Cruel to Be Kind

This is an answer to a good friend who thinks we have crossed a watershed in the history of our republic:
Wisdom comes from knowledge which comes from painfully acquired information about reality—facts.  Since, as you say, you have little knowledge of the current political scene and even less of history,  your concerns do not really involve rational thought but are a reflection of depression, and unfortunately, this is a mental condition that leads the sufferer to be happy to see, as the French say, “tout en noir”, all in black.
Let me be very blunt to the point of saying what will seem cruel.  The fiction of democracy encourages the subjects of democratic states to think they have a voice, when they don’t.  You reap what you sow.  You sow the wind you reap the whirl wind.  Americans, step by step for 150 years have repudiated the foundations on which the revolutionaries of 1776 and 1787 hoped to build a republic.  The cynical Franklin doubted it would work, and the idealistic Jefferson knew it would only work if American households were economically independent, did not depend on government, did not lust after wealth and luxury, and were content to leave other people the hell alone.  None of this happened.  As a culture, this country is not worth saving.  As a travesty of republican government, it has been a monster of corruption at least since the 1860’s.  As an Empire it has wrought death and destruction around the planet.  If we can salvage something that will permit our grandchildren to live in peace, if they mind their own business, that would be a great triumph, and it does not matter which party is in power or who wins which election.
Put very simply:  You are wrong, completely wrong, on every simple point, and the error springs partly from lack of knowledge but even more from a melancholic condition that is the inevitable result of naive optimism.  You are like the man who falls in love with a prostitute.  Friends tell him what she is really like, but he won’t believe them.  She’s really cute and very sweet, and after they are married, when she goes back out on the street because it gives her a kick to manipulate men and see them grovel, he has a broken heart.
This is cruel, but you have two choices.  Either buckle down and study—philosophy,  literature, and history—or be content to cultivate your own garden.

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

6 Responses

  1. Robert Reavis says:

    Dear Dr. Fleming
    I had to smile after reading your “cruel and kind” post referencing Bugsy Moran and Al Capone because when I finally arrived home tonight I read the following in a advertisement for Newsmax which is I guess, the new Saigon for Fox News boat people.

    Few politicians understand this basic rule: “The business of America is business.” Calvin Coolidge understood this — he’s the one who said it. And so does Trump. When business thrives, so does the nation, and Trump has made good use of this rule throughout his brief tenure.”

    I recall your mention of Al Capone in Chicago who said :

    “Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class. When I sell liquor, it’s called bootlegging. When my patrons serve it on Lake Shore Drive, its called hospitality.”

    As for prostitution i guess it is strictly a business too these days but I prefer the honest girls working the streets to those working the halls of Congress.

  2. theAlabamian says:

    Yes, I realize my condition, and that is why I am eager to learn all I can while trying to spread knowledge to family and compatriots. It is both rewarding and sometimes feels overwhelming.

  3. Jacob Johnson says:

    If only there was a way to force every registered Republican to read this article out loud twice a day for a year. I suppose most of them would say ” what hope are you leaving us with?” The hope is you don’t have to worry anymore. If you really believed the things that right wingers said would come to pass for decades are you going to be afraid of it now or later? For those who insist on activism, if every anti-leftist facebook warrior trying to stop the leftists from being leftists gave that up and instead focused on becoming a thoroughly aloof and intransigent minority, we would all be better off. And the great thing is you do not have to tell anybody that you are doing that.

  4. Vince Cornell says:

    If I understand this article correctly, then I think it’s very unfair. Comparing a prostitute with Mitt Romney is just wrong. I mean, prostitutes are people, too. They don’t deserve that kind of abuse.

  5. Ken Rosenberger says:

    Vince, I seem to recall Dr Fleming giving a talk in which he compared voraciously corrupt politicians to Dracula, and almost immediately followed that comparison with something like “although I certainly don’t want to say anything bad about Dracula.”

  6. Vince Cornell says:

    Ken – I concur with those sentiments. Perhaps some of the modern emo glitter vampires would be a fair comparison, but definitely not Dracula.
    I confess, one of my many faults is that when I see the easy joke I’m afraid I take it every time, even when others have the good sense and class to just leave things be. I thank everyone at the Fleming Foundation for their patience!