Thursday, February 23, 2017

Let's Talk

I've started to read, "Conserving America? Thoughts On Present Discontents" by Dr. Patrick Deneen of Notre Dame. I'm not very far in, but I'm going to tell you that you should read it. Setting aside the explosive thesis which I won't share here yet, I still actually believe we can do better in political engagement than we have. I don't think we're too far gone, and that's because little things make a huge difference. One person who takes the time to make an opponent's argument better than they have, or toxic words not spoken improves the climate just a little.

Usually, when a candidate for office says they want to add to the national conversation, that means he or she has no chance of winning that office. And maybe that's still true. But what if candidates saw themselves as caretakers of the civic space? We cannot simply mean a desire to serve the public in some general way; I am aiming for an idea that candidates for office safeguard and de-escalate the "temperature" at which the national debate takes place. It seems few of us are actually skilled at this, but I believe it's something to work toward.

I believe this not for the sake of sentiment and self-image, but to create the intellectual space to think constructively and creatively. I don't think anyone believes we are in a golden age of bold policy.

Leaders can be made by the passions of the moment, but more often they create cultures of engagement, which either benefit or harm the public space.

Monday, February 20, 2017

An Admission

I have always liked Barack Obama. I have spent most of my adult life in academia; I like the life, I like the people. I don't sneer at credentials; I covet them. The former president is an academic, from his ears, to the tips of his toes. He is familiar to me, and he speaks the language of which I am familiar. I get why people don't like him; after all, the sexual libertinism and murder that are now the defining characteristics of the Democratic Party were underlined under Obama, as opposed to muted. Moreover, the former president was not content to simply advocate those things, but to use the government to conscript participation in them.

Most of the other stuff is made up.

But I don't carry around a similar affection for the sitting president. I just don't. And I might even admit that a person who is known for thinking and speaking well will get a break from me, even if he is terrible. I'm an academic, if not in profession, then in manner of life. I don't live in a world where that is a swear-word. I also don't live in a world where a man creates a comfortable enclave of support in an academic environment, whilst propounding bad arguments. (See Sowell, Thomas)

The president is uniquely dangerous, because he doesn't know what he doesn't know, and isn't too interested in finding out. Scads of conservative pieces would call what I just said "the sneering of the intellectual elite." That's fine. The problem with conservatism right now is that it makes sneering at the intellectual elite an art form, and mistakes that for an affirmative case.

If I were young, I'd drop the mic right here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Say It Loud, Say It Clear

My thoughts turned to my father the other day, because some friends on the internet had asked what songs make us cry. We had a pretty good list, and this was my choice. The context of the song doesn't fit me exactly, because it tells the story of an adult father and son struggling to understand one another. But the verse which begins about 4 minutes in really hits me:

I wasn't there that morning
When my father passed away
I didn't get to tell him
All the things I had to say

I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I'm sure I heard his echo
In my baby's newborn tears
I just wish I could have told him
In the living years

[Me talking] I think one of the truly great benefits of being in full communion with the Catholic Church is being able to take these deep hurts of life, unite them to the cross of Christ, and give them back to the Father. When this becomes real to you, then you understand a little of what it means to live in anticipation of the life of the world to come. We are invited to become participants in the cosmic reconciling justice of God. "Why did this happen?" becomes, "I don't know why this happened, but I know where it's going."

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Is The Media Dishonest?

I'm seeing "dishonest" as an appellation to the word "media" now, even more than I used to. We Republicans always complain about the media. I think now is different. American conservatives used to have a different interpretation on publicly available facts; now, "facts" are created for consumption, to confirm what people already think they know.

It wasn't long ago--if you can believe this--when we accused Democrats of emotionalism, of making things up to fit an agenda, and not without justification. If we dare raise it now, they deserve to laugh at us.

I watch and read mainstream media, and I'll tell you why. Because I don't need someone to tell me what I think. I'm not insecure in my philosophy, or in my plans. Furthermore, if I attempt to put forward an idea that cannot be grounded in publicly available facts, then I am seeking to advance an ideology, not pursue the truth. And that would be a shame.

I don't find most media dishonest. If anything, I think many rank-and-file Republicans fall into an old journalism mistake. Just because a person somewhere disagrees with a widely-held truth, it does not mean that such a belief has an equal value to the truth. What I just wrote is difficult for me to say; I'm a contrarian, if there ever were one. But contrarianism has its limits, and those limits are the truth.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Vent Your Spleen, Or Make An Argument

I have no idea what, or who, "The Left" is any more. It's a swear-word you hear, if you hang out with Republicans enough. It usually refers to people, which ought to be the first clue that there isn't an argument coming. Those people, who hate everything I stand for, are at it again.

How exactly do you articulate a governing philosophy, if your default is ostracizing "those people"?

How do you know you have a philosophy?

And there are some really bad ideas well to my political Left; there are even some people who are evil, who cannot even fathom that goodness emanates from anyone who has ever voted Republican. But not as many as we might be tempted to think.

And I don't care if it's Dennis Prager, God bless him, or the reanimated body of Ronald Reagan himself; if you attack people, rather than ideas, you deserve to be ignored.

Monday, February 13, 2017

There Is No Golden Mean For Vice

There has been a lot of normalization of evil lately. Especially in partisan politics. As long as we can be convinced that the other side is worse, we let our side get away with almost anything.

We can't do that anymore.

Still no-one has told me exactly what Megyn Kelly did wrong, besides ask a question. And it's a question that deserves an answer. The women of America deserve a straight answer, not hostility from Newt Gingrich, that paragon of virtue. But, you know, life goes on, and Hillary was worse.

And let's get something straight: I read books. Maybe not steadily or quickly, but I do. And I believe the President of the United States should read them. I wouldn't want bullet-point summaries; I am the expert; I would consent to your expert opinion, if your analysis convinces me that I should. That's how it would go.

I also have never heard Jorge Ramos say anything deserving getting thrown out of a room. Even if he is liberal. Isn't it a journalist's job to hassle politicians? Guess what, sir? Despite all your sentence fragment protestations to the contrary, you are one.

You'd better believe I'm going to be "judgmental." It's my way of commemorating that this entire farce was beyond the pale. I'm wondering still why it didn't bother anyone else.

I know Hillary was worse; the Democrats always are. What's changed? Nothing, I guess. Except that the party of "family values" are a bunch of hypocrites, who sold their birthright for a bowl of soup.

Friday, February 10, 2017

What I'd Ask Judge Gorsuch

He seems like a great pick. Better than I thought the president would choose. But I have concerns. My questions are these: Why have you consistently backed the government, rejecting 8th Amendment claims in several botched executions? What level of error or mismanagement would change how you ruled? What would make you vote to abolish the death penalty?

Also, what if anything in your judicial philosophy presupposes the correctness of economic liberalism? Do you have a positivist conception of law? That is, laws are morally right because they are duly enacted? Why or why not?