In spite of the wise words of people like John Burns and Isaiah Berlin (see my earlier blog) we go on defending ideologies of the left and right. A recent case in point, Jim DeMint’s Heritage Foundation, not the most dangerous of ideologies, but still an ideology. It doesn’t sound like much if you go to their “about” page on their web site, you will find mostly clichés expressing conservative nostrums for our country’s ills. Not up to the level of Marxism, socialism, or fascism, but still no less destructive of this country’s non-ideologic liberal/conservative democratic principles.
Here is what you’ll find there:
The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.
We believe the principles and ideas of the American Founding are worth conserving and renewing. As policy entrepreneurs, we believe the most effective solutions are consistent with those ideas and principles. Our vision is to build an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish.
I would point out just how difficult it would be to define in any reasonable, objective fashion, expressions such as free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, even a strong national defense (what does “strong” mean).
Also I would point out that limited government and individual freedom are relative terms, by themselves they have no meaning, for government is always limited, as is individual freedom regardless of how much it may be desired.
Heritage should be asking about those spaces in between, where most of us live, while freeing and curbing both individuals and government when necessary. On their About Page Heritage is talking absolutes, and in our lives there aren’t any, or if there are it’s because we’ve fallen for, given over our independence to, a particular ideology, fascism, communism, or even individual freedom.
Jim DeMint seems to like me. He must have never read my Blog, but somehow gained access to my own reading, which is wide enough to include Heritage. Anyway, several times lately he has written me “Dear Philip” emails (see below), calling me a patriot (“patriots like you”) and thanking me for all that I do for the conservative cause.
Now I understand where this is coming from. Up until last year Jim was a U.S. Senator from, as these people say, the great state of South Carolina. (I wonder what he’s saying now about the brouhaha over the removal of the Confederate flag from the state capital.) And then last year he suddenly resigned and accepted the presidency of the Heritage Foundation. Jim was evidently called onboard to head up Heritage’s Reclaim America project for which he’s pushing hard in his emailings, and not just to me.
Probably most people who receive these emails take them at face value. And although they haven’t thought of it themselves, why not, they might say, reclaim what is ours? in this case the country, America. It never occurs to them that while there may not be as many Americas as there are Americans, that is 317 million of them, there are myriad other Americas very different from the one Jim would reclaim, and probably no less worthy of being “reclaimed,” or better saved.
Think about it, just for a minute, of all the different Americans you meet up with every day. Don’t you just know that no two of you will have the same America in mind when and if you get together and talk. For Jim and his ilk words like patriot, conservative, reclaim etc. have just single meanings.
For me and mine these words have multiple meanings. Am I a patriot because I go to war? And not a patriot because I stay home (or in prison) claiming the war is unjust? Am I a patriot because I organize a public debate over the question? Well you must get what I mean.
Poor Jim. He doesn’t get it. Just read what he says in the email to me: “
“Reclaim America is an initiative unlike anything ever attempted by a policy organization. It is ambitious, nothing less than uprooting liberalism root and branch, and restoring the principles that made America great — free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”
To reclaim something means that it was lost. What was lost? He doesn’t say. His reclaim effort seems at best a marketing ploy, not too different from those who would uproot the new CocaCola root and branch, restore the ingredients of the original mixture, and thereby reclaim the old Coke. At least in this instance there was an “old Coke.” Sure there was a Founding Fathers’ America, but unlike the old Coke that was not the only one and by a long shot.
And in any case it wasn’t principles that made America great (except maybe just the one that says that government is there to serve and not to use the people, because in the majority of the world’s countries this is not often the case). Do I have to say it, it was rather the people themselves, most of whom for hundreds of years were allowed to come here freely until suddenly in the second half of the 20th. century the way was barred by, whom, the little people who were already here, probably a lot like those at Heritage, and who felt wrongly they were being threatened by the newcomers. And again do I have to say it, those millions who came here had very different ideas about everything, including Jim DeMint’s “free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”
As for those traditional American values, forget it! For the newcomers there weren’t any. They brought with them their own traditional values and changed America as a result. America now is all the values of all the people who have come here to make and live their lives. And that’s a good thing.
So in fact are there any traditional American values, other than the hundreds of thousands of values of Americans of all stripes who have come here? Their poetry and music, their feasts and celebrations, their 150 or so languages, their family histories, their Friday night football games, their SuperBowls and their March Madnesses, and on and on.
Would Jim leave a good part of all this out of his traditional American values? You notice he doesn’t try to say what traditional American values might even be. Do you know? If you do, please tell me.
Letter from Jim DeMint
The solution to America’s problems won’t come from Washington or from politicians. It will come from outside Washington, from a concerted effort by patriots like you.
To lead this effort, The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action for America have launched Reclaim America. It’s an initiative unlike anything ever attempted by a policy organization.
Reclaim America’s aim is ambitious: nothing less than uprooting liberalism root and branch, and restoring the principles that made America great — free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense….