The Whip and the Bayonet

Several days ago, Speaker Pelosi announced that she supported a bill that would study the issue of reparations to the African-American community for the crime of slavery.

Before I continue, let’s have an understanding that this is never going to happen. Speaker Pelosi and many others paying lip service to the concept of reparations know that it’s never going to be a reality. They know it just as surely as they know that Mexico is never going to pay for the border wall that is never going to be built. The only difference between Pelosi and Trump is that Pelosi understands the nature of the game she’s playing, whereas I’m not convinced that Trump does.

Having said that, the issue of reparations is worth discussing. As you can guess, I am not in favor of reparations for slavery. This is due to the fact that I am a racist. I hate blacks. I don’t care that they were enslaved. Let them eat dirt for all I care!

I don’t mean what I just said, of course, but I just wrote what those of a certain political persuasion are going to read and/or hear once they get to this portion of my entry. No matter what I say, people have a remarkable ability to hear only what they want to hear and make up the rest.

The real reason I oppose reparations has nothing to do with race itself; at least, not race as we understand it today. We can take all of the well-founded conservative arguments against reparations made by Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams and others and put them aside, if we focus only on one issue. History.

In short, we shouldn’t pay reparations because America has already paid them. Not in government checks delivered to every descendant of a slave, but by the most valuable treasure any country has to offer. Blood.

The blood that served as compensation drenched the soil at the Battle of Bull Run, at the Battle of Antietam, at Chancellorsville, Shiloh, Gettysburg, Richmond, Vicksburg, Wilson’s Creek, Glorieta Pass and Atlanta. It ran in many rivers, from the Mississippi to the Ohio to the Potomac.

These were only the major battles. These were the names that we all memorized long enough to pass a test in a classroom somewhere, then promptly forgot. These names of combat sites don’t account for the thousands of people lost in minor skirmishes and encounters throughout the theater of the war. They do not account for those who died as prisoners of war. Nor do they account for the thousands more civilians who died when cities, towns, farms and plantations were overrun and destroyed by enemy forces. Nor do they account for the deaths not incurred in battle; disease, starvation, riots and general unrest in the wake of various occupations.

Not all of the blood spilled during the Civil War was life blood. Much of it gushed from wounds that resulted in loss of limbs, of dignity and morale. Many soldiers who were wounded continued fighting. Medical discharges were unheard of during that period, particularly in the Confederacy. Every lash of the evil whip of slavery was answered by a bayonet in the stomach, a musket ball splattering blood and brains upon the ground, of dead and drowning men leaping from a ship torn by cannonballs, and by the silent, agonized gasps of those dying in makeshift hospitals, bedrooms and barns all across the war-torn country. Every black family torn apart by cruel slave owners was answered by a white family being torn apart by the ravages of war. And for those who survived, there were the ghosts of four years that would go down in history as the most bloody conflict America ever endured.

And finally, America paid with it’s dearest blood when it’s president was assassinated on April 14, 1865 by a Confederate sympathizer as the war was drawing to its conclusion.

According to the National Park Service, the final estimated casualty total of the American Civil War was 1,030,000 dead. It is impossible for us to begin to grasp that number. To break it down into something more comprehensible, that figure represented about three percent of the population of the United States at the time. Both sides of the conflict suffered tremendous losses. The Union lost an estimated 853,838 souls. That number alone is staggering, particularly when you realize that they were fighting on the right side of history. The Confederacy paid even more dearly, losing an estimated 914,660 souls.

Today, the Civil War is merely a story to us. We can read it about it in books, watch it in movies, see it recreated in videogames or in some town squares in the South. But we can never really understand it. If we could, we would have no talk of reparations to a people who have already been compensated. Nor would we tolerate the emotional tantrums of a juvenile political movement that seeks short term gratification by toppling statues that represent America at its best and worst.

Perhaps the argument will perseverate past my initial premise. Maybe the opportunists, glad-handers and political parasites would not view the idea of bloodshed in war as satiation for their greed. I can already hear the greedy cries of, “It’s not enough!” I can anticipate one argument. “Ryan, what about reconstruction? What about Jim Crow? What about 20th century segregation?” Should we not offer reparations to African-Americans for that?

My reply is simple. If so, let the Democratic Party pay the bill. When it comes to the issue of slavery and post slavery racism against blacks, the Republicans are, and have always been on the right side of history.

Nancy and Chuck can sign the first check.

Maybe Baby

I was devastated the other day when I learned that Jonah Goldberg is leaving The National Review. He, more than any other writer, has helped me to maintain my sanity in the socio-political realm over the past three years. Yet, I was heartened to learn that he intends to form a new conservative platform with an emphasis, not just on conservative analysis, but hard reporting as well. And by conservative, he doesn’t mean FoxNews 2.0.

It was a happy coincidence then when I read his latest newsletter, The G-File. His thoughts on abortion are (as usual) presented in a more crystallized form than I could ever have done.

So, enjoy Mr. Goldberg; if a topic such as this, complete with blood-soaked history, can ever be enjoyed. Here he is:

I don’t like debating abortion, but every now and then I get dragooned into it. The other day, I was on Guy Benson and Marie Harf’s radio show, and we got into it because Ben Sasse’s Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act bill had just gone down in flames. I like Marie quite a bit, and I think she tries very hard to give conservatives a fair hearing, so I don’t mean any of this as a personal criticism. But she ran through all of the usual arguments, the chief of which was the old saw about how conservatives are hypocrites because they want the government out of everything, yet they want the state to regulate women’s reproductive choices.

My problem with this argument is that it suffers from a profound category error. The first obligation of the state is to protect human life. This is what Max Weber was getting at when he said the state has a “monopoly on violence.” In a decent and free society, this monopoly has only a handful of legitimate exceptions. The most important and obvious is the right to self-defense, which is an absolute natural right that is prior to any form of government. You cannot pass a just and enforceable law barring people from fighting for their life when attacked.

The other exceptions are fairly minor and still fall under the regulatory power of the state. Boxers need licenses after all. Police have discretion about how to deal with bar room fights. Whether or not spanking is good or bad for kids, I think parents have a right to do it. But we all recognize that the state has a right to intervene when parents go much beyond that kind of thing. A swat on the backside for a misbehaving child isn’t the government’s business. A parent who beats or burns their kid should have their kid taken away.

This sliding scale has an analogue in the abortion debate — not theologically or scientifically perhaps — but culturally and politically. Most Americans favor abortion rights shortly after conception through the end of the first trimester. Even larger majorities are opposed to late-term abortions.

Again, putting aside the philosophical, scientific, and theological arguments, this simply makes sense. People can understandably debate whether a young embryo should be considered a human being. But there is simply no credible moral argument that a viable baby should not be considered a human being. A late-term fetus strikes most reasonable people as a baby, not some abstracted and euphemized thing called “uterine contents” or whatnot. And a delivered baby outside the womb or in the process of delivery is, simply, a baby. The Barbara Boxer view that a baby miraculously becomes a baby only after you bring it home from the hospital is a moral monstrosity.

And this is why conservative pro-lifers are not hypocrites when they say the state should intervene on the behalf of babies. The real hypocrisy cuts the other way. Liberal abortion rights supporters — speaking broadly — have no principled objection to the state regulating the size of our sodas, banning plastic straws or regulating free speech. But going by the statements and votes of the last month — by Ralph Northam, Andrew Cuomo, Kamala Harris, and so many others — they draw the line at regulating infanticide.

Harris, a 2020 hopeful who voted against Republican Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse’s bill, would not say if abortion was ever immoral.

“I think it’s up to a woman to make that decision, and I will always stand by that,” she told The DCNF. “I think she needs to make that decision with her doctor, with her priest, with her spouse. I would leave that decision up to them.”

Harris supports the Women’s Health Protection Act (as do Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Kristen Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and Bernie Sanders). It would eliminate nearly all limits on abortion from late-term bans to abortions based on sex-selection (one wonders how they would feel if transgender fetuses could be identified in utero).

This isn’t ordered liberty; it’s the freedom of the jungle which says you can do whatever you can get away with. It’s fine to argue that “abortions” of viable, healthy, babies are rare (putting aside all the begged questions implicit in the word “healthy.” Do otherwise healthy kids with Down Syndrome count as unhealthy?). But what we’re talking about is the principle. If I said, “Look, it’s extremely rare for women to kill left-handed dudes named Todd who think E.L.O was better than the Rolling Stones,” that would be a true statement. It would not be an argument for killing that poor unlucky Todd with terrible taste in music (Jack’s view notwithstanding).

Just as socialism represents an atavistic impulse to return to pre-modern understandings of politics, the new push for killing inconvenient babies — in principle — is a barbaric step backward to pre-civilized past. Infanticide in our natural environment was incredibly common. This is from part of my book that didn’t make publication:

With the exception of the Jews, virtually all ancient societies, Western and non- Western, routinely butchered, burned, smothered or otherwise slaughtered their own children (and the children of their enemies even more). The Svans of Ancient Georgia murdered newborn girls by filling their mouths with hot ashes. In parts of Ancient China, female babies were killed by submerging them in buckets of cold “baby water.” In feudal Japan, the practice of Makibi (a term borrowed from rice farming meaning “thinning out”) was widespread. Unwanted babies — mostly girls, but also some boys, particularly twins (which were considered unlucky or dangerous in many pre-modern societies) — were snuffed out with a wet cloth. In India infants were sometimes thrown into the Ganges as sacrifices or had their throats cut.

As the anthropologist Laila Williamson famously wrote:
Infanticide has been practiced on every continent and by people on every level of cultural complexity, from hunters and gatherers to high civilization, including our own ancestors. Rather than being an exception, then, it has been the rule.

In pre-historic times, which were no Eden, our ancestors often killed their offspring because they were a real burden and adoption agencies were few and far between. And when I say a real burden, I mean a real burden. Mothers often didn’t have enough milk to feed two infants, which is why the killing of twins was so common. Crying babies when enemy tribes or predators are about are as inconvenient as hungry toddlers when food is scarce.

One aspect of the amazing miracle of the environment we live in now – i.e. civilization — is that killing babies is no longer a necessity, but a luxury. This move to disguise this hideous luxury as a new form of necessity is not a sign that we are advancing as a civilization, but that we are regressing, back to when killing babies was natural and normal.