Flag Burning, the Bill of Rights, and Leaving America Behind: Fourth of July Special

Yes, the American Revolution was special. It’s not yet uncool to recognize facts. You are entitled to your mistaken and unsupported opinions, however; this is a free country. (Not thanks to you!)

First, there were no massacres. It may have been different if Britain had won, I don’t know. The Loyalists were treated harshly in many places. Many lost their property. Many became the English-speaking root of that milder version of ourselves, Canada. Americans were so generous-minded however that they even allowed Hessian (from Germany) mercenaries from the defeated British army to settle among them. Try to imagine any of the formerly occupied countries in Europe in 1945 allowing Russian SS from the German armed forces to stay behind and prosper! (Yes, there were Russian SS, thousands of them.)

Second, the US Constitution was and probably remains the most clear, exemplary embodiment of the healthy political idea of separating powers, a major step in uprooting the habit of despotism. (I may be wrong but I think the desirability of the separation of powers my have been enunciated earliest by the French philosopher Montesquieu. The French themselves mostly made a mess of the idea.)

Third, it took an embarrassingly long time but American constitution-builders eventually produced a wise list of specifically enunciated rights. A bill of rights is a necessity to protect political, intellectual, and religious minorities and, especially, individuals from the potential, and the very real, threat of tyranny of the majority.

The next to try a bill of rights, the French, did it only a few months later, also in 1789. With the privilege of having Ben Franklin right there in Paris to lend a hand, with Lafayette – who understood the idea well – involved, they also screwed up that one. Most of them don’t know it to this day, I think, but the insertion of one sentence in their Bill has the potential to nullify the whole: “Art. 6. La Loi est l’expression de la volonté générale.* “The Law, is the expression of the general will.” This general will, the will, the will of all, has the power to eradicate any of the individual rights carefully enunciated elsewhere in the same document. Correspondingly, today in France, there are concrete limitations on freedom of speech, for example, although freedom of speech is specifically guaranteed by the French Bill. These limitations were imposed in a carefully legal manner via acts of parliament, and signed by the president yet, they are still a form of despotism and a slippery slope. The little sentence above makes a constitutional challenge on these restrictions on speech difficult, if not impossible.

Incidentally, and going back to the US, there have been recent episodes of US flag burning by activists protesting – somehow – the Charleston church massacre. Go ahead, burn away, it’s your right so long as you don’t accidentally set afire a neighbor’s or public property! I feel forced to link this kind of petulant, childish behavior to a poll I saw recently that describes 50% of millennials as wishing to emigrate, to leave this country.** So, after voting massively for Mr Obama seven years ago, they want to escape the massive failures of his administration instead of staying put and contributing to reverse them. One the failures imputed to Mr Obama is wage stagnation. It has frozen many thirties-something in place, economically speaking. I am not sure it’s fair to blame Mr Obama but it’s done to every administration.

I know quite a bit about emigration/immigration as you might guess. So, I will presume to give potential emigrants advice: You may move to Australia, my friends. Australia will be glad to have you. The country is an admirably successful redneck project. You will enjoy the Australians’ great pubs. Of course, there is a good chance that the first night out to one of the pubs, you will open your mouths too wide. Then you may well end up beaten to a pulp in some dark alley. I don’t wish you such a fate; I disapprove of such rowdy behavior. If it comes to my attention, in the news or in the newspaper, I will not laugh openly. There will just be a little smirk on my face.  Have a good trip.

* 1789 Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme et du citoyen

** Ordinarily, I am the first one to point out that fewer than two convergent polls from respected sources is nothing. So, take this with two grains of salt.


8 thoughts on “Flag Burning, the Bill of Rights, and Leaving America Behind: Fourth of July Special

  1. Jacques, the SS was a paramilitary arm of the Nazi party if I remember correctly. How could there have been Russians in the SS?

  2. Warren: The SS soon branched into a large military arm, the Waffen SS. They looked like an elite formation side by side with the regular army. Around 1944, as the tide war turning, the SS turned this appearance as a recruiting too.l Soon, they had completely foreign SS units including, Danish, French and Belgian. Many Russians were recruited from prisoner of war camps where they were starving to death anyway. Some were animated by hatred to communism. Some Russians went into a special “legion” the name of which escapes me at the moment. Some were formed into SS units. Russians were especially numerous in France during the invasion. Those who were captured were later turned over to Stalin who took care of them in his special manner.

    • For those interested:

      Wiki article on the non-German, mostly Russian SS units in France that Dr J mentions.

      Wiki article on non-German SS units in general (there were lots of them).

      In many ways this is easy to understand, especially if your choice was between Hitler or Stalin.

  3. The Nazis had their own peculiar logic underlying their institutions. The SS originated as a personal bodyguard to Hitler during the NSDAP’s consolidation of power in the 1930s, became the prominent paramilitary organization after the purge of the SA, and then morphed into a large department of its own as the Nazis took complete control and the war began. It functioned as something of a commissariat among Wehrmacht soldiers, and there was also (as Jacques points out) a large infantry component, the Waffen SS. I believe they numbered close to one million strong at their height.

    The Wehrmacht emerged out of the WWI Prussian officer corps and maintained those traditions, while the SS was a wholly political product, completely beholden to Nazi ideology. So, anyone who was or appeared to be Aryan could be admitted. This was heavily pushed in the Nordic countries, which corresponded to the racial ideal. There were also many admissions elsewhere, where the admixture of lesser bloods did not corrupt the Aryan stock sufficiently – I suppose those Slavs and Romance peoples who corresponded to this category were encouraged to join the SS.

    • Interesting Matthew. Thanks.

      I wonder if the non-German SS units are simply a case of scarcity trumping ideology.

      Here is some old NOL banter, between Dr A and I, on WW2 racist ideology from the other side of Eurasia (for those interested, of course)

      • That probably had something to do with it, but I’d have to look at the data to see when and where they were recruited. Towards the end of the war anyone who could hold a gun was pressed into the Volkssturm, and I think these SS men were much before that.

        Also, the Germans would frequently recruit local hatchetmen to do much of their dirty work in places like Ukraine. The Ukrainians, out of their hatred for Russia/The Soviets, were particularly effective camp guards and murderers, from what I’ve read.

  4. Well put, Matthew. Though I recommend you don’t use the word “Romance” in connection with people. It’s a linguistic term. It designates languages that are more or less dialects of Latin, the language of the Romans, such as Italian and French. It means nothing else.

    Brandon: yes, it really looks like it was a case of scarcity. Germany even had a legion – I don’t kon w if it was SS – of Muslims. Most were swarthy southern European, Albanians and Bosnians. There are picture of those. One,in particular shows the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem inspecting them.

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