Better Than Them

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We are better than them. When all the other arguments for why we can’t fight back have been exhausted this is the one that remains in the background presenting our moral exceptionalism as the reason we shouldn’t fight to protect ourselves.

“Fight back? But then we’d be no better than them?” If we waterboard then we are no better than the headchoppers and mutilators. If we profile then we are no better than the genocidal jihadists. If we treat our friendly Pakistani and Saudi visitors the way they would have been treated a century ago– then we would be guilty of being un-American.

But is that really the difference between us, that we treat everyone equally even when they are cutting our throats, and the moment we deviate from the standards of the Trial Lawyers Association then we’re no better than the Taliban or Al-Qaeda? Does our exceptionalism derive from our laws, in which case if we compromise our laws then we give up the only worthwhile thing about us and there is nothing more to fight for– or are our laws the means by which we protect our individual and national exceptionalism?

We are better than they are, is the argument put forward so often by those who do not truly believe that we are, and even when they do they don’t understand why we are.  The Bill of Rights did not spring full-grown out of a barbaric culture, nor did any of the same judicial rulings and quotes so often used by advocates of the 10 percent defense plan.

We are not better than they are because we guarantee civil rights to our enemies– we are better than they are because of Michelangelo, the microchip and universal education. We are better than they are because of Shakespeare, the space shuttle and the World Trade Center. We are better for all the reasons around us, the accomplishments, the achievements, the knowledge we have gained and the society we have built.

Our laws were crafted to protect these achievements, the exceptionalism of the individual from the government, and that of the nation from internal and external enemies. The laws have no individual life apart from the culture of the nation that created them and maintains them. It would be possible to transpose the United States Constitution to Indonesia, Libya or Pakistan and it wouldn’t last a single day there. No mere document can safeguard rights and freedoms that a culture does not value, and no culture that does not value them is deserving of their protection if such protection has the cumulative effect of destroying those same rights and freedoms.

Freedom isn’t just defended on the battlefield, by the time things get that bad then the damage will be hard to contain. We defend it every day by defending the culture that makes it possible. Against external enemies there is the war of armed conflict, economic competition and geographic positioning. Against the internal enemy there is the culture war, the war of ideas and institutions.

Who we are is seen in the connections that define our culture and those connections tell us who we are. Rewire the human brain so that its connections are no longer streamlined and identity breaks down into fragments of things that no longer make sense. The same is true of a culture, lose the connections and you end  up celebrating holidays you don’t understand and fighting for things that feel intuitively right, but no longer seem to fit into the new order of things. It is the task of the culture warriors to rebuild those connections so that the culture understands itself.

Connections don’t just store information, they define priorities by reminding us which thing is dependent on the other. They remind us that governments sre instituted to keep laws and laws are implemented to keep the people. Governments serve the law, but the law serves the people.

And the people are not some random mass, they are not defined by passports and identity cards or place of birth– the people are the keepers of the flame of their culture. This need not be a matter of birth, immigrants can be among the greatest heroes and natives among the greatest traitors. But no one who is committed to the destruction of the culture, in concrete or abstract terms, in the immediate present or the indefinite future, can enjoy the protection of legal codes that exist to protect the freedom of the individual within the integrity of a free culture.

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  • ziontruth

    Nice pic. That's the "That phrase will be written on our civilization's epitaph" I keep saying to the Marxists, graphically illustrated.

    Yes, we are better than them. However, even were we no better than them, still we would have the right to fight, and to resist those invaders by any means possible. We would have that right because one needs no moral justification whatsoever to defend his family and nation; the right of such defense is self-evident.

    Even if a complete moral equivalence between us and them could be shown, still there is an incontrovertible reason why we have the right of defense: Because we are we and they are they. Self-preservation needs no moral argument to justify it.

    In fact, it would have been better to begin this fight out of the self-preservation motive, rather than out of moral argumentation. Had the fight begun from that standpoint, all the men and material wasted on futile "nation-building" efforts in the Islamic world (effectively, installing Weimar Republics there, for the populace to vote Islamic theocrats to power) would have been rightly expended on de-Marxification and de-Islamification: The outlawing of Marxism as treason, and the deportation of all Muslim immigrant-invaders from one's soil. Under "We are better than them," moral sanctimony ensues; whereas, under the imperative of self-defense, there is no such debate.

    Moralism and "we are better than them" calls for the generosity of permitting a mosque on Ground Zero while Saudi Arabia still doesn't permit anything other than mosques; self-preservation prohibits a mosque on Ground Zero, and any other mosque, for being, as Turkey's would-be neo-Ottoman sultan said, the barracks from which the army of Islam launches its attacks. A different game, with different rules, and without the shackles of having to justify ourselves and every move of ours.

    • xnylady

      Why are we allowing Mr. Obama to commit us to Islam? He has proven himself to accept Islam. He has put 2 more Islamists in Our Government. Islamists have been taking over our Education facilities, now want to educate our kindergarten. Do the search: Professors. Hasn’t England been lesson enough?

  • Robert Pinkerton

    1. The beginning of decadence is the belief that survival is guaranteed. Not so, either by the Divine or by nature.

    2. When I was very young, before the Korean conflict(!), my Dad, a World War Two mustang Officer (despite being a college kick-out), told me that the exceptionalism of America lay in the fact that the privileges of the nobility in Europe were the ordinary civil rights of common equal citizens here.

    • ziontruth

      They're not called The Greatest Generation for nothing.

  • tagalog

    Thank you for that commentary. It is, of course, absolutely true. We are better because we developed a better way of perceiving and dealing with reality. We started with the ancient Greeks and putting emphasis on our reason, leaving the spiritual for spiritual thought and applying rationality to our thoughts about the material, and making the question "How shall we govern ourselves?" an important question. We also kicked off a new way of dealing with the world by asking philosophically, "What is nature of the universe?" and "How do we know what we think we know?" Then we adopted two religions as our main ones, Judaism and Christianity, religions that found ways to accommodate themselves to the use of reason in the mundane things of the world. Then we found a method to differentiate the mind (the spiritual) from the body (the material), and we concluded that it is pointless to torment the physical for the sake of forcing conversion to the spiritual, spelling the end of slavery, torture, and forced confession. Then, focusing on how man should govern himself, we developed the idea of individual liberty. Those things are what make us better despite our lapses. Nearly all of the critiques of the West as a force in the world focus on the old ways of the world, ways that have led to slavery and murder of millions upon millions of people. I hope the West never has an epitaph that says anything; I hope the rest of the ideas of how to govern people in the world have the epitaph, "We were so bad we had to go."

  • erp

    Please get an editor who knows the English language.

    We are better than they.

    If you think that's too stilted, phrase the sentence in a different way.

    Sheesh!

    • ziontruth

      Please inform that commenter we're not in the 1950s anymore.

      And more importantly, that this discussion is too serious to be derailed by grammatical pedantry, unless the meaning is affected by the error in question.

      This is the kind of thing up with which Winston Churchill would never put.

      • erp

        Wrong.

        Egregiously bad grammar colors a reader's first impressions and may actually cause many, like myself, to give it a pass thinking if the author doesn't know or care about basic grammar, why should I think he knows or cares anything about the topic.

        If you think your message is important, take the time have your editor check your copy or if you don't have an editor, at least, use the grammar check in the word processor.

        • ziontruth

          "Egregiously bad grammar colors a reader's first impressions…"

          I partly agree… SMS-speak like "plz rite bac 2 me now" sure is off-putting. Where I disagree is that "It is I" instead of "it's me" is egregiously bad grammar. It may have been, something like 70 years ago, but it isn't now.

          Save it for the its/it's, your/you're, their/there/they're confusions, which definitely are worthy of remarks. Even then, keep in mind that the spell-Czech app can't warn you of the mistake of spelling one word as another (like those pairs above)—it takes artificial intelligence for that, and AI has proved to be one of the great disappointments of the last century. Also remember that proofreading, unless done by someone else, requires that you leave your essay for at least a day before you go back to reading it for proofing.

          /schoolteacher mode off

          • erp

            Why worry about your/you're, they're/their/there, it's/its or any similar niceties. You know who your target reader is and it ain't moi.

            Too bad.

            You might have had something interesting to say, but I don't have to read childish papers because I'm not a school teacher and I sure hope you aren't one either if your philosophy is that it's okay to follow only the rules you like whether they be grammatical or in any other area of life.

          • ziontruth

            And I hope you aren't such a chest-thumping macho in real life as you are online. Your comments, from first to last, from start to finish, have a "Lookit me roar!" air about them. I'm not one to deny people their stupid pleasures, so I'm signing off for this discussion.

          • ziontruth

            Oh, and I'm a programmer by trade. It's the unforgiving nature of computers that compels me to show a little more leniency to human foibles.

  • StephenD

    Excellent article Mr. Greenfield. Good comments all. I would add only that the question of how and in what way we are “better than them” must be answered. It must be answered in our youth and confirmed in our lives. There is a place for honor, for personal pride of accomplishment, for noble enterprise like helping the unfortunate or those weaker than us. We ARE better than they in our ability to speak freely. We are better than they because we freely give and that more than ANY OTHER PEOPLE on earth. These are the things of life that make us better than them. These are the things worth dying for. If our children aren’t taught; if they aren’t instilled with the pride of being AN AMERICAN they’ll see no reason to stand to defend it. Our failure then is this: In this “Sweet land of Liberty” We have not carried the legacy of our forefathers; Our “Pilgrims Pride” and we must once again or perish from within.

  • tanstaafl

    What do we stand for? Freedom.

    What do our opponents stand for? Tyranny.

    If that's not enough reason to fight, I don't know what is.

    • ziontruth

      "What do we stand for? Freedom. What do our opponents stand for? Tyranny."

      So you say, and I agree with you. But the academic Left makes it their entire business to show that, if not the opposite, then at the very least there is an equivalence between us and our enemies. That's what's behind their perpetualization of the "colonial guilt" the West carries—moral equivalence for the purpose of destroying the West's will to survive.

      • tanstaafl

        There is no equivalence between the both of us and a "man" who butchers the women in his home because he "thinks" they have "dishonored" him. There is no equivalence between a our culture and one where his actions are mandated and celebrated.

        I recognize that leftists and our cultural elite push moral relativity, however, I disagree.

  • mrbean

    I am better than everyone. The rest of you exist only to serve my needs. When I walk on water I leave no ripples, and when I step on the shire, the earth becomes hallowed from the holy oils of my feet. When I die I want my Earthly body to be buried with my A$$ in the air so you can all have the privilege of kissing me goodbye.

    • Chiggles

      I am better than you.

    • tagalog

      I've heard it said many times that you're better than no one,
      And no one is better than you.
      If you really mean that then you know you have nothing to win and nothing to lose.
      But it grieves my heart, love, to see you trying to be a part of
      A world that just can't exist;
      They'll hype you and type you into making you feel that you've got to be just them.

  • DJJ

    We're better than them? That is arrogance personnified.
    Our 'system' is better than theirs, but we have people in our system who are no better than those we're 'told' we should hate.

    We 'kill' and are killed because of our beliefs. How is that better?
    We send people to kill in the name of a moral high ground? Say what?

    • Ronald W. Carnine

      Dear DJJ, there is a big difference about sending people to kill because those who we are killing are murdering the defenseless intentionally. There is such a thing as a just war. We desire to live in a free nation, we will have to fight to keep it so. Our forefathers understood this truth and gave of their property, their persons and "their sacred honor". The very first foreign war this nation ever fought was against Muslims stopping our ships and enslaving our people and demanding ransom or protection money to get them to stop. Our system of gov't is better than theirs. Our freedoms are superior to theirs. Our soldiers went to the Middle East after Iraq invaded Kuwait. They fought and died to kick a murdering, raping, and stealing neighbor out of sovereign territory. That is morally superior to killing for fun as we saw in Kuwait after Iraq had conquered this tiny country. To fight and kill and to die to free the slaves during the civil war is morally superior to Hitler invading Poland as he began his war to conquer the world and set up a kingdom of white skinned, blue eyed people. There is a moral high ground, its where freedom lives

  • DJJ

    Has anyone here ever heard of "false flags"?
    The writer is a schill for what's referred to as neocon conservatives, who are in fact neoliberals, according to original defintions.

    How is it that "liberal" foreign policy(democrat Obama) = "conservative" foreign policy
    (Republican Bush)?
    Because we're better? Even our 'system' has been corrupted with redefinition and interpretation by people who go to school for 4 years to learn how to lie legally and legislate from the bench. We 'allow' that, yet we're better?

  • DJJ

    Like the writer said, the one thing he did get right, 'laws are made to keep people"….."the rule of law" is what made our 'system' exceptional to allow what the writer boasts about, but when you have the rule of law shunned and blatantly disregarded then we lose our exceptionalism.

    We never were 'better', just different, allegedly more sophisticated. Our "system" 'was' better, but that system has been dis-carded in favor of what? Certainly not exceptionalism, and certainly no better. A killing is a killing, regardless of the level of sophistication attached to it. Forcing one's will on another is what has caused ALL conflicts throughout history…and to 'claim' a "moral high ground" is the worst kind of arrogance, regardless of how sophisticated an argument a writer puts forth.

  • Hercules

    Our laws have become instrumentalities of suppression and violations of individual liberty. They are, in too many instances, unjust, reflections of multicultural nonsense, violations of our rights, and expressions of tyranny. Laws have become the means for oppression. Increasingly they do not deserve our allegiance or compliance. It is not the laws that we should die for but for the country which declared its independence in 1776 simultaneously defining the liberties which are the only cause worth dying for.

  • alexander

    when will Republicans open their mouths about constant anti-USA moves like this:
    "U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walks past a General Motors "Spark" while touring the GM Powertrain plant in Tashkent, Uzbekistan October 23, 2011"
    IN
    UZBEKISTAN??? TOO MANY JOBS IN USA????? WHO IS MENTALLY SICK THERE?????

  • erp

    Grammar makes communication clear. That's its intent and yes I expected my children to speak correctly as far as their ages allowed. By the time they started school, their spoken English was better than most of their teachers, especially the younger ones.

    People who aren't native English speakers are far more anxious than you might imagine to learn to speak correctly and of course I don't correct them, but I speak correctly to them and they catch on. Merely repeating what they've said as a question using the correct tense for instance works great. I've worked with folks from many different lands who spoke lots of different languages. It's amazing how fast they 'get' it.

    Written English is a lot harder because the words we use come from so many different languages, spelling rules don't work very well, so you just have to memorize your spelling words. Reading for pleasure helps people learn English usage and spelling, but if you accept misspellings and grammatical errors, it negates reading as a tool for learning English.

    Arrogance is a killer. The arrogance of the unschooled and ignorant who expect everyone else to understand what they're saying when they haven't the courtesy to learn how to communicate in the own language and expect us to decode their prattlings.

    To the computer programmer above. Garbage in/Garbage Out works the same way in writing sentences as in writing code.

  • StephenD

    Four posts on your part alone….
    Dude, may I suggest you go into a corner and snap off? You'll probably feel a whole lot better and be able to get over yourself long enough to see the importance of what was written before you take out your red pen to correct the grammar…just a thought.

  • erp

    It's a blue pencil and I'm a 77 year old grandmother not likely to solve any problems by snapping off, but you go right ahead if that's your MO.