To Save the Union

Before the Civil War, the two sides often read different authors, saw different newspapers, read different novels. Some northern works were not easily available in the south and the levels of literacy differed. Of course, today, all is open. We choose to narrow our options: a Fox listener is likely to be a Wall Street Journal reader who begins surfing with Instapundit. A CNN listener is more likely to read the NYTimes and check out HuffPost.

So, we can speak to each other, but anyone listening to the rhythms of Obama and those of Trump, the voices of the average humanities teacher and of the dirty jobs guy, may well wonder if they would understand. (Though, of course, it is a perspective rather than position – Rowe and Victor Davis Hanson, as academically credentialed as they come, understand each other thoroughly.)

Listening to Trump’s speech on Charlotte, I heard something reporters didn’t mention. The speech’s rhythms came from an emphasis we’ve heard before: in Trump’s inaugural, in Lincoln’s second inaugural – and blended them in Trump’s less rhythmical, less evocative but direct and emotion-driven voice. It lacks the distance and gravitas of Lincoln, but its purpose is similar.

So, let’s look at that great old address. The war was not yet over; the union was clearly going to win but winning was not the point unless it was means to unification. Lincoln understood that slavery could not, should not continue: as he had put it in 1858, a nation divided could not stand. And so two years later, nominated by the party he’d addressed in ’58, he became president in a four-way race and almost immediately the nation divided. The Unionists were his people – the Confederacy was not – but surely he considered a broader audience, four years later as he described the two people’s shared history and he spoke of a future more in terms of reconciliation than triumph (the title Whitman, a poet inspired by Lincoln, used for his poem on the war’s end). The speech is short, but here’s one passage that emphasizes those shared values:

Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully.

Accepting that common blood, he has a strong confidence in the rightness of his soldiers’ cause; indeed, triumph is near. That great and terrible war must have been heavy on his mind as he reconciles himself to those rivers of blood with eloquence:

The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

Trump, of course, is speaking to an audience that has difficulty resigning itself to a beneficent Creator whose plans are beyond our understanding. Such faith remains but it is not as available as it once was. (More accurately, I suspect it is available but modern man is more prideful, less willing to accept tragedy as the nature and heritage of man.) Nonetheless, I think we should note that Trump’s speech’s purpose should not have been to condemn as much as unite. That was the note of this speech; it was the note of another – more eloquent president, one with less baggage and less pride, facing a far larger and far more tragic moment in our history. But Trump’s statement is framed in terms of our tradition and his responsibility – one that few will ever understand as deeply as Lincoln.

Today he spoke with the specificity that the crowd of politicians and media wanted:

Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.

But he also re-emphasized the perspective of Saturday’s speech:

As I said on Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. It has no place in America.

And as I have said many times before: No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God. We must love each other, show affection for each other, and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry, and violence. We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans.
. . . .

We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal. We are equal in the eyes of our Creator. We are equal under the law. And we are equal under our Constitution. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.

Some would argue he is in a weaker position because he so often spoke of Obama’s unwillingness to “name” the jihadists, especially in terms of the driving force that led them to (and they thought justified) acts of terror. Perhaps, I don’t disagree that these may seem hypocritical, nor that I, too, found such obfuscations really irritating. And perhaps that is because in 1860 a shared history, a shared faith, a shared language, a shared set of values were jaggedly torn apart. Such is not our relation with the jihadist.

But I will leave that argument for another day.

For today, I just wanted to put these up, note the similar purposes of the two speeches, and consider that the president is, after all, the president of those on both sides of those poorly drawn and violent lines in Charlottesville. When he says, God bless America, he means – he must mean if he is to be true to his office – those who listen to CNN as well as those who listen to Fox. And the quickness with which the Saturday speech was condemned was not surprising – that is the role of identity politics. To politicize, to separate, to arm us against one another. (And given the choices Robert E. Lee made at the end of that war, some irony appears that the protests were over the removal of a statue of the man who discouraged over a hundred and fifty years ago any guerrilla insurgencies such as those flying the Confederate flag this weekend would seem to represent – and an irony that those who protested the protest argued that the permit should never have been given, those voices had no right to be heard.)

40 thoughts on “To Save the Union”

  1. And as I have said many times before: No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God.

    I don’t doubt that there were similar goals between Lincoln and Trump’s speeches, the reconciliation of a divided and hostile nation. But just as the war was ongoing when Lincoln made his speech the facts on the ground are different than the ideal in Trump’s speech.

    We do NOT live under the same laws, on multiple different levels. The Nomenklatura of both parties are functionally above the law and prosecution, no matter what laws they break. Affirmative Action treats people differently according to the color of their skin and gender. Political affiliation with the Left means that you can assault others with no consequences. And if you are not a Leftist, Leftist governments will not only ignore attacks on you, they will set them up with their street thugs.

    The exact same groups that attacked the “Unite the Right” legally permitted demonstration [they may include Nazi’s, but they have the same Constitutional rights as everyone else. Something the Left will not accept.], for the last two days have been attacking peaceful demonstrators from “Patriot Prayer” in Seattle. That includes the Leftists burning that flag we are all supposed to be saluting. As far as being under the same Almighty God, the Left loudly attacks the concept of G-d, and anyone who practices the Judeo-Christian faith. I will note that I myself am not a person of faith. Not out of any dislike or disagreement, but because it is not something I personally feel. I am frequently at events where my compatriots are strongly religious. I don’t dislike them for it. I don’t try to convert them. I stand respectfully when there is an invocation, in respect to those compatriots.

    There are differences, and there are acts of war going on. They are not over, nor will there be any reconciliation for a long time if ever.

    In the absence of law enforcement against the Leftist thugs protected by the Democrats in government, I expect that soon there will be a Leftist drive by shooting at a legal conservative demonstration. Followed by a lack of prosecution, and soon afterwards another Leftist drive by.

    And eventually, conservatives are going to decide that there is enough proof that the law will only be used against them for them to a) defend themselves with weapons, and b) to defend from a distance, overwatch being a concept the Left does not understand. Eventually, those defensive moves will become offensive, and everyone’s dance card is going to be full.

    When it is over, I suspect that there will be neither a Joshua Chamberlain, or a Robert E. Lee working to reunify.

  2. Let’s not get carried away. Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address is one of the greatest orations in the history of the English language. And it is heartbreaking to read, knowing he died so soon after, and “with malice toward none” was thrown out the window, to the continued detriment of the nation. And most especially now, when it is clear that a majority, or nearly so, of the nation is dedicated to forcing a huge portion of their fellow citizens to acknowledge that all of their ancestors were irredeemable garbage. Seems to me we have no business being more bitter and antagonistic than those who actually were shot and killed by Confederates. I’m starting to think this is not going to end well…

    It is going to be difficult for much of the conservative/right to accept that in places like Berkeley, San Jose, Chancellorsville, etc., the police are fully on the other side. I live in a non-urban area of a blue state, and was amazed today to hear a local radio host who apparently had never heard of antifa and would tolerate not a smidgen of complaints to be directed towards the police for Saturday’s fiasco.

  3. I agree, of course, Lincoln’s was a great speech. This wasn’t great but it was better than a lot and I do think its point was the right one.

  4. I’m afraid the division will end in blood as the other one did.

    It is interesting that people who run for :safe spaces” at the first
    ‘Microaggresion” want to have war with the people who own guns and have military experience,

  5. There will be no reconciliation, because there is no compromise position between life and death. The left wants us dead, our culture destroyed. We want to live and maintain that culture. If we wish to survive, we must fight. Just as it was during the Russian Revolution, the choice is now to stand with the Reds or the Whites.

    There will be no reconciliation, only victory and defeat. We must strive to be the victors, who may then show some smidgen of compassion to our vanquished foes, because the left will have none for us. We are playing for keeps.

  6. Deplatforming people doesn’t help either, because it reinforces that some people’s rights are more important than others. Those who have been deplatformed don’t hang their heads in shame; rather, they grow angrier at the obvious double standards.

  7. To hear NPR talk about it this morning, the country is in the midst of open revolt against Donald Trump, with massive street protests breaking out everywhere. It’s lunacy.

  8. The Nazis came to Charlottesville to parade. It’s really a good idea to go stop that crap any way you can. Goodwin has suspended his law for Charlottesville.

    Trump was weak as he is weak.

  9. “The Nazis came to Charlottesville to parade. It’s really a good idea to go stop that crap any way you can.”

    Skokie, IL was a long time ago, and it sounds like many people think that was a mistake. Ban speech you don’t like, because you’ll always be in power, right?

  10. “Skokie, IL was a long time ago, and it sounds like many people think that was a mistake. Ban speech you don’t like, because you’ll always be in power, right?”

    I have no idea what you are talking about. A bunch of self identified Nazis paraded in Charlotteville, one of them killed a woman. There was opposition from the good people there, as there should be, anywhere they appear.

    How that bans speech escapes me.

    You people like Nazis right?

  11. “PenGun Says: I have no idea what you are talking about.”
    Story of your life, dude.

    If you don’t get the Skokie reference, you are completely unqualified to take part in a conversation about Nazi scum marching in the USA. Go read a book and come back when you’re prepared.

  12. What I thought a bit amusing about Skokie was that the ACLU, which seems to champion virtually every odious group, refused to defend the American Nazis.

  13. I think Trump should have quoted Ayn Rand’s “Racism is the most primitive form of collectivism.” The howls from the “liberal” Hive over Trump quoting Rand would have been scintillating.

  14. freddie_mac Says:
    August 15th, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    Don’t bother trying to explain to Pengun. He is Canadian. In Canada, the government can penalize anything that the government dislikes enough to decide to define as hate speech. He’s good with granting the government that power.

  15. I may be wrong, but I think the ACLU backed the far right in Charlottesville in terms of a permit.

    I suspect (as has been true of many of the antifa, etc. this year) that neither the far right nor all the “good people” of Charlottesville were actually from there. (The victim appears to have been but not the driver; on the other hand, she didn’t seem to be carrying a bat nor wearing a mask.) That is what makes these disturbing in a larger sense – they aren’t reactions. They are planned, political, politicized events, having totally lost any relation to history in any way.

    Actually, having broken my compulsion to listen to NPR after 9/11, I may be moving too far – yesterday I found the remarks on Fox disturbing. Steve Hayes has done great work in terms of Benghazi, etc. But his theory that this should be condemned again and then again and then again bothers me. I didn’t like Trump for a long time, but I never thought he was a racist. I have a suspicion that many, like Bret Stephens, see him as representing a populism of that kind and Saturday “certified” their impulses. (I don’t think they, like some, are merely virtue signalers who condemn Trump to make their occasional incorrect thoughts seem minor in comparison to the acts of the great satan in the White House.)

    I figure a populism that wants to take all the domestic power from Washington and whose regulators are busy draining the swamp are (is if it is Trump alone) all that power hungry. It just doesn’t set me off that way – but it sure does those guys.

    The police standdown is disturbing – but that, too, we’ve seen before. And I never know if it is planned or incompetent.

    On the other hand, I think that indicates how large some divisions are in this country. My original point was that this country is made up of the crazies like the one that shot Scalise and the one that shot the church people in Carolina, of people on the right and people on the left and people in between. A president’s – indeed, I would have thought the thinkers and even media (though that is probably a crazy idea) – responsibility is to recognize that unity, criticize that craziness, and encourage all to mute their extreme views as we are encouraged to feel affection, pride, unity with other Americans. I’m a little tired of hearing how bad patriotism is – sure it is if you take it in the tribal sense that the Germans. But that doesn’t mean a belief in the values that do respect and bind us isn’t important. I was struck by Trump’s argument that we should have affection for others but if we couldn’t muster the affection, at least respect them. That seemed to me an old but quite reasonable argument.

  16. The media is no longer biased. They are on the other side. They have made that clear.

    So too our intellectual betters in academia:

    Compare and contrast the values espoused, and how effortlessly they both overlap and contradict each other. All for the great shining Cause.

    With specific regards to the driver in Charlottesville, here is some more information being systematically censored out of existence:

    Antifa, BLM, and the other streetfighting tribes of the left are uniformly being portrayed as heroes merely *reacting* to the rise of White Nationalism… which increasingly is being conflated with anybody who voted for Trump or who looks open askance at racial segregation under the guise of ‘civil rights.’ Everyone who marched in Charlottesville was a die-hard Nazi, and footage of their tiki torches is interposed with footage of civil rights workers being attacked by police dogs in the 1950’s.

    Pardon all the hyperlinks. I used to be a tech pubs/QA/process analyst kind of a guy, and when I put on my QA glasses and look at my society I want to scream.

  17. PenGun – Start with Federalist #10 if you want to understand the conversation.

    Then move on to National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie to understand the judicial history.

    The Illinois courts, knowing that they couldn’t justify refusing the marching ban under US law, simply refused to hear the case. The US Supreme Court forced them to go and do their job, upon which the Illinois Supreme Court reviewed the ban on nazis marching and mostly overturned it. Skokie, at the time, had the highest per capita proportion of its residents being holocaust survivors.

    The US is founded on forcing good behavior towards minorities by making everybody a minority. Get the whole country pointed in one direction and you have trouble. This is not the way most countries operate but it works for us and a good many of us are reasonably sure that if we don’t maintain these arrangements there will be war, and particularly ugly sorts of wars.

  18. I stand corrected on my earlier statement here that the ACLU refused to defend the Nazis at Skokie. They officially did , but many members quit in protest. That i remember.

    In a WSJ article today they apparently helped the Nazis in Charlottesville. too.

  19. This is the reward for letting 50 years of communist advances go unchecked. In hindsight, admitting to communist sympathies should have been treated as sedition and the person hanged without any further ado. Free speech does not include the intent to over-throw the constitution and enslave the nation. It is never legitimate political speech. In hindsight. But now that we are here with communist themed groups in almost total control of all the high ground AND the low ground, we’re in a serious fight and we’re starting out well behind.

    The advantage they have is the support of their agents in government. They are in the loop on any efforts to disrupt them, they know everything going on and they have no fear of legal consequences because their agents will make sure there are none. Smash the corrupt network at the hub of this and the street thugs can be dealt with by local law enforcement. But unless we utterly annihilate the government agents of this movement, nothing we do at the street level can have any effect.

    It effectively needs a new McCarthyism with anyone known to have leftist sympathies tossed out of the government, no matter how high or low their position. Except this time we’ll know McCarthy was right.

  20. You pitiful weasels. I don’t need any background, to quote a great man: “I don’t need no instructions to know how to rock”

    A group of self professed Nazis came to Charlotteville to protest. They came with Nazi insignia to protest the removal of a statue. Fine. They were met by Antifa, a group dedicated to opposing these fascists. Fine. There was conflict which the Nazis lost. Forced back they were regrouping when a Hiltler worshiping piece of Nazi white trash pulled a page from ISIS and crashed his car into the crowd of celebrating Antiifa. He murderded one woman and hurt many others. Hitler is the the guy who did his best to wipe out the Jews, remember.

    There is no nuance here. If you don’t oppose these people you are with them.

  21. Burn the Witch!

    Indeed. There is no compromise possible with Nazis. My father, grandfather and uncle all shed blood the last time we fought them. I am prepared to myself.

  22. What we have is Trump rolling back his scripted criticism and telling his base the fault was equal. We now have him telling them, he has their back.

    Excellent. The left is ready to rock and Trump has thrown down. As even very right wing people, the military and even Fox News are expressing their repugnance, we have a real contest. ;)

    The right will lose. The ground swell Bernie tapped will rise, and your country may enter the 21st century.

    Now I’m an old man and my left is tempered by many years of observation of the lack of perfection in any human endeavor, but if those people come to my town chanting “Blood and Soil” “Jews will not replace me” and “The streets are ours”, I’m gonna go hurt somebody.

  23. PenGun seems on a roll. That garbage truck caper must have been great.

    The white boys who were being led into trouble by a turncoat organizer who was an Obama supporter in 2016 were chanting “You will not replace me.”

    They have serious concerns although they are uneducated kids having gone to public schools.

    They might have heard of the Stanford course on “abolishing whiteness” and were concerned.

    Stanford University is slated to offer a class this fall called “White Identity Politics,” during which students will “survey the field of whiteness studies” and discuss the “possibilities of … abolishing whiteness,” according to the course description.

    Citing pundits who say “the 2016 Presidential election marks the rise of white identity politics in the United States,” the upper-level anthropology seminar will draw “from the field of whiteness studies and from contemporary writings that push whiteness studies in new directions.”

    This sounds like a joke but one of my daughter’s classes at U of Arizona ten years ago had a “whiteness Studies” textbook.

  24. PenGun Says:
    August 17th, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Those of the Left who routinely resort to street violence and violations of the law and [I know that it does not apply to you, and you do not believe in it] our Bill of Rights to enforce their political views, and those who justify both.

    Subotai Bahadur

  25. “I don’t usually see Canadian imperialism.”

    You will have to explain TM. Makes no sense to me.

    Subotai, so ‘Communist’ applies to violent non right wing people. OK if that’s your definition, I understand. There are no real Communists left anyway.

  26. “The white boys who were being led into trouble by a turncoat organizer who was an Obama supporter in 2016 were chanting “You will not replace me.””

    They are Nazis with Nazi insignia chanting Nazi slogans. White boys, ROTFLMFAO.

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