Category Archives: Republic of Letters

On Loving Definitions ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Throughout history, of course, tyrants and demagogues have always manipulated language for their own self-interest and political advantage. Perhaps no tyrants in history did this with more skill than did the caesars in maintaining the language, institutions, and symbols of the Roman Republic while establishing the iron-fisted rule of the executive. To be sure, others have done the same. The grand sociologist Robert Nisbet went so far as to describe the entire history of the political state as the history of euphemism. What is surprising in 2019, then, is not that politicians and bureaucrats manipulate language, but rather that American and western societies as a whole have fallen for the propaganda so easily and readily. Even with blatant warnings from Ray Bradbury and George Orwell, we have still fallen hard. Critical words—such love, myth, and imagination—have become things they were never meant to become, inverted, converted, and ripped apart until almost unrecognizable from their original meanings. Lesser words—such have gay, faggot, and dogma—have taken on entirely new meanings as well.
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Why Celebrate the Presidents?

By almost any objective standard, the institution of the U.S. Presidency is a failure. Certainly at a moral level as well as by the intent of the founding fathers, who worried collectively about creativity a “foetus of monarchy,” no right-minded person could defend the institution. Generally, it has been led by incompetents, many of them immoral or incapable of moral agency toward the good.

Even a cursory glance at Article II of the U.S. Constitution reveals that the framers worried most about a presidency getting out of hand. Hence, the office originally had next to no power, with restrictions on almost everything. Yet, today, the office possesses the greatest amount of power ever entrusted to a single person. At the tips of the president’s fingers reside not only the largest and most lethal military arsenal ever assembled by humanity, but also access to the most intimate information about every single American citizen.

There is nothing in the 1787 Constitution that allows for a “national emergency” to be declared by the president, nor does it allow for “executive orders.”

Yet, we take each of these things as a matter of course.

To my mind, only five to seven men have been worthy of the office–and I speak here from a constitutional standpoint, not a policy one–Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, Cleveland, Coolidge, Eisenhower, and Reagan.

And, yet, we have a federal holiday dedicated to the failure and horror of the whole thing. Sickening.

The Top 10 Library Stories of 2018/Publisher’s Weekly and Dedra!

In a move that garnered significant media attention, the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, voted at the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans to remove the name of children’s book author Laura Ingalls Wilder from a popular award. The decision came months after a task force set out to consider the long-running scholarly discussion around “anti-Native and anti-black sentiments” in Wilder’s work. And predictably, the change touched off a chorus of critics who portrayed the move as political correctness run amok.

“Stripping Wilder’s name from this award,” Dedra McDonald Birzer wrote in the National Review, “creates a slippery slope for excising all literature that doesn’t adhere to a strict definition of ‘inclusivity,’ whether or not that inclusivity accurately reflects American history.”
Even William Shatner weighed in, getting into a Twitter beef with librarians over the change. Yes, Captain Kirk himself.
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My beautiful wife, Dedra, quoted in Publisher’s Weekly!