We Must Rebuild Barriers Against the False Tide


A recent Mark Steyn essay raises an issue that ought to be at the forefront of consideration and planning not only for social conservatives and cultural traditionalists, but for anybody who thinks rule of law and a separation of civic power and religious worldview are important concepts:

Most of us are not cut out to swim against the tide. For one thing, it’s exhausting. Tides ebb and flow, and it’s easier just to go with it. In Germany, maybe if your very best pal was Jewish, you’d say something. But, if it’s just the greengrocer or the elderly couple in the second-floor flat that you nod to on the stairs, do you really want to make a fuss and have arguments with your family and friends all the time? Isn’t it easier just to say nothing?

In the end, most people want to be like most people. That’s why they tell you the weekend movie grosses on the Monday morning news and put the Top Ten bestsellers at the front of Barnes & Noble – so that you can like what everybody else likes.

So I find the idea that tens of millions of American “traditionalist” conservatives are going to lead their own lives immune to the broader culture somewhat unlikely. Were the same-sex marriage decision, for example, merely a judicial ruling, Barack Obama would not have lit up the White House in LGBT rainbow colors. It is after all “the people’s house” and half the people aren’t entirely on board with this. But he chose to see this not as a mere judge’s ruling but as an ideological victory – and to celebrate it as such. And he’s thereby telling you that this shift is an official one, backed by the state, and state power, and it won’t stop here.

Look, for example, at the bureaucratic railroading of an Oregon couple who declined to bake a same-sex wedding cake.  David French lays out how the process ought to be of concern even beyond the particular issue.  This isn’t a limited one-time-only interaction between traditionalists and the government on a narrow social issue.  This is a determination of the authority of government, elected and unelected.

Given the pop-culture push, it should be easy for anybody to understand the reasoning on the other side:  Gay rights is a simple, straightforward application of tolerance, and that, they believe, is the highest virtue.  So, if judges have to bend the rule of law a bit to move the country along on the single issue of same-sex marriage, then that’s a minor transgression.  If a state bureaucracy has to make an example of an unfortunate couple, well, it’s only a little bit of pain, like the pop of pushing a dislocated joint back in place.  Once it’s done – once the few holdouts accept the change — we can all move on.  And won’t everything be better then?

The problem is that it doesn’t work that way.  An entire infrastructure has been built to get us to this point.  As Steyn puts it:

Most people want to be like most people. Even Anthony Kennedy’s just going with the flow, wouldn’t you say? It doesn’t have to start out as a numerical majority. It can be quite a small group of people, as long as they’re the people who make the running, who frame the issues, who book the panel guests on NPR, and write all those nice domesticated characters on “Modern Family”, and are marching marching marching 24/7 on that long march through the institutions. Which turned out to be not that long after all. If it’s too much to expect a Supreme Court justice to stand against “Modern Family”, why should anybody else?

This isn’t just a matter of how culture changes; it’s a matter of our social infrastructure.  It’s a distribution of power, not unlike apparent cooperation between the Obama Dept. of Justice and the Obama IRS in targeting the president’s opponents.  It won’t stop at a single issue or even with just the broader single principle of “tolerance.”  The concept should be familiar to anybody who has heard Martin Niemoller’s famous “first they came for” construction.

Moreover, this power won’t be given over just because the culture shifts in reaction to overreach.  We once prioritized distinct organizations, “live and let live,” and meritocratic advancement.  Now everything is political, and the prioritization of superficial diversity provides cover for pushing ideological conformity.

One thing Steyn has wrong is that we’re not really talking about a “tide,” as in a large cultural flow.  It’s more like an amusement park pool with fake waves.  There’s nothing random about the current; it’s just an application of power.  In the terms of this metaphor, the Constitutional and social system of the United States could be seen as an attempt to build barriers and channels that would empower the people to counter the false waves.

We’re allowing those barriers and channels to be broken apart, and it’s getting more and more difficult to avoid the guards and get out of the water.

  • ShannonEntropy

    In the end, most people want to be like most people.

    A great quote — ferget who said it tho =►

    ” If you give people the total freedom to do whatever they want, they will always do what·ever everyone else is doing ”


  • Warrington Faust

    Fred Reed doesn’t see it quite the way Mark Steyn does. I like Fred as a wordsmith, he is perhaps the only one I know who can use Xenophon and Big Block in the same sentence.


    “Payback’s a Bitch”: Rural Wisdom and the Gathering Storm

    • ShannonEntropy

      A bit Off-Topic …

      … but that “fred on everything” web site is fricken
      GREAT !!

      The next half dozen drinks we have are on me,
      Warrington !!

      • Warrington Faust

        Let’s not make this a private forum. Although contributors here seem to have fallen off.

        I fell on Fred’s column about 15 years ago. We have corresponded. He remembers lazy afternoons fishing on the Rappahonock, with me it was the Nansemond and
        the Great Dismal.

        Here is my take on what Fred describes, and to some extent Mr. Steyn. Work and hobbies bring me in contact with a lot of blue collar guys, mostly pretty successful. I should add that I can “turn a screw” on a lathe, operate a back hoe and my welds “penetrate”. Every other Friday night, or so, I join them for beers (I bring a coffee) at a metal fabricating shop owned by one of them. Everyone has at least 3 vintage cars. We talk of our lost cars and our lost youths. Of the dozen who are regulars, seven or so have spoken of being attacked by blacks. Mostly in their youths, and for very slight provocation; such as refusing to give up a dollar, or a cigarette, on demand. Most of them have some military training, served with blacks, have mixed feelings, and know about “fragging”. I can see them resisting, I don’t see them instigating. I have been there when “decent looking” black people come in as customers, or seeking directions, the guys are all helpful and respectful. They approve of blacks who have “pulled themselves up”. But, still, it is there. They have had enough. They don’t know why the Stars and Bars should come down, they understand it as a symbol for rebels of all sorts. They understand pride of heritage. The two “dumb Polocks” in the group, who think of me as a “persnickety Kraut”, glow if I mention how their Jan Sobierski and “Winged Hussars” saved Europe from the Muslims. They had never been taught of this. I gave one a poster of a Winged Hussar with three muslims on his lance, I understand he displays this in his “man cave”. They don’t know why they should admire Bruce Jenner for “transforming” himself into Frankenstein. One has a “death from the skies” tattoo, they don’t understand people with “nuts and bolts” in their faces. They understand immigration in the sense that the Portuguese came to this part of the state and “they worked hard and lived clean”. They don’t want to import 1/3 of Mexico. Those with “Ellis Island Heritages” recall that their ancestors had to be sponsored, were checked medically and “had to find work”. Affirmative Action doesn’t effect them much, but the stories they hear sure sound bad. I don’t know where they get their news, they know about the “Knock Out game”.They have never heard of “white privilege”, they think they worked pretty hard. They do know that they employ people “of color”, and pay big taxes. I think they are all rock ribbed Democrats “the party of the poor”, their politics are conservative. But, they want to “help”. They are a “passing breed”.

        Most have guns, but I don’t see them taking up arms; they they might aid, or abet. They want their kids to inherit “their America”

  • ShannonEntropy

    I disagree that it is a “false tide” … it is a very real tsunami is more like it

    And the only thing that will even slow down its momentum is a Republican POTUS — which I have already explained that pure Electoral math shows will never again happen in our lifetimes

    And then throw in The Donald as the Ross Perot of 2016 and we might as well just cancel the election and swear in Billary right now

    Eduardo Sarverin’s strategy of renouncing his US citizenship and moving to Singapore is starting to sound appealing to me. They don’t have anywhere near the social problems & conflicts that we have here … and the tax savings would be immense


    That “exit tax” the IRS threatens you with if you leave ?? They can try to chase me for it … my money will be long gone before they even know I’m ‘missing’

  • Warrington Faust

    Perhaps it is time we abandon the Republican party. It has stood up to Obama and then stood down so many times that it makes the head spin. It appears that they are just demanding their part of the spoils. They have broken faith. “When you draw your sword against a prince, you throw away the scabbard” – Machiavelli?

    It is now considered doubtful that the Republicans can gather a majority. Of course anything can happen and has happened before, a “White Knight” (how did I pick that expression) might arise. Is it time for a new party, based on traditional values? This would certainly cost one election cycle, many will not desert their party for a new one. Such parties always want to “start at the top” in a Presidential Election, without doing the ground work of electing city council members, state reps, etc. A thought, for all we hear of murderous illegals, there are many minorities with traditional values.

    The media are the gatekeepers of who are informed of what (never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel). That is a major problem, but at least start with a whispering campaign.

    • msteven

      I feel the very same way – especially about the media gatekeepers. The only possible light is that in 2014, there was a wave of younger women elected to Congress – vast majority Republican. Again this was intentionally ignored by the media because of political affiliation, the new & acceptable prejudiced.

      • Warrington Faust

        Last night i attended one of the Friday evening get togethers mentioned above; these guys are all ethnic Democrats. It is difficult for even 4th generation “Irish” to register Republican. But, they do get internet news. There was much admiration for Trump’s attitude of “crush their skulls and eat their faces”. Who knows? Reagan, a former actor and “union boss”, did it with his “hard hats” who were upset by the “Welfare Queens”. These guys see, and understand, much that others overlook. They know when a new house is being built by a Brazilian crew, or what it means when they stop for gas in the morning and see 25 Guatemalans standing around. Innately, they understand that first we gave up industry to import “cheap” finished goods, now we import “cheap” labor, what’s left? Few news people will recognize this, nor realize what it means.

        • msteven

          They may realize what it means or represents … but they are guided by, not even ideology, but who will gain politically. I understand what you say about Reagan but that was in a different time – much less partisan-polarized. I think there are far fewer truly ‘independent’ voters (supposedly who affected elections). After Obama won in 2012, I started to think no Republican could win POTUS – and still am seeing that play out.

          • Warrington Faust

            “Reagan but that was in a different time -” I like to think that is true and perhaps that politicians were a better breed. I am probably wrong, existing evidence isn’t compelling.

            I try to look at politicians and wonder, can I see them convincingly agreeing to “pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor”.

            Honor is what constrains you when there is small chance of being caught.

          • msteven

            What I meant about a different time referred to more about media culture and 24 hour news coverage. But your point about is taken. Great line about Honor. I may use with my kids.

        • Warrington Faust

          Slightly off topic, but I have to add it. Last night I also met a “Canadian” guy. He was about 67, or 8. He had come here at age 15, “legally”. He joined the army and did two tours in Viet Nam. He has a “Green Card”. He married a nurse, raised two kids and seems to have done pretty well. Recently, he decided to “do the right thing” and become a citizen. He made his application and was informed there would a $700.00 fee. He told them he had served in the army and was exempt. They didn’t believe there was such an exemption. Working through the VA he sent them a copy of the regulation and they relented. Now, Homeland Security has contacted him to inform him that he was charged with “drag racing” (driving to endanger) in 1967 (last night he was driving a 1966 Mustang GT 350, that does indicate he “has a history”) Unfortunately, HS did not find evidence that he appeared in court and are concerned that he failed to appear for the hearing. He remembers the $40.00 fine. The court cannot produce any records of the case. So, his application is stymied unless Homeland Security relents. How do you think he feels about “open borders”. This is the kind of thing “the guys” there know, but “journalists” never encounter. If they do, they think it an anomaly. Perhaps a “small price to pay”.

          • Warrington Faust

            “the Guys” I see there keep me in touch with America and the face of government. One erects steel buildings. He can recall, over 30 years ago, that OSHA showed up on one of his jobs. They took a saw to a couple of his ladders because they were “in violation”. Another, a plumbing contractor, recalls being called up to Jamaica Plain, MA many years ago to replace a boiler. The homeowner (allegedly) was the head of the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection. The boiler was an old conversion from coal fired, covered with white asbestos. He gave a price and was asked “why so much”. He explained cost of removing asbestos. “What did you do before?” He explained they hosed it down with water and peeled it. A few weeks later, he was called back for another estimate. The asbestos was gone. “the guys” have developed a degree of cynicism.

          • ShannonEntropy

            If your Canadian friend really had pulled an FTA, wouldn’t there be an active warrant for him in the system ??

            the fact that there is no warrant and no court records prolly means the matter was adjudicated and expunged

          • Crazy Ruth

            Why’s he going to “do the right thing” now? I suspect he wants to collect his Social Security. The baggers LOVE their Social Security. Remember it’s only an entitlement when someone else is getting it. We also hear “It’s not an entitlement, I paid into it!” a lot. Baggers will say just about anything to justify their hypocrisy.