Clint Eastwood & social class

I’ve been writing over at Ricochet about how social class has emerged in the work of the most successful contriver of popular spectacles, Marvel / Disney, who is never suspected of peddling anything but mindless fun. I am not really surprised at this development: Heroes in America tend to emerge in stories about protection–about caring for those in need who are otherwise neglected–& this then lends itself to teach conservatives the future of conservatism. The middle class has no winning arguments, it would seem, but the obvious winning argument is protection.

Let me turn to my new Ricochet post–something I have been considering lately about Mr. Clint Eastwood’s movies. I want to tell you a bit about what to look for in his movies, in case you are & or think you might like to watch them. They are mostly movies for men, but they are not fun. I will add links to my brief notes on these movies to keep this post brief. Then I will show you what I mean about social class in America in his movies.

Mr. Eastwood has spent these two latter decades showing the effects of killing on those who kill. He is concerned with the promise of redemption & this has led him to the theme I keep mentioning: Protection. I first noticed this watching Unforgiven, which was an extraordinary success in 1992, with Americans & critics both. The protagonist once believed the gentleness of a sainted woman could save him; now he thinks redemption is something else–returning to a life in hell for the sake of someone else, someone in need of protection.

I think you can see this in a clear way in American sniper: Chris Kyle is sure he can do his job because he is protecting people. It is strange to think of soldiers as being in need of protection; stranger still to consider, who can deliver them? The Iraqis mean nothing to Kyle except as threats or people who work for the men he is trying to protect, who also deserve protection. Kyle is not interested in meeting new people–his mind is on the people he knows. Unless you think humanity is threatened, & might be swallowed up in chaos, you probably cannot do a job that requires so much killing. Once you do it, however, you cannot stop, it would seem. Sacrifice is inevitable & comes to define life–death can only be deferred.

If you’re beginning to see the political implications of a concern with protecting those in need, you’ll be able to see what’s at stake when a city collapses into crime, as portrayed inDirty Harry. Before law & politics turn into the sort of stuff we see around us, at least for the most part, they have to mean something else. Harry’s famous line–When a naked man is chasing a woman through a dark alley with a butcher knife & a hard on, I figure he isn’t out collecting for the Red Cross–is not just about how police could respond to the Miranda rulings or the social collapse in big cities across the fruited plain, it’s about whether there is anyone who is authorized to act in an emergency. Of course, the plain clothes suggest–every citizen is authorized, but people will not do what they know to be necessary. Why law is necessary, & law enforcement, & Dirty Harry. Also, if you want to know where I learned to pay attention to these details: Harry’s worthy partner is a man called Chico Gonzales, athlete, sociology major, married to a loving woman, but who wants to do justice & treats Harry like a human being. He is, actually, the man who learns that his ugly name is the key to his humanity.

So this is what I’ve been reflecting on, preparing to write on Gran Torino. I think that is Mr. Eastwood’s most serious statement about the relation between damnation & redemption. A man who’s just lost his wife, & who has reason to believe, he has not lived a blessed life, devotes himself to the protection of immigrants produced by America’s catastrophic abandonment of Vietnam. The man’s a Korean War vet & still owns his service weapons. He is not a middle-class American–in fact, he seems to sympathize with the low class, but cannot tolerate arrogant criminals. Perhaps order is more important to him than freedom. The Asian customs of his neighbors annoy him or even make him angry. He thinks, freedom means, you never bow to anyone.–To show respect, then, is to curse people, which is one of the items in his education of the boy to be fit for American life.–But he has met human beings who need someone & make obeisance. His relationship with the two kids he protects is endearing, but it always suggests something more than the succession of the generations: I think Kowalski is learning that he has to die so that they can live. Sacrifice is portrayed as an American possibility–there may also be a suggestion, these immigrants are plagued by old Asian evils without any benefit of new American good things–freedom is not real for them–the evil he has to face has the name family tattooed on his chest.

There is much to be said about social class in this story, including Kowalski’s friends & his rejection of his very white middle-class family. It’s not that the middle class is wrong or they’re bad people. But they just do not seem to be given the chance–Kowalski does not think they can understand him at all. He is closer in spirit to the wretched. Maybe middle class people then connect happiness & prosperity in a way that moves them away from truly understanding how people in the classes below them see things. I have to do some more thinking about this–what first caught my attention is the fact that Kowalski acts because of his manliness. All Americans know or have cause to know some suffer terrible fates. But people have their own lives & problems. Not him. His manliness would be humiliated were he to live as his middle-class kids want. Manliness fulfills itself in rule & a kind of education–of the two kids he protects, the girls is manlier than the boy, because she has Americanized faster–which leads Kowalski to his extraordinary fate. The suggestion seems to be, only a hero would look on the classes below as though they were his to protect. In a way, their humanity depends on him, because they do not otherwise have a chance…

Gran Torino was a remarkable box office success, by the way, rivaled only by Mr. Eastwood’s low-class comedies from ’78 & ’80, the ones with the orangutan: I recommend them heartily. & by his new American sniper movie–he also shows Chris Kyle as not at all a middle class guy, with the unhappy but natural mores & manliness of less healthy, educated, prosperous, & responsible social classes.

(This idea of rule as dedication to the low class is not a new concern: Have you ever seen Heartbreak Ridge? I recommend it–at length–it’s Eastwood’s 1986 story about Grenada. Most of the movie is concerned with low-class America, where prosperity & peace are not taken for granted, & a strange, harsh man takes responsibility for black & Hispanic young men who look more like a disciplinary battalion than Marines.)

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26 Responses to Clint Eastwood & social class

  1. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    I have a bit of difficulty following your thoughts.

    Let’s start at the end of your piece – Heartbreak Ridge. You view it as a harsh man taking responsibility for black and Hispanic young men. I look at it as a tough Marine taking on the task of making Marines out of what are still, to all intents and purposes, civilians. Complete with guitar and stupid suit.

    Go back and look at the dance sequence. You see a LOT of tough Marines, dressed in dress uniform, being “civil”. There is a dumb officer, but he’s a junior grade officer, and in the Marines, junior grade officers are generally viewed askance. More senior and experienced NCO’s jobs are to try to save “their” Marines from the dummy officer while hopefully teaching the young whipper-snapper something of life, combat, the Corps, etc. The Gunny is an iconic figure in the Marine Corps, found throughout as generally highly skilled at what has to be done. You have a bad staff sargent in your platoon, and you’re a halfway squared away PC, you can make do. You have a dufus Gunny in the company, that company is toast.

    All new guys AND old guys look at the old guys as “old school”. I recollect when I suddenly became “old school” to the troops. It often connotated a sense of respect.

    Note the the Gunny doesn’t care a wit about the dirtbags in the jail. There are potentially people there to save also, but that isn’t his job. His job is Marines. Only. And getting them ready for real combat.

    Compare that to his battalion commander, a stupid, unskilled, arrogant major – who came from supply! Supply is derided universally in the Marine Corps. Yes, you need supplies, but the snarky comment “Why die, go Supply” didn’t come from any special appreciation of the field. REMF Marines go to supply.

  2. titus says:

    Can I ask you to read my review–it’s a bit long, but I hope, if you like the movie, it will gives you more appreciation for how thoughtful it is–or confirm your appreciation in a concrete way.

    I don’t think you’re wrong about the Marines: But look at what he does to get it done: He breaks laws & hides illegalities–he takes these people in their low-class lives & tries to help them for their own sake in the lives they’ve been born into & chosen: Not just for the sake of the Marine Corps. It’s supposed to be good for their own lives as they are–he’s not trying to strip them of their identity. The suggestion seems to be that the poor guy who cannot feed his new family has some worth independent of the Corps. Gunny acts as though the Corps owes these guys.
    It’s easy to see the ‘your heart may belong to Jesus but your ass belongs to the Corps’ attitude you see in Full metal jacket’s Sgt. But here you see something deeper & more serious: This guy acts as though he will make these men’s lives better–look especially to the violent guy who did what the others expected of him & thinks he should have his life destroyed by the MPs. Does he not deserve his fate? Isn’t the generosity of the Gunny damned kingly in that instance? I think that’s true of everything. He thinks being a Marine is good for them–but he is not asking that much of them & he is willing to break laws for them. He’s not saying, you guys broke the rules, you get screwed. Everyone else in the army seems to think of them that way. He’s saying, I will make you able to obey the rules & be better for it.

    Christ took people away from their lives & told them to abandon everything for him–this is not how Gunny thinks about the Marine Corps–he does not want these people to abandon their lives, just to make the best of what they’ve got…

    You’re absolutely wrong about jail. He does separate the good from the bad, those who would do evil from those who are just fearful & confused & lack any confidence. & the whole of his talk suggests he’s trying to get these guys–especially a shockingly out of place young man–to be better without being moralistic. If conservatives had men like this Gunny–they’d go far!

    Thanks for all the stuff about the Corps–I love learning about the laws that the men make for themselves & how they live & do their work. You see, I see very different things in the story–but I don’t think you’re wrong. I think you’re not going far enough with what you’re actually shown. I don’t claim some kind of better knowledge or expertise–I just make it my job to look as far & clearly as I can…

  3. NandaNanda says:

    Whoa, TT! This makes me wanna play Roger Miller’s “Walkin’ in the sunshine/Sing a little sunshine song./Put a smile on your face/As though there’s nothin’ wrong…” as an antidote.

    It took me 2 and a half days to watch “American Sniper” from start to finish. The film struck me as being about one hey of a lot more than Chris Kyle’s socio-economic status and its attendant moral calculus.

    Further, Christ did – and does – want *more* for those He called/calls. They start as fishermen – and become attractive ‘fishers of men’…Just sayin’.

  4. titus says:

    Sorry to depress folks–I don’t think it’s really depressive stuff–I didn’t know this way going to have a bad effect. It’s not socio-economic status–as if statistics were to define folks. It’s where people actually live their lives–that’s where they start–that’s what they see. I’m trying to say, these movies are trying to show us something we need to pay attention to in order to understand these people. Social class is one of the most obvious ways to understand the relationship between who someone is & what type of person they are–if there were no types or they were just useless or just statistics, there would be no story-telling!
    The thing I was saying about Christ: People lost their way of life for Christ & the famous ones also just lost their lives! Gunny does not aim that high. He’s not transformative or Messianic.

  5. AdministratorAdministrator says:

    Gunny Hartmann is a Drill Instructor, which is quite different from Gunny Highway’s job. Gunny Highway is responsible for an operational unit, and has far *less* structure to work with. Boot camp is a tightly scripted program on rails with bumpers.
    I would not call Gunny Highway’s concern and conduct exceptional except for a bit of movie magic, if memory serves. If you see Christ-like analogies with the role of the Senior NCO, there’s a bit of SNCO literature you will enjoy. Perhaps a bit of Prometheus in the Junior Officers, getting their entrails ripped out twice a day while trying to bring some light to their part of the world.
    The problems with lionizing the “class conscious” aspect of Highway’s conduct are that A)the Senior NCO is explicitly class-blind except as regards rank within the Corps, and that is another well-managed program (SNCO involvement is part of that management), and B) the analogy only really succeeds when contrasted with a shabby two-dimensional strawman erected for the purpose.
    It’s not your strawman, Titus, but I’m afraid the popular appreciation of the military typically only allows such cheap representation. What made heartbreak Ridge so well-acclaimed by the military was not that the portrayal was hagiographic, but that it was simply accurate.

  6. titus says:

    1. I agree about the differences: But everything I’m pointing out is about the drilling part.
    2.I don’t think it’s movie magic: The law-breaking is part of his character. He does not necessarily expect to get away with it, but he is ok with the judge pardoning him because he’s a hero & he’s glad to have a chance to humiliate a really nasty, petty cop.
    His law-breaking in the new unit is different–it’s no longer about his getting his way things because he’s lacking self-control–it’s about taking the same risk of lawlessness for the sake of someone else.
    3.I do not say that the Marines or what have you are class-conscious, except in one sense: They are one path for some people into the middle class. It is this story & what Mr. Eastwood wants to teach about kingly rule that is important. The man decides to become law & king both, going beyond the laws, in peace time, & for no reason but to protect those guys. The relationship he is building with them–he is relying on their honor while making it possible for them to act honorably. The fact that he does not expect a poor man to obey the same laws a less poor guy–where poor is needs over means–should tell you everything. I’m telling you, Mr. Eastwood is not Hollywood movie-magic guy. & his interest in low-class types in movies is not new: Every which way but loose; Any which way you can; Bronco Billy…
    4.The movie seemed genuine to me–but I wouldn’t know for myself–so I’m glad to have it confirmed by those who do know. I also agree, people are insufficiently able or interested in understanding the military. But there are things one can learn from military stories that do not depend on the military.

  7. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    Perhaps from your European background you view “class” differently than Americans. Unlike the Europeans, we have no nobility. So the only “class” you see is economic. Intellectual class, while purported to be in the “educated” class, is in fact rather widely dispersed, and one runs into it in all manner of unexpected places.

    There is in America some deference paid to the professions – doctors, dentists, lawyers – but not necessarily a lot. Other “class” concepts come more from the egos of the rich, who think because they became rich they must “be special”. Not true. So debate about class in America is difficult.

    Warriors, OTOH, are more easy to ID and speak to. Truth is, once the warriors were the top of the social tier; the modernizaiton of warfare has driven out the skilled warrior and replaced him with average people with highly deadly weaponry. Indeed, the musket/rifle has revolutioinized combat, requiring significant numbers of men to man lines. The old days of knights also required ground fighters, but they were not terribly effective.

    Go back to Kipling’s poem “Tommy” and you see the same split between soldiers and civilians. Europe has had this split for a long time, so the sense of “class” is more deeply ingrained.

    America has only recently developed a significant regular, now “all volunteer” military. Note that WWI & II saw regular Americans going to war in large numbers. It happened in other wars (Spanish-American for example) but not in such large numbers. I too am an example of more traditional American military force, having gone into the service after college, doing my active duty time, then getting out and joining a Reserve unit while following a civilian career. Among the Europeans only Switzerland does this.

    • NandaNanda says:

      Thanks for bringing out what I really wanted to get at – as usual, Dev…Oh, and you can come onto my lawn anytime you want. (Grin)

  8. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    Nanda, you always say such nice things about people.

  9. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    Titus – to continue the discussioin of Heartbreak Ridge, I cannot disagree that Highway is not trying to eliminate what people are. But he IS trying to instill the warrior spirit into his men. It is an essential aspect of Marines.

    Marines are a small community. It makes them more like the SpecOps people, albeit significantly larger. But the largest the Marine Corps ever was was during Vietnam, and that was only about 650,000 – total. Today it’s less than 300,000 strong.

    So the culture of the Marine Corps is different than that of the other services. The “adjust, adapt, improvise” is a new saying, but it has always been the way of the Corps. That said, it also means that rules are, well, kind of relative. While I can’t speak to today, in “the old Corps” getting into a bar fight over helping other Marines is an old tradition. SP’s brought a lot of Marines to the brig, but not much serious brig time was ever spent.

    Let me tell you another story (probably belongs in the Sea Stories thread). Way back when, the first time I came down off Mutter’s Ridge to Vandergrift Combat Base, our first day we spent cleaning weapons, washing clothes, etc. I went to Supply to get new utilities for some of my guys, whose butts were hanging out the tear in the back. Long story short, I had a heck of an argument with the Supply Officer – and got no utilities. Next morning the company gunny comes to me and says, “Lieutenant, I need you to go talk to the Supply Officer.” I ask, “?What should I say.” He says, “I don’t care, lieutenant – talk about his mother for all I care. Just keep him busy.” So I dutifullly go in and start an argument with the Supply Officer. Next thing I know, I see a knife slitting the back of the tent, and the gunny and my platoon SNCO slip in and are grabbing armfulls of stuff. They make several trips, then the gunny looks at me and gives me the thumbs up. I stomp away, muttering, “You haven’t heard the last of this.” or something like that, trying very hard not to laugh. Back at the company, we have new utilities for any who need them, machetes for the bamboo, canteens. We are good!

    Now that was theft. I knew it, the gunny knew it, and if he had been caught, he would have gone before the captain for office hours. Might have even been a fine. But he would have stoically taken it, and the captain would NOT have returned any of the stolen stuff.

    And the gunny’s reputation rose. Even if he had been “caught” it would have risen. It is what Marines do for their men. Little stuff. In a messline, the enlisted go first, then the NCO’s then the SNCO, THEN the officers. You ALWAYS see to it the lower ranks are fed, clothed, have adequate quarters. Even if you go without. But that’s the Marine Corps. I had to teach that to my Air Guard unit, as I had to teach them the function and use of SNCO’s.

    Leadership is not free, and it’s not common. And if no one teaches you, you never learn. Highway was “teaching”.

    • NandaNanda says:

      OohRah, Dev! You, ST, MLH, and BDB have been – and are – modeling for me that good leaders don’t “break” people: They strip away the barriers that keep someone from finding and using the best of themselves. ‘Little stuff’ goes a long way….”Whatever you do for the least of Mine…”. and all that.

      I’ll have to watch “Heartbreak Ridge”, even if it takes several days; my education continues…

    • MLHMLH says:

      “Comeshaw” they call it, no?

      When I was at NHGITMO, I met an Army Infantry Capt (that’s an O3, like a Navy LT) who had done some joint task force stuff on a ship. So, he had a steward. The Capt, however, would make up his own berth every morning. The steward told him he didn’t have to it as it was his, the steward’s, job. After a bit of back and forth with the O3 explaining how it is out in the field, the steward finally pointed out how, on board, being a steward is GOOD duty.

    • titus says:

      I agree Highway was teaching. & I agree that this is the kind of thing–like in your story–that cannot work without a leader who is really taking risks for the sake of other people, because it does mean relativizing the good.
      There are always going to be moralistic people who call this kind of prudence nihilism or relativism, but it is the exact opposite–it is pursuing what is good for people in the way it is possible to pursue it.

      Of course, a large society cannot be run this way, for any number of reasons. But something like it is necessary. Getting reputation as the risk of losing even your freedom is something only a few men will do. These kinds of men are necessary, precisely in order to provide for those in need–& it’s not just a matter of helping out the poor or the desperate, it’s also a matter of proving what’s possible & what good things people really can achieve. Without examples, people will not believe or take chances or help each other out.
      We’re now in a situation where the people who believe in self-government in America are most disgusted with public things & with government. There is a serious danger that the people most dedicated to constitutionalism & decent politics abandon public things & become a minority, perpetually angry & bitter. Getting out of this fix is not going to be easy. It is going to require the confidence to show that people on the right can take care of those who are worst off. That is always the minimum condition of trust in a society…

  10. titus says:

    Class does not depend on nobility: It depends on the difference between the few & the many. This is a fact in America just like everywhere else: It is part of human nature: It is the political problem. Otherwise, why should Federalist 10 talk about the fear of minority faction & majority faction?

    You can change the names, but we should not be blind. You can call them the equality of opportunity / entrepreneurship crowd & the social justice / compassion crowd.

    Is not it true that the few in America are hot for illegal immigration? Did not both political parties & lots of oligarchic types think they had the cat in the bag in 2007? The many revolted. Moments like that show a clear separation.

    Moving from that to what I’m saying, attracting attention to the special situation of people who live in a terrible way is not really a significant change.

    Does not the Democrat coalition depend on class warfare? Is it not electorally viable? So I would say, I did not invent social class in America–American politics uses it for electioneering incredibly successfully. Were people confused about what FDR mean when railing against fat cats? Are people confused what possibly could Dems have meant when they portrayed Messers. Romney & Ryan as evil rich guys & shills for the rich, killing ol’ grannies & firing people & contemning the people? When a large part of the electorate says, GOP man don’t care about people like me, are we not coldly clear about what it means?

    I think the GOP will either take the problem seriously or be consigned to minority party status. Like the mid-century GOP. People seem to think Goldwater-to-Reagan popular appeal is forever. It’s not. The people are not raring for a conservative hero…

    As for the other business–with the old inequality societies, & the rule of military types, I agree. It’s what it was. Now you have the nation’s most prominent generals ruined on strange accusations. That’s equality… It was bad before; it’s bad now, but in a new way…

  11. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    Interesting point. I sort of agree – and disagree.

    I would submit that the dems do not really split on “class” as much as “privileged segment”. So blacks, “hispanics (whatever that means), women – all are demogogued with full support of the media until it is the only word heard. Obama was not elected by his record, nor by any rational view of self-interest, but by the whipping up of the “crowds”. People who have been harmed by Obama’s policies (like WV miners STILL voted for him.

    So to the degree we have “classes” that are democrat or republican, I can agree. And to the degree that “classes” of people seem to be geographically co-located, I would agree there also. You find very different politics in the South than in the large cities or out West. Then there is the Left & Right Coasts – both filled with crazies.

    OTOH, the rest of the distinctions seem more of a continuum rather than a distinct split in class, as one found/finds in European nations. Perhaps lately there is less in Europe; opinion of that area if often anecdotal rather than data-driven.

    On the Grippin Hand, the very bottom of the social spectrum DOES have issues. It is harder to escape, even though SOME of the reason it is so is directly related TO the party they support in large numbers. See Detroit.

    Back to Eastwood. I would submit that Eastwood is attempting to delve into the whole mystic of killing someone. We have the shop-worn cliche of wolves, sheep, and sheep dogs. Yet in that mileiu, there are clearly men who are willing to kill and those who are not (relatively). Eastwood seems to mostly take on the subject vis a vis war, but certainly Grand Turino would be an exception.

    But on the concept of killing and society, I would point you to a book I have mentioned several times previously. On Killing by Grossman is available on kindle and is an attempt to deal with the phenomenon of combat and killing. You might read it as something to expand your appreciation of social order and the needs of the military.

    • titus says:

      There’s a difference between the electoral coalition the Dems mount, which is more or less as you describe it, identity politics, & then the serious political reasons why it works–that is all about social classes. I suppose by now everyone on the right knows that a part of the very wealthy are very lefty–it’s a top-bottom alliance against the middle, or it looks that way at times. But that does not change the basic distinction between the majority & minority. The immigration issue shows that clearly. The fear for conservatives is that they will end up a minority & locked out of national politics. It’s not impossible…
      I also agree about the political geography of America, with regions & rural / urban divides, & all that. But they are all subsumed in the class conflict that is organized politically as Dems vs. GOP. At this point, only some part of the GOP coalition denies that America has social classes. But when the partisan fight is about organizing an electoral majority to get a minority ‘to pay their fair share’, then it is only too obvious… I think learning about it & how to deal with it is serious. I also believe movies have a lot to teach conservatives.

      I agree that Dems & the liberal policies of the mid-century have really hurt poor people, & in ways that are hard to undo. I would add, GOP politicians have done a lot to improve governance & especially to deal with crime, which mostly outrages middle-class people, but mostly affects people in the lower classes or the underclass. So there you see a class divide & a way to bring the classes together, not that it’s easy. GOP & conservative politicians find no difficulty devising & even executing good policy on crime, but they find it impossible to come to an understanding with the lower classes, & especially when there is an added racial divide, like in big cities…

      I think the GOP should commit to helping the poor. Come up with a package of laws to encourage marriage & family; change the tax structure so that working does not take away poor people’s welfare; act & talk much more about prison reform, like Mr. Perry & several other prominent politicians have done; & see about pushing educational options–conservatives are always strong on school choice, but they need programs to help the poor & to do something to prevent non-violent offenders from returning to prison because they do stupid things. I think this kind of politics would both teach conservatives how politics works–what it means to take responsibility for the lower classes–& give the lower classes a chance to improve their situation. This needs to be a national agenda–but implementation would often be state by state, as with Mr. Perry’s achievements regarding the educational achievements of racial minorities & prison reform. That kind of conservatism has national reach, I believe, & makes protection the theme of conservative politics. That would do more to unravel the Dem coalition than anything I can think of, which by itself would help prevent more harm to people who are already suffering…

      So much for that. Back to the other things. I have read Mr. Grossman’s book–a Marine friend recommended it some years back. I think he was right about a lot of stuff; I think his ideas about video games & all that, however, are silly; & I also think that the crucial part about the military depending on certain kinds of popular approval is all true & has been going really badly since the Korean war…

      As for the movies, I also think Gran Torino, in being exceptional, is his most serious statement about the changes a man undergoes after he kills. The development of the theme of protection & the show of the virtues of the lower classes & the suggestion that a harsh man might be a good ruler in certain circumstances–all of that is quite rare in American movies & it has sent me thinking…

  12. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    I am seeing where you are attempting to go. Unfortunately, trying to emphasise “protection”, especially to the detriment of the democrats, would be very hard, the MSM being what it is.

    But there is also a general lack of courage in the political class. Trump has uncovered it in his comments, regardless of how crass they have been. He has struck a note with a LOT of people, in as much as he speaks to the issues THEY find important. His money does not form a barrier, and attempts to create that would, I suspect, backfire. But to make the case, one needs to show political courage, and most of today’s politicians are much like today’s flags – cowardly, looking only for how to make it through the next election.

    The parties are no better. They both represent the establishment. Look at the Mississippi senatorial election last year to see just how craven the “elite” or “establishment” is. It is why there is so much anger in the Tea Party. It drives, to a large degree, things BDB says I think. So, eg, I will NOT vote for Jeb if he gets the nomination. I really don’t care what that will mean to the “future” of the nation; picking him as the nominee is enough evidence of no courage or wisdom and the willingness to let the nation slide further in the hole.

    On Grossman, I totally agree with you about the video stuff. After careful analysis, he come to good conclusions, then IMO blows it all with that BS about video games. If he were haflway smart he would note that my generation played cowboys & indians, and WWII all the time, killing the bad guys. If you were an indian or German you expected the Americans to win. Just how it was.

    I do think his observations about killing within a species is quite accurate. While he may be exagerating the shooting parts (some bullets are fired to simply get the other guys to duck, allowing you to maneuver), overall I support his observations. AND especially his observations on returning from combat. I have looked a lot at how the Korean vets, and us Vietnam vets were treated, and the former was poorly, and the latter was shameful. Nothing today changes what happened. Only the tough guys made it through without serious scars. Societies are important, for all the lefties try to demolish all remnants of it. You can’t replace society and culture with government – and that is what they are attempting.

    As for Gran Torino, I only saw it once – and didn’t particularly like it. Didn’t like Unforgiven either. But the latter I thought set up silly premises, and the former just didn’t strike a chord in me.

    But I’m a self-confessed troglodyte. I’m that 5% in Grossman’s book. The death of my dog would vastly more affect me than the killing of a jihadi. Indeed, since I carry, I have to constantly remind myself about “disengage, distance”. Not easy for my make-up. I guess I didn’t end up in the Marines just by accident.

  13. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    BTW, M, that was a term I haven’t beard for some time. But “comeshaw” it is. The great old “art” of getting what you need by hook or crook.

    Honest to God, the argument that Supply officer gave me was that those were “mount out”. When I asked what THAT was, it was for “if we are deployed”. I asked just what did he think we were here in Vietnam. But he wouldn’t budge. So he got his stuff stolen. There were troops that needed it a lot more than his phoney-baloney list. Sometimes truth overcomes stupidity.

  14. titus says:

    1. Protection: You’re right–nobody’s going to have an easy time of this. But it is a test of politics in the strict sense–local self-government. Governors who want to prove that they can govern in their state are going to have to show that the bottom of society is doing better. Every governor who can show, like Mr. Perry, serious improvement in schools for the lower classes can give people some hope: He can say: Trust me, they’ve got a future–all the more, if the most vulnerable have a future, we all have one. & more ambitious stuff, like getting poor people to work without taking their welfare will show that the ‘America is a middle-class country’ speeches can become deeds. This has been done in various places. My Texan friend–we were talking about these things–recalled Gov. Thompson in Wisconsin in the 90s managed this pretty well. This was before the GOP Congress & Mr. Clinton reformed welfare. He cut welfare rolls massively (90%) without causing the poor to suffer. (The economy was also doing better than it is now, I’m not saying it can always be done as dramatically!) He introduced some kind of school vouchers, too, & improved healthcare for the needy. The GOP was far more hopeful back then–they should do this again…
    I talk a lot about social class because a lot of people on the right ignore that this is how elections are contested & massively important legislation is fought over in front of their eyes. But my goal is to get people to be more middle class. Now, that requires making the underclass more middle-class American. There’s no grand strategy here, but there are ways to think about it that allow us to recognize which governor is doing, which politician talks about it, & broadly whether people are thinking about this more or less clearly. I’m not a man of action, so I’m ok with trying to see even slow change–not least, because it has an effect on people. If they get some evidence of improvement & consistent improvement, even if it’s not much, it’s enough for hope that tomorrow will be ok.

    2. I agree about the establishment of both parties & the interest groups that seem to find no way to change. Happily, Americans elect executives. Mr. Perry had to fight the Bushes in Texas, after all, but he did it. Then came not just education reform, but also prison reform. He did it–& Texas is not in the news for horrible crime rates… Again, a governor ahead of the nation–both parties have some interest in prison reform, but nothing has been done. (Worst hell in America: Prison.) By the way, Mr. Obama might surprise all of us & do some good here…

    3. It seems like the Marines civilized you some! Yeah, some men really are just manlier than the vast majority. It’s a victory for civilization when they’re the Marines… I, of course, am of the opinion that jihadis are more human than dogs, but that includes the basic fact of politics: We wage wars on jihadis, not dogs, precisely because they’re human… It’s who we are. Of course, he is right about killing within a species–& about the effects of killing on people. I’d say, more broadly–we should be killing less. It’s doing something to us. We’re not in a position where most people can become manlier, even if it’s really needed or would at least be helpful. I guess we all hope America’s got it right & some very small percentage taking arms in service will suffice for the most part; it might also help that vast numbers are at least in a vague sense armed. Mostly, they are not really warriors… (So most people dare not know almost anything about modern animal farming & might not deal with it well if they learned anything–lots of stuff people just ignore, because it would affect them very badly…)

    4. Well, it’s my self-appointed task to tell people about movies that strike me as thoughtful–but of course taste matters a lot. Some people are drawn in, others are not…

  15. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    As for the Marines “civilizing” me, perhaps all they really did was teach me new and deadlier ways to wage war. I was good at it. Even as a Flight Surgeon later in the Air Guard, when we went to Red Flag exercises, I seemed always to end up the commander tho of lessor grade that the other unit CO, simply because I knew how to run units. The Marines taught me how and when to break rules (like my gunny) and in the service you get things done often by shear personality.

    Your observations about the low class (for want of a better term – I’m still a bit uncomfortable with that, but at least understand how you are using it) in many ways jive with my thoughts about how one needs to set upright the nation. But it would require a degree of real force – of personality. One would need to defang the federal government and allow the economy to flourish, though perhaps with a few “fences” on what is allowable behavior. I personally find no issue with what the left constantly labels “greed” – despite the fact that THEIR “upper crust” is full of just that. There are examples of programs that work all about the nation. New Orleans, eg, has a school system that is run on vouchers. Wasn’t their initial intention to “test” this. Katrina destroyed ALL their physical plant for schools. The board was then faced with either MASSIVE capital infusion, which they didn’t have, or a different approach. They chose vouchers. In no time at all there have sprouted up numerous schools that have hugely improved the student performance city-wide. And at less cost. Amazing how that works.

    I feel there are numerous programs that could be collected from around the nation to effect change. But to GET to that, one will need to do a bit of “bomb throwing” as was referred to in another thread here. You will not move the establishment off the dime otherwise. HOWEVER, one needs to remember that the Whigs ALSO wouldn’t move off the dime, and you can’t find any Whigs today.

    Perhaps it IS time for a third party. It may be just because the establishment SO fears that. AND it might, if it were careful of its platform, do what the Republicans did to the Whigs.

  16. titus says:

    1. There’s a lot to what you say: Not even the Marines can change your nature. In a way, military training looks like it’s preparing you to do well what you’d try to do anyway. I expect you get a sense of your limits & your purpose together; that’s a thought that keeps popping up in my head when I talk to Marines or even just read soldiers’ books about how they became soldiers in the first place…

    2. It is indeed an unpleasant term, but we can face the unpleasantness. We do not mean anyone any harm or insult, after all… I think you’re right about how difficult it is to find the opportunity to change things. The difficulty is getting people to choose something that’s good for them–I think that’s so difficult because people do not seem to trust each other in your country. It’s not as bad as the Civil War, of course, but it’s going in that direction.

    As for seeing an opportunity in a crisis, that’s something that seems to charm folks on the right. Do you know Mr. Kevin Williamson of National Review? He’s got a book, The end is near & it’s going to be awesome. He suggests, politics is stuck, failure–e.g., national bankruptcy–is inevitble–act accordingly. People will get the chance to fix all sorts of broken parts of the system once the whole breaks down. I’m not sure that’s so. People might get very angry & very scared instead…

    So also with third parties–the dislocation might be welcome, but it might be otherwise. It’s a matter of prudence to judge which alternative has the better chance to preserve the things we love & hold dear. I’m for keeping the system, with all the bad stuff while encouraging people at however many different levels to change parts of it. I think that’s the lesson the right should learn from the series of elections that have led to the GOP holding 31 governorships or so, 26 with full legislative control. This will really test the party at a level where there is much diversity, where many different people have opportunities & responsibilities, & where the people can judge the results. I’d like conservatives to give themselves a chance, to try their damnedest to make this count.

  17. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    Well, reading your comments against the patina of Codevilla’s essay, it would seem that there is significant danger in not eliminating the “ruling class” in any upheavel that grips the nation. It is they who have done the damage to the nation and its laws.

    Elsewhere Nanda has suggested a constitutional convention. I am, at least for now, greatly worried that the frauds that make up the “ruling class” would take such an opportunity to seriously damage the constitution we have. I would not say it is perfect, but much of its shortfalls come from the inability of the Founders to even imagine the kind of perfidity and outright lies the left would put forth to trash their document. So when you read it, you find lots of clear, logical prose, meant to hold government in check.

    Charles Murray has recently written a book, “By the People – Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission”. I have only started, but I understand the premise is massive civil disobedience on the order of what the colonists did to England. ?Anyone read it. ?If so, thoughts.

    • MLHMLH says:

      I got to page 18 of Murray’s book and got depressed about how much the fed gov’t has grown in my lifetime. I will get back to it. I will. someday.

      The 5000 Year Leap seems far-fetched to me. But I only read the first chapter.

    • DevereauxDevereaux says:

      I can see how you might feel that way. I myself have been busy playing racing games on the iPad, so not reading much.

      Bible study tomorrow, but maybe some time for the book too.

  18. titus says:

    Hello, all, I’m back in action!
    1. There is indeed danger in having a ruling class. But nothing compares to shaking national unity. America is not exempt from the destructive forces in human nature. Back in the days, abolitionists often did a lot of harm to the constitutional order, despite their correct opinions about the injustice of slavery. Somehow, surviving one civil war seems to have persuaded people a second is impossible. Not so. It might be as bad or worse the second time…
    2. I agree that there is much reason to fear as to what would actually happen at such a convention. People not able to live with the constitution would hardly be suspected of being able to improve upon it…
    3. Mr. Charles Murray is one of the people who sees the future of America as a high class of wealth & IQ inter-marrying & with good middle class social values ruling while the low class is more & more debased. It is a terrible thing. Another libertarian economist, Mr. Tyler Cowen is even excited about this prospect. I think it is terrible, of course…
    As for the book, you can hear Mr. Murray make the case on the Ricochet podcast here. Lawyers on Ricochet have argued rather persuasively that the thing is bound to fail. The Murray plan is this, create a massive fund that would pay the legal fees & fines of people who disobey insane regulations to force the gov’t to stop enforcing them or abolish them. This would only work in certain limited cases, at least at first, if conservatives are smart enough to couple legal arguments with the publicity of specific heartmoving cases & the ability of politicians to make the case & maybe of journalists to expose government corruption or malfeasance. This requires an orchestrated campaign. & conservatives & libertarians seem incapable of even funding magazines so that they do not have to beg, so I’m not hopeful. The right acts as if it despises the kind of education it needs to promote to make its case publicly. Do you know any right-wing publication that actually runs in the black, either because right-wing journalism sells on the market or because right-wing people who have made fortunes on the market pay the bills? I don’t-

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