Happy Independence Day

Happy birthday to the greatest nation in human history!  Amidst all the hot dogs and fireworks, please take a moment today to reread the document at the heart of our celebration – our Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Movie Review: “An American Carol”

Lots of conservatives (me included) got excited back when David Zucker’s An American Carol was announced.  As a fierce, openly conservative film from mainstream Hollywood talent, it sparked hopes that it could bring conservative messages to segments of the population the Right doesn’t normally reach and bring about a larger conservative presence in American pop culture.  Unfortunately, it didn’t do all that well commercially.  I’ve seen it a couple times now, and have some thoughts on what worked, and what went wrong.

To recap for those unfamiliar, An American Carol tells the tale of a sleazy, America-hating director who has been recruited by two bumbling al-Qaeda terrorists to produce a recruitment video, but the spirits of past American heroes (plus, uh, Trace Adkins) intervene to teach him some much-needed lessons about the price of liberty.  Will Michael “Malone” come to his senses in time to foil the jihadists’ latest plot?

An American Carol does a few things right.  For one, the casting is absolutely superb.  Kevin Farley looks just like Michael Moore, and perfectly captures the boorish, self-serving creep (albeit far more likeable than the real thing).  Chriss Anglin makes a great John F. Kennedy, both looking like the president and capturing his distinctive voice without descending into parody.  Kelsey Grammar’s portrayal of General George S. Patton is confident and cantankerous, and while it won’t dethrone George C. Scott’s legendary performance anytime soon, it doesn’t need to—this is a comedy, not a biopic.  Jon Voight delivers an outstanding, albeit criminally brief, performance of President George Washington that’s so somber and dignified that I’d love to see Voight star in a Washington biopic.  Robert Davi is strong as the jihadists’ ruthless leader, and his two bumbling underlings provide lots of laughs (“All the really good suicide bombers are gone!”)  The supporting cast does fine, Bill O’Reilly has a couple amusing appearances as himself, and there’s Leslie Nielsen.  If you don’t love Leslie Nielsen, there’s something wrong with you.  The likeable cast keeps the movie going even through some of the weaker jokes.

There are plenty of laughs to be had—this is from the guy behind Airplane! and the Naked Gun movies, after all.  Most of the best material revolves around the two Taliban twits, and my favorite part of the movie was a simply brilliant sequence involving zombies (I’ll say no more so as not to spoil it).  Funny one-liners abound, and, of course, it’s just not a Zucker movie until bad things happen to children with severe medical problems.  On the other hand, the idea of a musical number featuring a pack of hippies-turned-academics certainly has potential, but its execution soon becomes almost painful.

Unfortunately, the film’s effectiveness at conveying a message falls flat.  Often the caricatures of left-wing fallacies such as appeasement, academic indoctrination, and anti-Americanism are so clichéd, unsympathetic and over-the-top that they come across as wooden, transparent, and sometimes even juvenile.  The dialogue put in liberal mouths is often little more than left-wing bumper-sticker lines strung together, with the worst offenders being an early conversation about war between Malone and his military nephew, and a talk show where Rosie “O’Connell” pushes her crackpot theory that “radical Christianity is just as dangerous as radical Islam.”

These caricatures lack the subtlety and natural flair that superior political satirists like Paul Shanklin, the Onion, and (even to some degree) the writers on the Daily Show and Colbert Report have mastered (I think this was the same problem that plagued Fox News’ short-lived Half-Hour News Hour).  It’s easy to knock down a straw man, but it’s not effective—I didn’t find Malone’s conversion to patriotism convincing because I didn’t find the film’s arguments persuasive, and I doubt anyone who doesn’t already know the underlying principles and arguments would be persuaded either.  And aside from entertaining, wasn’t that the point—to get the other side of the story into mainstream entertainment?  Keeping that in mind, conservatives shouldn’t be discouraged by An American Carol’s lack of success.  It still remains to be seen how a truly excellent, openly conservative film would fare at the box office, one that better balances silliness and substance.

An American Carol isn’t a bad movie—strong performances and classic Zucker wit make it an enjoyable 83 minutes, and conservatives will get a kick out of how mercilessly it skewers all manner of left-wing idiocy.  But sadly, it fails to be significantly more than just that—a right-wing guilty pleasure.

Ground Zero: Taking Back the Schools, UPDATE: Latham Wins!

UPDATE: Chalk one up for the good guys—Mr. Latham has his job back!

Newsbusters and Fox News have the scoop (video from this morning’s Fox & Friends interview here) on Tim Latham, a high school social studies teacher who contends he’s been let go from his job merely for being a conservative.  Latham’s crimes:

– Not showing Barack Obama’s inauguration in class—never mind that he never has, and says he never would, shown video of any presidential inauguration.  Good to know that kneeling before Zod is now part of the job description.

– Having an overly-patriotic website, which states his goal to get students “to love your country, live the experiences of those who came before — to truly love the American way of life,” links to hotbeds of right-wing extremism like…uh, West Point and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and stories about terrorist attacks (which he was forced to remove).  Weird…it’s as if he thinks he’s teaching American kids or something…

– Putting a McCain-Palin bumper sticker on his car.  Doesn’t he realize that Sarah Palin is Potemkin symbolism?

His students love him and have gone to bat for him, and even the liberal kids insist he never forced his views on them.  School officials have reportedly admitted that they violated union procedures for firing teachers, and his colleagues have berated him for supporting “that woman” (hmm, that phrase sounds familiar…).  There’s nothing wrong with trying to instill honest patriotism in students—in fact, that’s precisely what a social studies teacher should do.

As far as I can tell, this is straight-up ideological persecution.  Public schools around the country are firmly in the grip of the Left—left-wing indoctrination and persecution are commonplace, and often take forms far more sinister than “to love your country.”

Make no mistake, this stuff goes on at our very own Fond du Lac High School, too.  Four of my five social studies teachers were very good and very fair, but one was a rabid antiwar, anti-Scott McCallum propagandists.  My AP English teacher had a reputation as a bitter left-wing fanatic, whose rants about Vietnam, George Bush, religion, and more would leave our class days behind schedule.  I know of a science teacher who told his students not to trust Fox News, and of another English teacher who railed against Bush (the same teacher who complained to school administration that I once uttered the phrase “God Bless America” on the intercom—which the principal later lied about).

And even when teachers aren’t pushing an agenda, textbooks often offer a flawed, biased view of American history and politics.  Some examples:

American Civics, Constitution Edition (1987) accepts the fatuous concept of the living Constitution as a given, characterizes the “Necessary & Proper” clause in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution as “allow[ing] Congress to take many actions not named in the Constitution,” never mentioning the substantial dispute over its nature early in our history, warns that “Many of [the problems in America’s schools] are caused by lack of money,” and makes no mention of the Federalist Papers.

America’s History, Fourth Edition (2000, Bedford/St. Martin’s) presents then-First Lady Hillary Clinton’s healthcare plan as a mild, market-based solution to healthcare reform (no), wildly mischaracterizes Sen. Joe McCarthy as a lying demagogue (no), dismisses Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative as unrealistic (no), and outrageously asserts that Anita Hill’s accusations against Clarence Thomas were ignored only because there weren’t enough women in the Senate (no).

The American Pageant, Twelfth Edition (2001), the history book used in Fond du Lac High School’s AP US History courses during the 05/06 school year, also engages in vicious McCarthy revisionism, going so far as to impugn McCarthy’s military record as “trumped up,” characterizes one of Osama bin Laden’s grievances as America’s “support for Israel’s hostility to Palestinian nationalism,” adds a note into the text of the Second Amendment (“the right of the people to keep and bear arms [i.e., for military purposes] shall not be infringed”), and downplays the religiosity of the Framers, leaving their beliefs on religion’s societal importance unmentioned.

In Vindicating Lincoln, Hillsdale College Political Science Professor Thomas Krannawitter writes:

I recently led a civic education workshop for middle and high school teachers during which I presented the different views of the Framers of the Constitution offered by Abraham Lincoln [who said the Framers believed slavery to be evil and wanted to end it] and Chief Justice Roger Taney [who said they never meant for the Declaration of Independence to include blacks, whom they saw as little more than property…] After analyzing numerous original source documents from Lincoln, Taney, and the Founders, one of the teachers raised his hand in exasperation, explaining that for twenty-five years he had been teaching American government, and all along he had unknowingly been teaching Taney’s view of the Founding, not Lincoln’s.  He went on to explain that he had not taught Lincoln’s view because he had never encountered it, that all the American history and government textbooks simply parroted Taney’s groundless description of the Founders, and that he felt cheated by his own (mis)education.

There is some evidence that leftist thinking is even embedded into the training of modern teachers—the 1993 edition of School & Society, a textbook for teacher education, paints a grim picture of a country in which the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer (one can just imagine what other goodies lie inside).

The Left’s stranglehold on education is going almost completely unchallenged, which is one of the Right’s greatest failings, and nothing less than a dereliction of duty by federal, state, and local Republican parties.  No attempt to truly advance conservative ideas or repair the damage the Left has done to this country will be complete without a full-blown offensive to restore integrity, accuracy, and fair-mindedness to the schools.  Millions of children are being taught to accept at face value false premises about our form of government, historical falsehoods presented as fact, a laundry list of supposed sins tarnishing the image of their country, and other core tenets of liberalism.  As documented by David Limbaugh and Jay Sekulow & Keith Fournier, bigotry towards students’ mild, benign religious expression is commonplace.

Morally, this situation is intolerable, and demands a vigorous opposition.  But conservatives also need to realize that any effort to make the conservative case in the media or during campaigns will be at a major disadvantage as long as major portions of its audience are receiving that message through the prism of their miseducation.  Converts to the Right will be won from time to time, but many more will unwittingly adopt and internalize tenets of the Left through their taxpayer-funded miseducation.

Conservatives need to watch their school districts with a fine toothed comb.  Pay attention to what your kids encounter.  Follow the school board meetings, whether in person or on local public access television.  Go to your schools’ libraries, and see what books are and aren’t there, and in what proportion (find out if your district keeps their libraries’ catalogs computerized).  Examine the textbooks used in class every chance you get (such as when new ones are up for adoption—the FdL School District has announced that community members can review a group of new books, including 5 social studies texts, until June 22).  Whenever cause for concern arises, pursue it, offer your support to those involved, demand answers from the officials, and raise awareness however you can—newspaper letters, emails, townhall meetings, you name it.  Pay attention to what kids are saying on RateMyTeachers.com, and don’t be afraid to contribute.

In a future post, I will create a list of key falsehoods and omissions in class curriculums, and other school practices, that parents, students, and other concerned citizens should watch out for.

Granted, taking a stand against liberal indoctrination is a guaranteed way to incur the wrath of the establishment, demonized as obsessed, petty, hateful, on a vendetta to destroy education itself, with no consideration “for the children.”  It takes courage and fortitude to withstand one of the Left’s trademark intimidation campaigns.  It’s a lot to ask of any individual, which is why organizations like local GOPs ought to take the lead.  We need parties brave enough to risk the invective and take up this fight and citizens who will urge their parties to take action.  If local Republican establishments cannot be spurred to action, we need concerned citizens willing to make this stand on their own.  Making enemies is never easy, but those who want to heal this country, advance conservatism, or restore the power and credibility of the Republican Party have no choice.

America’s Christian Heritage

My latest letter to the Fond du Lac Reporter:

George Ciesla’s April 19 letter illustrates a growing problem in America: severe confusion over our nation’s identity.  Is America a “Christian nation”?  What does that phrase even mean?  Let’s try to set the record straight.

As of 2008, 76% of Americans identify themselves as Christians [PDF link].  Accordingly, Christianity has shaped American life since the beginning.  So “Christian nation” is a perfectly legitimate descriptive term.

Furthermore, we are founded in significant part upon the Christian idea that every person is created equal, loved equally by the God who made us all.  In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson said government’s purpose is to secure the inalienable rights “endowed [on us] by our Creator.”  In his Farewell Address, George Washington called religion an “indispensable support” to political prosperity, warning us not “to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”  Ben Franklin proposed opening the Philadelphia Convention each day with prayer, because he believed that “God governs in the affairs of men,” and he feared the prospect of forming a government solely “by Human Wisdom, and leav[ing] it to chance, war, and conquest.”

In his landmark work Democracy in America, French thinker Alexis de Tocqueville explained that democracy tends to cause each person “to be occupied with himself alone,” but religion combats self-centered narcissism by drawing man “away from contemplation of himself” and imposing “some duties toward the human species or in common with it.”  Modern research demonstrates Tocqueville’s point—in Who Really Cares, Syracuse University Professor Arthur Brooks finds that “religious people are far more charitable than nonreligious people.”

Were all the Framers Christians?  No, but many were, and even those who didn’t accept Christ (namely Franklin and Jefferson) believed in a higher power and recognized religion’s importance to any free society.  Nobody familiar with their writings can deny this—many, many more examples can be found in books such as America’s God & Country Encyclopedia of Quotations by William Federer and God of Our Fathers by Josiah Richards.

To deny America’s Christian heritage, revisionists often cite the Treaty of Tripoli, which states America is “not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”  What they don’t tell you: the treaty was an (unsuccessful) effort to appease the Muslim pirates of the Barbary Coast (to whom President John Adams also agreed to pay protection money) attacking American ships at the time—hardly comparable to the scores of public statements and private correspondences that reveal the mark of faith in our forefathers’ thinking, not the least of which is our very Declaration of Independence!

True, the Constitution does not mention God.  True, we have a separation of church and state.  But both statements are irrelevant.  Mr. Ciesla mishears the phrase “Christian nation” as “Christian theocracy” or “Christian government,” but it means neither.  It’s a statement about our ideals, history and culture—not our government.  Maybe the problem is liberalism’s view of government: they idealize it as the solution to everyone’s problems, so they cannot imagine that any part of the nation can be considered separately from the state.

The Founders guaranteed freedom of religion and conscience for all Americans, and rightly so.  They wanted to prevent the state from persecuting churches and churches from oppressing the people, but despite what today’s secular revisionists may tell you, they never intended to keep religion stuffed inside pews and living rooms, never to be seen in the public square.  They never meant to purge religious thought and speech from political debate.  There’s nothing “prejudiced” about telling the truth about our heritage…but there is something “un-American” about suppressing it.