More Second Thoughts, Round Three

At first glance, President Obama's selection of this years's winners of "The Presidential Medal of Freedom" seems bizarre.  Lee Hamilton, Willie Mays, Yogi Berra, Shirley Chisholm and Barbara Mikulski, music entrepreneur Emilio Estefan, Gloria Estefan, Indian activist Billy Frank, Stephen Sondheim and Stephen Spielberg, Barbara Streisand, James Taylor,  and Jap rights activist Minoru Yasui.  Gee, what is warhawk Lee Hamilton doing with these freaks?  The only other straight white  male with a name ending in a consonant, James Taylor, is a drug-using  mental patient.

On second thought, perhaps it is perfect.   This is the face of the new America--'athaletes,' entertainers, and professional whiners.  Shirley Chisholm is perhaps the perfect choice for this president.  When running for the presidency herself, a reporter asked how she could carry out her ridiculous Marxist promises if Congress opposed her.  I'd rule, she declared, by executive fiat.  A real path-breaker and model for a President who wishes to rule by executive orders=executive fiat.

If American politicians wish to import enemies of Christianity, doesn't that make the politicians anti-Christians?


If Marco Rubio is correct in saying that America was founded on Christian principles, does that make Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison un American?


If Marco Rubio is right that the American "founding" declares that rights come not from earthly sovereignty but from God, shouldn't he repudiate the Scriptures that say nothing of the kind?


If black lives really matter, why are they wasting them on noisy demonstrations and irrational diatribes?


If black lives matter, why do so many black young men sell drugs, rob, rape, and murder other blacks?


If Islam is a religion of peace, why can't they seem to get along even with each other?


If democracy is the least bad form of government, as Churchill insisted, can we try something a little worse, just to see if we can find political leaders on a higher level than Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Marco Rubio?


If women were really subjugated by men for a million years, weren't they made to be slaves?

More to Come....



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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

21 Responses

  1. MD says:

    Dr. Fleming, in regard to democracy, we are told that one of the great benefits of our system is that it is so stable. Is a peaceful transition of power between two parties that control everything and agree on everything really so desirable?

  2. Dot says:

    I think all these questions involve one word – freedom and its abuse. The first two is that of abuse of freedom. It is the negative use of anger that can allow freedom to work in a positive way. It is not using their great creative abilities for a better purpose. In that sense, the black lives matter motto if more destructive to freedom and this group still thinks of themselves as not free.
    The third question is two questions. The peace of Islam is not freedom but subjugation of the conquered peoples to the victors and to Allah. They can’t get along goes back to the early development of that religion and the milieu they live in at the time.
    4. Our form of government is the least bad form of government because our constitution has a moral and ethical foundation.
    5. Women were not really subjugated by men for a million years and were not made to be slaves. God took them out of the Garden and gave them something else – responsibility. Freedom requires responsibility.

  3. Dot says:

    In order to write this and get is accepted by the Fleming Foundation, I had to quickly rewrite it again and made errors. The third sentence should read: It is the positive use of anger that can allow freedom to work in a positive way.

  4. Dot says:

    Again I noticed another error. The second sentence refers to Adam and Eve, not just to Eve. It would have been better if I just answered a couple of questions at a time. Trying to rush through it so as not to get a captcha error is frustrating and a waste of time. I’m thinking of stopping this.

  5. Robert says:

    Dot, you are doing fine, just fine. I read your words and enjoy your posts.

  6. Dot says:

    Thank you, Robert. I just don’t understand how some can write these long comments and this site accepts it, whereas I have gotten mine rejected if I seem to spend too much time on it. I like this site for the critical thinking it provides, from the person who posts and from those who comment. It takes me away from who killed whom that is all too frequently reported in the local paper.

  7. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Dot, I can assure you that no one has censored your posts in any way. The next time there is a glitch, send an email and I’ll fix it. As a safety precaution, you might type your comments in your regular word processing software and then cut and paste them in. This way if something happens you won’t have to do a rewrite. I have begun to remove comments that are either personal or a distraction.

    MD, there are many problems with democracy, the most obvious being that it is almost never defined or, when it is, the definition really applies to any self-governing commonwealth. The best way to think of democracy as a form of state, controlled by the few in the name of the many, empowered in principle to violate every tradition, custom, law, and norm that a society has revered. A lesser problem with democracy is that it elevates process–elections, open franchise, alternation of parties–over both moral principles and human realities. Suppose for example you were given a choice of American futures:

    1) An increasingly “democratic” state open to aliens worldwide, a welfare system growing in proportion to declining economy, an equalization of all religions and cultures that results in the continuous erosion of Christian and European culture, a continuing breakdown in law and order and public decency…


    2) a less “democratic state” with voting rights reserved for net taxpayers (as opposed to net tax consumers), and high offices reserved to property holders who did not avoid the draft or combat, never declared bankruptcy or got a divorce.

  8. Sid Cundiff says:

    Polybius told us what was wrong with democracy. His faultfinding seems accurate when surveying the contemporary scene.

  9. Dot says:

    In my view, the choice is neither. I think there is a problem with factions in this country – many minor factions adding up to a major faction of a liberal and self serving mindset. I think the voting record is showing more and more a tendency toward this liberal way of thinking. The three branches of government seem to be catering more frequently to this mindset. Pres. Madison warned about the problem of majority factions.

  10. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Option 1 is where we are headed and quite rapidly. Option 2–move in the direction of a lawful republic and away from lawless democratic tyranny is the only attractive alternative. Of course, a hard-core dictatorship is also an option, but that is generally the fulfillment of democracy.
    Madison, alas, is a very unreliable character, at times altogether too much under Hamilton’s evil influence. Neither he nor Jefferson, in their worst nightmares, could have imagined what America had been turned into by 1860, and they would have refused to live in a country that could elect either Bush or Obama, much less whichever is our next Barnum-in-Chief.

    As I observed above, the choice is between procedural democracy which exercises tyranny over everyone, particularly the normal and productive citizens, or a republic based on respect for law and custom, which could not even be aimed at without disenfranchising at least half the population. Obviously, we are not going to restore republican government, but whenever people engage in a political discussion, it is good to establish in what direction they would like their country to head.

  11. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:


    If Marco Rubio is correct in saying that America was founded on Christian principles, does that make Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison un American?

    If Marco Rubio is right that the American “founding” declares that rights come not from earthly sovereignty but from God, shouldn’t he repudiate the Scriptures that say nothing of the kind?

  12. Dot says:

    The choices don’t sound appealing. Option 2 then, moving toward a lawful republic away from lawless democratic tyranny is the answer. I wonder if loss of the manufacturing base economy and toward a consumer based economy that supports the country contributes to the rise of the disenfranchised. I think the consumer based economy in a sense satisfies will and desire but leads to a weakening of character. I think it is through sacrifice that one becomes disciplined.

  13. Robert says:

    Washington ,Jefferson, Madison, could lead because the people they were leading still shared habits of a Christian culture though not a theology.: Attempting to lead libertarian mobs and anarchists is an entirely different enterprise. As Chesterton said about our founders ,they proved that the idea of the 19th century philosophical gentleman could not be permanently born.

  14. Brett says:

    Didn’t John Adams claim our Constitution was designed for a Christian nation and would not serve any other?

  15. Dot says:

    America was not founded on Christian principles but principles of moralism and reason. Many in the population were Christian. Jefferson for sure was a deist; Adams, Washington and Madison were also likely deists. I doubt they would declare that rights come from God. However, it does not make any of the founding un-American. Marco Rubio’s statements were not correct. Does it say something about him? I am not the one to judge. It’s about getting votes.

  16. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Dot, thanks for reminding me of a fundamental point. American was not founded. Jacobin France was founded, as was Communist Russia and Nazi Germany. America was settled and grew like topsy. The constitutional arrangements that developed were a response to, the Americans’ British experience and to their changed circumstances. The point of my joke was to debunk the pseudo-Christian–and I might add anti-Christian arguments of so-called Fundamentalists who actually reject most of the teachings of Christianity and invent some whacky notion of American as a Christian nation, especially blessed by the Creator. It is all about getting votes, but let us be clear on the issues before we vote for the Concentration Camp guard of our choice.

  17. Robert M. Peters says:

    Dr. Fleming, I am currently teaching a classed entitled “Western Civilization,” assuming that there is enough left thereof to teach. In various ways and by different means I challenge my students to show me that the set of abstractions which we label as “rights” come from God. Where is the existence of these abstractions called “rights” found in Holy Writ, taught by the Church or revealed by the Holy Ghost? At best, the ideology of rights is a teaching of the Enlightenment which was read into Scripture as an eisegesis and read back out as an exegesis, thereby claiming scriptural authority. As to the “founding,” we had a discussion just yesterday in class. The students had noticed that I had dismissed the term “founders” or “the founding.” The very shorthand version of my response was that the learned men of the late 18th century, most with their own agendas or that of a faction or factions, did not with magic pixy dust immanentize the eschaton and transform the divergent and competing thirteen republics into a Utopia, either nascent or full grown.

  18. Harry Heller says:

    Perhaps a future discussion should seek to flesh out the contours of an authentic “Christian Commonwealth” (or Republic, if that is preferred).

    One should not be too quick to dismiss the American Founders. They did a pretty amazing job of crafting a blueprint of government which greatly aided in our nation’s rise. I should be delighted if we could restore the Constitutional Republic. That document may not have been perfect; but is there a better one anywhere in the world?

    The errors of the Founding are those associated with liberalism. But many of those which we might carelessly ascribe to the Founders are in fact later accretions. Democracy is the chief reason behind the never-ending growth of the Federal government, which in turn is the main reason why conservatives have mostly lost over the years. The Founders, however, gave us a highly restricted franchise – a republic, not a democracy. They thought theirs was a republic with firm limits on the possibility of governmental expansion (ie, strong property rights). Later generations weakened the Framers’ design, and the result is the rathole the USA is today.

  19. Robert says:

    Dot, Tom, Mr.Peters.Mr.Heller. All of you spoke well. If such conversations are possible on a very obscure but intelligent blog among people of different temperaments, talents and persuasions, why is it no longer possible on a public scale?

  20. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I don’t know that anyone is dismissing “the founders,” but the problem starts with that very expression. Revolutionary regimes have founders, while our country was a federation of British provinces that seceded from the Crown and the authority of parliament. There are no founding ideas that were not cliches, and the Constitution is a workmanlike attempt to square the various interests–big and small states, rural and commercial-industrial, slave-owning and worker-exploiting. When it worked, as it did down to perhaps 1830 or so, it was because it reflected the people of the country. With the fuss raised by JQ Adams and his friends over Missouri, Jefferson knew that he and his colleagues had wasted their time and effort. To the extent that the Constitution reflects sound political principles, it can be held up as a theoretical though not a practical model. The Anti-Feds knew its weaknesses and denounced them, but they were ignored, and the result was the war of imperial conquest that destroyed the republic. The party’s over, it’s time to call it a day… Mooning over a piece of paper that sort of worked for a generation is not worth a serious man’s time unless, of course, one can achieve something practical today. So far I don’t see much good that has come out of the original-intent idolaters.

  21. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Stalin set up people’s republics and democracies in Eastern Europe. Surely, he knew his own handiwork! Since Adams was not a Christian but like Jefferson picked an chose elements of Christianity that he found compatible with Whiggery, he did not even have to lie (much) in saying such a thing. Of course, in those days Christian could also be equated with European as in “He ate his meat like a Christian,” meaning he used knife nd fork.