Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – Frohnen writing at Imaginative Conservative, a brilliant essay under the title “What is Normal? Culture Wars & the Boy Scouts.” I think this has everything to do with it. Is it even permissible to describe anything as normal today if it’s not really abnormal? Abnormal is basically then the new normal. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: I have this from Bruce Frohnen at The Imaginative Conservative website. By the way, I realize that this is really a Brad Birzer moment. It’s too bad that Birzer is not here to help me along with this. If you don’t know what a Brad Birzer moment is, if I can explain by the end of the program today, I’ll try to squeeze it in. if not, it’s somewhere on the website at MikeChurch.com. Frohnen writing at Imaginative Conservative, a brilliant essay under the title “What is Normal? Culture Wars & the Boy Scouts.” I think this has everything to do with it. Is it even permissible to describe anything as normal today if it’s not really abnormal? Abnormal is basically then the new normal. [mocking] “Are you normal?” — “Uh, I think so.” — “Well, do you do X, Y, or Z?” — “No.” — “Well, then you’re not normal. You’re a weirdo you, you traditionalist prude.” Frohnen writes:
My favorite of Russell Kirk’s many books always has been Enemies of the Permanent Things. This wonderful, at times ironic, volume is a collection of social commentary, hopeful reminders of work still being done by important thinkers, and biting criticism. The book signals its central theme in its subtitle, “Observations of Abnormity in Literature and Politics.” [Mike: Boy, do we have abnormity in literature and politics today, folks, in abundance.]
Like much of Kirk’s best work, Enemies is an exploration of social norms and their disintegration in modern public life. “Abnormity” refers to the abnormal, which also can be taken as the irregular, or even the monstrous. The nature of Kirk’s concern guarantees disinterest from elite and even mainstream readers because it focuses on the objective good (“permanent things”) and how it is being rejected. Other than in purely clinical settings, where, for example, an abnormality on an x-ray may indicate disease, we don’t like talking or hearing things called “abnormal” these days. We certainly don’t want to think about something “abnormal” as monstrous. But our very desire to avoid reasoned consideration of abnormity and its consequences is yet another sign of our having too much of both.
This isn’t to say that there is no longer a demand that people conform. Few make more stringent demands for conformity than the mavens of “nonconformist” political correctness.
Mike: Isn’t that the truth? I talked about this last week. The things that we are told to conserve are the abnormal, whacko things in this world these days. [mocking] “Citizen, you will conform. You will obey your federal overlords, your elite media overlords, and you will conform.” — “Wait a minute, I want to conform to the old traditions.” — “You can’t conform to that. That’s this and that and the other. It’s all bad.”
Properly understood, normal doesn’t mean merely the common or average. It refers to a norm—an authoritative standard, a “principle of right action” according to Webster’s, that by its nature intends to guide us in our conduct. Every subculture in the world has its own principles of what it considers right action, from the Boy Scout Oath (now sadly empty words even for that organization) to liberal demands for “sensitive” language usage. What Kirk’s juxtaposition of the Permanent Things with abnormity points out is that a proper norm is not merely whatever standard happens to exist within some subculture, but an authoritative standard rooted in the nature of existence.
My purpose, here, is not to provide a review of Kirk’s book—it’s good, go buy it. Rather, my purpose is to examine one of the central causes of our culture wars, namely that where some people believe norms are what we make of them, others believe that they are, by nature, something more. Traditional conservatives do not seek to preserve traditional norms simply because they are “ours”—though their having been ours for a long time is a sign that they probably have much good to be said about them. Conservatives seek to preserve norms because they are in an important sense objectively right. Sound arrogant? Sound like a claim to god-like knowledge that a group would use to impose their views on the rest of us? Of course it does, to modern ears. Such a view rests on the conviction that we cannot merely “choose” what is good; we may, in fact, choose to call good what is evil (reproductive “choice” comes to mind, here). And such choices have consequences for both our souls and our societies.
Mike: Let me just pause right there. Yesterday on my local television commentary for the ABC channel here locally, I pointed out I’m always surprised that my editorials run without my new director chopping them. Apparently he is hungry for controversy because he lets these things air unedited. I send them in and go: There’s no way, he’s going to get me on this one. I’m going to get a phone call: Hey, Mike, you can’t be pushing the envelope that far. Maybe he was off yesterday and I just didn’t know it. Speaking of new norms, here’s the title from yesterday’s video commentary, that if you live in New Orleans you would have seen on ABC 26 last night, “The Deadly Irony of Planned Parenthood.”
In this video commentary, I point out that they are planning construction of a new 7,000-square-foot Planned Parenthood facility in New Orleans. At the groundbreaking ceremony last Wednesday, there were a few protestors. They’d already had their fun the day before, the local fish wrap newspaper points out, but there were gathered dignitaries and government officials to speak on behalf of the Planned Parenthood clinic. Among them was a city councilwoman whose name is Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. Ms. Hedge-Morrell — AG, do you remember the Mother’s Day second-line New Orleans shooting? Remember when the perps emptied clips of bullets into a Mother’s Day crowd?
AG: What was it, like nine hurt?
Mike: Nineteen hurt. Thankfully no one killed, but 19 hurt. Well, Ms. Hedge-Morrell at a press conference to discuss this afterwards, had termed that act a “senseless act of violence.” Okay, I agree, it is a senseless act of violence. Then she’s scheduled to show up at the christening of an abortion clinic where the organizers and promoters and administration of the new facility openly boast and brag that they will be performing the ghastly Kermit Gosnell-like procedure inside that clinic? I have to ask the question: Why do you have such a hang-up about the senseless act of violence on Mother’s Day, people being shot, and you don’t have a hang-up and you’re scheduled to report and help with the christening or unveiling of a new Planned Parenthood clinic where inside there will be ghastly senseless acts of violence against the most innocent among us?
Mike Church Show Transcript: The Conservative Brand And True Conservatism Are Two Very Different Things
Both of these things cannot exist in the same world. Either the indiscriminate taking of life and the murder of the innocent is bad and something to be guarded against and something to be prepared for, or to prepare society to withstand and to always shun, or you don’t. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be running around saying: We’re not going to allow this kind of violence in our city. Yes, you do! You do it on Claiborne Avenue at that abortion clinic every day of the week. We as a people, we have no norm. If you have a norm, it’s probably not the norm that a civil society should turn toward or should elevate as its norm.
Again, I was surprised that they ran my editorial unedited. I fully expect to be targeted by the promoters of Planned Parenthood locally, and don’t mind accepting the responsibility of taking the debate to them on their terms. They won’t discuss it in the manner in which I just discussed it. They won’t tell you what goes on in there and how they perform their unbelievably ghastly process, which is the point of the discussion when it comes to the preservation of human life. Either you strive for it and promote it and defend it as a cause that is universal or you do not. Back to Frohnen:
Appeal to objective standards of good and evil in regard to everyday conduct is rejected as preachy at best and more likely a sign of the desire to tyrannize over others. This is so, not because anyone who seeks to uphold proper norms does so out of a lust for power, but because the very notion that we have a duty to uphold common standards goes against an essential liberal myth: that society can be “neutral” in its treatment of basic moral choices, punishing only actions that clearly harm innocents (with certain exceptions, of course) while allowing us to create our own “lifestyles.” We have become so accustomed to the view that norms are “mere” custom, and that tradition is merely customary, that we have forgotten the relationship between the historical and the permanent. As Kirk explains, permanent goods like beauty do not exist in this world as mere abstractions; they are made concrete in actual objects (such as Michelangelo’s Pieta). In the same way, truth exists in our truth-tellings. And virtue, the permanent good of right character, exists in conduct that follows the right standards of conduct.
What are those “right standards?” There is the rub. Virtues as diverse as justice and generosity depend in part on circumstance and history. It would not be just to return a borrowed gun to the lender at a time when he was not in his right mind because of the potential danger he would pose to himself and others. And cultures impose differing standards regarding the proper level or type of generosity depending in part on the level of scarcity they face.
Mike Church Show Transcript: Restoring The Constitution Can’t Happen With The Amoral, Atheistic Nitwittery
These variations lead all too many people to believe that norms are merely commands that we can and should change at will to meet current needs. But, while our practice of permanent norms can and should take circumstances into account, the norms themselves are permanent and beyond choice. [Mike: Apparently they’re not, Mr. Frohnen. We are free to alter or abolish them at our whim, or I would say at our peril.] They also are fundamental to our society and even to our existence as decent persons. Thus, to establish a new norm that celebrates the monstrous in art is to degrade art and with it our society. And to “redefine” social norms regarding such fundamental institutions as the family and the church is to degrade us all in pursuit of an acceptance that cannot be given without destroying the source of norms itself.
Mike: There it is right there, bingo! You have to undermine the source of the norm itself. I did some research on this yesterday while I was writing “The Deadly Irony of Planned Parenthood.” I found an essay written by Margaret Sanger. This woman was a piece of infamous work, my friends, let me tell you. I find this essay written by Margaret Sanger in 1934, “America Needs a Code for Babies – A Plea for Equal Distribution of Births by Margaret Sanger,” the founder of Planned Parenthood.
So I’m asking the local yokels out there cheering the opening of the Planned Parenthood clinic: Do you nutjobs realize the pedigree of which you are promoting in the personage of Ms. Sanger? I read this and I’m reading this in shock. Could you write this today? Could anyone write this today and get away with it? She basically pleas for a state-sponsored code that will allow certain judges, who have qualified to be judges, to determine whether or not any individual in the United States can procreate. If they determine that you’re feebleminded or physical impaired, then you can’t procreate. In other words, stupid people can’t have kids and neither can the handicapped, or what is the modern parlance of our time, the disabled. There are eight articles of the Code for Babies.
I read this and am still in shock at it, not believing that a eugenicist like this was actually celebrated and is still promoted and defended by the likes of Mrs. Clinton herself. Number eight here on the Code for Babies — I’m not making this up, folks. I’ll post it in today’s Pile of Prep because I bet many of you don’t believe me. Listen to this, America’s baby code. This is what Ms. Sanger wanted to impose:
Feeble-minded persons, habitual congenital criminals, those afflicted with inheritable disease, and others found biologically unfit by authorities qualified judge should be sterilized or, in cases of doubt, should be so isolated as to prevent the perpetuation of their afflictions by breeding.
Mike: In other words, man, Ms. Sanger, and Planned Parenthood are now in control of planning perfect societies and perfect races of men. This is something you would expect to get out of one of the diaries of Hitler’s goons, isn’t it?
End Mike Church Show Transcript