An American Journal Of Days, Or The Conservative Washout

Introduction

With some temporal distance behind us, and much soul searching, let us examine the coup which deposed Donald John Trump in the winter of 2020-2021 and installed Kamala Devi Harris and her sidekick, Joseph Robinette Biden, as the highest Executive officers of these United States. Herein, we’ve a day’s work, for some things were born and many things died that sadsome season. Those three months saw the longtime fissures of the Trump Administration buckle and fail besides decades of contradictions festering within the conservative movement. Under the weight of a stiff and coordinated faction, but not an irresistible one, the unthinkable happened. This unthinkable thing is not that Donald Trump ceased being President. This unthinkable thing is that the long-benighted public sphere, incarnated in the State and asserted in arms in 1775, failed against a spectrum of confederated private interests. It will not rise again within our lives. The Enlightenment ended; Feudalism began anew.

In the months since America’s Swamp creatures inserted the Harris (sic) Administration into the White House, the MAGA spectrum has faded away. We who swore off FoxNews in December have quietly returned to our old habits. We who spit to hear the GOP mentioned in January, find ourselves enthralled in party politics once more. And the earnestness of resolutions, and our fecklessness, cuts both ways. We who saw how Mr. Trump twice insulted, and finally abandoned, his most loyal supporters, now thrill to see his latest interviews on OANN and NewsMax. The media, for their part proud as punch in their complicity in the Biden coup, since January, have published two major articles (Time,The Secret History” and New Yorker, “Forced To Choose“) broadcasting their role in Trump’s removal. And life goes on; but it does so like in a hangover, or a David Lynch movie.

Those of us who saw what happened still stagger at the enormity of what occurred. Trump’s going and Biden’s coming was more than one office holder switched out for another. What went down was more even than one party using dirty means to get into power. These things have always happened. From Caesar’s Rubicon through Dante’s exile, from Thermidor to the Night of the Long Knives, they will continue to happen in saecula saeculorum. What happened last year was not down and dirty politicking. It was an overthrow. It was nothing more, nothing less.

Yes, the 2020 election was a slow and rolling coup d’état. It was the very sort of thing which America’s archons have executed overseas dozens of times throughout the last half-century. As the dust settles, as the outrages of winter fade, as we slap Trump 2024 stickers on our cars. The world still whirls around, but the Biden Administration is in power and cheaters win.

Making things queerer still, it seems as if few Americans, even those who keep an eye on current events, are aware of the full scope of what happened. We know there was a coup. Nothing is true, if that is not true. After all, no man ever made can sit in a basement for nine months and become President. Political affiliations aside, everyone who followed events knows there was a steal. For all its awful enormity, however, we’ve only the vaguest idea of what happened. This essay is a sketch of that operation.

With the perspective of at least a few months breathing room, we can now lay out the main stepping stones of the Biden operation, sometimes right from the mouths of the spoilers themselves. This exploration honestly admits its ignorance. It is not comprehensive. No doubt later authors will uncover more points, connect more dots; I myself could have doubled this essay’s length for abundance of material. However, a comprehensive treatment of the 2020 Steal is not the end of this paper. It is merely a skeleton. Beyond that, this essay is a work of solidarity. It is an encouragement to my countrymen in the face of six months of media smirking and gaslighting that, yes, they did smell something fishy, and, yes, other people remember it.

When You Point One Finger, Three More Point Back

In the pages ahead I mean to address the specifics which deposed Trump. I will make a concise record, as best I can, of the mad and vicious crew that ultimately seized Federal power. I hope it will assist the general reader in sizing things up; and I especially hope it will give other authors an outline to build on. I also mean to expose and scorn and mock the chinless institutions whose estrogen levels all knew were high, but institutions we at least gave the benefit of the doubt to as being, however lame and incompetent, ever in good faith. The media, the Church, the schools, public academics, and what’s left of the reading public failed their obligations of being social guardians.

More than that lot, though, I mean to expose, however tacitly, what’s become of the broad conservative movement. By this I lasso everyone from Mitch McConnell and CIA-pin wearing Sean Hannity, to the washouts of the Alt Right and Moral Majority, to people like myself who flatter ourselves with different adjectives, thoughtfully chosen no doubt, but who are more or less conservative-adjacent, or woke, or patriot, or alternative. For the lot of us, foundations once destroyed, what can the just do? More than your DNC and your Silicone Valley and your CCP—we blew it. In the months since Harris’ installation, institutional conservatism is tripping over itself to catch up with the Overton Window. What is manifesting itself externally was a long time in coming. How did we not see this?

The Appeal

What built to a crescendo and flopped about and died on the Epiphany was a certain dream of America. I will revisit the specifics of the dearly departed at the end of this essay, but it had to do with hope. To use a word which has pleasantly become popularized this last half-decade, what died was a certain narrative of America. Allow me now a personal appraisal of Donald Trump, and what the Make America Great Again movement meant to me, and how it represented the last hurrah of that narrative. I should think I speak for something of his base.

Always was I a distant fan of Trump. Having moved beyond disgust with the political order to a belief that the government and its agents are in fact enemy occupiers, by 2016 I had ceased to participate in the elections of the color of law UNITED STATES entity. Thus I never rendered Trump any formal voting booth support. After the Bush years, after the continued Obama-era neo-conning of John McCain (of unhappy memory), after so many traffic stops and child removals and drug charges, a certain percentage of a certain sort of men swore off participation in that political system. I am one of them. After having apprehended the morass of the American order, all that is left us is withdrawal. So only from a distance did Trump catch my attention; but catch it he did.

What was invigorating about the man was his willingness to mock the culture of Washington, D.C., particularly its toady media. You see, vast swaths of America had been written out of political discourse. People of European extraction, so-called “white” people, particularly white men, were especially ignored over these last 50 years. Early in Trump’s campaign, in its initial flush of talent, it was commendable for tapping into communities who themselves had written off ever being taken seriously by “mainstream” society. Steve Bannon well deserves the moniker “wizkid,” groundlessly given a decade before to Karl Rove, for his observation that the many dozens of social eddies dismissed by the mainstream “cathedral” of power could be leveraged into a single coordinated opposition movement.

By “mainstream,” of course, I mean the few millions of men more or less concentrated around New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles who frame the mental realities of the remaining 300 millions of Americans, and many overseas souls besides. Those subgroups, which Bannon harnessed, had long despaired of being acknowledged by American culture as even existing, let alone of being taken seriously.

One example of this, well into his presidency, was Donald Trump’s January 2020 appearance at the March For Life. The March is America’s largest annual anti-abortion protest. An always-robust gathering, it had also always been chronically bypassed by the media. Even “allied” groups never took the March to its bosom. The anti-abortion movement has always been an interest of only marginal concern to GOP bigshots, including previous “pro-life” Republican Presidents, men who campaigned on the platform but who barely managed to pump out a pre-recorded clip each winter. But after decades of neglect, there Trump was in 2020.

For someone, such as I, there was a lameness in Trump’s policies. Too much of the Swamp was still around, too much grandstanding about the southern border, and much too much Zionism. More fundamentally, though, there was a democratic streak to Trump which could excuse a thousand faults. Truckers fed up with the red tape of business, wary of the rise of their automated competition, would call up national talk radio with their petitions and pleas. Old timers who still had the icon of old America in their heart would phone national stations to warn Trump or laud him. These were things I heard many times over his four years.

Trump was able to include all sorts. There were people who showed up in the Trump administration whom I had last heard of on niche Evangelical television channels and conservative radio stations, circa 2005. And didn’t my jaw hit the bar one fine afternoon to see Trump’s helicopter landing at the Daytona track! The point is this: One guffaws to think of Clinton or Bush or Obama hearing, let alone acting upon, radio missives from cross-country truckers, but it was never beyond the pale to imagine Donald Trump doing so.

The President liked his “Fox And Friends;” and his fake tan and weird hair were endearing oddities. But whatever was cheesy or lame or quirky about him or the groups he courted, Trump acknowledged the existence of millions of Americans the ruling class thought they had successfully dismissed from “real life” decades ago. Whatever muse tickled Jefferson and Jack and Lincoln and Kennedy, also sang songs of the old America around Trump. It sang democracy. Not NATO democracy, not George Soros democracy did it chant—but the down-home type, school-board democracy, townhall democracy, the Mr. Smith type of democracy. And for that, the cathedral hated him—and for this I loved him.

Air From The Balloon

Life is oft-times covalent. Trump’s empowering of the marginalized and of the working man was grand, but his skewering of the mainstream media was divine. You see, I did not have much to do with the groups he and Bannon courted. It’s been years since I’ve been a fetus, I’ve never been a long-haul trucker. And I don’t have much to say for NASCAR beyond gratitude for the beer and casseroles I’m bid enjoy in large amounts each February during Daytona’s opening day. But across all the groups confederated in the MAGA coalition, a distrust of the national media organs was the common denominator which united them.

It has been five years since Trump first used “fake news” in his Twitter feed (of happy memory). In one brash expression Trump stole from under the noses of his MSM opponents a weapon of theirs; he took and rightly applied what it would take them five years to recover—he took their perceived authority. Trump said aloud what millions had been whispering about for decades: The newsmen are liars. He went on to use the expression “fake news” thousands of times. Trump even created his own “Fake News Awards” in 2018. With the half-decade since its use, overuse, and weaponization, we forget how powerful calling the fake news, fake news first was. We forgot—but the media did not forget.

Background Of The Coup

Context is everything. To begin at the beginning, we must consider the attempt to steal the 2016 Election. Anecdotally, Rick Wiles of TruNews and Alex Jones of InfoWars independently asserted that they witnessed late-night voter spikes, very much of the sort seen in 2020. For whatever reason, these spikes were scotched and the counting returned to a regular tally leading to a Trump win in 2016.

Fast-forward four years. How did Donald Trump walk into 2020 nearly guaranteed a second term only to leave a year later under a barrage of contempt, impeached a second time, deplatformed, with even the hoariest of D.C. insiders hissing about the 25th Amendment being used against him? Americans went mad over that year, that’s why.

As we will see, the mainstream media (MSM) did much to unseat Trump; but the toll of the Coronavirus reaction did much as well. The population’s already shaky reasoning skills were atrophied after a socially distanced year of Netflix-watching and alcohol-drinking. A nation already on edge from a capitalism wherein men regularly live, not just from paycheck-to-paycheck, but from credit-card to credit-card, saw what little economic autonomy they had evaporate, and replaced by a greasy Federal dole. COVID heightened Americans’ placid and mindless tendencies a damn sight more than even us pessimists imagined.

The Crowned And Conquering Child

As regards the election, one of the more meanspirited plot-points happened in June 2020. The actual threat of Coronavirus having passed, Trump was eager to get back to normal. That June, his campaign organized a rally. Those extraordinary events had become quite routine during the Trump years. In one regard he never stopped campaigning because he never stopped the rallies. Perhaps some of Trump’s lackluster policy legacy has to do with his diverted attention. He ought to have stopped campaigning and paid attention to his daily administration duties. It was like he kept trying to play and replay 2016 over again. And while he was static, the Swamp was not.

In any case, after the spring’s Coronavirus panic, one sure sign of normalcy would be to hold another rally. In June one was scheduled in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a heartland city Melania had visited a year before. It was a flop. Superficially spurred on by K-pop fans on the social media site TikToc, teens snapped up all the rally RSVPs. I say superficially because of Mark Moore’s recent report that, “The Pentagon is running a 60,000-strong secret army made up of soldiers, civilians and contractors, who travel the world under false identities embedded in consultancies and name-brand companies— without the knowledge of the American people or most of Congress— according to a report” (New York Post, 5/18/21). I’m led to conclude that many members of this “secret army” haunt social media sites to steer social perception. Whether it was because of teens or the Deep State, Trump went to a sold-out rally and no one showed up. The MSM, for whom reporting had long collapsed into entertainment, sensed blood in the water and set to work mocking the mocked.

BLM et al.

Then there were the riots. Throughout the summer of 2020, there were fierce racial riots whose stakes ramped up as time wore along. It was not enough that these disturbances simmered for months on end. They escalated. Protesters held city centers out West; and new “defund the police” talking points were released by the mainstream press at opportune times. In fact, there was something altogether theatrical about the Black Lives Matter and Antifa protests. Those of us who remember the stage-managed school shootings of the Obama years got a whiff of the same as we watched municipalities drop-off pallets of bricks at choice urban locations.

You’ve Got Mail!

At the end of September, the Deep State flexed its muscle with 500 chinless Defense Department employees signing “An Open Letter To America.” Trump’s greatest offense against the Deep State was not giving the military a new war. It wasn’t enough that he kept the hireling forces of the United States involved in ways overt and covert in Afghanistan and Syria and Yemen and Libya – but by refusing to open fronts in Iran and elsewhere Trump crossed the devotees of Mars. In the lead up to the election, they flexed their muscle. The flattering impartiality which the military loves to remind Americans of was thrown out the window as the Deep State test-ran the coming winter’s narrative.

Once again on January 3rd, immediately before the Confirmation, Elizabeth Cheney, as wicked as her father and doubtless prompted by him, organized all the living Secretaries of Defense to write an op-ed against President Trump. “Joe Biden,” the Open Letter said of a man who had by then sat inert in his basement for seven months, and would do so for another two, “has the character, principles, wisdom, and leadership necessary to address a world on fire.” Stoned, Netflixed Americans bought it; their appetites whetted for more.

Of Laptops And Landmines

Lastly, there was the Hunter Biden cover-up. After the CIA turned Ukraine into an intelligence nest in 2014, in much the same way the states of the Arabian Gulf have been fronts for British intelligence since World War I, Joseph Biden made many connections in the Central European nation. Even in his dotage Biden made sure he was as removed from the financial schemes as possible. In April 2019 an intoxicated Hunter dropped off a laptop in Delaware State. Similar to his October 2018 incident, when a gun of his was found in a dumpster and the FBI attempted to obtain Hunter’s possibly incriminating paperwork, the press went to bat for him. But Hunter was the “bagman,” as Rudy Giuliani said. And this ought to have been investigated.

It was a wash. Most outlets ignored the story; some followed it for a while and let it slip away. Only the New York Post stuck with it. Of course, their doggedness meant nothing because the FBI didn’t investigate, and less law enforcement agencies stonewalled. In its own way, the “conservative” media showed its hand with the Biden story too. On an errand of faux investigative journalism, Tucker Carlson played footsie with the story, vowing to get to the bottom of things. For three weeks he ranted and raved about the story only to give up when his paymasters at Fox told him to stop. It was only at this point when Carlson informed Americans he and Hunter were good friends.

The media is not only propagandistic, it’s also sloppy. It forgets its own trade basics like avoiding conflicts of interest. As Carlson slunk away from the Hunter Biden story, he defended his cowardice by saying, “It was wrong to kick a man when he was down.” This was obfuscation. The laptop scandal was appropriate to pursue because Hunter Biden’s actions weren’t examples of personal flaws, they weren’t lurid sex stories best left in the National Enquirer. Based on the adjective-heavy, heavily veiled comments of Rudy Giuliani and John Paul MacIsaac (the Delaware computer shop owner who received Hunter’s laptop), the photos alleged to be on Biden’s computer largely involved child sexual abuse.

On the heels of Jeffery Epstein’s industrial compromise ring, on the heels of Miles Guo’s revelations of the color-coding of compromised politicians (with those sexually compromised being classed as “yellow”), and considering Joseph Biden’s repeated bragging of his relationships with CCP men like Xi Jinping, the Hunter Biden allegations were ripe for investigation. Since then, in a Stalinisticly-ironic, rub-it-in-your-face move by the cathedral, Hunter Biden, the beneficiary of several miraculous media cover-ups over the years, is now assisting in journalism classes at Tulane University.

The Foreground

The events recounted above comprise the main background of the Steal. Now we turn to the operation itself. Focused especially in the foreground of the 2020 Coup are three events and four. They stand out as especial tipping points in specific areas. They are: Trump’s January 21st, 2020 Davos speech regarding the international order; Mark Esper’s June 1st countermand of Trump’s troop deployment to Washington; and shortly afterwards, the third incident of note, this time in the spiritual realm, was Trump’s holding up of the Holy Bible in front of St. John’s Church. The moment he did that the die was cast against him.

Davos

In January of 2020 Donald Trump attended the meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Along with dozens of heads of state, NGO leaders, and capitalists, Trump conferenced on a diverse array of financial topics, and none too soon. The repos markets had been tottering since the fall. On January 21, Trump spoke to the assembled guests of the WEF. He railed about socialism, he extolled the virtues of American individualism, and he vowed to put nationalism first.

In a room filled with the likes of Klaus Schwab, people who were putting the finishing touches on their Great Reset theories, people who had on their hands a scheme of great potential in the still-distant-though-known Coronavirus, this was too much. For the remainder of his time there, Trump was literally shunned. In the social nooks which offset the main panels, in the kaffeeklatsches and social hours of Davos, Trump found himself standing alone. This event signifies the collapse of Trump legitimacy on the international stage.

Countermand

In June of 2020, came the next institutional shoe to drop. Washington, D.C. joined many American cities that spring in being the focus of racial protests. On the basis of extensive rioting, Donald Trump called in various units of the National Guard to restore order. That very day they were sent home in the midst of continued rioting. What happened? Trump was overwritten.

You see, only two men have the authority to order soldiers in or out of the District of Columbia, the President and the Secretary of Defense. The President made his will known by deploying troops. This leaves the Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper as the only one who could have contradicted the President. This event signifies the collapse of Trump’s authority over the military.

Apre Moi Le Deluge

The third incident was very much the first drop of a deluge to come: FoxNews’ John Roberts’ gaslighting of Kayleigh McEnany on October 1st. There were many tense, unedifying, and childish examples of conduct from both Trump and the press corp over their four years of interacting. With the riots falling back to a simmer, and with the Vote in just one month, on October 1st, McEnany was asked if Trump opposed racism. She responded in the negative, citing some words of his. In a sane world this ought to have been the end of the matter. Fox persisted, asking for more evidence. To this McEnany gave two or three examples. Fox kept asking and asking. Text does not do this queer interaction justice. You ought to watch it to understand how bizarre the exchange was.

More than anything else, the media was responsible for the Harris-Biden (sic) installation, and Fox’s fox Roberts test-ran their gaslighting weapon par excellence. This event signifies the media’s shifting from being hostile to being inimical towards Trump. What would unfold over the next three months would be payback for Trump’s four year of exposing their lies. And lest we forget, come the night of the Vote, it was Fox News which called the election for Biden.

The Rat

The above events are three Rubicon moments in Trump’s deposition, but there is a fourth. The final pylon to fail was Jared Kushner. In December, at the height of the Steal, Kushner who busy in the Middle East grandstanding for Zion with his Abraham Accords. There was no loyalty to the man, no devotion; Kushner ought never to have been allowed within a mile of the White House. Many of Trump’s worst hires and fires came on Kushner’s recommendation. This man was the finest example of the personnel failures which plagued the Trump Administration.

Because he was always in campaign mode, because was too busy skewering the MSM, Trump never had time, or interest, to choose solid men. Instead, he deferred to social climbers like his son-in-law. With rare exceptions such as Kayleigh McEnany, the people Trump had working for him were social climbers. They were either grandstanders in the moment, like Kushner or Pompeo, or they were trimming their sails for their post-Trump careers, like Mark Milley. In any case, Jared Kushner’s effeminate self-promotion, when his boss and father-in-law was in need of all hands-on deck, signifies the collapse of Trump’s inner circle.

The Steal

As to the DNC heist of November 2020 itself, that is a topic beyond the scope of this outline. Like the Fall of Troy, around which both The Iliad and The Odyssey revolve, but which is never directly described, I leave our late national blot silently brooding over every word of this essay, but never dissect it head on. For specifics on this matter, I direct your attention to Michael Lindell’s three features on this topic, Absolute Proof, Absolute Interference, and Scientific Proof. All are also available for free on his website.

And, as this essay goes to press, the ongoing audits in Arizona and Georgia give hope that the truth will out.

Pushback

With each electoral safety bulwark failing, as fall turned into winter, confidence in increasingly archaic schemes and legalities rose. The first hope to fail was in the realm of citizen protests and journalism. Getting the message out in the media, filing affidavits, and making the record were the orders of the day. There was plenty of work to do, as thousands of Americans came forward to document electoral errata. This course climaxed, sputtered, and failed on November 25.

On the day before Thanksgiving, a most poorly timed event, the Trump, team headed by Rudy Giuliani, gathered hundreds of men in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to testify to the many instances of voter fraud witnessed throughout the county. However, one month into The Steal, the MSM realized that if they could mock the charge of voter fraud in se, if they could preface what mentions they couldn’t ignore outright with “unfounded” or “not widespread,” or “lies,” there was nothing, absolutely nothing, which could stop their narrative from winning the day. An unlettered and deracinated American public could only sit and ingest what it was told.

More than anything else, Joseph Biden’s installation was the work of the media. There was a constellation of fellow-travelers and allies, but 2020 was predominantly a battle of perception; and that perception was ironclad by the press. It was the apotheosis of Edward Bernays’ work and Madison Avenue’s century of note-taking. Needless to say, despite hundreds of sworn testimonies, the Gettysburg event fizzled. Thousands of filings were thrown out of nationwide Bar Association courts in the following weeks.

The coup had works in the open, but it also did works in secret. On November 21, one of those quiet efforts leaked out. That day a story appeared in various sources about Emily Murphy, the head of the General Services Administration. It told of how Trump finally released funds for the Biden Transition Team to use because she was being threatened to do so. She wrote to the Biden Team,

I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official—including those who work at the White House or GSA—with regard to the substance or timing of my decision. To be clear, I did not receive any direction to delay my determination. I did, however, receive threats online, by phone, and by mail directed at my safety, my family, my staff, and even my pets in an effort to coerce me into making this determination prematurely. Even in the face of thousands of threats, I always remained committed to upholding the law.

For the peace of a harried bureaucrat ,Trump gave permission to release money to the spoilers. Like at the dummy Tulsa rally that spring, the MSM spun an abuse for their ends. Trump was conceding the election, so the story went. Score one for gaslighting.

The next hope to fail was the Presidential Election on December 14. Before detailing the Election vis. Trump, I must pause and clarify the official process whereby a man enters the Federal Executive office in America. There are three events of increasing gravity which are prescribed for this. Funnily enough, as their importance grows, their public awareness diminishes. Most American believe things begin and end on one day in November. In fact there are three stages a man must successfully go through to be President. These are the Presidential Vote (November), the Presidential Election (December), and the Presidential Confirmation (January). Things are not made easy by the fact that people refer interchangeably to the Vote as the Election, by which they mean the early November event.

What follows is a generalization, which I detailed in my recent series on “We, The People.” Briefly, the Vote recommends to the state Electors whom they should select for that state’s slate of electors to choose. It must be absolutely understood that the Vote is simply a suggestion, it does not oblige the Electors’ decisions whatsoever. However, typically, they do follow these suggestions. After the Election, there follows the Confirmation. This January event is the final chance to troubleshoot any procedural objections. It was in the context of the Confirmation that the riot of January 6th happened.

The point is that the media’s gaslighting and the putzing about of the Trump team throughout November were annoying but they were not particularly alarming because we who were watching things assumed all would be righted in the Election. The Electors are the People in “We, the People;” they are the Patricians; they are the archons; they are the owners of the country. Whatever the weirdness or objectionability of their system, we who took the time to learn the system assumed they were the adults in the room. You can rig a voting machine, you can’t rig a Person. We assumed they were of tougher mettle than the party pukes who stalk around polling stations with sacks of money and brass knuckles. After all the Electors are effectively those with the greatest material share in the country; they are the biggest landholders and businessmen throughout the 50 states. Trump did many things poorly, but he did well for America’s moneymen. The assumption was they would back him. We assumed wrong.

You know, six months on, having thought about this some, I don’t think the Electors needed to be as threatened or bribed to vote for Biden as I once did. Like with so much else, we didn’t realize how far down the rot was. So the Election came and the Election went, and Biden was elected that December. Michigan’s Republican delegation made a stink, showing up at the State House and being locked out, and there was some talk down in Georgia of the same; but it came to nothing. When the media and the offices of state decide to stonewall there is nothing lawful men can do.

After such serious official collapses, the tone of Trump supporters changed. A lot gave up hope; but some of the well-read remembered that there was a third stage to the choice of an Executive, the Confirmation. If few Americans know the difference between the Vote and the Election, fewer still are aware of the Confirmation. This is Congress’s opportunity to review the preceding two stages, and to voice any concerns over any irregularities raised. It is around this least conventionally “political” of the three stages, this emergency valve, where attention turned as Christmas approached.

As the MSM couldn’t altogether ignore the discontent throughout the country, they were forced to acknowledge it. It was at this time, late December, that some voices arose on the national scene, who threw in their lot with the Trump defense. They were grandstanders in retrospect, trimmers some, useless men with big mouths others, but around the likes of Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Mike Pence, hope began to grow that various emergency procedures might be implemented on January 6.

To Stir The Pot

Even if Trump showed more than a half-hearted desire to beat back the Steal, which he never did, there was no hope that the right would out, following the Election. We will return to the specific hopes and theories which Americans began placing in the sixth of January, the date of the Confirmation, in a little bit. I wish now to address the role of intelligence agencies in the coup. Americans, whose political system excels in overthrowing governments, who live in a decade of such overthrows, seem strangely ambivalent to the possibility of those self-same agencies doing as much in America.

What was the situation by late December? The Vote was stolen in plain sight. Neither the Electors nor the courts were interested in hearing out thousands of Americans who reported seeing funny business at that event. The media was in high psyops mode, and each day they dialed up their efforts. Trump’s defense was split and sloppy, and Trump himself was lukewarm when he wasn’t silent. As outraged Americans began planning their third and biggest rally, two things appeared on the scene. The first was talk of a civil war, the second was QAnon. Both were manifest works of the Deep State, and in both instances conservatives walked into a trap.

Ideas of civil strife gripping America were deliberately seeded during the opening months of 2020. The Atlantic gave over their entire December 2019 issue to the topic. Their “How To Stop A Civil War” publication was a textbook case of seeding a narrative. No one was talking of such before The Atlantic brought it up. One year, one overblown sickness, and one rent-a-mob summer later, and the talk was reintroduced.

The Protect Democracy Project ran workshops in June and October of 2020. In it, hundreds former and present bureaucrats from the Military Industrial Complex war-gamed the possibility of unrest accompanying the fall’s electoral process. These scenarios went under the heading of the Transition Integrity Project. The participants found there to be a high chance of civil unrest following the vote. If this sort of thing sounds familiar, if there’s something George Soros-esque about an outfit called “Protect Democracy,” the exercises it holds, and their pipeline to the press, it’s because it is run by Ian Bassin, a former member of the Obama White House and a man who pose-by-pose is a carbon copy of Barry Soetero. You see, Larry Sinclair’s boyfriend and his epigones never left D.C. From the moment Trump was elected, Obama and the Deep State and the Never Trumpers were at work for 2020. The point is, worked into the mix of COVID and electoral tension, the possibility of catastrophic violence was introduced. It is to the discredit of the late, great “alternative media” that they took the Protect Democracy bait. Nobody bothered to check to see who Protect Democracy was. It was a juicy story, so the alt press ran with it.

The next spoiler which came along was QAnon. The epitome of controlled opposition from the same sorts who built up ISIS, when the Q operation was through, Trump supporters seemed madder than an outhouse rat. As each hope failed, the Q people would double down—“trust the plan,” and schedule the next knock-out blow to the Deep State. For example, on the day of Harris’ inauguration, Q types were insisting the fencing around the Capitol was to keep the lawmakers in (because they were all surreptitiously under arrest); the military was going to arrest Biden and conduct a new election, and Trump would be back in office come mid-March. As of my May 2021 composition of this writing, in all seriousness I have been assured Donald Trump will be restored on August 15th. Hope springs eternal, or from Langley.

Fissures Forming

As these structural failings were happening, as the Vote’s steal went unchallenged throughout the states, as the MSM railroaded the perception that Biden’s win was unchallenged by all but madmen, as the Electors certified November’s crime, the response on the part of Donald Trump was jerky, erratic, and imprecise.

Firstly, it seems that a similar steal was affected in 2016. It is more speculative than 2020, but from what reports we have, the same kind of voter spikes happened, and they happened in the same states no less. In fact, the bizarre behavior of what’s called, rightly or wrongly, the “institutional left” during the four years of the Trump Administration only makes sense if they were expecting to have won only to have the prize snatched from under their noses at the last minute. What else explains their genuine hatred for a man who was pretty much a milquetoast, albeit loudmouth, conservative?

Background and questions aside, when Trump’s term finally organized a response, it was sloppy from the word go. At their first press conference within a week of the Vote, and a number of times in the following weeks, they were unwilling to provide any evidence of voter fraud. This incompetence is unbelievable, given that anyone could tune in half the radio shows in the county which were featuring men who saw paper shredding trucks at polling booths, vote minders boarding up windows, and clerks changing ballot rules at the last minute. The defense only went downhill from there. Soon Sydney Powell, and her meatier charges of overseas electoral tampering, was shown the door. And indeed, before all was said and done, Rudy Giuliani’s slowly dripping hair dye was the truest summary of Trump’s defense, and indeed of American conservatism.

Prester John

By late December, there began to be a discernible irrationality amongst Trump supporters. As the Book of Ecclesiastes says, oppression makes a wise man mad (7:7). As the ordinary channels of redress buckled under the bribes and bullies and caresses of the DNC and their confederates, those who saw what was happening began to place their hopes in increasingly far-flung hopes whereby the Trump Administration would come out on top.

This tendency is actually a regular feature through history. During the Crusades, as the situation of besieged Outremer darkened, the Christians of Europe began to place their hopes in “Prester John.” A confusion of Marco Polo’s far-flung observations and Eastern lacunae, John was supposed to be a mighty Ethiopian priest-king who was coming to the rescue of his Palestinian co-religionists at any moment. Alas, Fr. John never made the rounds. Close on the historical heels of fantasies about Trump’s survival were things like the 1890s Indians Ghost Dance and Hitler’s hopeless breakouts around Berlin during the Second World War. As in history, so with Trump’s supporters. The more the spoilers succeeded, the greater became the hopes of the MAGA train.

It is easy to mock this tendency. However, concerning the stolen election, recall that in the late fall of 2020, the alternatives to fantastical hopes were to resign oneself to (1) sitting by as a lawless clique seized power, and (2) observing that fellow Americans were either largely in agreement with such criminality (unlikely) or too apathetic to care (likely).

Questions

Whatever the case may be, if a 2016 steal was the case, as it appears to have been the case, why didn’t Trump’s men provide against it? Why did they not shore up the other routes beyond the Vote? Forget about the courts, the media, the Election, and the Confirmation, they did not even seem to do much to avoid in 2020 the kind of hanky-panky Vote fraud which happened in 2016.

Surely, they must have known the DNC et al. were going to deploy in 2020 fossers not only against the Vote, like they did with Hilary Clinton, but also against every subsequent route of redress? I have no answer to this question, beyond a speculation that Trump & Co. were depending on an incontrovertibly high popular vote to win the day, support so plain upon tables that any DNC sliminess in the courts, the Election, etc. would be risible.

There is another option I can’t pretend hasn’t crossed my mind. Worse by far than incompetence—that perhaps Trump threw the election. Perhaps it was all theater; perhaps the MAGA movement was itself controlled opposition all along. After all, what did the Trump train do for Red State America? He didn’t stop the Agenda. Everything he attempted to implement was rolled back within hours, within days of Harris’ (sic) installation, and the most ideologically solid conservatives, and few there be, are well on their way to being classified as terrorists by the Bar Association system. Was Trump a Pied Piper?

I hesitate to choose this explanation because while there was plenty of theater from both Trump and his adversaries, there were too many examples of disrespect and anger between them which jumped the script. Nancy Pelosi tearing up Trump’s speech during the State of the Union,=; Jim Acosta’s behavior in press conferences; the cruel mockery of Sarah Sanders’ appearance; and the lockstep coordination of Silicon Valley and America’s internal spy agencies following the January 6th riot were all events which exceeded, far exceeded, the type of Wrestlemania “antagonisms” which accent typical politics.

The third option is that Trump realized the enormity of what the DNC did, and he realized that neither the Republican Party nor the feckless men who worked in his Administration (his own hires, let it be said) were going to support him, and he lost heart by late November.

Of these three options, I believe Trump’s anemic response to the coup is explained to some degree by options one and three.

The messaging and execution of Trump’s legal defense was erratic and factional. It was a microcosm of the erratic staffing of his four years in office. Divisions formed early within Trump’s defense. When things coalesced by late December(!), Rudy Giuliani led the official team. The guts of their objection revolved around mail-in ballot fraud.

Sidney Powell had been cut loose by then. Soon to be joined by Lin Wood, this lesser group focused on the errata surrounding the voting machines, and the interference of American intelligence overseas in the Vote. It would not be until the eleventh hour of January 15, when Mike Lindell of My Pillow fame, clawed his way past grudging White House aides, when what was left of the Trump Administration backed objections to the graver findings from November (as compared to the child’s play about gerrymandering Guiliani was pursuing). Again we must ask why Donald Trump, who ran a nation with a long history of staging coups, did not anticipate such a thing happening to him?

Behind The Scenes

Then on December 18th, the previous four years of bad advice, distracted hiring, and self-serving hacks erupted in one disastrous meeting. For the remaining month of Trump’s presidency, there would effectively be no administration in any meaningful sense. That day there was a collision between the MAGA men, as we might call them, those who generally believed in Trump as a unifier of the conservative spectrum and who proximately acknowledged the Steal, and the trimmers, those who came from the Swamp, remained in the Swamp, and who will die in the Swamp. Additionally, that December day, there was a collision between the two wings of Trump’s election defense, as represented by Rudy Giuliani and Sydney Powell. Something of the chaos of that event leaked out. As reported by Business Insider:

You’re quitting! You’re a quitter! You’re not fighting!” [Michael] Flynn said of [Eric] Herschmann before turning to Trump and adding, “Sir, we need fighters.”
According to Axios, Herschmann responded, “Why the f— do you keep standing up and screaming at me?”
He added: “If you want to come over here, come over here. If not, sit your ass down.”

After the Allies opened their 1918 Hundred Days’ offensive, German general Erich Ludendorff reported to Kaiser Wilhelm that the war was unwinnable. He called it Germany’s “Black Day.” After the December 18th meeting, there was no hope of staunching the Steal. Everything after is postscript: The Confirmation, the riot, the reshuffling of the Defense and Homeland Security heads, the second impeachment, America.

As Things Stand

Donald Trump spent four years trying to recreate a set-piece reenactment of 2016, while his opponents spent their time perfecting their 2020 plan. The spoilers provided against every possible route of redress, while Trump was grandstanding and getting into Twitter fights. Trump was surrounded by the lowest, most useless sorts of men, all of them his own choices. The list of such men starts with Michael Pence.

By the time of the heated pre-Christmas meeting, Trump had brushed-off two massive rallies of his most devoted supporters, including many hundreds of men willing to testify to the crimes of November. Instead, Trump chose to spend his time campaigning for the likes of Kelly Loeffler, a woman who, 24 hours after Trump had his arm around her on a rally stage in Georgia, did not have the guts or gratitude to raise a stink about the offense done to him. His official defense team was limp-wristed and confused. In those three months, from the Vote to Harris’ White Entry, Donald Trump never knew where to exert his energy.

Where Things Stand

In the meta-look, one term or two, Donald Trump was a sandcastle at tide’s rise. And he was merely a sandcastle at one part of a very long beach, the political section, itself not even the most important part. In the vaunted “first hundred days” of the Harris Administration, we’ve seen enough to see where things are going. The wars are back on, the bailouts are back, the cultural manipulation moves apace. The Swamp stinks worse than it did before. The conservative movement as we knew it, something which orbited around the GOP and the Church and talk radio, is dead. It was betrayed by the aforementioned, and other false friends besides.

What remains of structural conservativism busies itself creating home pages on a hundred alt social media sites, pages soon to be deleted, and moving en masse to “Red States,” a clueless rehash of Libertarian fads from 20 years ago. Individuals of that persuasion content themselves with daily rosaries, social media reposts, and doubling down on the paranoia and anti-intellectualism which first threw them in the hole they’re in now. And so it goes. An Agenda which has marshalled ambivalence for its ends, and a resistance which doesn’t know its nose from its elbow.


John Coleman co-hosts Christian History & Ideas, and is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut. Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at their website.


The featured image shows, Death and the Masks,” by James Ensor; painted in 1897.

Woke Moralism: #DisruptTexts And The Abrogation of Literature

Introduction

In the spring of 1966, before the violence of the Cultural Revolution washed over China, the CCP initiated a campaign against the “Four Olds.” This project aimed to eradicate Chinese culture in order to protect Chinese culture. “Sweep Away All Monsters And Demons,” enjoined the Party’s print organ. What followed was a violent “cancel culture.” As then, so now.

In 2018 the #DisruptTexts group was founded by Lorena German. Much like Black Lives Matters and AltRight, #DistruptTexts marshalled decades of critique into a single legal entity. Why the advocates of these edgy ideas are so intent on handing over their work to the Bar Association system is beyond me, but much as we speak of the AltRight and BLM, when I speak of #DisruptTexts I will be referring to the movement in general and not the fictional entity. So sue me.

This essay argues two points concerning the approach of #DisruptTexts. Insofar as this movement is principally a pedagogical effort, my first points concern the way we in the general public understand literature. The approach of #DisruptTexts is inappropriate because (1) American society is too unstable at present to dismantle narratives as we have too little to work with as is, and (2) their powerful observation of social dynamics, even the conscious inclusion of Critical Race Theory, is being taught to students who do not have the intellectual matrix to responsibly digest these ideas. As we consider #DisruptTexts in the context of the mass education crisis, and while I will address theoretical errors which exist in their approach, we need to realize how our own individual and social sloppiness exacerbates these woke errors. There is plenty of blame to go around, and #DisruptTexts is but one factor of several.

Concerning my second point, #DisruptTexts is problematic (how’s that for a Leftist word!) because of its inability to contribute towards the construction of a social order. There is on the Left too much breaking down, not enough building up. The racial genie has bewitched the partisans of #DisruptTexts and there is no end to the deconstruction road. And not to put too sharp a point on it, for people who are hip to what is called “race,” they should respect the white culture of America as much as the Indian culture of the Subcontinent, or anywhere else.

Orientation & House Rules

From the start I ought to say that #DisruptTexts is not especially alarming to me. It is one of a conga line of educational fads which regularly burn through my vocational field. In fact, as it lacks coordinated state patronage it is a few clicks less pressing than No Child Left Behind or Common Core, recent foci of educational wariness. It is always important to remember the frequency of these sorts of fads before emotionally reacting to them.

As I wrote in my late series on We The People, I assert that there is no day to day racism in America. It is an insult to both the dead generations of Americans who suffered actual racism, as well as those of our day who suffer like discrimination across the world. The tribulations of the Tutsi, the Uighurs, and the Rohingya are a damn sight more serious than the pettyfogging gripes of American academics. #DistruptTexts, Black Lives Matter, et al. represent one of a number of divide and conquer tactics which the American ruling class excels in implementing. Keeping the ethnic groups annoyed with each other distracts from the track-trace-database system Mr. Schwab and his eponyms are building; it distracts from the endless Pentagon wars and the thousand-front looting of the American working class.

What racism there is exists in institutions which are in an adversarial relationship to the population they rule over, and their crimes literally have nothing to do with subject Americans. #DisruptTexts is right in saying there is profound and systemic racism in social institutions, most outstandingly via subsidiary state corporations like their military branches, police departments, and prisons. However, the U.S. Federal and state governments, and the business/legal system of which the state is a product, have officially existed in a state of war against the American people since the 37th Congress (March 1860). Charges of racism in those arenas have nothing whatsoever to do with flesh and blood Americans. Deconstructing all the books in all the canons of the world will not do one thing to affect the guilty entities. I wish these racial critics well as they make the governments and their hirelings confront their racial errors. However, insofar as the American government is foreign to the population it claims rulership over, I as an uninvolved party wish to be left alone by #DisruptTexts.

The Concept

#DisruptTexts aims to reconsider the ways literature is taught and experienced in American schools. Where this immediately draws popular attention, as it eventually will from us, is in the specific choices of books assigned in class. However, their reconsideration only begins by challenging the canon. To focus primarily on their book selections is to miss the deeper point. Most educational critique does this, it gets caught up on the superficial externals with little grasp of the principles at play.

Now when we speak of “the canon” we mean the group of texts more or less taught throughout the country. Its advocates are aware, in ways most men are not, of “literature” being larger study than a simply a litany of stories. #DisruptTexts’ proponents are sensitive to dynamics such as intertextuality, discourse, and identities of all sorts, and their relationship to literature. In this they are to be praised.

The Canon

#DisruptTexts is not altogether without praise. In the interest of graciousness, and towards an honest understanding of their approach, I should want to continue my analysis on this note. For one, #DisruptTexts’ proponents are aware of both “the canon” and what was once called the “Great Conversation.” By the canon they mean those go-to books which form the core of American lit classes country-wide.

From sea to shining sea I’d bet Americans mucking about in their 20s through their 40s are more or less familiar with The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993), S.E. Hinton’s Outsiders (1967), Their Eyes Were Watching God written by Zora Neale Hurston (1937), and Streetcar Named Desire from the pen of Tennessee Williams (1947). This is the canon. It can change, it inevitably does change. Usually this happens during that unicorn of a department shakeup when old timers have been pensioned off and newer energetic teachers haven’t burned out and moved onto other avocations. In other words, the literary canon does change, but it does so only slowly, locally, and insofar as even the spunkiest of teachers can only take so much before other saner work beckons, the canon changes only temporarily before the old go-tos are back.

The Great Conversation

The “Great Conversation” is more abstract than the canon. It is the concept that authors are in a sense in a dialogue with each other over the centuries. That specific label comes from Robert Hutchins’ and Mortimer Adler’s essays of the same name which used to lead off the University of Chicago’s Great Books series. Ah, talk about changed reading habits! Just two or three generations back encyclopedia salesmen were a thing. Encyclopedia men fought with colleagues hawking The Story of Civilization and the Great Books of the Western World. More remarkable still, everyone had work. As a testament to our present contempt of knowledge, as of this article’s composition the entire 54-volume Great Books series is retailing on eBay for about $20 (and that’s $20 in devalued 2021 fiat dollars, mind you).

The Great Conversation is a thrilling concept. Just think, Plato and Bede and Renan and 10,000 other greats were all part of the same work. And mirabile dictu, that work was not a dead thing. No matter how mundane the world might see one, the Great Conversation held the promise of a millenia-long discourse anybody can plug into as soon as they can open the nearest book or pick up the closest pen. To familiarize yourself with the Great Conversation, if Adler doesn’t float your boat you might read Dean Swift’s delightful Battle of the Books tale for a humorous treatment of the same idea.

The Great Conversation is also a powerful concept. I’ll never forget when I came across the idea as a young teacher. It doubtless enriches one’s appreciation of literature as a discipline. It is a simple idea, a powerful one, and a democratic one. Like moveable type, phonetic alphabets, or chord notation, simplifications of existing technologies which greatly increased common access, the popularization of the slim and trim Great Conversation can do much to move the general public toward a consciousness that literature is more than a collection of subjectively good or bad entertainment, more than mental popcorn. Though they do not use the specific term, #DistruptTexts is right to popularize the idea of the Great Conversation.

Narrative

It is to the credit of the Left that as a general rule that they’ve a sharper sense of sociological dynamics than your regular John Q normie or—heaven forbid—your local conservative. During the preliminary stages of the 2020 Biden coup, during that hot summer of racial rent-a-mob riots, I’ll never forget the anchors of one conservative U.S. outfit. Throwing their papers on the desk they begged, “Please, we just want to live regular lives.” Clueless. They were seemingly unaware of the purpose of direct action.

Likewise, five solid years into the Left’s weaponization of gender dysphoria and most of your “black pilled” sorts, people who have “seen through the matrix” and flatter themselves in knowing all the backroom deals and agendas, don’t seem to have grasped that the academic Left has made a simple but adamatine distinction between gender and sex. Much less do they know how to respond to such a thesis. Ah musha, if it were raining soup your conservatives would be out and about with folks. But b’times Leftists lay off Twitter and they do read books. When they do, they learn things and they observe, and this wouldn’t serve any of us badly. One area of observation which undergirds #DistruptTexts is the idea of narrative.

Narratives are stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. They link the amalgam of experiences we as individuals and communities encounter into a manageable story. Without narratives we’re left with a nearly infinite blob of facts with no rhyme or reason to them. As John Gaddis writes in The Landscape of History, narrative makers are like map makers. For a map to be intelligible, just like the discipline of literature, those involved must include some things and they must leave out (most) others. If they didn’t the map would be 20 square miles, and literature would collapse into endless and random stories. Narratives are necessary. They are similar to worldviews, a concept which received widespread dissemination a decade or so ago, but they have more of communal quality to them because they explain who we are as a people.

Narratives are profoundly human. It is man’s fondness for narrative which will forever place the simple but story-filled Bible higher than the eloquent but pedantic Quran in the hearts of men. And in the grand sweep of things the lack of narrative thus will happily banish the tiring politio-religio-techo tracts of the modern West from the minds (to say nothing of the hearts) of later generations. The advocates of #DistruptTexts grasp the power of narrative, and they shudder at the profundity of it. We all must.

Critique, The First

With the duties of graciousness seen to, we turn to our critiques of #DistruptTexts. As we come to grips with the movement we must first appraise the state of the public. In this I do not mean the reading public, for such a thing does not exist. There are men, and they read; sometimes they read books; sometimes many people read many books. However we cannot speak of a reading public (or more magisterially, the reading public) in the manner people of a century ago did. Time moves apace. As it does the literacy of c.1750-1950 will be seen as the peculiarity it was. The public is alliterate at present. It can read but chooses not to. The Great Conversation is less and less a lived experience for Americans.

Because the Great Conversation is a fading memory, because it is a reality less men are participating in, it is taking its effect on society. The decline of religiosity can be pegged to the inability of Western men to envision abstract concepts, this is an ability which is kept in good form by reading. Religiosity in illiterate societies can be explained because, while illiteracy is more common, those skins often enjoy something deracinated Westerners do not, a cultural matrix which encourages the abstractions of faith. It seems that religion can carry on alright with either a strong reading population or a strong lived culture, ideally religion would do best with both, but if neither are available faith is doomed. The absolute thrall which the mainstream media is able to hold the country in, a spell which explains both Coronavirus saga and Mr. Biden’s outrageous yet effortless installation, are nearer examples of what readingless brains will tolerate.

When a movement such as #DisruptText comes along, a movement predicated on the reading habits of a century ago, it encounters men who read menus and cell phones and BuzzFeed. Powerful ideas are proposed to men whose sloth has not prepared them for serious ideas. It is like giving retarded people rocket launchers. Nothing but damage will result.

As a mighty tyranny comes into focus, it is ill advised to spread #DisruptTexts’ critique of literature. Until there is a substantive culture to work with, a substantive reading culture, a culture which will be strong enough to shove back the statists and technocrats, a culture which is powerful enough to keep its boot on the throat of commerce and legalism and the humorless crew now in the ascent, there is no sense in deconstructing anything. We must knit together the wisps of society into serviceable culture once again. The is not the time for #DisruptTexts. Until common agency, identity, and community are built into a bulwark against The Agenda, spreading #DisruptTexts’ ideas are a liability. There will be no books, woke or otherwise, down on Bill Gates’ plantation.

Critique, The Second

Continuing with our look at the people #DisruptTexts means to influence, I assert that their approach is inappropriate given the dynamics of modern pedagogy. As each year goes by the incompetence of our educational system comes more to the fore. By “educational system” I do not mean the bureaucratic structures of education, which is usually the meaning of that term when used. I mean the DNA of industrial learning, the structure of knowledge dissemination, the assumptions and daily rhythm of the classroom.

School is overburdened as is. There are too many demands, too many specializations, too much going on but yet the same amount of hours in the day. Like Madison Avenue’s ideal teenagehood, things like the after school job, the driver’s ed classes, SAT classes, social life, sports, band, modern education finds itself doing too much too often, and none of it well. Six or seven specialities are proposed to be taught, and all the Federal testing, and all the State Of testing, and all the mental health practices, and anti-bullying efforts, and, and, and… Busyness is the predominant fault of modern education.

Into this activity, into this clamor for hours and minutes, #DistruptTexts wishes to introduce an academic sophistication which cannot possibly be digested properly. In this, like with my above point, this is not the fault of the advocates of #DisruptTexts. It is the failure of American society and of our ridiculously overburdened school system. As stated above, there are actual strong points to #DisruptTexts, particularly their ideas of literature being in dialogue and their point about the canon being stale and largely being perpetuated because of laziness. However, at present #DisruptTexts is not realistic given the sorry state of pedagogy.

Let us embrace the seriousness which #DisruptTexts promises to bring to literature education, let us embrace the opportunity to change our pedagogical format to include, if not the specific sociological outlook they propose, at least their more substantive appreciation of letters. However, until this is systematically done—and this will not be done because the masters of this society do not want an erudite population of any political affiliation—#DisruptTexts will produce whining from all sides but little of academic substance.

Critique, The Third

Until now I have kept my analysis of #DisruptTexts confined to the larger milieu they mean to operate in. This is sensible insofar as a good many problems of education have more to do with the sorry intellectual condition we tolerate in our own individual lives, in our “real world” non-school society, than they have to do with plots to manipulate society. Plots there be, but all the Rockefellers and Nixons and NEAs don’t explain why I didn’t read a book last month. Charity begins at home, and so does criticism. But there are problems proper to #DisruptTexts, and to these we turn.

Ethnic Exaggeration

“White” is as clumsy an ethnic designation as “black,” and I pray that people stop using the labels which the merciless rulers of this society propose. There are no “white” people mentioned in Genesis’ Table of Nations, and it’s a great oversight that the same people who tear Darwinism to shreds are the same people who cleave so fondly to Charles’ ethnic designations. But for brevity’s sake #DisruptTexts is plainly anti-white.

There is nothing wrong with being of European stock, and #DisruptTexts’ assertion to the contrary is an error. I want little Arab children to be steeped in Arab culture, I want little African children to be steeped in African culture, and it frankly annoys me to see what is considered American culture holding the allegiance of non-American peoples the world over. However there is nothing wrong with American culture being taught to Americans, and there is nothing wrong in acknowledging that that culture is largely associated with people men call “white.” There are robust ethnic literatures which the American school canon, however musty and dated, already factors in. Indeed, so-called minorities may have a statistically larger place on the canon than their numbers warrant. The constant deconstruction of #DistruptTexts ignores the voice of whites in this country.

It has always been in the favor of reading that the activity puts the user’s life and circumstances in perspective. Broadcast media of various sorts does not have this quality; things are at once too dated and too fast. For example, a film on television invites the viewer to bog down in superficial details from the time of its production, and the tale will doubtless soon be interrupted by a commercial. This does not happen with literature. There are temporal aspects to the expression, of course. Les Miserables cannot be divorced from the 19th Century Republicanism which so inspired Hugo any more than the Bible can be split off from the time and culture of the ancient Hebrew.

The role of history on a specific text’s composition is as delicious a study as any, it’s analogous to historiography’s relationship to history, and it provides one of the great “Easter egg” surprises devoted readers may stumble upon. Nevertheless, literature of any lasting quality, and no small amount which has slipped the mind of the latest generation, transcends time.

#DisruptTexts will sever this multi-generational boon of art. Recent authors, indeed authors who for the most part may still be living on this earth, will crowd out the pens of past generations. Seen in the grand scope of things the dearest concerns of any given generation appear to those removed from that time and place as trifles.

Herein lies more than an irony of #DisruptTexts, but also a hole in its approach. In seeking to include the greatest number of voices (provided they’re “woke” and located on a relatively narrow bandwidth of the political spectrum) #DisruptTexts excludes the voice of the most ignored, maligned, and agentically-deprived group on the planet, the dead. Though they comprise a supermajority of humanity, the dead will receive no representation from the woke ones.

White man, black man, yellow man, Left, Right, and Center, we need to realize that authentic American culture has been sabotaged by this country’s ruling class. The advocates of #DistruptTexts ought to be on guard against their ideas being used to further this policy. Go read some books from the 1880s and ‘90s, listen to music from that time. You will see there was as true as true can be distinct American culture coming into focus at that time.

Evolution may be bunk in the biological order but in the cultural realm one culture certainly can morph into something its very own. That was absolutely happening by the late-19th Century. And just as true as true can be, this new specie was purposefully disassembled into the deracinated consumer which has gobbled up the last century of North American existence. Regardless of its intention, #DisruptTexts will contribute to this trend. Until the larger strata of culture can be improved and matured #DisruptTexts will be a danger.


John Coleman co-hosts Christian History & Ideas, and is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut. Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at their website.


The featured image shows a Chinese communist poster from ca. 1966, which says, “Destroy the Four Olds [old ideas, old customs, old habits, old culture].” The banner reads, “Disruption is justified!”

Part III – The Schism: “We The People,” The American Crisis, And The Great Reset

This is Part III of a series of three: Part I and Part II.


Introduction

In our final treatment of “We The People,” who they are and are not, and the fissures among them, we confront a problem that not only has grown over the last five years, but one whose gravity has markedly increased since this analysis began two months ago.

The problem I speak of is the rift between the American People. This schism explains both the Coronavirus reaction and the fallout of the November vote. It must be understood in the context of a much larger shift happening in Western history.

Developments

The situation is critical. As this essay goes to press the 50 American states are more or less in the static condition of early April. The novelty of an unexpected world vacation has worn off, so has the fun of library Zoom presentations; “the show must go on” mood of classes thrown online en masse has been replaced with wearisome guessing as to when schools will go into their next two or three week shutdown. What remains, indeed what increases, is the anxiety and anger of watching one’s personal and communal stability torn down by barristers, computer programmers, and John Rockefeller’s sort of doctors.

On top of this testiness we have seen the Democratic Party (DNC) steal the November vote. Hundreds of thousands of digitally tallied Biden votes appearing in the middle of the night is a big pill to swallow, it’s almost as big a pill as several hundred thousand more votes dropping minutes later onto digital tallies; paper shredding trucks showing up at polling sites in broad daylight were bold, almost as bold as boarding up the windows when election monitors showed up.

The dead were not only remembered on the altars of America this November, but thanks to DNC employees, their memory was kept alive in the polling booth as well. Mitch McConnell had the tar beat out of him days before the election lest he be persuaded to fuss over the coming con, and Emily Murphy of the General services Administration reported “thousands” of threats she received to prematurely open up Federal funds for Biden’s transition team.

This bold, brazen, even comically obvious swindle ought not matter to a literate public. As we’ve learned in this series, after all, the vote of early November is advisory. The Electoral College and the Electoral College alone chooses the President; in no way, shape, or form does the November opinion survey of America’s 14th Amendment citizens bind December’s bloodline Electors to a decision. The meeting of the College is neither an archaic boilerplate in the American system nor a “ratification” of a state’s popular vote. The decision of the College is sovereign.

The late voting stunt, however, becomes serious in light of popular perception. Always in a working relationship, the DNC organization has confederated with broadcast media to assert Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris, once and present members of the Bar Association respectively, to be President and Vice President of these United States. The fawning of the Washington press corp and the coverage of nightly news shows is plain evidence of this relationship. Fox’s John Roberts took biased reporting into gaslighting territory this past October 1 by asking Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany a question on racism immediately after receiving a comprehensive answer to the same question he asked moments before.

Time will tell what’s to become of the Trump Administration. The members of the Electoral College do not meet until December 14, after the publication of this essay. Like the British People of the Crown Corporation whom their granddaddies replaced, the present American People are content to let the pop media spin whatever story it wants to. They keep their cards close to their chests. CNN can twitter and smirk as it pleases, Joe Biden can jog on all the stages he wants, and Barrister Harris can dance to Beyonce all night long, come mid-December the Electors alone matter.

Perception

We return to the topic of public perception, however. Much hinges on this point. The Trump Administration must vindicate its claims of fraud in the courts. If it fails to do this but wins the College they will not only be dogged by charges stealing the Presidency, but worse things will be in the offing. If the College, the bloodline People, elect Donald Trump but if he does not absolutely and finally expose and prosecute the Democrat’s fraud in court – mind you, this is a route which is possible and lawful, and for all the trouble it saves, deliciously tempting – then the DNC and broadcast media will instigate a violent reaction.

There is no doubt this will happen. They have spent the better part of a year hinting at this very thing. And this will not be violence of the mass shooting and racial protest sort, limited and controlled events with intelligence fingerprints all over them, events that are turned on and off at will. No, the DNC will split the state’s armed hirelings, the People’s police and military forces.

If the past four years tell us anything, indeed if Rudy Giuliani’s ongoing defense is an indication, the Trump Administration will flop in this necessary task. They will continue to let opportunities slip through their fingers (e.g., Bobulinksi at the final debate), they will continue to embrace the wrong people (e.g., Mike Pompeo) and alienate the right ones (e.g., Sidney Powell), they will continue trying the same media “hack” of 2016 (e.g., call the press out as liars, appeal to the public directly via social media). This last point was genius at the time, but its sun has set.

Like the scheming court eunuchs in whose footsteps they tread, mainstream media have well provided against another like 2016. Their strategy now is to smile, declare Biden the winner, and keep smiling and declaring him such no matter what. Adonijah, eat your heart out (1 Kgs. 1). Because Trump’s men will flop on the point about the vote, it will mean bloodletting, if the election is successful for them.

Civil strife is a narrative which has been seeded in the media for some time. Last December, for example, The Atlantic dedicated an entire issue to, “How to stop a civil war.” I dare say no one was thinking of civil war. It was predictive programming. So too was the spate of present and retired military men who came out against Trump during the height of the rioting this past spring. Similar programming was seen in Gavin Newsome’s calling California a “nation-state,” as was his Auntie Nancy [Pelosi] and her words on the 25th Amendment, her having spoken to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and her having “arrows in my quiver.”

Russian Dolls

We can go on in secula seculorum about what might happen, but between last month’s piece and this update, let us move on to the meat of the matter; let us move on to our final and most incisive probe into the split amongst the People. In brief, now that we know the People are the bloodline descendants of the Founding Fathers, and now that we know these united States exist under their sole control and for their sole benefit, and now that we have palpitated a fissure amongst them which helps explain the accentuated tensions of the last five years, let us conclude our examination reprising our historical analysis.

We will place the present political situation within the COVID saga, seeing how the Coronavirus reaction itself is merely a piece of the Technocrats’ “Great Reset.” To do this we will start at the end, the so-called Great Reset.

The Great Reset

In the June 2020 publication COVID-19: The Great Reset stockjobber Thierry Mallet and jetsetting gombeen man Klaus Schwab laid out how Technocrats mean to mold an effeminate Liberal West towards their end. In the book they lay out a world which is so altered by Coronavirus that some have taken to calling ours an epoch “BC” (before COVID) and “AC” (after COVID).

Though it lacked any spiritual or cultural insights, their critique of the moribund West contains some gems, some sensible points which readers of this site will likely agree with. Those with a touch for the delicacy of culture, for example, can only agree with their statement spoken in an economic context, “This new culture of immediacy, obsessed with speed, is apparent in all aspects of our lives, from ‘just-in-time’ supply chains to ‘high-frequency’ trading, from speed dating to fast food. It is so pervasive that some pundits call this new phenomenon the ‘dictatorship of urgency.’”

The Great Reset is an umbrella term for a number of reordered social relationships. The index of COVID-19: The Great Reset speaks of changes in the spheres of social contract, global government, pollution, time, and mental health. Their “stakeholder capitalism” seems to be a reworking of Adam Smith of the computer age. Always do they use the word “reset”; their vision of life is that of a coder.

What matters for our discussion are not the specifics of their plan, nor do we concern ourselves with the morality of continuing to scare people with a dubiously virulent disease. We will not waste our time on couldas, shouldas, and oughtas; we only care about what is. And what is at this moment is the fact that Messrs. Mallet and Schwab and their sort are in a position to implement their planned society. As they write in The Great Reset, “The broader point is this, the possibilities for change and the resulting new order are now unlimited and only bound by our imagination.”

One of the aspects of the Liberal nation-state was the concept of the “public space,” a means by which every interest in society could be taken to account. The public space was supposed to provide a safety mechanism against the very schemes openly published in COVID-1 . If everyone in society ceded some of their freedom to the state, the philosophes argued, the public space would in a sense have more aggregate power than any single interest in society, or even any combination of interests.

This has been undermined to meaninglessness. Things like the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, where occulted realities like corporate “personhood” became widely known, were a preview of coming attractions. The fearsome Trans-Pacific Partnership was barely beaten back in 2017. It showed just how dilapidated the Liberal state had become prior to COVID, how evenly matched the power of business has become. And while it seems petty, the fact the companies like Twitter can censor the President itself shows the ability of companies to overpower states. When it comes to the People’s states and the Technocrats businesses, the People are backing up.

The Davos boys are assisted, of course, by a rank further down on the Technocrat totem pole. This station is filled by the likes of Bill Gates, Jack Dorsey, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerburg. These are lesser actors; their folksy first names tip their hats to their smarminess.

Did we learn nothing of con artistry from “Fannie Mae” and “Fredie Mac?” Their motivations are more pecuniary than Schwab and Mallet, less inclined towards Victor Hugo-like reveries about the future. Second fiddle to the Davos clique, they represent the lower approaches of a business sector which now rivals the nation-state in terms of the resources it is able to muster.

Corona In Context

Working our way backwards, having sketched the Great Reset, we place the Coronavirus disruptions in context. The virility of the disease has greatly waned; our worst fears from March have come to naught. What deaths come from COVID as soon arise from inappropriate treatments such as ventilators as the pathogen itself. Indeed, one of the satisfactions of 2020 is watching the modern military apparatus fail so fully. With Isaiah (cf. 14:16) we laugh at those monsters who develop diseases in places like Wuhan, “Are these the men that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms?” The masters of war are not so masterful after all.

Nevertheless, the powers that be behind the Agenda, of which in truth the “Great Reset” is only one slickly marketed part of many, unexpectedly found COVID to be the perfect multitool for nigh on every plan of theirs. Cashless society, check; travel restrictions, check; education reduced to the naked collection of data, check; further fracturing of society (e.g., young vs. old, masked vs. faced), check; evisceration of small business, growth of conglomerates, check; vaccines, vaccines, vaccines, check and check.

The powers that be may have discovered COVID to be a perfect tool, but certain of them predicted, even planned, the reaction of this so-called pandemic. Those inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to Mallet and Schwab’s assertion that Coronavirus is a “white swan” event, a happening which is certain, measurable, and ultimately blamed on human error, will temper their generosity in remembering the collaboration of the World Economic Forum with the Gates Foundation in staging the Event 201 workshop in October of 2019.

Rats’ Scramble

The Liberal nation-state is dead. It died long ago. In my own America, the national government established in 1787, what most men rightly or wrongly hold to be the fulfillment of the struggle concluded in 1781, itself ceased to exist in December of 1860. What was erected at the time of our Secession Crisis, and what has masqueraded as that united States government until this writing is merely an ad hoc corporation called the UNITED STATES (n.b., remember from Part I, legal capitalization has a meaning).

Throughout the 20th and 21st Century the reality of this shift from law to administration has come increasingly to the fore. Take five minutes on beleaguered Emily Murphy’s GSA website and you will clearly see the commercial nature of the UNITED STATES organization.

One of the reasons the Biden’s bogus vote is not especially upsetting is because the DNC’s crime, when placed in the context of the post-1860 UNITED STATES lie, seems almost inevitable. Things had to end up here. Of course, a presidential vote would eventually be stolen in broad daylight. What’s built on lies will end in lies.

Putting the American situation within the context of the Coronavirus fallout, and Corona within that of the rising order, we see that a minority – perhaps a third – of the bloodline People have thrown in their lot with the Technocrats. I guess this rough percentage based on the significant through not irresistible power which this clique has been able to leverage in the pop media and in coordinated events like the November swindle.

Unless Liberals get their act together these feckless People, these one-third of defectors from their ranks, cannot be faulted for jumping ship. They are only doing what the People of Rome and the People of the Enlightenment did in their turns. The deciding factor behind the Senator’s and the Equites’ occasional realignment, and the deciding factor forging the shopkeepers, barristers, and bankers who became the various Peoples of the Liberal nation-states into a political caste, was self-interest. (As an aside, the rise of the Medieval Christian order, a shift which occurred between those of Rome and the Enlightenment, did not come about by such machinations).

Why should the present turncoat People be pilloried for making the same decision as the Equites in the 1st Century BC and the middle class in the 18th Century AD? The Roman Patricians did not take their system seriously, they would not have developed their “bread and circus,” “client-patron” system if they did. If the Senators did not take themselves seriously why should the shut-out Equites have done so? Early Modern churchmen and nobles did not take their order seriously, there would not have been religious wars and an upstart banking power if they did.

If the First and Second Estates of the Early Modern period did not regard their system why should shut-out shopkeepers prove any more loyal? Hear me well. I’d not be wanting to wake up to Gretchen Witmar and her crazy eyes any time soon, and I’ll not be jogging with Joe Biden on any stages, and I don’t trust Attorney Andrew Cuomo or Attorney Gavin Newson or Attorney Lori Lightfoot any farther than I can throw them. Howsoever, is it any wonder these lightweights prove disloyal to a Liberal order which does not take itself seriously?

Perhaps it is nostalgia which blinds us. In some ways the Liberal order is a beautiful vision. In some ways it improved over the Early Modern order. It was more receptive to social, economic, and philosophical changes which were in motion since the Late Medieval period, these were changes which the old order refused to acknowledge even into the 19th Century. But in the face of a Technocracy which nakedly does not believe in freedom of speech, human rationality, nor the autonomy of men, the inheritors of the Liberal order, the bloodline Posterity of the Founding Fathers, themselves barely believe these things.

COVID is buckling a half-hearted Liberal system. Like Pope’s drowsy troops at Chancellorsville, the rulers of Enlightenment states have been caught unawares; flanked by insurgent Technocracy throbbing with money, ideology, and vision, a good lot of the lukewarm People have decided for the Technocracy. Have you not detected lukewarmness in your civil servants? Mentioned above is the admiralty system, a statutory structure which masquerades as law. This would never have been tolerated over the last century if men who believed in the Enlightenment were in charge.

o this list of shame, we add the Liberal concept of a published law code. The point of this was to make law accessible to the common man. This too has turned absurd. Every legal word has been redefined; nobody can make sense of what lawyers say. Woe to fool who assumes his definitions are the definitions of barristers.

Beyond the words themselves, law codes, which were supposed to be brief tracts the builder or weaver or farmer could consult at need, have turned into mammoth publications of hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands of pages. Are there not commonly found men in the Liberal nation-states called accountants whose entire avocation in life is to digest tax codes? An infamous example of codes-run-wild concerns the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Running to nearly 1,000 pages, Nancy Pelosi was giving good advice when she infamously said the Senate needed to, “Pass the bill to find out what’s in it.”

Lastly, the Liberal’s shocking and effective levee en masse burst onto the scene in the summer of 1793. What has this become of their armies 200 years later. As the likes of Blackwater, and the fee schedules of their regular armies attest, the forces of the Enlightenment have degenerated into bands of hirelings as craven as any Medieval stereotype.

The Choice

Between the two, between a decomposing Liberal order and the rising Technocracy, head and shoulders the Liberal system is preferable. At least it nominally provides for dissent and organization. Whilst 1776 is about 1776 years off from the Solution to our crisis, it provides a damn sight more to build with than Silicon Valley’s nightmare.

A revivification of the better aspects of Liberalism – free speech, an informed and self-employed citizenry, the abolition of admiralty administration and the exaltation of actual law – these are powerful dynamics to strive for. A man can be proud to leave such a legacy to his son. And if the Continental Congress runs a harsh and hypocritical government, it is not as cruel as what Davos has cooked up.

If you think Thomas Hobbes is a bad overseer, take a look at Bill Gates. In the interest of realism, in light of the desperation of the moment, at least for the moment we must use what’s left of the Liberal order to build from. It is pointless to speak about libertarianism, or Islam, or monarchy as systems to build. It is the eleventh hour and we must use what we already have, and that is the Enlightenment.

A significant minority of the bloodline People, both in America and across the world, are realigning with the rising Technocrats. This shift is behind America’s political chaos, it is behind the Coronavirus overreactions, and it is behind the popularization of the Great Reset.

At this hour, everything hangs on one question: has the Technocrats’ Agenda, an Agenda whose skids were greased by a century of Liberal compromise and cant, incorporated an irresistible number of people into itself? Have the last decades of Enlightenment compromise positioned so many men into jobs, and bank accounts, and social security numbers, and registrations that serious mass organization against the Great Reset is impossible?

We may jabber in protest about credit scores, contact tracing, and digital persons, but the fleshpots of Egypt are yummy, and their beds are soft. As a new Technocratic People asserts themselves on the ashes of the old Liberal People, with enough recruits to the former from the latter to make a type of apostolic succession plausible, time will tell if discontent over the vote, over COVID, over the Great Reset will manifest itself. One way or another a new chapter begins for We The People.


John Coleman co-hosts Christian History & Ideas, and is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut. Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at their website.


The image shows, “Tribute to the American Working People,” by Honoré Sharrer, painted in 1956-1951.

Part II – A House Besieged: The American People Meet Their Match

This is Part II of a series of three: Part I and Part III.


Introduction

Last month we learned who the American People are. Armed with this information, this month we explore the unusual situation America finds itself in at this moment. The bloodline People have collided with various interests who have confederated against them. International conspiracy, dubious health regulations, peculiar weather, and rioting are intelligible in this context. As we’ll see, in this, there is nothing new under the sun.

As discussed in my previous essay, we learned who the People are. Using legal, historical, and observational data it is evident the People refer to the constitutors of the various American states, i.e., those men who signed the charters, declarations, and constitutions of the 18th Century which asserted that Britain’s North American colonies were no longer under the Crown corporation’s jurisdiction. Additionally, their families (i.e., the Posterity so often mentioned in writings of the period) are also the People. Finally, so as the People’s posterity not turn into an inbred caste, the constituting People allowed for the occasional addition of talented outsiders through marriage or adoption. This is the reason, for example, why America’s ruling class pays such attention to their Ivy League colleges.

Wait, you interject. Am I saying that when the town mayor and state rep and governor and president and senator talk about the People, and doing the best for the People, and fighting for the People, and protecting and serving the People, that they are not jabbering on about me? Alas, my friend, this is so. Break out your Kleenex.

Larger Context

By the by, while my comments here explore the localized American situation, this knowledge is applicable to world events in general. It is true that there are ideological differences throughout governments. Wahabi Arabia, Red China, and Republican France, for example, all have different governing systems. However, the nations of the world operate using a largely interchangeable legal system. Lost, these last few centuries, among the personalities and speeches and philosophies; lost among passionate and abstract discussions of monarchy and democracy, has been the irresistible rise of the worldwide legal system.

All such systems have come about in more or less the same fashion as America. Namely, some determined faction of the bourgeoisie, a crew somehow locked out of the hall of powers, declare themselves a People, they fight some war to a successful finish, and then they spend the rest of their lives encouraging fellow travelers in other nations to do the same. Rinse and repeat for 300 years.

Our order, the Liberal order, is the order of the People; it is the order of shopkeepers and attorneys. Since that crew wiggled out from under the thumbs of princes and bishops in the 18th Century, they have spared no effort in building their system. Like the Romans whose legacy they pretend to, the People are brusque to their foes, merciless to compatriots who break ranks.

The present pariah statuses of North Korea and Iran, the rough demise of Saddam Hussain and Muammar Gaddafi are suddenly intelligible in light of these dynamics. Second and Third World peoples, forever rag-dolled by the worldwide People, are coincidentally the less legalized populations of the planet. Less do their daily transactions, behaviors, and movements pass through the ledger of bankers, less are they subject to barristers’ regulable STRAWMAN persons, than the rest of mankind. Better than through the lens of race or economy, the poor treatment of these poor peoples can be understood via the dynamic of who the People are, who plays along with them, and who does not.

This Moment

Knowledge of who the People are is a hard pill to swallow. It’s cozier to think that I am the People. Just thinking, That political hack is talking to me! gives me tingles for days. However, tingles aside, knowledge is power, and a mature man knows that even unhappy knowledge allows one to discern events more sharply. It is not a bad thing to be disillusioned.

2020 has been a peculiar year. Whatever Coronavirus is, a botched bioweapon attack, an unintentional lab leak, a seasonal flu nastier than normal, the press has strung out a mild public threat into the story of the year. A sickness easy enough to protect vulnerable men from, has turned into another Black Death, at least on Plato’s 24/7 T.V. wall. America’s racial tension, what tension there is, was something that was either already ably being addressed by local community organizations or so removed from most people’s experience as to be merely an abstract academic conversation.

This marginal problem sparked intestine protests whose necessity only rivals for curiosity their apparent ability to be turned on and off like a switch. A country which still can’t bring itself to call the 2007 crash a depression finds itself with 25% unemployment, and no one seems especially concerned. This startling statistic. and its indifferent reaction, is only bested by an odder development, that universal basic income has found a warm reception in the land of independence.

Christianity, the one social force with enough heft to counter the overreach of the state, has shown itself a toothless shell. Besides some plucky and scattered congregations, the Protestant sects have stood down en masse and, less forgivable, the Catholic Church has become a crouching client of the Federal government. Lastly, much like the rioting of 2020, the dial of nature seems to be cranked up this year with bomb cyclones, derechos, biblical locusts, and a West Coast endlessly aflame. What a year!

The Confrontation

As sure as we know the membership of the People, America’s present instability can be understood as a confrontation between the People and various resentful outside forces who have joined their interests. They include various New Men (i.e., in the Roman sense; those like the Clinton or Obama families who’ve only lately been grafted into the patrician class; they who have little love for the People, nor the People for them), state interests (elements lately called the “Deep State,” including HAARP), and tech and fintech businesses who are quickly overtaking the nation-state in terms of the resources it can marshal for its ends.

For the sake of ease, I will refer to this diverse clique as “technocrats” since digital interests make up the stoutest contingent of this confederation. Their near-term goal is to shove back increasing regulation; their larger aim is the end of the nation state. This is what they mean by the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Historical Backdrop

What we are seeing is nothing new. Rome saw this same confrontation happen. While American Indian, ancient Greek, and Medieval European systems influenced the government of 1787, the Roman Republic provided the largest example for the Founding Fathers to emulate. The 18th Century was a time peculiarly given over to reading ancient Roman history. As such, the Founders were aware of a tension which developed in the old Italian state, namely, the Roman People, the patricians, were slowly but surely outmatched by the rising equites.

Originally, the equite (i.e., cavalry) class consisted of the lower ranks of the patricians. Necessity eventually required enlarging the membership of the equites to include the wealthier plebeians. As the obligations of the state, the size of the army, and the sloth of the ruling class increased in the Late Republic, by around the time of the Servile Wars (ca.,100 BC) the equites ceased to have any real military role in the Roman army. All that remained to consume their days was wealth and ambition. By artful patronage and social entropy, as the decades wore on, the equites were able to gain the upper hand in their struggle with the Senate.

Nothing New Under The Sun

A like dynamic to Rome’s is at play in America. In place of the Roman People, we have the American People. Both are principally defined by bloodline membership. In place of the equites we have the technocrats. Both the equites and the technocrats found themselves under systems which restricted their growth. Just as the cursus honorum restricted the upper echelons of Roman rule to the patricians, so do various elements of the Liberal order hold back the dreams and schemes of the technocrats.

Just as the equites chafed under the mos maiorum, the ancient customs and mindset which undergirded the civic behavior of the Republic, so the technocrats languish under the assumptions of the Liberal order. We may save the specifics of Rome for another day, but to grasp the dynamics of America in 2020, we must remind ourselves of three points assumed by the present order. These are rationality, free speech, and the public space. The People’s nation-state system at least nominally believes in these things; the technocrats do not. Indeed, these three assumptions stand in the way of the latter’s greater growth.

Underlying Suppositions Of The Liberal Order

The present order assumes most men are mostly rational most of the time. It believes men can act with maturity and foresight to make intelligent decisions. Voting only works, after all, if the voters are rational. This is the chief reason Enlightenment states are heavy-laden with schools, libraries, and news media. Whatever raisons d’etre those fields may put out to encourage participation, the state’s interest is to form a well-equipped citizenry.

Connected to this rationality is the idea of free speech. All those well-informed citizens need to be able to compare notes in an unfettered fashion.

Lastly, we have the concept of the public space. This is this most mysterious concept of the present order. We’ve all heard the expression, but what does it mean? The concept of the public space arose in opposition to the Medieval order, an arrangement where everything was private. Private roads, private forests, private rivers, private courts, everything was the private property of someone. The Early Modern public sphere allowed all the little guys in a community to form a social force which could counteract any private interest which arose. This often abused, nearly forgotten concept is the assumption behind all Liberal states.

A rational electorate, freedom of speech, and the public space are hard-forged concepts which rank amongst the defining ideas of the Modern age. Those given to the notion of there being a “Postmodern” age point to the mid-20th Century decomposition of these assumptions as the definitive parameters of this term. However, the long rot of those concepts is only now manifesting. Even five or ten years ago online platforms at least made idealistic pretenses to excuse censorship. Now they shamelessly cite willfulness.

The Dynamic

The parallels between the Roman People and the American People don’t end with our earlier examples. As French Royalist Mallet du Pan famously noted, “The revolution eats its own.” And so it does. Lest we get sentimental and fall into the conservative’s bad habit of automatically siding with an older group over a newer, we remember that in their day the Roman People were just as much haughty upstarts as their American pretenders. They who ejected the Etruscan kings were themselves ejected by the next upstarts, the equites. Just so the American People – they who ejected the agents of the Crown are now besieged by a new social troop.

In the midst of this siege here’s the rub: America’s People have no more fight in them than Rome’s in the days of Marius. Like in the ancient world, America’s People have come to scorn their mos maiorum just as the Roman Senate did theirs. If this were not so they would never have permitted an admiralty statutory system to masquerade as law, they would never have tolerated jobberism among Americans, they would never have erected FBIs on top of CIAs on top of NSAs on top of DARPAs, if they believed the assumptions of their Liberal order they inherited.

Here the People stand in 2020: faithless, compromised, and indifferent. They may yet spur themselves on to one or two more victories before they’re through. They may well beat back the present assault. History trends as history does, though, and the odds are always with the determined. Between the People and the technocrats, there is no doubt who has stamina and who does not. We lose in any case.

Go to Part III.


John Coleman co-hosts Christian History & Ideas, and is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut. Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at their website.


The image shows, “Main Street, Gloucester,” by John Sloan, painted in 1917.

Part I – In Plain Sight: Who Are “We, The People?”

This is Part I of a series of three: Part II and Part III.


Introduction: Misunderstandings

Anyone with an ounce of spiritual awareness and emotional sensitivity knows low-level blues some of the time. Even our metric friends, they who hold but a diminutive gram’s worth of discernment, know well this vale of tears. In the catalogue of woes which stalk long downtrodden man, the disconnect between impression and reality is prominent.

At a political hearing I attended earlier this year, for example, I was taken aback to learn how divergent our general understanding of the immune system is as compared to where science presently stands. What we are taught in high school is about a century out of date.

Another example is seen with driverless trucking features on TV. Broadcast in North America and Europe, these specials have all the schadenfreude that reality TV can dish up. The producers narrate as high-tech lorries roll across the screen. As these programs unfold they inevitably cut back and forth to befuddled truckers. Always American Southerners, the interviewees coyishly confront their livelihood evaporating before their bloodshot eyes. Remarkably nonplussed (or fronting heavily), they assure the host that such machines will, “Never take off.” After all, “Who’d you trust on a highway, me or some robot.” The producers have made their point: the wagoneers are out of touch with reality.

We won’t even get started on the perception-reality dynamic surrounding face masks vis-a-vis virus protection.

Think of all the lost opportunities, the mistaken conclusions, the wasted health and wealth and peace of mind which is out there because people’s perceptions do not match reality. It adds up and it wears one down. I suppose there’s some proof of Original Sin in all this. And we see the same disconnect with politics.

A Most Popular Crew

One error heard throughout these States united concerns invocation of “the People.” Their mention, typically an ever-present warble, becomes a clashing gong each presidential election. And why wouldn’t it? The purported benefit to the people can justify any scheme. Is mechanical abortion good? Yes, because the people benefit. Should it be permitted? Of course not, babies are people too. Some foreign country must be invaded to avenge the people! No, it mustn’t. People might be killed. Taxes are necessary to provide services to the people. Taxes steal the people’s money. You get the point. Sprinkle the people on it, and any topic is justified.

The purpose of this article is to pin down the members of this timely clique. Who are the people? Or rather, who are the People? (n.b., We’ll get into the capitalization significance below). The People must really be special to have so many skins talking about them! The purpose of this article is not to lampoon the present condition of Western democracy, a ludicrous system custom-fit for every two-bit grifter from your town hall alderman to your Supreme Court heavy hitter. Nor do I write this with a moralizing spirit. I am not saying the conclusion herein is good or bad. Alas, political discourse is frustratingly given over to what people think of this or that occurrence; little attention is given to how things are. Let us put our emotions and impressions and solutions aside. Let us look at the naked reality.

The Rub

That we not beat around the bush, the People are a specific group of men distinct from the mass of Americans. Almost certainly you, kind reader, are not among the People. Their concerns are not your concerns, their loves are not your loves, their fears are not your fears. Only by a polite omission on the part of the People themselves, combined with a baseless and monstrous assumption on your part, do you believe you are among the People.

By blood, or marriage, the People were or are those related to the 18th-century constitutors of the state and Federal governments of America, as well as those men so involved with states later incorporated into these United States. Far from being a stealthy clique, they number in the hundreds of thousands, perhaps the millions. Far from being secretive, their identity is trumpeted in both the legal documents they publish and it is plainly seen in their behavior. With eyes to see, one stands in awe of just how explicit, frequent, and honest the People are in advertising their distinction from the regular Americans they rule over.

There are four reasons which support this unusual and uncomfortable, but inevitable, conclusion. They are (1) legal grammar, (2) the Founders’ historical awareness, (3) the U.S. Constitution, and (4) the present and historical behavior of the People.

Specificity & Hierarchy: Legal Grammar

The legal system is specific. Indeed, specificity is shy only of artificiality when comprehending the legal control matrix. Without general nouns there is no way whereby one group can be designated from another. Likewise, without proper nouns there is no way things of a kind can be isolated from their larger mass. What book-hoarding boon is a library card if it has no name to it and if anyone in the town may use it? What fear does a speeding ticket hold if there is no specific man to mail it to? Without specificity, statists cannot exert their will upon their subjects. Legality demands specificity.

General specificity only gets one so far. Hierarchy is needed for greater distinction. If we all have individualized library cards, to carry over the above example, who goes first if we both want to check out the same book? To see the People for who they are we need to unlock the hierarchy their system assumes. The maxims of law and the doctrine of capitis diminutio are our keys.

The maxims are the skeleton upon which the legal system hangs. They’re analogous to a Catholic’s examination of conscience for Confession. They are less a list of hard and fast regulations and more of a general collection of proverbs which explain the principles of legal land. Woe betide those who do not make this distinction! The penitent becomes a neurotic and the barrister a hack should they put such enumerations literally into practice. Many a soul and many a lawyer has been ruined by this oversight. When it comes to the maxims of law, the spirit rules and the letter kills.

The creator controls, is one such proverb. In fact, it’s a truism so fundamental to legalism that it often does not appear in published lists of maxims. Only the frequent reading of case law, or “reading between the lines” on the compiled legal proverbs cited in Black’s or Bouvier’s dictionaries, will discover this plain principle. Upon this doctrine, for example, I have the sole authority to decide what gets mentioned in this article. I am the creator of this article; I am it’s sovereign. However, should I desire this piece to be published on a platform created by another, I must submit this creation to that creation, myself being the petitioning party. I must subordinate this sovereign creation to that one (i.e., for editing, formatting, etc.). From the doctrine of “the creator controls” the whole legal structure flows.

Capitis deminutio is a principle which the Founding Fathers, mostly lifelong barristers and/or merchants, would have been familiar with, at the establishment of the country’s governing system. A concept from Roman law, a system which all English-speaking structures eventually default to, should there be no usable precedents, capitis deminutio designates the amount of control an entity is under. Long story short, so that we don’t get tangled in jargon, the capitalization of the first letter of a noun in legal land designates something as both a specific something, and under the ownership of another. If you are up for a load of jargon, here’s the definition of capitis diminutio from Black’s Law, 2nd edition: “In Roman law, [capitis diminutio was a] diminishing or abridgment of personality. This was a loss or curtailment of a man’s status or aggregate of legal attributes and qualifications, following upon certain changes in his civil condition. It was of three kinds, enumerated as follows:

Capitis diminutio maxima. The highest or most comprehensive loss of status. This occurred when a man’s condition was changed from one of freedom to one of bondage, when he became a slave. It swept away with it all rights of citizenship and all family rights.

Capitis diminutio media. A lesser or medium loss of status. This occurred where a man lost his rights of citizenship, but without losing his liberty. It carried away also the family rights.

Capitis diminutio minima. The lowest or least comprehensive degree of loss of status. This occurred where a man’s family relations alone were changed. It happened upon the arrogation of a person who had been his own master, (sui juris,) or upon the emancipation of one who had been under the patria potestas. It left the rights of liberty and citizenship unaltered. See Inst. 1, 1G, pr.; 1, 2, 3; Dig. 4, 5, 11; Mackeld. Rom. Law.”

Thus “the People” in a legal document, such as, the U.S. Constitution, or in the mouth of someone holding a legal office ultimately under the jurisdiction of the Constitution, refers to a specific group of people, rather than any old sinner walking on top of America.

Togas & Muskets: The Framers’ Historical Awareness

Second, the claim that the People refer to a specific caste of men is supported by the historical awareness of the Founding Fathers. They were a clutch deeply steeped in ancient history. Their use of antique references bolstered the point that their political arguments were timeless.
When news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord came to holy Connecticut, for example, jovial Israel Putnam immediately dropped his plowing in situ and raced Cincinnatus-style to join the Massachusetts rebels. About two months before Dr. Joseph Warren became Bunker Hill’s most famous casualty, he was seen speechifying on the streets of Boston in a Roman toga!

The American Revolution came at a time when various trends were at their zenith. The equality of armaments between rulers and ruled, is one example, the afterglow of a Protestant revival is another, and the obsession of that generation with the likes of Plutarch and Cicero is yet one more example. The Framers could not get enough of ancient history.

Those acquainted with Rome will be aware of the divide between the patrician and plebeian classes. The interaction between those who traced their families back to the original stock of Rome (patricians) and those who moved in later (plebeians) provides an enduring thread through all the turns and jolts of Roman history. But even the dullest pleb, a manifest client of Sulla or Caesar, one hopelessly addicted to bread and circuses, would never seriously think the “P” in SPQR (i.e., Senatus Populusque Romanus, the Senate and the People of Rome) meant him. The “P” for People meant the patricians. Everyone else was along for the ride.

Communist countries like China and North Korea are more in line with this Roman bluntness than the democratic West on this point. Everyone knows when an office holder in those countries talks about “the People” they’re referring to the members of the Party, which is considered to be a type of incarnation of the will of the populace.

The American Framers meant to provide against a repeat of the ancient slide towards democracy and chaos. Far from being a sexist, hypocritical oversight, their limit of the voting franchise to men, and only men of property at that, was a direct homage to the early Roman Republic. Of course, they would say, men of maturity and wealth – the material success stories of a community – ought to be the ones to steer the ship of state. Jobbers and renters were not fit to run a county, having so unimpressively run their lives. Reprising the paterfamilias role, the males of the early American republic would stand in for all their family members’ concerns in the public sphere. They would save – not exclude – women, children, and the indigent from the morass of electoral politics.

In Rome the patrician class was not static. There was the process of adoption. Far removed from motives of modern charity or conjugal sterility, adoption was offered to promising youths entering their adult years. The Emperor Augustus is the most famous example of this. It was a means to ensure inheritance in a society with disabilities on women’s ability to inherit property.

Teasing these points out, the existence and stability of the patrician class and their use of adoption, we see how the American constitutors were primed by their interest in Rome to create a governing caste in their “People,” which was stable yet occasionally open to fresh, well-vetted blood via marriage and other forms of incorporation.

In Plain View: The People Define Themselves

The third point is proof from the U.S. Constitution. We take the legal and historical setups above into this consideration. Now that we know the principles under which the Framers operated, the identity of the People is hardly a question at all, as we examine a document they produced.

The U.S. Constitution is a contract using specific legal language. It plainly states for whom the new government exists. It famously begins, “We, the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” There you have it. The United States Federal government, and its incorporated state entities, exist for the sole benefit of the People.

The “We” and “ourselves” refer to the signatories themselves, the 39 souls who met in Independence Hall. Through the doctrine of delegation, however, the People also included those men who constituted the several state governments which dispatched those representatives to Philadelphia. Remember, the creator controls. Thus, by the agentic, representative relationship, the Peoples of the 13 states were invisibly present at that Pennsylvania meeting, too.

Then there is the mention of “our Posterity.” Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary, a text whose definitions are closer to the Founding Fathers’ understanding than our dictionaries, defines posterity as, “Descendants; children, children’s children, etc. indefinitely; the race that proceeds from a progenitor. The whole human race are the posterity of Adam.” His second definition defines posterity as, “In a general sense, succeeding generations; opposed to ancestors.”

We know the first definition is what the constitutors intended because legal language is specific, not general. John Bouvier’s 1839 dictionary defines posterity as, “All the descendants of a person in a direct line.” Therefore, the Posterity mentioned in the Constitution refers to the descendants of the constitutors. Unless you are one of the fortunate few hundred thousand or millions of souls related to those state or national leaders, you are not the People. With the legal definitions, principles, maxims of the system itself, not what we assume they mean, we come to know who the People are. Only an undiscerning and gross assumption suggests that “We the People” applies to all Americans.

Distinctions, Distinctions, Distinctions: The Vote And The Election

Lost on Americans is the distinction between two events which the media conflate into one: The Presidential vote and the Presidential election. They are not the same event. The early November vote is largely a straw poll, while the December election makes the actual choice of President. The November event is a way to take the pulse of the country. It has no direct say-so on who becomes President. It is nearly, but as we shall see not totally, meaningless.

The November vote is analogous to Catholic parish administration. The priest has absolute, official, final say in ordinary decisions for his parish. In no way whatsoever is he obliged to listen to the directives of his council. Yet to go against the zeitgeist of the parish council in a major way would be foolish. It would create sullen, testy subjects. Such a rash override would form a block of uncertain loyalty should the priest run afoul of the bishop at some future date. In the Catholic parish council as soon as in the American vote, the mob has power of a sort. However, that power is consultative not formal. At base, the November vote serves as a psychological release valve. It lets off tension which otherwise would manifest itself in discord and revolution.

The election, a distinct event from the vote, is a quiet event which takes place in the 50 state capitals mid-December of each election cycle. This limited December event has in fact all of the import which people ascribe to the popular November event. The tally of the December electors decides who will be President, not the vote.

The electors are drawn from the suggestions of the state political parties. They’re largely the same sorts who participate as delegates at the state and national conventions charged with selecting the presidential candidates. To follow the cursus honorum of such party delegates/electors is to see the People in their natural habitat.

At this year’s Democratic National Convention, where state party delegates met to choose their national candidate, there was a remarkably helpful commercial released, entitled, “We The People at the Democratic Convention.” A superficial viewing showed a diverse collection of Americans of all races, classes, and creeds. However, a closer re-watch reveals that all participants were sitting office holders, Bar attorneys, or DNC representatives. Once you know who the People are, you’ll never hear politicians the same way again!

By Their Works: The People In Action

Lastly, the People are a specific clique based on the observable behavior of the American ruling class. From time to time, articles appear noting the relationship of this or that politician with this or that movie star or commercial mogul. If only in the interest of trivia, most Americans probably know a few examples of this.

The relationship between the second and sixth Presidents (Adamses), as well as the 41st and 43rd ones (Bushes), are commonly known. The simplified observation that California Governor Gavin Newson is the “nephew” of California Congresswoman and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (herself the daughter of a Maryland Congressman and the sister of a Baltimore mayor) has received some press, as Mr. Newson has run California off a financial cliff in 2020. Less well known is that Gavin Newson is the removed cousin of the far more useful soul, the harpist, Joanna Newson.

And relationality in the ruling class isn’t a modern phenomenon. Chilly Connecticut, where I compose this article, was started by a breakaway faction of Puritans led by Thomas Hooker. The good reverend left his mark in the new-found colony. Aaron Burr, George Catlin, J.P. Morgan, and William Howard Taft were all descendants, with Hooker’s blood running through the veins of the Pierpoint and Edwards families.

I could go on and on. If you spend an hour or two nosing around your socially-distanced library, if you connect the dots between the “related to’s” in the biography section, you’ll see the combination the People have going. You may even visit Google and use their “People also search for” feature to do the same. If you invest the time, these simple experiments about the People will solidify profound conclusions about American government than do isolated barroom anecdotes. If one understands the People to be the specific class they define themselves as, a great many baffling statements and state policies become sensible.

There is a Masonic aspect to this topic I only skirt now. It’s a theme which could swallow this discussion. Suffice it to say, the practitioners of occult schools were well represented at the state and national constituting conventions of late 18th-century America. Within those communities the use of adept symbolism and “open secrets” are no strangers. The occultation of the meaning of the word People is not beyond the pale in this context as well. But before we get all tangled up in “endless genealogies” (1 Tim. 1:4) we remember that, like the Roman system, the present order is simply codified nepotism. Don’t overthink the motives of the People.

Conclusion

Plato argued that societies need a noble lie to keep them living together harmoniously. Such is the spurious assumption that all Americans are the People. By quietly letting the mass of men believe they are this group, the American system rectified the failings of ancient experiments at self-government.

As noted, one of those failings was a tension between the patricians and the plebeians, the old blue bloods and later settlers. One way to provide against the selfsame tensions which destroyed the Roman Republic is not to mention this social division, however true it is. If the pleb believes he is a patrician a great source of resentment is avoided.

Power to the People!


Go to Part II.


John Coleman co-hosts Christian History & Ideas, and is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut. Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at their website.


The image shows, Cincinnatus abandons the Plough to dictate Laws to Rome, by Juan Antonio de Ribera; painted in 1806.

Labor History Through Song – Part II

Music – The Left’s Dilemma: Ethics Or Ideology?

With the 1917 revolutions in Russia the international Left was flush with victory. Marx’s stages of history were seemingly vindicated and the capitalists were on the back foot. Then the purges, displacements, and reprisals began. In their moment of greatest victory, the workers’ movement, long in the neighborhood of the Left, was faced with a choice between ethics and ideology. Both sides would take to song.

The Internationale became one of the obvious rallying cries for the supporters of the new, scientifically managed, workers’ state. Written by laborer Eugène Pottier in June 1871, following the Paris Commune, the Soviet Union chose the song for its anthem in 1944. Its choice shows that not only Christians are interested in apostolic succession. The Bolsheviks were eager to claim not just the support of the majority of Russians – “bolsheviki” means majority, a dubious appellation for Lenin’s party in 1917 – but also the mantle of the entire Leftist cause, going back to Pottier’s day and before.

With the devil-may-care boldness of a new regime in power, and with the proper modifications of the future into the present tense, the Soviet Internationale thunders belief in its self-sufficiency: “Stand up, ones who are branded by the curse/ All the world’s starving and enslaved!/ Our outraged minds are boiling/ Ready to lead us into a deadly fight/ We will destroy this world of violence/ Down to the foundations, and then/ We will build our new world/ He who was nothing will become everything!”

At the other end of the story, following the fall of the Soviet Union, Leon Rosselson’s Song of the Old Communist encapsulates the ultimately pro-Bolshevik stance of one communist painfully aware of the crimes of the USSR, yet doggedly in support of the movement still. Addressing smug post-Cold War Western capitalism, the chorus repeats, “You who have nothing at all to believe in/ You whose motto is ‘money comes first’/ Who are you to tell us that our lives have been wasted/ And all that we fought for has turned into dust?”

Anarchists, of course, were less enthused by Lenin-cum-Stalin’s Soviet Union. Alistair Hulett’s song, Ethel On the Airwaves is about the young Scottish broadcaster Ethel McDonald who traveled to Civil War Spain. The self-induced Republican collapse is referenced with the word, “Isolated and poorly armed, the revolution starts to fail/ Moscow gave the order, ‘Put the anarchists in jail.’” It continues, “Change the flag from black to red, the tide of revolution changed.” With friends of the Left like the Soviets, who needs enemies?

The Other Side Of The Story?

As mentioned before, capital’s corpus of song is absolutely silent when it comes to the labor struggle, or rather their anti-labor struggle. It is not as if businessmen have proven bereft of the artistic touch. They’ve long kept songwriters busy churning out doggerel for all manner of kitsch. From diamonds and cars, to frying pans and beds, the bosses can be creative when they want. Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, what a relief it is!

The commercials of commercialism can rise to genuinely moving heights. We recall a spot from the late Super Bowl. Lasting all of a minute, it delineated the varieties of “love” known to men. The commercial probably contained more erudition, and it certainly contained more Greek, than modern church-goers hear all year. We viewers are near to tearing up until we come to the spot’s climax: it’s an insurance ad. Yes, indeed, moneymen have proven numinous when they want to be.

Clanking prison doors and cracking billy-clubs are all the “music” bosses have left for posterity. Yet we still want to know the other side of the story. Left to itself labor music is one-sided. Like any social group, labor plays up its triumphs and keeps mum on defeats.

If we don’t have the opportunity of hearing musical composition from one entire side of our story, the owners, we must look at what we do have. We must look between the lines of labor songs themselves. Where and when have they been silent? What significant events in labor history have songsters not written about? Three come to mind. One is the 1981 Air Traffic Controllers’ strike; another is the slow bleed of union membership these last 50 years; and the last is the chronic infighting which has sapped labor over the last century. These are vital events in the story of labor, and pointed musical omissions.

Masculinity

Which Side Are You On? has doubtless secured its place in the canon of organizing music. Written in 1931 by Florence Reece, the wife of a union leader, the song is an example of shame being used in the musical arsenal of labor. Like many a folk song, the piece uses a local event to extrapolate on a larger theme. Which Side was written during the Harlan County War (1931-32) in the very hours following a police raid on Reece’s Kentucky home. With the earnest tenor of the wronged, the wife-narrator declares, “You’ll either be a union man/ Or a thug for J. H. Blair.” And she pointedly asks, “Will you be a lousy scab/ Or will you be a man?” In a decidedly masculine job such as coal mining these are biting questions. The bone-weary work and obviously inequitable power balance leave little for miners to take pride in other than their masculinity.

The unfortunate narrator of Bloody Harlan informs us that he, “Was a full-grown man when I was 12 years old, got me a job mining coal.” In this song Harlan’s infamous “bloody” adjective is interpreted in a personal light. The circumstances are narrated, much of it related to the singer’s limited means, which led to his imprisonment.

Bloody Harlan opens a whole vista of commentary on the nature of society, since the Industrial Revolution and its bifurcation of life into “public” and “private.” He says, “From dawn to dusk is a miner’s life/ My darling grew tired of being a coal haulers’ wife/ This kind of life didn’t suit her plans/ So she ran off with another man.” Imprisoned for 33 years since killing his wife and her lover, the narrator is a worker ‘til the end. When he dies, he requests that we, the listeners, “Carry me back, and let me body lie/ In the mines of Harlan, bloody Harlan.” This is a fine crossover between the personal and the political. Masculine honor asserts itself as soon on the picket line as in amorous slights.

Going back to Reece’s song, we also see the concept of generational continuity. For whatever reason, songs with industrial speakers and factory men, and particularly folk songs about coal mining, take an extraordinary pride in grandfathers and fathers and sons participating in the same occupation. Reese’s piece begins, “My daddy was a miner/ And I’m a miner’s son.” This is an interesting expression to an active auditor, since we are as soon aware as the narrator that coalmining is an extremely undesirable occupation.

Britain’s Dalesman’s Litany bluntly states, “I’ve walked at night through Sheffield lanes/ T’was just like being in hell/ Where furnaces thrust out tongues of fire/ And roared like the wind on the fell/ I’ve sammed up coals in Barnsley pit with muck up to my knee.” I hate this job, I hope and pray that my kid doesn’t get stuck here, but I’m proud to keep the family legacy alive. Such are the contradictions of song, and such are the contradictions of men.

Atlantic Crossover

In Banks of Marble, we look at the cross-Atlantic journey of labor music. The American version written by New York apple-farmer Les Rice declares, “But the banks are made of marble/ With a guard at every door/ And the vaults are stuffed with silver/ That the farmer sweated for.” Joining a most happy exodus, Banks became part of a long tradition of American music which has given expression to Irish topics. The U.S. contribution to Irish music is larger than commonly thought. For every Daniel O’Donnell or Seamus Moore keeping the 1990s honky-tonk flame burning strong in 2020’s Dublin, there are dozens more irenic influences to atone for Achy Breaky Heart sung with an Irish brogue.

When Banks of Marble was recorded by the Irish Brigade band during The Troubles (1968-98), the civil rights movement-turned-insurgency-turned – thanks to MI5 – sectarian-killing-hamster wheel, Rice’s song took on a more militant flavor.

Leftist labor consciousness was brought to the fore in 1969. That year the IRA split between the nationalist Provisionals and the communist Officials (pejoratively called, “the Red IRA”). The Irish version of Banks of Marble now declared, “Let’s rise up and take our country/ Let’s rise up and take our land/ Let us all rise together/ For together we must stand.” In case a listener was unclear on the song’s sharpened teeth, the piece concludes, “We’ll blow-up the banks of marble/ With the guards on every door/ And share out the vaults of silver/ That the worker sweated for.” Tougher stuff this, as compared to the original.

Reinvention

In Solidarity Forever, we see a piece of endless reinvention. It also distinctly contains the “obligatory positive verse,” as singer Shannon Murray calls it, which is so customary in the folk tradition. Like the men and women who inspired it, labor folk has had to keep its spirits up in the face of setbacks and difficulties. Solidarity closes with, “In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold/ Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousand-fold/ We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old for/ The union makes us strong!”

Melodic Pedigree

While it needn’t be a 1:1 match, as evident in the dynamic we discussed between labor and religion, the tunes which a movement adopts for its material do matter. If you think this is a tenuous point, imagine a Sunday morning service praising God with the Internationale, or a Liberal prime minister entering parliament to the Horst Wessel Lied.

Solidarity Forever is set to The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Battle Hymn is possibly the weirdest song to come out of the American Civil War. It’s hardly a labor song in the sense we’ve been using the term, but the two pieces have similarities worth considering. Julia Ward Howe’s song was written in 1861. It was at a time when the Civil War was underway, but at a stage before the real bloodletting began. The real work remained to be done, and everyone knew it.

Likewise Solidarity Forever. By its 1911 composition, the labor struggle was well underway. Events like the Haymarket Riots (1886) and the Shirtwaist Fire (1911) had attracted attention and sympathy to the workers’ cause, yet when Solidarity was written the big fights were still to come. Solidarity came into the world before the Left was presented with the Soviet decision, before the General Strike of 1926, and before labor faced a whole new level of cant and co-option in the Postwar decades.

Ralph Chapin, Solidarity Forever’s composer, knew the herculean efforts needed just to bring labor to negotiating parity with capital, let alone to achieve enduring success. As a boy he saw a union man shot dead by police. In Mexico, Chapin heard the firing squads of technocrat and Freemason Porfirio Diaz. Steeled by these experiences, steeled by the size of the struggle to come, the songs defiantly asks, “Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite/ Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might/ Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?” The struggle can’t be indefinite, however. As many an activist has learned, there must be a silver lining to strive for.

Updates

In the best tradition of folk music, Solidarity Forever’s lyrics also have proven plastic and elastic, as labor allocations have shifted, since its composition during the Second Industrial Revolution (c.1850-1950). The original song obviously is designed with agricultural and manual laborers in mind (“It is we who plowed prairies, built the cities where they trade/ Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid”). However, as such situations became less the experience of modern workers, the website of the I.W.W. proudly notes a number of updates which have been made over the last decades.

Women’s concerns are noted in the Wobblies’ Hungarian versions, “It is we who wash dishes, scrub the floors, and clean the dirt/ Feed the kids and send them off to school – and then we go to work/ Where we work for half men’s wages for a boss who likes to flirt/ But the union makes us strong!”

Racial concerns find their way into Canada’s Solidarity, “When racism in all of us is finally out and gone/ Then the union movement will be twice as powerful and strong/ For equality for everyone will move the cause along/ For the union makes us strong!”

The flagging labor participation which so defined the cause since 1973 Oil Crisis is addressed with this stanza, “They say our day is over; they say our time is through/ They say you need no union if your collar isn’t blue/ Well that is just another lie the boss is telling you/ For the Union makes us strong!”

All God’s creatures got a place in the choir, and educationalists find theirs with the words, “The schools were underfunded and the teachers got no supplies/ The district hoarded money and fed us a bunch of lies/ The union finally responded to the working people’s cries/ So the teachers joined as one.” Oddly enough, this addition to Solidarity Forever is difficult to sing without alterations. For a profession which is endearingly punctilious in their protest signage, this particular composition doesn’t quite fit the metre.

Folk Mythology

This essay is a celebration of labor music. Even in setbacks and outright defeats, we’ve seen how music celebrates this enduring aspect of life. We turn now to the most playful and sincere subgenre in labor folk: the mythologization of workers into folk heroes. The cynicism so characteristic of the 20th-century sours us to this topic. After all, Lei Feng and Alexey Starhonov are two phony, party-made characters whom millions were encouraged to emulate. They may have lived, they may even have done impressive deeds, but whatever truth there once was to them is long gone by the time party apparatchiks were through. The world was well along in humorless modernity by the 19th-century, but not so far gone as to fake folk heroes like those of a century later.

In Ewan McColl’s Big Hewer, our narrator was fit for work from day one. He says, “In a cradle of coal in the darkness I was laid, go down/ Down in the dirt and darkness I was raised, go down/ Cut me teeth on a five-foot timber/ Held up the roof with my little finger/ Started me time away in the mine, go down.”

In The Ballad of John Henry, we meet a like peculiar infant, “John Henry was about three days old/ Sittin’ on his papa’s knee/ He picked up a hammer and a little piece of steel/ Said, ‘Hammer’s gonna be the death of me, Lord, Lord/ Hammer’s gonna be the death of me.’”

Paul Bunyan meshes Canadian and American logging tales in a mythos pleasant to both peoples. He is sufficiently obsessive in his work ethic to appeal to Americans, yet his trade is bucolic enough to appeal to Canadians as well. Like the endearing Henry, Bunyan boasts remarkable strength and size. Danny Mack’s Ballad of Paul Bunyan states that he was, “Taller than a Maine pine tree, bigger than King Kong in that old movie.” Many a son of many a mother has wondered his paternity, but not our Paul. “I’ll tell you how he came to be/ The son of a great white oak was he.”

If you blink you’ll miss the giantism which affects not only Bunyan himself, but also his surroundings. “His father,” we hear in the song Paul Bunyan, “was a redwood tree/ From out in California…. That western Minnesota.” Again, “He took Arizona in his hand, and made a line in the sand/ He made a canyon and called it grand/… in southern Minnesota.” And once more, “The silt began to rock one morning/ All the folk knew Paul was born/ And ships were wrecked going ‘round the Horn [of Africa]/…. In southern Minnesota.” Giant states for giant men.

A darker take on North American’s most famous lumberjack is Hick’ry Hawkins’ song, also disarmingly named The Ballad of Paul Bunyan. Hawkin’s go is less a story fit for Disney and more apt for a cheesy B movie. The song contains the ominous refrain, “The sins of the fathers will be paid for by the sons.” Bunyan is imagined as a horrible vagrant which the town is afraid of discussing.

The appearance in Midwestern newspapers of various Bunyan tales around 1900 is a phenomenon historians have actually written about. Hawkins’ scary song sets the record straight. You see, the mortified townsmen, “Told a fancy legend so the logger camps would stay.” But the city fathers only had themselves to blame since, “A boy into a monster took the whole damn town to raise/ Cut and beat and chained up, they buried him away.” Who knew the lovable figure reared in our minds by the New Christy Minstrels, and, alas inevitably, by Walt’s animation Kingdom, had such a rough childhood!

Hawkins’ imaginative take goes to show that once a figure enters the folk mind there’s no telling where he will end up. And if your avocation requires an ax, you’re almost certainly destined for the likes of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.

Workplace Safety

From the revelry of Industrial Revolution mythology to safety on the factory floor, tragedy in American history has also been memorialized in song. The Triangle Shirtwaist, March 25, 1911, was a remarkable event for both labor safety and organization. Shirtwaists are Edwardian blouses, and on that date 145 workers horrifically died making them. Their bosses were in the habit of locking the workers in, so most workers jumped to their deaths.

One song which addresses this is Ruthie Rublin’s Ballad of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. It says, “Then on that fateful day, dear God, most terrible of days/ When that fire broke out it grew into a mighty blaze/ In that firetrap way up there, with but a single door/ So many innocent working girls burned to live no more.” It might be rash to blame the company owners for something as uncontrollable as a fire, except that a year later they were caught locking once again the exit doors of their new factory!

Long a favorite of hard-wintered Anglosphere lands, coal mining songs haven’t stopped short of addressing the hazards of the profession. Big Coal Don’t Like This Man At All brings our story to the present day. It is about Charles Scott Howard, his court fights for miner safety, and the opprobrium organizers perennially get for their humanitarian efforts. The narrator says, “It’s safety versus profits, Howard has no doubt/ When miners are endangered, he knows he must speak out/ They’ve fired him and fined him, tried to put him in his place/ But the courts just reinstate him. He always wins his case.” Like many a reformer before him, however, bosses resent the new cost of safe working spaces. The song continues, “Fighting for miners’ safety causes stress and strain/ Last summer working underground, there was an injury to his brain/ He was found slumped unconscious in his mining car/ He still has no memories of that incident so far.”

2020: Atomized And Gentrified But Still Singing

Digitization, automation, and union busting have not stymied the throats of workingmen. David Rovic is a repeat guest on my show and he occasionally highlights Apocatastasis’ seasonal educational events. He sings in Living On the Streets of LA, “So many mansions overlooking the sea/ Stretch limos, Rolls Royces, and movie stars all over Los Angeles County/ It’s 2019, and one thing I know it that most people wish we could rewind to a couple of decades ago/ Before the rents tripled folks began to move out into their cars, into their tents, where drivers look on however loudly you shout.” The wealth disparity of our age is brought home as the song continues, “It’s 2019, but in a black and white photo it could be 1929 wherever you go/ In every single neighborhood hungry people wonder why/ Some make billions on a blockbuster why so many are left out to die.” With the late Coronavirus labor disruptions, Rovics’ association to 1929 may be most apropos.

Conclusion

Labor is intimate. It is who we are. Not in a capitalist or communist sense do I say this, not in the tone that one’s social worth consists in being a worker. I say we are laborers in the perennial tradition of long-downtrodden, much-forgotten Christendom. The drive to work is the drive to create. It is one of the theopneustic echoes which remind us of our origin and end.

Perennially under the threat of swindling, menacing, and outright violence, the working man continues to agitate, organize, and sing. He sings of his frustrations, and his struggles, and his history, and his myths, and, most important, his resolve. This resolve is as encouraging as to the state of the workers’ struggle, as it is to the state of humanity.

John Coleman co-hosts Christian History & Ideas, and is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut. Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at their website.

The image shows, “Song of the Lark,” by Jules Breton, painted in 1884.

I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine: A Consideration Of Youth At The Turning Of An Era

That we are at the end of an age is clear. It remains to be seen what exactly are the opportunities and difficulties, the tragedies and hopes, of this moment. A taller order still is playing out the long-term consequences of the COVID-19 disruptions through society. Via the Corona disease the long-downtrodden West, indeed the world, may be experiencing a transition as regular – though seismic – as a “Fourth Turning” moment; or we may be witnessing birth pangs as profound and far-reaching as Rome’s Fall in Western Europe. My pet analogy for this moment is somewhere in between the mundane and the dramatic: The Sixteenth Century transition from the Medieval to the Modern eras. Now, as then, the economic, political, social, and religious mind of one age is being shelved and another adopted. Pick your poison, pick your precedent, times they are a-changin’.

The order heretofore is dead. It has been dead for a stretch already. Perhaps the “postmodern” moniker is appropriate to describe what I mean. The Modern world, stretching from the Enlightenment through the end of the Second World War, had run its course. Yet whilst technology developed far apace of everything else, postwar social structures plodded along into the 21st-century largely untouched. What changes there were, were cosmetic. Then came COVID.

A tree is known by its fruit, and this late order of ours has strewn a lot of rotten fruit about. We hear this rottenness, this tiredness, this deadness in milquetoast sermons, we eat it in nutrition-starved foods, we live it in deracinated families, so on and so on in secula seculorum. There’s no end to mediocre examples of this order.

Through its postwar, postmodern facelift we kept the Modern structures going because the mass of us are followers. If we weren’t sheep by nature, then many thousands of hours of industrial education made us sheep. And besides, as Mr. Jefferson reminds us in the Declaration, men are fonder of tolerating evils than of changing them.

Whatever uneasy assurances we told ourselves about this society, we knew they were not true assurances. Admidst the despair and hollowness and commerce of modern life, the better among us did the sensible thing: We became addicts these last 20 and 30 years. It’s only a marvel that more of us haven’t gone in for poisons of whatever sort. When faced with a culture as vapid as the DMV, and Walmart, and the iPhone, one is tempted to grimly conclude with the ancient Greeks that the luckiest man is he who dies in the womb. Who’s the second luckiest man? The one who dies in childhood. And so forth. You get the point.

After a stint in rehab the ones who sober up return to a hell less Dantean and more Quranic, less flashy and more monotonous. Men who’ve come down from their highs this last decade see before them an endless liturgy of bi-weekly pay and once-monthly rent, regular taxes and pointless holidays, forever statues and forever entertainment (always statues and entertainment, always). Nothing of the soul, nothing of the numinous, nothing of life. Indeed nothing but the inane which drove people to the bottle or the needle or the pill or the porn in the first place.

There is no chemical solution to a spiritual problem, so goes an AA maxim. Ah, but musha, the spiritual sorts haven’t been much help. Beyond some local examples of heroism – a religious congregation here, a helpful priest there – the institutional Church has been altogether useless through the late addiction crisis. Nothing so deftly paints the sorry portrait of modern Christianity as the contrast between the long parade of buggery, litigation, and sectarianism of your holy rollers on the one hand, and the robust monthly heroine casualties on the other.

Everything is tired. The Church, the state, art, commerce, you, me.

Yet as we shuffled along intoxicated, or stultified by the mantra, “This is the way the world works,” the center could not hold. Along came COVID-19. Where it came from, how dangerous it is, nor how effective are masks I care not. For the first time in our lives social structures which seemed adamantine have become mice. With Isaiah we ponder, “Are you the ones who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble?” The entire order which swindled and dispirited and addicted us was put on hold this spring. Soon it will be through.

Yet I’m no Pollyanna. Yes, the order was dead before Corona came. Yes, now it is evaporating or soon will be. But a darker timbre is in the offing as the old order, manned by generations of intoxicated or indifferent slaves, continuing only with the force of inertia, crumbles. The powers that be are not as apathetic as they’ve made their servants. They work and they work hard. If things keep apace then surely a technocratic control system of greater personal isolation and crueler economic and legal slavery is in the offing. No man who follows the news is blind to this. A rising secularism, as vicious as it is determined, now verges on leading the mass of Karens and Kevins into a captivity heavier than the one known heretofore.

At this heady moment, at this turning of an age, let us consider youth. It is in the virtues of those years that we may snatch the brand from the fire. Renewed in our minds, we may yet forge a happier epoch.

***

From the word go we note what the remainder of this article is not. This is not the tedious celebration of the vapid qualities of early adulthood which so haunts pop culture. That nostalgia, captured in Bryan Adams’ song “Summer of ‘69” by the refrain, “Those were the best days of my life,” is not what we’re on about here.

There’s a certain fetching style of writing in Church documents which is well worth exploring. You’d not call ecclesial writings beach reading, but they’re not canned either. In a tired Church, “tired” in a way Benedict and Francis and Dante and Chesterton could perceive, one gets the impression that a crew of Lit-majors at some unknown point last century managed to infiltrate Rome. Like a special forces team, I imagine them holding a building, or a floor, maybe just a lonesome closet, of the Vatican complex. There they write their handsome prose.

Communio et Progressio, the 1971 elaboration of the Second Vatican Council’s Inter Mirifica on social communications, recalls some of the beneficial qualities of youth. It says, “Generosity and idealism are admirable qualities in young people, and so are their frankness and sincerity” (67). These are fine sentiments to describe the best qualities of the young. Let’s chew over them, for they are dearly needed in this grey, cant-ridden world.

The opening years of life, years of generosity and idealism and frankness and sincerity, are a chapter of existence which the liturgy especially lauds during the sunny days of summer.

The merry month of June opens with the memory of the Ugandan Martyrs (June 3), and it continues with Anthony of Padua (June 13).

Midsummer itself is crowned with the energy and selflessness of Aloysius Gonzaga (June 21). What’s true for saints’ days in general is especially poignant here. The abstract meets the concrete. Virtue meets flesh. On a day neo-pagans have brought into prominence for the beauty of midsummer’s solar splendor, St. Aloysius’ placement is an annual reminder of Christianity’s sublimation of natural truths. In the youthful Italian’s placement the best of the Classical world and its appreciation for natural beauty meets the Incarnational reality. Pagans are right for celebrating the light of midsummer. In a world of halogen bulbs any nod to the diurnal cycle is welcome. But June 21st is sunnier yet for the memory and intercession of this selfless religious.

Continuing, we see John the Baptist has two summertime days: a bonfire-filled June 24 for his birth, and August 29 for his death. Youth have long involved themselves in protest, and John was given to that type of fire. How fitting, with all the earnestness of a Mario Savio or a Rachel Corrie or a Mohammed Bouazizi, that this cousin of Christ’s would die at the hands of lumpy Herod, a man who’d fallen into the most unappealing of middle-aged habits: the chasing of feckless young women. Enthusiastic Clare, shorn of her teenage locks, graces August 11.

An astute participant in the liturgy will be aware of a small annual drama which unfolds through August’s dog days. Turning our attention to pre-Constantinian Rome, our scene starts with St. Sixtus and his companions (Aug. 7), a crew who’d made the Roman Church famous for its material aid to the indigent. This drama climaxes with martyrdom of Sixtus’ deacon, the earnest and good-natured Lawrence (Aug. 10). In a type of flashback to a generation earlier, our vignette fades out on Aug. 13 with Sts. Pontian and Hippolytus’ sweet after-feast of reconciliation and sacrifice. At the close of their Vespers we turn away from the young Roman Church and we get back on with the regular rhythm and medley of saints’ days.

Things reach a crescendo of sorts with St. Augustine’s Memorial on August 28. Like Clare, who lived a full life, even a long life by Medieval standards, Augustine survived to hoary old age. However, like Clare, it is the saint’s youthful episodes which so endear him in the common imagination.
Let us idle our engines a moment with this beloved North African saint. I will not relate the well-known saga of Augustine’s opening years, nor will I enter into a critique of popular memory’s recollection of the man, a figure whose exaggerated fleshly vices get more play than they deserve. His very real intellectual difficulties are less spicy.

The ability of a subject to inspire art is a sign towards its truth. The beauty argument doesn’t win the day in se. I can think of a young New York artist, for example, who regularly lends her considerable talents to Planned Parenthood sorts. Foul things can be dressed up beautifully. Sed nihilominus, as a general rule on an average day, the statement stands: Beauty points towards truth. Thus I adduce Bob Dylan’s I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine as a concluding aid in our meditation on the virtues of youth. It begins,

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine
Alive as you or me
Tearing through these quarters
In the utmost misery.

The tune of this song follows an old I.W.W. ballad about labor organizer Joe Hill. The martyred Wobbly left a large corpus of music. Its poetic quality is impressive for someone who learned English as an adult. Like Hill’s postmortem legacy, Augustine’s personality transcends time and translation.

In books like The Confessions his moral and mental struggles are ours. Augustine’s Civitas Dei confronts questions of political philosophy which press upon the latest headlines. Tearing through these quarters indeed! And whilst contemporary patois limits “angst” to teens at Hot Topic, Dylan’s imagery of a vital, confused Augustine running through our song is excellent for its relatability.

With a blanket underneath his arm
And a coat of solid gold
Searching for the very souls
Who already have been sold.

The already sold souls is as true a line as anything ever written. By war and pharmaceuticals and jobberism, by a thousand stratagems, the tired world plots to turn the rising generation into itself. Very often it works towards this end unbeknownst to itself. And in this we get a whiff of the magnitude of Original Sin.

Those already sold souls weigh heavily for Americans. Twice now gombeen-men have wrecked the careers and savings of Generation X with their recessions. The flashy endless wars which opened the century have morphed into a regular simmer of unreported conflicts. But flashy or quiet, here in holy Connecticut I oft’ come across scarred young men of a certain age. That betrayal of youth is more visible and sympathetic than the debt slave graduate who embraces a future equally as indefinite as our wounded soldier. Sold all, they are.

Perhaps Augustine’s blanket in the above stanza is a nod to the popular overplay of his lust. If so, we hear our young genius rushing out of his girlfriend’s pad shouting,

Arise, arise, he cried so loud
In a voice without restraint
Come out, ye gifted kings and queens
And hear my sad complaint.

A certain aspect of my educational work rings especially clear in this verse. Regularly I have the opportunity to interact with young men and women lately through with college. As it happens, usually because I’m trying to lasso them for a speaking gig or to teach a class; they have a humanities background. There’s something especially forlorn about this condition. Being in your twenties, having come to the end of the education-conveyor-belt, and being adrift in a STEM-world with a liberal education. The general adriftness of that hour of life is compounded by suddenly going from a world of letters and ideas to a society illiterate and apathetic. In this tribulation some encouragement is always welcome, you gifted kings and queens.

As the stanza ends, we wonder what complaint St. Augustine has? We find out:

No martyr is among ye now
Whom you can call your own
So go on your way accordingly
But know you’re not alone.

“No martyr is among you now.” Who knows how much Bob Dylan studies the Church Fathers? Whatever the case may be, this verse captures an anxiety Bishop Augustine explicitly commented on in his day. Living in a time and place when Christianity was going from being on the margins of society to being socially acceptable, including a cessation of state-sponsored persecutions, there in fact was a belief that the days of martyrs were through. In the Office of Readings on Laurence’s day (Aug. 11) Augustine preaches the second lesson, saying, “It is not true that the bridge was broken after the martyrs crossed; nor is it true that after they had drunk from it, the fountain of eternal life dried up.”

Dylan’s Augustine expresses how we can often feel. In a half-hearted world it seems there are no martyrs anymore, no one who’s so committed to an idea they’d die for. “Where is our James Connelly?” another Wobbly writer once asked. Yes, but where are our martyrs? They’re out there. Like the previous sections, this one closes with encouragement.

***

What agendas are moving now and where they are going is stuff for another article. Those with eyes to see know what’s up. Still and all, before we fill up those seeing eyes of ours with intimidating thoughts of this rising order, let us remember youth and the saints who embody those qualities of generosity and frankness and idealism and sincerity.

In the best tradition of Christianity, we also remember that just as Israel and Edom are ultimately spiritual realities, so is age and youth. Brigitta in Graham Greene’s Power and the Glory is used as a negative reminder of this. Kids can be washed-out cynics as soon as anyone else. On the positive end, though, even wrinkly old priests can say with all the newness grace brings, “I will go to the altar of God: to God who giveth joy to my youth.”

John Coleman co-hosts Christian History & Ideas, and is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut (USA). Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at their website.

The image shows, “the Conversion of Saint Augustine,” by Fra Abgelico, painted ca. 1430-1435.

Solidarity Forever! Solidarity Never! Labor History Through Song

When labor organizes, it sings. Music has been an integral part of the workers’ struggle since its early days in the Nineteenth Century. The history of organized labor through song is a long story. True to labor’s international ethos, ours is a tale which spans various nations, generations, and language communities. We have a massive corpus of material to sift through in order to take the pulse of the topic at hand. Indeed, making our task hairier still, labor’s is a story whose definite start is hard to ascertain and whose end is nowhere in sight.

In order to respect the essay format, we will strictly hold to some parameters. They are these: We will maintain a general chronological flow whilst using one main song, with some ancillary helpers, to illustrate a various work-related theme as we plod along. In doing so we will maintain both the narrative pace and topical diversity of our story. At the same time, we will ascertain common trends down through the years of struggle.

Further study recommends the 2019 texts by Steven Greenhouse, Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor, and James Sullivan, Which Side Are You On? 20th Century American History in Protest Songs.

Timeliness

Workplace organizing is back in the news. From the “Fight for $15” movement in America, to France’s Yellow Vest unrest, to Singapore’s protesting bus drivers, the working man is on the march once more. Even monolithic WalMart and sacrosanct Google, implacable foes of unions, have lately felt the pressure of labor. And with the fallout of the late Coronavirus shutdowns, some American economists are predicting a shockingly high 30% unemployment rate.

With this labor revival – I blush with pride from my pedagogical perch – the vanguard has been led largely by teachers. My profession has been shamefully eager, historically, to cooperate with a wide variety of schemes ginned up by every backroom Yaleie and stockjobbing finance bro who toddles along.

Ranging from a mass phrenology photographic campaign in the last century, to loansharking three generations of 18-year-olds and counting, no debasement, no sellout, has been too humiliating for my once-sublime profession. But, moryah, Saul can be Paul as soon as anyone. Even in labor-hostile America, scholars are fast repairing their deserved infamy. Teachers have hit the picket lines from Wisconsin to West Virginia, and from New York to California these last few years.

To Sing

Men sing from passion, or at least they ought. They sing in war “by the rocket’s red glare,” and they sing for women with “their technicolor cheeks.” Overcome by urban steel, men sing in cities “where seven million are screaming for space,” and humbled by nature, men sing with “sunshine on [their] shoulders.” Men sing because they love, and because they care, and because they are alive.

Of course, the obverse is just as true. That Christians in the so-called First World sing of a Sunday with all the gusto of a late-’80s Soviet Party Congress is one of the ominous portents for Western spirituality.

History does not hesitate to support my melodic social observation. Men sing because they care, and they’ve been at it since day one. In the great Christological controversies of the 4th and 5th Centuries, all factions busied themselves between bouts of rioting in scribbling out hymnody. The same was certainly true during the Reformation; Protestants explored the vernacular and Catholics doubled-down on chant. And whilst Tories belted out God Save the King, Enlightenment republicans answered with God Save Great Thomas Paine. Trench-up, and Home Office-down, Axis and Allies vied with each other through two world wars to out-sing the foe, this time with the timely aid of radiophone and loudspeaker.

And so, with labor. It’s a struggle that has all the hope and frustration, all the tease and triumph, of love and war and God. Thus, labor is a cause to which songsters have just as soon thrown in their pens and talents and throats for.

Limitations and Failures

At this early hour in our essay, historical impartiality requires that I address a topic which perhaps has occurred to fair-minded readers: What about anti-labor songs? In a fact that is as damning as it is absolute, there actually is no corollary corpus of anti-union songs. Nothing at’ll, so far as I’ve been able to find. There are examples of states co-opting various musical styles for their ends, particularly rock in Europe and country music in America. But as far as organic specimens go, we search in vain.

Never, after an afternoon of beating the skulls of miners or longshoremen, did the police of William Martin Murphy or Allan Pinkerton strike up a chorus of celebration and steeled resolve. They were the baddies, after all. Much less have the spoilers of our day sung, those more recent bureaucrats who delivered the Traffic Controllers’ pink slips in 1981, or General Motors’ ones in 2009, or Ikeas’ today.

An Overview

As mentioned above, labor history is a vast subject. Our main selections in this essay and the topics they raise are as follows. We start with the Luddites of the Industrial Revolution. We witness the transformation of a historic loafing worker into a mythological reformer through songs like, The Triumph of General Ludd.

Then we look at the musical celebration of labor itself through Greenland Whale Fishery, Canadian Railroad Trilogy, and The Fireman’s Song. Next we have There Is Power In The Union, where we consider labor’s tensions with religion. In Banks of Marble we look at transatlantic connections between labor struggles on different continents. Which Side Are You On? gives us an insight into masculine archetypes in workers’ music. And in Solidarity Forever we dissect a fine specimen of hope, reinvention, and continuity in song. The Internationale and the Left’s decision – and ultimate split – in 1917 follows.

We then see the use of existing hymnody by the Catholic Worker Movement. In The Ballad of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire we feel the perennial anxiety of workplace safety, and the biting regret of warnings not heeded. Rounding out our time together and bringing our exploration up to the present day, we have David Rovics’ piece Living On the Streets of LA. It shines a light on the trials of atomized and indigent workers in the modern gig economy. In addition to these main pieces, about a dozen auxiliary works will illuminate our analysis.

From Marx to Uber, but with fall more soul and pizzazz than either Nineteenth Century theoreticians or Twenty-First Century apps conjure, we will sing our way through the basics of labor history.

General Ludd

Many moons before former DNC candidate Andrew Yang alerted us to the dangers of automation, workers were wary of their bosses’ late penchant for machines.

In the throes of the First Industrial Revolution some of Britain’s weavers began destroying the new mechanical looms which were occupying ever-more floor space. The contraptions were able year by year to do the specialized work which men developed over a lifetime. Playing out the future in their heads, the men of Nottingham reasoned that workingmen would soon or late be replaced altogether. These wary weavers formed loose associations of economically astute hooligans, and by 1812 they signed their corporate missives “Ned Ludd.”

The actual Ludd is said to have been a lazy or impassioned youth – the sources differ, though teens have been known to be both b’times – who, a generation before the Luddites arose, destroyed his father’s looms. Historians disagree, but he was probably grounded. The noun became an adjective, and England’s Luddites give us a fine jumping off point in our labor saga.

Folk memory is a slippery thing, and proverbially one man’s hero is another man’s villain. Like other far-sung foes of the Crown before him, like Robin Hood and Roddy McCorley, like Jamie MacPherson and Ned Kelly, the historicity of Ludd takes a backseat to common memory. How Ned Ludd morphed from a moody, loafing youth into an anti-automation hero is the stuff of another essay. What matters is that in peoples’ minds he did, and that those people decided to sing about it.

As early as 1850, Ludd was canonized by a street balladeer in The Triumph of General Ludd. Here he is imagined as a full-blown, doctrinaire revolutionary. We sing, “Let the wise and the great lend their aid and advice/ Nor e’er their assistance withdraw/ Till full-fashioned work at the old-fashioned price/ Is established by custom and law.” In a song that was given a studio recording by Chumbawamba (“I Get Knocked Down”) in the late 1980s, Triumph continues with Ned’s manifesto, “Then the trade when this arduous contest is o’er/ Shall raise in full splendor its head/ And colting and cutting and swearing no more/ Shall deprive all his workers of bread.”

Robert Calvert’s 1985 Ned Ludd says, “They said Ned Ludd was an idiot boy/ That all he could do was wreck and destroy/ And he turned to his workmates and said,” with Unabomber echoes, we note, “Death to Machines!/ They tread on our future and they stamp on our dreams.”

Continuing the common memory of Ludd in Britain, General Ludd from the UK band Seize the Day says, “Cause ‘en if we don’t break ’em [i.e., machines], our lives they will take ’em/ Our croft, our cottage, our village as well/ No freedom or laughter for those who come after/ But a servant and master in a factory hell.” Giving a full-blown first-person narrative, the song goes on, “So the door was kicked in, and the frames were all broken/ And the owner was woken and raised the alarm/ And the yeomen came riding, but we were in hiding/ The people providing, to keep us from harm.”

Steeleye Span deserves many honorable mentions for their innovative career, not the least for making a 16-minute epic on everybody’s favorite frame-breakers.

Celebration

A little later on I will address the Church’s musical consideration labor in the May 1st commemoration of St. Joseph the Worker. As Joseph Piper reminds us in his fine essay on leisure, all liturgy is celebratory. Thus, we can say labor is sublimated and celebrated in the Church’s ceremonies. However, grace builds on nature, and there is in labor folk a more basic element of rejoicing which we now turn to.

In work’s daily trials, and flow, and mundane happenings, men have sung. The Creamery Song, Greenland Whale Fishery, Canadian Railroad Trilogy, and the Fireman’s Song are our examples.

In The Creamery Song our familiar morning routines are considered. It says, “Paddy Stokes was the first in at daybreak/ The boiler to stoke and ignite/ There was plenty of steam, the machinery sang/ A day’s work in the dairy began.” But mornings are deadly for distraction, and many an idle minute’s been spent on another cigarette or another cup of coffee. “Then the farmer arrived in his pony and car/ And while waiting they’d have an aul spar/ They’d talk of the games and the state of the land/ Then they’d swing the tanks up on the stand.”

All the energy and physicality of industrialization is captured by Gordon Lightfoot in Canadian Railroad Trilogy. It says, “Look away, said they, across this mighty land/ From the eastern shore to the western strand/ Bring in the workers and bring up the rails/ We gotta lay down the tracks and tear up the trails/ Open ‘er heart let the life blood flow/ Gotta get on our way ’cause we’re movin’ too slow!”

A particular type of man all of us have likely worked for is comically memorialized in Greenland Whale Fishery. The whalers deploy in the verse, “The harpoon struck and the line paid out/ With a single flourish of her tail/ She capsized our boat and we lost five men/ And we did not catch that whale, brave boys.” Tragedy has struck, yes, but it’s not where you might think. The song goes on, “The losin’ of those five jolly men/ It grieved our captain sore/ But the losin’ of that sperm whale fish/ Now it grieved him ten times more, brave boys/ Now it grieved him ten times more.”

Not to rag too heavy on on bosses, but in Ian Campbell’s Fireman’s Song the coal stoker-narrator good-naturedly notes, “The driver sits there like a god/ A decent mate but an idle sod/ Though I’ll be shovelling on me knees/ Still he’ll sit there at his ease.” But no matter. This job has given me physical fitness and dexterity, if nothing else. “The pick and shovel are tools of me trade/ And two strong arms to swing the blade/ Hands with palms as hard as leather/ And nimble feet as light as a feather.”

Going forward, it is important to remember that the element which gives labor organizing its artistic energy is because labor itself is worth celebrating.

Wobblies

No treatment of workers’ history, much less labor music, is complete sans mention of the I.W.W. Their motto was their philosophy. “One big union,” they said, and they meant it. Well did these “Wobblies,” as I.W.W. members were called in the slang of the time, know how to fight fire with fire.

The International Workers of the World was formed in 1905. What differentiated it from contemporary movements like the Knights of Labor or the American Federation of Labor was its belief in a united working class, not one segmented by trade. The dynamic of wage-earners organized across professions would allow for “sympathetic strikes.”

With this tool, if a lone factory went on strike, nearby sympathetic strikes could magnify its power. Should management hire scabs to replace the factory workers, for example, sympathetic action called for other sectors to make that bosses’ life hell.

A sympathetic strike would oblige the truckers which supplied the original factory, the operators of the power plant which kept the factory’s lights on, the groundskeepers who plowed the snow and cleaned the gutters, and so forth and so on, to join the factory hands and bring, not just one location, but potentially an entire town, city, or region, to a standstill.

A couple of years ago I greatly expanded The Ballad of James Larkin. Originally written by Donagh McDonald, son of the poet and 1916 signatory Thomas MacDonagh (“I See His Blood Upon the Rose”), the ‘60s Ballad beat contemporary historians to the punch in linking the Great Dublin Lockout of 1913 to the Easter Rising of 1916.

As regards a sympathetic strike, my expansion goes, “Then Larkin left us, he’d gone to England/ A Fiery Cross for some sympathy/ From Southampton and from London/ Labor joined hands across the sea.” Presaging the chronic weakness of 20th Century labor leadership, the stanza continues, “But union bosses were worse than useless/ And there’d be no general strike/ With ‘friends’ like this, you’d not need foemen/ Dublin’s heroes pushed on alone.”

Joe Hill and Religious Tunes

Joe Hill, originally an immigrant from Sweden, and himself the subject of no shortage of musical memorials in the wake of his famed (and framed) execution in Utah in 1915, was especially adept at co-opting religious hymns for organizing purposes. During Hill’s I.W.W. junkets through the American West, local capitalists routinely hired Salvation Army bands to play music over the speeches of Wobbly organizers like Joe Hill. There was no electronic amplification in those days, none within the budget of traveling Wobblies, at least. The appearance of a brass band playing There Is Power in the Blood or Onward, Christian Soldiers would be enough to put the kibosh on the most earnest speechifying.

Making lemonade of his lemons, Hill set his prolific compositions to tunes commonly used by churches. We recall that religious observance was much higher a century ago, and thus many tunes were generally known by the public. One example of Hill’s use of a religious anthem is The Preacher and The Slave. It employs the tune of In The Sweet By-And-By, and the song directly aims its barbs at the General Booth’s “Sally Army” interrupters. Hill’s song croons, “The Starvation [sic] Army, they play/ And they sing and they clap and they pray/ ‘Til they get all your coin on the drum/ Then they tell you that you’re on the bum.” Preacher is also notable for containing Hill’s famous expression, “Pie in the sky.” Like the memory of Hill himself, the expression would live on long after its initial appearance.

“Pie in the sky,” wasn’t a baseless phrase. Besides some papal encyclicals and the efforts of the Catholic Worker Movement, popular and institutional Christianity was silent on the labor topic. Any Protestant who brought up organizing a century past was also likely to be as soon fuzzy on doctrine, and thus suspect by the pious.

Culpable of guilt by association, observant upper- and middle-class Catholics joined Protestants in an ecumenical wariness of labor issues. However, the majority of American Catholics were poor, and their support of unions brought them into regular conflict with religious leaders.

As for the Orthodox response to the labor topic, of course there were not enough of them in the West to generate a conversation in that quarter. And indeed, set upon by Modernity far more abruptly than the Western Church, Eastern Christians still are nowhere nearer in 2020 to forming a labor theology than they were in Hill’s day.

Another example of the co-opting of pious tunes for labor purposes is Because All Men Are Brothers. With lyrics which would surely startle Johann Sebastian Bach, who notably used the setting for his St. Matthew’s Passion, labor’s rewriting states, “Let every voice be thunder, let every heart beat strong/ Until all tyrants perish our work shall not be done/ Let not our memories fail us, the lost years shall be found/ Let slavery’s chains be broken the whole wide world around.”

Also, from the prolific pen of Joe Hill is the 1913 piece There Is Power In The Union. Ripped from the formerly pious background of its original setting, There Is Power defiantly barks, “If you like sluggers to beat off your head/ Then don’t organize, and unions despise/ If you want nothing before you are dead/ Shake hands with your boss and look wise.”

Occasionally immigrants embody the ethos of a country better than natives. If Europe took our Henry James a century past, they at least had the good manners to trade their talented Joe Hill.

The Gospel of Christ Meets the Gospel of Labor

In juxtaposition to the antipathy or hostility towards labor from bourgeois Christians, the Catholic Worker Movement sought to bridge the gap between secular labor and the Christian tradition. Their Catholic spiritual tradition was an old hand in the ideological use of music.

Founded by Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day in 1933, the CWM sought to make the Church a dynamic social force once again. On the back foot since the French Revolution, it was time to be proactive. As Dan McKannan writes in a contemporary Movement publication, “The Catholic Worker [community] is the place in which the American Catholic Church as a whole meets the American Left as a whole.”

Towards that end, I’ve stumbled across a contemporary mini-retreat inspired by Dorothy Day’s life which is suggested by the Movement. The recollection concludes with I Bind My Heart This Tide, a hymn from the turn of the last century. It contains these verses, “I bind my soul this day/ To the neighbor far away/ And the stranger near at hand/ In this town, and in this land.” With a distinct flavor of St. Patrick’s Lorica, it continues, “I bind my heart in thrall/ To the God, the Lord of all/ To God, the poor one’s friend/ And the Christ whom he did send.” It’s a fitting hymn for a day dedicated to the spirituality of one such as Day, herself an Oblate of St. Benedict and those religious’ commitment to “ora et labora.”

The response of the pious from the 19th Century through the foundation of the Catholic Worker Movement gave fuel to the secular Left’s claim that religion was in the keep of the ruling class. As Karl Marx and Frederick Engles succinctly wrote in the 1848 Communist Manifesto, “Communism abolishes all religion.” However, the plucky Catholic Worker Movement had enough sense to snatch the brand from the fire. Seeing labor quickly spinning off into the worldly, secular arena, they used songs too.

Unlike the I.W.W., the CWM tended to use existing Christian hymns to express their social gospel, a message which saw the Corporal and Spiritual Works as concrete marching orders as adamantine as Marx’s Ten Planks. Much like the inclusion of the Memorial feast of St. Joseph the Worker, the CWM uses existing hymns to sanctify the daily concerns of working men with religious iconography. For their efforts Catholics today still grouse about Dorothey Day being a “communist.” No good deed goes unpunished.

Liturgical Music

Much in the vein of the CWM, the institutional Church appointed May 1st the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955. It was a commemoration which had been knocking around since the 19th Century under different titles and ranks. That St. Joseph kept a second liturgical day on the Postconcilior calendar, when many saints lost the one they had, is a testimony to the gravity of the labor issue on the mind of the Church.

On both Joseph’s March 19th major celebration, when his historic and celestial assistance is remembered, and his minor honor on May 1st, when his silent laborings are recalled, the hymn Te Ioseph Celebrant is sung at Vespers. We mightn’t associate Latin liturgical hymnody with folk music, but really it is. It is no harder to sing than any folk piece, and a damn sight easier than many contemporary songs in those horrid missalettes.

When churchmen cease dumbing down the liturgical life of the faithful, once again the Volk can sing the decidedly folk piece Te Ioseph Celebrant. It honors the spiritual ends of labor with the stanza, “Death brings to other saints their rest/ Through toil they win the victor’s place/ Thou happier, like the Angels blest/ Alive, hast seen God face to face.”

John Coleman co-hosts Christian History & Ideas, and is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut (USA). Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at their website.

The image shows, “Protectors of our Industries,” an illustration from Puck Magazine, February, 1883.

Paddy’s Lament: The Irish And Their Music In The American Civil War

Introduction

In this essay we will look at songs concerning the Irish in the American Civil War, in order to come to a deeper grasp of this community in that war. By doing so, we will explore the interaction of the Irish with other minority groups caught up in the conflict, and their common lot with the larger Anglo culture.

We will examine period pieces and modern compositions related to the Irish. These songs are “The Opinions of Paddy Magee,” “We’ll Fight For Uncle Sam,” “Irish Volunteer,” “Kelly’s Irish Brigade,” “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp,” “Two Brothers Masterson,” “Boys That Wore the Green,” “Paddy’s Lamentation,” the equally doleful “Mick Ryan’s Lament,” and “Modern Army O.” Passing references will be made to “I Goes to Fight Mit Sigel” and “List of Generals.”

The Civil War produced a great many musical pieces. I chose the ones in this essay that especially invite distinct topical consideration. Briefly, “We’ll Fight For Uncle Sam” looks at Irish soldiers from the North. It also allows us to delve into George McClellan’s persistent popularity with his units, both ethnic and otherwise, throughout the course of the conflict. “Kelly’s Irish Brigade,” examines Irish southerners. In “Two Brothers Masterson” we look at the tensions that immigrants had with Africans. The role Germans and natives played in the war and its music is also considered.

The song “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp” permits us to see connections with political movements back in Ireland. “The Irish Volunteer” demonstrates an eagerness to adopt native concerns and politics by new arrivals. “The Boys Who Wore the Green” is a look into the unit and cultural diversity, and chaos, which the 19th-century citizen-soldier model of military organization allowed for. “Paddy’s Lamentation” gives us insight into the disillusion which mid-war Irish were feeling, along with the rest of America.

Finally, “Modern Army O” and “Mick Ryan’s Lament” take us to the postwar world of an America eager to get back to normal. There is, of course, overlap in some of the themes chosen here, and each verse carries much historical meaning. Therefore, these works of popular art allow us to take a survey of topics related to Irishmen in the definitive American experience, the Civil War.

Gratitude and Patriotism

At the top of our list is “The Opinions of Paddy Magee.” The song addresses the proximate reason many Irish came to America in the mid-19th-century: the Great Hunger of 1845-49.

Along with other Anglosphere lands (Britain, of course, but also Canada and Australia) – starving Celts arrived in these United States by the hundreds of thousands at that time. Immediately they were recipients of native hostility.

The 1860s conflict gave refugees like “Opinions’” fictional narrator Paddy a chance to route the libel of divided loyalties, and show his gratitude towards his adopted home. During the real-life outbreak of war, the Catholic archbishop of New York, John Hughes, could not hang flags fast enough from his parishes. With memories of the popular “Know Nothing” Party and the horrific anti-Catholic Philadelphia riots of 1844 not far from mind, our soldier-singer declares:

Whin Ireland was needing, and famine was feeding
And thousands were dying for something to ate,
‘Twas America’s daughters that sent over the waters
The ships that were loaded with corn and whate.
And Irishmen, sure, will forever remember
The vessels that carried the flag of the free.
And the land that befriended, they’ll die to defend it
And that’s the opinions of Paddy Magee.

According to the song, the Civil War allowed these new Americans to repay charity given them a generation before.

Pay

Next at bat we have a pair of songs, “We’ll Fight For Uncle Sam” and “The Irish Brigade.” With these pieces we confront the basic question of why Irish immigrants participated so robustly on both sides of the conflict? The Crisis of 1860 and the war it precipitated were many miles removed from the concerns and culture of the Irish.

Whatever theoretical appeal Constitutional liberties like freedom of religion held for Hiberians, the welcome they actually received was not a warm one. Anti-Irish animosity became so desperate that famously during the Mexican War (1846-48) an entire brigade of the Federal army deserted over to the Mexican side!

Like German immigrants two generations later, Irish support for the Union was not a given. One pedestrian, though evergreen, reason immigrants fought in large numbers was for money. The famous $13 per month which Union privates received, even the Confederate’s $11 per month, a holdover from the prewar pay scale, was head and shoulders better than the unstable morsels which urban day laborers took in, to say nothing of the tempestuous lives of rural farmers.

In “We’ll Fight for Uncle Sam,” a Union piece, it contains the line, “Not long ago I came here from the bogs of sweet Kilarney. I used to cry out, ‘Soap Fat!’ because that was my trade, sir; ‘til I ‘listed as corporal in Corcoran’s brigade, sir.” Many of the Irish immigrants of the 1860s had come from rural stock. They had few marketable skills in the crowded cities of the north. If the army didn’t allow for a better life, it at least provided a less indigent one.

Geopolitics:Cotton

It is unwise to consider the Civil War in a vacuum. As comfortable as it is to study as such, as our definitive event, we must recall what Walter McDougal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute says. The War of the Rebellion was not an insular oddity, but, “part of the deepest rhythms of world history.” The trends of centralization, servile abolition, and a “shrinking” technological world were forces America participated in along with the rest of the world.

Both “We’ll Fight” and “Opinions” additionally invite the humble listener into the world of international politics. British support for the Confederacy is warned off with the line, “If John Bull should interfere, he’ll suffer for it truly, for the Irish boys in action will give him balley hooley.” We also hear, “John Bull, ye ould divil. Ye’d better keep civil!”

Through mid-war there was a chance of Britain supporting the Confederacy. This would have possible military advantages, and definite financial advantages. For a country heretofore not permitted to raise funds on the international markets and from major banks, legal recognition amongst the world community was a must.

The hungry textile mills of Europe lustfully weighed on the minds of British MPs as they considered the U.K.’s official reaction to the North American bloodletting. With the nearsightedness characteristic of speculation, the southern economy was a one-trick, cotton pony by the start of the war in 1861. “Guns for Cotton” was the dear hope of Confederate statesmen. Until the Crown could develop its cotton market in India, which eventually came on line by mid-war, this was an equation British statesmen were inclined to consider.

European powers, and others besides, needed cotton from the South for their mills. This commercial concern weighed heavily against ethical reservation concerning slavery. “Scott’s Anaconda,” the blockading of the entire Confederate coastline by the Lincoln administration, put a wrench in the French supply chain for the entirety of the war.

The “Famine du Coton” in Alsace, Normandy, and Brittany matched the supply hardships experienced by the English. The financial angle could have put European powers in the Confederate corner, and this was possibility enough for our Irish songsters to put John Bull – and by extension, Marianne – on alert.

Geopolitics: The Trent Affair

The possibility of English support for the Confederacy was made likelier still with international guffaws by Union leaders. For example, the Trent Affair in November 1861 was when Union sailors boarded British ships to arrest two Confederate agents under the laws of war.

The Lincoln administration was adamantine that the Confederacy was not a nation. Thus, according to their own logic, southern agents were not subject to the rule of international law. The only conclusion left, then, was that Union sailors trespassed on British property, and kidnapped British guests.

Earnestly for them in the moment, and amusingly for us 150 years later, Northern attorneys engaged in great rhetorical gymnastics trying to justify their Administration’s position, while also fending off charges of criminality. This incident, combined with William Seward’s subsequent bluster in the press, brought the relationship between the U.K. and U.S. the closest to war since 1812.

Geopolitics: Slavery

Slavery is a topic which does not enter into any of the immigrant-related songs chosen for this essay, north or south. In fact, even in general works from the war period, forced servitude is only mentioned obliquely. Examples of this include, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Marching Through Georgia,” both Union songs; and “Bonnie Blue Flag,” and Albert Pike’s reworking of “Dixie,” for Confederate examples.

As a slave power, nearly alone in the Western world besides Brazil and Cuba, the Confederate States of America (CSA) did not do themselves any favors when appealing to European nations for legal recognition, much less material assistance. France and Britain were the two biggest candidates for Confederate support. France had abolished slavery in 1794 (albeit briefly resurrected by Napoleon) and the United Kingdom in 1833. In the age of 19th-century mores, whatever the temptation of cotton, the CSA’s “peculiar institution” worked against their international interests.

Irish Confederate Units

The odds against the Confederate cause from the start tended to lend its partisans to associate their enterprise with grand moral and political motives, and historical precedents. “Kelly’s Irish Brigade” attempts to weave the Confederate struggle and its Hibernian involvement into the larger saga of Irish liberation.

When nowhere near technical brigade size, the southern narrator sings, “[Northerners] have called us rebels and traitors, but themselves were called that name of late.” While the song immediately goes on to reference the Rebellion of 1798, we also intuit the songster’s general scorn for Yankees.

Like the British in the American Revolution, an event which was within reaching memory at the time of our topic, invading Yankees were occupying another country as far as southerners were concerned. This certainly is a parallel not lost on the narrator of “Kelly’s Irish Brigade.” He sings, “They dare not call us invaders. ‘Tis but states’ rights and liberty we ask. And Missouri we’ll ever defend her. No matter how hard the task.”

Larger Struggles

We next have “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp.” This song allows us to connect the Irish struggle in the Civil War with another fight in another land. It speaks with the voice of an imprisoned Union soldier trying to keep up his spirits despite his condition. As he says, “Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching. Cheer up, comrades, they will come!” Just wait, just hope, we’ll be free in time.

Most people today would not associate “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp” with the Civil War. The tune was co-opted and popularized a few years after Appomattox for the Irish nationalist cause. Rebranded as “God Save Ireland,” it commemorates the Manchester Martyrs. The Martyrs were three Fenians hanged by the Crown in 1867. The retooled “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp,” now “God Save Ireland,” became the de facto anthem of Irish Republicans through the War of Independence (1919-21).

Rather than a forlorn, pining captive, though, “God Save Ireland” has its prisoner-singer defiant ‘til the end. One stanza reads, “They met him [the hangman] face to face, with the courage of their race. And they went with souls undaunted to their doom.” When we recall Cathal Brugha’s famous use of “God Save Ireland,” we must remember its connection to an earlier generation and an earlier war.

The Fenians

We turn now to the influences of the Fenians on the Civil War. The Fenian Brotherhood was a group founded simultaneously in America and Ireland in 1858 (on St. Patrick’s Day, of course). The Civil War promised a ready means for these secret revolutionaries to build and drill a corps of fighters to ship back home.

One of the stranger aspects of Celtic participation in the War of the Rebellion, as the United States government still calls the 1860s bloodletting, is that a people dominated by an outside power, as Ireland was by the British, would enthusiastically enlist in significant numbers on the side of a power trying to squash the self-determination of another group of people, the American southerners. This is a curious dynamic we’ll see later with the post-war Irish participation in the western Indian Wars.

In his infamous summons of 75,000 men, a move which initially worsened the Crisis, President Lincoln plainly said his intention was, “To suppress said combinations.” However, practical considerations overruled die-hard revolutionary ideology. The majority of immigrants lived in Northern cities like Boston and New York, as opposed to southern ports like Charlestown and New Orleans.

Additionally, the Union’s chances of victory were more secure from the start. While it took at least two years to come to full strength, once the Federal government brought its organizational and industrial might to bear, their ability to train and arm mass bodies of men recommended Fenian support for the Union. The conflict would provide free quality training which Irish revolutionaries could deploy back in Ireland.

In On Deciding to Fight for the Union, Union Irish Brigade leader, Thomas Francis Meagher said, “We could not hope to succeed in our effort to make Ireland a Republic without the moral and material support of the liberty-loving citizens of these United States.”

This decision can be directly tied to individuals who helped raise Irish units. Meagher (pronounced “mar”) was involved in the Young Irelander uprising of 1848, that “Year of Revolutions.” Transported to Australia after his conviction of treason, Meagher escaped and made his way via Brazil to America.

Another revolutionary was Michael Corcoran. In addition to a revolutionary pedigree as rich as Meagher’s, Corcoran made a name for himself when he was court-martialed for not leading the largely-Irish 69th New York Militia on parade when the Prince of Wales visited America in 1860. The charges were dropped upon the eruption of hostilities. However, “The Boys Who Wore the Green” saucily remembers, “Colonel Corcoran led the 69th on that eventful day [i.e., Bull Run], I wish the Prince of Wales were there to see him in the fray.”

Meagher and Corcoran organized and drilled an expanded 69th New York following the Confederate firing on Ft. Sumpter in April 1861. The unit was altogether green. However, several soldiers had seen service in recent European wars. These included ten officers lately in the service of Pope Pius IX’s own “St. Patrick’s Brigade,” in the Papal States’ luckless fight against Garibaldi.

Narratives

When, how, and why minority groups align their interests and narratives with related groups is a topic well worth its own treatment. By “narrative” I mean a group’s own reading of its revolutionary history, especially in light of similar struggles elsewhere.

Such is also the forging of the Irish nationalist “apostolic succession” narrative. This narrative attempts to link Ireland’s own desperate rebel history. It also includes foreign efforts for the Liberal cause in its understanding. The Fenian narrative in this case includes friendly connections with America’s Revolutionary experiment.

The ancient clan system in Ireland was smashed with the Tudor conquest. The 1745 Battle of Culloden in neighboring Scotland brought this truth home. Suddenly the passing of the clan system went from a suspected abstraction to a bloody, grim reality. Celtic nationalists ultimately retrenched and settled upon the most cutting-edge political philosophy of the day to rally around: republicanism.

America’s two wars with Britain, as well as the explosion of the French Revolution on the Continent, gave added inspiration to independence-minded Hiberians for their own liberty. However ill-served rebels like Robert Emmet were by the republican National Assembly, the international republican experience provided garrisoned Ireland an example to imitate.

Indeed, during the heady days before his imprisonment for sedition in 1848, Thomas Meagher advocated physical force republicanism against the pacifistic position of Daniel O’Connell’s supporters. He specifically used the American example as justification. Ireland’s revolutionary past merged with the American saga as theoretical examples which expats like Corcoran and Meagher were keen to develop and fuse for the ends of their Irish story.

Other Ethnic Groups

Next, we consider the role of race, the Irish, and the Civil War. In introducing this theme, we recall that Irishmen were not the only subgroup to be caught up in the majority-Anglo Civil War. Indians, blacks, and Germans all richly participated as well.

Native Americans, however, come from a vastly different musical tradition than the various European ethnicities which participated in the war (including the majority Anglo one). Additionally, they made a different use of martial music. Thus, we have no corpus of native Civil War music.

Another possible field of study is German participation in the war. They were closer to the Irish military and musical experiences. The Germans were also a community numerically as robust as the Irish. However, the language barrier meant that few period songs were written, and less survive for our perusal.

There is one delightful exception to this Saxon dearth: “I Goes To Fight Mit Sigel.” Reasonably concerned with his martial alcohol access, our patriot-narrator explains, “Dere’s only von ting vot I fear, Ven pattling for de Eagle. I vont get not no lager bier, Ven I goes to fight mit Sigel!”

Franz Sigel’s command of the largely-German XI of the Army of the Potomac is also noted, along with Irish commanders, in the 1864 song “List of General.”

African-American Interactions

When it comes to Irish interactions with African-Americans, “Two Brothers Masterson” does not blush. The 19th-century was not a politically correct era. Perhaps this allows us a truer picture of the times. “Masterson” is set to the tune of the “Croppy Boy,” and it follows an equally doleful trajectory.
At this point you ought to be noticing a cross-over of music in the later development folk. Both America and Ireland equally influenced the other’s music.

Twice in “Masterson” we note the unhappy interaction of American blacks and Irish. The singer states, “With savage blacks [the brothers] did not agree.” When put upon to help hang his sibling, Patrick refuses. Sensing a need, a nearby, “wild black sergeant proposed to do the deed.”

This artistic animosity can be traced to the actual competition both groups faced for northern jobs during this period. Indeed, we remember that during the New York draft riots in 1863 African-Americans were especially targeted by the rioters, and a great many of those rioters came from the Irish community centered around New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen district.

Chaos

In “The Boys That Wore the Green” we get a taste of the chaos of those early days of the Rebellion. The song memorializes the motley units which found themselves at the First Battle of Bull Run in July of 1861. The peacocking and bluster which both sides liberally engaged in, from well before Lincoln’s election the previous autumn, quickly drained away as the grim reality of protracted battle loomed.

After a solid start on the morning of July 21st, the Rebels rallied and broke the Union ranks. It’s a debacle commemorated in the fourth stanza of “Boys.” The singer talks about the capture and recapture of the 69th’s battle flag, declaring, “The colors of the 69th, I say it without shame, Were taken in the struggle to swell the victor’s fame.” Politely omitted is the fact that Michael Corcoran was wounded and also captured in the battle. He was paroled and went on to organize Corcoran’s Legion, another majority-Irish unit.

The rearguard fight the Irish Brigade made at Bull Run with the 11th New York Zouaves is mentioned in the fifth stanza. It states, “In that hour of peril, the flying mass to screen, Stood the gallant New York firemen, with the boys that wore the green.”

After several verses lauding the mutual assistance each unit gave the other during the Civil War’s seminal battle, the song finishes, “Farewell, my gallant countrymen, who fell that fatal day. Farewell, ye noble firemen, now mouldering in the clay. Whilst blooms the leafy shamrock, whilst runs the old machine, Your deeds will live bold Red Shirts, and Boys that Wore the Green!” And indeed, each unit had cause to be nostalgic. By mid-war both, due to attrition and maturation, regiments were drastically different from their early-war selves.

Militia Model

At Bull Run, the citizen-solider model favored in America well into the 20th Century was sorely tried. If the Confederate national army wasn’t itself in its birth pangs on “that eventful day,” however, things would have been worse for the north. The rebel inability to consolidate and counter-attack is the biggest “what if” of the entire conflict.

The organizational militia model in force, during those well-sung early days of the fight, allowed for a small perpetual corps of men, mostly alumni of the military academies, to be the nucleus around which a much larger mass of militia could form. Those militia units were called in the Federal parlance of the time, “Volunteers.” True to their forebears in the American Revolution, these Volunteers were led by officers chosen either for quality, charisma, or graft.

While the militia system provided against an ancient Cesarean takeover, or a modern Military Industrial Complex, it made for chronically messy military starts. The United States would know this well into the 20th-century. In any case, the behavior of the 69th at Bull Run was something the men could be proud of.

It was a legacy they would have an opportunity to build upon, a year and a half later at Antietam. As the late Connecticut author, Thomas Craughwell, wrote, “The Irish Brigade turned the tide at Antietam. By driving off the Confederates, it all but ensured a Union victory. The Irish had been building a reputation as tenacious fighters; at Antietam they cinched it.”

Unit Diversity

Not all of early-war messiness was bad or incompetent. It occasionally allowed for local flare. Ethnic regiments such as Irish, German, and Indian units are examples of this diversity. Likewise was the “Zouave” phenomena. Inspired by French soldiers, these light infantry units were recruited from the fire brigades of New York City by the early-martyred Elmer Ellsworth.

Clothed in their distinctive red and blue embroidered uniform, the 11th New York was one early group to buttress the defenses of Washington, following weeks of anxious waiting and rumors, during the Secession Crisis in the spring of 1861. Both their unusual accoutrements and their baptism of fire at Bull Run guaranteed the mutual affection of both regiments in “The Boys Who Wore the Green.”

Little Mac

Lastly, “The Boys Who Wore the Green,” along with “We’ll Fight for Uncle Sam” and “List of Generals,” raises the specter of “Little Mac.” George McClellan was the Army of the Potomac’s sometimes-commander. Notoriously reluctant to engage with a southern opponent who was two or three times his size, Abraham Lincoln once humorously said, McClellan had a case of, “the slows.”

Nevertheless, “Little Mac,” as his troops affectionately called him, was an excellent organizer. Units always had the supplies they requested, and after defeats like the Second Bull Run, McClellan was able to rebuild the army and boost its confidence.

While their affection wasn’t able to take Little Mac to the White House in 1864, it was able to live on in songs with verses like, “Once again, the stars and stripes, Will to the breeze be swellin’. If Uncle Abe will give us back Our darlin’ boy McClellan;” and, “Of one more [general] I’ll be telling, and who should be restored straightway. To put an end to this rebellion: Little Mac, he knows the way!”

Burnout

The gay, baggy pants and striped shirts of the Zouaves went by the wayside in “Paddy’s Lamentation.” Thanks to Sinead O’Connor, this is the only piece in our Civil War selection with popular play. The song describes the wariness Irishmen were feeling by mid-war.

This song also reflects the greater mood of America. Similar to the narrator of “Masterson,” our pleading singer advises, “To America I’ll have ye’s not be going. There is nothing here but war, where the murderin’ cannons roar. And I wish I was at home in dear old Dublin.” Like many ethnic songs, “Paddy’s Lamentation” has “Easter eggs” in it which betray its North American composition. “Dear old Dublin” was far removed for most 19th-century Irish immigrants. Hiberians who came to America, mostly came from the west of Ireland.

In any case, all the men who were inclined to go in for Meagher’s transatlantic revolutionary schemes had done so by the war’s second year. After that, the motives were less idealistic. Cap-stoning this sentiment was the death of Michael Corcoran in 1863 in a riding accident in Fairfax, Virginia.

As Craughwell writes, “[Corcoran’s] death came as a shock to the Irish Brigade, whose men had loved and revered Corcoran since 1860 when he refused to march the 69th Regiment in a parade honoring the Prince of Wales.” Either money or the force of law stocked the ranks of the Irish Brigade after the initial idealism died down.

Manifest Destiny Resumed

Finally, we close with two postwar pieces: “Mick Ryan’s Lament” and “Regular Army O.” The one doleful, the other comical, both songs take us from the eastern seaboard to the Wild West, with the downsized U.S. military. With the Rebellion over, the American government returned to its pre-war hobby: westward expansion. Our refugee-cum-trooper, Mick Ryan, sings, “I swear I did not see the irony,

“When I rode with the Seventh Cavalry. I thought that we fought for the land of the free, When we rode from Fort Lincoln that morning.” In other words, the expat from Erin was used in his turn to dispossess Indians from their homes. This ultimately led to his death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, commanded by former Civil War hero, George Armstrong Custer.

In “Modern Army O,” we’re introduced to a man who, making no idealistic motivational pretense, “had the choice of going to the army or to jail.” Compelled to endure longer and longer marches on less and less grub, our modern soldier throws off the whole army and skedaddles to Mexico.

In both songs we are confronted with one of the curses of war: addiction to fighting. As long-standing the battlegrounds of today attest, places like Somalia, Afghanistan, or Syria, after a while a country’s young men have no stock and trade but war.

That was the condition many veterans found themselves in, in 1865. Decidedly less ideological or reverential than earlier pieces, the song shows an increased assimilation of Irishmen by the later part of the 19th-century, due in part to their military service. As Craughwell writes, “The courage and sacrifice of the Irish Brigade during the Civil War helped diminish prevalent anti-Irish prejudice in America.”

Conclusion

Our selections have featured both early-war, red-blooded martial anthems, burned-out ballads from later in the conflict, and ironic and irreverent postwar choices.

The songs were written from historic moments of patriotism, and contemporary meditations on the hardships of history. They permit us to dive into aspects of the American Civil War which standard study does not allow for. We come closer to our subject. We laugh and cry and bleed and gripe along with the soldiers, who fought the war – and we sing with them, too.

John Coleman is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut (USA). Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at their website.

The image shows, “July 27, 1861: New York’s 69th (Irish) Regiment return from 1st Battle of Bull Run” by Louis Lang, and painted in 1862-1863.

All About Presidential Primaries

For good or ill we are in an election year and a major one at that. All the seats in the House are up for grabs, one-third of Senate offices are in contest, and of course so is the Presidency. No sooner has one election gone, then another is in the offing. And while “blackout periods” (legal restrictions on advertising before election day) may shield our mental space for a few precious days, we are helpless otherwise.

Besides, even the murkiest of blackout periods don’t stop radio showmen, television talking-heads, or (horrors!) YouTube comments from jabbering on. Even the heartiest news hounds weary of election updates by September. Come October, the best of us look like deer at the end of the rut, scrolling away at our news feeds in a bleary daze.

Luckily, I’ve caught you before the thing gets going in earnest; when we’re spry and sprite, and when we still have mental hard-drive space to learn a thing or two.

For all the minutiae – and drama – the press serves up in great doses, it is easy to be ignorant of the actual mechanics of our electoral process. What exactly is the path from idea to execution? How does one go from mucking around a run for office, chewing it over in one’s mind and with one’s friends around the water cooler, to formally applying as a candidate, to ultimately ending up on a party’s ticket?

Definitions

At this time last year, when your minds and mine were far from this election, there were over 600 registered candidates running for the Presidency. Over 600 people embarked on the preliminary steps of a process we will now explore. How those hundreds of souls are whittled down to one candidate is done through the primary process. It is a system we find ourselves in at this moment.

As we set out on this exploration, we must make a distinction early on between caucuses and primaries. For stylistic reasons, I’ve chosen to use “primary” for both actual primaries and the rarer caucuses, unless otherwise noted. Both meetings are part of the opening steps in choosing a party’s candidate for the general election. Both are inter-party elections held to choose delegates from the state parties to participate in the national conventions held the summer preceding the November election.

The name-difference, firstly, designates who is funding those meetings. Caucuses are private gatherings which are run and paid for directly by the private political parties (n.b., both the GOP and the DNC are, after all, private associations). Caucuses are altogether in-house affairs. On the other hand, primaries are organized and paid for by the states. Besides funding, the name-difference indicates a difference in voting styles.

Caucuses use open ballots, everyone knows who voted for whom. They’re closer to open meetings than anything, and they try to arrive at a consensus. Primaries use secret ballots of the sort we’re familiar with in the general November election, with the winner usually receiving all that state’s delegates in the summer.

The overall trend since the 19th-Century, and especially since the 1970s, has been towards the primary system. Various dynamics come into play behind this trend. The most outstanding argument includes the perception that primaries are more open and democratic. The merits of this supposed openness is something we’ll look at later. (Not all that glitters, is gold.) In any case the purpose of the primaries is to choose delegates, who themselves will choose their party’s national presidential candidate.

Early History

How did the primary system arise? After all, political parties were not a planned feature of our government. Indeed, during the Revolution, the subsequent six-year rule of the Articles of Confederation, and during the final system developed at the Constitutional Convention, parties (or factions, as they were called then), were gravely cautioned against.

With the heavy examples of Rome and England during their civil wars, and the persistent machinations of factions in Medieval republics – think Romeo and Juliet’s Verona – weighing on their minds, the Founding Fathers were greatly set against such combinations.

Alexander Hamilton, oddly enough, given his later support of the Federalist party, warned in a tract, “There is no political truth better established by experience nor more to be deprecated in itself, than that this most dangerous spirit [of political parties] is apt to rage with greatest violence, in governments of the popular kind, and is at once their most common and their most fatal disease.”

The most revered statement in all of American political religion is Washington’s “Farewell Address.” It was once an oration commonly memorized by America’s schoolchildren. In it the outgoing president cautioned (in the best tradition of 18th-Century run-on sentences), “[Political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

There were a number of Constitutional measures in place to squelch “partyism,” such as, the appointment of a presidential runner-up at be Vice President. Yet even the warning given at Washington’s 1796 retirement – or rather, his re-retirement, the general having first demurred further public life in 1783 at the disbanding of the Continental Army – the young nation was drifting towards a seemingly factionalism. It is a drive that seems to be irrepressible in men.

During the debates revolving around the ratification of the Constitution, two groups formed to voice their opposition to, or favor for the new national government. In after-years these groups metastasized. By the turn of the century, the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists, as the parties came to be known, were well on their way to becoming as entrenched as their Tory and Whig predecessors were during colonial days. Indeed, by the time the 19th-Century was well underway, America not only had parties in abstract, it actually had a “Whig” party!

Later History

Whatever the Framers’ thoughts on the matter, political groups were here to stay. Indeed, Washington himself threw in the oppositionist towel in 1798, saying, “You could as soon scrub the blackamoor white, as to change the principles of a professed Democrat; and that he will leave nothing unattempted to overturn the Government of this Country.”

Even Cinncinatus became a partyist. From those early groups, the caucus system developed. How it did so and how it eventually morphed into our present primary gauntlet is something we will look at now.

With or without parties there developed a need to select and publicize candidates up for office. Washington’s decision to bow out of a third term in the 1796 election created chaotic conditions for the new nation. In those days, before the passage of the 12th Amendment, every state Elector cast two votes for the two men thought best to be president.

With something of the logic of Europe’s parliamentary system, neither of these ballots was designated over the other. The man with the most votes in this semi-blind election became President; the runner up became the Vice President.

Because of this, because a large pool of candidates lowers the percentage one needs to win (i.e., if two men run, you need 51%; if three run, 34%, and so forth), the new American parties backed any number of candidates for President, hoping to get a majority in an over-saturated field. To our modern eyes this system becomes murkier when we remember that candidates at the turn of the 18th-Century, and indeed until the eve of the Civil War, did not actually campaign themselves.

With the fumes of the Framers’ wariness of ambition still lingering well into the following century, candidates sent their supporters out on the campaign trail to kiss babies and press the flesh, but they themselves did not budge from home.

The embryo of our present system goes back to those heady days of the 1796 and 1800 elections. In 1800 both Democratic-Republicans and Federalists held their first political caucuses. In the public, official arena those messy events spurred to passage of the 12th Amendment specifying the purpose of the Electors’ two votes.

It reads in part, “The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President.”

We will move into the modern era and delineate the technical organization of the primaries. However, one last historical note ought to be mentioned. The caucus system by the mid-19th-Century would largely remain the same for the next 100 years. In the middle of that stretch, however, there occurred an electoral feature which is at once an element of our primary process today, and yet one whose historical impact likely is never to be matched. I speak of the split ticket of 1860.

In the run-up to the vote that year, the Democratic Party broke into three groups. Regionalism, slavery, tariffs, Federal power, and a host of topics, festering since before the Constitutional Convention came to a head in the 1860 election.

In this fateful contest, caucus candidates mounted their high horses. The typical bowing-out of contenders did not happen. Steven Douglas received the support of northern Democrats. John C. Breckinridge enjoyed the patronage of the southern wing of his party. More confusing still, Tennessee’s John Bell led a rump of the DNC, to work with remnants of the Whig Party, to form the Constitutional Union Party. The group was a desperate attempt to head off a war and largely represented western voters.

Whatever is to be said of the split ticketers, of their philosophical consistency and doggedness, a split ticket dooms a party to failure. This is what happened in 1860. Because the DNC was split, the insurgent Republican Party won the Presidency. With Abraham Lincoln set to come into office in March of the following year, South Carolina seceded in December 1860. The fallout from the caucuses of 1860 triggered an avalanche of events culminating in a civil war.

Schedule

By the time of the primaries, with many candidates campaigning for over a year before this actual first stage of the Presidential election process, the Iowa Caucus, begins. Preference, ease, tradition, and vanity contribute to the eclectic schedule of party meetings, every fourth spring.

At present, the schedule of the major gatherings is in Iowa on February 3. Note well that while primaries dominate nowadays, like a vestigial organ, the caucus format still officially kicks off the election cycle. New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina follow later that month. The far-famed “Super Tuesday” follows on March 3, with 16 states and related entities, such as American Samoa – alone in the caucus format since Iowa – and “Democrats abroad” choosing their selections.

By the close of March, over half of the primary selection events are over. Humble Connecticut, the land of steady habits indeed, prudently falls in the middle of the primary/caucus season. On April 28th, it joins five other Northeastern states for meetings, primaries all. This participatory gauntlet concludes on June 6th with the Virgin Islands holding their last primary, in this case for the Democratic Party.

Beyond the “Big Two”

Lest they be omitted, we remember that there are not two but five political parties recognized by the Federal Elections Commission, the regulatory agency which monitors national election financing. Beside the “big two” so often mentioned, in descending order based on the number of their members the other groups are the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution parties.

Primaries are fearfully expensive things to organize. According to the group Open Primaries, an association advocating primary reform, this stretch of the electoral cycle costs nearly half a billion dollars. This is a burden unsustainable by orders of magnitude for third parties. Thus, the Green and Constitution parties skip right over the primary season and designate their candidate at their summertime conventions. The plucky Green Party will mount a modest total of four state gatherings this year, primaries all.

Straw Polls

For the truest of political junkies, those who cannot wait until the primaries to get their electoral “fix,” there are straw polls. These unofficial queries are conducted by any number of private associations and they often precede the actual primaries by several months.

The most revered of these queries was the Iowa Straw Poll (of happy memory). An heir in its way to the ‘70s democratic fervor which has so influenced the primaries as we know them, the Iowa poll was held by the GOP six months before the Iowa Caucus. The Poll was of mixed accuracy and intent. Over the six times it was held, it successfully chose the correct GOP nominee only three times, and that’s leaving aside the open question of whether the Poll was supposed to choose a mere winner in Iowa or the ultimate GOP nominee

Though a child of the ‘70s, the Iowa Straw Poll channeled something of a 19th-Century democratic hoedown. The Poll, whatever its inaccuracy, also served the role of part-fundraiser and part-summer barbeque. Quaint but inaccurate, the Iowa Straw Poll was discontinued in 2011. Brisket-loving politicos rallied to their state’s dear bellwether, however, and since 2015 the Iowa State Fair Straw Poll has been dishing out inaccurate electoral auguries.

Iowa

Unlike the majority of preliminary meetings Iowa has chosen the keep the minority caucus system. 1916 was the last time the state held a primary. Citing costs, they went back to the caucus system the following year.

They’ve kept it that way since. In response to upheavals during the 1968 cycle, the Democratic Party decided to spread out their nominating process over a longer period of time, and this explains the early February (and some years late-January) date. In 1972 the DNC held their first winter caucus. The Republican Party followed suit four years later, pulling the opening of their process to the same early date since.

Iowa’s system is anomalous. Not only does it still maintain a caucus format (a minority amongst the 50 states), it also does so in the dead of winter (when poor weather might deter voters and the aged from venturing out). The state’s demographics are peculiar too. Iowans are not especially representative of the larger American voter pool, being overwhelmingly white and rural. And those white and rural voters are few in number. With only six votes in the Electoral College, the winter meetings are about the only time national candidates pay attention to “the corn state.”

However, elections can be tied to hallowed custom. America’s agrarian days explain the tradition of our November election placement. It was chosen as a convenient post-harvest, pre-sowing month to travel in. Religious concerns lie behind like the choice of second Tuesday election. Such a day avoided both Sunday travel in pre-automobile America and the Catholic All Saints’ holiday.

Even recent customs such as the ubiquitous “I voted” sticker, popular since its introduction in the ‘80s, are firmly kneaded into the county’s electoral customs. With the overall trend towards earlier and earlier primaries, Iowa has staked its claim on democratic ritual. They will not budge on their February date.

Tradition aside, however, the main argument for Iowa keeping their caucus and their early date is that it allows otherwise unknown contenders to elbow their way into the fray. The greatest example of this is Jimmy Carter. Taking advantage of the post-’68 McGovern reforms and liberalization of campaign finance, Carter’s team aggressively pounded the pavement to get their candidate into the media’s spotlight and onto people’s radars.

It worked; and candidates have been trying to get that same edge ever since. As of last November, Democratic candidates visited Iowa more than 800 times. Donald Trump, who developed such a taste for rallies in 2016 that he has not stopped holding them in the intervening four years, visited Iowa last June as part of a state GOP fundraiser.

Super Tuesday And The Rest

Following the Iowa and New Hampshire gatherings, the next milestone on the journey to the White House is “Super Tuesday.” On that day, in early March, upwards of one-third of Americans are represented at the party polls. This year, California joins the 2016 shift of Texas to Super Tuesday. Both states have large populations, and large Hispanic populations at that.

The justification of their moves lies in the greater racial diversity they bring to the primary season. The late relocations of the Golden and Lone Star states add even more energy to Super Tuesday. Of course, high-minded motives of diversity aside, we mustn’t pretend that old fashioned vanity is innocent from the trend of state parties towards earlier and earlier starts in their nominating processes.

Platforms

When the primary season winds down this spring, what can we expect to see at the party conventions come summer? When the 3,769 Democratic delegates meet this July in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and when the 2,551 Republican representatives meet this August in Charlotte, North Carolina, they will be charged not only with choosing their nominee but also their party platform. What will the parties decide on? Standing at the cusp of this election year, primaries help shape the talking points of both parties for their official codification, come the summer conventions. Let us turn now to the platforms of the major candidates.

Donald Trump will doubtless take the Republican nomination. Six states’ GOPs – Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina, and Virginia – are confident enough in this that they have saved themselves logistical troubles and canceled their primaries altogether. While the party’s Presidential nominee is a done deal for Republicans, this year’s primaries still allow the political faithful the opportunity to develop their platform.

While the choice of the RNC’s candidate is open and shut this time around that does not mean President Trump is without challengers to his incumbency. Serving within the Republican Party, the same role that third parties do in the general election, three men are indeed running for the GOP nomination.

Former Massachusetts governor, Bill Weld, one-term “Tea Party” congressman, Joe Walsh, and former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford all hope to inject various issues into platform discussions, which otherwise would go silent. Longest of long-shots all, these men will be successful, if they influence this August’s GOP convention. And like many a politician of many a stripe, defeat – even obviously and overwhelming defeat – always can prime the pump for the next run!

As for the Democratic Party, the winnowing has yet to begin in earnest. Yes, some have already dropped out, like former Montana governor, Steve Bullock, retired admiral, Joe Sestak, and California’s Attorney, General Kamala Harris; but some have also entered the race like Michael Bloomberg. There have been over 20 DNC candidates who were running at one time or another this cycle. At present there are 15 candidates, who have registered with the Federal Elections Commission on the DNC ticket.

The sheer volume of contenders this time around combines with the fact that some have been campaigning for a year already. Besides the 15, we often hear about, 270 other people are also running for the Democratic ticket. This mass promises to inject a number of new topics and positions into this campaign.

Due to the clear divide between career politicians, such as, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Michael Bloomberg, and relative neophytes, like Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang, the DNC may be challenged by a similar split, which the Republicans experienced in 2016. Back then, the old guard were pitted against the “black horse” of the Trump campaign.

This was an upset which some in the GOP have not been quick in forgetting. A number of erratic decisions in the Trump administration, such as the DACA tug-of-war and the lack of control the President exercises over his advisers, are explainable in light of this in-house disquiet.

Amongst the Democrats, the split is between careerist candidates who boast of their experience in office against populist newcomers, promising more radical policies. “Lifers” like confident Joe Biden, who claims more qualifications than Henry Kissinger (a telling comparison), go toe-to-toe with populares, like newcomer, Andrew Yang, who promise more radical policies, such as, Universal Basic Income.

At this early stage of the race it seems that domestic topics will be of decidedly more interest to American voters than foreign policy. The student debt crisis, the massive disruption to come from looming automation and digitalization, and endless saga of American health care financing, all promise to hold more attention than they did during either the Bush or Obama days. These are concerns of average Americans.

But those average Americans aside, despite charges of undue Russian election interference and corruption in the Ukraine, despite some down and out neoconservatives still wraithing about Washington since the Bush II days, there is a pronounced disinterest in the Trump administration to become intrusively involved in overseas affairs in the manner of the previous two presidents (i.e., wars and coups). Whether one calls it “America first” or “isolationism,” the incumbent administration holds a lot of sway, when it comes to deciding the pressing topics of an election. It’s the home team advantage.

Conventions

The party primaries lead to the conventions. By the time they are held the summer prior to an election, most of the candidates have dropped out. Amongst those who remain, it’s usually obvious who will take the ticket. However, if they’ve the will – and the funding – some campaigns doggedly go to the bitter end.

With the horrible consequence of the 1860 split-ticket rattling around literate candidates’ heads, some candidates go to the bitter end in earnest, and more “play chicken,” backing down at the last minute. Theodore Roosevelt’s “Bull Moose” split in the 1912 election, is another memorable election in this regard. Woodrow Wilson, like Lincoln before him, came to power because of disunity within the other party. Of course, countless historical ramifications stem from Wilson’s subsequent victory.

Ross Perot’s 1992 break with the GOP, which paved the way for two-termer Bill Clinton to win the day, is the most recent example of a party split. The stand, which Ron Paul’s and Bernie Sanders’ supporters have made in recent years, had some of us wondering, if we’d not see the split-ticket dynamic once again.

In any case, and ordinarily speaking, as happens informally during the primary season, and so formally at the conventions – at the close of each round of voting, losing campaigners choose which remaining candidate receives their delegates. For example, say that I win Connecticut’s primary but don’t have the steam to get the nomination. I can choose to give those 10 Connecticut GOP delegates to whatever candidate remains in the running.

The conventions come down to an equation of “delegate math,” when all is said and done. This is not dissimilar to the Electoral College set up; the delegate system operates on a state-by-state basis. Democratic delegates are doled out proportionally while Republicans follow a method truer to the College: the winner of a state primary takes all the delegation of that state.

Superdelegates

We now come to the definition of, and distinction between, delegates and superdelegates during the election cycle. Delegates, regular pledged delegates, are sent by the state parties – the same ones who organized the spring primaries – to the summer meetings. While there, they vote according to the previous choice of their state meeting.

Strictly speaking, though, there is nothing, not even the social opprobrium of being a “faithless elector,” as in the general election, which mandates that pledged delegates must actually vote according to the previous decision at the primary. As such, there is more elbow room, more jostling, than one might imagine at the summer conventions.

Beyond – and we may say, above – these regular delegates are the much-mentioned “superdelegates.” Properly called “unpledged delegates,” superdelegates have no expectations whatsoever to vote according to state conventions. They are free agents recruited from the most loyal party members. Various office holders, such as, the President, Governors, and Speaker of the House are eligible, as are members of the parties’ national committees – the “C” in DNC, for example – are superdelegates.

Now what sort of person do you suppose is going to fill such a role? Lifers, that’s who; not populists, not faddists, not single-issue sorts, not an enthusiastic clique.

The present system continues to evolve following a general prejudice towards greater participation. However, for party bosses this participation opens the door to populists; that is, candidates who appeal to the “little guy,” the “average” American, and who hold themselves as champions against a ruling elite. Superdelegates are a conservative reaction, an elitist reaction, to the recent history of primaries.

The DNC was walloped in both the 1972 and 1980 elections. The leaders of the party felt that things had become uncontrollable. In the rush to democratize and open up their nominating system, after the disaster of 1968, the proper vetting process was ignored, they felt, and they subsequently lost. In those elections, the DNC nominated George McGovern, in hindsight too liberal, and Jimmy Carter, whom a more entrenched Ronald Reagan was able to paint as a babe in the woods.

These were candidates who had great appeal to the party faithful, but who did not resonate with the general American population. In response to these developments, unpledged delegates were instituted by the DNC during the 1984 cycle. (Much good it did them. They lost in that year).

Who are the superdelegates? Many have held or presently hold office. Jim Carter, a hero in our primary story, fellow Southerner Bill Clinton, Dick Durbin, and Connecticut’s Elizabeth Etsy are superdelegates. Oddly enough, so are candidates Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, and Joe Biden. Superdelegates are stalwarts of the organization. In the event of a dark horse candidate, the superdelegates, proverbial old men in back smoking rooms, swing into action behind their choice.

Of the two major parties, superdelegates play a more crucial role in amongst Democrats. Indeed, the results of the 2016 election bear witness to this. In Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, both the GOP and the DNC had insurgent candidates that year. Both men were not favored by their party establishment. However, only the DNC was successful in squelching their black horse Sanders (at least for another four years). This was because of the heft of their superdelegates.

And while incumbents may call the debate topics, they don’t always call the election. Only 16 out of 43 Presidents have won a second consecutive term. Far more than being dead ritual or boilerplate, the primaries are primary.

John Coleman is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut (USA). Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at their website.

The image shows, “Election Day,” by John Louis Krimmel, painted in 1815.