Robert Conquest, R. I. P.

Robert Conquest, the historian whose insistent telling of the true story of the Soviet Union helped lead to the West’s stiffened resistance, has died at age 98. Not only was he a formidable historian and polemicist, he was a poet and master of the limerick.

There once was a Bolshie named Lenin
Who did two or three million men in.
That’s a lot to have done in,
But where he did one in,
A Bolshie named Stalin did ten in.

Progressivism and a Neo-Victorina Era

Michael Barone has an interesting piece called Is America Entering a New Victorian Era? over at Real Clear Politics.

Today, several widely unanticipated trends — certainly unanticipated by me — suggest that America is in some significant respects entering a new Victorian Era. Some may regard that as regrettable, others as welcome, still others as a mixture of good news and bad news. But it’s certainly news, especially to the aging baby boomers who expected the Age of Aquarius to continue indefinitely.

Read the whole thing. His piece got me thinking about the connection between the Victorian Era and what became American Progressivism around the turn of the twentieth century. A significant aspect of the goals of many early Progressives was control over the lives of others. Prohibition comes to mind.

A hundred years ago, the big bugaboo was booze. Now, it may be campus sex. Of course, drinking to excess and promiscuous sex are dangerous activities. Religion,  common sense, and our moral betters all warn against them. Where our moral betters fail us and themselves is by failing to realize that they are morally powerless to control anyone’s behavior but their own. Failing that, they try to use coercive power. For Progressives, that’s the power of the state.

Prohibition. The War on Drugs. Yes Means Yes. Perhaps a cycle is repeating.

The Confederate Flag

Since everyone else seems to be expressing an opinion about the Confederate flag, here’s mine. Take it down and put it in a museum.

I’m a Southerner. I was born and raised in Tennessee. On my father’s side of the family, my great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were slave owners. On my mother’s side, my great-great-grandfather served as a captain in the Confederate Army. The Confederacy is a part of my heritage, but it isn’t something I’m especially proud of.

For some, the Confederate flag is a symbol of regional pride, but it has taken on a darker meaning for most of the world. Good manners suggest that it would be both polite and wise to avoid flaunting such a emotionally-charged symbol when it is likely to be offensive.

The question is not whether people have the right to peacefully display the Confederate flag. Of course they do; that’s protected by the First Amendment. The question is should they do so; is it wise? My answer, at least for places such as government buildings, is, “No. It’s unwise and unkind.”

Take it down. Put it in a museum.

UPDATE—I’ve held this same opinion concerning the Confederate flag since I was a kid. It wasn’t so much of a big deal among folks I knew until the Civil War centennial. I saw enough of it then, and I had seen enough of it by 1965. I suppose it boils down to this: I’m an American and not a Confederate.