Speaking Your Mind in Perilous Times
I recently wrote a commentary to a local county paper wherein I challenged the imposition of a hate crimes investigation on a man and woman who acted atrociously in a dispute with a local city official. While they were speaking their minds in a hateful way, I do not believe the government has the right or the authority to regulate such speech. Until such speech advocates for acts actual violence against any person. I swiftly learned that speaking one’s mind, even with great clarity and thought can lead to confusion as our society is bent towards seeing the worst in each person. Especially if the person speaking is not using “Right Think”.
However, I was blessed by an interaction with a local lady who had written a commentary in response to my commentary. She had done her due diligence and was speaking to her perception of me due to a statement I had made in a video on my Minnesota Black Robe Regiment YouTube channel. Having picked up on my use of the phrase, paleo-conservative, she was concerned. But, to her credit, she did not simply fire off the commentary to the local editor, she asked me for a response. Below you will see my response. I will be speaking to her concerns and the substance of my reply to her will remain unchanged other than in formatting for better reading as an essay. I am thankful for her civil approach to me. Moreover, I am indebted to her for her decision to not move forward with publishing her commentary.
Speaking to Legitimate Concerns
First, I have no wider agenda. I simply believe that the protections of the First Amendment extend to all forms of speech or speaking, short of advocating for violence against another. It simply does not matter how wretched or despicable the speaking may be, the governing powers have no authority to impose limits on that speech.
The First Amendment protects all speech not just that which we deem acceptable according to the prevailing winds of society. This is why, even as a Christian, I am adamantly opposed to blaspheme laws. I do not know that I am the founder of anything as it regards my YouTube channel or Facebook page. I simply chose “Minnesota Black Robe Regiment” out of a profound respect for the men who stood in pulpits and advocated for a strong resistance to tyranny from a decidedly Christian view. This has been a forgotten by many Christians today, even those that come from the Reformed tradition as do I. I have no affiliation with the national organization nor have I sought any affiliation with them or any others.
On Affiliations and Organizations
I also have no comment of substance on the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center), and their reasoning for placing the national organization on their Active Patriot Groups in the USA list. I am not affiliated with any Patriot Movement group, nor will you find that I am included in any movement that even closely resembles a militia of any sort.
Nor do I have a conspiratorial eschatology. To be honest I have no idea what “conspiratorial eschatology” even means. I am Amillennial in my eschatology but that has nothing to do with conspiracies but instead is strictly biblical. And as the word eschatology indicates from its Koine Greek origins, is only about the study of end times.
I am admittedly a strict Constitutionalist and believe in a very narrow interpretation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I cannot speak to the xenophobia or any other extremist views of the Patriot Movement as I have no ties to them. Nor do I adhere to any such beliefs.
I am certainly not anti-Semitic or anti-Islamic. In my public ministry I thoroughly enjoy engaging with Muslims and Jewish folks. I believe that they are as entitled to their beliefs and existence here in the USA as I am. In fact, unlike most Islamic nations, the Constitution of the USA grants them protections that I would not have in other places.
Speaking to the “Antis”
I am not anti-immigration but I do believe in a tightly controlled immigration policy for all peoples seeking to enter the United States, regardless of their ethnicity or nation of origin. Again, I am simply not a member of nor do I desire to be part of any Patriot Movement Group. So, please refrain from implying such as it would be speculation at best…
In this regard as you can see I have nothing to hide as I very publicly post videos and commentary on Facebook and YouTube. What I say there I say in public and private. I do describe myself as a Paleo-Conservative, nor will I shy away from the term because there are some who have bastardized it. Wikipedia or even Alt-Right groups who use the term are not representative of my views or many others who would knowingly or unknowingly fall into the same category.
I use the term Paleo-Conservative because I am not a Modern-Conservative or what I refer to as a Reactionary Conservative. Reactionary Conservatives could better be termed Fox News Conservatives. They are often devoid of critical thinking skills and fail on many levels to engage their intellect. Instead, they opt for emotional reactions to current events and lash out at what they see, spewing forth tripe and vitriol. Often, this results in personal insults and attacks on the character of individuals they see as the enemy. Especially when Fox News talking heads and the Rush Limbaugh types tell them the person is the enemy.
I am not above using a few well placed rhetorical jabs at a person’s apparent political leanings but you will rarely if ever see me engage in insults against a person. I am able to draw a line between respect for the individual as a human being made Imago Dei, and a lack of respect for what I see as flawed philosophical or worldview positions. Thus my discontent with the conduct of the Knutsons.
Theology Must Be Consistent
Yes, as Paleo-Conservative, and foremost as a Reformed Christian, I am opposed to abortion and gay marriage. I believe that the LGBTQ community is entitled to all of the Natural Rights of Man as detailed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Again, I am not represented by individuals that take extreme positions and would have to ask for clarification on how one defines LGBTQ rights and how those differ from the Natural Rights of Man. As you so rightly stated, “Certainly, these are positions and values that many of our neighbors in southeast Minnesota share.” I reject Alt-right ideology and anything that resembles ethnic hatred. I hate the term racism as there is only one race and my religious system decries the favoring of one ethnic group over the other. My Savior was Hebrew. His Disciples were Hebrews. The early Church was made up of Europeans and Middle Eastern folks and Africans. One of the greatest of ancient Church Fathers was Augustine of Hippo, an African. I would be a hypocrite of the first order to hold ethnic hatred in my belief system while claiming Christ as my Lord and Savior.
Addressing a Radical Commentary
As to the information provided by IREHR I cannot speak to the validity of their claims. Furthermore, I have no doubts that there were radical elements from White Supremacist groups at the thousands of protests and riots all over the United States. They do not represent me and I have no idea what tactics they use. I have no involvement with Boogaloos either so I am not sure how those two groups would be analogous to anything I have said.
Let’s Not Lump the Ideological Extremes of any Camp Together
As you consider the term Paleo-Conservative and the attempts of others to jump to conclusions about ties between Paleo-Conservatives and extremist ideologues, I would posit this for a thought experiment. Reactionary Conservatives label Leftists and Marxists “Liberals”. Yet, is that a fair label? Are all liberals Leftists or Marxists? Of course not. Moreover, Leftist and Marxists are different from the Classical Liberalism.
I have many friends that are Classical Liberals but will vocally and with much force distance themselves from Leftist or Marxist ideology. Thus, you will not hear me equate all Liberals with Leftists or Marxists. Thus, while it is easy to discredit a particular ideology we disagree with by referring it to it by associating it with radical positions, this is not intellectually honest. In fact in the realm of discourse this method is referred to as a Straw Man Argument or as a form of The Argumentum Ad Hominem. Argument Against the Man. Not every Liberal is a Leftist and Paleo-Conservatives are not all what Wikipedia says they are.
Concern for Government Overreach is not Anti-Government
One place where I take great exception to your piece is this line:
“I salute his thoughtfully well written anti-government arguments.”
I am not anti-government. Nor, I am very much in favor of government. Except for in its proper capacity. Limited and de-centralized. The Federal Government should be very limited in its scope and influence. Consequently, seeing to national defense and ensuring that treaties between other nations are maintained. The Federal Government should also see to interstate commerce. It should ensure that the states are cooperating in the interest of the citizenry.
Limiting State Government
State government is limited and uninvolved in the day-to-day lives of the citizens in each state. Or it should be. My position is not that government serves no purpose. But that The State serves the purpose of the people as a whole. Especially in defending the rights of all people, even those holding unpopular positions.
This means, that the groups that are lawfully and peaceably protesting what they see as government overreach. Even when it comes to COVID19. They should be just as protected as those that are lawfully and peaceably protesting. No matter what the protest. Police brutality or taxes. Just as protected as those calling for the disbanding of police nationwide. It is the duty of The State to defend the rights of both groups. Where I take issue is with favorable treatment of one over the other. As we have seen very much of as of late.
The Reminder of Constitutional Thought
What many Americans have forgotten is that elected officials are not the ones in charge. They are the servants. They serve at our pleasure and our discretion. Sadly, both mainstream parties in the USA see the American Citizenry as their tools and servants. The highest ruling authority in the United States is the Constitution followed by the People.
Those sitting in office are our servants, not our rulers. When they forget this, they all need to be reminded. I don’t care if it is Donald Trump, Tim Walz, Ilhan Omar, or mayors or county boards. They serve us, we do not serve them. There is one other thing I would ask of you. In your closing paragraph you say: “I lay no claim to know his complete beliefs or intents. I am not accusing him of anything. It is important for readers to have full transparency and to be aware of the broader context from which Mr. Pearson writes.”
As you can see, I am fully transparent and have made no moves to hide my material from anyone. Moreover, I have not attempted to obfuscate any of my positions in conversing with you.
Speaking to Fairness
I find you insightful and certainly capable of researching and digging. But I can assure you that you will find no radical end or agenda to me. Both as a person or in my beliefs. Consequently, while you say you aren’t accusing me, your closing reads more like an accusation than you would hope. I would never dare ask you to edit or alter your commentary or rebuttal of my piece. But please be aware that in some way what you have closed with does read as an accusation. It even hints that perhaps there is some measure of conspiracy on my part. An attempt to hide my intent in writing or speaking.
Grace and Peace, Todd