Friday, October 26, 2012

Odds and ends 10/26/2012

George Neumayr drills Gallaudet University for its suspension of Angela McCaskill for—wait for it—signing a petition:

McCaskill, who is deaf, used sign language at a press conference to express her dismay at the bullying. She noted the irony of the school suspending its chief diversity officer for expressing a diverse opinion: “I am dismayed that Gallaudet University is still a university of intolerance, a university that manages by intimidation, a university that allows bullying among faculty, staff, and students.”

Perhaps [Gallaudet President T. Alan] Hurwitz should rename her position chief uniformity officer. All must submit to the same creed, the one true faith of political correctness, and apparently her job was to enforce it. Hurwitz’s only blunder in the eyes of Maryland liberals is that he excommunicated McCaskill too soon: he should have waited until after the vote in November.


Robert P. George at First Things skewers the “Catholic” Left, and corrects the Left’s misconception about Paul Ryan’s love affair with Ayn Rand:

As Mother Teresa observed during her visit to the United States in 1994, it is the abortion license above all else that is undercutting social solidarity in Western democracies today. And the abortion license has no more loyal and determined defenders and promoters than Barack Obama and Joe Biden. If there is radical individualism to be condemned in this election cycle, it is the radical individualism advanced by the President, Vice President, and others in their party who champion an unrestricted right to kill the weakest and most vulnerable members of the human family in the name of individual “autonomy” and “choice.”

Moreover, Obama, Biden, and their political party have committed themselves to abolishing in law the conjugal understanding of marriage as the union of husband and wife and replacing it with a conception of marriage as an intimate relationship of two persons of the same or opposite sexes. Given Rand’s views on sexual morality, she would likely find the Obama-Biden position far more congenial than the Romney-Ryan stand.


Timothy Dalrymple makes two good points in his article “Why We Need More Religion in Politics, Not Less” at Patheos. The first relates to politics in the pulpit. I’ve always believed preachers should espouse values. From values one deduces politics. The second point relates to the Left’s godless humanism.

Let a white evangelical pastor endorse a Republican candidate from the pulpit and liberals will shower him with condemnation for weeks. He’s “hijacked God” and made Jesus into a lever in the political machine. But scores of African American pastors can meet their congregations at their churches and march them down to the polling centers and no one raises a peep. Clinton played the African American church like a fiddle. Obama has never needed to, since they were already in the bag. The concern once expressed by some African American pastors over the President’s “evolution” on gay marriage is now long forgotten.

So where do people get this notion that the Right has claimed ownership over Christianity? It’s best understood historically. And while there are certainly points in this story on which to criticize the Right, the story has just as much to do with poor decisions on the Left. If it came to seem as though the Right owned the Christian camp in the ongoing political warfare between the parties, it was largely because the Left completely abandoned the religious field.

Jeffrey’s Bell’s The Case for a Polarized Politics tells the story in far greater detail than I can hope to do here. But in the late 1960s and 1970s, the Democratic party came to represent the rejection — in fact, it was quite explicit — of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Democratic National Conventions were awash in anti-Christian sentiment, as that tradition came to represent all that was oppressive and backwards, the decrepit authority of a prior generation that was best case [sic] aside in the mark [sic] toward the new utopia. Religion was essentially privatized.


Dalrymple hit another homerun in an earlier article about sex addiction.

Sin, the essence of sin, is rejecting the will of God. Rejecting his authority, his provision, his love and truth, his goodness and trustworthiness. It is God who gives us being and freedom and truth. We are created to be who we are and therefore to find a life that is truly true and free and good in a relationship of unceasing trust and rest and receptivity in God. Therefore, the very definition of disobeying God, of breaking that relationship, is bondage. In servanthood to God, we find being and truth and freedom. In the rejection of God, we find unbeing and untruth and unfreedom — we find that we lose ourselves in darkness, deception and enslavement to false gods.

There simply is no human solution to this problem. But addictions are not there to be solved. The first good that God can bring from an addiction is to help us see ourselves — and our need — honestly. Like The Law, addiction points us toward our need for grace. Addicts — and I’ve seen this countless times — are more likely than others to come to God not because they find in God a crutch, but because their addictions show them the truth of who they are. Like all suffering, addiction makes us visible to ourselves in all our powerlessness and our enslavement and our absolute need for God.


Lee Harris writes an excellent piece at The American on the Obama administration’s dhimmitude:

what is currently standing in the path of peaceful coexistence between the United States and the Muslim world is not the state of Israel, much less the producers of the film, Innocence of Muslims—no, it is that troublesome First Amendment. That is what is really fanning the flames of fanaticism, and nothing else—a moral utterly lost to the current administration in its misguided efforts to appease Muslim fury by pursuing a policy of abject apologetics.

Since the commencement of the current crisis, the Obama administration has repeatedly explained to the offended followers of the Prophet that the U.S. government had nothing to do with making the obnoxious film that, via its posting on YouTube, has set off weeks of bloody riot all across the Muslim world. This, of course, is quite true, but beside the point. Those who think that the rioters are foolish to attack the U.S. government for a film made by a lone crackpot are underrating the rioters’ intelligence.

Harris’ point in the second paragraph reminds me of the brilliant South Park episode “Cartoon Wars,” wherein the citizens of South Park literally bury their heads in sand. The reason? To show they played no part in the depiction of a cartoon Mohammed, and thus to avoid terrorist reprisals.


Barry Rubin, writing in the Jerusalem Post, hits the nail on the head:

One of President Barack Obama’s main themes is to convince Middle East Islamists that America is not their enemy. But the reason this strategy never works is that the radicals know better. The United States is their enemy.

No amount of sympathy, empathy, economic aid, apology or appeasement will change this fact. Nor did such efforts succeed in making either Obama or the United States popular in such circles and the tens of millions of people influenced by them. The only thing surprising about all of this is that so few “experts” and politicians seem to comprehend it.


A Mormon writes on faith versus works in Meridian Magazine:

If we posed the question, “Does faith in the Lord Jesus Christ save us?” we, with our Protestant friends would gladly answer; “YES!” But if the question is changed to ask, “Is it faith alone that saves?” our answer would be different. We believe that our earnest striving must accompany our faith just as the contributions of both a man and a woman are necessary to create life.

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One day I sought out a minister at the local First Baptist Church. I approached with no intent to debate; I wanted simply to understand their doctrine. One of the questions we discussed was the requirements for salvation. As expected, he suggested that it is faith alone that saves us. I posed a dilemma. If three people made earnest confessions of Christ, but one promptly returned to a life of crime and immorality, a second coasted in cool indifference, while the third earnestly sought to do the works that Jesus did, are all three saved?

The minister sighed. “I guess you would have to ask if they were true confessions.”

Exactly! We couldn’t agree more. It is simply impossible to separate faith and works.


Carson Holloway writes a dynamite review of Charles Kesler’s book on progressivism, I Am the Change, at Public Discourse. My favorite line, consonant with “Perfectibility of man,” comes in the fourth excerpted paragraph.

For progressives, government must lead the way in ensuring that we take better care of each other. It desires fellow citizens to think of each other as friends and even as family. As President Obama has often admonished us, we must be our brother’s keeper.

Yet nothing is more deadly to friendship than when one party seeks a greater intimacy than the other can accept, a misstep that often dissolves the relationship with feelings of frustration and bitterness. Kesler’s story reminds us of how often American progressivism has forced such unfruitful exchanges.

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Many Americans revere the founding and take seriously the founders’ claims to have discovered the truth for all time about the rights of human beings. The mind of such Americans was well-expressed by that astute and underappreciated critic of progressivism, Calvin Coolidge, who once remarked that because the principles of the Declaration of Independence are true, any effort to “progress” beyond them is in fact a form of retrogression. For such American conservatives—who show no signs of disappearing, to the consternation of progressives—the main aim of our politics is to preserve the principles of the founding and to live according to them, not to get beyond them.

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Given the social friction that progressivism so reliably generates, even and especially when it most desires to increase social solidarity, one begins to suspect its inconsistency not only with the American character but also with human nature.

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This hostility to democratic self-government is built into the demand for progress understood as irreversible improvement in social conditions. Each new step in the march of progress must be embraced as permanent, with the necessary consequence that the people are no longer permitted to deliberate about it. In terms of public policy, this problem shows itself in the progressive insistence that new, more generous programs be accepted not only as suited to present social needs, but as “entitlements” with which we may not tamper. In terms of popular rhetoric it is manifested in the progressive slogan that we cannot “turn back the clock,” which really means that progressive political victories are no longer subject to the people’s choice. The more progressivism triumphs, the smaller the sphere within which the people are permitted to determine the character of public policy.


Katherine Kerner writes a great article on the roots of progressivism, “From Obama, agenda at odds with founders”:

Hegel’s vision of man and the state ran directly counter to the American founders’ classical liberalism. He did not view human rights as inherent in nature, universal, and existing prior to the state. Instead, he maintained that rights “evolve” historically and take different forms at different times and places. The state, in his view, is both the source of rights and the engine of historical progress.


The always insightful Daniel Greenfield writes:

Governments that choose breadth of control are able to govern a large territory with a light touch, but breadth of control depends on a population that governs itself through a national identity rooted in an ethical, religious or tribal code. When a government attempts to replace this code with its own control, then it trades breadth of control for depth of control.

Depth of control can only be extended over a limited area. When governments invest in depth of control, then they tighten control over a handful of urban centers clotted with massive bureaucracies that carefully regulate the lives of its middle class while the rest of the country begins going its own way unknown to the ruling class. These decadent systems lose touch with the outskirts and with their own lower classes and remain unaware even as their empire crumbles.


Greenfield writes of identity politics:

There is a Black America and a White America and a Latino America, in time there will also be an Asian America—not as occasional neighborhoods, but as slices of the country with dramatically different cultures, economic agendas and outlooks for the future. These are different tribes, who despite the best efforts of the integrators, live apart and think apart. They do not, for the most part, hate each other, but neither do they like each other nearly as much as they like themselves.

These are natural phenomena, but they are also unnatural because politicians have chosen to turn identity into identity politics, to segregate economic and political participation by race and to then equate political and racial identity. They have linked political participation to a subsidized economic infrastructure that offers up patronage and other benefits in exchange for a racial-political alignment and that makes their tribal America not a great deal better than any Middle Eastern country which runs on the same tribal benefits access.

Or to put it another way, we are all Indians now, we all live on reservations waiting for our government check...


Abe Greenwald dishes out a pre-debate rhetorical salvo over at Commentary:

The president’s problem isn’t metaphysical. He’s not lacking vision or “narrative.” The Obama mirage is full of both. It’s a vaporous panorama landscape of a social-democratic United States, a republic of brothers’ keepers and citizen Julias kept afloat by a federal redistribution apparatus and newly funded by the repurposed proceeds of the rehabilitated rich.


Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal reviews Obama’s debate performances.

Barack Obama is no shrinking violet. He loves the bright lights of the presidency. What he can’t handle are the embarrassments that come with it.

The president’s current difficulties aren’t merely about instinctively stepping away from bad news. Another, unavoidable burden of the presidential office—this being a democracy—is the necessity to engage political adversaries. But it was noted before the first, disastrous debate that Mr. Obama’s opinion of Mr. Romney was so low, for some unexplained reason, that he didn’t think he was fit to be president. So why stoop to debate him?


Jeremy Lott over at Patheos writes on the religious/secular divide:

A chasm that became noticeable during the George W. Bush years has grown much wider during Barack Obama’s administration. American politics is coming to resemble old-style continental European politics, with both pro- and anti-clerical parties.

The big difference is that the United States has never had nor wanted an established church. And so our political parties are slowly re-sorting themselves along broader lines of the party that’s for a serious and robust role for religion in American life and one that is coming to oppose such a role.

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Obama had to insist on the shout out to God because his party has become hostile to the Almighty and to religion unless it is a narrowly defined, neutered thing that agrees with the Democratic Party platform on all particulars. In the passage and implementation of Obamacare, the Democrats and the Obama administration have stridently refused to concede any real ground to religious sensibilities or freedom of conscience.

James Taranto spotlights “postfeminist” (I prefer “postmodern”) gender relations:

In the prefeminist era, the typical life script for a young woman was to marry young, have children, and leave the paid workforce to care for them. Today’s young woman is expected to have a career and often to delay marriage and childbearing to accommodate its demands. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, the female workforce participation rate rose most dramatically in the 1970s and ‘80s, peaking in 1999 and declining only slowly since. The timing here is consistent with the hypothesis that the sexes’ “more equal” economic status is a cause of the political gender gap.

Why would a seeming economic convergence lead to a political divergence? Because under the prefeminist regime, men’s and women’s economic roles were complementary and cooperative. The basic social unit was the married couple, and generally speaking, what was good for each spouse was also good for the other.

In the postfeminist world, men and women are in competition with each other. Competition has beneficial economic effects, but political competition between groups is a zero-sum game: If the government is taking action to make the sexes “more equal,” it is helping one sex (usually women) at the expense of the other.


James Williams, Baltimore resident, doesn’t care what marriage is. He only cares about redefining marriage to fit his Marxist agenda. Read the following excerpt and try not to laugh at the free-love gooeyness.

Marriage equality is not about retribution. It is about fairness. And loving one another. And tolerating our differences.

Tell that to Angela McCaskill. Also, observe Williams’ inane contrast of fighting the enemy with violating the military code of conduct:

Until recently, even the federal government had an official policy of dismissing members of the armed forces if they found someone was involved with a member of the same gender. Ironically, they often awarded a soldier a medal for killing another man, and a dishonorable discharge for loving one.


Over at the American Thinker, Michael Filozof reviews the foreign policy presidential debate:

Sickeningly, Romney spent most of this time talking about how much he agreed with Obama. Rather than humiliating Obama for blowing off Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet with Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Letterman, Romney actually stole a line from Obama by saying he’d “have Israel’s back.” And rather than calling out Obama’s lousy performance as commander-in-chief in Afghanistan, where our troops (that Obama professes so much ersatz concern for) are getting shot in the back by our supposed Afghan “partners,” Romney genially agreed with Obama’s 2014 deadline and unconvincingly professed that everything in Afghanistan was going just swell.

The whole sordid affair ended with Romney professing his love of teachers, and moderator Bob Schieffer mockingly replying “Well, I guess we all love teachers, don’t we?”

This presidential campaign has devolved into a plastic, synthetic, insincere, focus-grouped attempt to pry defined constituencies – blacks, women, autoworkers, teachers, what have you – away from their iPhones long enough to put one party or the other into power. Nothing more, nothing less. There’s no serious contemplation of the real issues here, no honesty, and no ability on either side to unify the American public to meet the crises that surely and predictably lie ahead.


Lauri B. Regan, in a caustic review of a “bipartisan” ad featuring Sean Penn and Kid Rock, writes the “partisan” truth:

What made this country great was not individuals who thought “differently,” but individuals who had similar values. America was built on principles of individual liberty, free enterprise, freedom of religion, and capitalism. It was certainly not built by colossal government, leaders who undermine the Constitution, and entitled citizens looking for handouts.


Daren Jonescu writes a brilliant piece, titled “In Obama’s World, There Is No You.” To Obama, individuals serve the state.

It is a hallmark of collectivism to deny the primacy of the individual human being – that is, to deny the inheritance of ancient metaphysical genius and timeless common sense that made modern political liberty possible. In a sense that is more literal than any reasonable person can easily understand, individual human beings are not real for men like Obama. Hence Obama’s instinct for deflecting all individual human concerns into considerations of “everybody,” by which he typically means not every person, but rather an abstract collective entity – the “middle class,” the “people behind you,” the “people at the bottom,” “a whole bunch of hardworking people,” and so on.

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Who identifies as the representative beneficiary of his policy agenda a fictional cartoon character, Julia? A man for whom no actual human being can satisfactorily represent the human condition, which, in his mind, transcends the individual.


As promised, two articles from First Things editor R.R. Reno. In “Moses and Multiculturalism,” Reno draws a bizarre parallel (which kind of works) between young Moses and postmodern, multicultural man, moving noncommittally between the Jewish slaves and Pharaoh’s inner circle. Then he explains how Moses’ possession by God at Mount Horeb specifically rejects multiculturalism. He writes in summary:

To my mind, the trajectory of the biblical account of Moses, a trajectory reenacted every time a child is circumcised or baptized or in any way dedicated to a determinate cultural authority rather than left free to float along in life as an unattached, uncommitted, unclaimed world citizen, helps us understand an important point of conflict in the current culture wars. On one side, we have an educational ideal widely held. This vision wishes to deracinate. If we can live as cultural polytheists, exposed to many different perspectives and allowing no divine name to take possession of our souls, then our moral imaginations will be freed from the limiting confines of no one culture’s view of good and evil. On the other side, we have an old-fashioned ideal, one as old as culture itself. In this view, the human person must be subjected to and formed by that authority of the divine, without which he or she will live only as an animal, seeking only the base goods of pleasure, power, and survival. The conflict is fundamental and irreconcilable.

Each of us must struggle to understand how to live our lives in a pluralistic, democratic society. But to my mind, however fuzzy and uncertain we might be about any particular public policy or social project, we must at least be clear about Moses. We should want to follow his trajectory, and there can be no compromise with those who prize his multicultural youth. For he who is not a servant of a cultural authority deeply installed is merely human—which is to say, a slave to his passions and servant of his self-interest, who, when he comes to realize his base existence, is all too easily victim of thin, ideological deities who promise the immediate psychological satisfactions of a veneer of moral idealism.

“We Need Roots” begins as a music review, then morphs into a paean to the notions of home, God, and country.

To a very great extent, what flies under the cosmopolitan banner of postmodernism represents a reaction against the bloody consequences of nationalism in the last century. Our multicultural therapists do not counsel moral relativism because they have closely studied questions of epistemology. They want us to be self-critical and non-judgmental so that we can all get along. Let us be lukewarm in our loyalties so that we will be soft in our hatreds. If nothing is worth fighting for, then nobody will fight.

It seems like a good outcome, but at what price? Social capital is a term developed by sociologists to describe the non-economic, non-coercive forces that bind people. Social capital pays out its dividends in all sorts of ways: in community service, in family life, and in often unreflective, habitual acts of courtesy and friendliness. If everything in our lives is run like the futures pit at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange or the local courtroom, then we have mean, miserable lives.

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This patriotic impulse is based on a deep truth about culture. When human beings invest in a tradition or community or nation over long periods of time, something of our intrinsic dignity as creatures made in the image of God cannot help but find its way into the fabric of the culture. There’s almost always something in every human society worth honoring, which is one reason why patriotism is a natural virtue.

To deny this is to muzzle human nature, which is why multiculturalism is so weak and bloodless.

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