McLean column: A clash of culture
Jim Webb, former Democratic senator from Virginia, in his book “Born Fighting” chronicles the history of the Scots and Scots Irish in America. Starting with the Scots resisting the Roman invasion he describes the independent nature of this group that has had such a profound impact on American history.
Reading this book I began to realize the extent in which the cultural clash in America today is rooted in the conflicts between the English and Scots beginning in about 100 AD. England was orderly, controlled with the absolute totalitarianism of Roman imperial society. The Scots were wild, unruly, independent groups roughly organized in clans. Unable to ever conquer them, the Romans constructed Hadrian’s Wall to keep them out of the civilized south.
Migrating first from Scotland to Ulster years later, they became Scots-Irish. They then came to America in great migrations beginning about 1700. Sen. Webb states, “the Scots-Irish are also a culture of isolation, hard luck, and infinite stubbornness that has always shunned formal education and mistrusted — even hated — any form of aristocracy. In this sense they have given us the truest American of all, the man the elites secretly love to hate, the unreconstructed redneck.”
They are the group that Obama characterized as “clinging to their bibles and guns.”
While they brought the tradition of a fundamental Calvinist religion, they also brought their strong sense of independence and a code of personal honor and self-reliance. Also, according to Webb, “putting themselves at the mercy of someone else’s collectivist judgment makes about as much sense as letting the government take their guns. And nobody is going to get their guns.”
Once in America, they quickly migrated to the wild pioneer areas of Appalachia, the rural south, and the unstructured areas of New England. They built log houses, fought Indians and planted crops.
While independent, they became the core of the fighting force of what was to be the American military. Personal honor led them to serve with distinction in every war from the French and Indian war to Afghanistan. They had the highest casualties of any ethnic group in the Civil War. They also suffered high numbers of casualties in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
At the time of the revolution there were three major cultures in the U.S.: structured, orderly, educated Puritan and Quaker New England; the Southern tidewater aristocracy of plantations using slave labor; and the hardened Scots-Irish pioneers such as Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett and Andrew Jackson.
The Scots-Irish avoided the other two cultures and would have been content to be left alone. When they felt that the politics of Washington were beginning to interfere with their culture, they rebelled and pushed one of them, Andrew Jackson, to the presidency. He rode a wave of discontent to the White House by speaking directly to the people who had largely been ignored or looked down on by the politicians. The rustic, uneducated frontiersmen were the deplorables of the day.
Today, the fringes of the left and right are minor challenges for our democracy. Antifa, Black Lives Matter, David Duke, White Supremacists, Farrakhan and Nation of Islam are disgusting and alarming in their rhetoric and sometimes actions, but they have little popular support.
The cultural clash of today is exemplified by the attitude of the Northeastern and west coast liberals and those who follow them who disrespect those of us in “fly over” country.
Many of the wealthy elite educated in Ivy League colleges view those of us not from their background as intellectually deficient, uncultured bumpkins. They are convinced that they know better what is good for us than we do. John Kerry epitomizes the aristocratic New Englander who looked down his regal nose at us. It cost him the presidency.
On more than one occasion they have called us stupid for joining the military. They view our Christian religion as quaint at best or ignorant at worst. They abhor our belief in the second amendment. They profess to support the first amendment but shout down reasoned arguments against their views.
To them, an all-powerful central government is intuitively obvious. They know better what is good for us. For example, they believe that we are obviously not capable of handling firearms. The urban, intellectual liberals do not understand our total commitment to the second amendment. They make a disingenuous argument against individual weapons such as the AR 15 when their real desire is make all guns illegal.
For them, Freedom of Religion is freedom from religion. Freedom of speech is now freedom from any speech with which they disagree.
The core principle, which drove many to America from Europe, the right to own property, is also under attack. While temporarily thwarted, the estate tax was really a means to tax private property in the form of ranches and farms out of existence.
If we are not vigilant in protecting our democracy, their policies will drive us into socialist ruin. Cunning in not expressing it, their goal is the same goal the Romans had against the Scots: totalitarian dominance.
Roland McLean is a Carbondale-area resident, University of Colorado graduate, Navy veteran and retiree after more than 30 years in international construction. His column appears on the fourth Thursday of each month. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.