Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Left Alone Among Thousands

Over at The American Spectator , Neal Freeman posts a very nice piece using this past weekend's Daytona 500 as the backdrop.


He captures beautifully a distinguishing trait that I still maintain is the most American of all as he somewhat humorously chastens politicians in both camps, including Sarah Palin (gently and obliquely), for misinterpreting both the Tea Party Uprisings and the current climate of opinion about most things political. Consider, for example, these three passages:

I was trapped in conversation this week with a candidate for high public office who, anticipating my rude question, blurted out that she was "running to restore people's trust in government." All I could think to say in return was, "Why would you want to do that?"

Here we are, stuck in a political cycle where almost nothing has gone right. We have taken a beating on politics, on economics, on culture. It's tough out there for everybody without Federal fix or favor. The only ray of sunshine is this healthy skepticism of government that's been rekindled among the citizenry -- and now, here comes our well-coiffed candidate with the straight seams determined to stamp out all the sparks before personal freedom breaks out in unplanned ways.

The point is that, as wired as they are just now by the politics of the day, they care a lot more about their families. And their communities. And their churches. And lots of other things that never pop up in the box slugged "Today's Events" in the Washington Post...What I'm saying is that these folks are real Americans, which means that they have better things to do than mess with politics.

I'm convinced that what our Founders hoped most to achieve, as it was also what most Americans at the time expected them to achieve, was the creation of an old-fashioned liberal (Isn't it tiresome to have to qualify "liberal" all the time?) republic in which politics were largely and properly marginalized. A republic in which the big issues were either already settled or widely agreed to be left unsettled. A country where people were for the most part left alone and left others alone in turn.

I suspect that last sentence immediately raised the hackles of communitarians and the innumerable critics of liberal democracy. The "liberal" in liberal democracy, they might protest, serves chiefly to institutionalize an atomized society of rootless, anomie suffering individuals who pass their otherwise pointless time bowling alone. But it is exactly here that these critics make the huge mistake of conflating and confusing government with society. Americans can and do distinguish quite easily the difference between the meddling in their lives done in the name of all by the government and their own freely expressed craving for the company of others. They resist and resent the former, desire and cherish the latter. They insist on the right to be left alone, so that, without contradiction, they can gather freely with family, friends, fellow congregants, and, if they like, 200,000 other screaming NASCAR fans.


  1. Thanks for the reference to the Neal Freeman piece. I really enjoyed it. Of course, yours was brilliant as usual.