Painting the Leopard: Never Means Never

Like many conservatives in 2016 and 2017, I believed the definition of “never” was well understood and generally accepted, and when people said it, I thought I knew what they meant. I was mistaken.

“Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots?
Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.”

-Jeremiah 13:23-

The problem with absolutes, such as “always“, “every“, “all“, “never“, and “none“, especially when used in philosophy or even politics, is that it takes just one counter example to blow up even the most well constructed argument. Just when you think something is absolutely true of “all” people “everywhere“, someone inevitably comes along and, merely by existing, punches a neat, irreparable hole in any political theory.

This, of course, isn’t a new idea, having been around since at least Adam Smith first observed the obvious problems with even the most benevolent of planned economies. People rarely do what planners want them to do, or even what planners think the people should do in their own best interest. Their reasons for doing (or not doing) anything at any given time are often incomprehensible to anyone but themselves, with whim, not wit, guiding their decisions.

While these observations, liberally paraphrased as they may be, are most typically used in economic arguments against the sort of top down economic structures common among mercantilist and socialist economies, they were, and remain, primarily observations of basic human nature. People may, in fact, act in a certain way, but they aren’t likely to act in that way forever or for the reasons you even expect.

All of this being said, however, there are still some things that are fundamentally and always true, and, as conservatives, these assumptions are part and parcel of our ideological framework.

“What a stupendous, what an incomprehensible machine is man!
Who can endure toil, famine, stripes, imprisonment and death itself
in vindication of his own liberty, and the next moment, be deaf to all
those motives whose powers supported him through his trial…”
-Thomas Jefferson-

The political right has often, with good reason, objected to radical redefinitions of established words, like “marriage” (which has long been culturally defined) and “gender” (which has long been scientifically defined), and resisted creation of meaningless words, like “assault rifle” (as if there is any other kind of rifle) or “transgender” (as if throwing a dress on a man makes him anything other than a man), loaded terms that provoke a debate outside the scope of this article.

Despite the right’s repeated and principled rejection of novel meanings of words, suffice to say, there is a very large segment of the political right that has taken gross liberties with the definition of a very simple word that’s meaning has, until the last year or so, been extremely well understood: “Never.” Let’s get the definition of this word absolutely clear. Simply put, “Never” means “not ever“. Less simply, it means “under no circumstance“, “at no point in time (before, during, or since)“, “absolutely not“, “to no extent or degree“, and is a direct opposite of “always“, “sometimes“, and “in certain conditions“.

My memory is very clear on this. All around me, there were men and women who stood up and declared, with full throated conviction, “I will never support Donald Trump!” The #NeverTrump hashtag was born on numerous social media platforms with the purpose of spreading and supporting this commitment to principled politics ethics. Like many conservatives in 2016 and 2017, I believed the definition of “never” was well understood and generally accepted, and when people said it, I thought I knew what they meant. I was mistaken.

“The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest.”
-Thomas Jefferson-

Despite whatever the moral cowards in the Republican Party or the “Make America Great Again” crowd may presently believe, no amount and no combination of election victories makes an unworthy man elevated to the presidency of the United States any less unworthy of that office. As Donald Trump has demonstrated time and time again, he is a man whose fundamental disconnect from the truth and adolescent obsession with trite and petty insult borders on the pathological.

More disturbing than Donald’s own demonstrable inability to conduct himself with any integrity at all, is his millions of accomplices across the country who defend even his most ludicrous and provably false statements. Regardless how “well intentioned” their motives may be (and that, itself, is more than a little dubious), no amount of white washing can eradicate the spots of any leopard, particularly one who insists on revealing those spots for the entire world to see practically every day on Twitter.

And shouting “Fake News” until blue in the face doesn’t repair the demonstrable abandonment of even the very simple rules of English vocabulary. If the meaning of the word “never” can be so easily abandoned, there is no ground to stand on with respect to the definitions of “marriage“, “man“, “woman“, or even “rights“. So congratulations Trump Train, merely by existing, you have punched a neat and irreparable hole in your own mind numbing circular arguments. Bravo.

As it turns out, painting a leopard still remains a time terrible idea. Always. Every time.

Liberty is For The Win.


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A Culture of Vice or of Virtue

Why should we care at all about “virtue”? Because people will protest over the political. They will kill over virtue.

Once upon a time, there was a largely peaceful and prosperous country filled with people who believed their most precious possession was Liberty. They believed in living as they pleased, so long as they harmed no one, being left alone, and, in turn, leaving others alone. Most importantly, they believed in a government that reflected these values, staying out of the lives of private citizens who sought, for the most part, to peaceably go about their lives.

These people also believed in working hard, living frugally, and saving rainy days. While it was true that some people did not do as well as others, most people did well enough, and some did very well indeed. When a neighbor needed help, they helped, not because they were forced to, but because it was the right thing to do. Communities thrived  based on compassion and not on compulsion. Society worked, because, by and large, everyone played by these very simple rules.

No, it wasn’t perfect. There were serious injustices stemming from long held racial prejudices that had infested human society since its earliest days. From the question of chattel slavery to the grotesque mistreatment of the native populace, from the internment of law abiding Japanese Americans during the Second World War to the generational poverty machine that has devoured so many minorities, America has an imperfect record.

In America’s defense, where they have done wrong, they have always been voices of reason and virtue that have persecuted those wrongs, and those voices put blood on the line where necessary to set things right. Even in times great injustice, the seeds of change were sewn and, often over generations, unjust practices have been and will continue to be discarded, not despite the philosophy of the Founding Fathers but because of them.

It is part of the American culture to wet the appetite of each generation to make a better nation than the previous generation.

“God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion.”
-Thomas Jefferson-

Why should we care at all about “virtue“? Because people will protest over the political. They will kill over virtue. Berkeley, CA, Huntington Beach, CA, and Alexandria, VA prove that the ideal of peaceful pluralism in America is a thing of the past, at least for the time being. Today, two vast political camps dominate the American landscape, motivated by a toxic brew of inflammatory misinformation and entrenched habitual mistrust of “the other“.

Over the last twenty years, we’ve witnessed endless cycles of prejudicial witch hunts and reprisal campaigns of character assassination, with each side trying to break the will of the other to continue the fight, but only ever succeeding in fueling the animosity that inevitably leads to the next cycle of escalation. We’ve finally reached the point in America that rhetoric is finally spilling over into actual physical violence, rabidly self righteous “Antifa” socialists facing off with just as rabidly self righteous “MAGA” nationalists in altercations with increasing frequency.

Sadly, this is basic human nature, revealing its bared teeth and blood soaked hands again, and, given the example of history, there’s little chance of escaping what is likely inevitable at this point. Even though our society remains deeply fractured and ideologically rudderless, both the left and the right have one thing in common. Both believe they are definitively “virtuous“, at least as far as their own definitions of virtue are concerned, making it all the more easy to persecute their opposition.

It is this keen sense of “virtue” versus “vice” that motivates people to action, not political rhetoric, and so long as we live in a country with no coherent shared national virtue, social anarchy will rule.

Unless…

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
-Dr. Seuss, The Lorax-

Take any boring local ordinance or state level legislation, and these same people will barely pay any attention at all. Charge it, however, with the “virtue” of helping the poor or getting rid of needless restrictions on business freedom, then instill the opposition with “vice“, for being indifferent to the plight of the poor or being unAmerican by being hostile to business owners who just want to ply an honest trade, suddenly it provokes both sides to action.

Whether or not a point of law or a candidate are capable of actually saving the country or personally ending inequality becomes entirely irrelevant. The only thing people care about is their emotional response. Political propagandists redefine “virtue” to whatever they need it to be to motivate their base, even if this makes it impossible for opposing sides to discuss things civilly or even at all, and even if it drives people to resorting to physical violence.

The only way to counter this malignant manipulation of the people is to reestablish an objective, coherent, and consistent national virtue, independent of the pundit class of both political parties. Make no mistake, this will not be easy, because there is a lack of a shared political vocabulary, which makes even rudimentary conversations between factions difficult. A larger obstacle still is the sheer number of people on both sides that simply aren’t equipped to engage in any kind of discussion.

Unless we successfully offer a new “American virtue” and corresponding political party to help buttress it, the violence in America will simply continue to get worse, and a lot of innocent people are going to get hurt.

Liberty is For The Win.


We just checked, and it turns out that fighting for Liberty isn’t free, because it requires time and energy to research, prepare, and propagate this message for you. Please drop just a dollar a month into the proverbial tip jar and become a Patriot Patron. Of course, don’t forget to like, subscribe, and share. Keep this fight for Liberty going! – @LibertyIsFTW