Market nor Socialized existing health plan of so called “private insurers”…well, having recently watched one of the televised drubbings at a Town Hall and chuckling at the whipsawed Congressman, I happened to open my mail and the first thing I noted was a $500 monthly increase in my insurance …on top of a very high deductible by choice and the removal of my last kid from the family plan. I don’t know what might have precipitated this increase beyond perhaps the only malady either I or the Concept have had which did occur last fall when a certain foreign object was discovered at loose in my foot …we have come to refer to it as “the Stigmata” and I needed full surgery on an out-patient basis to remove the encrusted thing. We made sure to speak clearly into it and thank Admiral Poindexter for his efforts before tossing it. The doctors thought it might have been in there for 5-10 years, maybe 15. I accused the Concept of trying to off me with a nail gun but misfiring and losing her nerve while she assures me she would not miss. But, I paid cash under arrangements with the various doctors for much of the work and so the $6,000 yearly increase still mystifies me. The current program is rife with waste, corporate gatekeeping and all manner of dysfunction too. The debate , by all rights, should be taking a hard look all around.

But, we are left with the “either-or” solution and that is why I refer to it as “inchoate”…it fails to deal with causes, and only seeks to treat symptoms.

avatar Bob Cheeks August 27, 2009 at 11:25 am

My criticism of your three delightfully written essays is very simple, you’ve missed the point of the ‘uprisings.’ Or, you don’t want to acknowledge that the ‘mob’ is right and the Democrats are a bunch of theivin’, lyin’, and corrupt SOB’s.

So’s here’s the history of things:

1.”The angry mob,” rose up to thwart the effort of our newly elected Marxist president and his congressional bootlicks from imposing socialized medicine in the USA.
2. So far their valiant efforts have succeeded.
3. Now they (we) must demand that the national debate on ‘health care’ include not only the failed, corrupt politicians but Big Pharm, Big Insurance, and true, honest-to-God representative of the citizenry in an open and public debate.

Let me know if you see it differently.
Now, the question is, do you think Obama and his followers want an open and public debate and resolution to the ‘health care’ issue or do you think they merely wish to control ‘health care’?
And, gee, why do you suppose they want to control ‘health care?’

avatar Patrick Deneen August 27, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Bob,
I’m not sure that you, or anyone to date, really has a handle on the reason for these “uprisings.” Sure, they’re being promoted by Talk Radio and now are snowballing under the weight of unceasing media coverage. But – as Mr. Sabin points out – we’ve been living under the shadow of state capitalism for some time (a.k.a., “socialism for the rich”) with hardly a peep from the masses. I do agree that something is afoot, and the health “reform” (such as it is) is the proximate excuse for genuine anger and frustration. Can we overlook the anger that was already building during the no less socialist bailout under the Bush administration? Or the growing disatisfaction with the fake reasons and the monetary and human sinkhole of the war in Iraq (and now Afghanistan)? The prospect of an endless “war on terror”? Or the exportation of decent jobs overseas that has unceasingly unfolded for the last twenty years? The destruction of places, towns, communities under the logic of “the free market” and “globalization”? The incipient frustrations of the lower middle class that propelled two Bushes and Reagan to the Presidency – and Nixon, for that matter? Do we need to go back to the felt sense of a loss of self-governance when we realized that we were dependent upon desert sheiks for the “health” of the U.S. economic system? Could it even be traced back to Eisenhower’s premonitory warnings against the loss of self-sovereignty with the expansion of the “military-industrial (and, add “Federal Governmental”) complex”?

In short, I agree that it’s well-nigh time for the citizenry to rise up and reclaim self-governance, but their civic vocabulary has been so emaciated and eviscerated by decades of commercial television and electronic distraction, as well as the contentment that accompanies the soft comforts of Laz-E-Boys and the extra padding from an unending supply of Twinkies and Doritos, that their protests are less articulate than a wolf baying at the moon.

The patriots of the late 1700′s did not rise up against “socialism”; they rose up against a central power that forestalled the lived experience of self-government. We have the disadvantage of the absence of any real recent lived experience of self-government. Content with gimcracks and doo-dads, we’ve slowly given over our manly civic capacities to a wet nurse State at whose teet we are all content to suckle, and the withdrawal of which elicits lamentation and the pulling of hair (lest we think that our “leaders” boldly instruct the citizenry to rely on their own two feet, recall that the Republicans have been the first to demagogue Social Security reform if they think it will give them political advantage). I take these inarticulate protests (comparing Obama to Hitler? PULEEEZE…) to be inchoate longings for the actual experience of self-rule. Problem is, these folks then go back to 54″ flat screen TVs and zone out on the newest episode of “Ice Road Truckers” or “America’s Got Talent,” unwilling to do any hard work of thinking through the corporate-governmental nexus that exists and continues to exist whether there’s health care reform or not. There is no real desire to exercise true civic responsibility – what our forbears fought and died to achieve – and thus, I’m at once admiring of the motivation for the uprisings, but ultimately skeptical about the prospects for any real and lasting exercise of manly self-governance resulting from the most recent fracas over Big Gummint.

avatar Caleb Stegall August 27, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Brother Sabin,

I am indeed honored by your inclusion of my profession in your fine essay. Crevecouer’s diatribe against my fellow doctors of the law is in fine form, and is in the respectable American tradition of lawyer-bashing, a tradition, like too many others, in a state of decay due to lack of care, attention, and use. I blame the feminists who convinced the masses of coeds that they had to make something of themselves, leading to increased and unwelcome “respectability” and “softening” of my profession. I prefer the cut-your-nuts-off respect that comes from fear and loathing to the Betty Crocker respect of lawyer as social do-gooder.

Briefly, to contribute a substantive point, the American Lawyer has always functioned as the cynical release valve on the tension in the American character you aptly describe. The cynic is not a new feature of our landscape, it is just new that we should all be cynics.

In America, having thrown over any cosmic ideal of law descending through magistrates duly appointed by a divinely chosen sovereign, the lawyer is free to be maligned as a Machiavellian tramp. This new social and psycho-spiritual function of the lawyer tended to take the place of stifling Old World superstitious beliefs. People need someone or something to blame other than the king when life serves up its ordinary fair of heartbreak, tragedy, and bile. It used to be the gods, but in America, like they say in the slammer: “I’m innocent, my lawyer screwed me.”

This gave the American a decidedly different, and I would suggest more healthy, view of the law as a capricious master; capable of being set aside in favor of higher virtures when necessary, but also a non-respector of persons and harsh task-master–cross it at your peril. The law is an ass, as one jurist adroitly noted. And the lawyer is the business end of the law.

The Natty Bumpos and Florence Nightengales need to recognize the lawyer as cynic, and condemn him as such, in order to retain their idealism.

Meanwhile, I keep a hog wallow for my own redemption, and sleep a sound purgatorial sleep due to ample cushioning of ill-gotten gains.

avatar Bob Cheeks August 27, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Pat, there’s very little you write here with which,to one degree or another, I don’t concur. I think this ‘uprising’ is as you illustrate probably the cumulative result of being screwed by the gummint over a long period and you make a good point when you write:

“Problem is, these folks then go back to 54″ flat screen TVs and zone out on the newest episode of “Ice Road Truckers” or “America’s Got Talent,” unwilling to do any hard work of thinking through the corporate-governmental nexus that exists and continues to exist whether there’s health care reform or not.” Though I’m not sure that because ‘the people’ haven’t formed committee’s of correspondence or any other revolutionary apparatus to resist the central gummint, that this has any bearing on the fact that they, at the very least, sense a condition of gummint oppression. Please keep in mind that if this is a legitimate ‘uprising’ we are just in the beginning stages.

I think the possibility for a ‘real’ revolution is slime to none unless the Enlightened One does something really stupid such as turning his Core people or Union thugs into a group of ‘old timers’ and kills one or two. Any comparison of the POTUS to Adolph Hitler would lie in the fact that both embrace(d) ideologies and both are statists. No one I’ve heard is suggesting that Obama wishes to implement re-education centers, gulags, or concentration camps at this time. However, I have heard Obama criticized as a ‘racist,’ e.g. he hates Caucasians and these critics point to the Officer Crowley incident as proof.

You complain that the American people have “no real desire to exercise true civic responsibility – what our forbears fought and died to achieve,” and I do not agree because you must understand that for the past hundred years or so the U.S. has been run by what the late Sam Francis referred to as the “managerial elite” and consequently, the people have found their opportunities to engage in civic discourse and action greatly reduced. They do not know how, they must re-learn how to be republicans, to love liberty!

I am not as condemning or critical of ‘the people,’ as you. The opposition to the pernicious statism defined by Obama’s socialist policies, with all of its flaws-real or imagined, is a legitimate political action. It’s denouement is unknown, but I for one am very proud of those citizens who have chosen, for whatever reason, to criticize their gummint, no matter how inarticulate they may be…they are not only correct in terms of republicanism, they are morally correct as well. And, they may be America’s last hope.

avatar Patrick Deneen August 27, 2009 at 3:27 pm

I concur as well – except that it should be noted that rule by the “managerial elite” had and has been assented to by the very people who should throw the bums out, or stop giving them both our money and all the power. Still, I think in the event of a real threat to their power (not the sort made for television), they would shut us down in a hurry. Obama learned pretty quickly to assure the power-elite that he wasn’t serious about revisiting NAFTA…

I am both critical and hopeful about “the people” – their instincts and impulses are often right (see Lasch), but just as often they/we accept superficial explanations and even more superficial distractions. The current arrangement is only happy to provide both, in quantity.

avatar D.W. Sabin August 27, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Having brought Farmer Stegall Esq. out of summer hiding for six fine paragraphs, I am well pleased. But, to one of his assertions and though I am not deaf to these notions of a generally addled “feminization” of the culture at work within the fittingly named “Nanny State” and Shopping Ad Infinitum and Men wanting to look and act like fresh-faced, hair-moussed teens while speaking like 10 year olds, I have worked with at least two wimmin lawyers who would have made Spartacus give up nation-wrecking and start knitting loincloths. One of em was a veritable knockout and this made her triply effective. The depth of confusion experienced by her opponent as they had their nether regions auctioned off to ridicule while they were being legally crushed as they admired the cut of her jibe…well, these are confusions best left to multiple personality disorder. In general though, all the lawyers have descended, as much of the society has, to a kind of culture of the clerk, studiously showing up, discharging a “wonderful effort” and retiring to some weekend self-esteem-building workshop. It is kind of you to offer the Bar up as official object of all things wrong and holder of the Cynics Mantle.

Thanks to Dr. Deneen for a comprehensive description and call for a tremendously described “lived experience of self-government”. Here in the bad roads of Connecticut, we still have one of the finest nights of entertainment one can enjoy: The Town Meeting……as long as a dwindling number of people keep showing up. We ought to have regular Town Meetings across the land. I never loved my neighbors so much as one night we told Hartford to keep their highway curve reduction money that would have lost 4 homes of the less than rich to imminent domain and furthermore, shove their required third Probate Judge . The Town Meeting is an institution that should never have been relegated to a prosaic Yankee relic.

Now, as to Cheeks……Cheeks, Cheeksy Cheeks……Obama as a purported Black National Whitey-Hater is something so preposterous as to invalidate your better protestations. The jug-eared Neo-Lincoln had a white mother and was raised lovingly by a white Grandma. He tribed up and jumped to the concerns about the Cambridge Police just as a lot of whites I know did (both liberal and conservative) on the basis of thinking it a tad odd for somebody to be arrested in their own home no matter how obstreperous they might have gotten. Even many well-meaning Whites now seem to want to jump on the fate of the Grey Eyed Devil by making their grand leveling schemes the law of the land. But by in large, any notion that blacks should be any less tribal in their kneejerk reactions than whites are is pretty hysterical. You should vacate this weak position and stick to your stronger ones.

While Deneen may sound condescending in his characterization of the Barcalounger Reality Television obsessed , I do not think that he is mean-spirited or “condemning” of the people at all. His disgust, I surmise is akin to mine ….I throw mud because I think the people capable of so much better. As to the “mob” being correct…..as I said in my reply, I don’t doubt their frustrations nor motivations nor even their methods in general but the mob….as a person so well versed in Greek Philosophy as you ….is never right. This mob needs to distill some leadership out of itself and if it were to do so, and do it clearly, dispassionately but firmly and intelligently, it would devastate the so called Crypto Socialists and send them packing to their feathered nests. They are not Socialists anyway, they are simple Statists….on the payroll and looking to extract every last dime and cloying adulation they can get. If they were Socialists, Lloyd Blankfein’s wife wouldn’t be carping about having to wait a whole 15 minutes in line at a Hamptons Fund Raiser like the rest of the merely rich mortals, she would be with Hubby and sneaking out of the country under cover of darkness because the Government rethought their trickle down bail out. Socialists actually have a plan, however cockeyed and these people are just making it up as they go along. If they be Socialists, its a PeeWee Herman Clubhouse version of Socialism and as I recall, PeeWee was ultimately caught in a moment of onanic contemplation.

In short, the mob needs to stay together but replace their anger with facts, figures and a devastating critique of the record of the Federal Government in solving ANYTHING within the last several decades. It also needs to attack the already existing clusterboink of communing Corporate and Government Bureaucracy in the so called …ahem,…excuse me, this is a stretch: “Free Market” system of Health Care.

avatar Bob Cheeks August 27, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Pat, D.W., et al,

The question that’s arisen between the beloved first wife and myself re: these contretemps is, why do well educated, articulate, intelligent and socially prominent individuals (that would be D.W. and Patrick and whoever) take the position that the people who are trying to engage their congressmen at so-called ‘town meetings’ are portrayed as ‘the angry mob’ and inarticulate, when in fact these people are very well spoken. Also, they’ve read the so-called Democrat health care legislation and are intimately familiar with it while their congressional interlocutors haven’t got a clue what’s in it and don’t have an answer to these people’s questions?
Why do you guys side with the politicians in this matter when common sense tells us they are wrong and, in this instance, the people are right? This is for me a fascinating phenomenon and one that was only partially and consequently unsatisfactorily addressed over at PoMoCon.
I’m not being a smart-aleck here but is it possible we’ve been short sheeted by elitism?
And, if these people are right, why hasn’t FPR indicated it’s support for the “people” in their resistance to the central gummint? After all we’re all about localism!

avatar D.W. Sabin August 28, 2009 at 10:06 am

Cheeks,
Perhaps, as political junkies who gain much of the political info they see on a regular basis from the decidedly imbalanced popular media….perhaps we only perceive part of the story and the media, loving the pot stirring, has put a black-out order on any comprehensive or reasoned debate at these Town Halls.

I think there may be some of that at work but the pictures of Obama as the Nazi Hitler or a Black Nationalist Socialist or the assembled generally reveling in a kind of mob belligerence with screaming and finger pointing and the talk Radio ginning this cant up to shit-dizzy levels has resulted in an opening for the sanctimonious liberal media to easily paint or edit the protestors as a “mob” ….and indeed, you yourself have often proudly referred to yourself as a member of a “mob”. Any consolidated opposition will have a tendency to be painted as a “mob” and that is why it becomes vitally important for the oppositional forces to restrain the emotional outbursts that may be warranted…retaining some as an effective political theatre….. while using the sharper rapier of sober factual rebuttal on the real issue at hand……something I have yet to see….. as the primary big gun. We could once rely upon conservative members of Congress or reputable conservative media to function in this manner but that is a comic hope at best now.

I hardly align myself “with” the members of Congress and “against” the protesting citizens and it is surprising that you would expand my criticism and historical analysis of reasons behind the methods to me being in opposition…. or a capitulant….again, this “you are either with us or against us” simplistic idiocy that is so emblematic of the so called mob. The Bush Administration ably planted the seeds of this mob inspired Ressentiment …Rovian Fraternity Hijinks and dirty play…the employment of fear…the use of outright lies and straw-men….all of these base and snide behaviors have utterly destroyed the Conservative movement at a time it is desperately needed. You ask if we might be short sheeted by “elitism”. I’ll see you and raise you with the fact that we are also being short-sheeted by a preening mob that is more interested in venting than producing a comprehensive statement on being abandoned by both the “Free” Market and our Political “Representatives”. If Order is the hallmark of the Conservative ethos then why is sentimentalism , seething resentment, a theatre of protest, fear, armed belligerence, over-statement (as if there are not ample areas incredible enough to impugn with accuracy) and caterwauling all we see from the reputed “conservative” side?

Has anyone at these Town Halls stood up and said something to the effect: “Look, we completely agree that the current system is flawed and burdened by inefficiency, improper gatekeeping, wasteful bureaucracy, escalating costs and indifference to the uninsured. However, before we jump too quickly to some idea of a solution that asserts the government can address these problems fruitfully….a stretch of an assertion at best, …….we would like to explore and present the problem as it exists now…establish the causes of the dysfunction first….before we begin a discussion of solutions….this is, after all a medical issue and medicine is the art of diagnosis and fitting treatment to disease.” Isn’t there hard data, from unbiased sources that have analyzed the long term dysfunctions in the current system? Shouldn’t we be starting there and working toward a solution instead of just burning effigies of a straw man Socialism?

avatar James Matthew Wilson August 28, 2009 at 11:19 am

This is an amazing “group-grope,” Sabin. Thanks for alerting me to the existence of yet another Frenchman. Great though this vast, wandering essay is, no essay could ever live up to that title. Well done; I’m heading back to my Cooper.

avatar Bob Cheeks August 28, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Dear Brother Sabin,

Congrats on a peroration that has produced a plethora of nouns, verbs, and adverbs in a rather picturesque, perfervid and singularly intense rhetorical display.

Actually we are much in agreement.

What I don’t understand is your insistence that ‘the mob’ deal with every exigency caused by our consolidated gummint in the past sixty years. This ‘rising’ is a product of BO’s efforts to seize health care and is focused on stopping this criminal enterprise. That’s good enough for me; how can I expect more from this movement? And, that’s not to say that following any defeat of these leftist forces we can not turn to the questions you’ve raised and indeed need to be addressed.

I don’t disagree with your project to restore or recover the concept of a ‘free market’ in American enterprise. A worthy goal and one that requires the restoration of a moral regime on all levels of governance and the recovery of republican principles, though I’d give difference to Prof. Wilson’s soon-to-be-published comments on another perspective. Again, as I’ve mentioned repeatedly in the past the entire question rests on the observable moral derailment of our kind.

But, surely you agree that it’s imperative that The Enlightened One be stopped before he does anymore damage to this country (quadrupling the national debt, cap and trade, ect) with the implementation of his socialist program. If these Commie-Dems are stopped at Health Care we can hope their project collapses at least politically until 2010 when the make up of the House of Reps can be changed. It is at that time we can begin to institute those measures that bear witness to your/our fondest desires e.g. where we are able to actually elect men and women, familiar with the concept of constitutionalism, federalism, and republicanism.

As you know I’ve oft been critical of the mass/ruck of man. There’s not much good that’s come of that business and I’m not calling for ‘democracy’ simply because democracy will destroy the state, as we’re seeing. However, ‘the mob’ in this instance has, as a group, at least ‘sensed’ the perfidious nature of the Obama regime and has, rather courageously, taken to the streets or ‘town hall meetings.’ There are those occasions when the majority ‘gets it,’ and I would argue that this is one of those times.

My disappointment is that you, Pat, and others here at FPR have either remained silent or taken up the mimetic cudgel of criticism proffered by the gummint approved mainstream media in attacking these ‘protesters’ as ‘a mob, inarticulate, ect ‘ when in fact, on their own, without benefit of national organizations, political parties, or wealth these people stood against the usurpations of the central gummint.

“I’ll see you and raise you with the fact that we are also being short-sheeted by a preening mob that is more interested in venting than producing a comprehensive statement on being abandoned by both the “Free” Market and our Political “Representatives”.” Well D.W. you make a point. You take the lead, and by the grace of God, I’ll be of any assistance I can. In fact I’ll attach the “Hubbard Resolutions” I worked up for a palsy running for local gummint in Youngstown…see below.

“If Order is the hallmark of the Conservative ethos then why is sentimentalism , seething resentment, a theatre of protest, fear, armed belligerence, over-statement (as if there are not ample areas incredible enough to impugn with accuracy) and caterwauling all we see from the reputed “conservative” side?” The restoration of republican principles are, indeed, a ‘conservative’ action.

*******
The Hubbard Resolutions of 2005

Resolved, that neither the States nor the people desire to submit to the unfettered will of the General Government; but that by compact reached in accordance with the United States Constitution of 1787, have delegated to the General Government specific and enumerated powers defined within that Constitution. And, those residual rights not specifically granted to the General Government by the States, is assumed by the States or the people. The General Government that was established by this compact is not, nor can it be, the final judge of its powers; the General Government, established under the Constitution of 1787, is constrained by that compact and the States.

Resolved, that for many years the three branches of the General Government: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary have, on numerous occasions, violated the intent of the Constitution of the United States and arbitrarily and illegally exercised powers never intended to be assumed by those bodies.

Resolved, therefore that the General Government has abandoned those sacred principles upon which the American Republic was established,
and that a return to those principles and forms of government would best serve the will of the States and the people, and procure their happiness, and guarantee their liberties.
Therefore, we submit the following grievances for immediate redress:
1.In an effort to begin the process of addressing the question of “Social Security,” we require that every employee of the General Government, including elected officials, forfeit their federal pensions to the general fund and be immediately assimilated into the “Social Security” program.
2.The United States of America is a federated republic and not an imperial state, we require that military installations located in foreign countries be abandoned and the armed forces and civilian personnel immediately assigned to the United States.
3.Because of the incursion of illegal aliens we require that the borders of the United States be properly sealed; that existing law relevant to the duties and responsibilities of the INS be fully executed; that all subsidies to illegal aliens be halted; and a five-year moratorium place on all immigration.
4.The United Nations serves no useful purpose; because it is corrupt; because its actions are harmful to the people of the United States; we require that the General Government disassociate itself from that organization and require it to leave the United States within 90 days.
5.Because China is a communist nation, a potential enemy, and engages in slavery; because its trade practices are harmful to the manufacturers of the United States, we require that “most favored nation” status be rescinded and fair trade practices implemented.
6.The following trade agreements and trade organizations are inherently unfair to American citizens; we require that the United States disassociate itself from NAFTA, GATT, and the WTO. Further, because of the harmful effects of “Free Trade” practices upon American manufacturers and workers, we require that these practices cease, and that “Fair Trade” practices be implemented.
7.A significant number of federal judges, in violation of the Constitution, engage in “legislating” from the bench, we require that they be removed and judges appointed who have at least a cursory understanding of Constitutional principles and the concept of “separation of powers.”
8.The federal income tax is punitive, and unfair we require that the federal income tax be eliminated.
9.The concept of “foreign aid” is in violation of republican principles; we require that such practices be stopped immediately.
10.Because the concept of transfer of payments is in direct violation of first principles and harmful to the people, and illegally empowers elected official, bureaucrats, and those that seek to engage in corrupt practices, we require that all federal subsidies to business, farmers, social and religious organizations, and individuals cease.
11.The General Government has long been over-sized and burdensome to the people, we require an immediate reduction in the bureaucracy, beginning with the elimination of the Department of Education.
12.The establishment of Political Action Committees (PACS), and similar organizations that “contribute” to sundry political campaigns are little more than exercises in “legal” bribery, and promote corruption. We require that no organization be allowed to contribute to any candidate or elected official.
13.The 14th Amendment of the Constitution was never legally ratified, and has been misapplied and ill-used. We require that it be stricken, until such time as it may be legally ratified.
14.The Congress of the United States has, since the presidency of Harry Truman, ceded its Constitutional authority to declare war to the Executive branch, we require that the current Congress immediately reestablish, affirm, and maintain that Constitutional responsibility.

Resolved, that the actions and practices of the General Government have render the prescribed authority of the several States null and void, thus depriving the people of constitutional protections, and have done grievous injury to the people by the confiscation and misuse of our wages, earnings, and property; by restrictions of our liberties, and by engaging in conflict and war that serves the narrow and dangerous interests of corrupted bureaucrats, elected officials, and those manufacturers that benefit from the expansion of American power.

Resolved, therefore, we pray for a return to those principles that established our constitutional, federated, republic and we, respectfully, join with the Founders of the United States, in calling for the General Government to refrain from all “foreign entanglements, treaties, and alliances.”

The Hubbard Committee of Correspondence:
James Chufo
Thomas Mayo
Robert Cheeks

January 14, 2005

***********

D.W. gee, I guess I’ve been at it for a while. Not bad for an “inarticulate” mob member!
Freedom, dude, it’s all about freedom!

avatar D.W. Sabin August 28, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Cheeks,
I don’t ask that the dissenters take up “every exigency caused by the gummint in the last 50 years”…I suggest they stick to Health Care because that is the subject at hand and do so armed with a full assessment of both the existing program and that of the proposed, typically cumbersome 1000 page document now under debate.

Freedom possesses…no, it demands responsibility too.

Before you send the U.N. packing, not that I have much of an opinion on this but you might require that they pay their parking ticket free pass on principle and then maybe we can fix Gotham’s roads. One of my favorite U.N. stories revolves around a tiny town in southern Utah…La Verkin methinks…. that outlawed the U.N. even though nobody ever recalled seeing a black helicopter, nor any light blue helmets hiding in the sagebrush along the road to Zion Ntl. Park.

Come now Robert, who called you “inarticulate”? A tad nutty like me but certainly not “inarticulate”
Now that we’ve solved this, can’t I get anybody more experienced in the gambling arts to flesh out the most important part of my missive: Health Care Off Track Betting . I know Moodys just downgraded the Foxwood Casino but we seem to do gambling emporiums pretty good in this con-happy nation. why not Health Care?

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