The Resistance Library

Author: Gary Hart

There is an emerging resistance library, interestingly enough composed of small books.  Among the first was Tim Snyder’s Tyranny, then Stephen Greenblatt’s Tyrants: Shakespeare on Politics, and now Michiko Kakutani’s The Death of Truth, given to me by a friend.  All are recommended.

Ms. Kakutani, formerly lead book reviewer for the New York Times, provides the most direct assault on Donald Trump by name, but the others categorize him in tyrannical terms with little mention of his name.

The Kakutani thesis, to the degree it submits to summarization, is that the Trumpian assault on facts and truth itself has roots in the post-modernist literature of the 1960s and 70s in which traditional language and history began to be replaced by relativistic interpretations based on personal experience and individual narratives tracing from ethnicity, gender, tribal affiliations, and random information.

In Ms. Kakutani’s words: “…postmodern arguments deny the objective reality existing independently from human perception, contending that knowledge is filtered through the prism of class, race, gender, and other variables.”

These arguments were often acquired by the left to overturn history written by and about “dead white males” and replace it with transgender, multicultural approaches to history, politics, and cultural studies.

There followed from this the so-called culture wars of the 1980s and 90s in which left and often liberal narratives went down the postmodernist road and conservative theorists and practitioners felt deeply obliged to defend tradition in history, politics, and policy.

Much anger from conservatism against Clinton and Obama administrations had to do with the belief that neither president nor their followers believed anything demonstrably true or morally certain.  Then, in a bizarre twist of fate, we arrived on the doorstep of the Trump era in which tables were turned all over the place.  Trump promised walls against immigrants, an end to abortions, an across the board conservative judiciary, climate denial, and termination of American participation in globalization.  But he did so by appropriating postmodernist arguments against facts, truth, objective reality, and ultimately science itself.

Many instances of Trump’s casual dismissal of truth and adoption of postmodernist relativism exist, none more telling than his statement after the Charlottesville racial confrontation that “there are some very fine people on both sides.”  Other examples abound daily.

Ms. Kakutani makes clear how Trump inherited and exploded a trend toward cynicism and relativism.  None other then George H.W. Bush’s campaign manager, the late Lee Atwater (whose cynical tricks lived on well after him) said, “perception is reality.”  And media increasingly honed toward sensationalism, as documented by Neil Postman, was all too ready for any dramatic perception.

Politically, this has caused consternation and ultimately schism in the “conservative movement” for whom the agenda might be congenial but for whom to wholesale adoption of postmodernism in communications went too far.  It is one thing to seek retreat to the era of the Enlightenment and modernism and quite another thing to adopt screwball postmodernist arguments to do so.

In conclusion, Ms. Kakutani cites the Founders, particularly Jefferson and Madison, on the dependence of the new democratic Republic on truth and reason, the hallmarks of the Enlightenment.

It is that dependence that has led this writer to produce a manuscript whose working title is: America Beyond Trump: Restoration of First Principles and which currently is in search of a publisher in the hopes of adding yet another volume to the resistance library.  The first principles set down by our Founders are solidly based in Enlightenment insistence on truth, facts, and objective reality.

Otherwise, if Trump and the Bannons of the world permanently send America down the path of relativism in language and policy, unleashed originally by postmodernists of the left, we will, as they hope, join the rightward movements in the current lurch by Western democracies toward authoritarianism.

We won’t be great and we won’t be America.

3 Responses to “The Resistance Library”

  1. Gary Hart Says:

    And, by the way, Happy Thanksgiving to all here and all who are passing by, including our turkey free friends Elizabeth and Lorenzo. Gary

  2. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    Thank you Senator Hart, Happy Thanksgiving to you from me and my American born and bred wife, Lana, we Turkey free not for lack of the celebration of the great day, rather due to the fact that we are vegetarians!

    Moral, like cultural norms,are to be protected, but adapted and changed. Though good on some aspects of liberty, the old right and centre right were lousy and loud , on gay rights, black and other ethnic minority, native American , for example, civil rights.

    Reagan was better than Thatcher on gay rights, Log Cabin Republicans his finest oddest, in the sense of most unusual, legacy in some ways.

    There must be a moral truth in support for caring and compassion, but it must not be one size fits all. Obama was at his most poor, when he said, discussing abortion, was ” above my pay grade.” I favour legal abortion, but up to less weeks than in my country the UK or the US. You can be for the rights of the individual, and see those of the potential child too. We seem to have a left that almost encourages abortion. These ideas and attitudes have got us also where we are, on the centre left, seeming very out of touch.

  3. Brian C McCarthy Says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you as well, Senator! Looking forward to reading America Beyond Trump.
    Cheers!
    BCM

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