March 17, 2015

Who the hell is Chelsea Manning?

Originally Published by American Thinker

Recently, a friend sent me an article he was furious about.  The title was: Homone treatment approved for Chelsea Manning.  The innocent question that popped into my head was: “Who the hell is Chelsea Manning?”  Chelsea, it turns out, is none other than Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst who turned over classified information to WikiLeaks in 2010.  Well – at least I think that Chelsea is just Bradley in a stupid-looking wig; others apparently hold some different views.  The article’s title pretty well summarized the rest of the pathetic story.  A more apt title would have been: US Army caves to the awesome power of political correctness – again.  I am not sure how this particular bit of early 21st century surrealism had, up to that point, escaped my attention.  I’m not sure, either, what the grocery store tabloids have to print these days – not when there is “real” news like this.  Predictably, my friend was incensed that taxpayers’ money was being used to fund Manning’s desire to be female, and I entirely sympathize with his outrage.  However, what struck me about the story was not the federal funding aspect, but the fact that the AP reporter was happy to call Manning “she”.  I think I know what “she” means – though I have come to have serious doubts about the very concept of “news”.  Sadly, the majority of web stories I have subsequently skimmed are happy to call Manning “she”.  Bradley Manning has not had surgery to change his sex – so the message here is that you are “she” if you just say so.

If gay marriage was one concession that many of us were not willing to accept, the Manning story is something even more disturbing – an assault on objective standards of reality.  If one can reassign one’s gender just on one’s own say so, then the whole gay marriage thing is pretty much moot anyway.  One partner could just swap out genders for the ceremony.  DOMA be damned.  In short, if Manning is a female in the eyes of liberal society, then for them the whole concept of gender has effectively ceased to have consistent meaning.  That’s a step beyond the short term gay and lesbian agenda into a state of social incoherence.

Manning is a hero to the left, first because he thumbed his nose at the Army and second because he has transformed himself into one of the left’s favorite things – a victim.  That is really the key.  I have long suspected that a fair proportion of homosexuals and “transgender” creatures of various kinds are just a product of the status modern liberalism accords to victims.  When the educational system indoctrinates children to believe that every evil in the world has heterosexual white men as its cause – and that being a victim of such evil absolves one of all sin – it is hardly surprising that quite a few young white men want to identify with some other group.  Try as they may, playing all the gangsta rap ever produced will still never make a white boy black.  However, if one’s gender identity is in any way weak, becoming gay, bisexual, or “transgender” is a way for any ordinary white suburbanite to attain the coveted status of victim.  The liberal culture helps at every turn, providing heroes and role models for the chronically confused.  As if by magic, what was once an unfortunate individual defect becomes not only normal – but laudable and off limits to critique.  I identify myself as a narrow-minded pig even for framing gender identity in these terms.  An unsophisticated conservative knuckle-dragger.

When this plague of gender incoherence creeps into the lives of ordinary people, it’s a serious concern.  When it creeps into the military it becomes a national crisis.  Who the hell is Chelsea Manning?  Chelsea Manning doesn’t exist.  Bradley Manning is a dangerous piece of neurotic flotsam, the product of a world in which having definite standards about anything is considered backward and “judgmental”.  Bradley is dangerous precisely because the rot of political correctness has spread deeply enough into the US Army that they deem it more important to be sensitive to one individual’s neurosis than to consider the needs of the Army as a whole.  A military institution, more than any other, relies on strict internal standards to maintain cohesion under the violent and chaotic conditions of war.  The most comforting thing that any soldier has is the knowledge that fellow soldiers are predictable – bound to definite standards of behavior.  People like Manning, who is ambivalent not only about his own body but also about the institution he swore to serve, weaken that foothold of predictability that the binds the Army together.  Standards matter.  Incoherence and ambiguity never help you in a war.

The left’s Achilles’ heel

Though conservatives view militant Islam with alarm, they have, at least, the intellectual and cultural tools to arrest and even reverse its spread.  Progressives, on the other hand, may well find militant Islam a fatal disease.

If one considers a nation as a human body, the modus operandi of the left has long been to weaken that body’s immunity to certain alien threats.  For many decades, western socialists have championed massive immigration while burdening Americans and Europeans with narratives of self-reproach and guilt.  In effect, such policies undermine the conservative forces of tradition and open up society for radical reform.  In place of the “unfair” traditional institutions and standards that make a society at least uniform enough to be stable, we are given an eternal struggle for unobtainable conditions of equality, and calls for tolerance without the reciprocal caveat of social responsibility.  To use a topical example, the default assumption progressives make is that any black man killed by a white police officer is a victim of racism, oppression, and murder.  Such an occurrence is not about the facts of an individual case, but is merely an instance of their accepted narrative.  Even the existence of police authority evokes a feeling of outrage in the properly indoctrinated.  Simply put, the status quo is wrong.  Barack Obama’s promise to “fundamentally transform America” assumes the country not only has problems, but that its present institutions should be destroyed.  Long live the revolution.  For the progressive, the battle for control of society is waged between conservatives and a ragged coalition of everybody else – led conveniently by good hearted socialists, of course.  The problem with this worldview, from a purely functional perspective, is that not everybody who hates America, the UK, or even France, hates these countries because they aren’t yet liberal enough.  Some non-western peoples have their own agendas – and actually hate western liberals even more than they hate western conservatives.

What is a good liberal to do when confronted with terrorists that shoot up a room full of cartoonists who have made a career of assaulting tradition?  On the one hand, a liberal is inclined to support the terrorists for both their third-world origins and their revolutionary zeal, and it can hardly hurt that they knocked off a few minority-oppressing cops in the exchange.  On the other hand, the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo also provided sterling service for the cause by bashing Catholics, and, let’s face it – merely being French gave them a mystique all of their own.  So what’s to do?  It is an awkward moment.  The liberal mind is forced to race from one implausible scenario to the other – casting first the terrorists as disguised agents of the Tea Party, and then the cartoonists as reactionary bigots who invited their own fate.  The global village has had another drive-by massacre, but it has to be conservatives who caused it – somehow.  What the liberal cannot entertain is the idea that such violence is largely the product of his (or her) misguided and naive ideology.  A culture like Islam, based on unbending 7th century xenophobic dogma, is pretty unlikely to work and play well with others.  It will not defer to Jews, gays, Christians, atheists or women no matter how artfully you construct your narrative.  It will simply do its best to replicate itself until its host civilization ceases to exist.

Are there moderate Muslims?  Yes – and no.  There are moderate Muslims in more-or-less the same way there are Unitarian Christians.  Both terms are oxymorons.  There are plenty of people from Muslim countries who like the relative freedom of the west, who don’t like to think about the consequences of their own scriptures, and who wish the fundamentalists would simply go away.  They perform the rituals of their faith.  They call themselves Muslims.  They do so because they are not quite willing to cut their ties with their religious relatives back home, and perhaps because they’re nervous about leaving a faith whose penalty for leaving is death.  Theirs is the disease of perfectly ordinary human moral cowardice.  Most of them are indeed harmless, decent, and pitiable human beings.  It is, however, nonsense to portray Islam itself as a religion of peace.  Though many politicians of both parties would like us to believe otherwise, religions are not defined by their least enthusiastic members.  Scripturally and historically, Islam is a religion of conquest.

For progressives to make even modest efforts to purge the west of Islamic militants they would have to essentially become conservatives.  They would have to accept that the traditions and institutions of our society are worth preserving, thereby repudiating decades of systematically undermining them.  They would have to admit, too, that not all persons or religions of color are innocent victims of western bias.  The very idea of doing that would give many progressives seizures.  They have the same kind of irrational reverence for Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn that the militants have for Mohammad.  It would take a personal disaster – a beheading at their favorite Starbucks or a bombing at their children’s Montessori school – to shake most progressives from the self-righteous comfort of their dream.  Given time and opportunity the jihadists may oblige.

If progressive politicians do not change their tune, however, they will find themselves in a political death spiral of enabling the declared enemies of western civilization.  The inevitable tipping point must come sooner or later when protecting non-citizen minorities against feeling offended doesn’t trump the safety interests of everyone else.  On that day, the public will clamor for whatever leader they can find that promises to make their streets safe – or worse, they will set out in vigilante groups to solve the problems themselves.  As often as not, ethnic cleansing isn’t orchestrated from the top, but from an angry public with some score to settle.  Social engineers tend to think about the public as so much passive clay for them to mold to suit their tastes – but the reality is that ignoring human nature has always been a dangerous and often a disastrous business.

Why borders are a good thing

It is obvious that even the notion of borders doesn’t do much for the Left.  They turn their nose up at the idea of any sort of hostile looking barrier stretched along our southern frontier.  They are historically disdainful toward state’s rights, which is a border issue at heart.  Socialism, with occasional exceptions, has been an internationalist movement from the beginning.  Anti-nationalist might be a better word, since, in the leftist ideal, a worker is a worker is a worker.  Borders are a reactionary artifact in the leftist’s perception.  Well-off liberals love the fact that they can travel around Europe without the annoyance of passport checks, and they look forward to a world where they can go wherever they want, whenever they want.  “The global village” is the somewhat tarnished phrase.  So what is wrong with this ideal?  Why wouldn’t we all be better off in one gigantic multicultural playground?

Consider what a border really is.  A border is the geographical embodiment of a polity.  It is a region in which a certain set of laws or other social constraints apply.  Everyone within the border must abide by the rules of a certain system, good or bad, or suffer whatever consequences the system prescribes.  Eliminating the border between two countries does not eliminate the possibility of oppressive government – it just assures that whatever government one ends up with presides over a larger area of land and a greater number of people.  It achieves exactly the same ends as military conquest – minus the immediate carnage and the war memorials.  Globalists on the left have essentially the same concept of universal government as Stalin, Napoleon or Alexander the Great – they just want to achieve the old ambition by a different set of means.  Tourists who think that Europe is nice don’t have to live with unelected European Union technocrats running roughshod over their lives.  The elimination of a border is a centralization of power, and the centralization of power has one consequence without exception – it reduces the political relevance of the average citizen.  For all the weaknesses of smaller, more local governments, they have the virtue that their authorities are at least familiar with local cultures and conditions.  A distant, centralized authority cannot be.  Ask Tibetans what they think about the elimination of their border with China.  Ask the Greeks how well the European Union is working out for them.

The Left has tended to sneer at nationalism in recent decades, and, to be fair, nationalism really does entail some obvious risks – war being both the most obvious and the most serious.  At the heart of their revulsion, however, is not the fear of war.  The Left’s revulsion for nationalism is due to its popular character.  The technocratic thesis of contemporary socialism is that governmental experts know better what the public needs than members of the public do themselves.  The Left does not believe in expressions of the public will that do not conform to the particular prejudices of their elites.  While progressives pay lip service to multi-culturalism, ultimately they consider national cultures, or patriotism of any kind, an impediment to their internationalist plans.  Borderless multi-culturalism is just an expedient interim phase on the way to a single global mono-culture shepherded by central planners.  It doesn’t really matter whether individual progressives are consciously aiming at this end condition or not – this is the end condition that their program implies.

Conservatives are the usual targets for accusations of xenophobia, but I have met very few conservatives who wish to interfere in the affairs of other countries.  Most are more than happy, for example, to let Mexicans work out their own national destiny – provided they don’t interfere unduly with ours.  The weak border we currently have has actually been a menace to both countries.  Mexico wouldn’t be plagued with brutal drug cartels if the border were strong enough to cut the traffic to a trickle.  Mexico isn’t better for the flow of American drug money into their society, any more than American workers are better for the flow of underpaid foreign workers into theirs.  The destabilization of Mexican society is not the product of conservative xenophobia, but of a progressive preoccupation – the idea that an ugly fence with concertina wire decorations might hurt someone’s feelings.  The irony is that the bleeding heart of the leftist leadership actually cares no more about the porous border killing Mexicans in Mexico than he cares about the lack of effective law enforcement killing black kids in Chicago.

Within the United States, the expansion of Federal authority represents a similar assault on our internal borders –  a reduction of the sovereign powers of the states.  Today, if an American wants to smoke pot legally, he can move to Colorado.  If he’s inclined to hire prostitutes, Nevada is the state for him.  If he likes to show his religious devotion by handling poisonous snakes, West Virginia is the place he ought to be.  None of us is enthusiastic about everything that goes on everywhere in the country, but as of now the country still abounds in choices.  That is freedom.  That is the power of regional and local government.  The thing about Federal laws, on the other hand, is that they eliminate things from the sphere of local choice.  While there are a few things that we all must agree on for the sake of national coherence, they are far fewer in number than the range of subjects bound up in the morass of current Federal laws and regulations.  Laws made by distant officials are, in effect, the rule book of an official state culture.  When Massachusetts and Kansas are both governed primarily from Washington they are both a good deal less free.  Borders, in short, preserve our freedom.