Nation, American Style

Vox Day talked last night on his livestream about how American conservatism was doomed as a political movement from the beginning because, even as defined by Russell Kirk, it was only ever an attitude, never a coherent political philosophy.

Kirk himself said so. He called conservatism a “persuasion,” without “ideology,” “Holy Writ,” or “dogmata,” and he suggested that “conservative” as a word be used only as an adjective—a modifier, not a substantive noun.

And indeed, as Vox pointed out, as defined by Kirk, conservatism has no substance. It is a stance against, not an argument for.

In Kirk’s own words:
The attitude we call conservatism is sustained by a body of sentiments, rather than by a system of ideological dogmata. It is almost true that a conservative may be defined as a person who thinks himself such. The conservative movement or body of opinion can accommodate a considerable diversity of views on a good many subjects, there being no Test Act or Thirty-Nine Articles of the conservative creed. 
In essence, the conservative person is simply one who finds the permanent things more pleasing than Chaos and Old Night. (Yet conservatives know, with Burke, that healthy “change is the means of our preservation.”) A people’s historic continuity of experience, says the conservative, offers a guide to policy far better than the abstract designs of coffee-house philosophers. But of course there is more to the conservative persuasion than this general attitude. 
Kirk goes on to list ten principles to which he says most conservatives would subscribe, but at no point does he define the particular “historic continuity of experience” from which his own principles might derive.

Cue accusations of “white nationalism.”

Both Vox and myself have been accused of supporting “white nationalism” and being racist for doing so, the great irony being that neither of us supports anything of the sort because—as both he and I have repeatedly saidthere is no such thing

As Vox told one of his listeners who had pressed him on a previous video, “How can someone believe in the fourteen words and not be a white nationalist?”
Because, again, pan-white “nationalism” is not nationalism. There is no pan-white nation and there never will be a pan-white nation anymore than there will ever be a pan-Arab nation, a pan-Asian nation, or a pan-Red nation. Every historical attempt at pan-national supranationalism has eventually failed, from the American Indian alliances to the United Arab Republic. 
Destroying the European nations in order to save the white race is an epically stupid and historically ignorant strategy. Even if a “mixed-white nation” were to somehow come into existence over time, it would identify itself separately from other white nations. All there has ever been, all there will ever be, are empires where one identity rules over the others by force and/or numbers.
Defining a nation is not about race. It is about the things that Kirk pointed to—“historic continuity of our experience”—but refused to articulate.

Is there such a thing as an American nation?

Vox says, no, those of us whose ancestors were English or German or Dutch (e.g. me) have been deracinated. We have no roots, no people, no nation. I would tend to disagree—proud Redneck, a.k.a. Scots-Irish Presbyterian, here!—but I understand why he might think that. We (the Rednecks) are the ones, as Colin Woodard noted in American Nations, who tend to identify ourselves as “American,” no hyphen, which is why we as voters responded so enthusiastically to Mr. Trump’s campaign slogan. Not because we are white, but because we are Americans.

But who is this we?

Vox notes regularly that he is not (just) white, he is a Native American, which makes him, if anything, a “red nationalist,” except that (as noted above) there is no such thing either. And yet, he looks white because his father is white, whereas he is Native American on his mother’s side.

Elizabeth Warren is not the only one who has difficulty convincing people she is a Native American. I wonder why?

Let’s ask this question another way: Why do the Scots-Irish Presbyterians of Greater Appalachia call themselves “Americans”? 

Answer: The same reason that Vox Day and Elizabeth Warren look “white.” 

Now how do you think that happens?

Map from Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America 
(New York: Penguin Books, 2011)

Here are some clues.

1. The “American Revolution” was not fought by “Americans” against “the British.” (See map.) As Woodard explains:
The event we call the American Revolution wasn’t really revolutionary, at least while it was underway. The military struggle of 1775-1782 wasn’t fought by an “American people” seeking to create a united, continent-spanning republic where all men were created equal and guaranteed freedom of speech, religion, and the press. 
On the contrary, it was a profoundly conservative action fought by a loose military alliance of nations, each of which was most concerned with preserving or reasserting control of its respective culture, character, and power structure. The rebelling nations certainly didn’t wish to be bonded together into a single republic. They were joined in a temporary partnership against a common threat: the British establishment’s ham-fisted attempt to assimilate them into a homogeneous empire centrally controlled from London.
Some nations—the Midlands, New Netherland, and New France—didn’t rebel at all. Those that did weren’t fighting a revolution; they were fighting separate wars of colonial liberation.
2.  The last thing that the Scots-Irish Borderlanders who settled Greater Appalachia wanted to be called was “British.” “English” was even worse. It was the English, after all, who had forced them from their homes on the border between Scotland and England. They arrived, as Woodard argues, as much as refugees as settlers. Again, in Woodard’s words:
Greater Appalachia started as a civilization without a government. The Borderlanders weren’t really colonists, brought to the New World to provide some lord or shareholding company with the manpower for a specific colonial project. 
They were immigrants seeking sanctuary from a devastated homeland, refugees who generally arrived without the encouragement or direction of officials, and often against their wishes. 
Having no desire to bow to “foreign” rule or to give up their ways, the Borderlanders rushed straight to the isolation of the eighteenth-century frontier to found a society that was, for a time, literally beyond the reach of law, and modeled on the anarchical world they had left behind.
And whom did the Borderlanders find out on that frontier?

3. The Borderlanders would fight with anybody—as Jim Webb put it, they were “born fighting”—but they would also marry anybody, too. Woodard, again (—I will let you guess where *his* sympathies lie):
Borderlanders lived among the Native Americans on whose land they were usually trespassing [unlike the damn Yankees who only borrowed theirs—just saying]. As in New France, a significant proportion of settlers essentially “went Native” [a.k.a. became “Americans”], abandoning fishing and husbandry for an aboriginal life. 
They hunted and fished, wore furs and clothing similar to those of the natives [a.k.a. AMERICANS] in their area, adopted Indian customs, took Indian wives, and had mixed-race children, several of whom grew up to be prominent Native American statesmen. Some learned Indian languages [have you ever wondered about all those place names?] and conducted extended trapping and trading expeditions deep into aboriginal [a.k.a. American] territory. Others became nomadic outlaws, hunting and stealing their way through the backcountry, annoying just about everyone.
They were “little more than white Indians,” one disgruntled South Carolinian observed, while backcountry Virginians complained of those “who live like savages.” 
The mainstream [NB Woodard’s sympathies, again] of Appalachian society, however, regarded the Lenni Lenape, Shawnee, Cherokee, Creek, and other Indians as opponents in a fearful struggle for control of the backcountry [remember what the English thought of the Borderlanders? Right]. It was an attitude often reciprocated, especially as the Borderlanders increasingly hunted, cleared, and squatted [unlike the Yankees, Virginians, and Midlanders] on Indian land. The result was a series of brutal wars that left staggering numbers of dead on both sides.
(Have you guessed, Woodard is a Yankee? He grew up in Maine. See map.)

4. The Borderlanders were far from vague about their ideals. You might even say that they were a nation. Sticking with Woodard, even though he is a Yankee (NB how he talks about my nation’s faith):
Under such conditions [being constantly caught between the English and Scots], Borderlanders learned to rely only on themselves and their extended families to defend home, hearth, and kin against intruders, be they foreign soldiers, Irish guerrilla fighters, or royal tax collectors. 
Living amid constant upheaval, many Borderlanders embraced a Calvinist religious tradition—Presbyterianism—that held that they were God’s chosen people, members of a biblical nation sanctified in blood and watched over by a wrathful Old Testament deity [sigh]. 
Suspicious of outside authority of any kind, the Borderlanders valued individual liberty and personal honor above all else, and were happy to take up arms to defend either. When Queen Elizabeth I and her successors needed tough, warlike people to settle Northern Ireland and crush native resistance, they turned to border Scots who, in Ulster [the first Fulton in my family came from Ulster, David Fulton], became the Scots-Irish. 
A century later, many Americans would value their willingness to hold down frontier lands against restive Native Americans, creating a protective buffer for more docile settlers [get it?] near the coast.
Basically, without us Americans, you coastlanders would have been toast. Just saying.

Vox has talked about how he can trace his ancestry on his father’s side back to an American Revolutionary war general—from western Virginia, just a few counties away from where the Fultons lived, both on the Greater Appalachian side of the divide—and on his mother’s side to a Mexican rebel. Add that to his Native American ancestry, and you start to get the picture, I think.

Vox’s family—like mine—comes from the Borderlands. That is our “historic continuity of experience.”

Not race.

Fighting for hearth and home and kin—and God. And not backing down when people call you names.

Russell Kirk, on the other hand, was born in Plymouth, MichiganDamn Yankee, no wonder he didn’t understand what it means to be American.

What does it mean to be American in the West? It’s complicated. Read more here!


  1. I so look forward to your posts and reading your insights that when they pop up in my e-mail, I know in a matter of moments that I'm going to be challenged, enlightened and entertained.

    This missive reminded me of the limitless historical ignorance (or perhaps utter intellectual dishonesty) of new left-liberals who are ready to burn Trump and King at the stake for self-identifying as nationalists when these same people look incredulously at others who don't join in the collective secular worship of men like Hamilton, Marshall and Lincoln. Those were real nationalists... None of them real AMERICANS as it were though...

    All this makes me wish to welcome you aboard (proverbially rather than literally like Tom Woods and Bob Murphy's CONTRA CRUISE) to embracing those ideas that make sense of the world and through which our mutual Catholic faith most shines: Libertarian Anarcho-Capitalism.

    Caritas Christi Urget Nos.

  2. I'm missing a step in the logic chain here.

    Both Vox and myself have been accused of supporting “white nationalism” and being racist for doing so, the great irony being that neither of us supports anything of the sort because—as both he and I have repeatedly said—there is no such thing.

    Then follows a post that seems to be explaining in detail how "white" doesn't really exist, just population subdivisions. (but again, maybe I misread, hence my point about missing a step)

    Ok. Fair point. But then point #14 on Vox's 16 points about the nationalist right is, and I quote:
    The Alt Right believes we must secure the existence of white people and a future for white children.

    But you just established that "white" doesn't exist. That would make point 14 the equivalent of "We believe we must secure the existence of faeries." If you don't believe white people exist then how do you believe in securing that existence?

    1. Here is where I disagree with Vox. “White” became a way of talking about Europeans, particuarly the British, in the context of colonialism (thus Kipling’s “white man’s burden”), but it is profoundly unhelpful when trying to describe the continuing existence of nations that have themselves been created through intermarriage, including “Americans.”

    2. Ok. You may want to add that somewhere in the post for clarity.

      So you're saying (no, I'm not going Cathy Newman) is that on your list uou would write pt 14 as " a future for the American people"?

    3. Yes, that is better. I still need to define “American” properly. It includes black Americans, too.

  3. It is interesting that the motto of West Virginia is Montani Semper Liberi (Mountaineers are always free) constitutes the core of what most folks would describe as "Americanism." You also point out that, perhaps more than any other region outside the US side of El Norte, intermarriage between races was relatively common at an early stage with the mingling of the despised Scots-Irish and the equally despised Native Americans intermarrying. Being American is more about a shared set of ideas and a general way of life than it is about ethnicity. Or maybe a better and more accurate way to say it is "Being Appalachian is more about a shared set of ideas and a general way of life than it is about ethnicity." As an adopted Ozarker, I say with pride, Long Live Greater Appalachia!

    1. The problem, which is what I see Vox trying to articulate, is that tradition—“a shared set of ideas and a general way of life”—depends on handing down (traditio) the ideas and way of life from one generation to the next, which is why immigration is so destructive of tradition. It doesn't work to replace one working population with another—that is either slavery or colonialism proper.

    2. Otherwise, I agree! Long Live Greater Appalachia!

    3. I don't think immigration per se is the issue, it is the de facto uncontrolled mass immigration we have witnessed over the past 2 decades or so combined with the lack of respect for the law itself which is the result of ignoring, papering over, excusing, the problem rather than taking it head on and dealing with it. When it becomes politically incorrect to use the term illegal immigrant to describe someone who broke the law in coming here, even if they were brought as minors their immigration to this country was in violation of the laws of this country, is when immigration becomes inimical to the culture and the country. Blatant disregard for the law is not part of the shared set of ideas and general way of life, well ok maybe a bit of moonshining can be ignored, after all that is part of the general way of life in the hills. :-) And you know, you're a Greater Appalachian, not just by ancestry, but by birth since you hail from that part of the Republic of Texas that is in Greater Appalachia!

  4. From one of my readers:

    “I enjoyed seeing you smiling in the red hat—the current red badge of courage. Especially so since it has become such a red flag to the charging mob nowadays. Nervy! Healthy! Joan of Arcish! As a Fox News item today notes, ‘People who despise Donald Trump are now aiming their anger at those who wear the red hats in support of the president.’ Overlooked here is the possibility--high probability--that many are also wearing it in support of America, like the Covington students, relieved at last to find a contemporary symbol that counters explicitly the unending negativism toward America stemming from the academic left--as in the widely adopted Howard Zinn history, which includes all of the warts, few of the alls. According to Zinn, the US was never really great, because it was never really perfect. Ignoring the foolishness, even hypocrisy, of demanding perfection, the red hat wearers claim otherwise, acknowledging that it has recently become less great, mainly through overzealous application of its virtues (think affirmative action; think political correctness; think etc.), and that we could perhaps reconcile the contradictions to become truly great once again. So, the hats are a rallying point while signaling that the wearers are not alone, and hence the hats boost their morale like the feather in the cap in our Yankee Doodle marching song, wrested with irony from the British. (‘Doodle, derived from the German dudeltopf . . . is used to define a fool . . . or a simpleton . . .’) The effect on morale may be the most objectionable aspect of all to the left—the restoration of esprit among those they regularly dismiss as deplorables assumed to be well on the run before an effective mopping up operation. That assumption would be especially prevalent on campuses and in the offices of mainstream media. So, you have set a good example! Were you not of self-confessed stubborn Scots-Irish descent, rather than Yankee, the next move on your part might be to add the feather to the cap."

  5. Yes, nations are a finer subdivision than race, but, in the sense you're talking about them, they are also generally mono-racial (or a couple of races blending at some speed to become one). Thus, addressing nationalism in any meaningful terms would also involve racial distinctions. It just wouldn't stop there. Am I wrong here?

    1. “Nation" depends on feelings of commonality, which include both norms of behavior (manners or mores) and a sense of belonging to the story (history). Modern people tend to underestimate the degree to which both mores and history depend on shared ancestry. Now, how you define that ancestry is the $64,000 question and always has been. Thus the real power of historians: we make nations through the stories we tell.

  6. Well, America USED to be a nation.

    Whether it still is, is an interesting and heart breaking question. Surely the America Heinlein described in the 50's does not exist much anymore. "Mac" is out of common usage, hitch-hiking would be an act of madness, and "doc" does not live amongst the working classes anymore, but in a gated community. 50 years of vilifying and critically deconstructing every element in the American shared experience have made an impact unfortunately. Flooding the country by foreigners does not help either, especially when even when they wish to do so, find no common ethos to assimilate into given the relentless progressive poison-cult.

    Yet hope remains, to quote Galadriel. I travel a lot, and some of that old American optimism and sense of belonging still exists. Not in the big cities, but in the suburbs and small towns. We may see a Hegelian cultural antithesis of the kind England experienced in the mid 1850's with the rise of the "Young England" movement, and the re-discovering of cultural conservatism.


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