Mentioned in the clip above around 2:00 – Whittaker Chambers watching his daughter in her high chair:
“No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature (the Communist view). They could only have been created by immense design.” The thought was involuntary and unwanted. I crowded it out of my mind. . . . I did not know that, at that moment, the finger of God was first laid upon my forehead.
From “Forward in the Form of a Letter to My Children,” Witness (1952), page XIV by Whittaker Chambers
The Awakened Versus the Woke
I attended a AFSA conference last week on free speech in Washington, DC where panelists said the woke, who represent a small minority of the population, are starting to run from the term woke. They said the summer of 2020 awakened the vast majority (see Bacon’s Rebellion link) of the population, who are now the Awakened. We left the conference with “awakened hope” that the U.S. might not be going down Big Brother’s toilet of tyranny and despotism, where the only truth is no truth and where amplified racism will cure racism.
The conference was distinctively bipartisan, since the First Amendment, free speech, and the destructiveness of Cancel Culture is a major concern of every American. The conference’s keynote speaker was head of the ACLU for 17 years.
Funny thing: 2022 represents the 55th anniversary of 1967’s so-called “Summer of Love,” the nickname hippies and flower children, mostly in San Francisco, gave as they lit up and tuned out. We middle era Boomers were coming of age then, and anyone old enough to know will never forget how that summer’s events terrorized the nation. It included over 150 urban race riots caused by extreme summer heat and serious racial tension. Rioters destroyed whole shopping centers and neighborhoods to protest inequality, the Vietnam War, and the heat.
It seemed to continue non-stop throughout 1968. The Vietcong’s Tet Offensive began in January 1968 and continued in waves all year. (Estimates vary, but the Vietnam War cost 1.2 million civilian casualties and 192,00 American lives. We have seen nothing close since.) President Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election on March 31, 1968; MLK was assassinated on April 4, 1968; RFK was assassinated on June 5, 1968; radical riots plagued the Democratic National Convention in Chicago between August 26 and 28, 1968. Like today, America’s institutional foundations were laced with subversive elements at every level.
Many feared the United States could fall apart. It was a real possibility then. All of the historical research since amplifies how close we were. Sound familiar?
The Summer of Hate: 2020
It’s easy to understand why the Summer of 2020 (through the November Election and the events of January 6, 2021 in Washington last year) remind many Boomers of the Summers 1967-68. Indeed, anyone can see why the Summer of 2020 and the year since might bring fear and pessimism to those with memories back to the 60’s.
Our message today, however, is that the small minority of elite woke has awakened a vast American majority that now has reason to be quite hopeful, based on events that have continued to unfold. Our domestic issues seemed momentous and real in 1967-68, but they do not seem so today. They seem manufactured. The statistics do not support the “systemic” claims or the personal experience of most who have lived that 55 year period between 1967 and today. Immigrants do not break down the doors to get into systemically evil countries.
Yes, the elements that would bring America down might be even more present in our cultural hierarchies than they were in the late 1920’s to late 1960’s, but we also see much evidence in 2022 that it’s truly the darkest before the dawn.
The Awakened Genie of the Majority will not go back in the bottle.
And the reason? Regular, ordinary people in America who never allow themselves to stray far from truth and common sense tend to win out over the long run in a still free United States. Let’s get some perspective from two Praxis Circle Contributors who have been leaders for many years, Ross Mackenzie and Mary Eberstadt, and then circle back to my annoyingly optimistic claims. (A future PC Contributor Rusty Reno is also quoted here.)
Back to the Future: We’ve Been Here Before
In March, 2021, we interviewed Ross Mackenzie, the over 40 years Editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, central Virginia’s leading newspaper. We wanted to start 2021 with someone who could give us mature, learned context in which to place the Trump presidency and the events of the summer of 2020. While on the one hand Mr. Mackenzie reinforced the observation of many, like Rod Dreher in Live Not By Lies, that America should look to the history of communism and large totalitarian government in considering wokeness, CRT, and the 1619 Project, he also highlights that things haven’t really changed much since those crazy 1960’s.
While he argues Trump’s 2016 presidential victory permanently changed journalism from fact reporting to opinion advocacy, he also says that the media was just as biased when he entered journalism as a young man. He offers a personal anecdote as proof where in the presidential election year 1980 only five out of 500 newspaper editors from across the nation were actually for Ronald Reagan. Half of them even picked Ted Kennedy, the AOC of his time, over the then sitting president, Jimmy Carter.
Obviously, this would suggest the “elite” press corps was just as disconnected from the people as it is today.
The “Elite” are Permanently at War
Times are changing rapidly, and we hope better communication between seriously conflicting worldviews can help minimize tension. While that is Praxis Circle’s mission and hope, it’s doubtful that the culture wars will end anytime soon. In fact, they appear to be intensifying over fundamental issues of truth and justice.
To elaborate, let’s quote a new Praxis Circle Contributor, Rusty Reno, interviewed in New York City on November 30th. We plan to publish his interview this June. The following quote is from the December 2021 edition of First Things magazine, where Mr. Reno serves as Editor:
At this juncture, a bipartisan consensus obtains in our ruling class. The rich and powerful believe that we live in a degraded and broken country filled with dependent and dysfunctional people. It’s interesting to note that angry voters disagree. They just differ about who to blame for the all too real and very deep problems facing our country. And I submit that ordinary people, not the well-credentialed people running things, have a more accurate political philosophy. They see that a country becomes de-industrialized, degraded, and dysfunctional because its ruling class has failed. Put simply: A fish rots from the head down. (page 67)
I would only qualify that by saying the ruling class is divided within both public and private sectors, with the Left by whatever means dominating the federal government bureaucracies, media, educational systems, Mainline clerisy, and the management of the largest public companies. On the other hand, the Left does not dominate the Independents and Right of the private sector, where most Americans raise their families, work, and educate themselves.
While disliking the terms “Left and Right” and while recognizing that occasionally these two camps can agree politically on practical grounds, the worldviews and fundamental principles of each are not compatible. Unfortunately, since perhaps the 1980’s these differences have taken on important political implications and seeped down into everyday life. To some, it doesn’t feel so much like the 1960’s, but more like what we imagine the 1850’s to have been.
The People, the voting booths, and the markets will settle this, and we pray we won’t need the military.
The War Against Marxism Continues
For years, acquaintances recommended reading one of the greatest autobiographies of the 20th Century—and I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t finish Whittaker Chambers‘ Witness (1952) until late afternoon on Christmas Day just past. While it is long, Mr. Chambers did not disappoint one bit. I recommend it to anyone interested in beautiful autobiographical writing.
I must warn, however, that Witness will scare the pants off of you because it carefully describes how infested with underground Communists our nation’s government and elite institutions became after World War I. These subversives were devoted solely to totalitarian revolution and atheism. Many reported from America’s highest institutions through the underground Soviet apparatus directly to Stalin—several were murdered by Stalin’s agents in the U.S. or the Soviet Union, thinking they had his favor.
Whittaker Chambers was a very bright American who became a Communist in 1924, but found Christianity in the late 1930’s. Realizing the growing danger to his country during the 1930’s and 1940’s, he risked his life to renounce his Communist Party membership. Over time he exposed espionage within the U.S. government at the highest levels. At first, few Americans could believe communism’s prevalence within its elite upper class ranks or its astonishing level of deception.
After World War II during the Truman administration, Chambers’ efforts attracted the attention of Congress and the FBI. His leads set them against the State Department and other government agencies. Scales fell from American eyes as they learned the country was seriously at risk in a brand new war few saw coming—the Cold War.
With the Ukraine, my friends, we see it’s no longer over or cold. The Russian and Chinese governments are our enemies. We are even more infested with subversives today than in the early 1950’s, and they are completely out in the open. They don’t want to reform America, they want to destroy it and rebuild in their own image.
Basically, Whittaker Chambers was the chief witness against Alger Hiss, a top State Department and government official for many years who had been instrumental in such important events as the Yalta Conference and the founding of the United Nations. Indeed, when I started reading Witness, I could not remember from my school days who Alger Hiss was. And, certainly, I did not know Hiss had worked directly for Edward R. Stettinius, my wife’s grandfather, who was Secretary of State under FDR and who was the Yalta Conference’s and the U.N. founding’s primary manager. (By the way, Mr. Stettinius was as far as one could get from being a Communist.)
But the reality was that the New Deal and World War II had caused the federal government to mushroom, and this growth had attracted closet Communist Party members across the board, many of whom were recruited from America’s upper class and trained by America’s best universities, especially in the Ivy League. Students today learn about the “Red Scare” and the “McCarthy Era,” but they do not learn that the scare was extremely real and threatening.
Ordinary Americans Will Prevail
To begin heading toward the finish line here, let’s again quote First Thing’s Editor, Rusty Reno, from the December 2021 edition of First Things magazine:
Ordinary people do not have expert knowledge about the workings of our globalized economy. But they are not stupid. They can see that the economic interests of those who play leading roles in our country now diverge from their own interests. A fitting word for this divergence is betrayal. After all, it is the first job of a responsible ruling class to keep sources of wealth and power aligned with the needs and concerns of ordinary people. (page 66)
When the famous Alger Hiss spy trial began in 1949, Whittaker Chambers was a noted writer about Western civilization and foreign policy for Time magazine. Again, he was extremely bright and well-educated, but without Hiss’ patrician background.
Throughout Witness, Chambers makes an elegant case for Christianity and why it is totally incompatible with atheistic Communism or socialism—more specifically, any type of large government system where elites by necessity have the power to dictate to the public and private lives of ordinary people.
And that, of course, would be all of them.
The Hiss Trials electrified America, and few in the upper, wealthy, well-educated classes believed that Hiss could have betrayed the nation, as Chambers alleged. The average American, however, and most jurists involved knew the LNC (Law of Non-Contradiction) always applies in human relations. In other words, the Hiss trial was a contest between who to believe—and every taxi cab driver knew both could not be telling the truth.
And Alger Hiss was so confident and articulate. So accomplished and obviously loyal to America, as he said continuously in public. Even better, he had all the right friends in every corner of his most distinguished life.
Naturally, as always happens today, the press continuously vilified Chambers during the trial, and he had to quit his job. The media and elite witnesses dragged him through a fabricated mud, just as media today treats Republican Supreme Court nominees.
Just before learning in January 1950 that the jury had found Alger Hiss guilty, Chambers reveals what sustained him through those years of public trial. Outside his wife and family, it was God and the average father, mother, farmer, worker, small business person, local teacher:
. . . most of them [referring to the lawyers and agents who represented him and to the various jurors] . . . came from the wrong side of the railroad tracks. I use the expression as the highest measure of praise, as Lincoln noted that God must love the common people; He made so many of them. For, in America, most of us begin on the wrong side of the railroad tracks. The meaning of America, what made it the wonder of history and the hope of mankind, was that we were free not to stay on the wrong side of the railroad tracks. If within us there was something that empowered us to grow, we were free to grow and go where we could. Only we were not free to ever forget, ever to despise our origins. They were our roots. They made us a nation. Witness (page 701)
Virginia as Leading Indicator
In Virginia this year, a supposedly blue state primarily due to Washington’s surrounding metropolitan population, the average person finally pushed back against government elites and institutions in a large way. The last straw was professional politicians stating parents have no right to tell schools what to teach their children. The Radical Left speak has become brazen and arrogant. Governor Youngkin’s win and GOP takeover of the House of Delegates represented a push-back that probably began during the Great Recession in 2010 and continued through subsequent elections, including the 2016 presidential election.
Call it populism if you will; it doesn’t matter what we call it. It’s regular people saying they have had enough. Our elites have become completely disconnected from reality and common sense. Their consistent strategy is to buy votes through government programs. Most ordinary Americans recognize this as fools’ gold.
The revolt of the common man includes rural, suburban, and even urban people, and it moves across racial, gender, ethnic, class, and even political party lines. “Ordinary people” are tired of elites trying to sell them stupid ideas that harm their country. American elites do not agree and will surely have to fight it out, but, again, the Awakened vastly outnumber the woke. They understand that and are not going away – back to the private sector to do what they’re told and mind their manners.
And the Awakened see with laser-focus our sources of public idiocy and corruption. It comes from those with the most power over the last twenty years.
In conclusion, America and the West, including Eastern Europe, are experiencing a long-term change or turn (the Bible would call it a “revelation”). It is much more than green shoots. It will likely continue, though not in a straight line, until the Far Left’s problem children are democratically removed, the crime and fiscal bleeding are stopped, the borders are protected, key energy sources restored, and the military strengthened. The Far Left’s “progressive” ideas have proven themselves morally, practically, and economically bankrupt.
The People judge trees by their fruit, and “welfare states” and “progressivism” yield the exact opposite.
In no way will this be a Thermidor. Instead, American will return to its true progressive path based on the content of every American’s traditional character. It could usher in a better time than experienced after those crazy 60’s.
Today, most regular people know God offers grace to the brave who place faith and the common good of the people, family, and nation first. It’s just that simple. The People are awake, energized, and hopeful again.
As mentioned, we interviewed Ross Mackenzie in March of last year, which was soon after the summer of 2020 and before the election in Virginia last November. The clip below is Mr. Mackenzie’s final statement. There he expresses a growing pessimism, but does so with a hopeful flourish, quoting Whittaker Chambers himself. It is priceless.
Enjoy and draw courage. What we have today is nothing new for America or the West.