When the clutch safety switch on my pickup truck failed the other day and it had to be towed a couple of miles to the auto repair shop I expected I’d need to call a ride to get myself over there, on account of the prevailing distancing rules. Instead the tow driver invited me to climb up beside him in the cab for the brief drive across town. The first words out of his mouth were: “People are crazy!” I supposed he was referring to public fear of the virus, a fear that is not widely shared in the Cowboy State.
He did indeed have the pandemic in mind, but also the results of last year’s elections and the Biden administration’s actions during its first weeks in office, including the President’s executive order suspending oil and gas drilling and fracking on federal lands, pending review of proposed new leases. The U.S. government owns 48.19 percent of the land area of Wyoming, which relies heavily on the extractive industries’ access to the state’s mineral resources, and the jobs those industries create keep the majority of Wyoming’s inhabitants employed. And the severance taxes that Cheyenne exacts from mining, drilling, and fracking operations, and the tax base they establish allows the state to maintain essential public services, among them education and law enforcement. So, the President’s order is of major concern to Wyomingites.
The tow man’s last words as he dropped me at the garage were, “I live my own life, make a living, take care of my family, and don’t interfere with other people or tell them what to do. Why can’t everyone else do the same?” In contemporary America, that sentiment is sufficient to qualify a person as a 100 Percent-Dyed-in-the-Wool-Hardcore-Unrepentant- MAGA Voter.
Or, to reduce him to a single four-syllable word, a deplorable.
The United States is radically divided against itself by a margin of about fifty-fifty. Since the division is nearly even, it seems logical to suppose that the two halves bear equal responsibility for the divide and for the angry and bitter feelings that accompany it. Both sides, an impartial observer or ombudsman might conclude, are similarly prejudiced against, impatient with, and unsympathetic toward the other side’s metaphysical beliefs, social views, ideas, opinions, sentiments, and political agenda; and correspondingly obstinate in refusing to accept, accommodate, or even tolerate the political demands made on it by the opposite side.
That, anyway, would be the traditional democratic understanding of the Great American Divide. Yet it is a false one. It is the liberal half of the country that is in the wrong, for the plain reason it is the aggressing one. For the past half century it has made far more and greater demands on its opponent than have been progressively demanded of it; demands, moreover, that have no precedent—constitutionally, politically, economically, socially, morally, and metaphysically—in the history of the United States, of the Western world. Or indeed any of other country on earth, with the exceptions of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.
In the West, before the 20th century, the populations of the European feudal states, city states, duchies, republics, and nations were left mostly untroubled by their rulers, which required of them regular periods of service, military in time of war; tax payments as levied; oaths of fealty; and other obligations, frequently including the formal acceptance of the religion practiced by the prince of the realm. Apart from these matters, citizens and inhabitants were left pretty much to themselves to pursue their chosen economic and professional occupations, follow their preferences and whims in living their personal lives, and think as they wanted to think while doing what they wished to do.
Further, the large majorities of these societies were in broad agreement on matters of religion, morality, relations between the sexes, the behavior appropriate to persons as individuals and as members of society, and the duties, obligations, and rights of citizens dwelling together in civilized society. It was not until the great totalitarian systems of the past century imposed themselves that the structures, patterns, beliefs, and fundamental assumptions that had formed the basis of almost every human society known to history were challenged and—so far as the destroyers could manage—wrecked and replaced by those required by the new, totally mobilized societies that have been the dream and project of pseudo-philosophers and leftist politicians since the 17th century.
Human life, for such liberals, is the strenuous life: the relentless pursuit of social and political change and improvement; acceptance of the moral imperative to refuse simple human contentment and the enjoyment of anything save the power to impose change by diktat upon everyone, everywhere. They cling to the notion of politics as life itself, and as the proper end of life. Government, for these liberals, is not about administering the state and preserving society; it is about the business of transforming both in the image of a purely hypothetical utopia.
For them, governance is not a means to an end: It is the end—an end that has no end. Theirs may be a “humanistic” enterprise but it is certainly neither a human nor a humane one, which is why one-half of the American electorate rejected it last November. Now there is chatter among the winning half of “re-programming” the 79 million Americans—the “deplorables”—who voted for the losing side in 2021. No wonder they are angry, and some of them hold to the belief that their man really won the election. Who, viewed from this perspective, are the real deplorables? I suggest the answer lies in the appalling history of the world since 1914.
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