Relations hommes-femmes: La place de l’homme n’est décidément pas à la cuisine (Stay away from those long kitchen knives: real men don’t clean)

30 janvier, 2013
A la résurrection, les hommes ne prendront point de femmes, ni les femmes de maris, mais ils seront comme les anges de Dieu dans le ciel.  Jésus (Matthieu 22: 30)
Our findings suggest the importance of socialized gender roles for sexual frequency in heterosexual marriage. (…) Couples in which men participate more in housework typically done by women report having sex less frequently. Similarly, couples in which men participate more in traditionally masculine tasks — such as yard work, paying bills, and auto maintenance — report higher sexual frequency. (…) The results suggest the existence of a gendered set of sexual scripts, in which the traditional performance and display of gender is important for creation of sexual desire and performance of sexual activity. (However) « Men who refuse to help around the house could increase conflict in their marriage and lower their wives’ marital satisfaction. (…) Earlier research has found that women’s marital satisfaction is indeed linked to men’s participation in overall household labor, which encompasses tasks traditionally done by both men and women. (…) 
The first mechanism—that sexual scripts activate desire and sexual behavior in the presence of gendered activity—would operate in the following fashion. Traditional gender per- formances serve as cues of masculine and feminine behavior; these cues activate individuals’ internalized cultural sexscripts, creating sexual desire and activity. In essence, traditionally masculine and feminine behaviors consciously or unconsciously serve as turn-ons for individuals. We do not argue that this takes place instantly, but rather over time, individuals perceive their spouse as more masculine or feminine as they engage in gender-traditional behaviors, and this increases sexual attraction. To the extent that masculinity and femininity are central parts of both the household division of labor and sexual attraction and activity, we expect that households with more traditionally gendered divisions of labor will experience greater sexual frequency. We note that this argument—that sexual behavior is linked to gender identity and expression—is entirely consistent with a mechanism proposed by Cornwell and Laumann: “in the context of sexual relationships, masculinity is expressed through ‘erection, penetration, and climax,’ so it is possible that threats to gender identity . . . manifest as sexual problems.” A second possibility is that couples with more gender-traditional divisions of house- work hold more traditional beliefs and act in more gender-typical ways, which leads to more frequent sex. More masculine-identified men may value more frequent sex, and more highly feminine-identified wives may refuse sex less often because they view providing sex as part of being a good wife. Thus, men may initiate sex more frequently, and wives refuse less, with no link to desire. In essence, this mechanism suggests that both housework and sexual behavior are ways that couples do gender, and any observed relationship between the two would reflect couples’ under- lying orientations toward gender rather than causal influence. An alternative possibility reflecting similar intuitions is that there is greater coercion among households with traditional divisions of labor, leading to greater sexual frequency. However, as we show in the Appendix, wives’ reported satisfaction with their sex life has the same relationship to men’s participation in housework as sexual frequency. This suggests coercion is not an important mechanism, because coercion should lead to higher sexual frequency but lower sexual satisfaction among women. A third possibility is simply that gender- traditional arrangements are linked to sexual activity because couples perceive greater affection and love when partners do more (albeit in traditionally gendered ways) in the household. Rather than couples engaging in more sexual activity because traditional divisions of housework act as signals of masculinity and femininity, couples may instead feel more affection and satisfaction within their relationships under traditional gender divisions of labor, and this leads to more frequent sex. Doing housework can convey affection, although often in traditionally gendered ways. As DeVault notes, “the gender relations of feeding and eating seem to convey the message that giving service is part of being a woman, and receiving it fundamentally part of being a man.” Gender-traditional beliefs and practices are often associated with greater marital happiness and men’s emotion work in the family.
Sexual frequency appears to lie in the realm of sexual scripts, but couples are not purely interested in the amount of sex they have—they undoubtedly also care about the quality of sex. Although sexual frequency is correlated with sexual satisfaction, the correlation is far from perfect. We focus on sexual frequency in this article in part as a response to existing media claims about the topic, but also because sex and housework are enduring components of marriage, historically predating romantic love and sexual satisfaction. The importance of sexual frequency for sexual satisfaction, marital stability, and marital satisfaction for egalitarian versus traditional marriages are testable questions, but not the ones this article asks. If scripts define a moment as sexual, and govern sexual initiation, then the sexual scripts theory explains sexual frequency, not sexual satisfaction. Even if egalitarian couples have the least but most satisfying sex, the scripts perspective would not be invalidated. Still, the question of satisfaction is undoubtedly important and should be pursued in future research. Sabino Kornrich
Britons suffer 1,158,957 violent crimes per year, which works out at 2,034 per 100,000 residents. The U.S., meanwhile, has a rate of 466 crimes per 100,000 residents, which is lower than France’s, at 504. National Review
A team from West Middlesex University Hospital said violent crime is on the increase – and kitchen knives are used in as many as half of all stabbings. They argued many assaults are committed impulsively, prompted by alcohol and drugs, and a kitchen knife often makes an all too available weapon. They consulted 10 top chefs from around the UK, and found such knives have little practical value in the kitchen. The researchers say legislation to ban the sale of long pointed knives would be a key step in the fight against violent crime. (…) links between easy access to domestic knives and violent assault are long established. French laws in the 17th century decreed that the tips of table and street knives be ground smooth. A century later, forks and blunt-ended table knives were introduced in the UK in an effort to reduce injuries during arguments in public eating houses. The researchers say legislation to ban the sale of long pointed knives would be a key step in the fight against violent crime. BBC

La place de l’homme n’est décidément pas à la cuisine !

Déjà il y avait les longs couteaux

Mais à présent, si l’on en croit une étude américaine et contrairement à la propagande féministe actuelle, voilà qu’il risque de le payer au lit …

Le ménage, un tue-l’amour pour les hommes

Anne Jouan

30/01/2013

Selon une étude publiée dans la très sérieuse American Sociological Review, plus un homme marié fait de tâches ménagères, moins il a de rapports sexuels.

Ce sera peut-être le prochain éditorial de Elle. En tout cas, cette publication scientifique menée par des professeurs reconnus de sociologie ne manquera pas de faire réagir les féministes. Car entre la vaisselle, l’aspirateur, la cuisine, les courses et les rapports sexuels, il faut choisir. D’éminents professeurs de sociologie américains enseignant à l’université de Washington et un Espagnol signent cet article qui ne concerne que les couples hétérosexuels américains.

«Nos travaux évoquent l’importance des rôles sociaux pour la fréquence des rapports sexuels dans les mariages hétérosexuels, explique le premier auteur de l’étude, Sabino Kornrich, du Centre de recherches Juan March Institute à Madrid. Les couples dans lesquels les hommes participent plus aux tâches ménagères généralement faites par les femmes déclarent avoir moins souvent de rapports sexuels. Les couples dans lesquels les hommes participent plus aux tâches traditionnellement dévolues aux hommes (comme payer des factures, s’occuper de la voiture) déclarent avoir plus souvent des rapports sexuels.»

Question à laquelle ne répond pas l’étude: qu’est-ce qu’une tâche masculine?

Pour écrire cet article, les chercheurs se sont basés sur des questionnaires remplis par les couples. Étonnement, alors que les hommes déclarent avoir 5,2 rapports sexuels par mois, les femmes avancent elles le chiffrent de 5,6 rapports mensuels…

Voir aussi:

More housework for married men means less sex: study

Married men who cook and clean have less sex than their counterparts who focus on more traditionally masculine tasks, like yard work and paying bills, according to new research. This suggests ‘the importance of socialized gender roles for sexual frequency,’ study author said.

AFP RELAXNEWS

Daily News

January 30, 2013

Husbands who spend more time doing traditionally female chores reported having less sex than those who do more masculine tasks, says a new study.

WASHINGTON – The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say: the more housework married men do, the less sex they have, according to a new study published Wednesday.

Husbands who spend more time doing traditionally female chores — such as cooking, cleaning, and shopping — reported having less sex than those who do more masculine tasks, said the study in the American Sociological Review.

NEW BOOK SHEDS LIGHT ON SEX LIFE

« Our findings suggest the importance of socialized gender roles for sexual frequency in heterosexual marriage, » said lead author Sabino Kornrich, of the Center for Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid.

« Couples in which men participate more in housework typically done by women report having sex less frequently. Similarly, couples in which men participate more in traditionally masculine tasks — such as yard work, paying bills, and auto maintenance — report higher sexual frequency. »

His study, « Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage, » looks at straight married couples in the United States, and was based on data from the National Survey of Families and Households.

The study was co-authored by University of Washington sociologist Julie Brines and doctoral candidate Katrina Leupp.

Men in the study reported having had sex an average of 5.2 times in the month prior to the survey, while women reported 5.6.

But both men and women in couples with more traditional household labor divisions said they had more sex.

« The results suggest the existence of a gendered set of sexual scripts, in which the traditional performance and display of gender is important for creation of sexual desire and performance of sexual activity, » Kornrich said.

However, the study’s authors stop short of arguing that house husbands should hang up their aprons.

« Men who refuse to help around the house could increase conflict in their marriage and lower their wives’ marital satisfaction, » Kornrich said.

« Earlier research has found that women’s marital satisfaction is indeed linked to men’s participation in overall household labor, which encompasses tasks traditionally done by both men and women. »

Voir aussi:

Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage

Sabino Kornrich,  Julie Brines,b and Katrina Leuppb

American So7ciological Review

Corresponding Author:

Sabino Kornrich, Center for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, Juan March Institute, Calle de Castello, 77, 28006 Madrid, Spain

E-mail: kornrich@gmail.com

Abstract

Changes in the nature of marriage have spurred a debate about the consequences of shifts to more egalitarian relationships, and media interest in the debate has crystallized around claims that men who participate in housework get more sex. However, little systematic or representative research supports the claim that women, in essence, exchange sex for men’s participation in housework. Although research and theory support the expectation that egalitarian marriages are higher quality, other studies underscore the ongoing importance of traditional gender behavior and gender display in marriage. Using data from Wave II of the National Survey of Families and Households, this study investigates the links between men’s participation in core (traditionally female) and non-core (traditionally male) household tasks and sexual frequency. Results show that both husbands and wives in couples with more traditional housework arrangements report higher sexual frequency, suggesting the importance of gender display rather than marital exchange for sex between heterosexual married partners.

In the United States, a new narrative is emerg- ing to describe contemporary marriage. Chal- lenging the notion of marriage as an institu- tion ensnared in a stalled gender revolution, this new perspective asserts that today’s mar- riages are more egalitarian, flexible, and fair than those of the past (Sullivan 2006; Sulli- van and Coltrane 2008). The theme of con- vergence between wives’ and husbands’ roles has taken center stage at high-profile confer- ences on the family, such as those of the Council on Contemporary Families, in policy pieces on marriage and feminism (Gornick 2002; Marshall and Sawhill 2004), and in academic work predicated on the demise of the male breadwinner model in the industrial- ized West (Crompton 1999).

The debate about how much heterosexual marriage has changed from traditional models often boils down to changes in the division of labor (cf. Bianchi et al. 2000). More specifi- cally, it hinges on whether married men’s par- ticipation in household work has increased meaningfully. Advocates of the gender-role convergence perspective argue that recognition of change has been lost, because scholars highlight women’s larger share of household work but fail to recognize married men’s greater participation in housework and childcare as a response to the dramatic rise in wives’ employ- ment and paid labor (Sullivan 2006). Debates about the importance of housework—and under what conditions men and women do more housework—have recently come to the fore again (England 2011; Risman 2011; Schneider 2012; Sullivan 2011).

Although this debate can resemble a struggle over whether the glass is half-empty or half-full, evidence is accumulating that U.S. husbands are, in fact, doing more unpaid fam- ily work, particularly in the realm of child- care, than did their counterparts of yesteryear. From the 1960s to the beginning of the twenty-first century, men’s contribution to housework doubled, increasing from about 15 to over 30 percent of the total (Bianchi et al. 2000; Fisher et al. 2006; Robinson and God- bey 1997). Similar trends are evident for industrialized countries throughout the world: men’s proportional contribution to family work (including housework, childcare, and shopping) increased, on average, from less than one-fifth in 1965 to more than one-third by 2003 (Hook 2006).

Accompanying the effort to track secular change in wives’ and husbands’ work patterns are efforts to document how egalitarian work arrangements affect other components of marriage. Interest in the connections among role similarity or complementarity, a couple’s cohesiveness, and marital well-being is long- standing in social science (Becker 1981; Par- sons and Bales 1955), but it seems to have intensified in tandem with the recent claims of work-role convergence (Amato et al. 2003, 2007; Brines and Joyner 1999). Here again, special attention is devoted to the household division of unpaid family work. For example, research shows that when men do more housework, wives’ perceptions of fairness and marital satisfaction tend to rise (Amato et al. 2003; Stevens, Kiger, and Mannon 2005) and couples experience less marital conflict (Coltrane 2000).1 Other research shows that U.S. couples who have more equal divisions of labor are less likely to divorce than are couples where one partner special- izes in breadwinning and the other partner specializes in family work (Cooke 2006).

The claim that couples who share house- work have more sex has captured substantial public attention. In the popular imagination, husbands’ contributions to housework seem decisive, the implications of which were recently spun in a headline: “Men: Want More Sex? Do the Laundry!” This claim appears to have originated in an unpublished survey con- ducted by Chethik (2006). It so captured the popular imagination (or at least that of report- ers) that it led to an Associated Press story subsequently featured online by media giants ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and smaller sites like the Huffington Post and China Daily.

Sex is an understudied but important component of marriage, continuing to be a central area of spousal concern and conflict (Elliott and Umberson 2008). Sexual activity is linked to marital satisfaction, but there have been few recent attempts to understand the organization of sexual frequency in marriage (Call, Sprecher, and Schwartz 1995; although see Gager and Yabiku 2010; Yabiku and Gager 2009). Romantic and sexual scripts are often highly gendered outside marriage (Udry and Chantala 2004), and we suspect they remain so within marriage. Sexual activity, in addition to being important in its own right, also offers a view about the functioning of gender relations in marriage at the close of the twentieth century.

Although the notion that egalitarian marriages are sexier was widely broadcast in the media, there is little empirical support for this view. The claim rests on results of a small- scale (N = 300) survey and reports of couples in therapy conducted by Chethik, which, while intriguing, are difficult to evaluate (Chethik 2006; cf. North 2007). Moreover, other research suggests that for all the benefits of peer marriage, more egalitarian couples are more likely to have unsatisfactory sex lives and experience a lack of passion due to habitu- ation, and these differences are not explained by a shortage of time (Schwartz 1995).While couples in more traditional marriages may experience a range of marital difficulties, lower sexual interest is especially a problem among egalitarian couples (Schwartz 1995). More recent research finds that husbands’ housework is positively linked to sexual frequency, but women’s own housework hours are even more strongly associated with sexual frequency, suggesting that greater egalitarian- ism may not be associated with higher sexual frequency (Gager and Yabiku 2010).

In this article, we begin by outlining two bodies of theory that offer competing predictions about the relationship between sexual frequency and the household division of labor among heterosexual married couples. We first discuss predictions derived from exchange theory, then predictions from an approach that stresses the gendered nature of sexual scripts, and finally turn to a range of important con- trol variables derived from the existing litera- ture that emphasizes constraints and opportunities for sex. One key innovation is that rather than consider all housework as identical, we separately examine men’s and women’s time spent in traditionally mascu- line and traditionally feminine tasks. We use nationally representative data to test whether and how sexual frequency is linked to the household division of labor. Our results do not support the notion that more egalitarian divisions of labor are associated with higher sexual frequency. Instead, we find that house- holds in which men do more traditionally male labor and women do more traditionally female labor report higher sexual frequency. This suggests that among heterosexual cou- ples, the relationship between housework and a couple’s sex life is governed by a gendered set of sexual scripts.

SEX IN MARRIAGE: EGALITARIANISM AND EXCHANGE

Sex in marriage, and what leads to more or less of it, reliably excites the popular imagination, but interest in these questions has a more uneven history in the social sciences. Kinsey’s early attempts to develop a science of the terra incognita of human sexual behavior found that marital intercourse was, as described by Blumer (1948:522), “the chief medium of sex outlet” for the adults in his samples (Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin 1948). However, changing family demographics and related policy preoccupations have arguably steered attention away from research on sexual frequency in marriage over the last quarter-century. Over the past few decades, scholars have noted the scarcity of research on sexual activity among married and committed couples (Call et al. 1995; Christopher and Sprecher 2000; Greenblat 1983), despite the emergence of several nationally representative surveys that gathered data on respondents’ sexual behavior in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Nonetheless, sex is an important component of marriage. Blumstein and Schwartz’s classic, American Couples (1983), identified sex (in addition to money and power) as a key good around which marriages—indeed all intimate partnerships—are organized. Sexual frequency is of interest for researchers because it is positively linked to emotional satisfaction and physical pleasure, and couples with greater sexual frequency are less likely to divorce or break up (Waite and Joyner 2001; Yabiku and Gager 2009; Yeh et al. 2006). Throughout this article, we assume that greater sexual frequency is generally a desired good: conflict may exist over the timing and frequency of sex (Elliott and Umberson 2008), but more frequent sex is linked to higher sexual and marital satisfac- tion for both men and women.2 Couples believe sex is an important part of marriage, but there is also substantial marital conflict over sex, largely because men and women differ in their desire for sex. This suggests caution in a straightforward interpretation of sexual frequency as purely unproblematic or reflecting desire (Elliott and Umberson 2008).

The difference in men’s and women’s desire for sex underpins a key perspective on sex: sex can be used as a resource for exchange. Predictions of social exchange theory are of particular interest (Homans 1961; Sprecher 1998).3 Because spouses (the parties to the exchange) possess different resources, they benefit from exchanging a resource one possesses for another scarce resource the other possesses. Sex, in this view, is a resource that partners might use for exchange. A self- interested view of social exchange suggests that individuals exchange when each party benefits. Partners thus trade sex for other scarce resources such as time, money, commitment, or other goods when they both benefit (Baumeister and Vohs 2004).

Although the condition of mutual benefit suggests a gender-free venue for exchange, both popular and scholarly understandings see sex as a female, rather than male, resource. Baumeister and Vohs (2004) argue compel- lingly that sex should be seen as a female resource due to the principle of least interest— if men want sex more than women, they must induce women to engage in sex by offering other benefits. A review of a wide variety of measures of sex drive suggests that men want sex more than women (Baumeister, Catanese, and Vohs 2001).4 Whether men’s greater sexual desire results from biological or cultural factors is immaterial; either condition results in women’s possession of a scarce resource.

An exchange perspective, combined with the assumption that men desire sex more than women, suggests that women could trade sex for resources men control. This could apply to any set of bargaining goals (e.g., decision- making, monetary or gift exchange, or time spent on any task), but we focus here on the application to household labor, because labor has been at the center of a discussion about how much marriages have changed. In addition, a long research tradition investigates whether and how women exchange another resource they control—their earnings—for men’s participation in housework (Brines 1994; Greenstein 2000; Gupta 2007; Lund- berg and Pollak 1993).5 A central assumption of this line of research, which we follow, is that both men and women prefer to avoid housework, but housework is more likely to fall into women’s sphere of responsibilities by default (cf. Lundberg and Pollak 1993). The implication is that women are likely to use their resources—in this case, sex—to bargain their way out of performing housework.

Qualitative evidence supports the view that some women exchange sex for men’s participation in household labor, or, alternatively, withhold sex when men do not participate in household labor. In Hochschild and Machung’s (1989:45) The Second Shift, one respondent (Nancy) notes, “When Evan refused to carry his load at home . . . I used sex. I said, ‘Look, Evan, I would not be this exhausted and asexual every night if I didn’t have so much to face every morning.’” Similarly, one of Elliott and Umberson’s (2008:401) respondents (Chantelle) said, “[I tell Anthony,] ‘If I have had a really good day, and you have been helpful, I would say you took out the trash and you brought the trashcans in and you mowed the lawn and everything. Those are the things that work for me to kind of get me going.’”6

Rather than direct exchange, it is possible that sexual frequency and an egalitarian division of household labor are linked via marital satisfaction. Recent studies show that hus- bands’ participation in household labor is often associated with wives’ reports of higher marital quality (Amato et al. 2003; Stevens et al. 2005). Other work (Chethik 2006) appears to draw from this result to explain why hus- bands’ sharing of housework might lead to greater frequency of sex in marriage: wives feel more supported and happier in their mar- riages when their husbands do more chores, and these positive feelings promote more sex as a side benefit. More generally, theoretical work ranging from the stipulation that a sense of distributive justice in marriage promotes coital frequency (Jasso 1987) to economic models that locate today’s marital gains in partner similarities that maximize joint con- sumption rather than joint production (Lam 1988; Lundberg and Pollak 1996) also lend credibility to the idea that an egalitarian divi- sion of labor results in a happier marriage and is more conducive to sexual activity.

An exchange perspective would predict a positive relationship between men’s household labor and sexual frequency: sexual frequency should be high when husbands do more house- work and low when husbands do less. This prediction reflects an understanding of mar- riage as a site characterized by the exchange of scarce resources between partners, and is con- cordant with popular and scholarly under- standings of sex in marriage. Nevertheless, given research linking marital satisfaction to husbands’ participation in household labor and some research that suggests the importance of marital satisfaction for sexual frequency (Rao and Demaris 1995), we are open to the possi- bility that egalitarian arrangements increase satisfaction in relationships and thus lead to greater sexual frequency. We include controls for marital satisfaction to test this possibility.

SEXUAL SCRIPTS: GENDER, DIFFERENCE, AND DESIRE

There are reasons to predict a very different relationship between the division of house- hold labor and sexual frequency. First, gender continues to play a central role in organizing the division of household labor. Women con- tinue to do more housework than men, and differences are not explicable by a range of economic factors. The importance of gender in organizing labor and marriage suggests that housework itself may lie outside the realm of conventional possibilities for exchange. Second, heterosexual attraction and intimacy seem to be organized around the enactment of difference or complementarity between the sexes (Goffman 1977; Rich 1980). Among heterosexual couples in their teens, pairs with a self-rated very masculine boy and self-rated very feminine girl are most likely to have sex, and to have sex sooner, than are other roman- tic pairs (Udry and Chantala 2004). Gender’s role in marital sex is less well documented, but Schwartz (1995, 2007:2) reports that egalitarianism in committed heterosexual adult relationships is associated with occa- sional boredom and a “sibling-like” tonality to the relationship that undermines sexual desire. Schwartz (2007:2) avers that “introducing more distance or difference, rather than connection and similarity, helps to resurrect passion in long-term, stable relationships.”

These observations suggest a conceptual- ization of heterosexual marriage as an institution in which gender still plays a central role (Berk 1985; Coltrane 1998). Drawing on this central insight and on a sexual scripts approach (Gagnon and Simon 1973), we argue that sexual activity is more likely in households with more gender-traditional divisions of household labor. A sexual script approach sug- gests that for intercourse to occur, a script must exist that defines a situation as sexual (Gagnon and Simon 1973). Sexual scripts specify when, why, and how individuals should act sexually (Laumann et al. 1994). As a simple example of a script, intercourse typi- cally takes place in a series of relatively tightly delineated stages, moving from kissing to fondling and then to coitus (Gagnon and Simon 1973). The approach suggests that scripts exist at three levels: the cultural or col- lective, which broadly defines available sets of scripts; the interpersonal, used when indi- viduals improvise or adapt cultural scripts for particular scenarios; and the intrapsychic, which helps individuals script their own behaviors and align their own desires (Simon and Gagnon 1986). In this article, we assume that internalized dominant cultural scripts govern sexual behavior, although interper- sonal and intrapsychic scripts may also struc- ture sexual behavior in marriage.

How might sexual scripts work in mar- riage? There is relatively little work on this topic, but the logic of a sexual scripting argu- ment generally suggests that women’s and men’s sexual activity is governed by internal- ized cultural scripts.7 Among teens, sexual scripts are highly gendered and link sexual activity to masculinity and femininity (Storms et al. 1981; Udry and Chantala 2004). Other recent research finds that men experience greater sexual dysfunction when their partners spend more time with the men’s friends than men do themselves, suggesting that behaviors that threaten men’s independence and mascu- linity lead to greater sexual dysfunction (Corn- well and Laumann 2011). Given the general importance of gender, we suspect that scripts continue to link sexual behavior to masculin- ity or femininity among heterosexual married couples. If so, expressions of gender differ- ence should help to create sexual desire. Household labor and its performance—or lack thereof—is centrally tied to notions of what constitutes appropriate behavior for men and women and thus masculinity and femininity (Berk 1985; Bittman et al. 2003; Brines 1994; Greenstein 2000; South and Spitze 1994). If appropriate performances of masculinity and femininity are prerequisites for sexual behav- ior or sexual desire in marriage, and house- work is a key way of engaging in these performances, then the extent to which hus- bands and wives do housework in ways that signify masculinity or femininity should be linked to sexual frequency.

We note three plausible mechanisms that might link sexual frequency to gender-traditional divisions of housework: (1) gender-traditional divisions of labor increase sexual desire and thus sexual frequency, (2) both result from gender traditional beliefs or are ways of doing gender, and (3) gender- traditional arrangements may increase rela- tionship satisfaction, which in itself leads to greater sexual frequency.

The first mechanism—that sexual scripts activate desire and sexual behavior in the pres- ence of gendered activity—would operate in the following fashion. Traditional gender per- formances serve as cues of masculine and feminine behavior; these cues activate indi- viduals’internalizedculturalsexscripts,creat- ing sexual desire and activity. In essence, traditionally masculine and feminine behav- iors consciously or unconsciously serve as turn-ons for individuals. We do not argue that this takes place instantly, but rather over time, individuals perceive their spouse as more masculine or feminine as they engage in gen- der-traditional behaviors, and this increases sexual attraction. To the extent that masculin- ity and femininity are central parts of both the household division of labor and sexual attrac- tion and activity, we expect that households with more traditionally gendered divisions of labor will experience greater sexual frequency. We note that this argument—that sexual behavior is linked to gender identity and expression—is entirely consistent with a mechanism proposed by Cornwell and Lau- mann (2011:177–78): “in the context of sexual relationships, masculinity is expressed through ‘erection, penetration, and climax,’ so it is possible that threats to gender identity . . . manifest as sexual problems.”

A second possibility is that couples with more gender-traditional divisions of house- work hold more traditional beliefs and act in more gender-typical ways, which leads to more frequent sex. More masculine-identified men may value more frequent sex, and more highly feminine-identified wives may refuse sex less often because they view providing sex as part of being a good wife. Thus, men may initiate sex more frequently, and wives refuse less, with no link to desire. In essence, this mechanism suggests that both housework and sexual behavior are ways that couples do gender, and any observed relationship between the two would reflect couples’ under- lying orientations toward gender rather than causal influence. An alternative possibility reflecting similar intuitions is that there is greater coercion among households with tra- ditional divisions of labor, leading to greater sexual frequency. However, as we show in the Appendix, wives’ reported satisfaction with their sex life has the same relationship to men’s participation in housework as sexual frequency. This suggests coercion is not an important mechanism, because coercion should lead to higher sexual frequency but lower sexual satisfaction among women.

A third possibility is simply that gender- traditional arrangements are linked to sexual activity because couples perceive greater affection and love when partners do more (albeit in traditionally gendered ways) in the household. Rather than couples engaging in more sexual activity because traditional divi- sions of housework act as signals of mascu- linity and femininity, couples may instead feel more affection and satisfaction within their relationships under traditional gender divisions of labor, and this leads to more frequent sex. Doing housework can convey affection, although often in traditionally gen- dered ways. As DeVault (1991:324) notes, “the gender relations of feeding and eating seem to convey the message that giving ser- vice is part of being a woman, and receiving it fundamentally part of being a man.” Gender-traditional beliefs and practices are often associated with greater marital happi- ness and men’s emotion work in the family (Wilcox and Nock 2006).

How does a sexual scripts approach translate into testable hypotheses about the link between beliefs about gender, the division of housework, and sexual frequency in marriage? In short, a sexual scripts perspective (and the associated alternative mechanisms we noted) suggests that couples with more egalitarian divisions of household labor will have less active sex lives. Because these couples engage in less traditionally feminine and masculine behaviors, they are less likely to activate scripts linking displays of difference to desire. In con- trast, couples in which husbands and wives engage in more gender-traditional behaviors should report more frequent sexual activity.

We attempt to determine whether the alternative mechanisms we noted could explain any association we find. We thus test for two addi- tional effects. First, to check whether gender ideology is responsible for any association, we include measures of gender ideology and reli- gious affiliation, because religion is often correlated with gender ideology and traditional behavior. Second, we include measures of sat- isfaction with marriage and with a spouse’s contribution to housework to check whether the division of household labor is associated with sexual frequency only because it increases satisfaction in marriage. We are thus able to offer tests for alternative mechanisms.

SExuAL OppOrtunitiES And COnStrAintS

The perspectives outlined above have much to say about theoretical relationships between sexual activity and marital characteristics, but little existing research focuses on these theo- ries. Instead, research typically looks at the role of opportunities and constraints for sex in marriage, focusing on a variety of demo- graphic correlates. What we do know about sexual frequency in marriage is that older couples report lower sexual frequencies than younger couples (Blumstein and Schwartz 1983; Brewis and Meyer 2005; Call et al. 1995; Greeley 1991; Greenblat 1983; Rao and Demaris 1995). Biological aging is the most common explanation for this decline. The negative correlation between age and sexual frequency has also been attributed to marital duration and habituation (Blumstein and Schwartz 1983; James 1981). However, marital duration has no significant effect after the first year of marriage in models that con- trol for other time-related variables (Call et al. 1995). Marital satisfaction, in contrast, is the strongest correlate of sexual frequency, after age (Call et al. 1995).

Constraints and opportunity also play a central role in understanding sexual frequency, although results are inconsistent (Christopher and Sprecher 2000). Certainly, some constraints matter, such as the presence of young children or pregnancy (Call et al. 1995; Gager and Yabiku 2010; Greeley 1991). Time constraints appear to be less important. Sexual frequency does not decline when both partners are employed full-time or with the number of hours husbands and wives spend in paid work (Call et al. 1995; Gager and Yabiku 2010; Greeley 1991; Hyde, DeLamater, and Hewitt 1998). Non-standard work, however, is associated with more sexual problems and dissatisfaction (White and Keith 1990), sug- gesting that some, but not all, opportunity constraints impose costs on couples’ sex lives.

In addition, a recent article by Gager and Yabiku (2010) explicitly takes up the relation- ship between time spent in housework and sexual frequency, asking whether time spent in housework serves as a constraint prevent- ing couples from engaging in sex. Instead, they find that both men’s and women’s time in housework is related to greater sexual fre- quency. They conclude that this relationship is due to unmeasured tendencies toward greater activity in both areas: individuals who work hard also “play” hard. As we discuss below, our theoretical approach leads us to focus on different measures of the extent to which particular types of housework are gen- dered. However, to account for the theoretical relationship Gager and Yabiku suggest, we also include measures of the total amount of time spent in housework. Our discussion of results further compares our model with theirs.

To investigate the relationship between sex- ual frequency and division of household labor among married couples, we use data from Wave II of the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) (Sweet and Bumpass 1996).8 The age of the data may limit gener- alizability to the present day (interviews occurred from 1992 to 1994), but to our knowledge, it is the only dataset with detailed measures of both sexual frequency and actual participation in household labor.9 Despite the age of the data, we consider these results rel- evant for contemporary discussions of mar- riage and the family. We return to the topic of generalizability to the present day in the conclusion.

Given the sensitive nature of our depend- ent variable—self-reports of frequency of sex—one problem we encounter is missing data. Roughly 10 percent of respondents have missing values for sexual frequency, includ- ing those who report “don’t know,” and nearly 25 percent of respondents have missing data on this or another variable in our analysis. Rather than lose these cases, we used two procedures for missing data: for housework variables, we used procedures developed by South and Spitze (1994); for other missing data, we relied on multiple imputation.

We dealt with missing and extreme values on the housework variables using a slight modification of procedures described by South and Spitze (1994). First, we excluded respondents in which both members of a couple had missing values on more than eight items of housework. This eliminated 444 respondents, many of whom had missing val- ues on other key variables.10 We then recoded reports of hours spent beyond the 95th per- centile of the distribution for each housework item to the 95th percentile of the distribution for each gender. For respondents with missing values, we replaced missing values with the mean for each item for other respondents. For respondents who gave a value of zero to all core or non-core items, we placed men’s share at zero.11 We also experimented with multiple imputation for missing housework items. Results were nearly identical, so we chose the simpler method.

We used multiple imputation for other missing values because missingness on sex- ual frequency is likely correlated with one’s actual sexual frequency. Multiple imputation uses correlations between variables in an analysis to generate replacement values for missing values, adding in an error term and generating multiple estimates to capture the variability. Estimates from each imputation are then generated and combined. We used all variables in our analysis for multiple imputa- tion, using the ICE program in Stata. ICE is a regression-based program for imputation, meaning that variables are imputed using all other variables as regressors for each of the other variables. We included a partner’s reports of sexual frequency as an auxiliary variable to improve imputation, but no other variables because inclusion of auxiliary vari- ables does little to reduce bias unless the cor- relations between auxiliary variables and variables with missing data are high (.9) and the proportion of missing data is high (e.g., 50 percent missing) (Collins, Schafer, and Kam 2001). We generated 20 imputations because the rule of thumb of three to five imputations is often insufficient (Graham, Olchowski, and Gilreath 2007). We used logistic regression and ordered logit models to impute non- continuous variables because using linear methods and rounding to maintain categorical or binary variables creates biased estimates (Horton, Lipsitz, and Parzen 2003).

Another potential source of missing data in Wave II of the NSFH is attrition from the original sample interviewed at Wave I, roughly five to seven years earlier. Roughly 18 percent of Wave I respondents were lost by Wave II because they could not be found, were too ill to be interviewed, or did not par- ticipate for another reason. Attrition could lead to bias if these couples had lower sexual frequency or less egalitarian divisions of labor. Additionally, some respondents divorced between Waves I and II. As with those lost from the sample, if these marriages were different than other couples on measures of sexual frequency or the division of house- hold labor, our results could be biased. To test for this possibility, we performed t-tests for differences in sexual frequency and the amount of housework done by men and women in NSFH Wave I. T-tests (not shown) indicate no significant differences between respondents who remained married, remained in the sample but divorced, and were missing at Wave II but had been married at Wave I.

MEASURES

We measured the share of household labor performed by men across two types of house- hold labor forming a rough approximation of male and female typed labor. Following exist- ing literature, we separated tasks into core and non-core categories (Bianchi et al. 2000). Core tasks include preparing meals, washing dishes, cleaning house, shopping, and wash- ing and ironing; non-core tasks include out- door work, paying bills, auto maintenance, and driving. In some sense, core tasks are female simply because women do more of them, and non-core tasks are male for the same reason. Yet beyond this, traditional notions of masculinity and femininity are attached to these tasks. Core and non-core tasks are roughly divided along indoor/ outdoor, nurturing/worldly, and private/public dimensions that reflect gendered expectations in place since development of the separate spheres ideology (Padavic and Reskin 2002).

We calculated share measures using respondents’ reports of their own and their spouses’ time spent on these activities. We relied only on self-reports of individuals’ and their spouses’ labor because husbands and wives did not complete the survey at the same time, so their reports may diverge because of differences in the labor performed during the reported week. Table 1 shows women’s and men’s hours, and the ratio of women’s to men’s time, for core and non-core household labor using women’s and men’s reports. As other research has demonstrated (Bianchi et al. 2000), women do the majority of core tasks that need to be done on a daily basis, and men do relatively more non-core tasks. Similarly, we find that men’s and women’s reports diverge slightly: men’s reports indicate more time on both core and non-core activities than their wives’ reports of the same work. Interestingly, men report that women spend more time on non-core housework but less time on core housework than women report for themselves.

Our measure of sexual frequency is a self- reported response to the question, “About how often did you and your husband/wife have sex during the past month?” We recoded values of sexual frequency past the 95th per- centile to values at the 95th percentile and imputed values for cases with missing data, including cases where respondents did not know or refused to answer. Table 2 shows descriptive statistics for sexual frequency and other variables. As Table 2 shows, women reported having sex with their spouses slightly more than five and a half times in the past month, and men reported lower frequencies, about .4 times fewer over the past month. Although it may appear surprising that hus- bands’ reports are lower than their wives’, existing research comparing husbands’ and wives’ reports has found similar results (Clark and Wallin 1964; Kinsey et al. 1948).

As we noted earlier, other mechanisms could explain a relationship between the divi- sion of household labor and sexual frequency. We thus included variables to test for the pres- ence of some of these mechanisms. As a meas- ure of the extent to which men and women engage in gender-traditional behaviors, we included measures of husbands’ and wives’ participation in paid labor. In the models we present, we relied simply on the number of hours spent by husbands and wives in paid work, because these are also measures of poten- tial constraints on time availability. In other models, we tested whether male-breadwinner/ female-homemaker households were signifi- cantly different and found no significant results.

We also tested to see whether gender ideology and gender beliefs dictate housework arrangements and sexual frequency by includ- ing two sets of variables. First, we included a measure of gender ideology, consisting of the sum of a respondent’s agreement or disagree- ment with the following four statements: “It is much better for everyone if the man earns the main living and the woman takes care of the home and family”; “A husband whose wife is working full-time should spend just as many hours doing housework as his wife”; “Both the husband and wife should contribute to family income”; and “It is all right for mothers to work full-time when their young- est child is under age 5.” In addition, we controlled for religious affiliation and church attendance as another way to tap into gender traditionalism and distinctive patterns of sex and housework. Earlier research indicates that Catholics report lower sexual frequency, and conservative Protestants have more tradition- ally gendered divisions of labor and distinct sexual patterns (Call et al. 1995; Wilcox 2004). We thus included dichotomous varia- bles for respondents’ religious affiliation, fol- lowing the coding scheme suggested by Steensland and colleagues (2000) as closely as possible using the NSFH data. We ended up with black Protestant, evangelical Protes- tant, mainline Protestant, Jewish, Catholic, conservative Christians, and an “other” cate- gory combining the remaining smaller cate- gories from the coding scheme (nonreligious is the reference category).

Finally, to control for the possibility that any relationship between wives’ and husbands’ share of housework functions through its effects on marital quality, we included controls for happiness in marriage. We measured this with responses on a seven-point scale to the question, “Taking things all together, how would you describe your marriage?” and with spouses’ housework contributions, measured with responses to the question, “How happy are you with the work your spouse does around the house?” Additionally, because joint reli- gious attendance is a good predictor of rela- tionship quality (Ellison, Burdette, and Wilcox 2010), we included a dichotomous variable measuring whether both spouses attend church weekly or more frequently.

We also included measures of family structure and stage in the life cycle, because these may be important for sexual frequency and the division of household labor. First, we included a measure of marriage within the past year to control for the possibility of a honeymoon effect in recent marriages leading to greater sexual frequency; 3 percent of cou- ples in our sample were married within the previous year. We also included measures of the wife’s and husband’s age because age is often an important predictor of sexual frequency and is related to the division of house- hold labor. We included measures of the number of children living in the household below age 2 years, between 2 and 6 years, and between 6 and 13 years. We controlled for husbands’ and wives’ economic contribu- tions, using the share of the income provided by the wife and total household income.12 For these measures, values in Table 2 are the same for men and women. This is because they are based on either primary respondents’ responses, as in the case of the number of children, or self-reports from each spouse, as with wife’s age and husband’s age.

As an additional control for opportunity, we included a measure of time spent alone with the spouse over the past month. Respond- ents answered the question, “During the past month, about how often did you and your husband/wife spend time alone with each other, talking, or sharing an activity?” and were given six response options: never, about once a month, two or three times a month, about once a week, two or three times a week, and almost every day. We collapsed these six categories to four. Interestingly, nearly 40 percent of respondents said they spent time alone with their spouse once a week or less during the previous month.

In addition, we included controls for edu- cation. We measured education using a series of dichotomous variables for completion of high school, attendance of some college, and completion of a college degree using hus- bands’ and wives’ self-reports. Finally, we included measures of wife’s and husband’s self-rated health. Health was self-reported using a five-point scale, with higher values representing greater perceived health.

METHODS

Because sexual frequency is distributed as a count variable but is overdispersed—that is, the distribution of sexual frequency violates the assumption in Poisson regression that the mean and variance are equal—the use of ordi- nary least squares or Poisson regression is inappropriate. We used negative binomial regression to assess links between men’s and women’s participation in different types of household labor and sexual frequency. Negative binomial regression models the count-generating process but relaxes the assumption that variance of the distribution is equal to the mean.

The model takes the following form: log(li) = xib, var(Y) = lt where li = E(Y ), Y is sexual frequency, b is a set of coefficients produced by the model including an intercept, xi is the set of inde- pendent variables, and t is a shape parameter modifying the variance of Y.

The NSFH has two types of respondents: primary respondents for a household and their spouses. To take full advantage of the availa- ble data, we relied on both respondents. We present four regression models: men sepa- rately, women separately, one pooling men and women into a single analysis, and one using pooled data but relying on the opposite spouse’s report of sexual frequency. Our anal- ysis using women’s reports alone thus relies on female primary respondents and female spouses of male primary respondents, and uses women’s reports of most individual and household characteristics, including sexual frequency and their and their spouse’s hours spent in housework. Similarly, our analysis for men relies on male primary respondents and male spouses and uses men’s reports of key variables.

We present two additional results that lev- erage the fact that we have reports from both husbands and wives. To account for the fact that husbands and wives are located within the same households and standard errors may be biased by unobserved shared characteris- tics, we present results from a regression in which we pool male and female respondents into a single analysis and use cluster-robust standard errors. To deal with the possibility of same-source bias—that our independent and dependent variables may be correlated because they are reported by the same indi- vidual—we conducted a pooled analysis where the dependent variable is not a self- report of sexual frequency but spouses’ reports of sexual frequency (cf. Amato and Rivera 1999). Because husbands and wives do not necessarily complete the questionnaire on sexual frequency and hours spent in house- work at the same time, we restricted the sam- ple to partners who completed the survey in the same month. This reduces the sample size to 7,002 for this analysis.

We first present results for the overall models. We then present results showing whether variables representing alternative mechanisms mediate the relationship between sexual frequency and the household division of labor, as well as models investigating whether this link varies with respondents’ gender ideologies.

Table 3 shows results from the regression models described earlier. Column 1 shows coefficients and p-values generated using cluster-robust standard errors from the pooled analysis of husbands and wives, using self- reports of their own and their spouses’ hours spent in housework and sexual frequency. For purposes of brevity, we limit discussion of results that do not bear on our main theoreti- cal question of interest. These findings are similar to much previous research on sexual frequency: self-rated health, wife’s and hus- band’s age, young children in the home, and the amount of time respondents reported spending alone with their spouse are all sig- nificant predictors of sexual frequency. In addition, we find a positive and significant effect of household income in pooled results, although the effect does not reach signifi- cance using only women’s reports and is sig- nificant only at the .05 level using men’s reports.

Our main question of interest, however, is whether and how men’s participation in household labor is linked to sexual frequency. Our results suggest that sexual frequency is highest in households with traditionally gen- dered divisions of labor. As Table 3 shows, the coefficient for men’s share of core household labor is negative: households in which men do more female-typed (core) tasks report lower sexual frequency. The coefficient for men’s share of non-core household labor, on the other hand, is positive: households in which men do more male-typed (non-core) tasks report more sex. These effects are statis- tically significant and substantively large. Overall, these results suggest that sexuality is governed by enactments of femininity and masculinity through appropriately gendered performances of household labor that coin- cide with sexual scripts organizing hetero- sexual desire.

To illustrate the substantive size of these effects, Figure 1 shows predicted values for sexual frequency, varying the share of house- hold labor performed by men while setting all other variables to their means. As the figure shows, shifting from a household in which women perform all of the core household tasks to one where women perform none of the core household tasks is associated with a decline in sexual frequency of nearly 1.6 times per month. Given a mean sexual fre- quency in this sample of slightly over five, this is a large difference. The figure repre- sents two extreme values, but even house- holds in which men do 40 percent of core household task hours report substantially lower sexual frequency than households in which women perform all core housework. The effect for men’s share of non-core house- work is similar although somewhat smaller.

These models include variables that repre- sent possible common causes of both a tradi- tional gender division of labor and higher sexual frequency: men’s and women’s work hours, which may serve as a measure of broader masculinity or femininity; religious affiliation; and gender ideology. Not only do these variables fail to reduce the relationship between men’s share of both types of house- work and sexual frequency to zero, most are not statistically significant in their own right, with the exception of two religious categories: black Protestants and conservative Christians report higher sexual frequency. Still, most important is not these specific differences, but

Non-core Housework Core Housework that their existence does not eliminate the relationship of theoretical interest.

Other models largely confirm findings from the analysis pooling men’s and women’s self- reports. Column 2 of Table 3 relies on reports of independent variables from one partner and a report of sexual frequency from the opposite partner. This eliminates the possibility of same- source bias, that correlations between inde- pendent and dependent variables exist solely because both are reported by the same indi- vidual. Coefficients and levels of significance are nearly identical, with the exception of estimates for how often individuals spent time alone with their spouse in the past month. This may be because spouses who filled out the survey in the same month are more likely to share activities even if they do not share time, reducing the size of this effect. Finally, we present models using men’s and women’s self- reports of all items except household-level measures. These demonstrate whether there are differences between effects reported by women and men. Column 3 presents results using women’s self-reports and column 4 pre- sents results using men’s self-reports. There are few differences between these and earlier estimates, although results using only men’s reports show no significant effects of non-core housework. Still, the coefficient remains posi- tive and husbands’ share of core housework is still negative and significant.

These results—whether using both men’s and women’s reports in a pooled analysis, relying on opposite spouses for reports of our key variables, or relying on men’s or wom- en’s results alone—show that households with a more gender-traditional division of labor report having more sex. The pattern of results suggests the existence of a gendered set of sexual scripts, in which the traditional performance and display of gender is impor- tant for creation of sexual desire and perfor- mance of sexual activity. Because we lack data on sexual desire or related variables, it is difficult for us to untangle mechanisms link- ing sex to a traditional division of labor.

Existing data do, however, allow additional tests for the possibilities that the relationship between sexual frequency and a traditional division of labor is mediated by marital satisfaction or linked by common causes. If spouses are happier with each other’s contributions in more gender-traditional divisions of household labor, and happiness leads to greater sexual frequency, then any relationship between sexual frequency and a traditional division of labor should disappear with inclusion of measures of happiness, and the link would have little to do with sexual scripts. We test for this possibility and varia- tion by gender ideology. To the extent that individuals hold different beliefs about gen- der, their reaction to gender-traditional behav- iors could vary. Table 4 shows tests for these two possibilities and includes coefficients for our main variables of interest: men’s share of both types of housework, happiness with mar- riage and with a spouse’s contribution to housework, and gender ideology interactions with men’s share of housework. We show results from the pooled analysis for purposes of brevity.13 Finally, we show results using men’s and women’s total hours in core and non-core work rather than shares to show that results are robust to alternative specifications of contributions to housework.

These results do not show support for the possibilities of mediation or an interaction. The first model shows the effect of including happiness in marriage and happiness with a spouse’s contribution to housework. The effect of happiness in marriage is positive—indicating that individuals who are happier with their marriage report higher sexual frequency—but it does not reduce the effect of men’s share of these two types of housework to nonsignificance. In con- trast, the effect of happiness with spouse’s contribution to housework is not significantly different from zero. Although happiness in marriage has an important link to sexual fre- quency, we conclude that it does not account for the association observed. The second model shows the effect of including interactions between our measure of gender ideology and men’s share of core and non-core housework. Neither of these interactions reaches statistical significance. Their inclusion does lead the pri- mary share of housework variables to be non- significant, but this lack of significance appears to reflect collinearity; when we subtract means of variables before generating interaction terms, the share of housework variables remain significant and in the expected direction.

Finally, the alternative specification of the model using men’s and women’s hours in house- work is consistent with our earlier findings. Men’s hours in core—female-typed—house- work are negatively associated with sexual frequency, and women’s hours in core house- work are positively associated. For non-core housework, only men’s hours are significantly associated with sexual frequency, and the coef- ficient is positive. Checking effects of the total number of hours is important, because we could see a negative effect of a share if coefficients for men’s and women’s hours are similarly signed but one is simply larger than the other. In this case, however, we find different effects of men’s and women’s work, and these effects differ by task. Thus, when men do more core work, reported sexual frequency is lower; when men do more non-core work, reported sexual frequency is higher, consistent with the notion of sexual scripts. To compare our model to another recent paper measuring the effects of housework hours (Gager and Yabiku 2010), we considered regression models in which we used measures of men’s and women’s total housework hours, combining core and non-core hours into a single measure. Our results are very similar to those previously reported: we find significant and positive relationships between total hours and reports of sexual frequency, likely because most of women’s hours are in core labor, which is positively signed, and most of men’s hours are in non-core labor, which is also positively signed. We note, however, that measures of model fit are better using our measures than using total number of hours, and we suggest these measures better capture the relationship between sexual frequency and household labor.

The lack of significance for tests of marital happiness and gender ideology leads us to conclude that the arrayed evidence—that households with more traditional arrange- ments report more frequent sexual activity, and that this relationship is not mediated by happiness, religion, gender ideology, or a range of other variables—is concordant with a gendered sexual scripts perspective. The lack of interactions or mediation lends support, we argue, to the notion that the operating mechanism is one that links within-couple displays of masculinity and femininity to sexual scripts leading to sexual frequency. Still, our understanding of the exact dynamics is limited due to the use of quantitative data. Men or women may, in essence, be turned on (however indirectly) when partners in a marriage do more gender-traditional work. Of course, men and women could also be turned off by doing work that is not traditional for their gender. Similarly, it is unclear whether women’s or men’s reactions to these performances are more important. These questions cannot be untangled with existing quantita- tive data.

CONCLUSIONS

This article began by noting that American marriages are more egalitarian today than they were in the past, but scholars have found it difficult to offer a clear interpretation of how egalitarianism has changed the nature of marriage itself. One broad interpretation of egalitarianism is that couples exchange resources across various domains. Moves toward more equality in one area, such as earnings, might thus induce more equal distributions in other areas, like housework, a suggestion that has certainly received extensive investigation. In this article, we asked whether men and women use housework and sex as resources for exchange, or whether other logics govern sexual frequency within marriage.

Following up on the widely publicized claim that by doing more housework, husbands in more egalitarian marriages got more sex, we sought to investigate the links between men’s participation in housework and sexual frequency using nationally representative data. Our findings suggest the importance of gender display for sexual frequency in heterosexual marriage: couples where men participate more in core tasks—work typically done by women—report lower sexual frequency. Similarly, couples where men participate more in non-core, traditionally masculine tasks report higher sexual frequency, suggesting the importance of gender-typed participation in household labor. Additionally, although our main results examined core and non-core labor separately, we note that regressions using the share of total housework (core and non-core combined) also show a negative and significant coefficient for men’s share of housework.

Because the bulk of housework done in U.S. households involves the traditionally female or core tasks of cooking, cleaning, and laundry (Bianchi et al. 2000), our findings stand in marked contrast to the published claim motivating this study: that husbands who do more housework get more sex. At the same time, one can understand how this claim might have gained currency. First, men’s contributions are important for wives’ satisfaction in marriage. Marital satisfaction is associated with sexual frequency, and it may be the case that husbands in more satisfied relationships qualitatively perceive that they have more frequent sex even though they quantitatively do not. Second, to the casual observer, husbands who do more of the traditionally masculine tasks in a marriage may in fact populate the mental category of husbands who do more to help around the house. Although men who do more yard work, car maintenance, household repairs, and the like might make sizable contributions to the division of labor at home, to characterize these efforts as emblematic of egalitarianism is misleading. At the very least, our results are difficult to reconcile with the idea that women trade sex to men for doing what is tradition- ally viewed as women’s work. Based on our findings, sex seems to lie outside the realm of conventional exchange.

The data we selected—Wave II of the National Survey of Families and House- holds—are the most recent data we are aware of that include objective measures of both sexual frequency and the division of household labor. These data are dated, though, as they were collected roughly 20 years prior to the time of writing. Because these data are older, there is a possibility that the relationships we document have changed. In particular, the script that men exchange housework for sex is a relatively recent one and, as such, may not have been evident at the time of this research. However, given the durability of some features of marriage, including the gendered division of labor, we suspect our results would still hold despite the time that has passed since the data were collected. Additionally, conclusions about the shift to egalitarianism and effects of this shift are often based on similarly aged data from the late 1980s and early 1990s. Although we may be unable to comment specifically on patterns of marriage in the present day, our results are easily applicable to claims about shifts in marriage.

Sexual frequency appears to lie in the realm of sexual scripts, but couples are not purely interested in the amount of sex they have—they undoubtedly also care about the quality of sex. Although sexual frequency is correlated with sexual satisfaction, the corre- lation is far from perfect. We focus on sexual frequency in this article in part as a response to existing media claims about the topic, but also because sex and housework are enduring components of marriage, historically predating romantic love and sexual satisfaction (Coontz 2005). The importance of sexual frequency for sexual satisfaction, marital stability, and marital satisfaction for egalitarian versus traditional marriages are testable questions, but not the ones this article asks. If scripts define a moment as sexual, and govern sexual initiation, then the sexual scripts theory explains sexual frequency, not sexual satisfaction. Even if egalitarian couples have the least but most satisfying sex, the scripts perspective would not be invalidated. Still, the question of satisfaction is undoubtedly important and should be pursued in future research.

In addition to encouraging further research on the relevancy of sexual scripts for other components of couples’ sexual relationships, our research also brings up questions about the relationships among sexual scripts, sexual frequency, and housework for other types of couples, including same-sex spouses and cohabiting partners. The past several decades have seen shifts in whether couples marry or cohabitate, and there are now more same-sex partners in the pool of married spouses and long-term committed partnerships. We sus- pect the saliency of sexual scripts and house- work for sexual frequency within cohabiting and same-sex couples hinges on whether sexual activity and housework have a similar meaning for them as they do for married het- erosexual couples. Research suggests that the division of household labor among gay, lesbian, and cohabiting couples is influenced by earnings and gender, but differences remain in how these couples divide household labor compared to married heterosexual couples (Carrington 1999; South and Spitze1994). We thus caution against assuming that our find- ings apply to other types of couples, but we encourage further investigation into the role of housework and sexual scripts in shaping sex- ual behavior across different types of couples.

One contribution of this study is to offer and test models of the role of sexual activity within marriage. Existing research acknowledges that sex lives and the frequency of sex are important concerns for couples, even if they remain contested terrain (Elliott and Umberson 2008), but little research suggests how sex is organized. This article offers a systematic test of exchange perspectives on sex in marriage and provides a new perspec- tive to explain sexual behavior in marriage: namely, one that emphasizes the continued importance of gendered sexual scripts.

Our research indicates that changes in sexual scripts have not kept pace with changes in the division of household labor. In some ways, this finding should not be surprising. Scholars continue to assert that shifts toward gender equality across multiple arenas occur at uneven paces, with the organization of romantic relationships being particularly stagnant (England 2010). The association we observed between sex and traditional gender behavior corresponds with the persistence of other traditional gender mores within hetero- sexual romance, including the double stand- ard that penalizes young women and rewards young men for sexual agency (England, Shafer, and Fogarty 2008; Hamilton and Armstrong 2009). One area we did not inves- tigate that could offer promise for the future is men’s and women’s work behaviors outside the home, for example, whether the gender- type of one’s occupation also influences sex- ual frequency (Schneider 2012).

The notion that sex within marriage is bound to traditional sexual scripts does not necessarily put egalitarianism at odds with sexual frequency. Rather, the saliency of traditional sexual scripts suggests that if maintaining certain fea- tures of marriage, such as sexual frequency, is desired, increased egalitarianism in one area of marriage must be paired with comparable shifts away from traditional gender behaviors, atti- tudes, and scripts in others. One potential change may be women’s sexual agency. As we noted earlier, Baumeister and colleagues (2001) docu- ment substantial differences in sexual interest and activity between men and women, reflect- ing double standards that penalize girls and young women for sexual activity while often rewarding sexually active young men. To the extent these double standards become internal- ized, heterosexual women may subjugate their own desires and may not feel as free to initiate sex. One potential interpretation of our results is that husbands’ participation in core housework increases their stress levels and makes them less likely to initiate sex. If wives do not feel empowered to initiate sex, then husbands’ housework and ensuing fatigue would reduce the frequency of intercourse. In this interpreta- tion, it is not necessarily the case that egalitari- anism in household labor is incompatible with sexual activity itself, but rather that egalitarian- ism is incompatible with current sexual scripts. Gendered sexual scripts punish women for being sexually agentic and encourage men to be sexual initiators. If these scripts were to change andbothmenandwomeninitiatedintercourse, then the division of household labor would pre- sumably be less consequential.14

In conclusion, these results shed new light on an area of marriage—sex—that has received relatively little recent attention. More broadly, they expand our understanding of how couples make bargains in households, suggesting that straightforward exchange relations do not govern sexual behavior in marriage. Instead, a more complex, socialized set of beliefs and scripts related to gender link wives’ and husbands’ performances of house- hold labor and sexual frequency, much as gendered scripts govern a wide range of behavior. The importance of gender has declined over time, but it continues to exert a strong influence over individual behaviors, including sexual frequency within marriage.

Sexual Satisfaction and Housework

This appendix examines the relationship between housework and satisfaction with one’s sex life. We present these additional results as a potential way to gain leverage on two ques- tions. First, as we mentioned in the main text, onepossibleconcernisthathouseholdswith more traditional gender divisions of labor may have higher sexual frequency due to coercive sexual behavior. To the extent this is the case, wives in more traditional households should have lower satisfaction with their sex lives, and men in these households should have greater satisfaction. As Tables A1 and A2 show, however, this is not what we find. Instead, wives are more likely to report greater sexual satisfaction when their husbands report higher shares of housework, and husbands’ sexual satisfaction is unrelated to their wives’ reports of men’s share of housework.

Another possibility is simply that more egalitarian households are likely to engage in a range of behaviors that would not count as sex but that might lead to greater sexual satis- faction. If couples with more egalitarian divi- sions of household labor are more likely to engage in (unreported) sexual activities that prioritize women’s sexual satisfaction, we would expect to find the opposite relationship between women’s sexual satisfaction and men’s participation in household labor. Instead, we still find the same relationship as for sexual frequency, suggesting this possibil- ity is unlikely.

These multinomial logistic regression analyses separately examine the relationship between housework and sexual satisfaction for husbands and wives using opposite spouse reports of sexual satisfaction and housework. For wives’ results, the depend- ent variable of satisfaction is reported by wives and housework measures are reported by husbands; for husbands’ results, the dependent variable is reported by husbands and housework measures are reported by wives

There is certainly debate over these findings. Gupta (2007) argues that a better model is one of women’s autonomy. Recent research continues to investigate when different models work (Killewald and Gough 2010).

Note that the gender-typical work described is con- sistent with the sexual scripts approach we will develop.

To the extent that gender works through sexual scripts, it suggests that individuals have internalized gendered scripts. This is in contrast to some theo- retical perspectives on gender that suggest gender is performed to meet others’ expectations (e.g., West and Zimmerman 1987).

We exclude cohabiting couples because some evi- dence suggests relationships among cohabitors are different from those among married couples.

Other datasets typically contain measures of satisfac- tion with the division of household labor and one’s sex life, but not measures of sexual frequency or the actual amount of time spent on household labor. South and Spitze excluded respondents with more than four missing items. Because we consider indi- viduals’ reports of their own and their spouse’s activities, we double the number of potential miss- ing items to eight. Including respondents with different numbers of items has little substantive impact on results.

Few couples fell into this category. Nine men reported all zeroes for items of core housework for themselves and their wives, one man reported all zeroes for non-core housework, and two women reported all zeroes for their own and their husbands’ non-core housework.

We presented a previous version of this work at the 2009 American Sociological Association conference, and we would like to thank the audience and the presider from that session for their valuable comments. We would also like to thank Pepper Schwartz, Rebecca Sheehan, Jon Agnone, Tyler Corwin, and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments, although we note that mistakes and conclusions are solely our own.

notes

1. Amato and colleagues (2003) also show, however, that men’s increasing share of housework seems to depress their own marital satisfaction.

2. Authors’ calculations from National Survey of Families and Households data are available on request.

3. Although we rely on social exchange theory, similar predictions could be generated using economic or quasi-economic theories of household bargaining, such as separate-spheres bargaining models or a dependency model (Brines 1994; Lundberg and Pollak 1993). Sprecher (1998) also proposes a model based on equity, rather than exchange, that would lead to similar predictions.

4. To list only a few differences, Baumeister and col- leagues (2001) found that men desired sex more often, were more frequently aroused, initiated sex more frequently, refused sex less frequently, and had more permissive attitudes. Other evidence on initiation and refusal can be found in Byers and Heinlein (1989).

5.

6. 7.

8. 9.

10.

11.

2. We calculated the share using wives’ and husbands’ reports of their own income, because nearly half of respondents had missing data for the question about their spouses’ income.

13. In results from other models, men’s share of core housework always remains significant, and men’s share of non-core housework is significant except in the pooled model and using only men’s reports.

14. We would like to thank an anonymous reviewer for suggesting this possibility.

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Sabino Kornrich is a Junior Researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid. He will be Assistant Professor of Sociology at Emory University beginning 2013. Much of his current research focuses on parents’ monetary investments in children and how these have changed over time. He is also interested in processes that structure relations between income, expenditures, time in housework, and the role of gender for these processes. His earlier research examined dis- crimination charges in organizations and sources of black-white labor market inequality.

Julie Brines is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington. Her research examines how the principles that organize work and allocation decisions within families are tied to durable patterns of inequality. Current projects analyze the effects of changes in local labor and housing markets immediately before and during the Great Recession on county-level rates of filing for divorce. She is also studying how trends in women’s and men’s employment have altered the terms of social com- parison, the use of power, and perceptions of justice in marriage.

Katrina Leupp is a PhD Candidate in Sociology and an NICHD Trainee at the Center for Studies in Demogra- phy and Ecology at the University of Washington. Her interests include family demography, work, and gender. Her dissertation examines the consequences of employ- ment trajectories and family care demands on health and well-being. Other projects analyze patterns of nonstan- dard employment hours across the life course, and the effects of gender attitudes on mothers’ employment outcomes.


Bonheur: C’est avoir plus qui compte, imbécile ! (Why keeping up with the Joneses ain’t what it used to be)

30 janvier, 2013
Tu ne convoiteras point la maison de ton prochain; tu ne convoiteras point la femme de ton prochain, ni son serviteur, ni sa servante, ni son boeuf, ni son âne, ni aucune chose qui appartienne à ton prochain. Exode 20: 17
Si le Décalogue consacre son commandement ultime à interdire le désir des biens du prochain, c’est parce qu’il reconnaît lucidement dans ce désir le responsable des violences interdites dans les quatre commandements qui le précèdent. Si on cessait de désirer les biens du prochain, on ne se rendrait jamais coupable ni de meurtre, ni d’adultère, ni de vol, ni de faux témoignage. Si le dixième commandement était respecté, il rendrait superflus les quatre commandements qui le précèdent. Au lieu de commencer par la cause et de poursuivre par les conséquences, comme ferait un exposé philosophique, le Décalogue suit l’ordre inverse. Il pare d’abord au plus pressé: pour écarter la violence, il interdit les actions violentes. Il se retourne ensuite vers la cause et découvre le désir inspiré par le prochain. René Girard
Si à 50 ans, on n’a pas une Rolex, c’est quand même qu’on a raté sa vie.  Jacques Séguéla (2009)
Former graphic designer and commercial director Derrick Borte makes his feature film debut with the new black comedy The Joneses, which opened in theaters on April 16th. The film stars David Duchovny (The X-Files) and Demi Moore (Ghost) as Kate and Steve Jones, a seemingly perfect couple that are actually part of a fake family commissioned by a marketing company as a way to introduce new luxury-level products to neighborhoods around the world, using undercover marketing techniques. Jami Philbrick
Stealth marketing exists in a variety of ways from alcohol companies hiring models to go to bars and order certain drinks over and over again, to cigarette companies doing the same thing and things like that. Builders who have houses for sale outside of L.A. will do an open house with a furnished home and hire out of work actors to pretend like they are a family. They say it helps the house sell if people think that there is a happy family living there. Derrick Borte
The standard of living has gone up for each individual over the past 40 years but it has gone up for everyone. Our cars are faster now but our neighbours have faster cars too, so we haven’t got that advantage over people close to us. Without the biggest home, or the fastest car then it doesn’t give you that same excitement as it would have. Earning £1million a year appears not to be enough to make you happy if you know your friends all earn £2million a year.’ (…) « A rise in income may benefit one person but it has a detrimental effect on others. If I jump up two places in the rank, then the people I jumped ahead of go backwards. So person does not just have to increase their rank they have to work hard just keep up with rather than passing the Jones. (…) Making everybody in society richer will not necessarily increase overall happiness because it is only having a higher income than other people that matters. Dr Chris Boyce (University of Warwick)
The process begins with the completely unremarkable fact that top earners have been spending at a substantially higher rate than before. They’ve been building bigger mansions, staging more elaborate weddings and coming-of-age parties for their kids, buying more and better of everything. Many social critics wag their fingers at what they perceive to be frivolous luxury spending. But that misses the point that all consumption norms are local. It’s not just the rich who spend more when they get more money. Everyone else does, too. The mansions of the rich may seem over the top to people in the middle, but the same could be said of American middle-class houses as seen by most of the planet’s 7 billion people. The important practical point is that when the rich build bigger, they shift the frame of reference that shapes the demands of the near rich, who travel in the same social circles. Perhaps it’s now the custom in those circles to host your daughter’s wedding reception at home rather than in a hotel or country club. So the near rich feel they too need a house with a ballroom. And when they build bigger, they shift the frame of reference for the group just below them, and so on, all the way down. There’s no other way to explain why the median new house built in the United States in 2007 had more than 2,300 square feet, almost 50 percent more than its counterpart in 1980. Certainly, it’s not because the median earners are awash in cash. (The median real wage for American men was actually lower in 2007 than in 1980.) Nor is there any other way to explain why the inflation-adjusted average cost of an American wedding had grown almost threefold during the same period. Middle-income families have also been struggling to meet sharply higher tuition bills and health insurance premiums. To make ends meet, they’ve taken on substantial debt, worked longer hours, and endured longer commutes to work. In the parts of the country where inequality has grown most, we’ve seen the biggest increases in bankruptcy filings and the biggest increases in divorce rates. Many have been harshly critical of families that borrowed more than they could reasonably hope to repay. If they couldn’t afford larger houses and more expensive weddings for their daughters, these critics say, they should have just scaled back. But that charge ignores the importance of context in meeting basic goals. All parents, for example, want to send their children to the best possible schools. But a good school is a relative concept. It’s one that’s better than most other schools in your area. In every country, the better schools are those that serve students whose families live in more expensive neighborhoods. So if a family is to achieve its goal, it must outbid similar families for a house in a neighborhood served by such a school. Failure to do so often means having to send your kids to a school with metal detectors at the front entrance and students who score in the 20th percentile in reading and math. Most families will do everything possible to avoid having to send their children to a school like that. But because of the logic of musical chairs, many are inevitably frustrated. No matter how aggressively everyone bids for a house in a better school district, half of all students must attend schools in the bottom half of the school quality distribution. As in the familiar stadium metaphor, all stand, hoping for a better view, only to discover that no one sees any better than if all had remained comfortably seated. Parents confront similar dilemmas when deciding how much to spend on a child’s coming-of-age party or wedding. The expenditure cascades spawned by higher spending at the top in those categories have raised expectations about how one should mark important social milestones. Of course, a family always has the option to spend considerably less on such events than most of its peers do. But it can do so only by disappointing loved ones, or by courting the impression that it failed to appreciate the importance of the occasion they were celebrating. By creating runaway demands for credit, growing income disparities also helped spawn the housing bubble that gave us the financial crisis of 2008, the lingering effects of which have forced many OWS protesters to try to launch their careers in by far the most inhospitable labor market we’ve seen since the Great Depression. Even those recent graduates who manage to find jobs will suffer a lifelong penalty in reduced wages. In short, it is no exaggeration to say that rising inequality has driven many of the 99 percent into a financial ditch. Adding insult to injury, it hasn’t really accomplished anything of value for its ostensible beneficiaries, the top 1 percent. They’ve all built bigger mansions and staged more lavish parties, yes, but in so doing, they’ve simply raised the bar that defines what’s considered adequate in these categories. Robert Frank
Depuis la récession, les Américains riches sont à la recherche de nouveaux symboles de prestige, Les yachts, jets privés et villas au bord de la mer sont tellement 2007. Etre assez riche et généreux pour avoir son nom dans la liste « Giving Pledge » pourrait rapidement devenir l’ultime badge de prestige. Robert Franck (Wealth Report)

C’est avoir plus qui compte, imbécile !

Alors que, sur fond de raréfaction des ressources (d’énergie et matières premières mais aussi de… nouveauté !) sur « une Terre qui n’est plus assez vaste pour eux », nos ultrariches peinent à trouver de produits assez chers pour assouvir leur besoin de consommation ostentatoire …

Et que pour se faire élire ou se maintenir au pouvoir nos nouveaux démagos de la Maison Blanche ou de l’Elysée appellent à faire payer les riches

Pendant qu’au-delà de sa dimension cyclique, une étude britannique confirme la dimension largement positionnelle du bonheur (les biens ne comptent que si on en a plus que le voisin) …

Retour, avec le sociologue américain Robert Frank, sur les effets pervers de cette course-poursuite avec les voisins (« keeping up with the Joneses ») …

Qui, refusant étrangement l’évidente explication par l’envie (ie. Veblen et Girard), a le mérite de montrer comment le formidable élargissement des possibilités de revenus lié aux nouvelles technologies (mais aussi à la mondialisation) entraine nécessairement l’explosion des niveaux de consommation au sommet …

Et, par mimétisme et en cascade en une véritable course aux armements généralisée, celle des groupes sociaux inférieurs …

Expliquant effectivement, sans compter la raréfaction des ressources, les risques inhérents d’emballement et leur lot de bulles, surendettement et crises à répétition …

Mais aussi, ce que dans son obsession fiscaliste notre ascétique amoureux de la rusticité népalaise semble oublier, la formidable vitalité de la société occidentale en général et de la société américaine en particulier …

Sans compter, comme il le reconnait lui-même avec les exemples de nos Gates ou Buffett, la possibilité d’appliquer à la générosité philanthropique la même redoutable machine de l’envie …

Pourquoi vous achèterez bientôt un barbecue à 5000 dollars

Propos recueillis par Sandrine Tolotti

Nouvel Observateur

29-11-2010

Quand Paris Hilton s’achète 10.000 euros de lingerie chez « Agent provocateur », les classes moyennes déferlent en tsunami chez Etam. Robert Franck, économiste et comportementaliste américain de l’université de Cornell, montre comment les riches entretiennent le cycle de l’hyperconsumérisme et propose de remplacer l’impôt sur le revenu par une taxe progressive sur la consommation. Alors que « la Course au luxe » , ouvrage datant d’il y a dix ans, sort en France chez Markus Haller, il a livré un entretien captivant à nos indépassables confrères de « Books ».

Books. – Vous travaillez sur le boom du luxe, alors même que les revenus de la majorité de la population marquent le pas. Comment ces deux réalités peuvent-elles aller de pair?

Robert Frank (DR)Robert Franck. – Le paradoxe n’est qu’apparent. Nous avons assisté dans la plupart des pays développés, ces dernières décennies, à un développement substantiel des inégalités, qui a été particulièrement spectaculaire aux États-Unis. Entre 1979 et 2003, les 20% les plus pauvres de la population américaine ont vu leurs revenus progresser de 3,5% seulement sur l’ensemble de la période. Parallèlement, les 20% les plus riches voyaient les leurs augmenter de 45,7% – et les 5% les mieux lotis de 68%. En 1980, les PDG des deux cents plus grandes entreprises américaines gagnaient 42 fois le salaire moyen d’un ouvrier ; en 2000, ils touchaient 500 fois cette somme.

Ce creusement des inégalités, par rapport à la période antérieure, au cours de laquelle tout le monde progressait sensiblement au même rythme, est lié à des transformations en profondeur des règles du jeu économique. En deux mots, nous avons vu se généraliser les « marchés où le gagnant rafle la mise » : ce sont des marchés sur lesquels de faibles écarts de performance suffisent à générer des différences considérables de rémunération; une poignée d’individus particulièrement talentueux s’y adjuge des rétributions énormes. Au début du siècle, quand l’État de l’Iowa comptait à lui seul plus de 1300 opéras, des milliers de ténors gagnaient modestement mais correctement leur vie en se produisant en public. Depuis que nous écoutons essentiellement de la musique enregistrée, le meilleur ténor du monde peut littéralement être présent partout à la fois, et être rémunéré en conséquence.

Longtemps, ce fonctionnement est resté l’apanage des mondes du sport et de l’art. Mais ces règles du jeu très concurrentielles ont gagné récemment de nombreux secteurs, comme la comptabilité, le droit, le conseil, la médecine, la banque, l’édition, le design… Notamment parce que les nouvelles technologies ont accru la puissance et le champ d’influence des meilleurs.

Ces talents de mieux en mieux rémunérés ont fait comme tout individu qui s’enrichit : ils ont augmenté leur consommation, notamment de ces biens que je définis moins par leur caractère luxueux – la définition du luxe est très circonstancielle – que par leur caractère « positionnel » : ce sont d’abord des indicateurs de standing, des marqueurs de statut social. Et ce nouveau modèle de consommation au sommet s’est répercuté sur l’ensemble de la population, via une véritable « cascade de dépenses ».

La taille minimale d’une maison n’est pas la même au Népal et au Japon

Books. – Qu’entendez-vous par «cascade de dépenses» ?

R. Franck. – Les cercles sociaux sont relativement étroits?; les nouvelles habitudes de consommation des plus riches n’ont donc pas modifié directement la consommation de l’ensemble de la population. Ils ont, en revanche, modifié le cadre de référence façonnant les aspirations de la population située juste au-dessous d’eux ; à son tour, celle-ci s’est mise à consommer davantage, bouleversant le cadre de référence des couches sociales immédiatement inférieures, et ainsi de suite tout au long de l’échelle.

Aujour­d’hui, pour prendre un exemple trivial mais évocateur, on trouve aux États-Unis des barbecues à plus de 5000 dollars. Payer un gril une somme pareille aurait été inimaginable il y a seulement vingt ans. Pourtant, le segment des barbecues à plus de 2000 dollars est celui qui progresse le plus sur ce marché. Dans la même veine, si l’on excepte le bref revers subi par le secteur du luxe en 2009, les yachts et les montres Patek Philippe se vendent toujours sur liste d’attente, et les voitures haut de gamme représentent une part croissante du marché automobile américain… D’une manière générale, les dépenses consacrées aux produits de luxe croissent à peu près quatre fois plus vite que les autres.

Un barbecue à plus de 2000 dollars

Et cette fièvre ne touche pas seulement les plus riches. En témoigne notamment l’évolution du confort moyen des logements aux États-Unis : la surface médiane des nouvelles maisons est passée de 480 mètres carrés en 1980 à 610 mètres carrés en 2001, soit une augmentation de 27%, alors que le revenu disponible d’une famille médiane ne progressait que de 15% environ.

Books. – Mais quel est le ressort du phénomène, s’il n’est pas lié à l’enrichissement de la majorité de la population?

R. Franck. – Il tient au fait que les normes de consommation du milieu où l’on vit influencent les biens et services que l’on juge essentiels à son bien-être : la taille minimale d’une maison, pour n’en avoir pas honte, n’est pas la même au Népal, au Japon, en Europe ou aux États-Unis. L’environnement et ses évolutions façonnent le jugement que les gens portent sur leur propre situation, et donc leurs décisions économiques.

Les études d’économie comportementale donnent des résultats très clairs à cet égard : si l’on demande aux gens de choisir entre un monde où ils habitent une maison de 1000 mètres carrés tandis que les autres jouissent de 2000 mètres carrés, et un monde où ils habitent une maison de 800 mètres carrés tandis que les autres n’ont que 600 mètres carrés, la plupart optent pour le second monde, celui où la taille absolue de leur maison est plus petite, mais où sa taille relative est plus grande. Dans ces conditions, le boom de la consommation positionnelle des plus riches provoque une véritable fuite en avant, qui n’est pas sans rappeler la course aux armements entre États. Dès lors que les plus riches achètent des maisons plus grandes, chacun a tendance à acheter une maison plus grande.

Books. – Parce que l’homme est un animal envieux?

R. Franck. – Non, je vois dans ce phénomène l’effet concomitant de l’augmentation des inégalités et de la logique de compétition profondément ancrée en l’homme. L’importance que nous accordons aux biens positionnels relève à mes yeux de deux niveaux d’explication. Premièrement, notre consommation a des conséquences tangibles, dont il est parfaitement légitime de se soucier. Les signaux que chacun envoie à son environnement sur son rang nourrissent ou handicapent très concrètement sa réussite.

[=> « Taxons l’hyperconsommation !» : la suite de l’entretien sur booksmag.fr]

Voir aussi:

Does Inequality Matter?

How “expenditure cascades” are squeezing the American middle class.

Robert H. Frank

Dec. 5, 2011

This essay is adapted from Robert H. Frank’s recently published book, The Darwin Economy.

Republicans have never wanted to talk about inequality, and many Democrats now seem afraid to. As a congressional Democratic adviser quoted by the New York Times reporter Jackie Calmes recently put it, the party is having difficulty articulating its position “in a way that doesn’t get us pegged as tax-and-spenders.”

The remarkable achievement of the Occupy Wall Street movement has been to make continuing silence about inequality politically unacceptable. Some have criticized the movement for not pressing specific demands. Yet most protesters wouldn’t pretend to have a sophisticated understanding of the forces that have been causing growing income disparities, or the policy experience to prescribe what might be done about them. But now that the movement has forced inequality onto the agenda, the time is ripe to focus on these issues.

Because many continue to deny that income inequality has been growing, it’s useful to start with a brief review of how income growth patterns have changed since World War II. The three decades after the war saw incomes grow at an almost uniform 3 percent annual rate for families up and down the income ladder. Since the early 1970s, however, virtually all income gains have accrued to those whose incomes were highest to begin with.

It’s a striking fractal pattern. Most of the gains have gone to the top 20 percent of earners, but the lion’s share of the gains within that group have gone to the top 5 percent. And within the top 5 percent, most of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent, and so on.

Is this new pattern something to worry about? Many decry rising inequality because it makes those who’ve fallen behind feel impoverished. But it’s done much more than that. It has also raised the real cost to middle-income families of achieving many basic goals.

It’s done that through a process that I’ve elsewhere called “expenditure cascades.” The process begins with the completely unremarkable fact that top earners have been spending at a substantially higher rate than before. They’ve been building bigger mansions, staging more elaborate weddings and coming-of-age parties for their kids, buying more and better of everything.

Many social critics wag their fingers at what they perceive to be frivolous luxury spending. But that misses the point that all consumption norms are local. It’s not just the rich who spend more when they get more money. Everyone else does, too. The mansions of the rich may seem over the top to people in the middle, but the same could be said of American middle-class houses as seen by most of the planet’s 7 billion people.

The important practical point is that when the rich build bigger, they shift the frame of reference that shapes the demands of the near rich, who travel in the same social circles. Perhaps it’s now the custom in those circles to host your daughter’s wedding reception at home rather than in a hotel or country club. So the near rich feel they too need a house with a ballroom. And when they build bigger, they shift the frame of reference for the group just below them, and so on, all the way down.

There’s no other way to explain why the median new house built in the United States in 2007 had more than 2,300 square feet, almost 50 percent more than its counterpart in 1980. Certainly, it’s not because the median earners are awash in cash. (The median real wage for American men was actually lower in 2007 than in 1980.) Nor is there any other way to explain why the inflation-adjusted average cost of an American wedding had grown almost threefold during the same period.

Middle-income families have also been struggling to meet sharply higher tuition bills and health insurance premiums. To make ends meet, they’ve taken on substantial debt, worked longer hours, and endured longer commutes to work. In the parts of the country where inequality has grown most, we’ve seen the biggest increases in bankruptcy filings and the biggest increases in divorce rates.

Many have been harshly critical of families that borrowed more than they could reasonably hope to repay. If they couldn’t afford larger houses and more expensive weddings for their daughters, these critics say, they should have just scaled back. But that charge ignores the importance of context in meeting basic goals.

All parents, for example, want to send their children to the best possible schools. But a good school is a relative concept. It’s one that’s better than most other schools in your area. In every country, the better schools are those that serve students whose families live in more expensive neighborhoods. So if a family is to achieve its goal, it must outbid similar families for a house in a neighborhood served by such a school. Failure to do so often means having to send your kids to a school with metal detectors at the front entrance and students who score in the 20th percentile in reading and math. Most families will do everything possible to avoid having to send their children to a school like that.

But because of the logic of musical chairs, many are inevitably frustrated. No matter how aggressively everyone bids for a house in a better school district, half of all students must attend schools in the bottom half of the school quality distribution. As in the familiar stadium metaphor, all stand, hoping for a better view, only to discover that no one sees any better than if all had remained comfortably seated.

Parents confront similar dilemmas when deciding how much to spend on a child’s coming-of-age party or wedding. The expenditure cascades spawned by higher spending at the top in those categories have raised expectations about how one should mark important social milestones. Of course, a family always has the option to spend considerably less on such events than most of its peers do. But it can do so only by disappointing loved ones, or by courting the impression that it failed to appreciate the importance of the occasion they were celebrating. By creating runaway demands for credit, growing income disparities also helped spawn the housing bubble that gave us the financial crisis of 2008, the lingering effects of which have forced many OWS protesters to try to launch their careers in by far the most inhospitable labor market we’ve seen since the Great Depression. Even those recent graduates who manage to find jobs will suffer a lifelong penalty in reduced wages.

In short, it is no exaggeration to say that rising inequality has driven many of the 99 percent into a financial ditch.

Adding insult to injury, it hasn’t really accomplished anything of value for its ostensible beneficiaries, the top 1 percent. They’ve all built bigger mansions and staged more lavish parties, yes, but in so doing, they’ve simply raised the bar that defines what’s considered adequate in these categories.

In short, the growing income inequality that OWS protesters are calling to our attention is not the nonissue that many of the movement’s critics say it is. Growing income disparities have imposed enormous costs on almost everyone. OWS protesters have performed an important public service by urging the government to take inequality more seriously.

Voir également:

Money ‘only makes you happy if you have more than neighbours’

Money only makes you happy if you have more than your friends and neighbours, a new study has found.

22 Mar 2010

Despite the vast improvements in general standards of living in the past 40 years across Britain, ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ is still our biggest aspiration, the findings suggest.

Researchers have found that owning a fast car, a large home and having a good job may only make you happy if those around you are less well off.

The pursuit of wealth is leading more people to work longer hours as they seek to pay their mortgages and climb the social ladder.

Dr Chris Boyce, of University of Warwick’s psychology department, said Britons were victims of chronic dissatisfaction.

He looked at the responses to questions of more than 10,000 people in the British Household Panel Survey over seven years about their level of happiness and compared the responses with their income.

The study, Money and Happiness: Rank of Income, Not Income, Affects Life Satisfaction, was co-written by Professor Gordon Brown, of the University of Warwick, and Dr Simon Moore, of Cardiff University, and published in the journal Psychological Science.

The responses showed people were most happy when they had more than their neighbours.

Dr Boyce said: « The standard of living has gone up for each individual over the past 40 years but it has gone up for everyone. So our cars are faster now but our neighbours have faster cars too, so they haven’t got that advantage over people close to you.

« Without the biggest home, or the fastest car then it doesn’t give you that same excitement as it would have. »

Dr Boyce said that pursuit of wealth alone was a vicious circle.

« A rise in income may benefit one person but it has a detrimental effect on others. If I jump up two places in the rank, then the people I jumped ahead of go backwards, » he said.

« So person does not just have to increase their rank they have to work hard just keep up with rather than passing the Jones. »

Dr Boyce said the study found that relentless pursuit of economic growth would produce a wealthier society but not a happier one.

« Making everybody in society richer will not necessarily increase overall happiness because it is only having a higher income than other people that matters, » he said.

Dr Boyce said there was a danger for people to chase the cash at the expense of building strong relationships with family and friends.

« If people are putting income and ranking first then other things may get sacrificed such as family and friends, » he said.

Dr Boyce said the study raises questions about whether the relentless pursuit of economic growth was a good thing for the nation.

But he cautioned that economic growth did provide jobs which were an important requirement for happiness not just for the income they provided but for the sense of purpose they gave people.

He said more money needed to be put into mental health services in a bid to improve happiness levels.

Voir enfin:

EXCLUSIVE: Director Derrick Borte Is Keeping Up with The Joneses

Jami Philbrick

Apr 18, 2010

The director of the new black comedy starring David Duchovny and Demi Moore discusses his intriguing and compelling film

Former graphic designer and commercial director Derrick Borte makes his feature film debut with the new black comedy The Joneses, which opened in theaters on April 16th. The film stars David Duchovny (The X-Files) and Demi Moore (Ghost) as Kate and Steve Jones, a seemingly perfect couple that are actually part of a fake family commissioned by a marketing company as a way to introduce new luxury-level products to neighborhoods around the world, using undercover marketing techniques. We recently had a chance to sit down and talk with Derrick Borte about the new film; it’s commentary on consumerism and working with the talented cast. Here is what the first time director had to say:

To begin with, how did you first come up with the concept for this film and what do you think would happen if a real marketing company tried this method today, would they be successful?

Derrick Borte: Well you know, stealth marketing exists in a variety of ways from alcohol companies hiring models to go to bars and order certain drinks over and over again, to cigarette companies doing the same thing and things like that. Builders who have houses for sale outside of L.A. will do an open house with a furnished home and hire out of work actors to pretend like they are a family. They say it helps the house sell if people think that there is a happy family living there. So when I saw this on this news program, I think it was John Stossel or somebody who was talking about it, I immediately thought, what if you took it to the tenth degree and throw a family out there.

Then it was time to figure out what kind of story is it? Is it a broad comedy; is it a political dark thriller? I was fascinated by reality TV and what happens when you throw strangers into a house together and this « forced intimacy » that really causes people to end up in these strange relationships. I felt like I wanted the personal stories to be in the forefront against the backdrop of the stealth marketing and the consumer culture. I knew that if I tried to make some kind of message be in the forefront that it would be preachy and people wouldn’t want to see it. So I really wanted the personal stories to carry people through and hopefully afterwards they want to talk about something, I don’t know what?

I just feel like coming from a visual arts background I was always taught that you can’t follow your work around with you anywhere to tell people what its about or try to influence how they feel about it. For me, I just wanted to kind of shine a light on something that I was seeing. It seems to strike a chord with everyone and yet it something different to each person. Its like a Rorschach test where you ask ten people who have just seen the film what they got from the film and they take something different every time. It’s sort of a celebration of consumerism and an indictment at the same time. That’s where I feel the film is successful for me, that it just makes people want to talk about it without being heavy handed about any sort of message at all.

Over the past ten years, Demi Moore has semi-retired for the most part and is very selective about the projects she chooses, how did you convince her to step back in front of the camera for this film and what do you think it was about the material that really attracted her to the project?

Derrick Borte: You know I got a phone call one day and someone said, « Demi Moore read your script; she really likes it and wants to meet with you. » So I went and sat down with her and she really got it. Everyone was loosely swimming around the project and it just all came together in time. I know how selective she is and she was really just passionate about this role. I felt like we could work together. I felt like she would be collaborative and that she would respect my ideas and wishes yet she would bring a lot to the table that I could work with. The first time I saw the two of them alone in a room together, Demi and David, they had such a chemistry that I just knew that they could play a couple and that they were right for it.

Can you talk about the character she plays, Kate, and why she is so determined to make her fake family and new job a success?

Derrick Borte: I think she is someone who … you know I had to constantly ask myself why someone would take this job? She’s obviously someone who jumped into this job for whatever reason, where you drop your life and move on and live this fake life. I think it was probably some kind of a protective thing as well as her drive but it has really become a prison for her where she can’t really have a real and fulfilling relationship. Yet maybe for her she has enough of a relationship, where she feels Motherly enough with the kids, has some sort of relationship with the husband where she gets to play a wife and sort of run a household in a way without it really tugging on the heartstrings. It’s like she’s being a wife and Mother by proxy in away where she doesn’t have to deal with the potential heartbreak of what can come with that.

Can you discuss the idea of family in the film and through this « fake » family the commentary that you are making on the modern family?.

Derrick Borte: I really wanted to focus on the isolation that these people would feel within their house. When they’re not working they’re all in their separate rooms doing their own things, I see that happening here to us, in our own families. I’m in my office working, my wife is on her computer in another room, my daughters are off in their rooms a lot and I think it is something that definitely happens to real families a lot.

If you look at the roles that David Duchovny chooses for himself when he is not doing an « X-Files » project, they are all very interesting and unique films like « The TV Set » for example, and this film seemed to fit in to that mold perfectly, so what was it that told you that David would be right for the role and that this was the type of project that he might gravitate towards?

Derrick Borte: You know, once again like with Demi he really got the character, got the story and the way that I was trying to tell it. He was so giving with his ideas and we just riffed on ideas together when we first met. I knew that he would be great to work with. As far as his choices, that’s a strange one to me and I always wonder why he’s not looked at in the same category of a leading man the way a lot of these other guys are because he is so smart, so funny and so talented. I feel like his performance is so spectacular in this film, maybe this will turn a corner for him, I don’t know?

David’s character Steve spent his whole life as a golf-pro, a used car salesman or a con-man of sorts so it’s understandable that he would adapt to this job quite well but when he begins to question the ethics of it, it shows a side of him that he seems surprised to find is there. Do you think that Steve’s unethical job actually taught him morals that he didn’t know he had?

Derrick Borte: That’s a good point, its sort of like King Midas who gets everything that he thought he wanted and realizes that he doesn’t end up with what he needs as a result or him finding a moral center that he did not know he had, you’re right. It just had to be about the personal stories of all of them really. That was really what I was focusing on.

Gary Cole (« Office Space ») plays Larry, Steve’s next-door neighbor who unfortunately gets wrapped up in the Joneses lies and deceptions, can you talk about how Larry’s downward spiral causes Steve to reevaluate his life and what it was like collaborating with Gary Cole on the film?

Derrick Borte: I think Larry could be a version of Steve in who he used to be in someway. Maybe what happens with Larry puts a mirror up to Steve in away. I think that he has found his soul that he didn’t know he had prior to that but I think it is that they have a connection in someway. I think that Steve really likes Larry. You know, when Larry gives him a gift, I think at first he’s a mark, he’s a target but once he sees that Larry is a good person it makes him question why he’s doing what he is doing.

Gary is really, and I mean this in the best of ways, he’s sort of a lunch-pale-kind-of-guy. He is so good at his job, he comes to work, he gives you so much, he is maintenance free, he just loves what he does and its obvious. It’s easy for people who have been doing this for a long time to not realize how fortunate they are. This is work but who could ask for a better job? He really seems to be a guy who appreciates that on a daily basis and is so good at what he does. All the actors in the film are like that. Glenne Headly, who plays his wife in the movie, is on that same level.

Finally, as a first time director what did you learn about the process of making feature films that you will be able to take with you to your next project?

Derrick Borte: Before I started, a few people said to me that as a first time director people are going to test my vision and that I have to hold on to it pretty tight. I couldn’t disagree with that more, in that if you have this iron-fisted grip on your vision of something then there are only two things that can happen, you’re either going to hit that mark or fall short of it. Where is if you surround yourself with great people, foster an environment and spirit of collaboration, allow people to bring to the table what they do best, allow for happy accidents, growth and the process to be what it is, then that is the only way that you can ever come back with something that is beyond your vision. To actually go beyond it was my favorite part of this whole process. To actually get to explore the material, and the characters, and all these actors were so collaborative and brought ideas to the table. It allowed me to sit back and still guide things but not be heavy handed, to give them space to work. I think that they responded well to that and that is the only way that I want to work.

I think the biggest thing on a feature is to give your-self options in the edit room. It’s not just a question of getting what you think is going to work in production, it’s a question of getting it and then having some fun with it, trying some other things so that once you are in the edit room you have options. You kind of rewrite a film in the edit room anyways so the more options you have the better. That’s really the biggest thing that I took from it, shoot anything and everything you can think of, whether you are going to use it or not but try different things and have fun. Get what you need but leave room for surprises? I’ve worked in commercials, production and post-production, directing for years so it’s really like, on a commercial when you’re working with an agency and they have a script, there really isn’t a lot of room for experimenting. There is not a lot of room for deviating from the script, you know, they don’t want you riffing on the material. So that was my favorite part of this was the freedom.

I feel very fortunate that all the actors in this film really appreciate their lives and was happy to be there. Like kids, they were just having fun, playing with the material and it was such a wonderful experience that I’m ready to get back on set again. I feel like in my daily life, when there is not a lot going on, I’m kind of a little hyperactive and stressed but when there is a set with a couple hundred people running around and the pressure is on, I feel like everything else stops and I’m in the moment and I can’t wait to get back to that place. Hopefully it will be soon as I’m scheduled to direct a project called The Zero. It’s an adaptation by Brandon Boyce who wrote Apt Pupil and Wicker Park of a Jess Walter novel. It’s actually my favorite book that I’ve read in my life. I pursued it for a long time and got a really wonderful producer and friend of mine on board, he got the book and hopefully we’ll see the first draft of the script in the next week or so. Hopefully we’ll be in pre-production quickly and I’m excited.

The Joneses was released April 16th, 2010 and stars Amber Heard, Demi Moore, David Duchovny, Gary Cole, Glenne Headly, Ben Hollingsworth, Lauren Hutton, Catherine Dyer. The film is directed by Derrick Borte.

Voir encore:

Les Anglais renoncent aux études jugées trop chères

Assma Maad

06/11/2012

Depuis que les frais de scolarité ont triplé, le nombre d’inscrits à l’université a chuté de 15 % en Angleterre.

A la rentrée, les inscriptions ont chuté dans les universités anglaises. Presque 15.000 candidats en moins. Visiblement échaudés par le triplement des frais de scolarité, entré en vigueur cette année.

Des frais de scolarité passés de 4000 à 11.000 euros

En 2010, le gouvernement britannique a lancé une vaste réforme pour restructurer l’Enseignement supérieur britannique et «développer la compétitivité des universités anglaises au sein du marché mondial». Au passage, le coût des études est passé de 3300 livres (4117 euros) à 9000 livres (11.230 euros) par an. Ce montant qui devait être un plafond pour les universités a finalement été généralisé. D’abord adopté par les plus prestigieuses, puis les autres. Les trois quarts des facs anglaises affichent ce tarif.

Depuis, une large part de la jeunesse s’interroge sur son destin académique. Vaut-il la peine d’entamer sa vie avec une dette de 17.000 euros (selon les chiffres de l’Institute for Fiscal Studies ). Dette qui pourrait grimper à 50.000 euros pour un master 2. Les étudiants hésitent à poursuivre des études supérieures révèle The Guardian ,qui vient d’ interroger 1700 jeunes.

Les étudiants se montrent indécis

Près d’un tiers se montrent indécis avant d’entrer à l’université compte tenu des frais de scolarité. Pire, parmi les jeunes qui ont choisi de ne pas intégrer l’université, 58 % ont pris cette décision à cause des frais de scolarité trop élevés.

Ces jeunes se sentent pris dans un étau. D’un côté, ils jugent le diplôme plus nécessaire que jamais ; de l’autre, les études sont trop chères et ils redoutent de pouvoir les rentabiliser.

Le gouvernement britannique, lui, se veut rassurant: «Aller à l’université aujourd’hui est une question de capacité et non de capacité à payer. Il y a plus de bourses et de systèmes de prêts pour ceux qui viennent de familles pauvres. Et les prêts ne sont remboursés qu’à partir du moment où le jeune diplômé obtient un emploi et gagne plus de 21.000 livres».

Mais si la fronde gronde, les étudiants pourraient trouver un autre échappatoire chez les Écossais. Si le pays de Galles a suivi les pas de l’Angleterre, les frais de scolarité sont encore fixés à 1 820 livres (2 085 €) en Écosse. Or, certains universitaires craignent déjà l’arrivée massive de ce qu’ils nomment les «fee refugees» (réfugiés des frais de scolarité) et pourraient augmenter les frais uniquement pour les étudiants britanniques.

Voir enfin:

Oxford pratiquerait un « test de richesse »

Quentin Blanc

30/01/2013

L’université britannique exige que les étudiants aient 15.000 euros sur leurs comptes en banque pour leurs dépenses courantes. Chaque année, 15 % des jeunes admis à Oxford seraient obligés de renoncer à cause de ce test.

Au Royaume-Uni, Oxford est soupçonnée de discriminer par l’argent. Près de 1000 étudiants ayant gagné par leurs mérites le droit d’intégrer la vénérable institution devraient finalement y renoncer chaque année, faute de passer un «test de richesse» pratiqué par l’établissement, selon le Guardian .Des défections qui représentent tout de même près de 15 % des effectifs (7500 places offertes environ)…

Ce chiffre impressionnant a été découvert par les médias anglais suite à la plainte déposée la semaine dernière par Damien Shannon contre son université. Cet étudiant, qui avait été accepté en master d’économie et d’histoire sociale à Oxford, avait eu la mauvaise surprise d’apprendre que l’établissement exigeait qu’il ait 15.000 euros sur son compte en banque pour suivre sa formation, en plus des frais de scolarité exigés pour son inscription. Une somme importante, censée couvrir les dépenses courantes des étudiants, comme le logement, l’alimentation, ou les fournitures scolaires.

Interdiction de compter sur les revenus d’un travail étudiant

Depuis, l’affaire fait grand bruit en Angleterre, au point d’avoir été débattue au parlement. La député travailliste et ancienne ministre Hazel Blears a ainsi pris fait et cause pour Damien Shannon, en estimant que les exigences de l’université étaient «injustes, et relevant d’une logique à court terme», empêchant des jeunes gens défavorisés d’accéder à l’Enseignement supérieur.

Les jeunes incapables de remplir ce critère n’ont en effet presqu’aucune alternative, puisque l’établissement refuse de prendre en compte des éventuels revenus issus d’un travail étudiant depuis 2010. «Étudier à Oxford est très exigeant», s’est défendu l’université dans le Guardian .«La plupart des cours sont très demandés, et il est important que ceux qui y obtiennent une place soient réellement en état de les suivre».

A leurs yeux, le travail étudiant ayant «des effets négatifs sur la capacité à suivre les cours à fond», la sélection opérée en amont est parfaitement justifiée. L’affaire continue en tout cas de faire polémique, Hazel Blears exigeant que Oxford consacre plus d’argent aux bourses sur critères sociaux. Quant à Damien Shannon, il devrait rapidement en savoir plus, une première audience pour sa plainte étant prévue le mois prochain.


Iran: Le passé est encore là … (The past is still here – it’s just not very evenly distributed)

29 janvier, 2013
Vous n’y entendez rien; vous ne réfléchissez pas qu’il est dans votre intérêt qu’un seul homme meure pour le peuple, et que la nation entière ne périsse pas.. Caïphe (Jean 11: 49-50)
Le voleur et la voleuse, à tous deux coupez la main, en punition de ce qu’ils se sont acquis, et comme châtiment de la part d’Allah. Allah est Puissant et Sage.  Coran (5:38)
Si la Bible parait plus violente que les mythes, c’est parce qu’elle rend explicite la violence que les mythes dissimulent. René Girard
Ce qui est inquiétant au sujet de cette vidéo, c’est l’apparente normalité de l’événement. Des milliers de personnes regardent comme s’il s’agissait d’un match de football. Les gens crient et applaudissent. Mais ce qui est le plus choquant, c’est la participation des enfants à ce « spectacle » barbare. Hawramy
L’ambassadeur du régime iranien en Espagne n’a pas hésité à comparer l’amputation des mains des victimes à « un chirurgien amputant un membre pour empêcher la gangrène de se propager ». Il a soutenu que la peine de mort était nécessaire « pour préserver la santé de société dans son ensemble » (…) « Nos lois établissent que nous amputons un voleur de la main. (…) Certaines lois sont nécessaires pour préserver la santé de la société, sinon elle serait en danger. » The Guardian
Aucun témoin indépendant n’a pu rapporter la façon dont s’est déroulée cette amputation. Les quatre photos de la scène ont été diffusées par une agence officielle, puis reprises sur les réseaux sociaux. Point étonnant : le visage du voleur présumé ne porte aucun signe de souffrance, mais l’homme pourrait avoir été drogué. (…) « Ce qui est étonnant cette fois-ci, c’est que non seulement c’était une amputation publique mais qu’en plus les photos de la scène ont été diffusées par les agences officielles, dévoilant au passage une machine dont nous n’avions jusque-là pas d’images. Nous avons remarqué récemment que les autorités faisaient de plus en plus de publicité autour des châtiments corporels publics. A chaque fois que des élections approchent, le nombre de châtiments corporels publics augmente. Or la présidentielle approche [prévue en juin]. Cette stratégie vise selon moi à contrôler la population par la peur afin d’éviter tout mouvement de protestation. » France 24
La République islamique est une oligarchie militaro-religieuse, c’est la terminologie du mot République qui exige un décorum républicain. La fonction présidentielle n’a aucune autre utilité en Iran. Elle continue cependant à entretenir des malentendus. Les élections imitent les manifestations similaires dans les véritables démocraties. En quelque sorte, la tenue d’élections importe d’avantage aux mollahs iraniens que leurs résultats. Le but est d’attirer les Iraniens jusqu’aux urnes et de montrer les images de cette participation dans les médias occidentaux. Iran-Resist

Dans la série « le passé est encore là: il est juste très inégalement réparti » …

Et pendant que, si prompts d’habitude à dénoncer les bavures israéliennes ou américaines, les médias français semblent moins presssés de révéler celles de leur propre pays …

La démocratie potemkine rédécouvre, approche des présidentielles oblige, les bonnes vieilles vertus du bouc émissaire …

Et relance, au moins dans ses vidéos tout en gardant ses fers antijuifs au feu du côté du Hezbollah avant la chute annoncée de son allié syrien, la machine sacrificielle pour la regénération de tout un peuple …

Ou du moins du régime censé le représenter …

L’Iran dévoile une machine pour amputer les voleurs

Team Observers

France 24

25/01/2013

Une agence de presse officielle iranienne a publié jeudi les photos de l’amputation en public d’un voleur dans la ville de Chiraz dans le sud-ouest du pays. On y voit un homme se faire couper les doigts à l’aide d’une machine ressemblant à une scie rotative.

ATTENTION CES IMAGES SONT CHOQUANTES

Nous avons contacté de nombreux observateurs en Iran. Certains avaient entendu parler de cette machine, mais beaucoup n’ont découvert son existence qu’à l’occasion de cette mise en scène morbide qui se serait déroulée le 24 janvier. L’homme à qui l’on coupe les doigts a, selon l’agence ISNA, été reconnu coupable de vol, de recel et d’adultère par le tribunal pénal de la ville. Il est accusé d’être à la tête d’une association de malfaiteurs et faisait l’objet de 47 plaintes. En plus de l’amputation des doigts de la main, il a été condamné à trois ans de prison et 99 coups de fouets.

Aucun témoin indépendant n’a pu rapporter la façon dont s’est déroulée cette amputation. Les quatre photos de la scène ont été diffusées par une agence officielle, puis reprises sur les réseaux sociaux. Point étonnant : le visage du voleur présumé ne porte aucun signe de souffrance, mais l’homme pourrait avoir été drogué.

« Publier ces photos, c’est une façon de contrôler la population par la peur à l’approche de l’élection présidentielle »

Contacté par FRANCE24, le porte-parole de l’organisation Iran Human Rights, Mahmoud Amiry-Moghaddam, basé en Norvège, explique : « Ce qui est étonnant cette fois-ci, c’est que non seulement c’était une amputation publique mais qu’en plus les photos de la scène ont été diffusées par les agences officielles, dévoilant au passage une machine dont nous n’avions jusque-là pas d’images. Nous avons remarqué récemment que les autorités faisaient de plus en plus de publicité autour des châtiments corporels publics. A chaque fois que des élections approchent, le nombre de châtiments corporels publics augmente. Or la présidentielle approche [prévue en juin]. Cette stratégie vise selon moi à contrôler la population par la peur afin d’éviter tout mouvement de protestation. »

Après l’amputation, Ali Alghasi, le procureur de Shiraz, a expliqué que les peines concernant les criminels seraient de plus en plus sévères, sans préciser pourquoi.

Le 20 janvier, deux voleurs ont été pendus en public à Téhéran. Ils avaient été identifiés grâce à une vidéo de surveillance sur laquelle ils rackettaient à l’aide d’un couteau un homme dans les rues de la capitale. Une décision de justice jugée d’une extrême sévérité puisque les jeunes hommes avaient volé l’équivalent d’une vingtaine d’euros.

L’amputation, la lapidation à mort ou encore la flagellation sont légales d’après le code pénale islamique iranien.

URL source: http://observers.france24.com/fr/content/20130125-iran-devoile-machine-amputer-voleurs-chiraz-charia-doigt

Liens:

[1] http://fars.isna.ir/Default.aspx?NSID=5&SSLID=46&NID=23776

[2] http://iranhr.net/spip.php?article2695

[3] http://www.rue89.com/2013/01/24/iran-un-crime-sur-youtube-une-execution-en-public-238972

[4] http://www.iranfocus.com/fr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7998:connaitre-le-systeme-legal-iranien&catid=4:femmes&Itemid=29

[5] http://observers.france24.com/fr/content/20130125-iran-devoile-machine-amputer-voleurs-chiraz-charia-doigt

[6] http://observers.france24.com/fr/content/v1-129

[7] http://observers.france24.com/fr/content/p2-25

[8] http://observers.france24.com/fr/content/iran1-1

[9] http://observers.france24.com/fr/users/team_observers

Voir aussi:

Iran/Barbarie: la machine des mollahs pour amputer les voleurs

Iran Focus

26 Janvier 2013

Iran Focus: Dans un acte de barbarie, la justice régime iranienne a ordonné et appliqué l’amputation d’un homme de 29 ans des doigts d’une main, en public le 24 janvier à Chiraz.

Selon l’agence ISNA, l’homme a été reconnu coupable de vol, de recel et d’adultère par le tribunal pénal de la ville. Dans son jugement, le système judiciaire de la province de Fars, l’a condamné, en plus de l’amputation de la main, à trois ans de prison et 99 coups de fouets.

Les quatre photos de la scène ont été diffusées par l’agence iranienne, puis reprises sur les réseaux sociaux.

Ali Alghassi, le procureur de Chiraz, a qualifié l’amputation des doigts d’ « avertissement sérieux » pour tous ceux qui « causent de l’insécurité ». « Le judiciaire a mis à l’ordre du jour la fermeté et l’intolérance », a-t-il menacé.

Les amputations et les exécutions de jeunes accusés de vol se déroulent alors que pas un jour ne se passe en Iran sans que des révélations fassent lumière sur des milliards de dollars de détournements et de vol par les diverses bandes au pouvoir, sans que jamais les autorités du régime ne subissent de tels châtiments.

Les mollahs ont de plus en plus recours à des châtiments barbares en public pour renforcer le climat de terreur dans l’espoir de contenir la révolte qui gronde.

Contacté par FRANCE24, le porte-parole de l’organisation Iran Human Rights, Mahmoud Amiry-Moghaddam, basé en Norvège, explique : « Ce qui est étonnant cette fois-ci, c’est que non seulement c’était une amputation publique mais qu’en plus les photos de la scène ont été diffusées par les agences officielles, dévoilant au passage une machine dont nous n’avions jusque-là pas d’images. Nous avons remarqué récemment que les autorités faisaient de plus en plus de publicité autour des châtiments corporels publics. A chaque fois que des élections approchent, le nombre de châtiments corporels publics augmente. Or la présidentielle approche [prévue en juin]. Cette stratégie vise selon moi à contrôler la population par la peur afin d’éviter tout mouvement de protestation. »

L’ensemble des lois pénales actuelles du régime, intitulé le code pénal islamique et contenant 729 articles, est entièrement basé sur des châtiments corporels comme la peine de mort, torture et la flagellation. Outre des châtiments inhumains comme la lapidation, la crucifixion, faire chuter la victime du haut d’un rocher, amputations… dans plus de 100 cas la peine de mort et dans environ 50 cas des coups de fouet ont été prévus.

Voir encore:

L’ambassadeur des mollahs plaide en faveur de l’amputation et de la pendaison en Iran

CNRI

10 Février 2008

Administrateur Droits humains

CNRI – Lors d’une conférence de presse à l’ambassade du régime iranien à Madrid le 7 février, Seyed Davoud Salehi, l’ambassadeur des mollahs en Espagne, a plaidé en faveur du châtiment inhumain de l’amputation et de la pendaison, ont rapporté les médias espagnols. Il a critiqué les informations portant sur le bilan effroyable des violations des droits de l’homme en Iran et a appelé les organisations de contrôle à respecter ces châtiments inhumains comme « des traditions locales ».

L’ambassadeur du régime iranien en Espagne n’a pas hésité à comparer l’amputation des mains des victimes à « un chirurgien amputant un membre pour empêcher la gangrène de se propager ». Il a soutenu que la peine de mort était nécessaire « pour préserver la santé de société dans son ensemble ». Salehi a dit que le pouvoir judiciaire de l’Iran avait décidé de moins mener les exécutions et les lapidations en public pour empêcher la diffusion de ces images dans le monde.

« Nos lois établissent que nous amputons un voleur de la main. Ce n’est pas accepté en occident, mais les coutumes locale doivent être respectées », a-t-il dit.

Jusqu’ici cette année selon les médias officiels, plus de 30 exécutions ont eu lieu, principalement en janvier, en plus de 3 peines de lapidation pour deux femmes et un homme, la condamnation à mort d’un homme pour avoir bu de l’alcool, 5 amputations de mains et de pieds, 2 condamnations à être jetés dans un précipice et la condamnation à mort de neuf très jeunes détenus, en majorité de moins de 18 ans.

Voir par ailleurs:

The Independent

28 janvier 2013

The Independent révèle une bavure française au Mali

“Révélations : comment un raid français a tué 12 civils maliens,” titre en une The Independent. Selon le quotidien britannique, un hélicoptère d’assaut français a bombardé la ville de Konna, dans la région de Mopti au centre du pays, tuant douze civils et en blessant quinze. Parmi les victimes figuraient trois enfants âgés de moins de 11 ans.

La bavure aurait eu lieu « il y a deux semaines » au moment où les forces françaises essayaient de chasser les islamistes qui avaient pris la ville. Les faits n’ont été rapportés que ce week-end, après la reprise de la ville par les troupes françaises et maliennes. Depuis, la ville de Konna est accessible à la presse.

C’est lors de cet assaut que le pilote d’hélicoptère français Damien Boiteux aurait également été tué. A ce jour, c’est la seul soldat français mort dans l’opération Serval.

Voir enfin:

Revealed: how French raid killed 12 Malian villagers

Witnesses describe the moment civilians fell victim to a helicopter attack

Kim Sengupta, Daniel Howden, John Lichfield

The Independent

28 January 2013

A father has described the moment a French attack helicopter bombed his town in Mali, killing his wife and at least three children from another family. Amadou Jallo, 57, lost his wife Aminata in the attack on Konna in which 12 civilians died and 15 more were injured.

But the couple’s one-year-old son, Saida, miraculously survived the assault despite the fact he was being carried on his mother’s back when the helicopter struck. “I thank Allah that my son is alive. It is amazing, a miracle, that he was not hurt,” he said.

The deaths – which included those of three children aged under 11 – occurred two weeks ago as French forces tried to drive out Islamists who had taken the town from government forces, but are only now being reported after Malian troops allowed reporters into Konna at the weekend.

One French helicopter pilot also died in the assault, to date the only confirmed French casualty of the war. French and Malian forces were closing in on the ancient town of Timbuktu tonight after advancing deep into the territory held by Islamist rebels. Earlier, there were ecstatic scenes in Gao as government troops entered the largest town in northern Mali for the first time in nine months.

The three allied Islamist rebel groups which conquered the north of the country last year offered only sporadic resistance. The rebels appear to have scattered into the desert to avoid relentless French air attacks and – France suspects – to launch a long guerrilla war.

French special forces were reported to have already arrived at the airfield in Timbuktu tonight to prepare for a larger airborne invasion today. The bulk of the Islamist fighters were said to have left the town.

A resident of the nearby town of Niafunke, just to the south, said that the jihadists had fled to caves in the surrounding hills. A local shepherd said that he had seen 40 vehicles hidden in the caves.

The capture of Gao on Saturday followed the same pattern as the liberation of other towns in recent days with French special forces, transported by air, doing the shooting before Malian and other French troops moved in behind them. The French forces had come under fire from “several terrorist elements” that were later “destroyed”, the French military said.

Lindsey Hilsum of Channel 4 News reported on her blog extraordinary scenes of joy when French and Malian forces entered Gao. “They rallied around us as we sped through the streets throwing Malian flags around our necks. Grabbing our hands shouting ‘Thank you’,” she wrote.

“For nine long months the people of Gao have not been allowed to sing, dance, shout or smoke. The women have not been allowed outside unveiled, let alone to ride motorbikes.”

“Now they were doing everything as loudly and chaotically as possible.”

A force from Chad and Niger is expected to cross the Nigerien border today help to garrison the Gao region. This will be the first front-line deployment by the pan-African force up to 7,500 strong which is expected eventually to take over most of the ground fighting from the French.

Despite efforts in recent days to talk up the achievements of “coalition forces”, a French army spokesman confirmed today that their troops had led all combat efforts since France intervened two weeks ago last Friday. “In the field it’s clear that it’s more efficient to send French troops with heavy equipment,” he said

French warplanes struck targets today in Kidal – the last of the three major towns held by Islamists in northern Mali. Among the reported targets was the home of Iyad Ag Ghaly – the leader of Ansar Dine, one of the trio of Islamist groups that has controlled northern Mali for the last nine months. Tensions between Paris and Washington over the French intervention appeared to have been resolved over the weekend.

After dropping its demand for payment by France for use of its transport planes, the Pentagon agreed to use of three KC-135 aerial refuelling planes based in Spain to help French fighter-bombers to attack targets in northern Mali from airfields in France.


Protection des données personnelles: C’est un ennemi qui a fait cela (Happy data privacy day: be wise as serpents)

28 janvier, 2013

Le royaume des cieux est semblable à un homme qui a semé une bonne semence dans son champ. Mais, pendant que les gens dormaient, son ennemi vint, sema de l’ivraie parmi le blé, et s’en alla. Lorsque l’herbe eut poussé et donné du fruit, l’ivraie parut aussi. Les serviteurs du maître de la maison vinrent lui dire: Seigneur, n’as-tu pas semé une bonne semence dans ton champ? D’où vient donc qu’il y a de l’ivraie? Il leur répondit: C’est un ennemi qui a fait cela. Et les serviteurs lui dirent: Veux-tu que nous allions l’arracher? Non, dit-il, de peur qu’en arrachant l’ivraie, vous ne déraciniez en même temps le blé. Laissez croître ensemble l’un et l’autre jusqu’à la moisson, et, à l’époque de la moisson, je dirai aux moissonneurs: Arrachez d’abord l’ivraie, et liez-la en gerbes pour la brûler, mais amassez le blé dans mon grenier. Jésus (Matthieu 13: 24-30)
Voici, je vous envoie comme des brebis au milieu des loups. Soyez donc prudents comme les serpents, et simples comme les colombes. Jésus (Matthieu 10: 16)
Soyez sobres, veillez. Votre adversaire, le diable, rôde comme un lion rugissant, cherchant qui il dévorera. Pierre (I Pierre 5: 8)
Soyez constamment vigilants ! Alastor Maugrey dit Fol Œil
Il y aura, d’ailleurs, des curieux, des voyageurs, des amis ou des parents des prisonniers, des connaissances de l’inspecteur et d’autres officiers de la prison qui, tous animés de motifs différents, viendront ajouter à la force du principe salutaire de l’inspection, et surveilleront les chefs comme les chefs surveillent tous leurs subalternes. Ce grand comité du public perfectionnera tous les établissements qui seront soumis à sa vigilance et à sa pénétration. Jeremy Bentham
La formule abstraite du Panoptisme n’est plus « voir sans être vu », mais « imposer une conduite quelconque à une multiplicité humaine quelconque. Gilles Deleuze
Le panoptique est un type d’architecture carcérale imaginée par le philosophe utilitariste Samuel Bentham et son frère, Jérémy Bentham, à la fin du XVIIIe siècle. L’objectif de la structure panoptique est de permettre à un gardien, logé dans une tour centrale, d’observer tous les prisonniers, enfermés dans des cellules individuelles autour de la tour, sans que ceux-ci puissent savoir s’ils sont observés. Ce dispositif devait ainsi créer un « sentiment d’omniscience invisible » chez les détenus. Le philosophe et historien Michel Foucault, dans Surveiller et punir (1975), en fait le modèle abstrait d’une société disciplinaire, inaugurant une longue série d’études sur le dispositif panoptique. (…) L’idée de Bentham est inspirée par des plans d’usine mis au point pour une surveillance et une coordination efficace des ouvriers. Ces plans furent imaginés par son frère Samuel, dans l’objectif de simplifier la prise en charge d’un grand nombre de travailleurs. Bentham compléta ce projet en y mêlant l’idée de hiérarchie contractuelle : par exemple, une administration ainsi régie (par contrat, s’opposant à la gestion de confiance) dont le directeur aurait un intérêt financier à faire baisser le taux d’accidents du travail. Le panoptique fut aussi créé pour être moins cher que les autres modèles carcéraux de l’époque tout en réclamant moins d’employés. « Laissez-moi construire une prison sur ce modèle », demanda Bentham au Comité pour la réforme pénale, « j’y serai gardien. Vous verrez […] que les gardiens ne justifieront pas de salaire, et ne coûteront rien à l’État ». (…) Les surveillants ne pouvant être vus, ils n’ont pas besoin d’être à leur poste à tout moment, ce qui permet finalement d’abandonner la surveillance aux surveillés. (…) Bentham lui-même souhaitait une mise en abîme de la surveillance, les surveillants eux-mêmes devant être surveillés par des surveillants venus de l’extérieur, afin de limiter la maltraitance des détenus et les abus de pouvoir. (…) Les surveillants ne pouvant être vus, ils n’ont pas besoin d’être à leur poste à tout moment, ce qui permet finalement d’abandonner la surveillance aux surveillés. (…) Selon Bentham, la tour centrale devait se transformer en chapelle le dimanche, afin de moraliser les criminels. Bentham consacra une large partie de son temps et presque toute sa fortune personnelle à la promotion de constructions de prisons panoptiques. Après de nombreuses années de refus, de difficultés politiques et financières, il parvint à obtenir l’accord du parlement britannique. Le projet avorta cependant en 1811, lorsque le Roi s’opposa à l’acquisition du terrain. Wikipedia
Dans sa réalisation concrète, le modèle panoptique ne fut pas convaincant : des coûts trop élevés et une mauvaise viabilité furent les principales raisons de son abandon. L’échec de Pittsburgh a signé la fin du Panoptique en tant que construction architecturale. En conséquence, le débat qui entoure aujourd’hui le projet pénitentiaire de Bentham porte davantage sur des enjeux d’ordre philosophique — le regard, l’observation, le contrôle, la surveillance, etc. — que sur des questions d’ordre purement pratique. Le Panoptique s’inscrit toutefois indiscutablement dans le contexte des réflexions de l’époque traitant des formes de châtiment et d’enfermement dans le processus de réhabilitation des criminels. Muriel Schmid
L’échec du Panoptique, du moins au début, faisait partie d’un échec plus large du mouvement de réforme pénal dans son ensemble. Ce dernier échouera à maintes reprises dans sa tentative de convaincre les milieux gouvernementaux que la construction de prisons pour forçats était préférable à la transportation de ces derniers aux colonies pénales d’outre-mer, ou à leur incarcération dans d’anciens navires de guerre reconvertis en pénitenciers flottants (les pontons), amarrés au bord de la Tamise ou près des chantiers navals. Neil Davie
Cyber crime is a fascinating field: constantly evolving, and always innovating. Meet its most latest brain child: hacking webcams without even the owner knowing! The idea is simple: they turn on your webcam and watch you. Oh no, you will not be asked to pose or say cheese. They simply capture away pictures and videos of yours or anything in the webcam’s field, when you go about doing stuff, blissfully unaware. Switching off your cam is not going to help either. The webcam hacking spyware works with a Trojan backdoor software that will turn on the web cam on its own. This can be installed in your system when you download innocent-looking picture or video or music files. (…) Of course, there are still people who tout the line « I don’t have anything to hide, so I’m not concerned about privacy protection ». To them: know the laptop sitting in your 14 year old daughter’s bedroom? A hacker who thinks it is worth the effort can hack into her webcam and watch her while she is changing. Nothing to hide, you say? Cybrosys technologies

Bonne journée de la protection des données personnelles!

En ces temps étranges où la plus insignifiante et la plus utile des inventions, une simple cybercaméra intégrée, peut, entre des mains mal intentionnées, servir à vous nuire …

DATA PRIVACY DAY and THE INTERNET PANOPTICON

Studies Says Webcam Users Under Serious Threat

So you own a webcam? Good! Welcome to being watched then.

Cyber crime is a fascinating field: constantly evolving, and always innovating. Meet its most latest brain child: hacking webcams without even the owner knowing!

The idea is simple: they turn on your webcam and watch you. Oh no, you will not be asked to pose or say cheese. They simply capture away pictures and videos of yours or anything in the webcam’s field, when you go about doing stuff, blissfully unaware.

Switching off your cam is not going to help either. The webcam hacking spyware works with a Trojan backdoor software that will turn on the web cam on its own. This can be installed in your system when you download innocent-looking picture or video or music files.

Still skeptical? Okay, let us get you some more details. If your system has a webcam, then it also requires a software to control it. Even if your webcam is connected, it need not be on. That requires the software we are talking about. Ideal case is when there is just a single software that can access the cam, and you are its sole controller.

Having said that, there are apps that access the webcam other than the ones we are talking about. Examples are Yahoo! Messenger and the like. No cause to worry because these apps require you to ‘allow’ access.

But…

There are other softwares that can be installed in your system, softwares that can access your webcam without your permission. You don’t have to be using the webcam or turning it on, consider it a job done by the software. The malicious code can be installed when you download something. Once installed, it can access your web cam, turn it on and click away! Shutter bug, did I say?

And hey, this ain’t elaborate conjectures on possible threats in the future. What we are talking about has already been done.

Some news reports: in Cyprus, a 45-year-old man was arrested in connection with hacking a teenage girl’s webcam, in order to take illicit pictures of the young woman in her bedroom. In Spain, police have arrested a man suspected of stealing online bank passwords and of writing a virus that is capable of spying on people through their webcams. More disturbing is the fact that the police found information from thousands of computers worldwide in his system. The Blake J Robbins v Lower Merion School District (PA) is legendary already, and the school used student laptop webcams to spy on them at school and home. Stories do not end here. Some of them can make Little Brother look tame.

So what do you do? Apart from panicking and biting nails, that is.

For starters, unplug your web cam cable whenever it is not in use. No software can plug your cable back and use your web cam. If you cannot unplug the webcam, like in a laptop, cover it using tape. If you do not want the tape residue on the lens, then at least cover it with an old sock.

Same goes for your internet connection too. Disable it when it is not in use. Not having a device connected to any network would be the only way to prevent broadcasting data from your system.

Stop downloading files from unknown sources like insecure websites or simply, strangers in chats. Those files are the surest way of being a victim of all sorts of hack attempts.

And if possible, get a webcam that turns on a small light, or gives a physical indication of some sort when in use. So if you ever see the web cam light go on, and if you have not executed the webcam software, you know you are being spied on. If you know your stuff well, you can insert a webcam light by simple hardware modification: check the chip’s pins with a scope, find which signals correspond with activity, and connect the suitable ones to LEDs.

If you want to be fully sure, take your laptop apart, locate the cam, and insert a physical switch.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, ensure the security of your system. Update and tighten it like mad! Better antiviruses, better firewalls and better operating systems can help tonnes. Linux tends to be more secure, especially if you know what you are doing. In any case, a decent firewall should protect your system from outsiders accessing it in the first place.

The issue of webcams being hacked is creepy at the first glance, and the implications are scary in a blood-curdling way. Think about the degree of intrusion into privacy that this can facilitate. Your credit card numbers, sensitive financial information can all be hacked; even visuals of places used to store the information can be obtained easily.

Hacking surveillance cameras in public places can yield gigantic amounts of images. One may argue that this might not be personally sensitive material, but what if the surveillance cameras within an organization are hacked? That can be a veritable Mecca of privileged information.

And in a world where terrorists are more clean-shaved tech jargon-speaking geeks than gun-branding wild-looking cavemen, the possibilities take on an entirely new level of threat. Horrible, but inevitable.

Make people aware. It is a clichéd line, but the principle still works best. Technology may be your best friend, but it is also your worst enemy. Looking over your shoulders constantly is not paranoia anymore, it is actually commendable caution. Like Mad eye Moody says, be in « CONSTANT VIGILANCE!! ».

Of course, there are still people who tout the line « I don’t have anything to hide, so I’m not concerned about privacy protection ».

To them: know the laptop sitting in your 14 year old daughter’s bedroom? A hacker who thinks it is worth the effort can hack into her webcam and watch her while she is changing. Nothing to hide, you say?


JFK/50e: Le jour où le libéralisme est mort (How Obama drove the final nail into liberalism’s coffin)

27 janvier, 2013
obama_anthem1I shouted out, Who killed the kennedys?  When after all  It was you and me. The Rolling Stones (1968)
Il n’aura même pas eu la satisfaction d’être tué pour les droits civiques. Il a fallu que ce soit un imbécile de petit communiste. Cela prive même sa mort de toute signification. Jackie Kennedy
Le grand ennemi de la vérité n’est très souvent pas le mensonge – délibéré, artificiel et malhonnête – mais le mythe – persistant, persuasif et irréaliste. JFK
Mes concitoyens du monde: ne demandez pas ce que l’Amérique peut faire pour vous, mais ce qu’ensemble nous pouvons faire pour la liberté de l’homme. JFK
Qu’il soit dit, à nos amis comme à nos ennemis, que le flambeau est passé entre les mains d’une nouvelle génération d’Américains, nés dans le siècle présent, aguerris par les combats, disciplinés par une paix difficile et amère, fiers de leur héritage, qui refusent d’assister à la décomposition des droits de l’homme pour lesquels notre nation s’est toujours engagée, pour lesquels elle est engagée aujourd’hui encore chez nous et à l’étranger. Que chaque nation qui nous veut du bien ou qui nous veut du mal sache bien que nous paierons n’importe quel prix, que nous supporterons n’importe quel fardeau, que nous affronterons n’importe quelle épreuve, que nous soutiendrons n’importe quel ami et combattrons n’importe quel ennemi pour assurer la survie et le succès de la liberté. Nous nous y engageons. (…) Si une société libre ne peut pas aider tous ceux, et ils sont nombreux, qui vivent dans la pauvreté, elle ne pourra pas sauver la minorité des riches. (…) Ne négocions pas sous l’empire de la peur. Mais n’ayons jamais peur de négocier. (…) Tout ceci ne sera pas fini en 100 premiers jours. Ni dans les 1 000 premiers jours, ni dans la vie de cette administration, ni même peut-être dans notre vie sur cette planète. Mais nous laisser commencent. Dans des vos mains, mes concitoyens, plus que dans le mien, reposeront le succès ou l’échec final de notre cours. Depuis que ce pays a été fondé, chaque génération des Américains a été appelée pour donner le témoignage à sa fidélité nationale. Les tombes des jeunes Américains qui ont répondu à l’appel à la bordure de service le globe. Maintenant la trompette nous appelle again-not comme appel aux bras d’ours, bien que des bras que nous avons besoin ; pas comme appel à la bataille, bien que rompu aux conflits à nous être-mais à un appel pour soutenir le fardeau d’une longues lutte, année dedans et année crépusculaires dehors, « se réjouissant dans l’espoir, patient dans la tribulation » – une lutte contre les ennemis communs de l’homme : tyrannie, pauvreté, maladie, et guerre elle-même. Pouvons-nous forger contre ces ennemis une alliance grande et globale, du nord et les sud, l’est et l’ouest, qui peuvent assurer une vie plus fructueuse pour toute l’humanité ? Vous associerez-vous à cet effort historique ? Dans la longue histoire du monde, seulement on a accordé quelques générations le rôle de la liberté de défense en son heure du danger maximum. Je ne la rétrécis pas de cette bienvenue de responsabilité-Je. Je ne crois pas que l’un d’entre nous échangerait des endroits avec n’importe quelles autres personnes ou n’importe quelle autre génération. L’énergie, la foi, la dévotion que nous apportons à cet effort allumera notre pays et tous ce qui servent -et la lueur de ce feu peut vraiment allumer le monde. Et ainsi, mes chers concitoyens : ne demandez pas ce que votre pays peut faire vous, demandez ce que vous pouvez faire pour votre pays. Mes concitoyens du monde : demander pas ce que l’Amérique fera pour vous, mais ce qu’ensemble nous pouvons faire pour la liberté de l’homme. (…) Avec une bonne conscience pour seule récompense sûre, avec l’histoire juge final de nos actes, allons de l’avant à la tête de cette terre que nous aimons, demandant Sa bénédiction et Son aide, mais sachant qu’ici sur terrre, l’oeuvre de Dieu  doit vraiment être la nôtre. J.F. Kennedy (discours d’investiture, 20 janvier 1961)
Vérités paradoxales : les taux d’imposition sont trop élevés, et les revenus fiscaux sont trop bas, de sorte que le moyen le plus sûr d’accroître ceux-ci est d’abaisser ceux-là. Baisser les impôts maintenant ce n’est pas risquer un déficit du budget, c’est bâtir une économie la plus prospère et la plus dynamique, de nature à nous valoir un budget en excédent. John F. Kennedy, 20 novembre 1962, conférence de presse du Président
Des taux d’imposition abaissés stimuleront l’activité économique, et relèveront ainsi les niveaux de revenus des particuliers et des entreprises, de sorte que dans les prochaines années ils créeront un flux de recettes pour le gouvernement fédéral non pas diminué, mais augmenté. John F. Kennedy, 17 Janvier 1963, Message annuel au Congrès à l’occasion du vote du budget 1964.
Dans l’économie d’aujourd’hui, la prudence et la responsabilité en matière d’impôts commandent une réduction de la fiscalité, même si elle accroît le déficit budgétaire – parce qu’une moindre pression fiscale est le meilleur moyen qui nous soit offert pour accroître les revenus. John F. Kennedy (21 janvier 1963, message annuel au Congrès, rapport économique du président)
Chaque dollar soustrait à l’impôt, qui est dépensé ou investi, créera un nouvel emploi et un nouveau salaire. Et ces nouveaux emplois et salaires créeront d’autres emplois et d’autres salaires, et plus de clients, et plus de croissance pour une économie américaine en plein expansion. John F. Kennedy (13 août 1962, rapport radiodiffusé et télévisé sur l’état de l’économie nationale)
Une baisse des impôts signifie un revenu plus élevé pour les familles, et des profits plus importants pour les entreprises, et un budget fédéral en équilibre. Chaque contribuable et sa famille auront davantage d’argent disponible après impôt pour s’acheter une nouvelle voiture, une nouvelle maison, de nouveaux équipements, pour la formation et l’investissement. Chaque chef d’entreprise peut garder à sa disposition un pourcentage plus élevé de ses profits pour accroître ses fonds propres ou pour mettre en œuvre l’expansion ou l’amélioration de son affaire. Et quand le revenu national est en croissance, le gouvernement fédéral, en fin de compte, se retrouvera avec des recettes accrues. John F. Kennedy (18 septembre 1963, message à la nation radiodiffusé et télévisé sur un projet de loi de réduction des impôts)
Notre système fiscal aspire dans le secteur privé de l’économie une trop grande part du pouvoir d’achat des ménages et des entreprise, et réduit l’incitation au risque, à l’investissement et à l’effort – et par là-même il tue dans l’œuf nos recettes et étouffe notre taux de croissance national. John F. Kennedy (24 janvier 1963, message au Congrès sur la réforme fiscale)
L’essentiel de ses promesses, en un mot, Barack Obama les a tenues. Et, pour qu’il tienne l’autre moitié, il faut et il suffit de lui confier le second mandat dont il disait, dès le premier jour, qu’il en aurait besoin pour pleinement réussir dans son entreprise. Je ne regrette pas, pour ma part, d’avoir, dès 2004, soit quatre ans avant sa première élection, pressenti le prodigieux destin de celui que je baptisai aussitôt le « Kennedy noir ». Pas de raisons d’être déçu ! L’espoir est là. Plus que jamais là. Et le combat continue. BHL
Liberals like crises, and one shouldn’t spoil them by handing them another on a silver salver. The kind of crisis that is approaching . . . is probably not their favorite kind, an emergency that presents an opportunity to enlarge government, but one that will find liberalism at a crossroads, a turning point. (…) Liberalism can’t go on as it is, not for very long. It faces difficulties both philosophical and fiscal that will compel it either to go out of business or to become something quite different from what it has been. Charles Kesler
The modern Democratic Party, the party of Obama, is about permanent division and permanent opposition. (…) Despite seven Democratic presidencies since FDR, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Harvard still grieves, « The system is rigged! » (…)  How is it that this generation of Democrats, nearly 225 years after the Constitutional Convention, sees 21st century America at the precipice of tooth and claw? (…) The Obama Democrats are no longer the party of FDR, Truman, JFK or Clinton. All were combative partisans, but their view of the American system was fundamentally positive. The older Democratic Party grew out of the American labor experience of the early 20th century, which recognized its inevitable ties to the private sector. The systemically alienated Obama party more resembles the ancient anticapitalist syndicalist movements of continental Europe. In its 2008 primaries, the Democratic Party made a historic pivot. The center-left party of Bill and Hillary Clinton was overthrown by Barack Obama and the party’s « progressives, » the redesigned logo of the vestigial Democratic left. (…) While liberals owned the party apparatus, the left took control of its ideas. By 1990, liberal Harvard Law School was torn apart by a left-wing theory called critical legal studies, which condemned the American legal and economic system as . . . rigged. What binds Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Sandra Fluke and the rest of the Charlotte roster is the belief, learned early on, that their politics has made them a perpetual band of American outsiders. (…) This is a party whose agenda is avenging slights, wrongs and the systemic theft of « our democracy. » For all this injustice, someone must be made to pay. How far all this is from the America called for in Lincoln’s first inaugural: « We must not be enemies. » (…) An Obama victory wouldn’t be just a defeat of the GOP. It would be a defeat of the post-World War II Democratic Party. And they know it. The progressive left has wanted to push Democratic liberalism over the cliff for decades. This is their best shot to get it done. Daniel Henninger (Sep. 2012)
Did the bullets that killed JFK hit another target — liberalism itself? Unlike JFK, not killing liberalism instantly but inflicting something else infinitely more damaging than sudden death? Or, as Tyrrell puts it, inflicting “a slow, but steady decline of which the Liberals have been steadfastly oblivious.” (…) By 1968 — five years after the death of JFK and in the last of the five years of the Johnson presidency — the number of “self-identified” conservatives began to climb. Sharply. The Liberal dominance Lionel Trilling had written about had gone, never to this moment to return. Routinely now in poll after poll that Tyrrell cites — and there are plenty of others he doesn’t have room to cite — self-identified liberals hover at about 20% of the American body politic. Outnumbered more than two-to-one by conservatives, with moderates bringing up the remainder in the middle. What happened in those five years after JFK’s death? (…) The attitude toward Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson that was evidenced by Kennedy’s liberal leaning staff, by the Washington Georgetown set, by Washington journalists — slowly seeped into the sinews of liberalism itself. (…) Slowly this contempt for the American people spread to institutions that were not government, manifesting itself in a thousand different ways. It infected the media, academe and Hollywood, where stars identified with middle-America like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Bob Hope and Lucille Ball were eclipsed in the spotlight by leftists like Warren Beatty and Jane Fonda. The arms-linked peaceful civil rights protests led by Christian ministers like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr gave way to bombings and violent demonstrations against the Vietnam War led by snooty, well-educated white left-wing kids like Bill Ayers. The great American middle class — from which many of these educated kids had sprung — was trashed in precisely the fashion LBJ had been trashed. For accents, clothing styles, housing choices (suburbs and rural life were out) food, music, the love of guns, choice of cars, colleges, hair styles and more. Religion itself could not escape, Christianity to be mocked, made into a derisive laughingstock. The part of America between New York and California became known sneeringly as “flyover country. As time moved on, these attitudes hardened, taking on colors, colors derived from election night maps where red represented conservative, Republican or traditional candidates and blue became symbolic of homes to Liberalism. (…) Had John F. Kennedy been alive and well this week, celebrating his 95th birthday, one can only wonder whether liberalism would have survived with him. This is, after all, the president who said in cutting taxes that a “rising tide lifts all boats.” Becoming The favorite presidential example (along with Calvin Coolidge) of no less than Ronald Reagan on tax policy. This is, after all, the president who ran to the right of Richard Nixon in 1960 on issues of national security. In fact, many of those who voted for John F. Kennedy in 1960 would twenty years later vote for Ronald Reagan. One famous study of Macomb County, Michigan found 63% of Democrats in that unionized section of autoworker country voting for JFK in 1960. In 1980, same county, essentially the same Democrats — 66% voted for Reagan. The difference? Liberalism was dying. There is a term of political art for these millions of onetime JFK voters — a term used still today: Reagan Democrats. It is not too strong a statement to say that in point of political fact John F. Kennedy was the father of the Reagan Democrats. (…) Would he have sat silently as the liberal culture turned against the vast American middle and working blue collar class and its values, sending JFK voters into the arms of Republicans in seven out of twelve of the elections following his own? Would he have fought the subtle but distinct change of his famous inaugural challenge from “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” to what it has now become: “ask not what you can do for your country, ask what service your government can provide you?” We will never know. But there is every reason to believe, after all these decades, that, to use the title of JFK biographer William Manchester’s famous book, The Death of a President, brought another, quite unexpected death in its wake. The Death of Liberalism. Jeffrey Lord
To recall John F. Kennedy’s brief tenure as President is to be reminded of the distance that American liberalism has traveled since those days. His landmark domestic initiatives, passed with modest adjustments after his death, were a civil-rights bill and a major tax reduction to stimulate the economy. The civil-rights legislation is well known, but many have forgotten Kennedy’s across-the-board, 30-percent tax cut, with the highest rate falling from 91 percent to 65 percent—a measure that, two decades later, would inspire Ronald Reagan’s own tax-cutting agenda. Kennedy was, moreover, a sophisticated anti-Communist who understood the stakes at issue in the cold war. His inspiring inaugural address in 1961 was entirely about foreign policy and the challenge of Communism to freedom-loving peoples. As President, his most notable victory was achieved by confronting the Soviet Union over its missiles in Cuba and by forcing their removal. And he was nothing if not forthright in declaring America’s universal aims. “Let every nation know,” he famously announced in his inaugural address, “whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.” America, he said in a speech to the Massachusetts legislature a week before he took office, was “a city upon a hill,” an example and a model for the entire world. Though now remembered for his liberal idealism, Kennedy was, in short, a representative instead of the era’s pragmatic liberalism: an advocate of practical reform at home and American strength abroad. With his bold rhetoric and confidence in problem-solving, he was in many ways the personification of an earlier era’s liberal hopes. Both in substance and in approach, he seemed to express the central principle of the reform tradition—namely, that progress was to be achieved not by the quixotic pursuit of ideals but by the application of rationality and knowledge to the problems of public life. Kennedy himself often spoke in these terms, pointing to ignorance and extremism as the twin enemies to be overcome. (…) Hence, when the word spread on November 22 that President Kennedy had been shot, the immediate and understandable reaction was that the assassin must be a right-wing extremist—an anti-Communist, perhaps, or a white supremacist. Such speculation went out immediately over the national airwaves, and it seemed to make perfect sense, echoed by the likes of John Kenneth Galbraith and Chief Justice Earl Warren, who said that Kennedy had been martyred “as a result of the hatred and bitterness that has been injected into the life of our nation by bigots.” It therefore came as a shock when the police announced later the same day that a Communist had been arrested for the murder, and when the television networks began to run tapes taken a few months earlier showing the suspected assassin passing out leaflets in New Orleans in support of Fidel Castro. Nor was Lee Harvey Oswald just any leftist, playing games with radical ideas in order to shock friends and relatives. Instead, he was a dyed-in-the-wool Communist who had defected to the Soviet Union and married a Russian woman before returning to the U.S. the previous year. One of the first of an evolving breed, Oswald had lately rejected the Soviet Union in favor of third-world dictators like Mao, Ho, and Castro. (…)  From this perspective, it should not have been so jarring to learn that he was a casualty of the cold war. (…) Yet the Warren report was vigorously attacked soon after it appeared, and has been the subject of controversy ever since. (…) What, then, explains the resilience of such fanciful and conspiratorial thinking? Part of the answer surely lies in the enduring need of the Left to circumvent the most inconvenient fact about President Kennedy’s assassination—that he was killed by a Communist and probably for reasons related to left-wing ideology. If the case against Oswald can be clouded or denied, it opens up the possibility that Kennedy was killed by a more familiar villain, one of the many malignant forces on the Right. Yet the record suggests that the decisive and overriding factor behind Oswald’s various actions was ideology. The assassination of President Kennedy was hardly an isolated incident in his political odyssey from the Marine Corps to the Soviet Union and back to the United States. In the months leading up to the assassination, Oswald had tried to kill the ultra-conservative retired Army General Edwin A. Walker (his shot missed) with the same rifle that he later used to shoot President Kennedy; initiated an altercation with anti-Castro figures in New Orleans that led to his arrest; and visited the Cuban embassy in Mexico City where, while seeking permission to travel to Cuba, he issued a threat against the life of the President. Edward Jay Epstein (in Legend, 1978) and Jean Davison (in Oswald’s Game, 1983) suggest that Oswald shot President Kennedy in retaliation for the administration’s schemes to eliminate Castro. There is much about Oswald and the assassination that can now never be known for certain. Of one thing, however, there can be little doubt: there would never have been any serious talk about a conspiracy if President Kennedy had been shot by a right-wing figure whose guilt was established by the same evidence as condemned Oswald. Such an event would have been readily understood in terms of then prevailing assumptions about the dangers from the Right. Kennedy’s assassin, however, bolted onto the historical stage in violation of a script that many people had assimilated as the truth about America. Instead of adjusting their thinking accordingly, they strove to account for the discordance by taking refuge in conspiracy theories. (…) This idea, too—that the nation as a whole was finally to blame for the assassination—came to be repeated widely and incorporated into the public’s understanding of the event. Liberals in particular tended to see Kennedy’s death in this light, that is, as an outgrowth of a violent or extremist streak in the nation’s culture. (…) Something strangely similar to this act of mental contortion would occur five years later in response to the assassination in Los Angeles of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Once again, many pointed to a national culture of violence and extremism as the ultimate cause of the killing. Jacqueline Kennedy herself, according to several biographers, was sufficiently shocked by this second assassination in her family that she resolved to live abroad with her children. Yet Senator Kennedy was killed by a Palestinian Arab, Sirhan Sirhan, who had resolved to act when he heard Kennedy express support for Israel while campaigning for the presidency in California. Sirhan represented more the hatreds of the world from which he had emigrated than any impulse in American culture. (…) In projecting their own hopes on to Kennedy, liberals like Schlesinger and cultural radicals like Mailer were redefining liberalism more in terms of a posture than in terms of a coherent body of ideas about government and politics. This, too, would have consequences. Because Kennedy embodied sophistication, he was seen after his death as more “authentic” than such otherwise authentically liberal figures as Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey, who labored for legislative victories but were otherwise hopelessly old-fashioned. In appearing to stand above and apart from the conventions of middle-class life, he was seen as having opened up possibilities for a different kind of politics, sparking impulses that would eventually be absorbed into the mainstream of liberal thought. Within a few years of Kennedy’s death, liberals had come to be more preoccupied with cultural issues—feminism, sexual freedom, gay rights—than with the traditional concerns that had animated Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy himself. Kennedy’s had been a unique balancing act, combining ardent patriotism with hip sophistication in a mix that could appeal both to traditional Americans and to the new cultural activists. After his death, these two groups divided into conflicting camps, thereby establishing the terms for the long-running culture war that continues today. As much as anything else, the immersion in cultural politics in the years following the assassination may have helped bring about the end of the liberal era. Kennedy’s assassination heralded a break with the American past and a corresponding rupture in the evolving world of liberal ideas. Far from spurring the liberal tradition forward, as some today still suggest, it played a significant role in its disintegration. In the years and decades that followed, nearly all of the tendencies of the far Right that had so unnerved the liberals of the 1950’s—the fascination with conspiracies, the use of overheated and abusive rhetoric to characterize political adversaries, expressions of hatred for the United States and its national culture—moved across the political spectrum to the far and then the near Left. For many American liberals, the shock of Kennedy’s death compromised their faith in the nation itself. Against all evidence, they concluded that a violent strain in our national culture was somehow to blame. A confident, practical, and forward-looking philosophy with a heritage of accomplishment was thus turned into a doctrine of pessimism and self-blame, with a decidedly dark view of American society. Such assumptions, far from marking a temporary adjustment to the events of the 1960’s, have proved remarkably durable. James Piereson

Qui se souvient aujourd’hui qu’Oswald était en fait un communiste qui voulait faire payer à JFK la tentative d’assassinat de Castro ?

Que Sirhan Sirhan était un Palestinien voulant faire payer à son frère son soutien à Israël ?

Que le « père des Reagan democrats » était à droite de Nixon pour la politique étrangère mais plutôt en économie un pragmatique à la Clinton ?

Au lendemain d’un second discours d’investiture où, derrière les flonflons oratoires (et un véritable festival de distorsions des textes fondateurs tant bibliques que constitutionnels du pays de sa mère) qui ont à nouveau tant réjoui nos beaux esprits et nos belles âmes, un prétendu « Kennedy noir » a montré son vrai visage d’implacable doctrinaire …

En ce cinquantenaire de sa disparition prématurée …

 Et, à l’instar comme le montre la fortune continuée des théories du complot à la Oliver Stone de son incapacité à reconnaitre la réalité de son assassinat par un extrémiste de gauche, histoire de mesurer l’incroyable dérive de l’actuel parti démocrate …

Pendant qu’en France on n’a toujours pas pris la mesure des dérives des amis de nos propres porteurs de valises …

Retour avec deux articles de Commentary et de l’American Spectator (merci james) …

Sur le président qui en quelques courtes années avait incarné l’image d’un parti à la fois généreux et moderne (et le beau nom, perdu en français qui l’avait pourtant inventé, de « libéralisme« ) …

Mais aussi lancé, via les médias et ses successeurs dont le prétendu Kennedy noir actuel, une addiction au cool et une arrogance doctrinaire face au peuple qui finiraient par se révéler fatales …

Lee Harvey Oswald and the Liberal Crack-Up

James Piereson

Commentary

May 2006

Liberalism entered the 1960’s as the vital force in American politics, riding a wave of accomplishment running from the Progressive era through the New Deal and beyond. A handsome young president, John F. Kennedy, had just been elected on the promise to extend the unfinished agenda of reform. Liberalism owned the future, as Orwell might have said. Yet by the end of the decade, liberal doctrine was in disarray, with some of its central assumptions broken by the experience of the immediately preceding years. It has yet to recover.

What happened? There is, of course, a litany of standard answers, from the political to the cultural to the psychological, each seeking to explain the great upheaval summed up in that all-purpose phrase, “the 60’s.” To some, the relevant factor was a long overdue reaction to the repressions and pieties of 1950’s conformism. To others, the watershed event was the escalating war in Vietnam, sparking an opposition movement that itself escalated into widespread disaffection from received political ideas and indeed from larger American purposes. Still others have pointed to the simmering racial tensions that would burst into the open in riots and looting, calling into question underlying assumptions about the course of integration if not the very possibility of social harmony.

No doubt, the combination of these and other events had much to do with driving the nation’s political culture to the Left in the latter half of the decade. But there can be no doubt, either, that an event from the early 1960’s—namely, the assassination of Kennedy himself—contributed heavily. As many observers have noted, Kennedy’s death seemed somehow to give new energy to the more extreme impulses of the Left, as not only left-wing ideas but revolutionary leftist leaders—Marx, Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, and Castro among them—came in the aftermath to enjoy a greater vogue in the United States than at any other time in our history. By 1968, student radicals were taking over campuses and joining protest demonstrations in support of a host of extreme causes.

It is one of the ironies of the era that many young people who in 1963 reacted with profound grief to Kennedy’s death would, just a few years later, come to champion a version of the left-wing doctrines that had motivated his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. But why should this have been so? What was it about mid-century liberalism that allowed it to be knocked so badly off balance by a single blow?

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To recall John F. Kennedy’s brief tenure as President is to be reminded of the distance that American liberalism has traveled since those days. His landmark domestic initiatives, passed with modest adjustments after his death, were a civil-rights bill and a major tax reduction to stimulate the economy. The civil-rights legislation is well known, but many have forgotten Kennedy’s across-the-board, 30-percent tax cut, with the highest rate falling from 91 percent to 65 percent—a measure that, two decades later, would inspire Ronald Reagan’s own tax-cutting agenda.

Kennedy was, moreover, a sophisticated anti-Communist who understood the stakes at issue in the cold war. His inspiring inaugural address in 1961 was entirely about foreign policy and the challenge of Communism to freedom-loving peoples. As President, his most notable victory was achieved by confronting the Soviet Union over its missiles in Cuba and by forcing their removal. And he was nothing if not forthright in declaring America’s universal aims. “Let every nation know,” he famously announced in his inaugural address, “whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.” America, he said in a speech to the Massachusetts legislature a week before he took office, was “a city upon a hill,” an example and a model for the entire world.

Though now remembered for his liberal idealism, Kennedy was, in short, a representative instead of the era’s pragmatic liberalism: an advocate of practical reform at home and American strength abroad. With his bold rhetoric and confidence in problem-solving, he was in many ways the personification of an earlier era’s liberal hopes. Both in substance and in approach, he seemed to express the central principle of the reform tradition—namely, that progress was to be achieved not by the quixotic pursuit of ideals but by the application of rationality and knowledge to the problems of public life. Kennedy himself often spoke in these terms, pointing to ignorance and extremism as the twin enemies to be overcome.

None of this was an accident of the moment; it had been building for a long time. During the 1950’s, thoughtful liberals had come to understand that they were no longer outsiders in American life; to the contrary, they had become the political establishment. Already in power for two extraordinarily eventful decades, they could take credit for the domestic experiments of the New Deal, the victory over fascism, and the creation of the post-war international order. By virtue of these achievements, liberalism had emerged as the nation’s public philosophy.

Though a doctrine of reform and progress, liberalism had thus begun to absorb some of the intellectual characteristics of conservatism: a due regard for tradition and continuity, a sense that progress must be built on the solid achievements of the past. More strikingly, liberals had come to see their most vocal domestic opponents as radicals—individuals and movements bent on undoing the established order. This challenge to the liberal establishment came not from the radical Left, however, but from the Right, in the form of anti-Communism, Christian fundamentalism, and racial and religious bigotry.

Adlai Stevenson, a favorite of liberals of the era, described during his 1952 presidential campaign the paradoxical situation that liberals now occupied:

The strange alchemy of time has somehow converted the Democrats into the truly conservative party in the country—the party dedicated to conserving all that is best and building solidly and safely on these foundations. The Republicans, by contrast, are behaving like the radical party—the party of the reckless and embittered, bent on dismantling institutions which have been built solidly into our social fabric.

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The liberal movement was fortunate to have had during this time a group of formidable intellectual spokesmen, figures like Richard Hofstadter, Daniel Bell, Lionel Trilling, and David Riesman. Their persistent focus was on the dangers to the nation, as they saw them, arising from the American Right. In contrast to their Progressive and New Deal predecessors, who had thought mainly in terms of change, reform, and new policy, these writers thought more in terms of consolidating earlier gains, defending them against fresh challenges, and reconciling them with the broad tradition of American democracy.

In their view, the complaints of the Right derived not from groups in possession of competing status and authority but from those who felt weak and dispossessed by modern life. Bell referred to this collection of forces as the “radical Right,” a term he employed in the title of an influential book of essays that he edited on the subject in 1962. Hofstadter preferred the term “pseudo-conservative,” which he borrowed from Theodor Adorno, the German sociologist, to describe those “who employ the rhetoric of conservatism, [but] show signs of a serious and restless dissatisfaction with American life, traditions, and institutions. They have little in common with the temperate and compromising spirit of true conservatism in the classical sense of the word.”

These scholars saw the McCarthyites and religious fundamentalists of the 1950’s as only the most up-to-date expression of an enduring extremist impulse that had earlier produced the “Know-Nothings” in the 1850’s, the populists in the 1890’s, and the followers of Father Charles Coughlin or Huey Long in the 1930’s. Such movements, while arising out of different conditions, had certain features in common—in particular, the conviction that their people had been “sold out” by a conspiracy of Wall Street financiers, traitors in the government, or some other sinister group. As Bell put it in an essay in The Radical Right, “The theme of conspiracy haunts the mind of the radical rightist.”

This same thought was developed most memorably in Hofstadter’s 1964 book, The Paranoid Style in American Politics. Hofstadter was impressed not simply by the wilder statements emanating from the radical Right—for example, the claim by Joseph Welch of the John Birch Society that President Eisenhower was a Communist—but by a mode of argumentation that seemed to begin with feelings of persecution and conclude with a recital of grandiose plots against the nation and its way of life. Communist infiltration was, of course, a favored theme, but Hofstadter also cited paranoid fears about fluoride in the drinking water, efforts to control the sale of guns, federal aid to education, and other (usually) liberal initiatives of government. Important events, from this perspective, never happened through coincidence, circumstance, or the unfolding of complex processes; they were invariably the work of some unseen but all-powerful malevolent force.

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In the months leading up to Kennedy’s assassination, violent acts committed by representatives of the radical Right did indeed seem to be escalating. In June 1963, the civil-rights leader Medgar Evers was shot and killed outside his home in Jackson, Mississippi. In September, a bomb was detonated at a black church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young girls. The Ku Klux Klan was linked to both crimes. In October, Adlai Stevenson, then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, ventured to Dallas for a speech to commemorate “UN Day” and was met by demonstrators proclaiming “United States Day.” Heckled during his remarks, Stevenson was jostled and spat upon by protesters as he tried to depart and finally was struck over the head with a cardboard placard as he made his way to his car.

Seeming to fit into a pattern of right-wing violence, these events were easily absorbed into the explanatory structure of liberal thought. The melee in Dallas, meanwhile, gave Kennedy aides pause about the President’s planned trip to that city. Dallas, they feared, was a hotbed of the far Right and a dangerous place to visit.

Hence, when the word spread on November 22 that President Kennedy had been shot, the immediate and understandable reaction was that the assassin must be a right-wing extremist—an anti-Communist, perhaps, or a white supremacist. Such speculation went out immediately over the national airwaves, and it seemed to make perfect sense, echoed by the likes of John Kenneth Galbraith and Chief Justice Earl Warren, who said that Kennedy had been martyred “as a result of the hatred and bitterness that has been injected into the life of our nation by bigots.”

It therefore came as a shock when the police announced later the same day that a Communist had been arrested for the murder, and when the television networks began to run tapes taken a few months earlier showing the suspected assassin passing out leaflets in New Orleans in support of Fidel Castro. Nor was Lee Harvey Oswald just any leftist, playing games with radical ideas in order to shock friends and relatives. Instead, he was a dyed-in-the-wool Communist who had defected to the Soviet Union and married a Russian woman before returning to the U.S. the previous year. One of the first of an evolving breed, Oswald had lately rejected the Soviet Union in favor of third-world dictators like Mao, Ho, and Castro.

Informed later that evening of Oswald’s arrest, Mrs. Kennedy lamented bitterly that her husband had apparently been shot by this warped and misguided Communist. To have been killed by such a person, she felt, would rob his death of all meaning. Far better, she said, if, like Lincoln, he had been martyred for civil rights and racial justice.

Given her husband’s politics, Mrs. Kennedy’s comment might seem curious. For one thing, he had staked his presidency on mounting an aggressive challenge to Communism; for another, during his brief term in office the cold war had reached its most dangerous point in his confrontation with the Soviet Union over Cuba. From this perspective, it should not have been so jarring to learn that he was a casualty of the cold war. More significantly, however, the remark suggests that Mrs. Kennedy was already thinking about how President Kennedy’s legacy should be framed, and was sensing that the identity of the assassin might prove inconvenient in this regard.

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Oswald was arrested, and later charged with the assassination, on the basis of solid evidence—all of it laid out in the Warren Commission report made public ten months later and, since then, in numerous television documentaries and in books like Gerald Posner’s Case Closed (1993).

Yet the Warren report was vigorously attacked soon after it appeared, and has been the subject of controversy ever since. There is little point in rehearsing the many criticisms of the commission’s work, nearly all of which question the conclusion that a single gunman was responsible for the assassination. These criticisms have been exhaustively answered in Posner’s book and in two comprehensive articles in COMMENTARY by Jacob Cohen.

1 Even Norman Mailer, in his own exhaustive study (Oswald’s Tale, 1995), concluded that Oswald was the probable assassin. Moreover, as Posner and Cohen point out, whatever difficulties attend the Warren report, they pale in comparison to those confronting the various conspiracy theories that have been offered as alternatives to the much-maligned “single bullet” theory of the Warren Commission.

What, then, explains the resilience of such fanciful and conspiratorial thinking? Part of the answer surely lies in the enduring need of the Left to circumvent the most inconvenient fact about President Kennedy’s assassination—that he was killed by a Communist and probably for reasons related to left-wing ideology. If the case against Oswald can be clouded or denied, it opens up the possibility that Kennedy was killed by a more familiar villain, one of the many malignant forces on the Right.

Thus, in JFK (1991), the filmmaker Oliver Stone, like his hero the New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, suggests that the assassination was engineered by governmental figures connected to the FBI or CIA. Some have insinuated that Lyndon Johnson was involved in the plot. Others have argued that Kennedy was the victim of a “hit” by organized crime in retaliation for his administration’s zealous prosecution of mob figures. All of these theorists have much in common with the archetypes of Hofstadter’s “paranoid style”: they begin their investigations with presumptions of conspiracy, and then arrange their facts to justify a pre-determined conclusion.

True, they are also responding to a key weakness in the Warren report, which, though taking full note of Oswald’s Communist sympathies and activities, played them down as motivations for killing President Kennedy. Oswald, the commission said, was driven by several factors, including a psychological “hostility to his environment,” failure to establish meaningful relationships with others, difficulties with his wife, perpetual discontent with the world around him, hatred of American society, a search for recognition and a wish to play a role in history, and, finally, his commitment to Marxism and Communism. This farrago of causes implies that Oswald was more a confused loner than a motivated ideologue. In the years and decades following the assassination, the American people would increasingly view the assassin in such terms.

Yet the record suggests that the decisive and overriding factor behind Oswald’s various actions was ideology. The assassination of President Kennedy was hardly an isolated incident in his political odyssey from the Marine Corps to the Soviet Union and back to the United States. In the months leading up to the assassination, Oswald had tried to kill the ultra-conservative retired Army General Edwin A. Walker (his shot missed) with the same rifle that he later used to shoot President Kennedy; initiated an altercation with anti-Castro figures in New Orleans that led to his arrest; and visited the Cuban embassy in Mexico City where, while seeking permission to travel to Cuba, he issued a threat against the life of the President. Edward Jay Epstein (in Legend, 1978) and Jean Davison (in Oswald’s Game, 1983) suggest that Oswald shot President Kennedy in retaliation for the administration’s schemes to eliminate Castro.

There is much about Oswald and the assassination that can now never be known for certain. Of one thing, however, there can be little doubt: there would never have been any serious talk about a conspiracy if President Kennedy had been shot by a right-wing figure whose guilt was established by the same evidence as condemned Oswald. Such an event would have been readily understood in terms of then prevailing assumptions about the dangers from the Right. Kennedy’s assassin, however, bolted onto the historical stage in violation of a script that many people had assimilated as the truth about America. Instead of adjusting their thinking accordingly, they strove to account for the discordance by taking refuge in conspiracy theories.

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There was also another avenue of escape from the contradiction posed by the assassination. If one had to accept the fact that Oswald committed the deadly act, it was still possible to identify some broader cause that did not necessarily involve a conspiracy. Once again, Mrs. Kennedy instinctively hinted at such a cause in the grief-filled hours following the assassination. Jim Bishop (in The Day Kennedy Was Shot, 1972) reports that aboard Air Force One en route back to Washington, various people, including Lady Bird Johnson, had urged her to change out of the blood-spattered clothes she was still wearing. “No,” she replied more than once, “I want them to see what they have done.”

Who were “they”? The New York Times columnist James Reston supplied an answer of sorts in an article that appeared the next day under the title, “Why America Weeps: Kennedy Victim of Violent Streak He Sought to Curb in Nation.” Reston wrote:

America wept tonight, not alone for its dead young President, but for itself. The grief was general, for somehow the worst in the nation had prevailed over the best. The indictment extended beyond the assassin, for something in the nation itself, some strain of madness and violence, had destroyed the highest symbol of law and order.

The nation itself, Reston implied, was ultimately responsible for Oswald’s murderous act.

Returning to this theme two days later in an article suggestively titled “A Portion of Guilt for All,” Reston asserted that there was “a rebellion in the land against law and good faith, and . . . private anger and sorrow are not enough to redeem the events of the last few days.” He went on to cite a sermon delivered on November 24 by a Washington clergyman who, linking President Kennedy with Jesus, told his congregation that “We have been present at a new crucifixion. All of us had a part in the slaying of the President.”

This idea, too—that the nation as a whole was finally to blame for the assassination—came to be repeated widely and incorporated into the public’s understanding of the event. Liberals in particular tended to see Kennedy’s death in this light, that is, as an outgrowth of a violent or extremist streak in the nation’s culture. Yet doing so required its own species of doublethink, for the fact is that Oswald was not in any way a representative figure. He played no role in any domestic extremist movement. His radicalism was wholly un-American and anti-American. Even as a Communist or radical, he was sui generis. There was nothing about Oswald that even remotely reflected any broader pattern in American life.

Something strangely similar to this act of mental contortion would occur five years later in response to the assassination in Los Angeles of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Once again, many pointed to a national culture of violence and extremism as the ultimate cause of the killing. Jacqueline Kennedy herself, according to several biographers, was sufficiently shocked by this second assassination in her family that she resolved to live abroad with her children. Yet Senator Kennedy was killed by a Palestinian Arab, Sirhan Sirhan, who had resolved to act when he heard Kennedy express support for Israel while campaigning for the presidency in California. Sirhan represented more the hatreds of the world from which he had emigrated than any impulse in American culture.

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Still another curiosity in the wake of the assassination was the transformation of the image of Kennedy himself. Though very much a characteristic liberal of his day, as we have seen, he came to be portrayed as a liberal hero of a very different sort—a leader who might have led the nation into a new age of peace, love, and understanding. Such a portrayal was encouraged by tributes and memorials inspired by friends and members of the Kennedy family as well as by the numerous books published after the assassination, particularly those by the presidential aides Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (A Thousand Days, 1965) and Theodore Sorensen (Kennedy, 1965).

The most potent element of this image-making was, of course, the now inescapable association of Kennedy with the legend of King Arthur and Camelot. This was the invention of Jacqueline Kennedy, who a week after her husband’s death pressed the idea upon the journalist Theodore H. White in the course of an interview that would serve as the basis for an article by him in Life magazine. White later regretted the role he had played in transmitting this romantic image to the public. “Quite inadvertently,” he wrote in his memoir, In Search of History (1978), “I was her instrument in labeling the myth.”

White’s short essay in Life contained a number of Mrs. Kennedy’s wistful remembrances, one of which was the President’s fondness for the title tune from the Lerner & Lowe Broadway hit, Camelot. His favorite lines, she told White, were these: “Don’t let it be forgot,/that once there was a spot,/for one brief shining moment/that was Camelot.” “There will be great Presidents again,” she continued, “but there will never be another Camelot again.” According to Mrs. Kennedy, her husband was an idealist who saw history as the work of heroes, and she wished to have his memory preserved in the form of appropriate symbols rather than in the dry and dusty books written by historians. Camelot was one such symbol; the eternal flame that she had placed on his grave was another.

Significantly, Mrs. Kennedy’s notion of Arthurian heroism derived not from Sir Thomas Mallory’s 15th-century classic Le Morte d’Arthur but from The Once and Future King (1958) by T.H. White (no relation to the journalist), on which the musical was based. White’s telling of the saga pokes fun at the pretensions of knighthood, pointedly criticizes militarism and nationalism, and portrays Arthur as a new kind of hero: an idealistic peacemaker seeking to tame the bellicose passions of his age. This may be one reason why Mrs. Kennedy’s effort to frame her husband’s legacy in this way was widely regarded as a distorted caricature of the real Kennedy and something he himself would have laughed at. Aides and associates reported that they had never heard Kennedy speak either about Camelot the musical or about its theme song. Some of Mrs. Kennedy’s friends said they had never even heard her speak about King Arthur or the play prior to the assassination.

According to Schlesinger, Mrs. Kennedy later thought she may have overdone this theme. Be that as it may, one has to give her credit for quick thinking in the midst of tragedy and grief—and also for injecting a set of ideas into the cultural atmosphere that would have large consequences. For not only did the Camelot reading of heroic public service cut liberalism off from its once-vigorous nationalist impulses but, if one accepted the image of a utopian Kennedy Camelot—and many did—then the best times were now in the past and would not soon be recovered. Life would go on, but America’s future could never match the magical chapter that had been brought to a premature end. Such thinking drew into question the no less canonical liberal assumption of steady historical progress, and compromised the liberal faith in the future.

Without intending to do so, Mrs. Kennedy had put forth an interpretation of her husband’s life and death that undercut mid-century liberalism at its core.

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The success of the Kennedy myth bore still other troubling fruit for American liberalism. Kennedy had added something novel to the mix of our public life, skillfully managing to transcend his role as a politician to become a cultural figure in his own right—indeed, a celebrity. In this he was most unlike other prominent political figures of the time.

Kennedy was young and articulate; he wore his hair long; he sailed and played touch football; he consorted with Hollywood stars and Harvard professors; he was even something of an intellectual, speaking in measured cadences and having won (with the assistance of his father) a Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage (1955). Above all, he was rich. His wife, moreover, was beautiful and glamorous; she wore French fashions and even spoke French (and Spanish, too). The two Kennedy children were every bit as photogenic as their parents. The American people had never seen anything like the Kennedys, except in the movies.

Kennedy was thus our first President and—with the partial exception of Bill Clinton—the only one so far successfully to marry the role of politician to that of cultural celebrity. Such a thing would never have occurred to Harry Truman or Franklin Roosevelt. As for Ronald Reagan, who moved in the opposite direction, out of the world of celebrity into politics, he never exercised the influence over that world that Kennedy did. Indeed, Kennedy’s earlier success in linking liberalism with celebrity was greatly responsible for turning Hollywood into the liberal-Left fortification that it is today.

Kennedy achieved this through a style that gave the appearance of a man at the cutting edge of new cultural trends, in contrast to other politicians (like Nixon or Eisenhower) who generally represented the established patterns and morals of middle-class life. In his memoir, Sorensen acknowledges that at the inauguration, Kennedy deliberately played up this purely stylistic contrast between himself and Eisenhower, his tired and aging predecessor. Schlesinger, for his part, sees in Kennedy’s style a substantive statement in itself: “His coolness was itself a new frontier. It meant freedom from the stereotyped responses of the past. . . . It offered hope for spontaneity in a country drowning in its own passivity.” Norman Mailer, the original “hipster,” saw Kennedy as an “existential hero,” a man who would courageously court death in quest of authentic experience.

But here is another curious twist. While Kennedy understood courage to involve facing down Communism or putting a man on the moon, Mailer was thinking in terms of what he called “a revolution in the consciousness of our time,” a goal (whether laudable or not) far beyond the capacity of any political leader to deliver. It is true that Kennedy cultivated a style—a style whose charms were magnified a thousandfold by the newly potent medium of television. But it is also obvious that many read far more into this style than was really there. Intellectuals, journalists, and significant cohorts of the college-educated young erroneously equated Kennedy’s style with a bohemian rejection of the blandness and conformity of middle-class life, when it in fact reflected the ways of the American aristocracy to which he and his wife belonged. (So, in a somewhat different way, did his relentless pursuit of sex and use of drugs.)

In projecting their own hopes on to Kennedy, liberals like Schlesinger and cultural radicals like Mailer were redefining liberalism more in terms of a posture than in terms of a coherent body of ideas about government and politics. This, too, would have consequences. Because Kennedy embodied sophistication, he was seen after his death as more “authentic” than such otherwise authentically liberal figures as Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey, who labored for legislative victories but were otherwise hopelessly old-fashioned. In appearing to stand above and apart from the conventions of middle-class life, he was seen as having opened up possibilities for a different kind of politics, sparking impulses that would eventually be absorbed into the mainstream of liberal thought. Within a few years of Kennedy’s death, liberals had come to be more preoccupied with cultural issues—feminism, sexual freedom, gay rights—than with the traditional concerns that had animated Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy himself.

Kennedy’s had been a unique balancing act, combining ardent patriotism with hip sophistication in a mix that could appeal both to traditional Americans and to the new cultural activists. After his death, these two groups divided into conflicting camps, thereby establishing the terms for the long-running culture war that continues today. As much as anything else, the immersion in cultural politics in the years following the assassination may have helped bring about the end of the liberal era.

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Kennedy’s assassination heralded a break with the American past and a corresponding rupture in the evolving world of liberal ideas. Far from spurring the liberal tradition forward, as some today still suggest, it played a significant role in its disintegration. In the years and decades that followed, nearly all of the tendencies of the far Right that had so unnerved the liberals of the 1950’s—the fascination with conspiracies, the use of overheated and abusive rhetoric to characterize political adversaries, expressions of hatred for the United States and its national culture—moved across the political spectrum to the far and then the near Left.

For many American liberals, the shock of Kennedy’s death compromised their faith in the nation itself. Against all evidence, they concluded that a violent strain in our national culture was somehow to blame. A confident, practical, and forward-looking philosophy with a heritage of accomplishment was thus turned into a doctrine of pessimism and self-blame, with a decidedly dark view of American society. Such assumptions, far from marking a temporary adjustment to the events of the 1960’s, have proved remarkably durable.

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Footnotes

1 “Conspiracy Fever,” October 1975; “Yes, Oswald Alone Killed Kennedy,” June 1992.

Voir aussi:

JFK and the Death of Liberalism

Jeffrey Lord

The American Spectator

5.31.12

John F. Kennedy, the father of the Reagan Democrats, would have been 95 this week.

May 29th of this week marked John F. Kennedy’s 95th birthday.

Had he never gone to Dallas, had he the blessings of long years like his 105 year old mother Rose, the man immutably fixed in the American memory as a vigorous 40-something surely would be seen in an entirely different light.

If JFK were alive today?

Presuming his 1964 re-election, we would know for a fact what he did in Vietnam. We would know for a fact what a second-term Kennedy domestic program produced. And yes, yes, all those torrent of womanizing tales that finally gushed into headlines in the post-Watergate era (and still keep coming, the tale of White House intern Mimi Alford recently added to the long list) would surely have had a more scathing effect on his historical reputation had he been alive to answer them.

But he wasn’t.

As the world knows, those fateful few seconds in Dallas on November 22, 1963 not only transformed American and world history. They transformed JFK himself into an iconic American martyr, forever young, handsome and idealistic. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of his assassination—and in spite of all the womanizing tales, in spite of the passage of now almost half a century—John F. Kennedy is still repeatedly ranked by Americans as among the country’s greatest presidents. In the American imagination, JFK is historically invincible

All of this comes to mind not simply as JFK’s 95th birthday came and went this week with remarkably little fanfare.

As readers of The American Spectator are well familiar, TAS founder and Editor-in-chief R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. has a new book out in which he details The Death of Liberalism.

Once upon a time — in 1950 — Bob Tyrrell notes that the liberal intellectual Lionel Trilling could honestly open his book The Liberal Imagination with this sentence:

In the United States at this time Liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition.

It was true in 1950 — and it was still true on the day John F. Kennedy’s motorcade began to make its way through the streets of Dallas.

It was still true a year later, when Kennedy’s successor Lyndon Johnson swamped the GOP’s conservative nominee Barry Goldwater.

But something had happened by 1964. Something Big. And it’s fair to wonder on the anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s 95th birthday if in fact that Something Big would ever have happened at all if Kennedy had not been in Lee Harvey Oswald’s gun sight that sunny November day almost 49 years ago.

In short, one wonders. Did the bullets that killed JFK hit another target — liberalism itself? Unlike JFK, not killing liberalism instantly but inflicting something else infinitely more damaging than sudden death? Or, as Tyrrell puts it, inflicting “a slow, but steady decline of which the Liberals have been steadfastly oblivious.”

While LBJ would ride herd on American liberalism for another year, in fact the dominant status of liberalism in both politics and culture that Trilling had observed in 1950 had, after JFK’s murder, curiously begun to simply fade. Not unlike Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire cat, leaving nothing behind but a grin. Writes Tyrrell:

Yet Liberals, who began as the rightful heirs to the New Deal, have carried on as a kind of landed aristocracy, gifted but doomed.

The new book in Robert Caro’s biographical series, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power has received considerable attention for Caro’s detailed depiction of LBJ’s transition from powerful Senate Majority Leader to a virtual impotence as Kennedy’s vice president. But there’s a clue in this book as to the future decline of liberalism that is completely overlooked (and wasn’t published until after Tyrrell’s). A clue that revolves around the treatment of Vice President Johnson by Kennedy insiders and JFK’s Washington admirers — a treatment, it is important to note, that was never ever exhibited by JFK himself.

While Kennedy gave strict orders that LBJ was to be treated at all times with the respect due his office — and this was in an era when vice presidents customarily went unused by presidents, a fate that had befallen all vice presidential occupants from the nation’s first, John Adams, to Johnson — there was something else bubbling just below the surface in the Washington that was the Kennedy era.

Robert Caro describes it this way:

Washington had in many ways always been a small town, and in small towns gossip can be cruel, and the New Frontiersmen — casual, elegant, understated, in love with their own sophistication (“Such an in-group, and they let you know they were in, and you were not”, recalls Ashton Gonella) — were a witty bunch, and wit does better when it has a target to aim at, and the huge, lumbering figure of Lyndon Johnson, with his carefully buttoned-up suits and slicked-down hair, his bellowing speeches and extravagant, awkward gestures, made an inevitable target. “One can feel the hot breath of the crowd at the bullfight exulting as the sword flashes into the bull,” one historian wrote. In the Georgetown townhouses that were the New Frontier’s social stronghold “there were a lot of small parties, informal kinds, dinners that were given by Kennedy people for other Kennedy people. You know, twelve people in for dinner, all part of the Administration,” says United States Treasurer Elizabeth Gatov. “Really, it was brutal, the stories that they were passing, and the jokes and the inside nasty stuff about Lyndon.” When he mispronounced “hors d’oeuvres” as “whore doves,” the mistake was all over Georgetown in what seemed an instant.

Johnson’s Texas accent was mocked. His proclivity for saying “Ah reckon,” “Ah believe,” and saying the word “Negro” as “nigrah.” On one occasion of a white tie event at the White House, Caro writes of LBJ that “he wore, to the Kennedy people’s endless amusement, not the customary black tailcoat but a slate-gray model especially sent up by Dallas’ Neiman-Marcus department store.” The liberals populating the Kennedy administration and Washington itself were people with an affinity for words, and they began to bestow on Johnson — behind his back — nicknames such as “Uncle Cornpone” or “Rufus Cornpone.” Lady Bird Johnson was added to the game, and the Johnsons as a couple were nicknamed “Uncle Cornpone and his Little Pork Chop.”

None of this, Caro notes, was done by John Kennedy himself. JFK had an instinctive appreciation for Johnson’s sense of dignity, and he thought Lady Bird “neat.” This is, in retrospect, notable.

Why?

Let’s rocket ahead now to what Bob Tyrrell calls The Death of Liberalism. In particular the numbers — polling data. Tyrrell spends an entire chapter discussing polling data, as well he should. His findings are the ultimate teachable moment as we settle into the 2012 Obama-Romney race.

By 1968 — five years after the death of JFK and in the last of the five years of the Johnson presidency — the number of “self-identified” conservatives began to climb. Sharply. The Liberal dominance Lionel Trilling had written about had gone, never to this moment to return. Routinely now in poll after poll that Tyrrell cites — and there are plenty of others he doesn’t have room to cite — self-identified liberals hover at about 20% of the American body politic. Outnumbered more than two-to-one by conservatives, with moderates bringing up the remainder in the middle.

What happened in those five years after JFK’s death?

One very compelling thing.

The attitude toward Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson that was evidenced by Kennedy’s liberal leaning staff, by the Washington Georgetown set, by Washington journalists — slowly seeped into the sinews of liberalism itself.

Recall Caro’s descriptions of people who were “in love with their own sophistication,” who were “such an in-group, and they let you know they were in, and you were not.” Think of the snotty arrogance displayed as these people laughed at LBJ’s accent, his mispronunciations, his clothes, his wife (“Uncle Cornpone and his Little Pork Chop”).

Slowly, and then not so slowly, these elitist, arrogant and if not outright snotty attitudes sought out a new target during the years when LBJ was sitting in the White House — when, in the view of these people, “Uncle Cornpone and his Little Pork Chop” had replaced the King and Queen of Camelot.

That new target?

The American people themselves. They had, after all, elected LBJ in a landslide in 1964. Now Uncle Cornpone was the elected President of the United States. To make matters more unbearable, LBJ was using his newfound power and popularity to actually pass the liberal agenda of the day, which Johnson labeled “The Great Society.” Uncle Cornpone, it seemed, wasn’t such a ridiculous figure after all when it came to getting the liberal wish list through the Congress.

No one better than JFK would have known instantly what a huge mistake this elitist attitude would be. Discussing the relationship of a presidential candidate with the American people, JFK had told historian and friend Theodore H. White, author of The Making of the President series, that, in White’s re-telling, “a man running for the Presidency must talk up, way up there.” It was a principle Kennedy surely would have applied to his own party — and did so while he was president. Not from JFK was there a drop of elitist contempt — from a man who unarguably could claim the title in a blink — for his fellow countrymen.

But in a horrifying flash, JFK was gone. And the elitist tide spread.

Slowly this contempt for the American people spread to institutions that were not government, manifesting itself in a thousand different ways. It infected the media, academe and Hollywood, where stars identified with middle-America like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Bob Hope and Lucille Ball were eclipsed in the spotlight by leftists like Warren Beatty and Jane Fonda.

The arms-linked peaceful civil rights protests led by Christian ministers like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr gave way to bombings and violent demonstrations against the Vietnam War led by snooty, well-educated white left-wing kids like Bill Ayers. The great American middle class — from which many of these educated kids had sprung — was trashed in precisely the fashion LBJ had been trashed. For accents, clothing styles, housing choices (suburbs and rural life were out) food, music, the love of guns, choice of cars, colleges, hair styles and more. Religion itself could not escape, Christianity to be mocked, made into a derisive laughingstock. The part of America between New York and California became known sneeringly as “flyover country.

As time moved on, these attitudes hardened, taking on colors, colors derived from election night maps where red represented conservative, Republican or traditional candidates and blue became symbolic of homes to Liberalism.

Red States. Blue States.

Liberal candidates hoping to carry Red States or even Purple States had to hide the contempt they felt for their own constituents. When Governor Bill Clinton’s wife Hillary snapped in a 60 Minutes interview over her husband’s infidelities that:

You know, I’m not sitting here — some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.

— the Clinton campaign quickly swung into damage control mode, an apology as quickly forthcoming.

Sixteen years later it was Barack Obama’s turn, the candidate caught on audio tape describing Pennsylvania voters to a fundraising audience of rich, fashionable San Francisco liberals as:

bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

The Obama and Hillary Clinton expressions were about as far as one could get from JFK’s conception that when running for president one has to talk “way up there” to the American people.

By now, millions of Americans have come to see the elitism that once was directed privately at LBJ in Georgetown salons as an ingrained characteristic of Liberalism. Even NBC’s Tom Brokaw is getting antsy at the insiderdom on televised display at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Think of the treatment of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin versus that afforded Hillary Clinton. The treatment of Clarence Thomas — versus Barack Obama.

Self-identify with that kind of treatment? Of course not. Compounding the problem for liberals is that this attitude is linked to what Tyrrell accurately calls Obama’s “Stealth Socialism.” And the combination of the two is proving to be politically deadly.

Here’s a JFK-Obama contrast.

In 1960, JFK determined that if he were to win the Democratic nomination he would in fact have to win the West Virginia primary. Why West Virginia? Because Kennedy was Catholic, no Catholic had ever been elected president — and West Virginia was heavily Protestant. It was a knock-down, drag-out fight — a furious battle against Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey. In an upset, a legend in West Virginia politics to this day, JFK won. By emphasizing his PT-109 heroism in World War II and his support of coal mining — and coal miners.

What happened the other day in the West Virginia Democratic primaries? That’s right. A Texas prison inmate named Keith Judd paid the $2,500 filing fee to get his name on the ballot opposing Obama — getting 40% of the vote. Why this particular humiliation? Right again. The President’s “Stealth Socialism” — specifically in West Virginia his energy and environmental policies — are seen by West Virginians as savaging the state’s coal industry. A world away from the JFK approach.

And let’s not forget the double standard that elitist liberals in the media love when it comes to their fellow countrymen.

What was one of the most notable stylistic aspects of the Kennedy presidency that had Georgetown parlors and the liberal media of the day swooning with admiration?

Exactly. They loved Jackie Kennedy — specifically they absolutely adored that the First Lady was an accomplished horsewoman. Scenes like this video of Jackie riding with her children in the Virginia hunt country – as JFK watched from nearby — were staples of the liberal media, the only media, of the day. If one grew up in the Kennedy era it is recognized instantly, particularly the scene where Caroline’s horse “Macaroni” is nibbling on JFK as the President laughs. Horseback riding as Mrs. Kennedy pursued it was an expensive hobby then — as now. And this fact was lavishly presented to the American public as a sign of class — both financial class and as in “classy.”

What was the big story about Ann Romney the other day? Take a look at Breitbart.com where they have neatly caught onto the sneering elitism that is falsely ascribed to Ann Romney because — yes indeed — just like Jackie Kennedy, Ann Romney rides horses. With one very big difference. In Mrs. Romney’s case horseback riding was prescribed as therapy for her multiple sclerosis. Now, however, as was true with a big front page story in the New York Times, Republican Ann Romney is involved with a “rarified sport.” Translation: Mrs. Romney is a snob. What’s fabulous for Jackie is snooty for Ann.

Which leads us back to where we began.

Had John F. Kennedy been alive and well this week, celebrating his 95th birthday, one can only wonder whether liberalism would have survived with him.

This is, after all, the president who said in cutting taxes that a “rising tide lifts all boats.” Becoming The favorite presidential example (along with Calvin Coolidge) of no less than Ronald Reagan on tax policy. This is, after all, the president who ran to the right of Richard Nixon in 1960 on issues of national security.

In fact, many of those who voted for John F. Kennedy in 1960 would twenty years later vote for Ronald Reagan. One famous study of Macomb County, Michigan found 63% of Democrats in that unionized section of autoworker country voting for JFK in 1960. In 1980, same county, essentially the same Democrats — 66% voted for Reagan. The difference? Liberalism was dying.

There is a term of political art for these millions of onetime JFK voters — a term used still today: Reagan Democrats. It is not too strong a statement to say that in point of political fact John F. Kennedy was the father of the Reagan Democrats.

Would JFK have let the arrogant liberal elitism that was bubbling under the surface of his own administration metastasize to so many American institutions — including his own party — had he lived?

Would he have sat silently as the liberal culture turned against the vast American middle and working blue collar class and its values, sending JFK voters into the arms of Republicans in seven out of twelve of the elections following his own?

Would he have fought the subtle but distinct change of his famous inaugural challenge from “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” to what it has now become: “ask not what you can do for your country, ask what service your government can provide you?”

We will never know.

But there is every reason to believe, after all these decades, that, to use the title of JFK biographer William Manchester’s famous book, The Death of a President, brought another, quite unexpected death in its wake.

The Death of Liberalism.

About the Author

Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.

Voir également:

Obama and the End of Liberalism?

Kathryn Jean Lopez

The national Review online

January 16, 2013

‘He was much more liberal than his presidential campaign let on,” Charles Kesler writes of Barack Obama in 2008. You can say that again. “Liberals like crises, and one shouldn’t spoil them by handing them another on a silver salver. The kind of crisis that is approaching . . . is probably not their favorite kind, an emergency that presents an opportunity to enlarge government, but one that will find liberalism at a crossroads, a turning point,” he argues in I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism. “Liberalism can’t go on as it is, not for very long. It faces difficulties both philosophical and fiscal that will compel it either to go out of business or to become something quite different from what it has been.” As we approach President Obama’s second inaugural, is this really so? Kesler looks at the president’s first term and the future of liberalism with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: You wrote a whole book about “Barack Obama and the crisis of liberalism” before the 2012 election, which he won fairly easily. Is your analysis still relevant?

CHARLES KESLER: Highly relevant, alas. I began writing about Obama in 2007, when his speeches struck me as more interesting and ambitious than the usual Democratic pablum. His two books — one a strikingly postmodern memoir, the other a more conventional campaign book that displayed his highly unconventional view of how to transform our politics — confirmed my judgment that conservatives (and at the time, the Clintons) were dangerously underestimating him. By the time I began I Am the Change in 2011, he had run the table, winning on the stimulus, Obamacare, and Dodd-Frank the kind of liberal legislative breakthroughs that bring to mind the New Deal or the Great Society.

LOPEZ: Isn’t the crisis over? Liberalism has won.

KESLER: As I wrote in the book, Obama was poised to be either liberalism’s savior or its gravedigger. His own view was that Ronald Reagan had been a transformative figure in American politics and that no Democrat since had had the gumption, the vision, and the discipline to challenge Reaganism. But Obama thought it challengeable, and his 2008 campaign was all about restoring liberals’ Hope that sweeping political Change was still possible, despite the Reagan Revolution. He had to restore liberals’ faith in liberalism, and then translate that faith into works, which he did in his first term. By unleashing a new New Deal, as it were, he showed his followers that Reagan had merely interrupted, not overturned, the country’s destiny to move ever leftward.

LOPEZ: So what was at stake in 2012 wasn’t just the fate of one liberal administration but of liberalism itself?

KESLER: Yes, to the extent that a repudiation of Obama and his agenda would have led to a very deep crisis of confidence on the left. To paraphrase Woody Allen, liberalism is like a shark. It has to move forward constantly or it dies. Think, for example, of the liberals’ so-called living Constitution, which has to be continually adjusted (by them) to keep up with the times. The alternative to the living Constitution is, by implication, a dead one. As a form of progressivism, liberalism has to conceive of itself as being on the right side of history, which means the winning side. Anything that shakes that confidence — a long series of defeats and policy reversals, e.g., if Obama had lost, Obamacare had gone on to be repealed and replaced, and the Bush tax cuts made permanent — shakes liberals’ belief in their own inevitability, which is key to their own sense of their right to rule.

LOPEZ: But they didn’t lose in 2012. It’s conservatism that now seems to be an endangered species.

KESLER: Exactly, and Obama’s ambition to be liberalism’s reviver and savior appears to have been realized. But the emphasis is on “appears.” Obama thinks he has saved liberalism because he’s put it on the winning side again, and in a big way. He takes pride in showing that the era of big government is not over, that in fact the future belongs to much higher taxes and to much more activist government. I think he’s profoundly wrong about that. Before suggesting why, may I say something briefly about how differently conservatives think, or ought to think, about the relation between principles and politics?

For us, to put it simply, principles are rooted in what our fathers called the laws of nature and of nature’s God. These are timeless, that is, they call to us in every age. Some ages live up to the minimal demands of moral decency and the maximum demands of political excellence better than others; no age lives up to them perfectly. That’s why conservatives are inherently moderate in their demands and expectations of politics, recognizing that neither political defeat nor victory affects the inherent authority and goodness of first principles. Our losses in 2012 are therefore not cause for despair. Like everything in politics they are temporary. We shouldn’t run around like liberals, afraid that the times are against us and that we need to exchange old principles for new ones that allegedly fit the times better. Our calling is, so far as possible, to keep the times in tune with our principles, not to adjust our principles to match the times. As Churchill put it, it isn’t possible to guarantee success in politics or war; it’s possible only to deserve it. By contrast, progressives believe in happy endings, in the inevitability of progress. They cannot separate might from right, success from legitimacy, and so don’t have the consolation of believing in principles in the conservative sense. They insist that the good guys must always or at least eventually win, a standard which elides easily into the deeply immoral belief that, in the end, whoever wins must be right.

LOPEZ: What you call the crisis of liberalism isn’t over, then?

KESLER: I think it’s just beginning. Obama thinks it’s over, of course. With his usual modesty, he regards his reelection as the sign that liberalism has returned to its natural role as modern America’s public philosophy or established religion. Reaganism was a blip, an anomaly. But the Democrats’ very successes are intensifying liberalism’s contradictions, both fiscal and philosophical.

LOPEZ: This is the grave-digging part?

KESLER: Yes! The fiscal danger is now obvious: We can’t afford all the promises the welfare state has already made, much less the ones it will add in coming years. It’s almost impossible for liberals to limit spending because every promise becomes a program, and every program stands for a new right to health care, child care, and so forth. You can’t put a price on human rights! The result is that the federal government, driven by what is candidly called “uncontrollable” spending, is bankrupt or soon will be. Liberalism can’t go on very much longer without unleashing its socialist id and imposing, among other things, a comprehensive and oppressive new regime of middle-class taxation. Faced with that illiberal future, many liberals may balk.

And philosophically, American liberals are coming to the end of their rope. Though President Obama likes to be called a Progressive, he doesn’t believe in progress in the way, say, Woodrow Wilson did as something scientifically and rationally certain, benign, and steerable. For Obama, strains of multiculturalism, postmodernism, and relativism have crept in. Progress, both as to both means and ends, is in this view more a matter of will than of reason. It’s not a question anymore of following or finding history’s meaning but of creating it. In its purest and most academic form, this revelation has pulled the philosophical rug out from under liberalism, exposing it as neither true nor just, because neither Truth nor Justice exists (ask any postmodernist). Obama doesn’t go that far; he wants to believe in social justice, I think. For instance, he sometimes quotes Martin Luther King’s line that the arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice. Yet Obama asserts at the same time that democracy depends on the rejection of every form of “absolute truth.” If you reject absolute truth absolutely, you are not only incoherent but in danger of becoming the worst kind of dogmatist.

LOPEZ: Your book is as much about liberalism as it is about Obama. It has meaty chapters on Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson, for example. Why the double focus?

KESLER: Because Obama personifies modern liberalism and its crisis. He compares himself frequently to FDR and Lincoln, and occasionally to LBJ, and he calls himself “progressive.” All that’s well known, but no one had thought it through. That’s what I try to do in I Am the Change, put between two covers, for the first time, the story of modern American liberalism, its evolution and devolution.

Conservatives have spent generations pondering the relation of modern liberalism to the French Revolution, the industrial revolution, abolitionism, the Enlightenment, medieval nominalism — all things worth thinking about, by the way — but we had largely ignored the obvious point that in America the liberal movement traces itself back through a series of prophet-leaders (LBJ, JFK, FDR, etc.) to Wilsonian-style Progressivism. (TR was also important, and Jean Yarbrough’s new book on him is splendid. Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism tells the story brilliantly, but from a different angle.) That’s the liberalism we suffer from. The “living constitution,” the cult of the charismatic leader who mesmerizes the masses with a “vision” of the future, entitlement rights and programs, the State that replaces God by offering complete material and spiritual fulfillment in this life, the disillusionment that follows that hubris — all these familiar tropes of our contemporary politics emerge from the century of liberalism that in a way culminates in Barack Obama.

LOPEZ: Was it satisfying to have the New York Times notice your book, whatever it happened to say?

KESLER: It was a negative review, the only one the book’s gotten so far, but it was long, reasonably serious, and on the cover of the Sunday book review, so I’m not complaining. As they say in real estate, it’s location, location, location! And I’m grateful for the thoughtful reviews from the many critics who found more to admire in the book, including the lovely notice in National Review from Ramesh Ponnuru.

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.

Voir encore:

The Day the Music Died

By Interview

National Review

June 19, 2007

The shooting of JFK didn’t just kill a president — it devastated a political movement, argues James Piereson in his new book, Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism. Piereson is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, president of the William E. Simon Foundation, and former executive director and trustee of the John M. Olin Foundation. He recently spoke to National Review’s John J. Miller about JFK, liberals and conservatives, the Rolling Stones, and the grassy knoll.

JOHN J. MILLER: You write of JFK’s assassination that “no other event in the postwar era, not even the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, has cast such a long shadow over our national life.” How did JFK’s murder change American politics and culture?

JAMES PIERESON: Kennedy’s assassination, happening the way it did, compromised the central assumptions of American liberalism that had been the governing philosophy of the nation since the time of the New Deal. It did this in two decisive ways: first, by compromising the faith of liberals in the future; second, by undermining their confidence in the nation. Kennedy’s assassination suggested that history is not in fact a benign process of progress and advancement, but perhaps something quite different. The thought that the nation itself was responsible for Kennedy’s death suggested that the United States, far from being a “city on a hill” and an example for mankind, as Kennedy had described it (quoting John Winthrop), was in fact something darker and more sinister in its deepest nature.

MILLER: How did this play out politically in the 1960s and beyond?

PIERESON: The conspiracy theories that developed afterwards reflected this thought. The Camelot legend further suggested that the Kennedy years represented something unique that was now forever lost. Liberalism was thereafter overtaken by a sense of pessimism about the future, cynicism about the United States, and nostalgia for the Kennedy years. This was something entirely new in the United States. It was evident in the culture during the 1960s. George Wallace tried to confront it in the electoral arena in 1968, as did Richard Nixon — though it was somewhat difficult to do so because neither Lyndon Johnson nor Hubert Humphrey represented this new orientation. It was not until this mood of pessimism was brought into the government during the Carter administration that it could be directly confronted in the political arena, which is what Ronald Reagan in fact did.

MILLER: Isn’t it a little early to say that 11/22/63 mattered more than 9/11/01?

PIERESON: No. We know from looking back over the decades that Kennedy’s sudden death cast a long shadow over American life, which I have tried to describe. Many of us thought that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 would also have great consequences for the way Americans looked at politics, the parties, and national security. In particular, some felt that the attacks might drive out of our politics the tone of anti-Americanism that had been a key feature of the American Left from the 1960s forward. That did not really happen. The liberal movement today remains far more the product of the 1960s than of the terrorist attacks and their aftermath. Indeed, the terrorist attacks now seem to have had very little effect on the thinking of American liberals who view the war on terror and the war in Iraq through the lenses of the Vietnam War. That is not true of conservatives. In that sense, the terrorist attacks have simply deepened the divide between liberals and conservatives. What is surprising, then, is what little enduring effect the terrorist attacks have had, particularly for liberals.

MILLER: Would liberalism have unraveled even if JFK had lived?

PIERESON: It is hard to say what would have happened if Kennedy had lived. He may have lost his popularity in a second term. He may have avoided the dead end in Vietnam. It’s hard to say. Kennedy was in the process of renewing liberalism when he was killed, expanding it into cultural areas beyond issues of economic security and national security. I am certain that liberalism would not have unraveled when it did and in the way that it did if Kennedy had lived. The assassination shattered its core assumptions.

MILLER: Lee Harvey Oswald was a Communist. Have liberals been reluctant to accept this fact? And is their reluctance at the heart of all the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination?

PIERESON: Liberals who were rational and realistic accepted the fact that Oswald killed JFK but at the same time they were unable to ascribe a motive for his actions. They tended to look for sociological explanations for the event and found one in the idea that JFK was brought down by a “climate of hate” that had overtaken the nation. Thus they placed Kennedy’s assassination within a context of violence against civil rights activists. They had great difficulty accepting the fact that Kennedy’s death was linked to the Cold War, not to civil rights. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., in his 1,000-page history of the Kennedy administration, published in 1965, could not bring himself to mention Oswald’s name in connection with Kennedy’s death, though he spent several paragraphs describing the hate-filled atmosphere of Dallas at the time — suggesting thereby that Kennedy was a victim of the far right. The inability to come to grips with the facts of Kennedy’s death pointed to a deeper fault in American liberalism which was connected to its decline.

MILLER: It’s like that line from “Sympathy for the Devil,” by the Rolling Stones: “I shouted out, ‘Who killed the Kennedys?’/When after all, it was you and me.”

PIERESON: Yes, that song reflected a deep belief in liberal culture, that somehow “we” had killed the Kennedy’s — when in fact an anti-American Communist killed President Kennedy and a Palestinian nationalist killed Robert Kennedy, both in retaliation for American policies abroad. Oswald killed President Kennedy to interrupt his efforts to eliminate Castro; Sirhan killed Robert Kennedy because of Kennedy’s support for Israel. The irrationality of this belief was connected to the unraveling of liberalism, demonstrating that liberalism was not the rational doctrine that it claimed to be.

MILLER: Was JFK’s assassination more consequential than Abraham Lincoln’s?

PIERESON: The two assassinations had different effects. Lincoln’s came at the end of the Civil War. Since his assassins were southern partisans, the assassination was easily assimilated into the moral framework of the war. Lincoln was a martyr for the union and emancipation. His death punctuated the war and it tended to unify the nation around the Lincoln symbol. Kennedy’s death was different. In contrast to Lincoln, Kennedy was killed before he could achieve any great success. Kennedy was thus viewed in terms of dashed hopes and unfulfilled promise. Lincoln was viewed in terms of what he had achieved, Kennedy in terms of what might have been. Liberals at the time were convinced that the nation was threatened more by right-wing radicals like Sen. McCarthy or fundamentalist preachers than by Communists. Given their assumptions, they had great difficulty assimilating the fact that JFK was shot by a Communist — for this was exactly the kind of thing that the hated Sen. McCarthy had been warning against. Instead of seeing Kennedy as a casualty of the Cold War — which he was — they saw him as a martyr for civil rights. They saw his assassination as a sign of the nation’s guilt. Thus, Lincoln’s assassination reinforced the legitimacy of the nation while Kennedy’s undermined it, at least in the eyes of liberals.

MILLER: How did the killing of JFK shape the conservative movement?

PIERESON: Kennedy’s assassination had little effect on the conservative movement then or thereafter. Conservatives like Bill Buckley, Russell Kirk, or Barry Goldwater accepted the fact that Kennedy had been shot by a Communist. This did not surprise them in the least. The loss of faith among liberals in the years after JFK’s death opened a path for conservatives to come to power. It might be said that Ronald Reagan picked up the torch of national optimism that was dropped by the liberals when Kennedy was killed. Kennedy’s death, as its implications were worked out, destroyed the capacity of liberals to govern the country.

MILLER: I grew up hearing my parents say that they would never forget where they were when they heard that JFK was shot. Where were you?

PIERESON: I was in a high-school physics class, taking a test as I recall. The principal came in over the intercom system to announce that Kennedy was dead and that school was therefore over for the day. Students were stunned; many were weeping. No one knew how to react. It was the last thing that anyone expected.

MILLER: What did you think of JFK, the Oliver Stone conspiracy movie?

PIERESON: The Oliver Stone movie was foolish to the extent it was held up as an account of the Kennedy assassination. Using Jim Garrison as a credible authority on the Kennedy assassination is akin to citing Rosie O’Donnell as an authority on the collapse of the Twin Towers. It is not possible to claim that Kennedy was shot from the grassy knoll without at the same time claiming that the autopsy (which said he was shot from the rear) was wrong or fabricated. The conspiracy theories do not arise from any evidence but from a need to believe that Kennedy was shot by someone other than Oswald.

MILLER: Would liberals have had an easier time of it if Jack Ruby hadn’t killed Oswald?

PIERESON: If Ruby had not intervened, Oswald probably would have tried to stage some kind of “show” trial in which Kennedy’s policies in Cuba would have been raised as a central issue. Oswald proudly acknowledged that he was a Communist. If the case had been brought to trial, Oswald would have certainly been convicted. In that case, it would have been far more difficult for liberals and the Kennedy family to maintain that JFK was killed because of his support for civil rights. There would have been less talk of conspiracies; less anti-Americanism from the left; perhaps it would have further reinforced the anti-communism of post-war liberalism. There is no question that Ruby changed the equation a great deal.

MILLER: In the introduction, you keep referring to “this essay.” But you’ve written a book of more than 200 pages! When does an essay become a book?

PIERESON: That’s a good question. I consider the book to be an extended essay in the sense that it contains a single interlinked argument about the Kennedy assassination and its connection to American liberalism.

MILLER: What’s the best biography of JFK?

PIERESON: Robert Dallek’s biography (An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963) is very good and very complete. Another is Thomas Reeves’s biography, A Question of Character: The Life of John F. Kennedy. Victor Lasky’s JFK: The Man and the Myth still holds up very well, despite its 1963 publication date and its critical posture toward Kennedy and his politics. As for the assassination, Edward Jay Epstein is by far the best source. His biography of Oswald (Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald) contains a great deal of original research on Oswald and his motives. Epstein links Oswald’s motives to his support for Castro. Epstein’s works on Oswald and the Warren Commission are collected into a single volume, The Assassination Chronicles. That is the best place to start.

MILLER: You’re such the ex-professor. I ask for a book suggestion, you give me a syllabus. But let’s cut to the chase. Who do you think was on the grassy knoll?

PIERESON: There has been a lot of speculation about who was in fact on the grassy knoll that day. Some have claimed that Howard Hunt of Watergate fame was there. It is a focus for a great deal of speculation, without any evidence to support it. There is as much evidence to prove that Oswald killed Kennedy as that Booth shot Lincoln.

Réforme de la fiscalité en 2011 : relire John F. Kennedy

IREF

10 Nov 2010

Après la réforme des retraites on passera en France en 2011 à celle de la fiscalité. Nos réformateurs seraient bien inspirés de relire quelques extraits de discours de John F. Kennedy. Comme l’IREF, le président des Etats-Unis expliquait que la baisse des taux des impôts est la meilleure façon de gonfler les recettes fiscales. Voici un choix de ces textes, leur liste complète est dans la version anglaise du site.

Dans son « Histoire intéressante de la fiscalité américaine », ouvrage publié en 2004, William Federer a rassemblé un certain nombre de citations de John Fitzgerald Kennedy extraites de rapports devant le Congrès ou de discours radio-télévisés.

Les phrases de JFK annoncent la courbe de Laffer et la réforme fiscale de Reagan, mais elles sont aussi en écho de ce qu’écrivait Frédéric Bastiat en 1840 !

L’IREF n’a cessé de rappeler cette évidence : la baisse des impôts est une bonne affaire, y compris pour le budget. Si l’on veut réduire le déficit, il ne faut pas augmenter les impôts mais les diminuer !

« Vérités paradoxales : les taux d’imposition sont trop élevés, et les revenus fiscaux sont trop bas, de sorte que le moyen le plus sûr d’accroître ceux-ci est d’abaisser ceux-là. Baisser les impôts maintenant ce n’est pas risquer un déficit du budget, c’est bâtir une économie la plus prospère et la plus dynamique, de nature à nous valoir un budget en excédent ».

John F. Kennedy, 20 novembre 1962, conférence de presse du Président

« Des taux d’imposition abaissés stimuleront l’activité économique, et relèveront ainsi les niveaux de revenus des particuliers et des entreprises, de sorte que dans les prochaines années ils créeront un flux de recettes pour le gouvernement fédéral non pas diminué, mais augmenté ».

John F. Kennedy, 17 Janvier 1963, Message annuel au Congrès à l’occasion du vote du budget 1964.

« Dans l’économie d’aujourd’hui, la prudence et la responsabilité en matière d’impôts commandent une réduction de la fiscalité, même si elle accroît le déficit budgétaire – parce qu’une moindre pression fiscale est le meilleur moyen qui nous soit offert pour accroître les revenus ».

John F. Kennedy, 21 janvier 1963, message annuel au Congrès (rapport économique du président)

« Chaque dollar soustrait à l’impôt, qui est dépensé ou investi, créera un nouvel emploi et un nouveau salaire. Et ces nouveaux emplois et salaires créeront d’autres emplois et d’autres salaires, et plus de clients, et plus de croissance pour une économie américaine en plein expansion ».

John F. Kennedy, 13 août 1962, rapport radiodiffusé et télévisé sur l’état de l’économie nationale

« Une baisse des impôts signifie un revenu plus élevé pour les familles, et des profits plus importants pour les entreprises, et un budget fédéral en équilibre. Chaque contribuable et sa famille auront davantage d’argent disponible après impôt pour s’acheter une nouvelle voiture, une nouvelle maison, de nouveaux équipements, pour la formation et l’investissement. Chaque chef d’entreprise peut garder à sa disposition un pourcentage plus élevé de ses profits pour accroître ses fonds propres ou pour mettre en œuvre l’expansion ou l’amélioration de son affaire. Et quand le revenu national est en croissance, le gouvernement fédéral, en fin de compte, se retrouvera avec des recettes accrues ».

John F. Kennedy, 18 septembre 1963, message à la nation radiodiffusé et télévisé sur un projet de loi de réduction des impôts

Notre système fiscal aspire dans le secteur privé de l’économie une trop grande part du pouvoir d’achat des ménages et des entreprise, et réduit l’incitation au risque, à l’investissement et à l’effort – et par là-même il tue dans l’œuf nos recettes et étouffe notre taux de croissance national

John F. Kennedy, 24 janvier 1963, message au Congrès sur la réforme fiscale

Voir enfin:

Ask not what your country can do for you

This speech was delivered by John F Kennedy at his inauguration in Washington on January 20 1961.

John F Kennedy

The Guardian

22 April 2007 12.26

JFK speech

John F. Kennedy gives his inaugaural address in 1961

Vice-president Johnson, Mr Speaker, Mr Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice-president Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy, fellow citizens: We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom – symbolising an end, as well as a beginning – signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe – the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans – born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge – and more. To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do – for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom – and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required – not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge: to convert our good words into good deeds, in a new alliance for progress, to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbours know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.

To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support – to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective, to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak, and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.

Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction. We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.

But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course – both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind’s final war.

So let us begin anew – remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belabouring those problems which divide us. Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms, and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations. Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors.

Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce. Let both sides unite to heed, in all corners of the earth, the command of Isaiah – to « undo the heavy burdens, and [to] let the oppressed go free. » And, if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavour – not a new balance of power, but a new world of law – where the strong are just, and the weak secure, and the peace preserved.

All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe. Now the trumpet summons us again – not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are; but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, « rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation », a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, north and south, east and west, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.

I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavour will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what, together, we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own.

Traduction française:

John Kennedy, 20 janvier 1961

Vice-président Johnson, M. Speaker, M. juge en chef, le Président Eisenhower, vice-président Nixon, le Président Truman, clergé de révérend, concitoyens, nous observons aujourd’hui pas une victoire de partie, mais une célébration de liberté-symboliser une extrémité, aussi bien qu’un renouvellement de commencement-signification, aussi bien que le changement. Pour moi ai juré avant vous et Dieu tout-puissant que le même serment solennel notre s’abstient prescrit presque un siècle et trois quarts il y a.

Le monde est très différent maintenant. Pour l’homme tient dans des ses mains de mortel la puissance de supprimer toutes les formes de pauvreté humaine et toutes les formes de vie humaine. Mais la même croyance révolutionnaire pour laquelle notre s’abstient combattu sont toujours à l’issue autour de la croyance de globe-le que les droites de l’homme viennent pas de la générosité de l’état, mais de la main de Dieu.

Nous osons ne pas oublier aujourd’hui que nous sommes les héritiers de cette première révolution. Laisser le mot aller en avant de ces temps et endroit, à l’ami et à l’ennemi de même, que la torche a été passée à une nouvelle génération d’Américain-né en ce siècle, gâchée par la guerre, disciplinée par une paix dure et amère, fier de notre antique héritage-et peu disposé à être témoin ou permettre du démantèlement lent de ces droits de l’homme auxquels cette nation a été toujours investie, et dans ce que nous sommes commis aujourd’hui à la maison et autour du monde.

Faire chaque nation connaître, si elle nous souhaite bons ou malades, que nous payions n’importe quel prix, soutenions n’importe quel fardeau, rencontrions n’importe quelles difficultés, soutenions n’importe quel ami, nous opposions à n’importe quel ennemi, afin d’assurer la survie et le succès de la liberté.

Ce beaucoup nous engagement-et plus.

À ces vieux alliés dont les origines culturelles et spirituelles que nous partageons, nous mettent en gage la fidélité des amis fidèles. Uni, il y a peu que nous ne pouvons pas faire dans une foule d’entreprises coopératives. Divisé, il y a peu que nous pouvons faire-pour nous osons ne pas relever un défi puissant en désaccord et fendu en morceaux.

À ces nouveaux états à qui nous faisons bon accueil aux grades du libre, nous mettons en gage notre mot qu’une forme de commande coloniale n’aura pas disparu simplement pour être remplacé par bien plus de tyrannie de fer. Nous ne compterons pas toujours les trouver soutenir notre vue. Mais nous espérerons toujours les trouver soutenir fortement leurs propres liberté-et se rappeler que, dans le passé, ceux qui ont bêtement cherché la puissance en montant le dos du tigre ont fini vers le haut à l’intérieur.

À ces peuples dans les huttes et à villages à travers le globe luttant pour casser les liens de la misère de masse, nous mettons en gage nos meilleurs efforts de les aider pour s’aider, parce que quelque période soit exigée-non parce que les communistes peuvent le faire, pas parce que nous cherchons leurs voix, mais parce qu’il est exact. Si une société libre ne peut pas aider les nombreux qui sont pauvres, elle ne peut pas épargner les peu qui sont riches.

À nos sud de républiques de soeur de notre frontière, nous offrons à un special engagement-au converti nos bons mots dans bon contrat-dans une nouvelle alliance pour progresser-aux hommes libres d’aide et les gouvernements libres dans le moulage outre des chaînes de la pauvreté. Mais cette révolution paisible d’espoir ne peut pas devenir la proie des puissances hostiles. Faire tous nos voisins savoir que nous nous joindrons à eux pour nous opposer à l’agression ou à la subversion n’importe où en Amériques. Et laisser chaque autre puissance savent que cet hémisphère prévoit pour demeurer le maître de sa propre maison.

À ce monde des États souverains, les Nations Unies, notre dernier meilleur espoir dans un âge où les instruments de la guerre ont loin dépassé les instruments de la paix, nous remplaçons notre engagement de soutenir-à l’empêchons de devenir simplement un forum pour injure-à renforçons son bouclier du nouveau et faible-et pour élargir le secteur dans lequel son acte judiciaire peut fonctionner.

En conclusion, à ces nations qui se feraient notre adversaire, nous offrons pas un engagement mais une demande : que les deux côtés commencent à nouveau la recherche pour la paix, avant les puissances foncées de la destruction lâchées par la science engloutir toute l’humanité dans l’autodestruction prévue ou accidentelle.

Nous osons ne pas les tenter avec la faiblesse. Pour seulement quand nos bras sont suffisants au delà du doute pouvons nous être certains au delà du doute qu’ils ne seront jamais utilisés.

Mais ni l’un ni l’autre ne peuvent deux grands et les groupes puissants de nations prennent à confort de notre présent cours-les deux côtés surchargés par le coût d’armes modernes, toutes les deux correctement alarmées par la diffusion régulière de l’atome mortel, pourtant toutes les deux qui emballent pour changer cet équilibre incertain de la terreur qui reste la main de la guerre finale de l’humanité.

Nous laisser ainsi commencent à nouveau-à se rappeler des deux côtés que la civilité n’est pas un signe de faiblesse, et la sincérité est sujette toujours à la preuve. Jamais négocions hors de la crainte. Mais nous laisser ne craignent jamais de négocier.

Laisser les deux côtés explorer quels problèmes nous unissent au lieu d’attaquer ces problèmes qui nous divisent.

Laisser les deux côtés, pour la première fois, formulent des propositions sérieuses et précises pour l’inspection et la commande de bras-et apportent le pouvoir absolu de détruire d’autres nations sous la commande absolue de toutes les nations.

Laisser les deux côtés chercher à appeler les merveilles de la science au lieu de ses terreurs. Nous laisser ensemble explorent les étoiles, conquièrent les déserts, suppriment la maladie, tapent les profondeurs d’océan, et encouragent les arts et le commerce.

Laisser les deux côtés unir à l’attention dans tous les coins de la terre que la commande de Isaïe-à « défont les fardeaux lourds… et pour laisser opprimé pour aller librement. »

Et si une tête de pont de coopération peut repousser la jungle du soupçon, laisser les deux côtés s’associer à créer un nouvel effort, pas un nouvel équilibre des forces, mais un nouveau monde de loi, où les forts sont juste et le faible fixent et la paix préservée.

Tout ceci ne sera pas fini en 100 premiers jours. Ni il sera fini en 1.000 premiers jours, ni dans la vie de cette administration, ni même peut-être dans notre vie sur cette planète. Mais nous laisser commencent.

Dans des vos mains, mes concitoyens, plus que dans le mien, reposeront le succès ou l’échec final de notre cours. Depuis que ce pays a été fondé, chaque génération des Américains a été appelée pour donner le témoignage à sa fidélité nationale. Les tombes des jeunes Américains qui ont répondu à l’appel à la bordure de service le globe.

Maintenant la trompette nous appelle again-not comme appel aux bras d’ours, bien que des bras que nous avons besoin ; pas comme appel à la bataille, bien que rompu aux conflits à nous être-mais à un appel pour soutenir le fardeau d’une longues lutte, année dedans et année crépusculaires dehors, « se réjouissant dans l’espoir, patient dans la tribulation » – une lutte contre les ennemis communs de l’homme : tyrannie, pauvreté, maladie, et guerre elle-même.

Pouvons-nous forger contre ces ennemis une alliance grande et globale, du nord et les sud, l’est et l’ouest, qui peuvent assurer une vie plus fructueuse pour toute l’humanité ? Vous associerez-vous à cet effort historique ?

Dans la longue histoire du monde, seulement on a accordé quelques générations le rôle de la liberté de défense en son heure du danger maximum. Je ne la rétrécis pas de cette bienvenue de responsabilité-Je. Je ne crois pas que l’un d’entre nous échangerait des endroits avec n’importe quelles autres personnes ou n’importe quelle autre génération. L’énergie, la foi, la dévotion que nous apportons à cet effort allumera notre pays et tous ce qui servent -et la lueur de ce feu peut vraiment allumer le monde.

Et ainsi, mes concitoyens : ne demandez pas ce que votre pays peut faire pour vous – demandeez ce que vous pouvez faire pour votre pays.

Mes concitoyens du monde : demander pas ce que l’Amérique fera pour vous, mais ce qu’ensemble nous pouvons faire pour la liberté de l’homme.

En conclusion, si vous êtes des citoyens de l’Amérique ou des citoyens du monde, demander de nous les mêmes niveaux élevés de la force et sacrifier ce que nous demandons de vous. Avec une bonne conscience notre seulement récompense sûre, avec l’histoire le juge final de nos contrats, nous a laissés vont en avant mener la terre que nous aimons, demandant sa bénédiction et le sien aide, mais sachant qu’ici sur Dieu de terre le travail doit vraiment être notre propre.

 


Obama II: Obama lance la Bible et la Constitution en playback (One nation under socialism: US and France’s new administrations reveal their true collectivist colors)

26 janvier, 2013

C’est à la sueur de ton visage que tu mangeras du pain, jusqu’à ce que tu retournes dans la terre, d’où tu as été pris; car tu es poussière, et tu retourneras dans la poussière. Genèse 3: 19
 Ne jugez point, afin que vous ne soyez point jugés. Car on vous jugera du jugement dont vous jugez, et l’on vous mesurera avec la mesure dont vous mesurez. Jésus (Matthieu 7: 1-2)
Malheur au monde à cause des scandales! Car il est nécessaire qu’il arrive des scandales; mais malheur à l’homme par qui le scandale arrive! Jésus (Matthieu 18: 7)
Les jugements de l’Éternel sont vrais, ils sont tous justes. Psaumes 19: 9
Nous espérons du fond du cœur, nous prions avec ferveur, que ce terrible fléau de la guerre s’achève rapidement. Si, cependant, Dieu veut qu’il se poursuive jusqu’à ce que sombrent les richesses accumulées par 250 ans de labeur non partagé de l’esclave ainsi que jusqu’à ce que chaque goutte de sang jaillie sous le fouet soit payée par une autre versée par l’épée, comme il a été dit il y a trois mille ans, il nous faudra reconnaître que “les décisions du Seigneur sont justes et vraiment équitables. Lincoln (Deuxième discours d’investiture, le 4 mars 1865)
N’avez-vous pas lu que le créateur, au commencement, fit l’homme et la femme et qu’il dit: C’est pourquoi l’homme quittera son père et sa mère, et s’attachera à sa femme, et les deux deviendront une seule chair? Ainsi ils ne sont plus deux, mais ils sont une seule chair. Que l’homme donc ne sépare pas ce que Dieu a joint. Pourquoi donc, lui dirent-ils, Moïse a-t-il prescrit de donner à la femme une lettre de divorce et de la répudier? (…) C’est à cause de la dureté de votre coeur que Moïse vous a permis de répudier vos femmes; au commencement, il n’en était pas ainsi. Jésus (Matthieu 19: 4-8)
I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage. Obama (2008)
I think in the end it does have to be a broad us. It has to be democracy with a small ‘d.’ Obama (1995)
Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of [our founding] words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed. And for more than two hundred years, we have. Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together. (…) We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. (…) « It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Obama
We pray for your blessing because without it, we will see only what the eye can see. But with the blessing of your blessing we will see that we are created in your image, whether brown, black or white, male or female, first generation or immigrant American, or daughter of the American Revolution, gay or straight, rich or poor. Rev. Luis Leon
Lincoln was the product of a short and shallow formal education, and he had never fully identified with a Christian denomination or doctrinal tradition. And yet in this case, as in so many others, (…) Lincoln’s legacy, far more than any other president, has, over time, become inextricably bound up with the words and themes of the Bible. He has been endowed repeatedly with biblical features—sometimes cast as Moses, on other occasions as Father Abraham, and yet again as a fiery prophet or martyred savior. An aura of prophetic authority has accrued to his own words, heightened by his skillful use of literary devices that are also characteristic of biblical texts. The Poor Hand’s homilies, like the man himself, now belong to the ages. Lincoln contributed to this biblical aura through his adamant advocacy of what he referred to in his address to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield in 1838 as an American « political religion. » (…) In death, Lincoln became an icon of this American political faith—the only faith, it would seem, for which he could give his own last measure of devotion. Lincoln’s Collected Works are, in fact, peppered with biblical references, including several dozen direct quotations. These are taken, for the most part, from Hebrew Bible narratives, the Psalms, Wisdom texts, and the Gospels. The Bible was the common coin of literate nineteenth-century Americans, and Lincoln made good use of its currency. Earl Schwartz
In this short passage Lincoln strings together four direct biblical quotations. Nevertheless, each quote enters the address honed and shaped by many years of conceptual and rhetorical development. Gen. 3:19 now carries for Lincoln the accumulated implications of twenty years of reflection, as indicated by his retention of an inferred « their » prior to « bread, » a condensed version of his earlier antithesis of « their bread » over against the « sweat of other men’s faces, » and the addition of the tortuous image of oppressors « wringing » their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, rather than simply eating it, as he had expressed it earlier. Lincoln’s juxtaposition of Gen. 3:19 to Matt. 7:1 (« Let us judge not … ») reiterates his previous condemnation of slavery as the theft of another’s « self, » as well as his claim that he was obliged not to « judge » the motives of those who would lend their support to such a crime. Here, as in the « Response » to the Baptist missionaries, the counsel that one must withhold judgment appears ironic, though his convincing reference to « charity for all » in the peroration indicates a tempering of his earlier sarcasm. However, having counseled forbearance, Lincoln immediately goes on to declare that it was not to be expected that restraining the urge to judge would save the nation from undergoing judgment. Instead, in a passage punctuated by repeated references to justice (« just, » « judge, » « judged, » « judgments ») he joins his « materialist » reading of Gen. 3:19 to a corresponding vision of an immanent Divine judgment which was « true and righteous altogether, » purging the nation, measure for measure, of slavery’s « wealth » and « lash. » The ravages of war had extracted a terrible price from those « by whom the offence cometh, » be they collaborators or bystanders, but the debate was over, and the conclusion, as he had long insisted, was « self evident. » The Almighty had had His own wrenching purposes. Those purposes having been accomplished, the time for rending was now speedily passing away, and a time for mending had begun. Earl Schwartz
The bitter election wars to achieve and maintain a 51–53 percent majority (the noble 99 percent versus the selfish 1 percent, the greens versus the polluters, the young and hip versus the stodgy and uncool, the wisely unarmed versus the redneck assault-weapon owners, women versus the sexists, gays versus the bigots, Latinos versus the nativists, blacks versus the “get over it” spiteful and resentful, the noble public sector versus the “you didn’t build that” profiteers, Colin Powell/Chuck Hagel/reasonable Republicans versus neanderthal House tea-party zealots), in Nixonian fashion have left a lot of bitter divisions that lie just beneath the surface of a thinning veneer. Victor Davis Hanson
Mr. Obama is arguing counter to the Founding Fathers that the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of equality of results, not the equality of opportunity, and that he will do what he can to use government to make everybody more equal in terms of their income and life work. (…) this was no opportunity speech. This was a redistributionist, income-leveling speech. And it completely missed the point of the Founding Fathers some 237 years ago. They were talking about the equality of opportunity, not results. Theirs was a declaration of freedom, not government power or authority. In fact, the Declaration of Independence was written expressly to begin a revolution against the autocratic monarchs of England, who used their government authority to tax, regulate, and oppress the colonists without any representation or voting rights, thus denying them the unalienable rights of liberty. So while Obama was on the one hand preaching “fidelity to our founding principles,” on the other he was saying that preserving our individual freedom ultimately requires collective action. Collective action? The Founders were talking about individual liberty and rights. Not the power of a collectivist government. The “collective” is a socialist idea, not a free-market capitalist thought. (…) Obama’s mistaken opinions regarding the Declaration of Independence, and his total lack of understanding of the thinking behind the Declaration, is more troubling than any of the liberal programmatic proposals he set forth. Fundamentally, you have to wonder if the president really understands the American idea, and the American historical experience, beginning with the great wisdom of the Founders. Collectivism also means “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” During his second-term inaugural speech, Obama actually said, “We do not believe in this country that freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.” Were Steve Jobs and Bill Gates lucky? Was Henry Ford lucky? Was Thomas Edison just lucky? How about they used their God-given talents of creativity, imagination, and ingenuity, coupled with hard work, to create commercial ventures that financially empowered millions upon millions of people who were then able to live a better and more comfortable life? That’s what the Founders had in mind. Freedom. It was bad enough that the president had nothing to say about economic growth, or excess federal spending, deficits, and debt. Nor did he show any interest in reforming the large entitlement programs that may bankrupt America. He did discuss the energy market. But rather than let market forces determine the most efficient and clean energy sources to power our economy, he insisted on more doomed green-energy projects subsidized by the taxpayer (like Solyndra). (…) Equality of opportunity is the American ideal. Equality of results and income-leveling is foreign to the American ideal. Larry Kudlow
Whether Beyoncé was lip-syncing to the band or the band were lip-syncing to Beyoncé is like one of those red pill/ blue pill choices from The Matrix. Was President Obama lip-syncing to the Founders, rooting his inaugural address in the earliest expressions of American identity? (“The patriots of 1776 . . . gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.”) Or maybe the Founders were lip-syncing to him as he appropriated the vision of the first generation of Americans and yoked it (“preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action”) to a statist pitch they would have found utterly repugnant. The whole event had the air of a simulacrum: It looked like a presidential inauguration, but the sound was tinny and not quite in sync. Obama mouthed along to a canned vocal track: “We reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.” That’s great! It’s always reassuring to know the head of state is going to take issue with all those people wedded to the “belief” that America needs either to shove every granny off the cliff or stake its newborns out on the tundra for the wolves to finish off. When it comes to facing the music, Obama is peerless at making a song and dance about tunes nobody’s whistling without ever once warbling the real big numbers (16 trillion). But, like Beyoncé, he’s totally cool and has a cute butt. Mark Steyn
Le gouvernement s’est engagé à s’appuyer sur la jeunesse pour changer les mentalités, notamment par le biais d’une éducation au respect de la diversité des orientations sexuelles. Vincent Peillon (Lettre aux recteurs, Ministre de l’Education, 04.01.13)
C’est au socialisme qu’il va revenir d’incarner la révolution religieuse dont l’humanité a besoin. (…) C’est bien une nouvelle naissance, une transusbtantiation qui opère dans l’école et par l’école, cette nouvelle Église, avec son nouveau clergé, sa nouvelle liturgie, ses nouvelles tables de la Loi. Vincent Peillon
La morale laïque c’est comprendre ce qui est juste, distinguer le bien du mal, c’est aussi des devoirs autant que des droits, des vertus, et surtout des valeurs. Je souhaite pour l’école française un enseignement qui inculquerait aux élèves des notions de morale universelle, fondée sur les idées d’humanité et de raison. La république porte une exigence de raison et de justice. La capacité de raisonner, de critiquer, de douter, tout cela doit s’apprendre à l’école. Le redressement de la France doit être un redressement matériel mais aussi intellectuel et moral. (…) Il faut assumer que l’école exerce un pouvoir spirituel dans la société. (…) Si la république ne dit pas quelle est sa vision de ce que sont les vertus et les vices, le bien et le mal, le juste et l’injuste, d’autres le font à sa place. Aujourd’hui dans les cours d’école et les classes, on se traite « sales feujs », « sales bougnoules »… Tout ce qui est de l’ordre du racisme, de l’antisémitisme, de l’injure, de la grossièreté à l’égard des professeurs et des autres élèves, ne peut pas être toléré à l’école. La sanction fait partie de l’éducation. Mais il faut aussi qu’il y ait une cohérence entre la responsabilité des adultes à l’extérieur de l’école et ce que l’on demande aux maîtres et aux professeurs de faire. L’attitude des plus hautes autorités de l’État est, de ce point de vue, tout à fait déterminante. L’ancien président de la République lui-même, en désignant toujours des ennemis, en s’exprimant avec violence ou grossièreté, en expliquant qu’enseigner La Princesse de Clèves était sans intérêt, que l’instituteur ne pourra jamais remplacer le curé, sapait l’autorité des professeurs et s’attaquait aux valeurs qui sont les nôtres. (…) Nous avons besoin d’un réarmement moral. C’est pourquoi nous devons tous soutenir nos professeurs. (…) Pour donner la liberté du choix, il faut être capable d’arracher l’élève à tous les déterminismes, familial, ethnique, social, intellectuel, pour après faire un choix. Je ne crois pas du tout à un ordre moral figé. (…) La bataille que doit mener l’école est aussi une bataille des valeurs. Nous allons la mener. Vincent Peillon
Derrière le personnage apparemment lisse, voire ennuyeux, se cache un terrible idéologue, quelqu’un de très dangereux, un Robespierre en herbe, un sans-culotte du XXIème siècle, un disciple en droite lignée des grands bienfaiteurs de l’Église que sont Jean Jaurès ou Ferdinand Buisson, qui sont ses deux papas. Vincent Peillon, c’est un docteur en philosophie – et il n’y a rien de plus dangereux qu’un philosophe qui fait de la politique, un visionnaire pour qui « la révolution française n’est pas terminée », parce que cette Révolution est « un événement religieux», une « nouvelle genèse » un « nouveau commencement du monde », une « nouvelle espérance » qu’il faut porter à son terme, à savoir : « la transformation socialiste et progressiste de la société toute entière ». En fait, Peillon n’est ni un homme politique, ni un simple philosophe. C’est un prophète, un Pape laïque, un grand-prêtre du socialisme, plus religieux que le Souverain Pontife lui-même. Alors, il est responsable aujourd’hui de l’éducation nationale. Ce n’est évidemment pas par hasard. L’éducation a un rôle capital dans son système idéologique, car l’école est « un instrument de l’action politique, républicaine et socialiste. ». Plus encore, l’école est un instrument de la religion laïque dont il se fait le prophète : C’est au socialisme qu’il va revenir d’incarner la révolution religieuse dont l’humanité a besoin. Et évidemment, l’école sera le temple de cette nouvelle religion : C’est bien une nouvelle naissance, une transusbtantiation qui opère dans l’école et par l’école, cette nouvelle Église, avec son nouveau clergé, sa nouvelle liturgie, ses nouvelles tables de la Loi.  On comprend alors dans le détail les grands thèmes qu’il impose à l’éducation nationale. La scolarisation précoce des enfants De moins de trois ans s’il vous plaît ! (annoncée le 10 septembre par Jean-Marc Ayrault) dans le but, selon lui, de « lutter contre la délinquance » (sic), mais qui correspond en fait en tout point à l’idée peillonienne de coupure totale de l’enfant d’avec autre chose que la République socialiste : (je cite son interview au JDD) « Il faut être capable d’arracher l’élève à tous les déterminismes, familial, ethnique, social, intellectuel… » [3]. Pour ce faire, Peillon se fonde sur une pédagogie bien à lui : il y a un « « infini flottant » dans l’âme de l’enfant », et l’éducation « se fixe pour tâche de lui donner une forme » [4]. Je vous laisse imaginer quelle forme il faut lui donner, à cet enfant nu et dépouillé face au dogme étatique. La morale laïque Alors une fois encore ne soyons pas dupes : évidemment que ce qui manque le plus à nos enfants, c’est de la morale. Mais ceux qui applaudissent cette idée doivent être vigilants. Car le but de la morale laïque, c’est de former des futurs électeurs socialistes avec la théorie du Genre, l’enseignement des « grands homosexuels de l’histoire », la lutte contre les discriminations et l’imposition d’une morale non pas seulement laïque, a-religieuse, voire anti-religieuse. La morale laïque correspond en tous points à la ligne Buisson de la laïcité que Peillon s’est tracée – en référence à Ferdinand Buisson, l’acteur de premier plan de l’expulsion des congrégations religieuses, auquel Peillon a consacré un ouvrage en 2005. Cette ligne buisson de la laïcité, c’est « de forger une religion qui soit non seulement plus religieuse que le catholicisme dominant, mais qui ait davantage de force, de séduction, de persuasion et d’adhésion, que lui. » Aussi, si « la République socialiste perdure dans la mort de Dieu », elle perdure également dans la mort de son incarnation terrestre, l’Église… (…) Peillon commence à s’attaquer aux retraites des enseignants du privé (déjà dévalorisée de quasiment 30% par rapport à celles du public), puis à produire une circulaire (en fait une bulle pontificale) qui enjoint les recteurs « à rester vigilant envers l’enseignement catholique » parce que ce dernier s’était prononcé contre le mariage homosexuel. « Rester vigilant envers l’enseignement catholique » veut dire, dans son système, qu’aucune idée ne peut se transmettre en dehors des cadres dogmatiques de la République socialiste. Vous comprenez pourquoi il n’y a aucune contradiction dans leur esprit lorsque Peillon interdit à l’école privée de parler du mariage gay alors que Belkacem en fait l’apologie au collège. Nous sommes clairement dans une dialectique marxiste, que la contradiction n’effraie aucunement. Le moment passé (à savoir les traditions, l’histoire de France, les valeurs chrétiennes) doit être annulé par le moment à venir : le monde poli, libre, joyeusement socialiste, délivré enfin du joug de la méchante Église catholique et de ses principes désuets. Grâce à ce genre d’idéologues au pouvoir, nos enfants en sauront bientôt davantage sur la contraception, le mariage homosexuel, l’homophobie, le trans-genre et le cannabis, que sur l’histoire de France ou les règles de conjugaison. Le catéchisme socialiste doit se réciter dans toutes les écoles, par la bouche de tous les fonctionnaires-prêcheurs, et les enfants doivent apprendre cette vérité tombée du ciel sans broncher… Finalement, la plus grande honnêteté pour Monseigneur Peillon et son clergé serait de se l’appliquer à eux-mêmes, la laïcité, avant que ce pays ne sombre dans une théocratie socialiste… Vivien Hoch
Dans sa lettre du 4 janvier adressée aux recteurs, Vincent Peillon affirme sa volonté de révolutionner la société en se servant de l’école : « le gouvernement s’est engagé à s’appuyer sur la jeunesse pour changer les mentalités, notamment par le biais d’une éducation au respect de la diversité des orientations sexuelles », affirme-t-il en début de lettre. On remarque les termes : « s’appuyer sur la jeunesse » pour « changer les mentalités ». Qui ? Le gouvernement. En réalité, c’est donc lui qui choisit les orientations politiques et morales qui doivent prévaloir dans la société. Ce n’est plus la famille, l’école et la société adulte qui éduquent la jeunesse. Contrairement à la Déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme de 1948, c’est donc désormais l’État en France qui se pose en seul détenteur de la vérité. On assiste à une dérive théocratique de l’État républicain actuel. Et cette jeunesse, qui, par définition, ne possède pas encore les repères lui permettant de poser des choix par elle-même, il la mobilise dans le sens qu’il juge bon, selon le schéma de la révolution culturelle. La position de Vincent Peillon est vraiment choquante. Lorsqu’il s’appuie sur la jeunesse comme moteur révolutionnaire, renouant avec l’esprit de 1968, le gouvernement sort à l’évidence de son rôle : il instrumentalise la jeunesse à des fins politiques, pour changer les représentations sexuelles et morales dominantes. Ce faisant, il change les règles du jeu au sein de l’École publique en abandonnant ostensiblement l’exigence de neutralité. L’État sort également de son devoir de neutralité et de respect des droits éducatifs familiaux et de l’intimité des enfants lorsque le ministre demande aux recteurs de renforcer les campagnes d’information sur la ligne azur. Ainsi, contrairement à ce qui est affiché, il ne s’agit plus de lutter contre des stigmatisations homophobes en tant que telles, il s’agit bien plutôt d’inciter activement les jeunes en recherche d’identité (comme le sont par construction tous les adolescents) à explorer pour eux-mêmes la voie de l’homosexualité ou de la transsexualité. De même, lorsque le ministre encourage les recteurs à faire intervenir davantage les associations de lutte contre l’homophobie, il encourage en pratique l’ingérence dans l’enceinte de l’école d’associations partisanes engagées dans la banalisation et la promotion des orientations sexuelles minoritaires, si l’on se réfère à la liste des associations agréées par l’Éducation nationale pour intervenir sur ces thématiques dans les établissements. Il favorise donc des prises de paroles unilatérales auprès des jeunes, sur un sujet qui n’a pas encore été tranché par le législateur. (…) Durant la période soviétique, comme durant d’autres périodes totalitaires, il était habituel de se servir des enfants pour démasquer et sanctionner les opinions dissidentes des parents. C’était l’époque de la délation par ses propres enfants. Revenir à de telles pratiques inhumaines et profondément immorales serait une grave régression de l’État de droit. Non content enfin de mettre au pas les écoles publiques, le gouvernement entend aussi museler les écoles privées en bafouant clairement leur caractère propre. Il est évident que les écoles dont le projet éducatif et l’identité sont fondés sur la foi seront opposées à la légalisation du mariage homosexuel. Leur demander d’être neutres sur ce sujet n’a aucun sens, si ce n’est celui de leur faire renier purement et simplement leur vocation spécifique. Anne Coffinier

Après la première invocation inaugurale certifiée sans Dieu, le premier playback de la Bible et de la Constitution !

Alors qu’au lendemain du deuxième discours d’investiture, entre un pasteur remplaçant pro-gay et un poète latino et militant homosexuel, du Passeur en chef de nominations en force, nos belles âmes et nos beaux esprits s’extasient devant les talents oratoires de leur nouveau Kennedy noir  …

Comment ne pas voir, à l’instar du playback finalement révélé de la chanteuse noire Beyoncé, l’autrement plus inquiétant playback de la Bible et de la Constitution …

Où,  derrière les flonflons oratoires (les alliterations faciles des « Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall » assimilant la lutte des femmes et des noirs à celle des homosexuels) et contre toute la tradition américaine, l’on nous ressert en fait la pire des dérives étatiques et collectivistes ?

Et comment ne pas voir, au nom de la désormais sacro-sainte défense de l’égalitarisme incarnée désormais par le « respect de la diversité des orientations sexuelles »,  la même  dérive théocratique et la régression proprement soviétique

Où,  contre la Déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme et en s’appuyant au sein de l’Ecole même sur les nouvelles générations, un Etat prétendument républicain s’arroge le droit de rien de moins que « changer les mentalités » ?

Le débat sur le mariage homosexuel à l’école : une bien curieuse conception de la neutralité

Vincent Peillon a adressé une lettre aux recteurs le 4 janvier dernier dans laquelle il affirme sa volonté de révolutionner la société en se servant de l’école. « S’appuyer sur la jeunesse » pour « changer les mentalités ». Qui ? Le gouvernement.

Dans sa lettre du 4 janvier adressée aux recteurs, Vincent Peillon affirme sa volonté de révolutionner la société en se servant de l’école : « le gouvernement s’est engagé à s’appuyer sur la jeunesse pour changer les mentalités, notamment par le biais d’une éducation au respect de la diversité des orientations sexuelles », affirme-t-il en début de lettre. On remarque les termes : « s’appuyer sur la jeunesse » pour « changer les mentalités ». Qui ? Le gouvernement.

Anne Coffinier

Les Echos

11/01/2013

En réalité, c’est donc lui qui choisit les orientations politiques et morales qui doivent prévaloir dans la société. Ce n’est plus la famille, l’école et la société adulte qui éduquent la jeunesse. Contrairement à la Déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme de 1948, c’est donc désormais l’État en France qui se pose en seul détenteur de la vérité. On assiste à une dérive théocratique de l’État républicain actuel. Et cette jeunesse, qui, par définition, ne possède pas encore les repères lui permettant de poser des choix par elle-même, il la mobilise dans le sens qu’il juge bon, selon le schéma de la révolution culturelle.

La position de Vincent Peillon est vraiment choquante. Lorsqu’il s’appuie sur la jeunesse comme moteur révolutionnaire, renouant avec l’esprit de 1968, le gouvernement sort à l’évidence de son rôle : il instrumentalise la jeunesse à des fins politiques, pour changer les représentations sexuelles et morales dominantes. Ce faisant, il change les règles du jeu au sein de l’École publique en abandonnant ostensiblement l’exigence de neutralité.

L’État sort également de son devoir de neutralité et de respect des droits éducatifs familiaux et de l’intimité des enfants lorsque le ministre demande aux recteurs de renforcer les campagnes d’information sur la ligne azur. Ainsi, contrairement à ce qui est affiché, il ne s’agit plus de lutter contre des stigmatisations homophobes en tant que telles, il s’agit bien plutôt d’inciter activement les jeunes en recherche d’identité (comme le sont par construction tous les adolescents) à explorer pour eux-mêmes la voie de l’homosexualité ou de la transsexualité.

De même, lorsque le ministre encourage les recteurs à faire intervenir davantage les associations de lutte contre l’homophobie, il encourage en pratique l’ingérence dans l’enceinte de l’école d’associations partisanes engagées dans la banalisation et la promotion des orientations sexuelles minoritaires, si l’on se réfère à la liste des associations agréées par l’Éducation nationale pour intervenir sur ces thématiques dans les établissements. Il favorise donc des prises de paroles unilatérales auprès des jeunes, sur un sujet qui n’a pas encore été tranché par le législateur.

Tout cela relève-t-il vraiment du rôle de l’État ? Est-ce davantage le rôle de l’école ? Est-ce judicieux si l’on veut que les familles aient une relation confiante et paisible envers l’institution scolaire ? Si l’État se donne pour mission de promouvoir l’homosexualité, il prend la grave responsabilité de discriminer frontalement les familles attachées au modèle familial qui est celui que vit la grande majorité des Français, et de heurter les convictions de tous ceux, juifs, chrétiens, musulmans et bien d’autres, qui jugent que ce modèle est la seule référence conforme à la réalité naturelle et par là au bien de l’enfant.

Une telle politique de l’État alimentera infailliblement le communautarisme déjà à l’œuvre dans la société. Si l’État n’est pas neutre, s’il se sert de son pouvoir pour promouvoir au sein des services publics des options philosophiques, morales, sexuelles, religieuses particulières et nettement minoritaires, il conduira mécaniquement un nombre croissant de familles à déserter les services publics. Lorsque l’État refuse la neutralité, il prend la responsabilité d’alimenter une balkanisation politique, religieuse et morale de la société lourde de conséquences.

L’école, publique comme privée, doit se recentrer sur sa mission propre et se garder de vouloir traiter à chaud les sujets polémiques. En histoire comme dans les autres domaines de la connaissance, l’école ne doit pas se précipiter dans l’ultraactualité, au risque de manquer de rigueur, de recul critique, de discernement. Il ne convient pas davantage que l’école conduise les jeunes – inconsciemment ou pas – à se prononcer publiquement sur leurs choix et opinions personnelles sur des sujets touchant aux convictions intimes (religion, politique, sexualité, etc.).

Ces prises de position n’ont pas de fonction éducative ; elles peuvent en revanche conduire les jeunes à révéler les opinions familiales, s’exposer eux-mêmes au jugement de leurs camarades ou de leurs professeurs, au mépris de leur droit à l’intimité et de leur liberté d’opinion, de conscience et de religion. À quoi bon voter dans l’isoloir si l’école trouve le moyen par le biais de vos enfants de connaître vos opinions politiques ?

Durant la période soviétique, comme durant d’autres périodes totalitaires, il était habituel de se servir des enfants pour démasquer et sanctionner les opinions dissidentes des parents. C’était l’époque de la délation par ses propres enfants. Revenir à de telles pratiques inhumaines et profondément immorales serait une grave régression de l’État de droit.

Non content enfin de mettre au pas les écoles publiques, le gouvernement entend aussi museler les écoles privées en bafouant clairement leur caractère propre. Il est évident que les écoles dont le projet éducatif et l’identité sont fondés sur la foi seront opposées à la légalisation du mariage homosexuel. Leur demander d’être neutres sur ce sujet n’a aucun sens, si ce n’est celui de leur faire renier purement et simplement leur vocation spécifique.

« Le caractère propre de ses établissements ne saurait leur permettre de déroger au strict respect de tous les individus et de leurs convictions », affirme le ministre. La formulation dialectique est habile, car qui peut s’opposer au respect des individus et de leurs convictions ? Mais elle est doublement défectueuse. Philosophiquement, car elle passe par pertes et profits la différence fondamentale qui existe entre la critique d’une position politique ou morale et celle d’une personne. On respecte les personnes, on débat librement des idées. S’il fallait respecter toutes les opinions sans discuter, cela voudrait dire qu’il serait interdit d’étudier le fond des problèmes.

Mais bien entendu, la réalité est autre : il s’agit de réprimer les vues différentes de l’idéologie officielle. S’il est interdit de penser et de débattre sur un sujet comme le supposé mariage de deux personnes d’un même sexe, cela veut dire que pour ne pas se faire traiter d’homophobe on est contraint de fait d’accepter le mariage homosexuel. Que reste-t-il alors de la liberté de penser ?

Politiquement en outre la formulation est défectueuse. Les établissements catholiques respectent les convictions de leurs élèves, mais sont catholiques, c’est leur raison d’être, protégée par toutes les déclarations et instruments juridiques relatifs aux Droits de l’Homme.

En revanche l’Éducation nationale, du moins telle que la voient nos dirigeants, impose sous couvert d’égalité et de lutte contre les discriminations la promotion active de l’homosexualité, présentée comme un des rares comportements humains échappant par nature à tout débat. Où est la neutralité du service public d’Éducation ? Où est le respect des convictions de citoyens ?

Voir aussi:

Le socialisme est une religion pour Vincent Peillon

Derrière le personnage apparemment lisse, voire ennuyeux, se cache un terrible idéologue, un Pape laïque, un grand-prêtre du socialisme.

Vivien Hoch

Contrepoints

14/01/2013

On critique souvent les politiques sur le fait qu’ils n’ont pas de vraies convictions. Avec Peillon, c’est tout l’inverse. Il faut rester très vigilant et très sérieux devant ce genre d’idéologue. Le grand adversaire de Peillon, c’est le réel.

Nul ne doit être dupe, ni se tromper sur le personnage. La dernière étude du CERU, le laboratoire d’idée sur la jeunesse et l’éducation, que j’ai rédigée, propose une exégèse de la philosophie de Vincent Peillon (disponible sur Amazon et Priceminister). Autant dire que je me suis collé à la lecture de son œuvre complète, et que le résultat se situe bien au-delà de toutes mes inquiétudes.

Derrière le personnage apparemment lisse, voire ennuyeux, se cache un terrible idéologue, quelqu’un de très dangereux, un Robespierre en herbe, un sans-culotte du XXIème siècle, un disciple en droite lignée des grands bienfaiteurs de l’Église que sont Jean Jaurès ou Ferdinand Buisson, qui sont ses deux papas.

Vincent Peillon, c’est un docteur en philosophie – et il n’y a rien de plus dangereux qu’un philosophe qui fait de la politique, un visionnaire pour qui « la révolution française n’est pas terminée », parce que cette Révolution est « un événement religieux», une « nouvelle genèse » un « nouveau commencement du monde », une « nouvelle espérance » qu’il faut porter à son terme, à savoir : « la transformation socialiste et progressiste de la société toute entière ».

En fait, Peillon n’est ni un homme politique, ni un simple philosophe. C’est un prophète, un Pape laïque, un grand-prêtre du socialisme, plus religieux que le Souverain Pontife lui-même.

Alors, il est responsable aujourd’hui de l’éducation nationale. Ce n’est évidemment pas par hasard. L’éducation a un rôle capital dans son système idéologique, car l’école est « un instrument de l’action politique, républicaine et socialiste. ». Plus encore, l’école est un instrument de la religion laïque dont il se fait le prophète :

C’est au socialisme qu’il va revenir d’incarner la révolution religieuse dont l’humanité a besoin. [1]

Et évidemment, l’école sera le temple de cette nouvelle religion :

C’est bien une nouvelle naissance, une transusbtantiation qui opère dans l’école et par l’école, cette nouvelle Église, avec son nouveau clergé, sa nouvelle liturgie, ses nouvelles tables de la Loi. [2]

On comprend alors dans le détail les grands thèmes qu’il impose à l’éducation nationale.

La scolarisation précoce des enfants

De moins de trois ans s’il vous plaît ! (annoncée le 10 septembre par Jean-Marc Ayrault) dans le but, selon lui, de « lutter contre la délinquance » (sic), mais qui correspond en fait en tout point à l’idée peillonienne de coupure totale de l’enfant d’avec autre chose que la République socialiste : (je cite son interview au JDD) « Il faut être capable d’arracher l’élève à tous les déterminismes, familial, ethnique, social, intellectuel… » [3].

Pour ce faire, Peillon se fonde sur une pédagogie bien à lui : il y a un « « infini flottant » dans l’âme de l’enfant », et l’éducation « se fixe pour tâche de lui donner une forme » [4]. Je vous laisse imaginer quelle forme il faut lui donner, à cet enfant nu et dépouillé face au dogme étatique.

La morale laïque

Alors une fois encore ne soyons pas dupes : évidemment que ce qui manque le plus à nos enfants, c’est de la morale. Mais ceux qui applaudissent cette idée doivent être vigilants. Car le but de la morale laïque, c’est de former des futurs électeurs socialistes avec la théorie du Genre, l’enseignement des « grands homosexuels de l’histoire », la lutte contre les discriminations et l’imposition d’une morale non pas seulement laïque, a-religieuse, voire anti-religieuse.

La morale laïque correspond en tous points à la ligne Buisson de la laïcité que Peillon s’est tracée – en référence à Ferdinand Buisson, l’acteur de premier plan de l’expulsion des congrégations religieuses, auquel Peillon a consacré un ouvrage en 2005. Cette ligne buisson de la laïcité, c’est « de forger une religion qui soit non seulement plus religieuse que le catholicisme dominant, mais qui ait davantage de force, de séduction, de persuasion et d’adhésion, que lui. » Aussi, si « la République socialiste perdure dans la mort de Dieu », elle perdure également dans la mort de son incarnation terrestre, l’Église…

On a déjà un exemple de ce que produit la morale laïque. Elle est déjà bien pratiquée par ce gouvernement, et on voit ce que ça donne : de l’inénarrable Cécile Duflot qui veut « réquisitionner les églises » au message outrageant et discriminant de Michèle Delaunay : « Aujourd’hui les catholiques condamneraient la Sainte Famille : un mari qui n’était pas le père, une mère vierge »… On le voit : la cathophobie est quasiment érigée en dogme d’État.

La fronde contre l’enseignement catholique trouve elle aussi son sens

Peillon commence à s’attaquer aux retraites des enseignants du privé (déjà dévalorisée de quasiment 30% par rapport à celles du public), puis à produire une circulaire (en fait une bulle pontificale) qui enjoint les recteurs « à rester vigilant envers l’enseignement catholique » parce que ce dernier s’était prononcé contre le mariage homosexuel. « Rester vigilant envers l’enseignement catholique » veut dire, dans son système, qu’aucune idée ne peut se transmettre en dehors des cadres dogmatiques de la République socialiste.

Vous comprenez pourquoi il n’y a aucune contradiction dans leur esprit lorsque Peillon interdit à l’école privée de parler du mariage gay alors que Belkacem en fait l’apologie au collège. Nous sommes clairement dans une dialectique marxiste, que la contradiction n’effraie aucunement. Le moment passé (à savoir les traditions, l’histoire de France, les valeurs chrétiennes) doit être annulé par le moment à venir : le monde poli, libre, joyeusement socialiste, délivré enfin du joug de la méchante Église catholique et de ses principes désuets.

Grâce à ce genre d’idéologues au pouvoir, nos enfants en sauront bientôt davantage sur la contraception, le mariage homosexuel, l’homophobie, le trans-genre et le cannabis, que sur l’histoire de France ou les règles de conjugaison. Le catéchisme socialiste doit se réciter dans toutes les écoles, par la bouche de tous les fonctionnaires-prêcheurs, et les enfants doivent apprendre cette vérité tombée du ciel sans broncher…

Finalement, la plus grande honnêteté pour Monseigneur Peillon et son clergé serait de se l’appliquer à eux-mêmes, la laïcité, avant que ce pays ne sombre dans une théocratie socialiste…

Sur le web. Ce billet a fait l’objet d’une chronique sur Radio Courtoisie le 10 janvier.

Notes :

Vincent Peillon, La révolution française n’est pas terminée, Seuil, Paris, 2008, p. 195. ↩

La révolution française n’est pas terminée, op. cit., p. 18. ↩

Entretien au Journal du Dimanche, 2 septembre 2012. ↩

La révolution française n’est pas terminée, op. cit., p. 194 ↩

Voir également:

Peillon : « Je veux qu’on enseigne la morale laïque »

INTERVIEW – À la veille de la rentrée scolaire, le ministre de l’Education, Vincent Peillon, annonce la mise en place de cours de « morale laïque » dès la rentrée 2013.

Vincent Peillon

Adeline Fleury

Le Journal du Dimanche

01 septembre 2012

Lundi plus de 800.000 professeurs font leur rentrée, mardi ce sera le tour de 12 millions d’élèves. Pour Vincent Peillon, il s’agit de la « première rentrée du changement ». Le ministre de l’Éducation nationale, malgré les 13.000 suppressions de poste, réaffirme que l’éducation est bien la priorité du quinquennat. Une concertation sur les thèmes cruciaux comme les rythmes scolaires se tient jusqu’à la fin septembre, elle doit déboucher sur un rapport qui servira de base à l’élaboration d’une loi d’orientation à l’automne. Pour le ministre, cette « refondation de l’école républicaine » doit s’accompagner d’un retour sur les valeurs. Il souhaite instituer des cours de « morale laïque » dès la rentrée 2013. Explications.

Qu’entendez-vous par « morale laïque »?

La morale laïque c’est comprendre ce qui est juste, distinguer le bien du mal, c’est aussi des devoirs autant que des droits, des vertus, et surtout des valeurs. Je souhaite pour l’école française un enseignement qui inculquerait aux élèves des notions de morale universelle, fondée sur les idées d’humanité et de raison. La république porte une exigence de raison et de justice. La capacité de raisonner, de critiquer, de douter, tout cela doit s’apprendre à l’école. Le redressement de la France doit être un redressement matériel mais aussi intellectuel et moral.

Quelles sont ces valeurs communes?

Lorsque le président de la République dit devant le monument de Jules Ferry faire de l’école la priorité, il dit à la société qu’un certain nombre de valeurs sont plus importantes que d’autres : la connaissance, le dévouement, la solidarité, plutôt que les valeurs de l’argent, de la concurrence, de l’égoïsme… Nous devons également porter et défendre l’égalité des garçons et des filles. Une société et une école qui n’enseignent pas ces valeurs s’effondrent. Il faut assumer que l’école exerce un pouvoir spirituel dans la société.

Il faut enseigner la laïcité?

La laïcité comme fait juridique, philosophique et historique n’est pas suffisamment étudiée. Certains pensent que la laïcité est contre les religions ; certains au contraire que c’est simplement la tolérance ; d’autres que c’est uniquement des règles de coexistence. Or, la laïcité ce n’est pas simplement cela. Il existe aussi une « laïcité intérieure », c’est-à-dire un rapport à soi qui est un art de l’interrogation et de la liberté. La laïcité consiste à faire un effort pour raisonner, considérer que tout ne se vaut pas, qu’un raisonnement ce n’est pas une opinion. Le jugement cela s’apprend.

«La sanction fait partie de l’éducation»

Qui serait chargé d’enseigner cette morale laïque?

Je vais nommer une mission de réflexion qui devra préciser la nature de cet enseignement. Je pose trois objectifs : qu’il y ait une cohérence depuis le primaire jusqu’à la terminale ; que cet enseignement soit évalué ; qu’il trouve un véritable espace. Je souhaite que dans la formation des enseignants, dans les écoles supérieures de l’éducation et du professorat que nous mettrons en place à la rentrée 2013, les questions de morale laïque soient enseignées à tous les professeurs.

Y a-t-il une « morale de gauche » et une « morale de droite « ?

Je ne le crois pas. Je pense, comme Jules Ferry, qu’il y a une morale commune, qu’elle s’impose à la diversité des confessions religieuses, qu’elle ne doit blesser aucune conscience, aucun engagement privé, ni d’ordre religieux, ni d’ordre politique. Prenez les textes du Conseil national de la Résistance : cela va des communistes à de Gaulle. Ce sont des textes qui portent une conception de la solidarité sociale, de l’universalisme et nous avons besoin d’enseigner à nos élèves ce formidable patrimoine. Je veux faire de la morale laïque un enseignement moderne qui s’inscrit dans l’école du IIIe millénaire.

Il existe déjà des cours d’instruction civique, en quoi votre morale serait différente?

Je n’ai pas dit instruction civique mais bien morale laïque. C’est plus large, cela comporte une construction du citoyen avec certes une connaissance des règles de la société, de droit, du fonctionnement de la démocratie, mais aussi toutes les questions que l’on se pose sur le sens de l’existence humaine, sur le rapport à soi, aux autres, à ce qui fait une vie heureuse ou une vie bonne. Si ces questions ne sont pas posées, réfléchies, enseignées à l’école, elles le sont ailleurs par les marchands et par les intégristes de toutes sortes. Si la république ne dit pas quelle est sa vision de ce que sont les vertus et les vices, le bien et le mal, le juste et l’injuste, d’autres le font à sa place. Aujourd’hui dans les cours d’école et les classes, on se traite « sales feujs », « sales bougnoules »… Tout ce qui est de l’ordre du racisme, de l’antisémitisme, de l’injure, de la grossièreté à l’égard des professeurs et des autres élèves, ne peut pas être toléré à l’école. La sanction fait partie de l’éducation. Mais il faut aussi qu’il y ait une cohérence entre la responsabilité des adultes à l’extérieur de l’école et ce que l’on demande aux maîtres et aux professeurs de faire. L’attitude des plus hautes autorités de l’État est, de ce point de vue, tout à fait déterminante. L’ancien président de la République lui-même, en désignant toujours des ennemis, en s’exprimant avec violence ou grossièreté, en expliquant qu’enseigner La Princesse de Clèves était sans intérêt, que l’instituteur ne pourra jamais remplacer le curé, sapait l’autorité des professeurs et s’attaquait aux valeurs qui sont les nôtres.

Vous parlez là d’exemplarité?

Oui. Le professeur doit bien sûr dans ses comportements incarner lui-même les valeurs que nous voulons enseigner. Si on pense que la question de la dignité humaine est fondamentale, il doit être à l’égard de chaque élève dans une relation de respect. Il ne s’agit pas d’autoritarisme, mais d’une autorité qui se fonde sur des qualités morales et intellectuelles. Si la société conteste son autorité, le moque ou même l’injurie, alors il n’y a pas de raison pour que l’élève le respecte. Nous avons besoin d’un réarmement moral. C’est pourquoi nous devons tous soutenir nos professeurs.

Cela implique également que l’élève se lève quand le professeur entre dans la classe?

Ce n’est pas le sujet. Il ne faut pas confondre morale laïque et ordre moral. C’est tout le contraire. Le but de la morale laïque est de permettre à chaque élève de s’émanciper, car le point de départ de la laïcité c’est le respect absolu de la liberté de conscience. Pour donner la liberté du choix, il faut être capable d’arracher l’élève à tous les déterminismes, familial, ethnique, social, intellectuel, pour après faire un choix. Je ne crois pas du tout à un ordre moral figé. Je crois qu’il faut des règles, je crois en la politesse par exemple.

«La bataille que doit mener l’école est aussi une bataille des valeurs»

Dans votre école, les élèves salueront le drapeau tricolore tous les matins?

Non. Mais il faut enseigner aux enfants la différence entre être patriote et nationaliste. Nous devons aimer notre patrie, mais notre patrie porte des valeurs universelles. Ce qui a fait la France, c’est la déclaration des droits de l’homme. Elle dit que nous partageons tous une même humanité. Le professeur doit reconnaître en chaque enfant, sans distinction d’origine, cette humanité et l’instituer.

Doit-on enseigner La Marseillaise à l’école?

Apprendre notre hymne national me semble une chose évidente, les symboles comptent, mais il ne faudra pas croire que l’apprentissage mécanique d’un hymne est suffisant dans cette éducation à la morale laïque.

La morale n’en finit pas de faire son retour. Vous ne craignez pas que votre morale laïque reste au degré zéro sur les bancs de l’école?

C’est l’objectif inverse que je poursuis. Si les créneaux horaires réservés à l’instruction civique et morale sont souvent utilisés par les enseignants pour rattraper le retard sur d’autres points du programme, c’est parce que la matière n’est pas ou peu évaluée ; si la matière enseignée ne porte pas le même nom au primaire, au collège, au secondaire, elle n’est pas cohérente et prise au sérieux ; si les professeurs ne sont pas formés pour l’enseigner, cela ne sert à rien. C’est à tout cela que je veux remédier. La bataille que doit mener l’école est aussi une bataille des valeurs. Nous allons la mener.

Voir encore:

Richard Blanco, latino et gay, poète officiel de l’investiture d’Obama

Sophiane Meddour

L’Express

21/01/2013

« Conçu à Cuba, né en Espagne et élevé aux Etats-Unis » tel se décrit le poète latino-américain Richard Blanco, choisi par Barack Obama pour réciter un poème lors de son investiture ce lundi 21 janvier.

Richard Blanco est le poète choisi par la Maison Blanche pour réciter un poème lors de la cérémonie d’investiture de Barack Obama ce lundi 21 janvier 2013. À l’image du 44e président américain, ce jeune poète de 44 ans dévoile une tout autre face des États-Unis, éloignée des stéréotypes wasp (anglo-saxons protestants blancs).

Richard Blanco, fils d’exilés cubains, né en Espagne, est ouvertement gay. Ses parents ont fui la révolution de Fidel Castro. Il a grandi et fait ses études à Miami, aux États-Unis, et il y est devenu ingénieur. Il a peu à peu délaissé ce premier métier pour l’écriture poétique et l’enseignement. Son recueil de poème intitulé City of a Hundred Fires a notamment reçu le prix de poésie Agnes Lynch.

Aujourd’hui, Il est en passe de sortir de l’anonymat ou, à tout le moins, de l’ombre dans laquelle la poésie l’a installé et de briller l’espace de quelques instants lors de la cérémonie qui se tiendra sur les marches du Capitole.

Une tradition qui remonte à … 1961

Le poète cubain doit lire un poème composé spécialement pour l’occasion. Cette oeuvre originale sera directement inspirée de sa propre existence. Addie Whisenant, porte-parole auprès du comité d’investiture, dit de ses poèmes qu’ils sont des plus personnels et qu’ils définissent avec la plus grande justesse l’identité américaine.

Cette tradition du « poète inaugural » remonte au 20 janvier 1961, lors de l’investiture du Président John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Le poète Robert Frost avait alors récité le poème The Gift Outright. Aujourd’hui, Richard Blanco devient le 5e et plus jeune poète à perpétuer cette tradition. Il succède à Elizabeth Alexander qui avait récité Praise Song for the Day pour la 1ère cérémonie d’investiture de Barack Obama en 2009, tandis que Bill Clinton avait choisi la poétesse afro-américaine Maya Angelou pour sa première investiture en 1993 et le poète Miller Williams pour la seconde en 1997. Il s’agit donc, à l’heure actuelle, d’une tradition purement démocrate.

One today

Dans One Today, le poème lu lors de l’investiture, Blanco décrit une journée aux Etats-Unis, du lever du soleil à son coucher. Il évoque ses origines modestes: « on our way […] to ring-up groceries as my mother did for twenty years, so I could write this poem. » (« En chemin pour assumer notre travail de caissière comme ma mère, pendant 20 ans, pour que je puisse écrire ce poème aujourd’hui »). Rend hommage aux enfants disparus lors de la tuerie de Newtown : « the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain the empty desks of twenty children marked absent today, and forever. » (« Le choix impossible des mots qui n’expliqueront pas les tables vides des vingt enfants qui ne répondront plus présents à l’appel de leur nom. »). Evoque le célèbre I have a dream prononcé par Martin Luther King. One today est traversé de paysages, de couleurs et de senteurs, thèmes propres à la poésie du latino-américain. Le mot « one » revient continuellement pour évoquer un pays uni: « one sun rose on us today », « one ground », « one sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes tired from work » (Un seul soleil qui s’est levé ce matin », « Un seul sol », « Un seul ciel, vers lequel nous levons le regard, fatigués par le travail ».

Voir de plus:

The Obama Simulacrum

Mark Steyn

The National Review

January 25, 2013

If I’m following this correctly, according to one spokesperson for the Marine Corps Band, at Monday’s inauguration Beyoncé lip-synced to the national anthem but the band accompanied her live. However, according to a second spokesperson, it was the band who were pretending to play to a pre-recorded tape while Beyoncé sang along live. So one or other of them were faking it. Or maybe both were. Or neither. I’d ask Chuck Schumer, the master of ceremonies, who was standing right behind her, but he spent the entire performance staring at her butt. If it was her butt, that is. It might just have been the bulge of the Radio Shack cassette player she was miming to. In an America with an ever more tenuous grip on reality, there’s so little to be sure of.

Whether Beyoncé was lip-syncing to the band or the band were lip-syncing to Beyoncé is like one of those red pill/ blue pill choices from The Matrix. Was President Obama lip-syncing to the Founders, rooting his inaugural address in the earliest expressions of American identity? (“The patriots of 1776 . . . gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.”) Or maybe the Founders were lip-syncing to him as he appropriated the vision of the first generation of Americans and yoked it (“preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action”) to a statist pitch they would have found utterly repugnant.

The whole event had the air of a simulacrum: It looked like a presidential inauguration, but the sound was tinny and not quite in sync. Obama mouthed along to a canned vocal track: “We reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.” That’s great! It’s always reassuring to know the head of state is going to take issue with all those people wedded to the “belief” that America needs either to shove every granny off the cliff or stake its newborns out on the tundra for the wolves to finish off. When it comes to facing the music, Obama is peerless at making a song and dance about tunes nobody’s whistling without ever once warbling the real big numbers (16 trillion). But, like Beyoncé, he’s totally cool and has a cute butt.

A couple of days later, it fell to the 45th president-in-waiting to encapsulate the ethos of the age in one deft sound bite: What difference does it make? Hillary Clinton’s instantly famous riposte at the Benghazi hearings is such a perfect distillation that it surely deserves to be the national motto of the United States. They should put it on Paul Krugman’s trillion-dollar coin, and in the presidential oath:

“Do you solemnly swear to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States?”

“Sure. What difference, at this point, does it make?”

Well, it’s the difference between cool and reality — and, as Hillary’s confident reply appeared to suggest, and the delirious media reception of it confirmed, reality comes a poor second in the Obama era. The presumption of conservatives has always been that one day cold, dull reality would pierce the klieg-light sheen of Obama’s glamour. Indeed, that was the premise of Mitt Romney’s reductive presidential campaign. But, just as Beyoncé will always be way cooler than some no-name operatic soprano or a male voice choir, so Obama will always be cooler than a bunch of squaresville yawneroos boring on about jobs and debt and entitlement reform. Hillary’s cocksure sneer to Senator Johnson of Wisconsin made it explicit. At a basic level, the “difference” is the difference between truth and falsity, but the subtext took it a stage further: No matter what actually happened that night in Benghazi, you poor sad loser Republicans will never succeed in imposing that reality and its consequences on this administration.

And so a congressional hearing — one of the famous “checks and balances” of the American system — is reduced to just another piece of Beltway theater. “The form was still the same, but the animating health and vigor were fled,” as Gibbon wrote in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. But he’s totally uncool, too. So Hillary lip-synced far more than Beyoncé, and was adored for it. “As I have said many times, I take responsibility,” she said. In Washington, the bold declarative oft-stated acceptance of responsibility is the classic substitute for responsibility: rhetorically “taking responsibility,” preferably “many times,” absolves one from the need to take actual responsibility even once.

In the very same self-serving testimony, the secretary of state denied that she’d ever seen the late Ambassador Stevens’s cables about the deteriorating security situation in Libya on the grounds that “1.43 million cables come to my office”– and she can’t be expected to see all of them, or any. She is as out of it as President Jefferson, who complained to his secretary of state James Madison, “We have not heard from our ambassador in Spain for two years. If we have not heard from him this year, let us write him a letter.” Today, things are even worse. Hillary has apparently not heard from any of our 1.43 million ambassadors for four years. When a foreign head of state receives the credentials of the senior emissary of the United States, he might carelessly assume that the chap surely has a line of communication back to the government he represents. For six centuries or so, this has been the minimal requirement for functioning inter-state relations. But Secretary Clinton has just testified that, in the government of the most powerful nation on earth, there is no reliable means by which a serving ambassador can report to the cabinet minister responsible for foreign policy. And nobody cares: What difference does it make?

Nor was the late Christopher Stevens any old ambassador, but rather Secretary Clinton’s close personal friend “Chris.” It was all “Chris” this, “Chris” that when Secretary Clinton and President Obama delivered their maudlin eulogies over the flag-draped coffin of their “friend.” Gosh, you’d think if they were on such intimate terms, “Chris” might have had Hillary’s e-mail address, but apparently not. He was just one of 1.43 million close personal friends cabling the State Department every hour of the day.

Four Americans are dead, but not a single person involved in the attack and the murders has been held to account. Hey, what difference does it make? Lip-syncing the national anthem beats singing it. Peddling a fictitious narrative over the coffin of your “friend” is more real than being an incompetent boss to your most vulnerable employees. And mouthing warmed-over clichés about vowing to “bring to justice” those responsible is way easier than actually bringing anyone to justice.

And so it goes:

Another six trillion in debt? What difference does it make?

An economic-stimulus bill that stimulates nothing remotely connected with the economy? What difference does it make?

The Arab Spring? Aw, whose heart isn’t stirred by those exhilarating scenes of joyful students celebrating in Tahrir Square? And who cares after the cameras depart that Egypt’s in the hands of a Jew-hating 9-11 truther whose goons burn churches and sexually assault uncovered women?

Obama is the ultimate reality show, and real reality can’t compete. Stalin famously scoffed, “How many divisions has the Pope?” Secretary Clinton was more audacious: How many divisions has reality? Not enough.

— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon.

Voir également:

Obama’s Declaration of Collectivism

The president completely misunderstands the intent of the Founders.

Larry Kudlow

The National Review

January 25, 2013

One of the least remarked upon aspects of President Obama’s inaugural speech was his attempt to co-opt the Founding Fathers’ Declaration of Independence to bolster his liberal-left agenda.

Sure, the president quoted one of the most important sentences in world history: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

So far, so good. But he later connected the Declaration with his own liberal agenda: “ . . . that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedom ultimately requires collective action.” (My italics, not his.)

He fleshed this out with his trademark class-warfare, income-leveling rationalizations. Such as: “The shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.” He also talked about “Our wives, mothers, and daughters that earn a living equal to their effort.” He followed that up with, “The wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship.”

Here’s what I take away from all this: Mr. Obama is arguing counter to the Founding Fathers that the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of equality of results, not the equality of opportunity, and that he will do what he can to use government to make everybody more equal in terms of their income and life work.

That is exactly wrong. We should be rewarding success. We should be promoting entrepreneurship. We should be encouraging individual effort and opportunity.

But this was no opportunity speech. This was a redistributionist, income-leveling speech. And it completely missed the point of the Founding Fathers some 237 years ago.

They were talking about the equality of opportunity, not results. Theirs was a declaration of freedom, not government power or authority.

In fact, the Declaration of Independence was written expressly to begin a revolution against the autocratic monarchs of England, who used their government authority to tax, regulate, and oppress the colonists without any representation or voting rights, thus denying them the unalienable rights of liberty.

So while Obama was on the one hand preaching “fidelity to our founding principles,” on the other he was saying that preserving our individual freedom ultimately requires collective action.

Collective action? The Founders were talking about individual liberty and rights. Not the power of a collectivist government.

The “collective” is a socialist idea, not a free-market capitalist thought. And the story of the last quarter of the 20th century was of the absolute breakdown and end of the collectivist model. Collectivism was thrown into the dustbin of history by the weight of its own failure.

To me, Obama’s mistaken opinions regarding the Declaration of Independence, and his total lack of understanding of the thinking behind the Declaration, is more troubling than any of the liberal programmatic proposals he set forth. Fundamentally, you have to wonder if the president really understands the American idea, and the American historical experience, beginning with the great wisdom of the Founders.

Collectivism also means “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” During his second-term inaugural speech, Obama actually said, “We do not believe in this country that freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.” Were Steve Jobs and Bill Gates lucky? Was Henry Ford lucky? Was Thomas Edison just lucky?

How about they used their God-given talents of creativity, imagination, and ingenuity, coupled with hard work, to create commercial ventures that financially empowered millions upon millions of people who were then able to live a better and more comfortable life?

That’s what the Founders had in mind. Freedom.

It was bad enough that the president had nothing to say about economic growth, or excess federal spending, deficits, and debt. Nor did he show any interest in reforming the large entitlement programs that may bankrupt America. He did discuss the energy market. But rather than let market forces determine the most efficient and clean energy sources to power our economy, he insisted on more doomed green-energy projects subsidized by the taxpayer (like Solyndra).

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell likened Obama’s speech to a declaration of the end of the era of small government. “One thing is clear from the president’s speech,” he said. “The era of liberalism is back.” I agree.

But again I say it’s Obama’s misunderstanding of the Founders’ intent that is the most troubling. Equality of opportunity is the American ideal. Equality of results and income-leveling is foreign to the American ideal.

As conservatives and Republicans regroup, and as they seek to achieve a better America, I hope they keep the opportunity principle uppermost in their minds.

– Larry Kudlow, NRO’s economics editor, is host of CNBC’s The Kudlow Report and author of the daily web log, Kudlow’s Money Politic$.

The Meaning of the Inaugural Address

Victor Davis Hanson

January 22, 2013

Prune away the usual soaring rhetoric and purple passages, and there were no serious outlines in today’s speech to restore the economy or deal with the fiscal implosion on the horizon — or even hints to be fleshed out in the State of the Union to come.

Instead, the president believes that record near-zero interest rates will allow him to borrow $10–12 trillion dollars over his eight-year tenure, and that the dangers of running up such a resulting gargantuan $20 trillion aggregate debt are well worth the risks.

He apparently believes that, in a postindustrial world, government, or government-owned industries from now on will have to create the majority of jobs, and that such jobs should largely go to those whom he sees as having been traditionally shortchanged.

In addition, in just four years, record numbers are now on food stamps, unemployment, and disability, and exempt from federal income taxes, and those percentages will only grow in the next term. Part of the remaking of America is the forging of a new constituency who feel that government employment and entitlements are a birth right and that those who in Washington ensure it deserve unquestioned political fealty.

By the same token, the astronomical borrowing will endlessly accelerate pressures to raise taxes on the “rich,” whether through income-tax rates, or the elimination of deductions, or both. The “pay their fair share” and “you didn’t build that” rhetoric will only sharpen, as the public is prepped to expect that “fat cats” can pay an aggregate 60—70 percent of their income in local, payroll, state, Obamacare, and federal income taxes. The only mystery is whether these unsustainable debts are designed primarily to redistribute income through forced higher taxes, or to marry the livelihoods of loyal millions to big government, or so that we can create a sort of centralized EU that actually works.

There are three dangers to the new unbound Obamism. One, he assumes the private sector has nowhere to go, and thus that, although it always will bitch about higher taxes, serial class warfare rhetoric, Obamacare, and more regulations, at some point its captains have to get back to work, make those hefty profits and so pay what they owe us in new higher taxes. I am not sure that will happen; instead, the present high unemployment, low growth, and crushing debt may be the new European-like stagflating norm.

Two, even if inflation and interest rates don’t rise, we have not seen yet the bitter wars to come over gun control and the actual implementation of the details of Obamacare, or blanket amnesty, and they may resemble the tea-party fights of 2010.

Three, the bitter election wars to achieve and maintain a 51–53 percent majority (the noble 99 percent versus the selfish 1 percent, the greens versus the polluters, the young and hip versus the stodgy and uncool, the wisely unarmed versus the redneck assault-weapon owners, women versus the sexists, gays versus the bigots, Latinos versus the nativists, blacks versus the “get over it” spiteful and resentful, the noble public sector versus the “you didn’t build that” profiteers, Colin Powell/Chuck Hagel/reasonable Republicans versus neanderthal House tea-party zealots), in Nixonian fashion have left a lot of bitter divisions that lie just beneath the surface of a thinning veneer.

Voir de même:

The Two Most Powerful Allusions in Obama’s Speech Today

James Fallows

The Atlantic

On reading it through after hearing it, this is another carefully crafted speech. More so, I would say, than Obama’s first inaugural address. But these two parts got my attention the instant I heard them:

1) Lash and sword. This inaugural address, like nearly all previous ones, began with an emphasis on the importance of democratic transfer-of-power. For instance, the first words of JFK’s address in 1961 were, « We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom. » But Obama introduced the familiar theme with this twist:

Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of [our founding] words with the realities of our time. [Note: this preceding sentence is the one-sentence summary of the speech as a whole.] For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

And for more than two hundred years, we have.

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.

I like the precise logical concision of contrasting « self-evident » with « self-executing » truths. But « blood drawn by the lash » is an impressive and confident touch. It was of course an allusion to a closing passage in what is generally considered history’s only great second inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln’s in 1865 (right):

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said « the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. »

Half-slave, half-free was an allusion to another of Lincoln’s most famous addresses, his « House Divided » speech from his campaign for the Senate in 1858. (And Lincoln’s phrase « house divided » was his own allusion to the Book of Mark.)

2) Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall. I thought the allusion in this passage was eloquent on many levels:

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

The rhetorical and argumentative purpose of the speech as a whole was to connect what Obama considers the right next steps for America — doing more things « together, » making sure that everyone has an equal chance, tying each generation’s interests to its predecessors’ and its successors’ — with the precepts and ideals of the founders, rather than having them be seen as excesses of the modern welfare state.

As in the one-sentence summary at the start of the speech, Obama wants to claim not just Lincoln but also Jefferson, Madison, Adams, George Washington, and the rest as guiding spirits for his kind of progressivism. In this passage he works toward that end by numbering among « our forebears » — those honored ancestors who fought to perfect our concepts of liberty and of union — the likes of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Martin Luther King and other veterans of Selma including still-living Rep. John Lewis, and the protestors 44 years ago at the Stonewall.

I call the passage above an allusion rather than a dog-whistle because a dog-whistle is meant not to be recognized or understood by anyone other than its intended audience. Obama certainly knew that parts of his audience would respond more immediately and passionately to the names Seneca Falls, Selma, and [especially] Stonewall than other parts, but his meaning is accessible to anyone. As is his reference, while speaking barely a two miles from the Lincoln Memorial, to what « a King » said on « this great Mall. »

I have no illusion, delusion, allusion, or even dog-whistle conception that this speech will change the partisan power-balance affecting passage of anything Obama mentioned, from climate legislation to reforming immigration law. But as politics it was a departure for him, and as rhetorical craftsmanship once again it deserves careful study.

Voir également:

President Obama’s Haunting Anti-Liberty Inaugural Speech

Robert Wenzel

January 22, 2013

I have now read President Obama’s second inaugural speech for the third time. The speech haunts me. In very clever language the speech lays out a plan for a more centralized government, for more interference by the government in the affairs of individuals. The speech is about government as the solution to society’s ills.

The President does this, though, while early on in his speech hailing the Constitution, which attempted to put a limit on government. He then quotes from the Declaration of Independence:

« We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. »

He then proceeds in the remainder of his speech to rip apart the Declaration’s call for Liberty.

But even before his mention of the Constitution and the quoting from the Declaration, in the very first paragraph, after greetings to the « Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens, » the speech is haunting. In the first paragraph that begins the President’s message, he speaks of that arrogant notion American exceptionalism:

What makes us exceptional, what makes us American, is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago[…]

Few realize it, but the concept of American exceptionalism came about as a result of a battle between two communist factions. Wikipedia explains the history well:

In June 1927 Jay Lovestone, a leader of the Communist Party in America and soon to be named General Secretary, described America’s economic and social uniqueness. He noted the increasing strength of American capitalism, and the country’s « tremendous reserve power »; a strength and power which he said prevented Communist revolution. In 1929, the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, disagreeing that America was so resistant to revolution, called Lovestone’s ideas « the heresy of American exceptionalism »—the first time that the specific term « American exceptionalism » was used.

The term has been advanced most recently by the neocons, not surprising since their roots can be traced back to the Trotskyite movement.

Thus, at the very start of Obama’s speech, one has to wonder if Obama understands the communist roots of his chosen notion of an « exceptional » America. If he does, then, indeed, he is sending us a very chilling message.

In paragraph 4 of his speech, he said to the nation:

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time.

This is a very clever sentence. « A never-ending journey, » he says to « bridge » the words of the Declaration to « reality. » But is it really « a never-ending journey »? He attempts to answer this by saying:

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free.

This is true. Half-slave and half-free is not liberty for all. But, if there are no slaves anymore, what could Obama possibly mean when he talks of a « never-ending journey »? Wouldn’t the words in the Declaration meet reality when all men are free? The President apparently thinks not. In a twisted view of the Declaration, he sees less free, more government interference, as part of his « never-ending journey. »

He went on to say:

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

What is this talk of « we »? Railroads, highways, schools and colleges all started out in the private sector. It was only through crony deals with special interests with private agendas that the government was brought into the picture. If the president means crony elitists in cahoots with government, as the « we, » then he is correct. If he is somehow attempting to link the « we » of government interference, with the Declaration of Independence and citizens of America, he is a con-man.

And then he completely exposes his anti-liberty views:

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Ah yes, free markets with rules, that is, liberty with chains.

And he moves on with a great attack on private charity:

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Americans are not uncaring. The president insults Americans when he states that government by gun must force Americans to be charitable. It is another deceptive myth that the president likes to repeat often, Further, the « misfortune » that the president speaks of is not misfortune in the way private individuals think of it. It is the president as part on the Entitlement-Crony Complex in operation. It’s about buying votes and splitting up lucre.

And after heaping all this government interventionist stuff on us, he takes a break to throw smoke in our eyes and claim he is not talking about central planning:

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

But, he quickly returns to his real theme, more government planning:

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action

Oh yeah, so much for the Declaration of Independence. « Times change. »

The central planner goes on:

No single person can train all the math and science teachers, we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.

What a bizarre first phrase: « No single person can train all the math and science teachers. » Who anywhere, ever , said that a single person will have to train all the math and science teachers?

He goes on in that paragraph to state that somehow this must be done as « one nation. » He means by « one nation, » the government. And he does so without telling us why math and science teachers, road builders. networks and research labs, wouldn’t emerge under liberty, in free markets, without the interference of government.

And, while he is all about calling for central planning, he slips in a bit of class warfare:

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.

He does not explain that the growing wealth of a few, while others search for low-paying jobs, is because of government regulations that protect those who already have wealth (especially those with crony wealth who have ties to the government) and make it difficult, if not impossible, for others to compete against crony wealth.

The president goes on:

We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher.

Who is this « we » that the president is again talking about? It is, of course, the great central planning mechanism the government. Note also the call to « reform our tax code. » This is really a call for tax hikes. Tax code reform always ends up being about higher taxes through the closing of « loopholes. » What we need is lower taxes, not tax reform.

He then once more insults Americans, who are quite capable of providing charity on their own:

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.

All central planning all the time, from the « needy » to healthcare. And what does he mean reduce the cost of health care? What could that possibly mean other than in the president’s mind cutting back on some payments on various drugs and services.

The president then said:

The commitments we make to each other: through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

But there are takers. The takers are the government operatives. They take from us and redistribute the wealth, and those on the receiving end are, indeed, softened up, not strengthened. It is creating a dependent society. A society dependent on government for basic services.

The president also made this ominous comment about international affairs.

We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.

Here we are back to paragraph one and American « exceptionalism, » and the neocon view that the US should be the only superpower, the Empire, if you will. Haven’t we learned enough blowback lessons, so that it should be clear the US should stay out of other countries affairs? And if we are so gung ho about democracy, shouldn’t we stand by Iran and its democratic government? Instead of, say, the monarchies such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Is it really about democracy? It appears not. It is more smoke. It is about the US Empire, its behind the scenes cronies desiring global control.

Then, of course, while Obama hints at more violence abroad from the Empire, he obviously believes that there is nothing that those that live in the heart of the Empire should fear. He wants our guns:

Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

And there you have it, from start to finish, with a bit of smoke thrown into the air, to confuse at just the right moment, the president’s speech was about moving away from the Declaration of Independence and closer to more government control, more power to the state.

In the end, Obama’s speech is about this, government controlled Americans with very armed government around every corner.

Voir encore:

Barack Obama inauguration speech: a greatest hits of rhetorical tricks

The president gave a smash-hits selection of oratorical devices, from emphatic anaphora to substantial syntheton

Sam Leith

The Guardian

21 January 2013

Barack Obama gives his second-term inauguration address in Washington, DC. His speech was rich in rhetorical devices. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Barack Obama’s second inaugural, as far as rhetoric goes, was the equivalent of a greatest hits album knocked out in time for Christmas. All his favourite oratorical devices were on display, and all at once, as if someone had knocked a candle into the firework box.

At a sentence-by-sentence level, it was filled with a device to which Obama is practically addicted: syntheton. That is, never say one thing when you can inflate the sentence with two: « effort and determination », « passion and dedication », « security and dignity », « hazards and misfortune », « initiative and enterprise », « fascism or communism », « muskets and militia » and so, unceasingly, on.

At the larger level of organisation we were seeing some other old favourites – in particular anaphora, where a phrase is repeated at the beginning of successive sentences. This speech was an anaphoric relay race: « Together, we » gave way to « We, the people », which temporarily ceded the track to « Our journey is not complete until », before « You and I, as citizens » staggered to the tape with the baton.

Also on show was his nifty way of shifting timescale, zipping between the grand sweep of history and the individual moment. « It will be up to those who stand here in four years, and 40 years, and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall. » That climax – the rising series of terms, given extra force with epistrophe (repeating « years ») – is saved from bombast by bringing it down to a moment in history. « Spare » is a lovely touch.

As far as the ethos appeal goes – that is, the way an orator positions himself with the audience – Obama stuck to what he does best: aligning himself with the founding fathers and with Martin Luther King. The former was, well, pro forma, and given that the inauguration coincided with King’s birthday, the latter perhaps irresistible.

The former was accomplished by what may have been his number one soundbite: that none-too-subtle repetition of the phrase that opens the US constitution: « We, the people. » He added his own tricolon to that of the Declaration of Independence when he declared it « our generation’s task to make these words, these rights, these values – of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – real ». He ghosted liberty’s « your tired, your poor, your huddled masses » when he invoked « the poor, the sick, the marginalised ». Tick, tick, tick.

As far as King goes, Obama’s allusion to hearing « a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth » is all but a quotation – semi-blasphemous wordplay and all – from some of his own 2008 speeches (« We heard a King’s call to let justice roll down like water »; « a King who took us to the mountaintop »). If Cornel West, a distinguished professor of African-American studies and what you might call a critical friend, now thinks Obama is milking it a bit, watch out.

His hissingly alliterative line about « Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall […] all those men and women, sung and unsung » (also, be it noted, instances of tricolon, polysyndeton and antithesis) is another near-on self-quotation. Obama loves placenames that alliterate (he once managed to get « Boston » and « Beijing », « Arctic » and « Atlantic » and « Kansas » and « Kenya » into a single sentence).

One slight surprise is that this speech made quite so free with the high style, given that attacks on the windiness of his oratory have been consistent and effective. Yes, it was slick, in places moving, and politically flinty. But I found it hard to agree with Larry Sabato, of the University of Virginia, who thought it stronger and « better written » than the one four years ago. That first inaugural was downbeat to a purpose, managing expectations and reaching across the floor after a triumphal election night speech.

Here, he didn’t seem sure whether to be grim and determined (note the frowny brow for the first half) or messianic, and so did both slightly half-heartedly. Sometimes, too, he crossed the line from the poetic into the merely cliched: a people variously « seared » and « tempered »; « snow-capped peaks »; « that precious light of freedom »? Come on, Barry, one wants to say. You’re phoning it in.

• Sam Leith is the author of You Talkin’ To Me? Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama (Profile)

Voir enfin:

« A poor hand to quote Scripture »: Lincoln and Genesis 3:19

Earl Schwartz

Volume 23, Issue 2, Summer 2002

« My friend has said to me that I am a poor hand to quote Scripture. I will try it again, however. » Poor hand or not, Lincoln was persistent. The 1858 Senate campaign was in full swing and the Democratic candidate, Stephen A. Douglas, had recently charged that quoting Scripture did not suit his Republican adversary. Lincoln’s response to his « friend’s » claim, as he told an audience in mid-July, was to « try it again, » concluding his address with a vigorous defense of human equality, cast as a homily on the verse « Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which in heaven is perfect » (Matt. 5:48). [1]

It was easy enough for Douglas to impugn Lincoln’s grasp of Scripture. Lincoln was the product of a short and shallow formal education, and he had never fully identified with a Christian denomination or doctrinal tradition. [2] And yet in this case, as in so many others, Douglas was mistaken. Lincoln’s legacy, far more than any other president, has, over time, become inextricably bound up with the words and themes of the Bible.[3] He has been endowed repeatedly with biblical features—sometimes cast as Moses, on other occasions as Father Abraham, and yet again as a fiery prophet or martyred savior. An aura of prophetic authority has accrued to his own words,[4] heightened by his skillful use of literary devices that are also characteristic of biblical texts.[5] The Poor Hand’s homilies, like the man himself, now belong to the ages.

Lincoln contributed to this biblical aura through his adamant advocacy of what he referred to in his address to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield in 1838 as an American « political religion. »[6] In remarks at Independence Hall in February 1861, he adopted a distinctly biblical metaphor to characterize his commitment to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, announcing, « ‘May my right hand lose its cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth’ [Psalms 137:5–6] if ever I prove false to those teachings »—an oath that had originally referred to an abiding attachment to vanquished Jerusalem. Ten days earlier in Indianapolis, he made a similar transposition, declaring, « When the people rise in masses in behalf of the Union and the liberties of their country, truly may it be said, ‘The gates of Hell shall not prevail against them' » (Matt. 16:18).[7] In death, Lincoln became an icon of this American political faith—the only faith, it would seem, for which he could give his own last measure of devotion.

Lincoln’s Collected Works are, in fact, peppered with biblical references, including several dozen direct quotations. These are taken, for the most part, from Hebrew Bible narratives, the Psalms, Wisdom texts, and the Gospels. [8] The Bible was the common coin of literate nineteenth-century Americans, and Lincoln made good use of its currency.

On occasion Lincoln would cite a biblical text strictly for the sake of its imagery. The best-known example of his use of a biblical text for this limited purpose are his references to « a house divided » (Matt. 12:22–28, Mark 3:22–26, Luke 11:14–20). Lincoln consistently employed the metaphor of « a house divided » in literary settings wholly disassociated from its biblical context. [9] Herndon maintained that this was intentional. « I want to use some universally known figure [of speech], » Herndon recalled Lincoln telling him, « expressed in simple language as universally well-known, that may strike home to the minds of men in order to raise them up to the peril of the times. » [10]

In the case of the « house divided » references, literary and anecdotal evidence coincide to demonstrate that Lincoln’s primary interest was in decontextualized use of the text’s imagery rather than exegetical exploration of its content. Historians may speculate concerning his subconscious affinity for this and other decontextualized citations, [11] but it is clear that his conscious intention in such cases was to employ a passage’s imagery without reference to its original significance.

However, many of Lincoln’s biblical citations are exegetical. These latter references not only evidence the rhetorical skill with which he appropriated biblical imagery, but also shed light on his understanding of the passages cited. Foremost among these exegetical references, in terms of frequency as well as significance of occasion, are his citations of Gen. 3:19, which, according to the King James Version he used, reads, « In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread. »

The Collected Works include four direct references to Gen. 3:19. First, in the so-called « Fragments of a Tariff Discussion, » which Page [End Page 39] Lincoln recalled having written in late 1847; next, in a response to a resolution of support he had received from a delegation of Baptist missionaries, written in May 1864; third, in a short autobiographical anecdote he arranged to have published in December 1864; and finally, in his Second Inaugural Address, delivered in March 1865. In addition, he appears to allude to the verse on several occasions in speaking about labor, as in his observation that the « old general rule » was that educated people « managed to eat their bread, leaving the toil of producing it to the uneducated, »[12] and his insistence that every human being has the right « to put into his mouth the bread that his own hands have earned. … »[13] As will become clear, what all of these references have in common is their association with what historian Gabor Boritt has contended was Lincoln’s most fundamental, far-reaching and enduring political principal: the right of workers to claim and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Lincoln’s reading of Gen. 3:19 is a preeminent example of his skill in political homiletics, a skill rooted in his ability to draw radically new insights from ostensibly familiar sources. His idiosyncratic application of the verse demonstrates his ability to give memorable expression to his perspective on an issue through rhetorical coordination of both the form and content of a citation. In addition, careful examination of his references to the text, which extend from the beginning of his term in Congress through the Second Inaugural Address, can help to clarify the development of his thinking on the role of labor in human society, and, in turn, the origins and depth of his opposition to slavery.

The References

Gabor Boritt makes a convincing argument for the importance of practical economic concerns to Lincoln’s political and moral outlook, with the rights of workers situated at the center of these concerns. Boritt concludes that, « Above all, there remained in Lincoln, unchanged, that firm, moral-materialistic core. … Surely, Lincoln was also a highly moral, indeed spiritual, being. Yet this characteristic was thoroughly intermingled with his materialism and while cleansing it, also strengthened it. » [14] This intermingling of the moral and material, born along by images of « sweat, » « face, » and Page [End Page 40] « bread, » is nowhere more clearly illustrated than in his references to Gen. 3:19.

Reference 1: From « Fragments of a Tariff Discussion » (December 1, 1847?)

In the early days of the world, the Almighty said to the first of our race ‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread’ [Gen. 3:19]; and since then, if we except the light and the air of heaven, no good thing has been, or can be enjoyed by us, without having first cost labour. And, in [as] much as most good things are produced by labour, it follows that [all] such things of right belong to those whose labour has produced them. But it has so happened in all ages of the world, that some have laboured, and others have, without labour, enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To [secure] to each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government.[15]

Commenting on that passage, along with related references and allusions by Lincoln to Gen. 3:19 in connection with the rights and aspirations of workers, Boritt contends that « Whatever ideal he held to, whatever stood for America in his eyes, in the most basic sense was embodied for him in this faith. » Boritt concludes that this was, to use Lincoln’s own expression, the « central idea » of his political outlook throughout his public life.[16]

Boritt’s contention notwithstanding, one could easily pass over Lincoln’s reference to Gen. 3:19 in the « Fragments of a Tariff Discussion » as unexceptional. In form and language, it closely resembles a passage from Francis Wayland’s Elements of Political Economy:

« Labor has been made necessary to our happiness. No valuable object of desire can be produced without it … the Universal law of our existence, is, « In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, until thou return to the ground. » [17]

Wayland, a Unitarian minister and President of Brown University, published Elements of Political Economy in 1837. It quickly became the most popular book on economics in the country. Herndon recalled that Lincoln had a special liking for Wayland’s work. [18] Page [End Page 41]

Lincoln begins the « Fragment » by reiterating Wayland’s commonplace identification of Gen. 3:19 with the inevitability of labor. Wayland’s contention that, given this inevitability, workers should have the opportunity to prosper from their efforts may also have influenced the composition of the « Fragment. » But if Wayland is to be credited with the initial coupling of Gen. 3:19 with economic issues in Lincoln’s rhetoric, the implications Lincoln drew from the verse differed markedly from those Wayland endorsed.[19] Lincoln’s inference that it is a wholly appropriate and « worthy » object of good government to assist workers in securing the « whole product » of their labor suggests a personal connection to working people and comfort with political activism on their behalf that went far beyond Wayland’s tepid affirmation of workers rights. It is clear from numerous remarks Lincoln made throughout his career that he believed labor to be the source of all productive value, or, as Wayland put it, that capital was « pre-exerted labor. »[20] However, in opposition to Wayland, Lincoln went on to concur, he said, with a « certain class of reasoners, » that « labor is prior to, and independent of, capital; that, in fact, capital is the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed—that labor can exist without capital, but that capital could never have existed without labor. Hence they hold that labor is the superior—greatly the superior—of capital. »[21] Wayland’s adamant insistence on an even-handed « equality » between capital and labor finds no echo here.

Though Wayland’s comment would appear to anticipate the « Fragment, » the differences in how the two men understood the salient implications of Gen. 3:19 far outweigh the similarities. There is, in fact, no record of a commentator having read Gen. 3:19 as an unambiguous affirmation of the rights of workers to enjoy the fruits of their labor before Lincoln’s « Fragment. » In future references Lincoln would continue to ignore the conventional interpretation of the verse as a curse brought upon humanity by Adam’s disobedience, Page [End Page 42] in favor of his own novel and daring inferences concerning the primacy of labor and the rights of workers.

Lincoln, of course, was not alone among mid-nineteenth-century thinkers in his preoccupation with the rights of workers. His « central idea » connected him to a far-flung chorus of observers, ranging from Marx to Mill, who would also lash out against « the same tyrannical principle »: « You work and toil and earn bread, and I’ll eat it. »[22] However, the manner in which Lincoln gave voice to his convictions about rights purchased by the sweat of a worker’s brow, amidst the unparalleled circumstances that converged upon him, was distinctly his own. Informed by his understanding of the priority of labor over capital, Lincoln’s reading of Gen. 3:19 as a statement about labor and its just rewards takes on revolutionary implications. He arrived at these implications by transforming a verse that was (and still is) commonly interpreted as a description of the human condition into a moral imperative.

In Lincoln’s hands, Gen. 3:19 serves as a stepping-off point for his conclusion that the fruits of labor rightfully belong to those who do the work, and that it is a public concern of the highest order that these rights be secured. In the earliest of his « sweat of thy face » texts, these two points are laid out in the form of commentary. In the remaining three cases, Lincoln progressively clarifies the connection between verse and commentary through underlining, paraphrase, and hypothetical antithesis. These devices will serve to direct the reader’s attention away from the theme of inevitable toil and toward a consideration of the moral significance of the possessive pronouns, actual and inferred, that Lincoln viewed as the verse’s pivotal terms.

Reference 2: From a « response to the preamble and resolutions of the American Baptist Home Missionary Society » (May 30, 1864)

To read in the Bible, as the word of God himself, that ‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread’ [Gen. 3:19] and to preach therefrom, that ‘In the sweat of other mans faces shalt thou eat bread,’ to my mind can scarcely be reconciled with honest sincerity. When brought to my final reckoning, may I have to answer for robbing no man of his goods [I Sam. 12:3]; yet more tolerable even this, than for robbing one of himself, and all that was his. When, a year or two ago, those professedly holy men of the South, met in the semblance of prayer and devotion, Page [End Page 43] and, in the name of Him who said ‘As ye would all men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them’ [Matt. 7:12], appealed to the christian world to aid them in doing to a whole race of men, as they would have no man do unto themselves, to my thinking, they contemned and insulted God and His church, far more than did Satan when he tempted the Saviour with the Kingdoms of the earth. The devils attempt was no more false, and far less hypocritical. But let me forbear, remembering it is also written, ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged’ [Matt. 7:1] [23]

Lincoln’s « Response to … the American Baptist Home Mission Society » was composed in the midst of the 1864 presidential campaign, a period of deep political and military uncertainty. Nearly twenty years had passed since the composition of the « Fragment on Labor, » including three years of war, but Lincoln’s application of Gen. 3:19 remained essentially the same, though it was made more explicit by his underlining of « thy » and « other mans faces, » and his use of the antithetical « In the sweat of other mans faces shalt thou eat bread, » in counterpoint to the biblical quotation. In doing so, Lincoln reaffirms his general critique of the theft of the fruits of labor, and he unflinchingly extends it to the specific issue of slavery.

The manner in which Lincoln links the themes of workers’ rights and slavery in his « Response » to the Baptist missionaries suggests that he derived his position on the specific issue of slavery from his general perspective on the rights of workers. It is the unreasonableness of slavery that commands Lincoln’s attention here, and this unreasonableness allows no play for the paternalism or racism that in other contexts sometimes adhered to his remarks. Whatever patronizing biases Lincoln may have harbored are subordinated to a line of reasoning about the rights of workers that he found incontrovertible. It is not necessary to reconfigure Lincoln as completely free of such biases to appreciate his commitment to abolition, if we understand that in Lincoln’s case it was his revulsion at the exploitation of workers rather than anti-racism that was the initial catalyst for his opposition to slavery.

When it came to defending the rights of workers, Lincoln had little difficulty finding common ground with slaves. Two months earlier, in a letter to the New York Workingmen’s Democratic Page [End Page 44] Republican Association, he had told his correspondents that « … the existing rebellion, means more, and tends to more, than the perpetuation of African Slavery … it is, in fact, a war upon the rights of all working people. » [24] In an early political address he went so far as to announce that in his impoverished youth he too « used to be a slave, » and that « we were all slaves one time or another, » but that he had seized the proffered opportunity to shake loose the bonds of economic subordination. Twenty years later he confirmed the persistence of this facet of his self-image when he concluded the autobiographical sketch circulated during the 1860 presidential campaign with the oblique comment that aside from his height, weight, and coloring, there were « no other marks or brands recollected »—an expression commonly used in the South in identifying runaway slaves.[25]

Lincoln’s application of Gen. 3:19 to the issue of slavery was a natural extension of his previously stated position that all workers have the right to enjoy the fruits of their own labor. However, this application is only possible on the basis of his atypical understanding of the verse, in which emphasis is placed on the sweat of thy brow purchasing thou the right to eat thy bread. In his « Response » to the Baptist missionaries, Lincoln refers to the verse as he moves from a general concern for worker’s rights to the specific case of slavery. He argues his case in the strongest of terms, characterizing slavery as a stealing of another’s « self, » more worthy of contempt than the theft of another’s « goods, » or even Satan’s attempt to seduce Jesus in the wilderness. The introduction of the latter motif carries with it a furious condemnation of the hypocrisy Lincoln ascribed to those who would attempt to reconcile the enslavement of others with Christian faith. This condemnation, in varying degrees of harshness, also accompanies his two subsequent uses of Gen. 3:19.[26]

Reference 3: « The President’s Last, Shortest, and Best Speech, » (published in the Washington Daily Chronicle, December [6?], 1864)

On Thursday of last week two ladies from Tennessee came before the President asking the release of their husbands held as prisoners of war at Johnson’s Island. They were put off till Page [End Page 45] Friday, when they came again; and were again put off till Saturday. At each of the interviews one of the ladies urged that her husband was a religious man. On Saturday the President ordered the release of the prisoners, and then said to this lady ‘You say that your husband is a religious man; tell him when you meet him, that I say I am not much of a judge of religion, but that, in my opinion, the religion that sets men to rebel and fight against their government, because, as they think, that government does not sufficiently help some men to eat their bread on the sweat of other men’s faces [Gen. 3:19], is not the sort of religion upon which people can get to heaven.’ [27]

Lincoln passed this anecdote on to Noah Brooks, a reporter with whom he had close ties, with the request that it be published « right away. » It appeared in the Washington Daily Chronicle, along with the headline Lincoln had composed for it, on December 7, 1864. The humorously self-deprecating headline is significant. Though this is neither his last nor best speech, its reference to Gen. 3:19 in connection with the injustice and cruelty of unrequited slave labor, prospered or tolerated by the nominally « religious, » establishes the anecdote, along with the response to the Baptist missionaries, as a precursor to the climactic Second Inaugural Address. However, in this new setting, Lincoln sharpens his earlier renderings of the verse by his interpolation of the word « their » prior to « bread. » Lincoln had been working from this inference all along, but in this case, as well as in the Second Inaugural Address, he makes explicit his sense of the verse as a declaration of the right of workers to enjoy the fruit of their labors, and the wrong done workers when « some men … eat their bread on the sweat of other men’s faces. » It is also significant that Lincoln speaks here in terms of those who are disappointed with their government’s unwillingness to assist them in this theft. This reference to government as a potential « fence » for the stealing of labor’s just rewards flows directly from Lincoln’s long held conviction, already stated in the 1847 fragment, that it was « a most worthy object of any good government » to help secure for each laborer « the whole product of his labor, or as nearly as possible. »

Reference 4: « Second Inaugural Address » (March 4, 1865)

It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces [Gen. 3:19]; but let us judge not that we be not judged [Matt. 7:1]. … The Almighty has His own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!’ [Matt. 18:7]. … Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether’ [Psalms 19:10][28]

In this short passage Lincoln strings together four direct biblical quotations.[29] Nevertheless, each quote enters the address honed and shaped by many years of conceptual and rhetorical development. Gen. 3:19 now carries for Lincoln the accumulated implications of twenty years of reflection, as indicated by his retention of an inferred « their » prior to « bread, » a condensed version of his earlier antithesis of « their bread » over against the « sweat of other men’s faces, » and the addition of the tortuous image of oppressors « wringing » their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, rather than simply eating it, as he had expressed it earlier.

Lincoln’s juxtaposition of Gen. 3:19 to Matt. 7:1 (« Let us judge not … ») reiterates his previous condemnation of slavery as the theft of another’s « self, » as well as his claim that he was obliged not to « judge » the motives of those who would lend their support to such a crime. Here, as in the « Response » to the Baptist missionaries, the counsel that one must withhold judgment appears ironic, though his convincing reference to « charity for all » in the peroration indicates a tempering of his earlier sarcasm. However, having counseled forbearance, Lincoln immediately goes on to declare that it was not to be expected that restraining the urge to judge would save the nation from undergoing judgment. Instead, in a passage punctuated by repeated references to justice (« just, » « judge, » « judged, » « judgments ») he joins his « materialist » reading of Gen. 3:19 to a corresponding vision of an immanent Divine judgment which was « true and righteous altogether, » purging the nation, Page [End Page 47] measure for measure, of slavery’s « wealth » and « lash. » The ravages of war had extracted a terrible price from those « by whom the offence cometh, » be they collaborators or bystanders, but the debate was over, and the conclusion, as he had long insisted, was « self evident. » The Almighty had had His own wrenching purposes. Those purposes having been accomplished, the time for rending was now speedily passing away, and a time for mending had begun. [30]

It is not surprising that Lincoln would return on several occasions over the course of his political career to Gen. 3:19. Its images of « sweat, « brow, » and « bread, » contrary to Douglas’s friendly concern, fit well with his rhetorical style. James M. McPherson points out that Lincoln’s facility with metaphor, as well as the particular types of metaphor he tended to employ, reflected his formative experiences in rural Indiana and Illinois. His skill with concrete imagery was nurtured through conversation with neighbors, and was therefore, as he later noted, well suited for political talk with his constituencies. [31] In addition, the verse’s imagery was neatly bound up with the themes of labor and, for Lincoln, justice, both of which were central to his political outlook.

But Lincoln’s ability to shape and apply the implications he drew from the metaphorical possibilities in Gen. 3:19 ran far deeper than nostalgia or stylistic considerations alone. Even an appreciation of the passage’s capacity to rhetorically integrate themes that were central to Lincoln’s political outlook, and to do so with great economy, does not adequately explain his persistent affinity for the verse. When purely rhetorical motives for repeated references to the verse are exhausted, there remains a personal dimension to its Page [End Page 48] prominence. For Lincoln, Gen. 3:19 was not only a verbal metaphor, it was also a life metaphor. His reading of the verse is wholly congruent with his own experience and character. It was not only an expression of what he thought, but of who he was. Though historians have done much to correct the popular romantic image of the young, pastoral Lincoln, it is clear that an overlay of middle-class gentility acquired in his later years could not completely obscure his own personal knowledge and appreciation of physical labor. Francis B. Carpenter, in his memoir Six Months at the White House with Abraham Lincoln, recounted a remarkable demonstration of this aspect of Lincoln’s personality as part of his description of a visit to Grant’s headquarters at City Point, Virginia, in late March 1865. According to Carpenter, Lincoln was enthused by the warm reception he received from the soldiers, and he spent several hours with patients at the army hospital. As he concluded this marathon of handshaking, a surgeon commented that his arm must be terribly sore from the workout. Lincoln smiled and replied that he had « strong muscles, » and picking up a heavy ax, proceeded to vigorously chop wood for a few minutes. He then held out the ax horizontally, keeping it absolutely still—a feat that none of the soldiers present could duplicate. [32]

Lincoln’s pride in his continued physical strength is indicative of a « poor hand » well acquainted with labor. In his letter to the New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association, he maintained that « The strongest bond of human sympathy, outside of the family relation, should be one uniting all working people, of all nations, and tongues, and kindreds. » [33] A lifetime of social advancement could not sever this bond. One can safely assume that if Lincoln’s hand did not quiver as he held out the ax, there was, nevertheless, the gleam of sweat on his brow.

Notes

Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 9 vols. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1953–1955), 2: 501 (hereafter cited as Collected Works). Quote is from the King James Version. return to text

Richard Current, The Lincoln Nobody Knows (New York: Hill & Wang, 1958), chap. 3, for a review of the literature on Lincoln’s religious life, including the contention that he formally embraced Christianity in his later years.return to text

Elton Trueblood concluded that it was « partly in response to the pioneer culture in which he was steeped, [that] Abraham Lincoln’s religion was centered far more in the Bible than in the Church, » and cites William J. Wolf’s comment that for Lincoln, « … the Bible rather than the Church remained the highroad to the knowledge of God. » See Trueblood, Abraham Lincoln, Theologian of American Anguish, (New York: Harper & Row, 1972), 55, and Allen C. Guelzo, introduction to Abraham Lincoln, Redeemer President (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1999).return to text

In reference to Lincoln’s « Letter to Mrs. Bixby, » Carl Sandburg commented, « Here was a piece of the American Bible. » See Roy P. Basler, Abraham Lincoln, His Speeches and Writings, Universal Library Edition (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1962), 35.return to text

See Charles B. Strozier, Lincoln’s Quest for Union: Public and Private Meanings, (New York: Basic Books, 1982), 225–27, and Basler, Speeches and Writings, 34–49.return to text

« ‘The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions’: Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, January 27, 1838, » Collected Works, 1: 108–15.return to text

Trueblood, 55–56. Matt. 16:18 is also the closing words of Lincoln’s « Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum, » Collected Works, 1: 115.return to text

Lincoln was clearly well read in Bible. Though it is an exceptional case, William J. Wolf counted no less than thirty-four biblical references in Lincoln’s manuscript of his 1858 Address to the Bloomington Young Men’s Association on « Discoveries and Inventions. » See William J. Wolf, Lincoln’s Religion, (Philadelphia: Pilgrim Press, 1970), 132.return to text

In its biblical context Jesus employs the image of « a house divided » to deflect the charge that his ability to exorcise demons came from Satan. Surely, he retorts, Satan would not divide his own house between exorcists and exorcised. Lincoln used the image in an 1843 pamphlet calling for unity among Whigs, and then again, more memorably, during the 1858 Senate campaign, in reference to the divisive effects of slavery. return to text

William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, Life of Lincoln, ed. Paul M. Angle, (Cleveland: World Publishing, 1930), 325; David Donald has suggested that Lincoln took the metaphor from Aesop’s fable « The Lion and the Four Bulls. » Herndon’s reference to Lincoln’s stated motive for using the metaphor is ambiguous enough to allow for this possibility, but absent additional evidence in support of Donald’s contention, a biblical derivation would appear to be more likely. See Donald, Lincoln Reconsidered (New York: Vintage Books, 2001), 68. return to text

See Strozier’s Lincoln’s Quest for Union for an example of this type of analysis of the House Divided motif.return to text

Collected Works, 3: 479. return to text

Ibid., 2: 520.return to text

Gabor Boritt, Abraham Lincoln and the Economics of the American Dream, (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1978), 240.return to text

Collected Works, 1: 411–12. return to text

Boritt, Lincoln and Economics, 278. return to text

Ibid., 123.return to text

Ibid.return to text

For a summary of Wayland’s economic views see Joseph Dorfman, The Economic Mind in American Civilization (New York: Viking Press, 1946), 758–67. Though it is possible that Lincoln’s rendering of the verse was sparked by a pamphlet, sermon, or conversation, I can find no evidence of such a source. Though written a century before Lincoln’s birth, Matthew Henry’s exegetical comment that « we are bound to work, not as creatures only, but as criminals; it is part of our sentence … » succinctly conveys the typical reading of the verse among both Christians and Jews of all denominations in Lincoln’s day as well.return to text

Ibid.return to text

Collected Works, 3: 478. return to text

Ibid., 315.return to text

Collected Works, 7: 368. return to text

Ibid., 259.return to text

Guelzo, Redeemer President, 121. return to text

See also LaWanda Cox, Black Freedom and Lincoln (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 24–26, concerning Lincoln’s views on race, his personal relationships with African Americans, and his commitment to emancipation.return to text

Collected Works, 8: 154–55. return to text

Collected Works, 8: 332–33. return to text

The use of the terms « widow » and « orphan » in the closing paragraph of the Address also appear to be influenced by biblical usage, e.g., Exod. 22:22,24, Isa. 1:17. return to text

During the war years, Lincoln frequently referred to Providential « purpose, » « will, » and « justice. » One could see these references to the unsparing judgment of a Sovereign Will as a late personification of his earlier belief in the « doctrine of necessity. » Ann Douglas, discussing the Calvinist underpinnings of Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, connects Captain Vere’s unwillingness to spare Budd from condemnation with Lincoln’s reference to Luke 1:17 in the Address. She concludes that in Budd’s story « history, presented in its uncompromised detail, merges, no matter how inscrutably and partially, ambiguously, with providence. » The same might be said of Lincoln’s observations concerning the Almighty’s « purposes. » See Douglas, The Feminization of American Culture (New York: Avon, 1977), 391–95. On the « doctrine of necessity » see Current, Lincoln Nobody Knows, chap. 3.return to text

James M. McPherson, « How Lincoln Won the War With Metaphors, » in Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution (New York: Oxford, 1990), 93–112, and see the discussion of Lincoln’s use of metaphors in Strozier, Quest for Union, 177–81.return to text

See David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), 575. return to text

Collected Works, 7: 259.


Mariage pour tous: Exigeons le mariage à plusieurs (More countries recognize polygamy: let’s demand plural marriages)

24 janvier, 2013

Le gouvernement français ayant décidé de s’asseoir sur 3000 ans de conception de la famille en Occident, nous lui suggérons d’aller au bout de son cheminement et de légaliser la polygamie en France … Pour la légalisation du mariage polygame en France

In the Netherlands polygamy has been legalised in all but name. Last Friday the first civil union of three partners was registered. Victor de Bruijn (46) from Roosendaal “married” both Bianca (31) and Mirjam (35) in a ceremony before a notary who duly registered their civil union. “I love both Bianca and Mirjam, so I am marrying them both,” Victor said. He had previously been married to Bianca. Two and a half years ago they met Mirjam Geven through an internet chatbox. Eight weeks later Mirjam deserted her husband and came to live with Victor and Bianca. After Mirjam’s divorce the threesome decided to marry. Victor: “A marriage between three persons is not possible in the Netherlands, but a civil union is. We went to the notary in our marriage costume and exchanged rings. We consider this to be just an ordinary marriage.” Asked by journalists to tell the secret of their peculiar relationship, Victor explained that there is no jealousy between them. “But this is because Mirjam and Bianca are bisexual. I think that with two heterosexual women it would be more difficult.” The Brussels Journal

Brazilian public notary Claudia do Nascimento Domingues set off a firestorm by granting Brazil’s first civil union to a trio, an act so unprecedented that there isn’t a word for it in Portuguese. União poliafetiva is the label she created. “Polyfidelitous union” is her best guess in English. The relationship involves three professionals in their 30s…. What Domingues did was legally register the trio as a “stable union,” a civil union that extends all of the benefits of marriage, though there is debate about what rights the threesome will actually enjoy. It short, it recognizes the trio as a family entity for public legal purposes…. …The controversial civil union “is proof that there is a plurality of familiar relations, though not all deserve judicial or legal standing,” Rolf Madaleno, director of the Brazilian Institute for Family Law, said in a statement. “The action carried out does not provide protections and does not confer rights.” (…) Other polyfidelitous groups have reached out to her seeking the same civil union status. Domingues is studying the cases of a quintet (two men and three women) and another trio (one woman and two men). Polyinthemedia

Gay Marriage Has Islamists Eyeing Polygamy

David J. Rusin

National Review

April 16, 2012

[NOTE: The National Review title is « Polygamy, Too: Muslims have started seeking their own redefinition of marriage »; the following text includes some material cut from the published version.]

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum got jeered for comparing the legalization of same-sex marriage to that of polygamy, but, whether or not the comparison is rationally sound, thoughts of the former’s facilitating the latter bring a smile to many Islamists. If the definition of marriage can evolve in terms of gender, some Muslims ask, why not in terms of number?

Islam sanctions polygamy — more specifically, polygyny — allowing Muslim men to keep up to four wives at once. Though marrying a second woman while remaining married to the first is prohibited across the Western world, including all 50 U.S. states, a Muslim can circumvent the law by wedding one woman in a government-recognized marriage and joining with others in unlicensed religious unions devoid of legal standing.

As Muslims have grown more numerous in the West, so too have Muslim polygamists. France, home to the largest Islamic population in Western Europe, was estimated in 2006 to host 16,000 to 20,000 polygamous families — almost all Muslim — containing 180,000 total people, including children. In the United States, such Muslims may have already reached numerical parity with their fundamentalist Mormon counterparts; as many as 100,000 Muslims reside in multi-wife families, and the phenomenon has gained particular traction among black Muslims.

The increasingly prominent profile of Islamic polygamy in the West has inspired a range of accommodations. Several governments now recognize plural marriages contracted lawfully in immigrants’ countries of origin. In the United Kingdom, these polygamous men are eligible to receive extra welfare benefits — an arrangement that some government ministers hope to kill — and a Scottish court once permitted a Muslim who had been cited for speeding to retain his driver’s license because he had to commute between his wives.

The ultimate accommodation would involve placing polygamous and monogamous marriages on the same legal footing, but Islamists have been relatively quiet on this front, a silence that some attribute to satisfaction with the status quo or a desire to avoid drawing negative publicity. There have, of course, been exceptions. The Muslim Parliament of Great Britain made waves in 2000 about challenging the UK’s ban on polygamy, but little came of it. In addition, two of Australia’s most influential Islamic figures called for recognition of polygamous unions several years ago.

With the legal definition of marriage expanding in various U.S. states, as it has in other nations, should we anticipate rising demands that we recognize polygamous marriages? Debra Majeed, an academic apologist for Islamic polygamy, has tried to downplay such concerns, claiming that « opponents of same-sex unions, rather than proponents of polygyny as practiced by Muslims, are the usual sources of arguments that a door open to one would encourage a more visible practice of the other. » Yet some American Muslims apparently did not get the memo.

Because off-the-cuff remarks can be the most revealing, consider a tweet by Moein Khawaja, executive director of the Philadelphia branch of the radical Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). After New York legalized same-sex marriage last June, Khawaja expressed what many Islamists must have been thinking: « Easy to support gay marriage today bc it’s mainstream. Lets see same people go to bat for polygamy, its the same argument. *crickets* »

The « same argument » theme is fleshed out in an October 2011 piece titled « Polygamy: Tis the Season? » in the Muslim Link, a newspaper serving the Washington and Baltimore areas. « There are murmurs among the polygamist community as the country moves toward the legalization of gay marriage, » it explains. « As citizens of the United States, they argue, they should have the right to legally marry whoever they please, or however many they please. » The story quotes several Muslim advocates of polygamy. « As far as legalization, I think they should, » says Hassan Amin, a Baltimore imam who performs polygamous religious unions. « We should strive to have it legalized because Allah has already legalized it. »

Again and again the article connects the normalization of same-sex marriage and Islamic polygamy. « As states move toward legalizing gay marriage, the criminalization of polygamy is a seemingly striking inconsistency in constitutional law, » it asserts. « Be it gay marriage or polygamous marriage, the rights of the people should not be based on their popularity but rather on the constitutional laws that are meant to protect them. »

According to a survey carried out by the Link, polygamy suffers from no lack of popularity among American Muslims. Thirty-nine percent reported their intention to enter polygamous marriages if it becomes legal to do so, and « nearly 70 percent said they believe that the U.S. should legalize polygamy now that it is beginning to legalize gay marriage. » Unfortunately, no details about the methodology or sample size are provided, and in general quality data on Western Muslims’ views of polygamy are scarce and often contradictory. Results from a recent poll of SingleMuslim.com users, many of whom live in the West, show significant support for the religious institution of polygamy, while findings from a more professional-looking survey of French Muslims indicate little desire for legalization.

Nevertheless, the number of polygamous Muslims and the opportunity presented by the redefining of marriage make it very likely that direct appeals for official recognition will ramp up over the next decade, as more Muslims join vocal non-Muslims already laying out the case that polygamists deserve no fewer rights than gays. In the meantime, watch for Islamists and their allies to prepare for ideological battle.

For starters, one hears a lot about the alleged social necessity of recognizing Islamic polygamy. The hardships encountered by second, third, and fourth wives who lack legal protections are regularly highlighted, while polygamy is promoted as a solution to the loss of marriageable black men in America to drugs, violence, and prison. Because polygamists who are not legally married are known to abuse welfare systems — for instance, Muslim women in polygamous marriages often claim benefits as single mothers — it would not be shocking to see legalization pushed even as a means of curbing fraud.

These practical arguments are supplemented with heavy-handed attempts to extol the supposed virtues of Islamic polygamy, as in a Georgia middle school assignment featuring a Shari’a-lauding Muslim who tells students that « if our marriage has problems, my husband can take another wife rather than divorce me, and I would still be cared for. » Leftist academics such as Miriam Cooke, who has peddled the fiction that polygamy frees married Muslim women to pursue lovers, will have a role to play as well.

Further, as more Muslims come to view same-sex marriage as a springboard to polygamy, we can expect to find more Muslims voicing support — sincere or not — for gay rights. Case in point: « A Muslim American’s Thoughts on Gay Marriage, » the saccharine essay by author and environmentalist Ibrahim Abdul-Matin celebrating New York’s legalization of such unions as a « victory » for all minorities. (One can only speculate about his true motives, but Abdul-Matin’s emcee gig at a regional CAIR banquet last December and his continuing ties to a mosque headed by Siraj Wahhaj, a radical imam who champions polygamy, cast doubt on his moderate self-portrait.) In addition, could the springboard hypothesis help explain a 2011 poll that recorded stunning sympathy for gay rights among British Muslims, despite their documented abhorrence of homosexual acts?

The good news for opponents of polygamy is that eventual legalization remains far from certain in the U.S. or elsewhere. State representatives will not be rushing to introduce pro-polygamy bills when, according to a Gallup survey from last year, almost nine in ten Americans still see the practice as morally wrong. Opinions can change, of course, as they have regarding same-sex marriage. Unfortunately for polygamy’s backers, however, the equality arguments employed to great effect by gay marriage advocates may ring hollow, in that recognizing polygamy — which almost always takes the form of polygyny — would essentially endorse inequality between the genders.

Convincing American judges to overturn restrictions will be an uphill battle as well — and not just because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1879 rejection of the « religious duty » defense of marrying multiple partners in Reynolds v. United States. More recently, state supreme courts have explicitly held the line against polygamy in their rulings to extend marriage rights to same-sex pairs. See Goodridge v. Department of Public Health (Massachusetts, 2003) and In re Marriage Cases (California, 2008); the latter decision describes both polygamous and incestuous unions as « inimical to the mutually supportive and healthy family relationships promoted by the constitutional right to marry. »

Judicial criticism of polygamy is not unique to the U.S. In a case concerning self-proclaimed Mormon fundamentalists, the Supreme Court of British Columbia upheld Canada’s ban on plural marriage last November after the chief justice, in the words of the New York Times, « found that women in polygamous relationships faced higher rates of domestic, physical and sexual abuse, died younger and were more prone to mental illnesses. Children from those marriages, he said, were more likely to be abused and neglected, less likely to perform well at school and often suffered from emotional and behavioral problems. »

Focusing on polygamy in the Islamic world does not yield a happier image. Based on her experiences in Afghanistan, feminist university professor Phyllis Chesler has called the practice « humiliating, cruel, [and] unfair to the wives, » and noted that it « sets up fearful rivalries among the half-brothers of different mothers who have lifelong quarrels over their inheritances. » Likewise, Egyptian-born human rights activist Nonie Darwish has elucidated polygamy’s « devastating impact on the healthy function and the structure of loyalties » within Muslim families.

Recent studies have bolstered these accounts. According to new research, Israeli Arab women in polygamous marriages are worse off than those in monogamous ones. A separate investigation uncovered similar negative effects on Malaysian Muslims. In addition, an academic paper released this year concludes that polygamous societies in general lag behind their monogamous counterparts and explores the reasons for this, including the increased tension and criminal activity that result from creating a surplus of single, low-status men.

There are many other arguments against polygamy that supporters of legalization will have to defeat, such as that expanding marriage to three or more people would require massive alterations of Western family law. However, neither bureaucratic obstacles nor public exposure of the social ills accompanying polygamy will deter polygamous Muslims from seeking what they desire.

Recognition of polygamous marriages would be a major win for stealth jihadists — and the time is nearly optimal for them to make their move. How ironic that laws benefiting gay couples may aid Islamists — followers of an ideology that despises homosexuals — in their campaign to establish Shari’a in the Western world.

David J. Rusin is a research fellow at Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.


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