THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 846, November 8, 2015
If you're much under sixty, it might surprise you
to learn that liberalism used to be sum-uppable in
the single sentence "I disagree with what you say,
but I will defend to the death Your right to say it."
Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
It took me a long, long time, and a whole lot of expensive, sophisticated scholarly help to sort out the politics of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England—to whatever extent I have it sorted out. It's bad fiction: too many similar characters with too-similar names.
I freely confess that I stuck with it only because Elizabeth Tudor, King Henry VIII's little girl, has always fascinated me as a leader and as a person. England was a vulnerable, bankrupt mess when Elizabeth took over; she left it healthier, richer, and immeasurably freer than she found it. She steered it through the treacherous waters of military risk, political peril, and theological contention with a degree of skill that takes your breath away. She was like Crazy Horse and Osceola, but in a different context: where the hell did she learn all this stuff? I'm convinced that the lady didn't give a damn about religion, and she resented the way that arguments about it cheated her of time and energy and threatened the very foundations of Western Civilization.
Be that as it may, I grew up thinking that questions like those Elizabeth faced had largely been settled (we had our own, _new_ problems to contend with), and that, at least, we wouldn't have to cover this bloody ground again. No more drawing-and-quarterings, no more beheadings, etc. But I was dead wrong, because here we all are, well into the 21st century, and still hung up on the same stupid, gory, spike-topped, wrought-iron fence. Some individuals, even those in the richest and wisest corners of civilization today (No, I'm not talking about Saudi Arabia), still see fairies dancing at the bottoms of their gardens, and enjoy intimate chats with their Imaginary Playmate.
True, a growing number are not and do not. However, a subculture that can be identified with a single name, that of Richard Dawkins, for example, is not a thing of beauty, philosophically speaking, and those who do see the fairies and enjoy the chats, still rule the day with a hypocritical temerity that lets them denounce the Other Guy's "irrational beliefs" as a mere superstition, while suffering from a tragic inability on their own part to keep their religion in their pants. How much of this sad world's history would be different otherwise?
If you're much under sixty, it might surprise you to learn that liberalism used to be sum-uppable in the single sentence "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death Your right to say it." Understand, as well, that those who break out the rack, the red-hot pincers, and the water-board at the first sign of opposition (this means you, George and George, and Barry, and Bill, and Hillary), are not defending western civilization, nor do they represent it. They are enemies, perhaps even worse, to everything it promises and stands for.
I'm not saying "turn the other cheek", here. That's the ethic of a slave. I am saying, when we're assessing newcomers, suspicion is not enough. Most of them have come here to get away from what we fear the most, and anyway, the bad guy gets to draw first. It's horrible but necessary.
Some people watching our borders worry about unfriendly strangers bringing germs or chemicals or even home-made nukes to America. But the use of such devices requires a hostile will, a motivation. Thus I worry far more about irrational, collectivistic belief systems. It doesn't bother me a bit more that today's intruders might be Moslems— even jihadists—than that they might as easily be Roman Catholics.
America's most dangerous enemy today is not a people trying to get away from theological dictators or get even with us (although they're real enough), or escape the evil tenets of some alien ideology. It's the almost universal refusal of all of mankind, everywhere, to think for themselves, instead of drumming up some phony deity to do it for them.
Can I get an "Amen", here?
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