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Every human society has a set of rules that define the society and answer the most fundamental question for any human society. You cannot have a society without first answering the question, who are we? History and biology do the heavy lifting for large human societies, while smaller societies, like social clubs, will have some sort of founding document to define the society. Of course, constitutions are not just for small scale societies. Big countries have them too.
The United States has had at least three unifying concepts. Originally, what held America together was a common religion. The founding generation were English people who practiced a common form of Christianity. Subsequently, the country was held together by republican virtue. A civic religion based around the liberal principles in the Bill of Rights. This was replaced in the 20th century with the melting pot idea, where diverse people emerge from the crucible of liberty as one people.
Throughout our history, in every framing of American unity, a set of principles has defined the morality of American society. First and foremost, Americans have the unfettered right to speak their minds, even to those in positions of authority, without fear of retribution. Free speech, the freedom of belief, the freedom to assemble and the freedom to do all of these to petition the government for the redress of grievances is the first principle of American morality.
There are other moral principles enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The right of self-defense, even from the government, is in the Second Amendment. The Fourth Amendments prevents the state from spying on citizens. The Fifth Amendment prevents double jeopardy and compulsory self-incrimination. The things we think of as our rights are enumerated in the Bill of Right, but in practice these are the moral principles we consider to be beyond questioning.
It is those rights in the First Amendment that are the most sacred to Americans, as they are the cornerstone of American morality. The right to believe what you want to believe, say those beliefs out loud and organize fellow believers to promote your beliefs is the encapsulation of the American identity. It is not just how Americans see themselves, but how the rest of the world defines American identity. The rest of the world may not like what we say, but they envy our right to say it.
This is what makes the assaults on Kanye West and Kyrie Irving important. These two are not simply getting jeered by detractors. There is a highly organized effort to destroy their lives and strip from them their most basic right. In the case of Irving, he has been told that he must publicly condemn the movie he promoted and denounce everyone involved in it. This is what the Red Guards did to their victims. They were forced to publicly confess and wear dunce caps in public.
There is also the race issue. Black people in America get a free pass on speech, even when their speech offends common decency. Kanye West promotes himself as a Christian, but he got rich in a business built on peddling vulgarity, violence, drug taking and criminality. Everyone has been forced to use euphemisms in order to discuss crime, because blacks get special treatment. Here we are, however, with two famous black people forced into a humiliation ritual.
What this suggests is the bigots opposed to this core moral tenet, the right to speak freely and without fear of retribution, have removed themselves from what we have always considered the fundamental morality of America. Bigot is the correct word, as a bigot is someone obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices and intolerant of those outside their group. This is the factionalism that the Founders warned was incompatible with a republic.
Kanye West and Kyrie Irving are ridiculous people whose heads are full of nonsense, but these are the people who have always been the proof case. In our society, we tolerate ridiculous people with nonsense in their heads. To paraphrase Jefferson, we try to set them right to the facts. If they remain unpersuaded, we persuade everyone else to ignore them. From time to time, the ridiculous guy spouting nonsense turns out to be right and we are all better for it.
That is unlikely to be the case here, but it is not the point. What this incident reveals is that there is a moral divide. There is no middle ground when it comes to these moral principles that define American civilization. There is no ADL exemption to our moral code that permits this. There is no moral scold clause that permits the SPLC to organize an economic war on Elon Musk. These people have chosen to remove themselves from our common morality.
The moral separation is at the very heart of American identity. The Declaration of Independence is a moral document that spells out how the colonies and Great Britain no longer shared the same moral space. Because the colonies had evolved a new moral code that was different from that of the mother country, it was necessary that the colonies break free from the mother country. Two people who lack a common more code must separate from one another.
What normal Americans now face is the dilemma imagined by Hans Hermann-Hoppe when thinking through the challenges of a libertarian society. Hoppe has tried to address a well known contradiction in libertarian theory. How can a libertarian society deal with people who embrace socialism or monarchism? If your principles prevent the use of coercion, what do you do when members of a libertarian society embrace something contrary to libertarianism?
The starting place of every human society is that set of moral principles that answers the most fundament question for every human society, who are we? What must be done when a segment of society decides they are no longer us? This is what the bigots are presenting to the rest of us. They refuse to uphold our morality, the thing that defines us as a people, so they are in effect making war on us. How should we defend ourselves from this assault on our very nature?
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