Politics, Moderate

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Politics

Can there be a charitable reading of "s---hole"?

Kathleen Parker on

Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, it isn't necessarily racist to concern oneself at all with the qualities and characteristics of people one invites to join the American experiment. Or, is it? Shouldn't we care about job skills, education, economic mobility, or, if you're Buckley, a deep understanding of what it means to be a free people?

Perhaps, we are becoming culturalists rather than racists.

Buckley's proposition, which I'm not endorsing, is that when a critical mass of people, if not yet a majority, comes to the U.S. from countries that don't have a "heritage of doctrines of personal freedom ... along with the desire to stand tall on our [sic] own two feet," we might easily revert to the status of "serf dependent on the lord" or, in contemporary America's case, on Big Daddy.

Loose translation for the Trump crowd: Bring in people looking for a handout and Democrats will ruin the country.

Buckley, who spent the last third of his life running the Buckley School of Public Speaking, a modest think tank (still operating) where conferees are taught to think and therefore to speak more clearly, enjoyed debating the proposition that Americans unconsciously hanker for a king, a strongman, or a ruling elite.

He wrote: "It seems to elude us that a nation is great not because of its government but because of its people, and that there is an inverse relationship in that maxim: The greater the government, the weaker the people."

Do you suppose this is what President Trump meant to say with his blurt?

But I jest. Such a presumption would be a charitable stretch. It may be charitable as well to presume Buckley's better angels were at work. For within his own arguments -- and in Trump's febrile mind -- is an implicit lack of faith in another American idea articulated by George W. Bush. Freedom isn't a gift from us, he said, but rather God's gift to humanity, which can be understood to mean that the yearning for liberty, independent of all other concerns, is entwined in the hearts and souls of all people, regardless of which "shithole" they were born in or from which dung heap amidst rotting vegetables America's earliest immigrants escaped.

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Kathleen Parker's email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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