The Clare Spark Blog

January 26, 2011

Obama and the rhetoric of the political “family”

Fragonard’s Happy Mother, 1753

[Here is a new blog that relies on this earlier one on the rhetoric of “family.” See https://clarespark.com/2013/03/18/babel-vs-sinai/.

The President’s State of the Union speech, January 25, 2011, began with a declaration that we (the American people) are a “family”* and then went on to list the “investments” in a happy future that would be originated and subsidized by the federal government. Hegel once said that the family delivers the child to the state. I am not a Hegelian, but he got that right.

When I complained about the use of the F word to drastically and unforgivably describe the individual citizens of a democratic republic, I was immediately reminded by one Facebook friend that it was the Right that proclaimed “family values.” This blog will attempt to analyze the political speech that misdescribes citizens with diverse and opposed opinions about economics and culture as members of a potential “family,” for the F word is one of the most potent items in the arsenals of mind-managers, while “the Right” is by no means unified in their use of the word.

First, on “family values.” Liberals today should stop for a moment and contemplate the massive changes in our political culture since the movements of the 1960s and 70s began their assault on the traditional family, an institution that for many signified protection and solidarity, notwithstanding such divisive emotions as sibling rivalry and flawed parenting strategies or bad examples (i.e., clinging mothers, absent fathers, deadbeat dads, etc.). The middle class family was held to be “a haven in a heartless world” and a bulwark against the State as Christopher Lasch famously wrote in his study with that title.  The culture wars have been fought over the perceived decadence and/or dysfunction that “liberation” movements brought in their wake, and I have written about them here: primitivism, bohemianism, early adolescent sexuality and a frightening rise in teen age pregnancy (See https://clarespark.com/2013/03/11/do-paleoconservatives-want-a-theocracy/) . Add these rational fears to the propaganda churned out by social psychologists after World War 2, namely that fathers must stay at the helm of the family in order to avoid too strong an attachment between sons and mothers–an attachment that led straight to feminization and Marxist adventurism. (I wrote about it here: https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/.)

I have not studied libertarians on their positioning regarding “family values,” but suspect that most would prefer that the state keep its nose out of the choices of individuals, whether these be marijuana use, abortion rights (Ayn Rand supported them, but limited abortions to the first trimester for the sake of the mother’s safety), or the freedom not to reproduce at all.

I have noticed with some outrage that the image of Gabrielle Giffords has been deployed by liberals, and it is here that I complete this blog. The moderate Democrat was the focus of public concern for many weeks, and we still do not know that she will fully surmount the bullet to her brain. But as a famously “caring” politician she fulfilled the happy mother archetype, eager for face to face contact with her constituency where a very bad boy assaulted her and killed six other innocents. Hence Democratic propaganda blaming excessively harsh political speech on the Republican Party and on conservative talk radio and television could be effective in raising Obama’s approval rating, especially after his speech calling on civility (by which he could only have meant the toning down of “right-wing” radio and television). The good father was protecting the good mother from resentments internal to the national “family.” In his call for a national healing, Obama benefitted from decades of “family” rhetoric and the faith in the possibility of  national unity, notwithstanding the glaringly opposed political philosophies that confront each other today as Keynesians and proponents of the laissez-faire economy (or limited government) slug it out in public space. Of course by healing and moderation, POTUS means yielding to statism as he defines it, for one cannot through “common ground” or “compromise” reconcile irreconcilable facts and strategies to achieve a “national consensus”.

As I wrote in my last blog (https://clarespark.com/2011/01/25/american-slavery-vs-nazi-genocide/), the year 2011 will see a rise in public talk about the Union and the Civil War that was fought to vanquish slavery and enable the modernization process stalled by the Southern slaveholding politicians in the antebellum period. I predict a resurgence of the far Left and its stigmatizing America as a very bad, essentially evil entity whose sins overwhelm its positive achievements. They will press for a reconstructed, redistributionist “family” that repents and makes reparations to its millions of victims, using the failure of Reconstruction as a talking point. Given the positioning of the 60s-70s generation in the commanding heights of the education establishment and in the media, get ready for the Happy Mother who gathers all her children to her ever lactating breast once “social justice” is finally achieved. And the milk-fed “children” will never notice that they are in a state of strategic regression, enlisted men and women in the eternal war against Evil.

*Here are the President’s exact words:

“…It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that’s a good thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us apart as a nation.

But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passion and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater -– something more consequential than party or political preference.

We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.

That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation. (Applause.)

Now, by itself, this simple recognition won’t usher in a new era of cooperation. What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow. (Applause.)”

January 12, 2011

Ayn Rand’s We The Living

movie poster for We The Living

As I write this, liberals (with a few exceptions) are still fretting about “the climate of hate” that produced, they claim, the Tucson massacre of July 8, 2011.  At the same time that the media covered the event around-the-clock, I read Ayn Rand’s semi-historical and semi-autobiographical first novel, We The Living (1936). It was published during the Red Decade, when such a forthright, devastating account of life in the Soviet Union from roughly 1920-25, must have seemed like a reactionary howl from the Far, Far Right. But not only has her veracity about life in the U.S.S. R. been vindicated, but the power of collectivism against which she argued in such painful detail, continues unabated. And the collectivist propaganda machine has once more been wheeled out to link Jared Lee Loughner’s paranoid act with “hate speech” and other incendiary symbols emanating, it is claimed, from the Right, while those anywhere on “the Left” continue to monopolize moderation and solicitude for the health of the body politic.

I have tried valiantly on this website to distinguish between factions of the Left and Right in the interest of historical accuracy and necessary distinctions. But after reading the copious examples of Soviet propaganda and the resultant distorted human relations after the Revolution in Rand’s novel, I have to agree with her (and others: Rohan Butler, George Orwell, et al) that the totalitarian temptation is not only widespread in today’s USA and the West in general, but that reds and deep pinks share a fear of the independent spirit and of the libertarianism of the 18th century that is appalling and even terrifying.

I have seen and heard at close quarters the ongoing influence of Leninism and Stalinism in numerous institutions: Pacifica Radio, NPR, the National Endowment for the Arts, academe, and now in the left-wing blogosphere and in the leading newspapers in Blue States especially. There is the same denial that Stalinism was ever influential in the U.S., the same class hatred, the same urge to conformity, the same elevation of “community” and “duty,” the same diagnosis of “narcissism” to anyone who believes in self-determination and self-management. What has changed now is the intensity of leftist a.k.a. “liberal” fear and loathing of “the Right” in the wake of November 2, 2010, and in a growing interest in the supply-side economics espoused by von Mises, Hayek, and the Friedmans. Plus of course the new specter of the internet, talk radio, and Fox News as purveyors of social chaos and further mass death. Some fear that the intensity of the latest “liberal” or “moderate” offensive signals an intent to muzzle dissent, and I can understand that fear.

Something should be noted about Ayn Rand’s novel. I almost called it “Ayn Rand’s Inner Trotskyism,” for with respect to Kira’s two lovers, the author shows more heroism in her depiction of the ex-worker Andrei than for the stunningly handsome but decadent, cynical aristocrat Leo; indeed she is Leo’s sexual slave and Kira may have driven Andrei to suicide.

There are no Jews, though Andrei of the GPU (almost Rand’s mouthpiece in his final self-damning speech to the Party) could conceivably have been drawn as a Jew who thought he could escape Jew-hatred by converting to the “classless” society that would wipe out all divisive particularisms. Alissa Rosenbaum came from a haute bourgeois family not unlike Kira’s, but they were secular Jews. The antisemitism in Russia was fearsome and, in Paul Johnson’s History of the Jews, Soviet antisemitism was perhaps the worst in Europe. Francine Heller’s recent biography of Rand is particularly strong in her narration of the young Alissa’s travails and the vile appeal to antisemitism that helped the Leninists gain power in the October Revolution (Heller was leaning on Johnson’s History).

Based upon my own life experience, then, I found nothing excessively anticommunist in Rand’s novel, nor do I find today’s libertarian anxiety about the future of the marketplace of ideas to be an overreaction. If We The Living was a call to rationality and resistance to political tyranny, then that call reverberates today with just as much clamor, just as much pathos, just as much celebration of life. In her next two novels, Ayn Rand’s heroes and heroines defeat their enemies and she celebrates the self-made man, advocating free markets as the best remedy for abolishing poverty. But in a way, “Kira” (trapped in the Oedipal drama, and in the trauma of a drastic fall in social class– matters underemphasized by her biographers and not adequately taken up here), remained in her psyche, not always to her own benefit, I suspect.

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