Roger Kimball has written an essay at “American Greatness” that captures the madness of our times. He bluntly titles the piece, “It Doesn’t End Well.”
I recommend the essay to everyone who wants an unvarnished assessment of the abdication of responsibility by our American ruling class. You will not be disappointed. (I also found an intriguing “Easter egg” that shed light on my own column about the Constitution from last week — more about that in a minute.)
The premise of Kimball’s argument is that the proximate cause of the riots in America — the death of George Floyd — is transparently a pretext for thuggish revolution.
“That is where we are now, in the midst of a howling ‘juvenile activity’ that would destroy the United States, even as our guardians, long marinated in the liquor of bootless feelings of guilt, make themselves unwitting collaborators in their own destruction.”
Kimball’s argument is buttressed against charges of sensationalism by his appeal to history. Everything he warns against already happened more than 200 years ago in the French Revolution. And Kimball stands on the shoulders of a giant — philosopher Edmund Burke — whose “Reflections on the Revolution in France” sounds like it could have been written last week about Portland.
This quote from Burke, in particular, summarizes how the rioters in our cities have missed the target of their supposedly righteous indignation. While they were punishing the imagined wrongs of those they hate, they somehow missed the very real wrongs that they were inflicting upon the rest of us:
“Wickedness is a little more inventive. Whilst you are discussing fashion, the fashion is gone by. The very same vice assumes a new body. The spirit transmigrates; and, far from losing its principle of life by the change of its appearance, it is renovated in its new organs with the fresh vigour of a juvenile activity. It walks abroad; it continues its ravages, whilst you are gibbeting the carcass, or demolishing the tomb. You are terrifying yourself with ghosts and apparitions, whilst your house is the haunt of robbers. It is thus with all those, who, attending only to the shell and husk of history, think they are waging war with intolerance, pride, and cruelty, whilst, under colour of abhorring the ill principles of antiquated parties, they are authorizing and feeding the same odious vices in different factions, and perhaps in worse.”
But although Kimball and Burke deserve attention on their own merits, I also wanted to note a significant nexus between Edmund Burke’s 1790 essay and the letter that President John Adams wrote in 1798 to the Massachusetts militia. I quoted that letter in my column last week at Real Clear Politics for the light in shed on our current plight. Here it is:
“[S]hould the People of America, once become capable of that deep … simulation towards one another and towards foreign nations, which assumes the Language of Justice and moderation while it is practicing Iniquity and Extravagance; and displays in the most captivating manner the charming Pictures of Candour frankness & sincerity while it is rioting in rapine and Insolence: this Country will be the most miserable Habitation in the World. Because We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by morality and Religion. Avarice, Ambition, Revenge or Galantry, would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Now read this quote from Edmund Burke that Kimball uses to launch his own indictment of the Black Lives Matter riots:
“History, Burke writes mid-way through ‘Reflections on the Revolution in France,’ consists largely of ‘miseries brought upon the world by pride, ambition, avarice, revenge, lust, sedition, hypocrisy, ungoverned zeal, and all the train of disorderly appetites.’ It is this unappeasable fountain of human nature that disrupts our social life with (here Burke quotes Spenser) ‘troublous storms that toss / The private state, and render life unsweet.'”
Seen in context, it becomes likely that Adams was echoing Burke intentionally when he warned against “avarice, ambition [and] revenge” as the forces that could rip apart our Constitution.
It also throws reflected light on the inclusion of “galantry” as one of the worrisome traits that must be protected against. Perhaps, Adams was thinking of the dandies of the French Revolution and was implicitly condemning those who dress up in the finery of noble ideals only to slit your throat at an opportune moment — and it should be noted, having their own throats slit (via the guillotine) just a few months later.
Let the politically correct beware.
Heartland Diary is solely operated by Frank Miele, the retired editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana. If you enjoy reading these daily essays, I hope you will consider purchasing one of my books. They are available through the following Amazon links. My new book is “How We Got Here: The Left’s Assault on the Constitution” and is now available in paperback and as an eBook. It is 536 pages long and chock full of research on the progressive movement and the patriotic heroes who have fought against it. My earlier books include “The Media Matrix: What if everything you know is fake?” and the “Why We Needed Trump” trilogy. Part 1 is subtitled “Bush’s Global Failure: Half Right.” Part 2 is “Obama’s Fundamental Transformation: Far Left.” Part 3 is “Trump’s American Vision: Just Right.” As an Amazon Associate, I may earn referral fees for qualifying purchases through links on my website. Also consider subscribing to Heartland Diary on YouTube by clicking here for News Every Conservative Can Use. My goal is to reach 1,000 subscribers.