The Wreck of the Abraham Lincoln

“All in a shipwrack shift their severall way”
— George Herbert

Apprentice to the bigger bully,
Christie licks his master’s hand,
as will the rest, eventually.
Lapdogs are not bred to stand.

Every person in the crowd
should have a voice. But all one tone.
Giuliani shouts so loud
he doesn’t need the microphone.

Melania’s dressed to the nines
for this commedia del arte,
but has to speak in borrowed lines
left over from another party.

Lepers and thieves they might embrace,
but someone who refused to crawl?
A man has got to know his place;
Cruz, you stand outside the wall.

Toeing the line, the acrobatic
Ryan performs with death-defying
balance — still smiling, diplomatic —
trying to sell what he’s not buying.

Trump tells us things are getting scary,
and he’s got reason, having made
a demon of his adversary.
We get the message: be afraid.

The refugee crisis & why America is different—part 2

This piece originally appeared at Musings On the Right. It is published here in modified form.

In my last essay, I wrote about the value of cultural assimilation, as well as the role that culture plays in both negative and positive policy outcomes. Given these facts, it seems that Europe, and soon America, will face a major challenge. As the Near East becomes more unstable, the pressure to accept more refugees will increase. In addition the rate of immigration from Muslim-majority nations will likely grow over time. That leaves us with some difficult questions. How has the assimilation of Muslim migrants fared in Europe? What effects has this had on problems of terrorism and crime? How have Muslim migrants fared by comparison in the New World?

Islam in Europe: A Summary

In the last 25 years, the number of Muslims in Europe has ballooned by nearly 50% from 29 million to 44 million. Today Muslims make up 6% of the population of Europe, though is projected that Muslims will make up 8% in another 15 years. However, Europe’s Muslims make up only 3% of the world Muslim population.

We must note that Islam has existed indigenously in some parts of Europe. While some Muslim presence has been recorded in the Iberian peninsula, parts of Sicily, and Eastern Europe, greater numbers of Muslims live in the Balkans and a few other pockets due to past Ottoman rule. Once the view is restricted to western and central Europe, though, there are only 19 million Muslims, comprising 4.5% of the population.

But because of the relatively recent and massive influx of Muslim immigrants, Europe faces three major concerns. The first is obviously security. The savagery of ISIS has left many wondering if ISIS operatives could simply sneak in among the very people they have driven out as refugees. Secondly, there’s been a serious concern that Near Eastern, Muslim migrants cannot, or simply will not, assimilate to “European culture.” Lastly, there’s wide concern about crime. While increased crime rates can be associated with immigration in general, recently an alarming spike in sexual assaults has had many asking extremely pointed questions.

Terrorism & Security

Before the Paris attacks our chattering classes dismissed the very idea that an increase in Muslim refugees could pose a security threat. However after last November’s attack with over 500 casualties, and ISIS’ explicit threat to take advantage of the refugee crisis, the threat of terrorism cannot be ignored. When Europe’s terrorism trends are broken down, there are relevant facts that we should notice.

In the past, terrorism in Europe has traditionally come from three main sources: the far right, the far left, and violent ethnic separatism.

Religiously-inspired terrorism, however, is a new category. While jihadist violence in Europe is not a totally new phenomenon, most Islamic terrorism before 9-11 was sporadic. The first major jihadist attack on European soil was the 1985 El Decanso bombing, which killed 18 and was likely targeting American servicemen. In 1994 there were two attacks, one on France from Algerian Islamists and the other on London’s Israeli Embassy. In 1997, an Al-Qaeda affiliate attacked Croatia, killing several in a Mostar car bombing.  It seems most of these were attached to specific grievances.

The real escalation began after September 11th. The early 2000s saw a series of dramatic Chechen-jihadist attacks against Russian targets which killed hundreds. But the first jihadist attack on the EU specifically came during the Al-Qaeda-linked 2004 Madrid bombings which killed 191 and wounded nearly 2,000. Since 2004, excluding attacks on Russia, which are connected primarily to the Chechen insurgency in the Caucasus, there have been roughly 38 jihadist attacks on European soil, killing nearly 600 and wounding over 3,000. Some of these appear to be direct attacks coordinated by either Al-Qaeda or ISIS. Others are lone wolf attacks, like the murder of Theo Van Gogh. The interesting change is, with few notable exceptions,  most now seem to be motivated by a general hatred of Europe and the West for ills real and imagined.

These new trends, exemplified by this year’s March 22 attack on Brussels, are especially worrying given the relative proximity of Turkey and Syria. Since 2011, European law enforcement and intelligence professionals have been worried about European Muslims travelling to these warzones, only to return to Europe. In France alone, there’s been a 86% increase in French citizens volunteering for jihad in the Levant. Combined with an availability of arms and munitions from nearby conflicts, they worry most about the growth of attacks without logistical links to known terrorist organizations. Meanwhile, as these terrible last few months have shown, organized groups remain an extremely deadly threat.

Taking stock of this threat remains difficult. Compared to the Northern Irish Troubles one could argue that jihadist terrorism is miniscule, as six times the casualties were produced in a much smaller population in Ireland. It can also be argued that in an open society, terrorism and even the occasional mass casualty attack can never be fully stopped. Yet, unlike the north of Ireland, Europe is not divided by an ethno-nationalist conflict. Nor did Irish terrorism, be it republican or loyalist, seek to cause mass civilian casualties or seek to gain weapons of mass destruction to do so. Lastly, unlike political terrorism, religiously-inspired terrorism correlates to increasing immigration levels of a hitherto relatively uncommon cultural and religious minority.

Assimilation & Radicalization

Behind the issue of terrorism lies the broader issue of assimilation. I concluded earlier that culture can positively or negatively influence outcomes. There is a concern that Muslim immigrants, and their children, represent a cultural challenge that will lead to increased poverty, societal tensions and crime.

Compared to native Europeans, European Muslims are more likely to live in a state of poverty. European Muslims disproportionately live in consistently impoverished communities, with higher levels of unemployment, lower levels of education, and worse material living conditions. While this is also true for other immigrant groups in Europe, Muslims are some of the worst off. For instance, the unemployment rates of South Asian Muslim women in Europe are almost double their relevant counterparts. There are a number of potential causes of Muslim poverty, ranging from outright discrimination to simply less marketable skills.

This poverty means European Muslims often live an essentially separate life from their native European neighbors, leading to a building up of resentment that can reach its crescendo in violence. Complicating matters are the totally different cultural worldviews of Europe and the Islamic world. While Europe has undergone a systematic secularization,  Muslims in the EU remain fairly devout, identifying primarily with Islam over their national identity. This chasm becomes even more troubling given the widespread prevalence of Islamic fundamentalism among Europe’s Muslims and the increasing calls for accommodation of illiberal cultural practices. Ultimately the heart of the issue seems to be different ways of viewing religion. Shadi Hamid explains:

[T]his brings us to the issue at hand: there is a clash of values, one which will make it considerably harder to find a path of compromise between Muslims and the rest of Europe . . . [Europe] allows all groups, including Muslims, to practice their religion as they see fit. This assumes that the practice of religion is fundamentally a personal, private act detached from public, political life. It is here that Islam and Europe’s traditional identity and culture find themselves at odds.

This pervasive attitude creates a cultural separation where social pathologies can go nearly unchecked by the state. It leads to inevitable clashes on issues like the role and place of women in public. I find it curious that proudly feminist friends of mine, courageous critics of patriarchal culture, find themselves at a loss to show how the explosions of sexual violence in places like Cologne, Sweden, and Rotherham were not, on some level, tragically inevitable. Sexual violence is all too common in every society and culture, but closing our eyes to the immense disparity between the West and the Islamic world when it comes to gender issues is downright shameful. While it’s easy to impose our American context on this problem, we are once again faced with the uncomfortable fact that culture can drive social outcomes.

Isolation in itself can breed discontent and social disorders, even when a community is not vastly different from the mainstream. But the main problem in the European Muslim community is how wide the chasm really is between the worldview Hadi describes and modern Europe. While Europe remains culturally liberal, the worldview of the Islamic Near East ranges from conservative, traditionalist, illiberal and all the way to what we could politely call, “utterly outside the realm of publicly acceptable thought.” Polling of the Middle East-North Africa region from Pew Research blows apart the notion that the cultural differences between Europeans and Muslim migrants are simply superficial. For instance, 58% of European Muslims believe that Islamic jurisprudence (sharia) is the “revealed word of God.” So far this might be similar to, say, a traditionalist Roman Catholic dogma about Church tradition. But half (49.5%) believe that there is only one valid interpretation of sharia. And 70% believe that sharia ought to be the criminal and civil law of the state (the consistent outlier is Lebanon, which historically is more liberal due to religious diversity and French influence). By contrast, only 22% of Muslims in the Balkans and Russia believe similarly. Nearly half (47.5%) of European Muslims believe that sharia should apply to all citizens, not just Muslims. Not great, Bob. 80% believe this law should be used exclusively in family and property disputes. Nearly half (48%) believe that petty theft should be punished by some form of physical punishment, ranging from whipping to mutilation, like removing a hand. 63% believe that women ought to be stoned, to have their head repeatedly bashed in, for the crime of adultery. 58% believe that those who leave Islam ought to be murdered. And 65% believe that the laws in their country need to more closely reflect sharia.

Lastly this culture of economic and religious separation, combined with an unhealthy dose of externalized blame, plays a hand in the correlation between crime rates and immigration in Europe. While immigrants to the United States actually commit less crime than the native population, the opposite is true in Europe. While various studies point to a lack of correlation between crime rates and the overall immigration rate, when broken down by country, we still find that immigrants to Europe commit a higher proportion of crimes compared to the population, whether or not they are Muslim. This is especially true in DenmarkFrance, GermanyGreece, and the Netherlands.

These facts may be difficult for many Americans to accept, given our experience of how immigrants are able to successfully assimilate into the American mainstream. It is odd that those liberals who so willingly chide Americans for our lack of understanding and tact are less willing to recognize the facts about European immigration and crime. Perhaps, then, America is not the world and our immigration experience is, in fact, quite different from the norm?

What the Future Holds

While Europe deals with its dual crises of refugees and Muslim assimilation, it behooves us not to descend into feigned hysteria and conspiracy-mongering. (If you have some time to abuse yourself, type “White Genocide” into Twitter and see what comes up).

For starters, warnings of a “demographic takeover” are overstated. While Europe will continue to wrangle with the economic, security and cultural fallout of having a sizable Muslim minority, projections of a future Eurabia will simply not occur. While Muslims are projected to make up 7% of Europe by 2030, Europe’s clear cultural majority is going nowhere. European Chicken Littles forget that once immigrants move to the developed world, their birthrates decline precipitously. Furthermore this prediction forgets that religious populations shift. Among American Muslims religious observance is on a course of attrition. Even the most stolid of cultures have a way of losing their edge by migration. Even more curious, and heartening, is the ongoing trend of European Muslim conversions to Christianity.

Nariman Malkari, a 25-year-old Kurd from Tehran, lives in temporary housing in the garden of the Evangelical-Lutheran Trinity Church in Berlin while he awaits a decision on his asylum application.

He moved here after Norway rejected his first asylum request. In May, the Rev. Gottfried Martens baptized the young computer engineer, who now goes by the biblical name of Silas and wears a silver cross necklace.

“I can never go back to Iran and I don’t want to,” said Mr. Malkari after Sunday Mass last week, which is held partly in German, partly in Farsi. “I live in a tent, but I have found Jesus.”

Elsewhere, there are green shoots as well. For instance recent polls of British Muslims find an extremely high level of patriotism and identification with British culture. The poll is also worthwhile as Britons broke the narrative by having relatively positive attitudes towards British Muslims. Blessedly, the favorability of ISIS remains at historic lows among Muslims from the Near East. Lastly, rates of entrepreneurialism among Muslims in Europe may offer a way forward out of les banlieues.

The New World

In contrast to Europe, the Muslim migration experience in the Americas has been positively peaceful. Her Majesty’s Canada, notably, leads the way:

Vigdor attributes Canada’s success in assimilating immigrants to three main factors: First our relatively easy three-year path to naturalization. Second, our wide tolerance for dual citizenship. But third, and most crucially, our points-based system for selecting immigrants based on workplace skills. That system is being widely studied and adopted by other countries such as Australia (who is putting its system in place this summer) . . .

The United States also does quite a good job, as the Economist points out. American Muslims not only are relatively economically successful, but are less likely to sympathize with jihadism, less likely to place religious identity over national identity, and more likely to value the culture of their adopted home. Metrics like job skills, criminality, civic participation and English acquisition are extremely optimistic.

As in Canada, much of this positivity is driven by the fact that that the United States attracts a more highly educated, more prosperous class of Muslim immigrants than Europe does, as well as smaller numbers and more diversity in countries of origin. America continues to outperform, say, France, even though French migrants are disproportionately well-educated. Maybe there is something something unique about the United States and how “American” as a kind of ethnic designation interacts with “America” as a propositional, immigrant nation. This is something I hope to explore more in a third essay.

In conclusion, leftists, such as our friends over at The Migrant Crisis Podcast, are entirely too flippant. Europe faces immense challenges that are fairly unique in its history. These policy challenges of economic integration, assimilation, law enforcement, and intelligence-gathering are not easy. Furthermore they are exacerbated by the ongoing migrant crisis. Meanwhile lost in the hyperbole of both the far left and right is the question of how to care for overwhelming majority of Near Eastern refugees who remain displaced in the Near East, to say nothing of what an immense population exodus bodes for Syria’s future prospects.

While it’s clear that the European immigration crisis is no Battle of Tours, the movie Brooklyn, it ain’t. Deep cultural and economic differences challenge the universal applicability of the North American immigration model. This leaves open the question of how Canadians and Americans can respond to the Middle East refugee crisis, and I hope you’ll watch this space for more to come.

♦♦♦

For further reading:

Featured image from Eurocom

John Wayne vs. Pest Control

When teaching high school history, I always enjoyed the class conversation when I asked the following question:

“While the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920, the right to vote was already given to women as early as 1869 at the state level in certain parts of the country. Who knows the first state to grant this?”

The students would immediately guess California or somewhere on the East Coast. Of course the first state to grant this was “The Equality State,” as it was later known. But if you close your eyes and imagine Wyoming in the year 1869, empowered women are probably not what come first to your mind. In fact, the whole “Wild West” evokes images of Colt-wielding rugged white guys, and the roles of women or minorities are eclipsed by this typical imagery — except for the maltreated Indians, of course.

We don’t spend much time learning about the women in Wyoming, nor the first congresswomen to be representatives of frontier states. Similarly, not a lot of time is spent learning of people like the Exodusters, the surprisingly high proportion of black and Hispanic cowboys, nor the discriminated-against Irish seeking land ownership on the frontier.

So, why the West? Big Sky country wasn’t exactly a breeding ground for Progressive ideology, and yet it seemed to be a haven for many disenfranchised folks.

There are many explanations of Wyoming’s politics (and many other western states and territories that quickly followed), but one theory always stuck with me. I appreciate its simplicity, and potential for a theory of all human society:

When society is primitive, and people are barely scraping by, institutionalized inequality has no time or place to establish itself. When you are not sure if your town will make it through the winter, you don’t have time to establish racial, sexual, ethnic, or economic hierarchies.

Of course, there has never been such a thing as a completely equal society. In the same way stronger people could catch more food in early hunter-gatherer societies, the West had rich prospectors, poor farmers, wealthy speculators and struggling prostitutes. Some towns were diverse, some very white. Laws shared this diversity. Some towns had terrible gun violence, others had none. Some towns outlawed guns, some towns lived confidently because everyone carried one. The West was as diverse as a “society” could be, but shared one commonality: there was little evidence of institutionalized inequality relative to the rest of the nation.

Inequality is a lack of justice. And in the West, justice was an entirely local phenomenon.

The Cowboy form of justice relied on a few simple principles — a clear and widely understood definition of justice, and an intimate grappling with truth because the responsibility of ensuring justice usually fell on you or your immediate community. Despite what Westerns portray, this did not usually encourage gun-toting, reckless vigilantism. It simply allowed individuals and communities to do what they thought was best.

Meanwhile, the rest of us have opted for justice as what can only be described as a form of federal pest control. Rather than help ourselves or our fellow man, we beg Pest Control to label an entire species as the enemy of our neighborhood (based of course on anecdotal evidence). Finally, we legislate blanket definitions of “types” of people to consider enemies. We can even put those creeps on watch lists. When we see something wrong, being helpless without Pest Control, we call and wait on hold until we can complain to a bureaucrat who will send an underpaid stoner-turned-raccoon-catcher to take care of it for us.

So, what about today? As a white male satisfied with his own gender, who adheres to a Judeo-Christian morality, there is little I can say about justice for those who feel its absence. Yet despite how cushioned from reality I may be, I share a similar fear.

This lack of justice does not make me fear for my life. But, when we see something terrible and cry for outrage and support from an institution who within hours of the events had literally changed the law to avoid prosecuting a precious matriarch in its Royal Family, I fear dreadfully for this nation.

When the frontier closed in the early 1890s, many saw it as the end of democracy. With no well of opportunity for malcontent pioneers, the role of the rugged, independent and responsible individual who had no choice but to be a good part of his or her community has perhaps died. We lost the idea that nature was our common enemy, and when pitted against it, humans and our issues are very, very small.

While there is no frontier anymore, perhaps we can remember the surprisingly diverse cowboys that roamed it. We can look at righteously angry blacks, agitated police officers, overeducated socialists, worried family-value supporters, disgruntled workers hoping someone can make the country “Great Again,” and see shared, common desires to live our lives the way we and our communities think best. Despite what birds-eye view the media feeds us, there are not many excused from these desires because they feel too “privileged.” The desire to take back our lives and identities is real and growing.

Some might reduce the idea of John Wayne to a white man who shot red men. They are probably the same people who think it is ok to fester in factions that name-call, interrupt parades, and hinder free speech in hopes of gaining the favor of Pest Control.

What’s our goal, then? Provoke nationwide anger? Widespread action? Legislation? Insist more humans die for narratives that negate statistics? If you fear institutionalized injustice, the problem may be the belief that we need to compete for favor from an institution in the first place.

I know, I am jumping into a moment of righteous anger from a community I don’t exactly belong to. But this is precisely why I bring it up right now. It is too ironic that factions squabble over who deserves justice on the day that our federal government changed the very definition of it.

If there was ever a chance for a society to unite, it is over this: Each one of us is an individual, capable of recognizing and opposing evil, and capable of doing good and giving thanks for it.

Featured image by Priscilla Westra

Black Lives Matter Because Human Beings are Sacred

FALCON HEIGHTS, MINNESOTA — A nonviolent man’s life is snuffed out in his car by a police officer during a routine traffic stop. The nation was horrified as his death was streamed over the internet by his girlfriend, who was also in the car at the time with her young daughter.

From what anyone knows of the situation at this point, it is reasonable to assume that Philando Castile would still be alive today, were he not a black man. Mr. David French, a columnist I generally respect, misses this point in an article he wrote in the aftermath of the event. Like Mr. Castile, he is a gun owner and licensed to carry a concealed weapon. Like Mr. Castile, he has been pulled over by the police for traffic offenses (although it is not clear exactly why Castile was stopped). Like Mr. Castile, he says that when he is stopped by police, he informs them that he has is carrying a weapon.

Mr. French is certainly punctilious, and well should he be in such a situation. But fortunately for him, “When I’ve followed these steps, law enforcement has been unfailingly polite and professional.” The polite professionalism of law enforcement was unfortunately not on display the day Mr. Castile was killed.

Mr. Castile of course immediately became the latest icon of the Black Lives Matter movement, which believes that systemic prejudice among law enforcement officers results in unequal and often deadly treatment of black men at their hands.

Meanwhile, in DALLAS, TEXAS — Last night, domestic terrorists ambushed and shot a number of police officers, killing 5. Their ostensible motive was revenge for the deaths of Castile and others.

But if that were true, why did they attack police officers in Dallas, who obviously could have had nothing to do with Mr. Castile’s death, the killing in Baton Rouge of Armando Sterling, or any other recent “officer-involved shootings” of black men?

It’s not revenge. It’s totemistic violence. For the terrorists, people — whether they be black victims, or police officers — are not significant in themselves, but only as symbols of what they represent in some ideological construct.

But in order to bring an end to the cycle of violence, we must renounce all ideologies that reduce the human being to a mere totem whose destruction carries political significance. What is significant about human beings is that each one is a bearer of the divine image, and killing them is a mortal sin.

Until we recognize this and repent of all forms of ideology and prejudice that reduce human beings to objects and abstract symbols of power, the cycle of hatred and murder will continue.

Oh Boy, Another Baby Boomer Election

Last night the Baby Boomers once again cemented their death-grip on American politics as Ted Cruz, the last Generation X candidate running for president, suspended his campaign. While I didn’t particularly care for Mr. Cruz, it was nice to have someone running who wasn’t born in the 1940s. The youngest candidate still in the race is now John Kasich, who was born in 1952. Donald Trump was born in 1946, Hillary Clinton was born in 1947, and Bernie Sanders was born in 1941, just before our nation entered the Second World War.

DONALD TRUMP, the presumptive Republican nominee, is the Yuppie candidate, all about money, power, and the unfettered pursuit of personal gratification. He used to be a Democrat because that was the way to get what he wanted in New York. Now he’s a Republican because these days the Progressive Left is far more intolerant and puritanical than the Religious Right. Trump isn’t a bigot–he communicates a kind of live-and-let live demeanor and doesn’t have a problem with teh gays or other bogeypersons of the Right. He’s happy to acommodate “the blacks,” “the Mexicans,” etc. But Trump’s arrogant, self-absorbed way of talking about things is of course highly offensive to all of these interest groups. You can bet that in private he’s said things about minorities that would make Donald Sterling blush.

HILLARY CLINTON, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is the heiress of the Democratic political machine. She is swift to make gestures of support for every interest group she thinks will get her votes, although she has no real beliefs, only a burning desire for political power. Her endless train of scandals just shows what a clever politician she is. She desperately wants everyone to love her, and is willing to do anything and everything to make that happen. No wonder her daughter and granddaughter don’t want her around.

BERNIE SANDERS is the unreconstructed Hippie candidate; a real blast from the past. Unlike Clinton, he is sincere in his naive socialism, and this appeals to many Millennials who lean toward the Left and haven’t had enough of a reality check yet. It also appeals to other unreconstructed Hippies of Sanders’ own generation, which is why some of my own siblings and my parents’ older siblings are Sanders fans. Basically, anyone whose ears might perk up at the phrase “organic pot.” Sanders has achieved the distinction of maintaining a bubble of unreality around him his entire life.

JOHN KASICH is basically my dad. Younger than the other Boomer candidates, he was still in middle school when “the Sixties” happened. He’s followed his own path and is a decent, nerdy, practical person, moderate in both his personal life and his politics. He is the only remaining candidate who would be a good president. There is little chance of this happening, though.

So the Baby Boomers have 4 more years to finish the program of national and cultural demolition they started in the ’60s. If there’s any America left by then, maybe we’ll get a cool, pragmatic Gen-X president like Paul Ryan to take on the difficult job of building the country back up.

In the meantime, come November, I’m going to write in Scott Walker for president.

Featured image by Flickr user DonkeyHotey

Black Bodies in Space

In a recent Washington Post column (in the Lifestyles section, to be sure, but a column nonetheless), Lonnae O’Neal complains that Star Wars: The Force Awakens does not give John Boyega a sufficiently heroic role to atone for Hollywood’s past misapprehensions about “the direction this country is really going in.” She quotes a Washington writer, Tim Gordon, who observes that “every time [Finn] picks up a lightsaber, he’s getting beat down and the lightsaber is getting taken from him.” That Boyega’s character is not an annoyingly flawless, Superman-like character seems to O’Neal and Gordon sufficient evidence that the creators of Star Wars are still mired in the racist past, although they admit that the film’s casting represents about as much progress as might be expected given the persistence of reactionary elements in the highest echelons of American filmmaking.

It’s not my intention to defend Star Wars to the hilt, or to offer a blanket condemnation of O’Neal’s style of socially conscious film criticism; movies certainly exercise an outsized influence on the American imagination and understanding their subliminal messages is a worthy project. But in fact O’Neal and Gordon’s criticism is a fascinating testament to the hollowness of the atheist approach to anti-racism that’s evidently been gaining ground of late in contemporary civil rights activism. Continue reading Black Bodies in Space

The refugee crisis & why America is different—part 1

This piece originally appeared at Musings On the Right. It is published here in modified form.

As someone interested in immigration from a conservative, American perspective, the recent migration crisis in Europe is fascinating to me. For starters, the genuine human tragedy is palpable. Even the most stringent of nativists must be moved by the images of humanity dying en masse in the Mediterranean Sea.

Furthermore even the most cheerful pro-immigration advocates can’t help but furrow their brows at the potential difficulties with assimilating and integrating migrants from North Africa and the Near East—especially Muslim migrants—in Europe.

These difficulties and America’s recent refugee crisis with Central American children has left me wondering about how the American situation compares to Europe. I want to analyze a few major questions: How does America differ from Europe? What are the pros and cons of Muslim immigration to Europe? Is there a legitimate comparison to be made between the European and American refugee situations? Continue reading The refugee crisis & why America is different—part 1

Why We Need Organized Religion: Starbucks Edition

Because in the wild west of American religion, this stuff happens.

A self-styled “evangelist” vlogger in Nevada was able to gin up yet another silly media frenzy with a video criticizing Starbucks for their red holiday-themed cup. This time it’s not old Pat Robertson on TBN, folks. It’s an idiot with an iPhone.

Now, the media is gleefully reporting this as if there is a massive Christian outrage campaign against Starbucks.

Since zero respectable Christians actually give a crap about Starbucks’ red cups, this to me suggests one more reason we need strong denominations and church authority structures—so idiots like this can be plausibly disclaimed and shut up. Christianity doesn’t have an image problem, it has an authority problem.

Also, Starbucks coffee is burnt and nasty. But that’s not what we’re talking about here, is it.

:sips Folgers:

Featured image CC BY-ND 2.0

Marxism’s exhausted legacy:
A conservative reads Norman Birnbaum

If there is really a such thing as “Cultural Marxism,” it is no doubt represented in the person of American socialist sociologist Norman Birnbaum, who has taught for a long time at Georgetown University. I happened to pick up his book The Radical Renewal: The Politics of Ideas in Modern America because it was either free or quite cheap. Also, it had a back-cover blurb by Robert Bellah, author of Habits of the Heart, which I enjoyed in my undergraduate political theory studies.

Recently I’ve been exchanging pleasantries on Twitter with a professed Marxist who is distressed by the lack of political solutions advanced by Marxists. I thought I would read this book on his behalf, since, if any discipline is likely to to advance political recommendations worth heeding, it is certainly sociology and not economics.

So I’ll be reading and blogging about this book with no particular program other than to explore and engage with Birnbaum’s ideas. Continue reading Marxism’s exhausted legacy:
A conservative reads Norman Birnbaum

Buzzfeed Bans ‘Basic;’
or, Slouching Toward Cultural Marxism

A writer for the alchemic Buzzfeed (a philosopher’s stone which turns all it touches into virulent internet content) explains “why we actually hate all things pumpkin spice.” Turns out, we don’t hate syrupy venti Starbucks lattes, glottal fry, or Ugg boots for their own sake, but for what they represent, which is a certain class identity characterized by

a banal existence, obsessed with Instagramming photos of things that themselves betray their basicness (other basic friends, pumpkin patches, falling leaves), tagging them #blessed and #thankful, and then reposting them to the basic breeding grounds of Facebook and Pinterest.

In other words, the conspicuous consumption of products which show the consumer to have uncultivated taste and lack of individuality. The writer suggests that our position of judging said consumer to be “basic” is rooted in class insecurity—the need to separate one’s own more discriminating tastes from those of the petit bourgeois mob.

One must give the writer some credit for seemingly having discovered the existence of class consciousness without the benefit of a liberal-arts education. However, her attempt at diagnosing “our” snobbery falls short. Continue reading Buzzfeed Bans ‘Basic;’
or, Slouching Toward Cultural Marxism