You’ve reached my home on the Web, a place I use to write about things I find interesting, and to celebrate and champion the characteristically American Idea and way of life that are near and dear to my heart. I’ve created this site as a place for both celebration and principled advocacy — in favor of free societies in general and the characteristically American approach to life, Liberty, and governance in particular. Helping to spread appreciation of all we take for granted and to counteract the counterculture of misguided anti-Americanism and cynical social criticism is my happy goal.
One way I describe myself is as a long-ago Democrat who has come to identify as a “classical liberal” or hawkish “small L” libertarian. I’ll accept “Conservative” too, for the good company I’ve found it puts me in, but it’s always struck me as an odd word to use to describe advocacy for a policy of maximum individual freedom and the highly adaptive, dynamic, anything-but-“conservative” culture that it yields. In a post-9/11 world, I am certainly allied with “Conservatives” in the pivotal yet poorly understood fight against Jihad, and in the effort to preserve and defend our constitutional republic and foster the development of free and voluntary societies abroad — which I believe is our only hope of securing lasting peace at home in today’s pervasively interconnected world. I’m a “Conservative” because I am a liberal. I’m a dynamist. I’m a modernist, rationalist, individualist. My tribe is Grey.
I started writing this blog in 2005, to explore the reasons for my change in identification, as an outlet for my love of and enthusiasm for the country and culture in which I live, and as an adaptation to life in predominantly progressive-left surroundings that at times have seemed quite hostile to my perspective.
What, Me Worry?
In one sense, I feel I have every confidence in the heart of our culture, foundational model of governance, and way of life. I believe in the goodness of the American spirit, and in the generosity of people who are made truly free to conduct themselves as they individually see fit — not just personally, but economically too. (Many see a meaningful distinction between “personal” and economic freedom where I believe the two are mutually dependent and inseparable.) I believe in our tough-minded but fair spirit of personal responsibility, and expecting as much of ourselves as we do of others. I believe, against all current fashion it seems, that we are still humanity’s last, best hope.
And yet … I worry …
I worry for a culture that seems only just barely willing to stand up for itself when overtly attacked. For a culture that still harbors such deeply, infectiously ingrained self-recrimination in a post-9/11 world as to be seemingly uncertain whether it is as bad as, or perhaps even worse than, its foes. For one that is too cowed by fear of multicultural offense to frankly examine and discuss, and squarely face, a fanatical and unyielding 7th century ideology that is vocally, overtly, and demonstrably committed to its complete and unconditional destruction or subordination. For one that seems unwilling to see that this repressive and genuinely totalitarian ideology espouses the antithesis of every principle of human liberty that the USA once passionately championed and still claims to champion, including freedom of speech and equality of rights and respect for women, homosexuals, and religious, cultural, ethnic, and political minorities.
I worry about the corrosive effects of well-intentioned “multiculturalism” and “political correctness” taken to absurd and self-destructive extremes, of an academy and creative/arts culture (Hollywood: I’m looking at you, my old friend) that seem to have largely divorced themselves from advocacy for America’s virtues and foundational values. I am, and have been since well before 9/11, deeply dismayed by a culture of cynical social criticism that seems quite determined to wear down our once defiant, bold, courageous, pioneering, enterprising Frontier spirit, and by our seeming indifference to the consequences. I worry that submission and conformity to the end purpose of being superficially “liked” or approved of by others is taking the place of making principled stands, both for us as a country and as individual Americans. I will not cede our cultural confidence or the mood in which we perceive and talk about ourselves to legions of professional axe grinders and grievance mongers. I will not have us shrink from the animating contest of Liberty and become what I see us becoming. It is too cowardly an end for a nation built by the boldest, bravest, and best of us.
I worry about the economic “Europeanization” of America that seems now to be proceeding with all deliberate haste, and about the health and sanity of a culture that actively wishes and works for such a thing to happen. I see this course as our undoing if we continue on it — an outcome which, I shake my head to realize, would make some people very happy for all the wrong reasons. I respect the right of each individual to pursue the way of life and relationship with his government of choice that best suit his demeanor, but I do not regard the European socioeconomic model as an object of admiration or aspiration for the United States, and feel it is imperative that we prevent Euro-social-democratic central economic planning and a high-tax culture of dependency and regulation from putting down roots here. Let there remain at least one place in the world that unflaggingly prizes and guards the guarantee of individual liberty over promises of safety and entitlement. One place where a can-do attitude, a cheerfully self-reliant demeanor, and a culture of voluntary generosity prevail over the ugly and cynical politics of envy and resentment, and the willing and helpless submission to perpetual dependency and mediocrity that they engender. Let there remain just one place for those who share my deep love of sweet Freedom to live. That is all I ask.
For my own life, I choose the path of maximal individual freedom, and gladly accept the commensurate risk that such a way of life entails. As Thomas Jefferson famously declared, “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a measure of it.” That times a thousand for me, please.
War is not a thing to be taken lightly, but sometimes we cannot shrink from it. I have been a supporter of the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and candidates’ respective commitment or opposition to persisting through to victory in these campaigns has been a defining electoral issue for me. While there are reasonable discussions to be had regarding conditions for victory and the winnability of the Afghan war, and legitimate concerns about the wisdom of our early, pre-surge tactics in Iraq that we would do well to honestly examine in the effort to do better, I saw precious little of this genuine self-examination amid the defeatist, America-vilifying partisan rancor that, in my experience, characterized the Bush years. While war incurs a terrible toll, and should always be regarded with due seriousness as a costly-in-human-terms last resort, I do not regard either of these as a war that could reasonably have been avoided — that is to say, I believe all courses of action that sought to avoid war were exceedingly likely to have carried even worse consequences than going to war. Safe in the bubble of modern civility that we rightly prize, we too easily forget that there are wolves in the world who sense and act on fear — who are emboldened, not pacified, by signs of weakness. I truly wish that wasn’t the way things work. But wishing doesn’t make a thing so. In the end, I think John Stuart Mill was right: war is an ugly thing, but it is not the ugliest of things.
I feel deeply, humbly grateful and indebted beyond capacity for adequate repayment to the men and women of the United States armed forces, and equally so to our truest friends in this world, the soldiers of our stalwart allied nations, who daily risk everything they have in this brief life for the liberty and safety of others, setting aside even their own. Let there be no doubt: I want them to have the full support that their risk and sacrifice merits, and I want them to be given every chance to succeed that they ask of us — precious little to expect, I think, in return. They have my sincerest admiration, and with remarkably few exceptions that serve to prove the rule, I am deeply, deeply proud of their demonstrated ethics, courage, fairness, generosity, resourcefulness, and professional conduct as our emissaries in hostile lands. The precious, fragile free society that we so often take for granted is the very thing they are risking all to preserve and defend, and they should have our heartfelt gratitude.
In hand with this: I reject the popular notion that I’m supposed to have felt somehow ashamed of the United States during the past decade. I never stopped being proud of who we are and the way we live, and feel all the more so the more closely we adhere to our founding ideals and are willing to fight for them even when the going isn’t easy. I believe America deserves far better than the derision and vilification she receives from foes foreign and domestic. It is incredible to me that some look and see seemingly nothing but flaws and negatives. I can’t believe my luck at having been born into a culture that respects, promotes, protects, and celebrates my right to live my life as I individually see fit, while encouraging others around the world in their fight to secure the same kind of freedom. This American idea and way of life are profoundly in tune with my goals and ambitions and the ways I find satisfaction in striving to become the best that I can be. I feel a profound debt of gratitude to those who have sacrificed so much to build, preserve, and defend this magnificent country that we so often take for granted, and I wish to do my part to help keep it alive, to help it to thrive and extend the blessings of sweet Liberty to those who seek it. I was lucky enough to be born in the U.S.A., but let there be no doubt: I choose this way of life.
If you have any further desire to understand where I’m coming from, start by reading Bill Whittle’s superb “Silent America” Essays — many of which are still online, all of which have been published in book form (sad to say, no Kindle edition yet) — and see if you don’t hear music in them too. We could use more citizens like Bill.
Other Places to Find Me
I produce the “No Fear Pioneer” podcast, post daily on Twitter, and join Ustream chat during Stratosphere Lounge episodes whenever I can. You can also find me at about.me and on Ricochet. Hope to see you around!
My Former Self: What’s a Kulak?
From the launch of this blog in June 2005 until October 2011, I went by the pseudonym “an unrepentant kulak”. Out of a desire to participate openly as myself, and in reflecting on the far, far greater risks others have taken to secure my freedom and the good life I get to live, I have since switched to publishing under my real name.
“Kulak” is an obscure or unknown term to many, and perhaps seems an odd choice. I chose it out of dismay at the whitewashing or amnesia that seems to have occurred in the West regarding collectivism’s grim legacy. More than twenty years after most of the free world celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall and witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union, tenured professors in American universities are indoctrinating students into the view that Marxism and its derivative ideologies are superior to and more virtuous than Capitalism. They are free to say what they want, but given history’s record, is this a reasonable perspective to have?
The original “Kulaks” were landowning peasant farmers in the former Soviet Union. The first “class enemies” to be identified and targeted for systematic elimination under the Bolshevik rule, the Kulaks (some 1.8 million of them) were deported to far reaches of the Soviet empire, and their land confiscated by the state. The assignment of other peasants who often lacked knowledge of farming to manage their land contributed to the massive Great Famine that followed. Kulaks also comprised a majority among those executed or otherwise killed during the Great Purge.
Over time, the term “Kulak” came to be applied much more loosely, to indicate most anyone who resisted the plan of Soviet collectivization and was thus considered a “class enemy” who needed to be eliminated. The adjective “stubborn” or “unrepentant” often preceded it. I adopted the term, hoping to cast some light on a troubling phenomenon — a forgetting that I fear will someday allow the same horror to recur. (It never completely ended, in fact. An estimated 150,000-200,000 political prisoners inhabit North Korea’s Stalinist labor camps. See Kang Chol-Hwan’s memoir The Aquariums of Pyongyang for a firsthand account of a bleak childhood barely survived in that hidden world.) Tragically, “some lies … lodge so deep in the hopes of man that they can never be killed no matter how many are executed to make the lie true.”