Today’s was one of those mornings during which there’s too much to write about for me to pause my thoughts long enough actually to write any of it.
When trying to tame one’s thoughts, beginning with positive news is always a good first step, so:
In a unanimous vote, tonight, the Tiverton School Committee approved full-day kindergarten for the upcoming school year, beginning in September. That outcome represented a reversal of the committee’s vote, on May 26, not to implement the expanded program because the estimates on which the administration based its budget were off by about 1%.
My political opposition in town will disagree with my assessment, but this outcome represents, in my view, a sign that the people can pull together and make their government respond, inch by inch, to their priorities even when they differ from those of the folks holding office. (Of course, looking at the not-exactly-happy faces in the video still at the top of that post, one might infer that my opposition actually does agree with my assessment.)
That very small, very local turn of events provides, I guess, about the most positive framework it’s possible to put around the rest of my thoughts, this morning, so let’s take another plank out of the pile.
I have no particular affinity for the Confederate battle flag, but with a resurgent terrorist movement in the world and a massive foreign hack of government records — and all of the many, many other stories of huge import — going after a flag that’s been defunct except as fashion for a century and a half seems like an unusual thing to be occupying Americans’ thoughts, right now. To the extent that I’m not ambivalent about it, though, the process of the movement concerns me.
Last Thursday, I became aware of the flag controversy only because a sort of Twitter mob bizarrely looped me into a discussion in process. By midway through the next week, it was a subject upon which all public figures were being asked to opine, and major retailers were removing products with the flag from their physical and virtual shelves. If the episode feels familiar, perhaps it’s because it was only this March that large companies were weighing in on politics unrelated to their services to oppose religious freedom in Indiana.
Americans have the unusual opportunity of learning from history in process: In the Confederate flag kerfuffle, we can see what progressives hope and expect to be the end game for institutions that support marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
Shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling making same-sex marriage the law for the entire nation, Ray Sullivan — who led a political group for the same cause in Rhode Island and who now works as a lobbyist for the left-wing advocacy organization and teacher union, the RI National Education Association — tweeted that there’s “no such thing as ‘gay marriage’ any longer. Now it’s just ‘marriage.'” Asked to elaborate, he insisted, “the debate’s over.”
Again, the process is more important than the outcome. How did this social/cultural debate proceed and end? Simplifying: First came a court decision in Massachusetts. Then came a public debate, with many states affirming that marriage is a man-and-woman institution, but a handful finding otherwise. Next, a large number of the former were flipped by judges, and now five life-appointed Supreme Court justices have imposed that as the irrevocable law of the land, with no opportunity for the people to change it short of a Constitutional amendment.
The people didn’t end the debate. Judges did, and that’s that.
The story doesn’t stop, here, of course. Ted Nesi tweets that “This isn’t the end of the road: @davidcicilline is working on what he says will be a comprehensive LGBT anti-discrimination federal law.” What will that mean? As I tried to get Sullivan to tell me, where, exactly, is the boundary of my right to believe that the debate is not over?
Taking things in another direction: What other cultural questions will this process of imposing the will of America’s elite on the country follow? Religious liberty, certainly. Rights of free association, most likely. Property rights, probably.
The other day, Kevin Williamson suggested that we’re witnessing “peak Leftism,” with the progressives charging forth in a mixed “temper tantrum and … panic attack” to do as much damage to our society as they can in the final two years of the Obama administration. We’ll see if his faith in our civic system, to allow Americans to get control of their country again, is justified. I have my doubts.
Whether we can keep from going off the cliff or must content ourselves to hope for salvation after the accelerating totalitarianism breaks itself up by its own weight, it will be a long process. And either way, recovery will have to start close to home — with ourselves, with our families, and within our local communities.
We have to relearn the political process, and reteach each other what it means to hold civil debate without turning to some government authority to decide when we hold the power. This can’t be turned around from top down, because there will be no foundation for a national policy of freedom and true diversity. We have to hope that it can be turned around from the bottom up.