You Can Thank Us Later

The West is the best. Western civilization, as embodied in liberal democracy, has accomplished the near-impossible feat of successfully providing freedom, security, and opportunity for people of every race, ethnicity, and culture. Westerners are not intrinsically better than members of other societies, of course. After all, we are largely comprised of those members. It's just that we've enjoyed the serendipitous convergence of good fortune, bold ideas, and hard work, which resulted in democracy and capitalism. It could have happened in any culture, because the longing for liberty and excellence is a universal human attribute. As UCLA professor, Jared Diamond, decisively demonstrated in his superb Pulitzer Prize winner, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, all men are equal, and it is the blind, unthinking vicissitudes of the natural world (weather, geography, epidemiology, demography, et al) that have influenced the course of societal developments, rather than race or culture. In many ways, forming a successful and strong society is about being in the right place at the right time.

Western liberal democracy came about as the inevitable result of myriad contingencies, fateful choices—some sound, some catastrophic—and unforeseen happenstance, which we needn't explore in detail here. It happened, and the world is a better place for it. The seeds of democracy, planted by Greek philosophers, along with Renaissance thinkers and scientists, germinated and began to bloom during the Enlightenment. Since then, Western civilization has navigated a sometimes zigzag, but always forward-moving, course toward improving the quality of life for mankind. Cynical malcontents scoff at democracy and capitalism, and continually throw up absurd utopian ideals that no present society could—or would want to—meet. However, these people offer no viable or desirable alternative to democracy—at least none that is capable of doing justice to the spirit of man, which cries out for freedom, fairness, and individuality among his fellows. Such people garner the benefits of the free societies they work to undermine, not seeing, or caring, that their hatred is actually a fool's love of an ill-fated, hoped for future that would prohibit man's progress and inhibit man's contentment. Communism and Islamic Khilafah (a worldwide Islamic state) are examples.

America has risen to the top in the free world. Of course, with this success comes the predictable envy, resentment, and enmity of other nations and societies who are happy to have a convenient devil to blame their shortcomings and problems on. Overall, I don't think we mind too much. We understand that since our government is representative, to label America as greedy, arrogant, and criminal is to label Americans as such. And of course, this simply isn't true. We know that our nation is just, because we demand it of our government. We understand that there is no shame in loving a good thing when you've got it. And we do care about helping our brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world. Literally everyone I know takes an interest in doing something to make life easier for others—to make the world a better place. We have this attitude because we're human beings who know compassion and empathy, like anyone else, and our way of life allows us to act on it.

We have happily avoided choking on spirit-crushing theocracy, being duped by the quasi-intellectual vacuity of communism, or falling prey to the anti-human tyranny of other totalitarian political constructs. Instead, we have stayed the course of freedom, pushed through our misdeeds and mistakes, and we have done great, great things. Because of our liberal democracy (which may as well be anyone's), age-old problems have been addressed, and in many cases, rectified. Racism, sexism, religious persecution, poverty, mental illness, famine, homophobia, lawlessness, disease, violence, corruption—these are all universal maladies of mankind, which liberal democracy has made major progress in eliminating. In addition, democracy has given rise to conditions which allow the most low, humble person to achieve greatness. We have also, through our prosperity and freedom, been able to share our good fortune with our human family around the world. Even though it's often ignored or downplayed, democracies—especially the United States—dig deep to help those in need throughout the world. We do it because we know it's the right thing to do.

In the modern sociopolitical climate of Western societies, the important, worthy progress made in protecting rights and liberties is sometimes coupled with a deadweight of superfluous, if well-meaning, guilt. I see it as an inversion of Rudyard Kipling's White Man's Burden. It is the moral equivalence, multiculturalism, political correctness, and relativism of the left. This inane, and sometimes harmful, mind-set has flourished here in America among academia, artists, and the pathologically stupid. While it is praiseworthy to endeavor toward greater equality for all humanity, and to redress wrongs, it is utter folly to go to the extreme of self-hatred and distortion of the whole picture because of any unseemly blemish. It is wrong-headed to atone for sinful behavior long condemned and abandoned, and it is disgraceful to denigrate the truly excellent achievements of a free people—achievements which have been paid for with the blood of great men.

This hyperbolic sense of guilt, contempt, and shame of self is typified in the ethos of the defeatist, negative left. When you're a young, impressionable idealist or just an adult who doesn't understand that you're now an adult, it's natural to presume that your good fortune might be founded upon the suffering of others. I know that's how I saw it when I was younger. You measure the prosperity of your society against that of third world tyrannies, and you assume that your society is somehow at fault for this disparity. The tragedy of such a myopic outlook, beyond the stultifying effect it has on the mind, is that it allows for the sanction of all manner of base acts against the perceived oppressor, and it often abets the continuation of the real causes of the human suffering being considered. It's very romantic in a youthful, quixotic way to imagine that one is heroically standing up to ones authority figures after deciding that they're evil, imperialistic, fascistic, repressive, et al. But in the end, it's just really dumb, and it can result in much suffering and death, sometimes on a grand scale. Apologizing for the Religion of Peace™ in its present, literalist form only perpetuates the Islamic violence of the Qur'an and sunna, against both infidels and Muslims. Defending Fidel Castro's marathon tyranny, while perhaps serving as a hip fashion statement (Che Guevara t-shirts made in capitalist shops), doesn't do anything for the academics and other intellectuals who languish in his prisons for their opposition, perceived or real.

I'm glad I live in a society which allows and fosters dissent. It helps to ensure that we don't become complacent and allow authoritarianism to creep in. It also keeps the flame of change burning so that we can learn, grow, improve our lives, and help others to improve theirs. Yet, when we fail to appreciate our precious rights, which Americans now and before have fought and died for, we embark upon strange journey into ambiguity, nihilism, and fear. Faults and errors notwithstanding, if American values like freedom, justice, and plurality are not excellent and admirable, then which values are? The indiscriminate leveling blade of communism? The crippling taxes and multicultural fragmentation of socialism lite™? The brutal, medieval shari'ah law of Islam? If America doesn't lead the world forward into an uncertain future, who will? I personally don't like the idea of the E.U. or China filling this role, for reasons which should be self-evident.

I want the world to be free. I look forward, knowing I won't ever see it, to a world of peace, harmony, and love. But that's not going to happen with the hateful intolerance and inhuman violence of Islamotheocracy or secular totalitarianism. So, those of us who love freedom and believe that all people deserve it, have our work cut out for us. Plenty of hard work on, but we still have some time, and the work feels good. In the meantime, I don't think I'll mind being hated by anyone for loving my countrymen and my country, and for supporting the liberal use of our superior firepower to protect it. It is in the world's interests for America to remain vibrant, strong, and free. 'Cause if we go down, this world is going to be in a very unenviable state of danger, chaos, and fright. If the human race makes it through this latest bottleneck in our long and eventful history, it will surely have America and America's friends to thank.

A Welfare Story

Star Parker is one of my heroines (for you PC people, that's an old-fashioned word for "female hero," once a popular distinction).

If you haven't heard of Star, you should. Her experience and ideas are important to the future direction of the country. Like George Gilder's during the Reagan administration-and Marvin Olasky's during the first Bush Two-her body of written work adds to the chorus of voices that have the ear of the president when he's thinking about tinkering with the economy.

Star's books, Pimps, Whores, and Welfare Brats: From Welfare Cheat to Conservative Messenger, and Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can Do About It, add to the growing list of black conservative philosophers that seek to find a way out of what they increasingly recognize is nothing but a trap to keep them in poverty and misery: the welfare system. A former single mom on welfare herself, Star became a Christian, went back to college, and started a magazine. And now she has nothing good to say of the system out of which she came.

Star accuses the current system of encouraging dependency and perpetuating poverty, and she argues that the best way to combat poverty and its ancillary social ills is through faith-based organizations. She agrees with the president when he says-as he says nearly every chance he gets-"No government policy can put hope in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in people's lives. That is done when someone, some good soul puts an arm around a neighbor and says, ‘God loves you, and I love you, and you can count on us both.'"

And let me tell you, she is right on all counts. Black or white, the welfare system is a dependency factory, and the social workers who run it aren't interested in succeeding their way out of a job.

Full disclosure time. When I was in college and pregnant for the first time, we didn't have any insurance. So I went where my old liberal instincts told me to go-I went to the welfare office. Back then, I was a Christian, but I didn't have a congregation with accountability. I was "between churches" and didn't understand what a church family was. My first thought-my only thought, after many many years of indoctrination-was to ask the government to bail me out.

But now we come to the problem. I only went to the welfare office because I didn't have any insurance. I knew I would need some help, because I had been told that babies were expensive. I wasn't familiar enough with what would later become my field of expertise to know what a "crisis pregnancy center" was or what they could do for me. I would only find out later that our local hospitals have a policy of accepting everyone, regardless of ability to pay, and they often pay the full costs for those who have no resources. At the time, I only knew I was at the mercy of medicine, and the government had programs that could help.

And, boy, did they.

When I went in and produced all my financial information-we were both working, though not well-I was immediately told that I "needed" Medicaid for pregnancy, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children food supplement program), and food stamps-and I could sign up for the waiting list for subsidized housing.

I was floored. I didn't think I needed all those things. I was doing all right. But these people, these case workers, that was their job-to know what I needed. I was embarking on a new phase of life, adding a new person to my circle of responsibility, and I didn't know what the future would demand. I assumed that they did.

And, so, I got all those things. And we continued to work, trying to better ourselves and get off the system (though no one in the welfare office ever suggested we should). Every time we got a raise, or somehow achieved a better situation, I would go back to office and show them our improvement, thinking perhaps we had made it to the point where we could survive without their help.

But, alas, every time, I was told we were still "in need of services." We stayed that way until I was pregnant with my second son.

And then one day, something happened. Our car broke down.

More precisely, it set itself on fire one morning when we were in the house getting ready to go somewhere. All by itself.

We had car insurance, so the totaled car ended up worth $1000, but there we were, eight months pregnant with no transportation.

Enter my husband's parents, willing to help us get another car. But, being who they were, they wouldn't hear of a used car-they wanted to help us pay for a new car (by which they meant they paid for it, and we negotiated to buy it).

And that, of course, threw us off food stamps, because the car exceeded the asset ceiling for the program-even though we couldn't eat the car.

So, after all that time of being told, month after month, certification after certification, that we could not possibly survive without the help of the government, our children would starve, and we would not make it-we did.

As it turns out, we did just fine, despite losing hundreds of dollars in food stamps every month. We ate reasonably well (well, we are Americans, so you decide if we were eating "well" or not), we didn't have much left over, but we didn't need it, either. Everything was fine. And we didn't eat the car.

But let me tell you what that dependency period taught me.

The whole time we were on the program, we were in constant fear of not having enough. The food stamp allotment went up and down (usually up) at the whim of the program. Re-certification appointments were frequent and served only to reinforce the idea that we were poor and miserable, and we would never be able to live without the government's help. It didn't matter to the case workers that we were college graduates. It didn't matter that we could have used our abilities and resources better. They didn't care about helping us out of the program. But they did keep asking us if we knew anyone else that needed their help.

When we lost the food stamps, it took a few months to realize that the sky had not fallen. It was like having the prison door unlocked but not realizing it's open. As we continued to manage to survive, I began to realize that we could have been weaned off the assistance anytime in those years. We could have left the program without starving. We didn't, as they had insisted to us, "need" the program.

Now, you can say, "Why didn't you just quit? Can't you just say ‘no?'" and that's a fair question.

But the only way I can explain it is that when you get into a system like that, you assume that the "experts" understand your situation better than you do. And when they keep telling you that you are still "in need," you just assume they must be right. After all, if you handled your life so badly that you need them in the first place, how can you assume you might make a better guess this time around and tell them to stop helping?

So the moral to the story is, if you think you can make it without help, you probably can. That's what this country was built on-people surviving on whatever God gave them. Sure, there are going to be times of want-everybody has those. But poverty is a state of mind, as much as it is an economic situation.

If you allow yourself to believe that you can't make it without help, you'll start behaving your way into making that a reality. And the more you lean into something, the harder it is to recover and stand up straight.

But you have to. This is America, and there is no one in this nation that has to make poverty their destiny. Instead, men and women throughout history have made their destiny out of their poverty. Our past is filled with heroic tales of people who started with nothing and ended up on top. It's the American way. It's the American story. It's the American dream.

And it's a sin for anyone to steal it-especially the government, in the name of the people.

The Right To Keep and Bear Arms

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. It reads;

For us, the meaning is unequivocal. It is that signal right which guarantees all others.

The following article was authored by William N. Kilarjian and Aaron Margolis.

Introduction: Exercising Our Right To Bear Arms

On November 27th, 2004, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we decided to take advantage of our Second Amendment right at the Firing Line Shooting Range in Pearl River, NY-not without getting coffee first, of course. While going to a shooting range is far from a Thanksgiving tradition, it was an opportunity for us to get some practice, and an even better opportunity to do some hands on research on the Second Amendment; what better place to do that than at a shooting range. We were joined by our associates Ron Dube, a graphic designer and photographer who would be photographing the events of the day, and Emmanuel (Manny) Ogundele, an IT expert, who would provide safety instruction.

We had been in contact with the owner of the Firing Line Shooting Range, Steve Eisenberg, for a few weeks in planning our visit. It came as no surprise to us that as a shooting range owner, the Second Amendment is an important issue for him. We asked Mr. Eisenberg his thoughts. Mr. Eisenberg stated that for him, particularly in the last election, the Second Amendment was a vital issue. "It's a major issue with me. I feel that if the Second Amendment isn't justified, then all the other amendments go out the door." Speaking to the issue of the War on Terror as concerns airplane hijackings he said, "as a matter of fact, every duly licensed individual should be permitted to carry their handgun on an airplane, this would certainly reduce the likelihood of a hijacking." Despite being a registered Democrat he, based on his Second Amendment concerns, cast his vote in the last election for George W. Bush.

We also spoke with some other people who were visiting the range that day. Frank Gandolfo, a retired New York Department of Corrections official, was there, and happy to give us a few words. He talked about how he had voted for Kerry and that while important, the Second Amendment issue was not of prime import in casting his vote in the last election. Additionally, he mentioned that he was not overly pleased with New York State Republican Governor George Pataki, particulary as concerns the Second Amendment. In response to a query on whether he supported the National Rifle Association (NRA) he stated that he was a member years ago, but felt they had become to overtly political and allowed his membership to lapse.

Inside the actual range, we found one person willing to say a few words about the Second Amendment. Gary Faucette was there with a friend, shooting his .410 bore shotgun. For him, the Second Amendment was also not the main issue in the last election. A Kerry supporter, who had voted for Republican candidates in the past, the direction of the War on Terror was of concern. Nonetheless he voiced strong support for the right to "keep and bear arms" particularly for personal protection.

Aaron's Personal Impressions

Of course, the day would not be complete without firing off a few rounds. After some initial safety instruction from Manny and William, I fired off a few rounds from an H&K USP Compact 9mm. I had not fired a pistol in about 7 years, so it took me some time to get used to the recoil of the pistol, and to calibrate my aim. After a few magazines of 9mm ammunition, William suggested I try Manny's H&K USP .45ACP. Initially, I was a bit wary, thinking that maybe I needed a bit more time to getting used to the smaller calibre. Nevertheless, they insisted, and I fired a few rounds from Manny's pistol. Much to my amazement, my accuracy was far superior on the larger calibre handgun. It was while shooting the H&K USP .45ACP that I hit inside the 10-ring three times in succession. Overall, my groupings were fairly consistent (at least those times I actually hit the target). I had the time to go through about two boxes of ammunition before we decided to call it a day. The experience of being able to fire the two handguns was educational, and perhaps will lead to a new hobby.