Translate

Friday, July 19, 2019

Am I Pro-Life Enough To Have The Right To Say Something?

That's a ridiculous question, but apparently, if you're wrong about something really important, you can't have a correct moral intuition about anything else. In fact, this is an ad hominem.

You know, LOGIC and FACTS.

Anyway, the president's infamous tweet was in poor taste, to put it mildly. It was unpresidential, unbecoming, dishonorable, mean-spirited, untrue, and a hundred other things. It feeds into dangerous notions of nationalistic racial purity, and encourages distrust of those who may look different than some of us. We are a country based upon a set of ideas. The downside of those original ideas--that people can be unmoored from culture, family, and traditional morality--are still there, but the good side is that people can come to America and start over. It doesn't matter where you came from, or who your parents are, or where they came from. A fresh start. Now, I could go through and talk about all the ideas of the women of this "Squad" which range from silly to downright dangerous, but at the end of the day, these women are as American as apple pie. They have the right already as people to be treated with respect, and doubly so, as representatives of the American people.

I don't know why this is so hard. Yet there are many things that have gotten harder to grasp for some people in the last 4 years. "Sad!", you might say.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

I Don't Want Fewer Abortions; I Want None

"You're not stopping abortions, you're just making abortion less safe." Well, let's talk about that, shall we? It's not safe for the baby, first of all. Secondly, the data shows plainly otherwise. I think a lot of left-of-center Christians would like to believe these comforting fictions about abortion, because they feel culturally alienated from right-of-center Christians, they dislike them acutely in many cases. I get that, I suppose. Let's obliquely refer to the ignorant, unfit elephant in the room. Ahem. Anyway, if what I propose to do does not include making abortion illegal at some point, I do not really want fewer abortions. I have to take my medicine at some point as a "bad" person denounced by popular talk show hosts as an extremist. Fine. If  we go through a spike in "unsafe" abortions after it's made illegal, that's tragic, but unavoidable. Just because people work around a good law and hurt themselves or others doesn't mean a law is bad. Nothing immoral is "safe" or can be "regulated". We can have a prudential conversation about how much force and effort should be applied against an activity that is illegal and immoral, but that's a different conversation.

I think our political system encourages us to think of government sanctions like the 10 Commandments for governments: "Government shalt not..." and that bleeds over to our thinking about morality. Politics, however, is public morality by definition.

Most people think of themselves as remarkably self-possessed, unaffected by civil sanctions, or the lack thereof, but obviously that's not the case. Most people associate legality with moral licitness, and rightly so. Can something perfectly licit be made illegal? Of course. I still happily believe in legislating morality. No one involved in politics should pretend otherwise.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Getting It Right

I'm a little biased here, but my friend Casey Chalk is in a good habit of writing great pieces on the good life in some of the political magazines and websites. Here is one in The American Conservative. I endorse everything he says in this piece, but I want to take a little part of it and use it as a jumping off point for my own reflection here. Casey mentions fathers and sons especially, and how playing baseball, or even watching baseball, can bring them together. We don't talk enough about fathers. We don't talk enough about good fathers, and how necessary they are.

More than this, we don't talk about what a necessary blessing it is to be part of an intact family. I say "necessary" because there exists an obligation for all people of goodwill to fight for intact families. I say "blessing" because the damage of experiencing a broken family is outweighed in the lives of those from intact families by a factor of 10, and perhaps much more. The blessing is a gift of that benefit, and we need a stronger word than simply, "It's better if…" I contributed anonymously to this book because the experiences of children from broken families are not told. If we get to a point where the powerful are not ignoring the data about the kind of family structure that makes for successful people, then we will have plentiful information that is not simply stories to bolster this point. We could also talk about an implicit scientism, and numerous other things in that intellectual failure, but stories form an important part of the art of persuasion in these times. There is something about telling a story that creates a pathos which binds the hearers and the teller together in something special. Pardon the digression.

Are we willing to fight for marriage? I can remember a professor of mine at the seminary I attended in my Protestant days, who said passionately that non-Christians fight for marriage harder than we do. Are we standing around and simply shaking our heads, saying, "That's a shame," when we hear about Catholics married in the Church getting a divorce? Or are we getting in there and saying, "No, you can't do that" to the extent that we have influence over the couple? Abuse of various kinds always comes up when the topic of fighting for marriage and against divorce is raised. No one I know is suggesting that abuse is acceptable, or that to escape abuse is somehow a moral failure. Quite frankly, what we are really talking about are Catholics who are divorced and remarried civilly--against the Church's teaching--and are uncomfortable hearing from others about their sin. I do not know how exactly the bishops will handle the sheer number of people who are in this irregular situation. I do know that we should not excuse sin, simply because it has become acceptable, or has gone on a long time. I am confronted with the question that arises in myself whenever I consider divorce and remarriage: "Do I really intend to say that a person with free will and the grace of God through baptism at the very least is not able to detach themselves from an immoral situation?" Indeed, do any of us intend to say that the teaching of the Church about civil divorce and remarriage without a declaration of nullity, is in error? I know as much as anyone that the pastoral situations around these questions are not easy. But anything that suggests that God the Holy Spirit could make a mistake, and that the Church needs to "get with the times" is beyond the pale for me. And let us be clear that contraception is intimately connected to where we are with this question of divorce. It may in fact be largely the cause of many of these divorces. I run the risk of being dismissed as a reactionary for saying this, but I do not have the luxury of pretending to accept falsehood as truth. I am the living witness to the blunt force of that falsehood lived out in real life, and I cannot disregard my experiences, or the truth of the moral law, or the teaching of holy Church, in order to make people happy. It's a false happiness anyway, and we ought to know it.

Must Love Dogs

I don't know if I'll have a dog, when I form a family. I suppose I should say "if" I form a family. It's true, you know, that people are keeping dogs instead of having children. It's absolutely true that some people are clearly compensating for their lack of having children--of being parents--by treating dogs like children.

On the other hand, I love dogs. Almost every time someone says what I said in this first paragraph, they are a bunch of dog-haters. I don't like that. And it kind of blunts the force of your argument, to be honest. And it's a ridiculous juxtaposition in the first place, because I'm no sociologist, but there's a pretty strong correlation between having children and having a dog. Therefore, in the fine tradition of a popular meme, "Why not both?"

It's just something I had to get off my chest. I hope you don't mind.

Re-Thinking Race And Racism (Again)

I'm not one of those people who thinks that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, a magic wand was waved, and racism ended forever. In fact, that's ridiculous. I am probably one of those people that would pass as a "liberal" on race in many respects. I believe in structural racism; I believe in principle in the idea of reparations for slavery and other degradations against African-Americans and others.
Yet I had something happen to me the other day, and it has me feeling and thinking that I can see the other side of this issue more clearly than I could before.

I saw an episode of the show "The Real World". Now you may know that it's a web series now, but it premiered of course many years ago on MTV. They try to get the most interesting and diverse cast they can. Quite frankly, especially now, TV producers are trying to get people that will conflict with one another. Anyway, I was watching this show, and one of the participants was a very militant black person, who didn't take long to confront all the white people in the house about their racism, and more importantly, their alleged participation in an entire racist system. And he did all the right things, according to his theory of how a person in his position should act: he remained calm, when the others understandably became very angry. He took their upset as proof that he was correct. Naturally, he had several allies in this, and as I sat and thought about it, I realized that he did not present one shred of evidence for anything that he said. In fact, I recognized everything he said as a kind of dogma that I have heard in left-wing thinking on race. How else could most of the people in the house--barely older than 20--recite it so exactly? It is their catechism, their dogma. Everything that those who received the challenge said in response only served to prove what the young man already believed. Once again, I am not averse to many of the ideas that these theories present; I only know that any idea which says that I am guilty, and all my perspectives are invalid, because I am white, is a ridiculous idea. Moreover, it could be argued that these deconstructions based upon power are a clever version of poisoning the well, or perhaps shooting the messenger, because one does not have to actually listen to anything a particular person says, if they are in the wrong category. Now, this might be a crude oversimplification of the academic theories, but then again, many people aren't putting much stock in those theories to begin with, at least among those I know.

Fundamentally, I believe that people are free to choose. They are free to be what they ought to be. It doesn't mean that everyone is free of challenges; it doesn't mean that racism is dead, or that grievous injustice does not take place even today. (I trust police today less than I ever have, and with good reason in many cases.) But I saw that kid, and I heard his talk, and I thought, "These will be his excuses, when he comes up short, and he has no one else to blame or make ashamed."

Please forgive me if these thoughts strike many of you as insensitive, or clueless. I don't know what I can say for myself. We might have to do a lot to help people who haven't gotten a fair shake in life. It might even be based on race. After all, the government promised people lots of things, and never delivered. Today's equivalent of 40 acres and a mule would be a huge chunk of money. It might be money well spent. Yet I also believe at the end of the day that people are responsible for what they do and do not do. There are a lot of fashionable theories that spend a lot of words to basically deny this. I'm not in for those.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Profession Of Faith

It wasn't a hoop I jumped through. When I said I believed and professed all that the Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God, it was literally the most important vow I have ever made, or will ever make. I made it without prejudice to other vows; that is, I may take others that do not conflict, and surely I will do so. It's another illustration of grace building upon nature, and of the interrelation of different facets of true reality. In this way, the profession of faith is the grounding for all other promises, and this makes sense, because the vow's truth rests on God, who can neither deceive, or be deceived.

I have to therefore take this opportunity to say that I don't "get" pick-and-choose religion. I'm fully aware that people do it. I can even see that it would be appealing. After all, every time we sin, we're retreating into this pick-and-choose mentality.

Anyway, I remain surprised at how many people go, "Really?" when I get asked the inevitable question, "Which parts of Church teaching do you think are wrong?" and I say, "None." This isn't the buffet at Ponderosa; this is literally eternal life or death. I struggle in many different ways; I do not struggle in faith.

It seems to me that all the saints have unwavering faith. Not that they never sinned; indeed, they will be generous in telling you that they are sinners. But that they know by faith that God can be relied upon, even when nothing else can, including their own perceptions.

Anyway, it doesn't make sense for Catholics to argue with professed Catholics who aren't sure whether Church teaching is true. At worst, we'd be causing scandal; that is, causing doubt about what the Church teaches. At best, we may be expecting too much from people, who may need to go back to the beginning.

In addition, I have observed that by God's mercy, Catholics have attained no small amount of influence over this country over the decades. We're kind of baked in the dough, as it were. But you see, that's where the phrase, "cultural Catholic" comes from. Catholic, but as a garnish to life in this society, rather than a transforming force.

I think that this society teaches us to distrust those who believe anything too intensely. Tolerance, and a certain freedom to be wrong has gotten weaponized into an aggressive skepticism. If Steve down the street does things that are wrong sexually, well, he's a good citizen, who pays his taxes, and is pleasant at the block party, so who am I to judge? And the powers-that-be scare us in school about the so-called "wars of religion," so don't be like them, you see? They've been trying to domesticate religion ever since. If we have too many John the Baptist types, we'll miss the Super Bowl, and the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.

It seems like every time I go on social media, there's some month or day to commemorate. Some of this is fine. Rare illnesses, historical figures, quirky trivia. But Catholics and other Christians, God has told us what to commemorate, in His own redemption of His people, first through the patriarchs and prophets of old, and then through Our Lord in His paschal mystery, now proclaimed to all through the Church. If this is the defining reality of your existence, you ought to act like it.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Storybook (And I Called It)

Well, not the Stanley Cup. But there's a nun I see at Mass sometimes, and she LOVES St. Louis sports. She asked me in January--when we were the worst team, or near to it--if I thought they'd make the playoffs. "Yes," I replied, matter-of-factly. I think I caught her by surprise, and the way she responded let me know she was wondering if I was nuts.

But for me, watching sports is a mixture of faith, and a keen eye for talent. I had watched a couple games in November and December, and thought, These guys are really good. Most people just see results and scores, and that's not wrong. Eventually, to be a winning team, you have to win. But winners also are the people who do the right things when it doesn't matter, or doesn't seem to.

What I noticed right away is that these guys did their best to cover for each other's mistakes. They used most of their energy helping each other. The forwards came back to help the defense; the defense came forward to help the forwards. They'd rather block a shot, than have the goalie have to stop it. It doesn't matter how great your goalie is; the fewer shots he has to stop, the better.

They knew where each other were on the ice; they skated in concert, like a savage ballet. They are not the most individually skilled players. That may fall to players from Boston, Dallas, or San Jose. But together as units, I've rarely seen things like them.

And then, there's Jordan Binnington. In the early days of his rise, it seemed like he was a good luck charm. Then when I watched him closely, I saw it: He's the second coming of Curtis Joseph. (Joseph is a Hall of Fame goalie who played for the Blues in the '90s.) Curtis never won the Cup, but he got close. And we loved him. He made the miraculous look routine, and shrugged, as if it was supposed to happen. Sound familiar?

And then came the playoffs. They were underdogs every single round. Slowly, systematically, they ground each team down. They hit them into oblivion. Hockey is becoming a finesse game, and the Blues turned that on its head.

I believe there will be a movie. The actual story writes itself: being the worst team in the league, hearing "Gloria" in that bar, GM Doug Armstrong deciding to stick with this group, instead of trading the stars, hiring Craig Berube, unheralded coach cast off from other teams, and the rise of Binnington.

I guess the only thing to do now is to play "Gloria."

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

“Cheating” Doesn’t Exist

If you’re dating someone, and they cheat, so to speak, it can only be a couple of things. If it’s actual sex, it’s called “fornication,”—sex between two unmarried people—and that’s a mortal sin. If it’s “fooling” around, that’s called “masturbation”—the intentional stimulation of body parts to derive sexual pleasure, with no intention of having sex—and that’s a mortal sin. Christian couples shouldn’t be doing this stuff anyway.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I was provoked by one of those internet videos, where some guy of dubious credentials lectures other guys about how to be less skeezy versions of our culture’s worst, with the earnest piano in the background. Pete’s sake, maybe all these women are anxious because we expect them to be perfect wives, with none of the permanence?

Sure, good people trying their best slip up sometimes. Seek Reconciliation, and move forward. But this culture is so far from good that we cannot even figure out why we’re unhappy.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Ontology For Dummies

I'm no Bryan Cross, or Roger Scruton, or Alasdair MacIntyre, but when I see a young chicken hatching from an egg, it's not a "potential" chicken; it's a chicken. If someone plants a young sapling of a tree, it's not a "potential" tree; it's a tree. Trees and chickens are supposed to be trees and chickens. Neither one--apart from what we decide to do with them--is a cow, or a brick. There might be different developmental stages of each, and we could call them by different names at each stage, but what the thing is should not be under serious question.

We've got people out there (apparently) confused about what the thing is as it pertains to humans. A human fetus is a human person at a very early stage of development. This person is not a brick, or a tree, or a chicken. We don't become persons by exercising capacities; we are persons who exercise capacities. If we decide--as has been decided many times before, to disastrous effects--that another person has the right to decide what a "person" is, ontology becomes utility. Utility as a measure of rights is sanctioned violence and oppression.

Of course, this is about abortion, but not only that. There are myriad ways that people can be "un-personed." It happens all the time. It's just in this case, we permit it, and celebrate it. We fancy ourselves "enlightened" and "progressive," don't we?

How effective our propaganda is, too! If the dissenters can be dismissed as misogynists and haters, the exploitation of the vulnerable continues with barely a fuss. There was a man who warned us about this. Against the backdrop of #metoo, that man may say,--in a slight paraphrase of an American president and actor--"Are you better off than you were 60 years ago?" Everything he predicted came true.

Many people claim that love motivates their support for abortion rights. How are you loving the woman in your life by escorting her to a place where a mother leaves as a grieving mother? This wretched popular society likes to ignore those women, and give them every opportunity to push the grief aside, to ignore it, and then to become dead to it. Death begets death, in a cruel mockery of the life it takes.

Motherhood is thankless and hard, and in some ways, involuntary. We know this. Just ask your mom what she'd have rather been doing when she was cleaning up after you. But she did it anyway.

The rock band U2 has an old song called, "Mothers of the Disappeared" about the victims of a brutal Latin American dictatorship. Mothers are still mothers, even when their children are gone.

Mothers are still mothers, even if they didn't want to believe they were. As the reckoning at Nuremberg came for the brutality of a previous age, so also there will be a reckoning for us. All the fine parties and refined speech will be stripped away, and what we have done will be laid bare. Lord, have mercy!

Monday, June 10, 2019

All We Are

"All we are is an evolved monkey!" Or tons of similar things. While I'm at it, I don't think we should perpetrate a genocide against monkeys, either.

At the risk of being glib and reductionist myself, how many wounded children of divorce are drawn to these Dawkins-esque origin stories? How many of these guys treated their own girlfriends like trash, and so, cloak themselves in euphemisms for abortion to cover the guilt?

There was that one Fulton Sheen story on an airplane. Guy said he was a deacon in some parish, but he didn't believe, and didn't go to Mass. A bunch of hypocrites (true) believing in fairy stories. His Excellency looked at him and said, "How long have you been stealing from the collection plate?"

In a certain way, all we are is souls. Wounded souls. Why cling so tightly to something like abortion, so obviously problematic at best, even in the hardest cases? Rage at me is fine. Most times, I probably deserve it. But I'm just one pesky jerk in the sea of humanity. After you take your brave stand against me on social media, the silence and the wounds are still there, even if I'm not.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Joe Biden Is Useless To Beat Trump

The Democratic Party's position on abortion is incoherent, at best. (Or, completely coherently evil.) If the leading "moderate" candidate won't even stand up for the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds for abortion, the number of moderate Republicans and moderate-conservatives that he can peel off to win the Rust Belt and the election is close to zero.

The pro-life movement is getting stronger, not weaker. And while it is true that the movement will one day pay dearly for their association with Donald Trump, in the short-term, the one with the most to lose is Biden. Hillary Clinton is the worst politician I've ever seen, but I still absolutely believe her abortion extremism cost her the election. And so it will continue, until the sexual Left costs the Democrats so many elections that they turn around. The sexual Left is pulling a winning candidate away from winning. Believe me, it hurts me to say this. I intend to throw a party the day Trump leaves office. I've never seen such a manifestly unqualified, undignified president. But the far Left does not truly understand the varied nature of this electorate, and they hold too much sway over the Democratic Party, whose only job is to win elections.

I'm now firmly an abstainer, in presidential elections. I'm just calling it like I see it. Trump is probably going to win, because the money in the Democratic Party talks, and it's covered in blood.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Straight Pride?

Our friend Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got in a few mocking cracks about this, and while society at large is apparently pleased with themselves in deciding that any and all sexual activity has the same moral value and meaning, it raises an interesting question: Should the rest of us--especially faithful Christians--celebrate "straight pride" in response?

I say "no." I have a couple reasons: Firstly, accepting the "gay/straight/other" taxonomy inadvertently sends the message that procreative sex between men and women is but one valid option among many. We do not celebrate the fact that we are sexually attracted in the normal way, but that this wonderful design is fruitful, intended, and a benefit to all of us. Calling it "straight pride" focuses on our sexuality and pleasure, instead of that sexuality's purpose.

Secondly, even as we say that these Pride events celebrate a false anthropology that is contrary to humanity's purpose, there is no reason to be unnecessarily combative. LGBT+ identifying individuals already think that we hate them. Some traditionally Catholic responders are committed to using the most inflammatory terms possible, almost as if they have to prove their zeal to others among their fellows. I know about being the guy who thinks he's being pushed to speak the truth that others won't; it is indeed part of how I lean into the world. Believe it or not, some people think I am inflammatory. Still, I ask myself what I truly want in these interactions, and my answer is this: 1. I want people to understand what I am offering; and 2. I want them to believe that I love them, and want what is best for them, and all of us. To that end, I choose the words I choose, and not others. My interlocutors will never believe I love them if they are Them, if that makes sense.

As recent days make abundantly clear, I cannot please everybody, especially if I tell the truth as I understand it, and particular people are committed to hiding from that truth. Still, I really like people, and I want them to like me, as anyone naturally would. Maybe some people just don't like other people. I don't think in the end that such an attitude is particularly conducive to winning them over.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Quality Of Life

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves wide acceptance: Most of the people who blather on about other people's "quality of life" have never actually lived.

I used to be scared to lose my mind, to get Alzheimer's, or some other dementia. But you know what? I don't need my wits; I just need my joy. And if I have no consolation from the gospel, my faith is enough. Faith proclaims what is true, even if it has no companions.

If people say of me, "He believed, and he loved, and therefore, he lived," then it'll be a good life, no matter what I suffer at its end.

A Reductio Ad Absurdum Worth Considering

It is often claimed that individuals have the right to claim absolute sovereignty over their reproductive faculties; it is argued that frustrating, blocking, or even mutilating them is an indispensable part of freedom. Let's simply call this "reproductive freedom." If every man and woman actually chose this option, we would literally all die, and there would be no one to replace us. The human race would not survive.

Let's put it in a syllogism:

 Reproductive freedom is the right to regulate the natural human capacity for reproduction, up to and including the absolute prevention of conception (or the termination of the products of conception at will);

If every person chose to exercise this right--in the direction of prevention of conception or termination--the human race would become extinct;

It is not good that the human race should become extinct;

Therefore, the right of reproductive freedom as described above is bad.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Poison In The Well

I don't want to control uteruses; I want us to stop killing people, intentionally and systematically. But do you notice how we can't really have a conversation about anything else important, because the politics of abortion are so stark?

Please don't tell me that "Until you..." support all these other policies, you don't trust my motives, because that's no way to have a discussion. Suppose, my liberal friend, that you were right on every other issue you brought up. It would still not be morally acceptable to intentionally kill a child in the womb. That's really the key, and it's why this well-poisoning isn't going to work.

And you don't know me, or what I think about all the other issues of concern, because you didn't ask. I'd actually be a "liberal", in many minds. Perhaps you don't actually care, because you've decided that to be a good feminist is to support abortion. I can't imagine why. You know, we'd have a lot more women in the world, if we never legalized and nationalized abortion. China intentionally does sex-selective abortion, though now with their imbalance and aging population, they regret it. (On the other hand, if you want to erase "male" and "female," maybe this doesn't bother you, anyway.)

I'm a proud kitchen sinkist on this, in the sense that I believe economic pressures, sexism, social isolation, and perhaps other factors play into the choice to have an abortion. Whatever I can do to take those things away--that is itself morally licit--I will do. But in the end, to procure an abortion, to assist in it, to support laws making it more available, etc. is to be a morally responsible party to a grave evil. We will have to answer for this.

Monday, May 27, 2019

I Didn't Order A Package (Confusedly Yet Passionately Loving Truth)

I need to start in an odd place: Mark Shea. If you talk to some fairly prominent "conservative" Catholics, they'll talk about how "sad" it is now, and they'll pretend that they aren't a bunch of unprincipled tribalists. On the other hand, I've tangled with The New And Not Improved Shea, and it hasn't been fun. Anyway, he still strikes me as that guy who got really justifiably upset at the numerous outrages and absurdities of the GOP primary,--Ted Cruz actually asserted that bombing an entire region indiscriminately based upon their religion was a good idea--and never had someone vaguely conservative go, "Actually, you're right. This is completely immoral and insane. This entire thing." And if someone is angry, and no one cares, they get more angry. I don't know about him, but I can't really think clearly when I'm really angry. I will turn a person I love into Pol Pot, and not even regret it, if no one tries to talk me down.

It's the curse of the stubborn genius, if it's not too vain to say that. And if someone is outraged for about 4 years in public, they'll have a long string of stuff that's barking nuts, that sounded like a good idea at the time. I may have achieved an equilibrium; I'm no worse than mildly agitated these days. You had better believe, people who love me had to watch me cry, and not with joy, at the events of these last couple of years. Friendship is my gateway to re-visit ideas; I give Left-liberal ideas their due--and make the best case I can--because darn near everyone I love is in the helping professions, living flat-out heroic lives of service to all manner of vulnerable and under-served people. If there were a case to be made against conservatism (whatever that even means, anyway) these are the people to make it. You know, the Kochs or the Walton heirs don't put up the money that my friends use to help the struggling; the government(s) do/does.

This is of course quite aside from the fact that the Church's attitude toward American rightist individualism is...not favorable. I've had two friends tell me they lean libertarian as Catholics. They might as well have said they planted a dozen square circles in the garden yesterday morning.

Insofar as "politics" teaches us to find weaknesses in people, instead of our own arguments, it's worse than useless. Oddly, too many people settle for a package deal, instead of thinking. If you ask me about spotted owls, or bees, or Arctic sea ice, I'm going to come up with a plan for those things. I'd be kind of a jerk to go, "But what about abortion?" Or maybe a better example is undocumented immigrants, in terms of their rights and dignity. Too soon?

What Is A Person? Further Abortion Thoughts

"At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." ---The United States Supreme Court, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, widely attributed to Justice Anthony Kennedy

(Author's Note: I can't find a juicy opposing quote. Find your own! I am neither a trained philosopher, nor an expert in Google, nor do I have an encyclopedic memory, despite some claims to the contrary. Who do you think I am, Bryan Cross? [No one would make that mistake.--ed.] I know, right? [At least you have hair.--ed.] For now.)

When you ask a metaphysical realist philosopher--or better yet, someone schooled in the Catholic Philosophical Tradition (CPT) what's wrong with societies today, he or she might point to this quote right here. It's not merely because this case reaffirmed abortion-on-demand in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Look instead at what it says about the nature of reality. We make our own reality. We define it. Words themselves become not expressions of meaning aiming at the truth, but self-expressions of personal desire. Post-modern deconstruction is a great example of this, and another name for it is emotivism. That is, every statement is reduced to an expression of preference. Post-modern deconstruction assumes emotivism, and then speculates. In the end, though, it ends up being a list of reasons why we don't have to listen to an old dead guy, because we don't want to.

Metaphysical realists had always operated under the assumption--to put it in simple terms--that reality was discovered, not made.

Idealism says that all reality originates in the mind. Other ideas, like nominalism (Ockham) and skepticism, (Descartes) undermined people's confidence in their capacity to know reality. Our political system, while encouraging us to be radical individualists and idealists, more fundamentally supposes that a collection of individuals creates the political society, in some sense trading absolute autonomy for the securing of certain rights (see Locke, Hobbes). The older thinkers, meanwhile, believed that the society predates any human political machinations, and no one is absolutely autonomous. Today, we have majoritarian will to power in slightly nicer words (Nietzsche, with some help from John Rawls).

7 justices (and then 5) on the Supreme Court said we can make our own reality, and we eventually went along with it. Then we said, "No one will take away my rights to do with my body what I want!" Conveniently, we re-defined that other body, that other person, as a "blob of cells" (scientism, reductionism). As I am fond of saying, reality has a way of asserting itself. On almost every conceivable issue, from city planning to euthanasia to divorce to alternative families, there will a reckoning. It'll be a reckoning for this arrogance, and it won't matter much who's in power, because true reality will leave us all with egg on our faces.

Friday, May 24, 2019

What Do You Really Want?: Abortion Reflections, Continued

We must ask, "What is an abortion?" The reason we have to do this is because the nature of any action determines the licit range of solutions or responses to it. In general, if an action is by its nature immoral, (that is, intrinsically evil) then it falls to every person to oppose it, to understand why it is evil and to show others the truth about it. This means of course that intention or circumstances might change the culpability of a person who participates in the evil act, but an intrinsically evil act can never become a good act, no matter what good is intended from it, or what difficulties surround the commission of the act.

Therefore, I propose this definition: "An abortion is the deliberate taking of the life of a human person at some stage of development before birth." Consider also this definition: "Murder is the deliberate, unjustified killing of an innocent human person." The definition of "murder" rules out self-defense, justified killing in war, accidents, and perhaps other situations. Notice also that our definition of abortion rules out a time after birth. An unjustified killing after birth is called, "infanticide."

Now, please consider the following argument:

Murder is always wrong, by its very nature. That is, murder is intrinsically evil;

Abortion is a species of murder;

Therefore, abortion, by its very nature, is always wrong.

--
This is the heart of the pro-life argument. It rests philosophically on the first principle that good is to be done, and evil is to be avoided.

We are not ignorant, any of us, of extremely difficult cases, and of the sheer terror that leads women to think they have no other option. We absolutely can and should do more as a society to support the forming of families, to counteract economic pressures that militate against life. Indeed, we ought to recognize that our economy itself is disordered with respect to the telos of the human person.

However, it is a grave mistake to argue that because we cannot stop every attack against human dignity, we have no authority or responsibility to speak on behalf of the unborn. Yet this is precisely what many people argue. To charge people with hypocrisy in the absence of evidence, or while actually holding a pro-abortion position, is flatly contradictory. Or stated another way, my objections to the inconsistencies in someone's political philosophy, no matter how trenchant, do not alter the nature of the ethical question with regard to abortion itself. It is hard to believe that such an argument [that an incomplete or hypocritical worldview renders moral judgment on abortion moot] could hold sway, especially when completely elective abortions comprise roughly 95 percent of all abortions.

In short, if someone opposes any restrictions on abortion, it is highly unlikely that the objection to a pro-lifer's general political philosophy is offered in good faith. If we claim to want fewer abortions, even to the point of accusing others of not acting in good faith, we have to support those things that actually reduce the incidence of abortion. One cannot coherently claim to oppose abortion while fighting to keep the current regime in place. If reducing abortions are a goal, reduce them. If one does not intend to reduce abortions, the blindness or hypocrisy of one's putative opponents is actually irrelevant.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

"If Pro-Lifers Really Wanted To Lower Abortions..."

Let me stop you right there, because I do. You don't have to wonder, or speculate. So you can stop the ad hominem. If we are discussing the deaths of vulnerable people for dubious reasons, I have no other motive, but to make it stop.

It's a tactic, you know. It's not really a discussion about the prudent way to solve the problem. Hundreds of thousands of children potentially died yesterday, and the person I'm talking to doesn't favor any restrictions on this practice at all. I'm not the one who feels guilty, and we both ought to know it. But if this person can make you feel like any sort of ethically flawed person, they'll do it. They're participating in a genocide; I don't think who I may have voted for in the last few elections compares with that. But in case it comes up, I didn't vote for Trump, and I can't in the future. I find him so appallingly unqualified to be president that doing anything other than not participating in that decision would violate my conscience.

But then, they want to know if you care about all the vulnerable like they do. They'll look for (or assume) anything they need to to make this discussion go away. When they want to find out if you're a good democratic socialist or something, again, they don't really want to know. What they don't get is, I absolutely can out-liberal them. I'll just go, "I'd turn this place into Sweden, if you'd give up your support for killing defenseless children." Watch. No dice, every time.

It's about judging you and me, the Dirty Right-Wingers, not about any perceived injustice in our society. If we as a group cared about it, a massive semi-pro-life consensus would have already formed.

One final thing: The contraception advocacy as a way to lower abortions gets tossed about, but it's dumb. It's like saying, "If you want to end the death penalty, you should support firing squads." We do realize that ethically, it's the same thing? And even if it weren't gravely immoral to interpose these chemical mutilations between ourselves and our partners, oral contraceptives kill unborn children, anyway. Read the box. If it doesn't prevent ovulation, it makes the uterus hostile to new life. A human being still dies horribly, in many cases. We'll never know how many. So no, I don't support handing out free contraceptives.

I'll lower abortions by making it illegal. We know this will work. Then we'll be arguing about hard cases related to enforcement or punishment, which is fine, because the bad PR will NEVER approach the 60 million kids killed, or the 150 or so million who were never born, because the first generation never lived and had children.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Notes For The Dense, I Guess

Some secularists are constantly worried about Christians, and other religious believers, calling down a Dark Cloud of Theocracy over everything. I've seen this for a solid 25 years. It hasn't happened. In fact, it's only some poor beleaguered nuns and other unfortunates in court, fighting not to be told how to live, by the government.

At the risk of being glib, I'll say this: Revealed religion doesn't tell you that killing a child in the womb is wrong; revealed religion tells you that you will burn in an unending torrent of flames, for eternity, for disregarding that dictate of conscience. If you wish to ignore the frame story of death and judgment, be my guest. We're still accountable to reality, even if it were safe to ignore what God had purportedly revealed.

Which is to say, a great many people are engaged in reality-denial, and somehow need to blame the Jesus people for their troubled consciences. After all, if everything about abortion were perfectly acceptable, why shout about it? We know bloody well it's different from going to the convenience store for some snacks. There is no stigma attached to that kind of trip, unless you like authentic licorice, and then you're just a weirdo. I digress.

I never once quoted a Bible verse, or said the Name of Jesus, when I wrote to the women's basketball writer at ESPN about their celebratory fawning over Sheryl Swoopes, who left a husband and children for a woman. I humbly suggested--if you will pardon the category confusion--that we would crucify any man who committed adultery, abandoned his family, and "started over" with another woman. Is it a double-standard? I report, you decide. You don't need a church to figure out the good right here, do you? We applaud old people for being married to each other for their whole adult lives; comedians don't get unironic applause lines for Aunt Sally, who's been married and divorced 4 times. Why not? Because we know that Mom and Dad, who sacrifice their wants and desires for each other (to some extent) and for their children, end up becoming pillars, a safe resting place, for everyone, in some way or another. You don't need a church to figure that out, either. She still had me pegged as a Bible-thumper. Oh, well. If the Jesus freaks are the only ones unwilling to play Calvinball with reality, words, and truth itself, I'll take them.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

"Control Is An Illusion, You Infantile Egomaniac!"

One of the great quotes in any Tom Cruise movie, spoken by Nicole Kidman, trying to convince his character that driving 200 MPH in circles with 42 other infantile egomaniacs isn't maybe the safest career choice. Man, I love Tom Cruise. I just do.

Anyway, they say we want to control women's bodies. In fact, we argue that a woman is rational enough to control her own body, up to the moment where she becomes a parent. I don't know why this is so hard for people. Well, I do know why. A disordered sexuality leads people to do almost anything in service to it, including murder. "Uncle Tony" is right this time.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

I'm "Anti-Choice," Happily And Obediently

The US Catholic Bishops note, "Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter's intent is to support that position. In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate's opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity."

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Gimme One Reason

I was going to post about the paragraphs in the universal Catechism about murder and abortion. Those paragraphs (say, 2268-2275) will never be a waste of your time. Yet it seemed more important to say this: One cannot actually reason if one's attempts to do so are nothing more than expressions of disdain for someone else's hypocrisy. It may be startlingly satisfying to make broad statements about one's opponents, and their alleged moral inferiority, but that's not an argument.

Let's get practical: It is either always morally acceptable to obtain an abortion, or it is never morally acceptable to obtain an abortion. Nuance--for the moment--is for sissies, and sophists. I'll grant you that hard cases exist; that's why they're hard. "Abortion" for this discussion means the deliberate killing, by any means, of a human being in his or her mother's body.

Make a choice. If it had to be one or the other, and all the squeamish hem-hawers and "Well..." throat-clearers had something else to do, I know what I'd choose. The rest is just dressing for heinous evil, pretending to be something else.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Anti-Anti-Political Correctness

People say "political correctness" bothers them. You know what bothers me? A lack of care about correctness in general. Moreover, a lack of care about caring. If you want to talk about how the regime of political liberalism rules certain ideas out of bounds in an allegedly pluralistic society, say that. The funny thing about claiming to "tell it like it is" is that you'd better be right. Too many use an alleged opposition to political correctness as an excuse to be jerks. Racists, religious bigots, whatever else.

I still may end up shot against the wall, but these Catholics throwing their lot in with the latest prince (let the reader understand) are a bunch of wimps and cowards. Natural law remains true. It doesn't actually matter how much government-sanctioned disapproval they bring to bear; we've still got the truth, and it's truth that the world wants and needs, even if they make a big show otherwise. I won't sell foreigners and immigrants down the river for a seat at the Christianist table.

I can remember the Super Bowl a couple years ago. There was a Coke commercial where they showed immigrants singing "America The Beautiful" in every possible tongue, including Arabic. Leaving aside the cynical assertion that Coke doesn't actually care about this issue, I found that I really do. I would rather be accused of wanting our nation to be overrun by outsiders than to intentionally be unwelcoming. If you will pardon the crudity here, I said out loud, "Screw you, Donald Trump!"

I will even grant that some people have an agenda to use sensitivity and compassion for immoral ends; this does not grant anyone a license for a lack of empathy. I admit that I view the present iteration of political "conservatism" fundamentally as a profound lack of empathy. It's not easy for me to say this; Jason Kettinger and "Left" just don't really go together. The problem is that today, Jason Kettinger and "Right" don't go together, either. If you've made your peace with it, fine. I'm apt at any time to tell you that you lack philosophical and moral imagination.

I can't give you an exhaustive list of my "prudential" judgments, or issue positions; I only know that the rightist impulse threatens to make "prudential" things that in fact are not. I simply do not trust or honor the moral instincts of people who countenance flagrant immorality and injustice, and then when challenged shout, "But abortion!" In this case, you're not arguing with Nancy Pelosi, you're arguing with me. And we have too quickly forgotten that Speaker Pelosi automatically deserves better than to simply be an avatar of what we loathe and fear.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Thinking About Emotion In Politics

I got to thinking about this because I have noted my own intellectual journey from one rooted in emotion and tribalism, to one more open to reason, and then as one who sees the possible error of ignoring feelings--from oneself or others--in an alleged devotion to "facts" and "logic" that is in fact another form of emotional tribalism.

It's a sobering thing to realize in one's mind, My "enemy" has made an argument, the moral force of which I have yet to take account. The "Left" does this all the time. I had become so adept at expressing outrage against the murder of children in the womb, and the sexual libertinism that leads to it, that in large part I simply ignored whatever a "liberal" said. I sneered at his morality, I seethed at it, I did everything except take his moral claims seriously; that is, as they are offered in good faith. Then I begin to think, "Hey, man, you were just a kid," and yet I answer, "No, I think I was about 34."

That is to say, I might be angry about the overvaluing of spotted owls, or dogs, relative to people, yet the stubborn intellect rouses itself to ask, "What is my position on spotted owls? Or climate change, or subsidized child care?", or dozens of other things. We had become so fond of marinating in our own certitude of rightness that we ourselves had become lazy. Satire in moderation may be useful, and even hilarious, but it's not argument, as such. Have you seen anything in the body politic that isn't contempt, or withering sarcasm?

I push so hard against the "Right" because that was my native land. I'll leave others to break their friends out of "Left" intellectual prisons.

I can't just say, "I'm a man of the Left," because I don't know what that means here today. If you figure out what the common political descriptors actually mean, you'll let me know, won't you? The only thing I know for sure is that I'm a Catholic in a world that couldn't care less, while fitfully yearning for that which it has rejected.

I still don't trust people without hearts. Maybe in that sense I was always a "liberal," in the reductionist parlance. I need to hear a person say, "Of course I agree that treating immigrants inhumanely is wrong," or, "I don't want poison in the air and water," full stop. And then you'd better be prepared to show how you're not advocating for something opposite of what you've said. Most rightists don't do that now, it seems to me. Too many wear a hardness of heart like a badge of honor, as if compassion itself were proof of error. We cannot disagree about prudential means to ends, if we do not agree on the ends. And we'd better be prepared for the fact that a Catholic anthropology is not identical--or perhaps even consonant with--these American political philosophies we've stewed in our whole lives, great as America is, in many ways. We need real leaders, whose vision is clear, and whose hearts are full. We cannot meme or tweet our way to the kind of political life we want. We must give truth when we find it, but we also must receive it, in humility, from our brothers and sisters, no matter how unexpected the timing, or the source. Anger and resentment are understandable, and even just, when injustice is present. But a politics of resentment does not become any people that aspires to be truly free.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Franklin Graham Is Right (Someone Has To Say It)

I saw a couple of news and magazine pieces after his tweet about Mayor Pete’s homosexuality. They all had the same stupid mistake, so let’s address it here: Mayor Pete does not have to repent for “being gay” (whatever that means); he needs to repent for engaging in homosexual sexual acts. I don’t begrudge him at all for attempting to “reclaim” particular issues from the Right, or helping to rebuild an active Christian Left. Well and good.

But the worse sin is to lead people to believe that homosexuality is acceptable, ordinary, and good. Lots of conventionally-attracted “allies” may be surprised by this. Read Romans 1:32 closely.

Many people desperately want to believe that God doesn’t care what we do with our bodies, especially in regard to sex. Curiously, no one makes this error when there is a rampage shooting.

It might as well be Franklin Graham. To say that he is disliked, or that he lacks the diplomatic talent of his father, is probably an understatement. Then again, it might as well be me.

My dislike of other things Graham might say or do doesn’t change the reality of this particular question.

A person might also say, “Mayor Pete believes a lot of other things I like,” and that’s fine. We don’t always see the bad fruit of the things we do. That’s a great mercy to us. What if we could physically see the devastation of adultery or divorce? Or even a “tamer” sin, like fornication? Maybe we wouldn’t do it.

As I was reflecting on this, I thought briefly of a science fiction story called, “Children Of Men.” I haven’t actually seen or read it. Yet there is one woman who is pregnant, in a world where this doesn’t happen. Some people want to kill her and the child, I think. Here is a real-life reductio ad absurdum: Given the premise that people can choose their sex partners, and it’s claimed that it doesn’t matter, what if everyone was homosexual? Literally every single person? We would slowly die, literally. This scenario reveals the natural law truth of men, women, and sexuality. We live in a time where we are accustomed to absolute freedom, but the reality of who and what we are asserts itself, despite our efforts to deny it.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Rejoice? Easter In Grief

I don't have anything profound to say. It's just weird, which is to say, we're used to death, and it is still fundamentally absurd. I just couldn't get past it, which is not to say I had tears. It's deeper than a feeling; it's a gut conviction: You're supposed to be here, and you're not. We all have those people, and the list gets longer and longer as we go through life.

Christianity is not a bunch of sentimental claptrap about being in a better place. It's in fact a contention that this world we know isn't real in some sense at all, that we feel sadness and sorrow at death because our immortal souls know that the separation of our souls from our bodies is just wrong, and that things won't be right again until that separation is reversed. If you don't believe in the resurrection of the body, you're not actually a Christian. Christ rose from the dead to defeat death itself. This is what Easter is about.

Anyway, I had this thought: My resurrection hope has names and faces, more than it did before. As though every tear was a down payment toward joy in the life of the resurrection. This is grieving in hope. I know that it's messy and uneven at times, but then, so am I.

I felt like an idiot today, because I asked a friend how he was doing. I know he has reason to cry; it was a stupid question. But then, how am I doing? I don't even know. I just know that they're all supposed to be here, and they're not. I know this for sure: I want the Father to command the dead to rise, just as surely as He commands that we be delivered from eternal damnation, and counted among the flock of those He has chosen. It's the same reality; You only need forgiveness of sins if you're going to live forever. We're soft on sin, because we forget the stakes. Religion isn't that important to people, if the message is, "Learn to be nice, and good." Pete's sake, Tony Robbins could help you with that, or Oprah. You don't need a priest for all that. We know it, too. I don't blame the "nones," because we make Christianity trivial, and then wonder why people exchange our triviality for the Patriots, or The Real Housewives of Atlanta. I would, too.

I need to see their faces again. Every single person I have lost. The gift of faith is an amazing gift, but I was disposed to receive it, because at bottom, I refused to accept the idea that this life, and a meaning we make ourselves, is all there is. I have seen an inexpressible glory in their eyes, in their faces, and that glory is out of place here. Have you sensed that, too?
 

Monday, April 08, 2019

Tim McGraw Versus George Strait

Someone has a ridiculous poll on Facebook, like "Who's The Greatest Country Artist?" and it's ridiculous for 2 reasons: 1. It's like being asked to choose between family; and 2. George is better, and Tim would agree.

I actually love Tim McGraw. His music is great, he paid his dues, he's a normal guy who's earned everything he's ever gotten. Hard beginning to life. You can understand that wistful sadness in many songs, knowing his story. I love him. He's the Daryl Hall of country music: We all love him, we know he's underrated, we can't make it up to him, so we just relax and enjoy his gifts.

George Strait is arguably the greatest of all time. He's the Roger Federer of country music: the greatest, and still great. He's had so many number 1 country songs that a new release on such a collection became number 1, and screwed up the count. It's 50-something. They put out a companion album of beloved Strait songs that barely missed number 1, and it had 22 songs on it. People still demanded more. It's utterly impossible to describe what he's meant to American popular music. His was arguably the greatest live concert I've ever seen. No fireworks, no graphics. Strait, and the band.

Let me put it this way: Only 11 artists in any genre in the rock & roll era have sold more records in the US than George Strait. I've seen the legend Garth Brooks himself stand on stage and say, "I'll never do it as good as Strait." Believe it. He tried to retire; we wouldn't let him.

"50 Number Ones" was released in 2004; it's #107 on Billboard's 200 Albums chart (any genre) right now. His latest release, "Honky Tonk Time Machine," has recently been #1. He's #1. The End.

"Strength Has No Gender," But

It's asinine to believe we can change genders, or sexes. It just is. If you are struggling with gender expectations/gender dysphoria/wounds from your family of origin, I'd want to actually help you, not mutilate you, first of all.

I don't care what Brawny paper towels does with their marketing, in a sense. I don't actually know what paper towels I use. But I won't do a boycott, and here's why: I am not principally a consumer or buyer. I don't want to communicate in any sense that the truths about human sexuality are reflections of merely my preferences; I'm not part of an interest group, and I can't be bought off or pacified. Reality asserts itself, even when it's unpopular. If I'm the only one who says it, what else is new?

Maybe I can have a "moment," where the world starts listening to me, as if I have something new. I don't, but our culture is like that. It's actually funny that these unfortunate people keep "discovering" things they've always known, but everyone forgot, or ignored.

I notice in these high-profile transgenderism cases that the individual's expression of gender is highly exaggerated. Bruce Jenner didn't just want to be a woman; he wanted to be his idea of our culture's desirable, "hot" woman. And there are things I've read about how he felt when he was literally the world's greatest male athlete that tell me his models of "male" and "female" are pretty messed up to start.

I've only dabbled in counseling; I'm no expert. On the other hand, we've got legions of experts that are too cowardly to call a man a man. They'll attempt to change every definition in their profession to get along. Meanwhile, the hurting people they've "helped" are all alone, when the madding crowd finds a new cause to champion.

I don't want to be a culture warrior, which might be just my way of saying that I don't need a bloviating vulgarian to protect me from "the Left." Then again, I am allergic to obvious stupidity. Someone will have my reputation, eventually.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Don't Knock It 'Til You Try It?

Sometimes, people will say, "Unless you do/have/experience X, you don't get to have an opinion." It's a radical subjectivism, from one angle, and a pragmatism, from another. Quite honestly, it's a move people usually make to shut down debate--especially with regard to abortion, for example--most likely because the moral justification for such an act is dubious, and they know it. Funnily enough though, when they are wronged, many people conveniently rediscover their notion of objective truth!

The pragmatism is almost centered on the body, as if the actions we take with our bodies are by definition morally neutral. Then again, when someone isn't trying to justify themselves, they are able to see how foolish this would be, applied to all situations. I have never committed adultery in the strict sense, but I can give you all sorts of reasons and examples of its harm. Again, when you're not implicating someone you're talking to, you're a trenchant social critic; when you do, you're a judgmental zealot, with too much time on his hands.

Anybody remember the "Sister Act" movies? Quite frankly, I think they give a more positive picture of the Catholic Church than the Vatican press office. Anyway, Kathy Najimy quite brilliantly played "Sister Mary Patrick," the most optimistic, joyous nun you've ever seen. In one scene, she's teaching these kids at St. Francis School in San Francisco about sex. One of the teens asked her how a celibate nun could teach them about sex. She said, "You don't have to taste the doughnut to know it's sweet." That's got layers: 1. She compared sex to another good thing; 2. She hinted that her vocation involved giving up a good thing for a better thing; and 3. She rejected the premise that a person has to know something personally to know the truth about it. Particularly with vice, it is never necessary to do vice to understand that it is vice. In fact, saying that one must experience something to know its moral qualities likely implies that only the practical and pragmatic reasons to do or not do an act are relevant to the decision.

It may be prudent to give a particularly vicious person the pragmatic reasons not to do an evil act, but if we want to form people in the virtues, it would be harmful to stop at the practical. Maybe that's a big part of the trouble we've had lately in the Catholic Church: we haven't given people the truest and best reasons to do or believe the things we do and believe.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

The Uncomfortable Flip-Side Of The Sexuality Tu Quoque

One of the arguments in favor of the mainstreaming of homosexual relations goes like this: "It's more than a bit rich for the hypocritical heterosexuals to worry now about the downfall of our society."

I agree.

Which is why adultery, divorce, abortion, contraception, etc. are all wrong. I find it hard to believe that no gay "allies" could see this argument coming. They may take advantage of the destruction of all the laws and mores with respect to human sexuality, but anyone trying to rebuild the culture would say, "Hypocrisy is still the tribute that vice pays to virtue."

That's also why a slippery slope argument isn't always a fallacy. The long form of, "It's a slippery slope" is, "The basis for a principled distinction between a behavior you deem acceptable, and one you deem abhorrent, has been removed."

The very purpose of a reductio ad absurdum is to create the conditions where a person of good will will critically re-evaluate premise or premises in their arguments in the light of reason, because those premises lead to an absurd conclusion. As we get deeper and deeper into skepticism and emotivism, it becomes all the harder for people to take moral claims seriously; that is, at face value.

Say What You Mean, And Mean What You Say

It's somewhat disorienting, to not know for sure in some instances what is true. It seems like many people are using half-truths, or outright lies, to advance an agenda. It happens all over. Behind this is an internalized skepticism that sounds something like, "Well, everyone's got a perspective." On the contrary; they are not all equally valid. The truth is the truth, and lies (or honest errors) are not.

To be blunt, I may not be willing to engage in lying to discredit Planned Parenthood--I may even be angry about various willful deceptions for that purpose--but it doesn't actually change the fact that the intentional killing of children in the womb is a species of murder. No amount of right-wing exaggeration, or cowardly moral capitulation in another area, makes such actions acceptable.

Suppose we even take the dubious claim that only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's funding goes toward abortion. There is no doubt that the purpose of such a claim is in effect to say, "See? It's not that big of a deal."

One is still left with these basic claims: "Abortion is morally acceptable," and/or Abortion is not morally acceptable."

Quite honestly, I think some people would rather point out others' hypocrisy, rather than confront the basic question. In point of fact, we cannot prudentially disagree about how to combat abortion, if we do not agree on the fundamental nature of the moral act. All the sniping is a distraction from the central question.

For my part, I could be derided as a "kitchen sink"-ist, if only because I am willing to consider that other factors are driving the arrival at that moral decision. Yet not all kitchen sinkists are created equal.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Benedict Option: A Strategy For Christians In A Post-Christian Nation, (Dreher) Chapter 2, "The Roots of the Crisis" (III)

Dreher begins with a story of two middle-aged or older women, lamenting the loss of previously-held sexual mores; namely, that they know so many young women having children out of wedlock. Indeed, although that crisis has hit minority communities even harder, it is interesting that he cites Charles Murray's recent sociological survey of White America, Coming Apart. It's at this point that the chapter becomes interesting, because what follows is a brief survey of Western civilization. Dreher is not after a jeremiad here, but an exploration of ideas. Ideas--or better said, philosophies--have consequences, and our author wants us to look at them. Dreher says that five movements built upon each other, and in a sense conspired together, to bring our societies to this moment:

1. The loss of metaphysical realism, or the classical theory of epistemology. It's very possible to get into the weeds here, but following the lead of the Greek philosophers, we believed that reality as we know it was ordered and knowable, that human beings were able to observe reality and abstract the essences of things. The purpose of a philosophy of knowing is to understand reality, and build upon it. Into the 14th century, Dreher says, people believed that God was very active in the world. That is, it was "sacramental," as Dreher calls it, a sort of theater for the miraculous. Even the natural sciences saw their fundamental purpose as an elucidation of the work of Providence. When this basic approach to knowledge was lost or set aside, the results were disastrous. One fundamental aspect of this classical account of knowing is a very close relationship between the knower, and the thing known. In addition, there remains a link between universals and particulars.

2. The Protestant Reformation. The rejection of the authority of the Catholic Church came with a new religious epistemology, or method of discerning revealed truth in Christ. The consequent loss of consensus, and the sheer proliferation of competing ecclesiastical authorities, cut into any consensus that could be relied upon. Advocates will say of course that a consensus that is false isn't worth its supposed benefits. Meanwhile, in this account, the new philosophy that replaced the classical epistemology was called, "nominalism." One of the results of nominalism is to sever the link between universals and particulars. In a sense, as I understand it, it's as if the universals do not exist. If I am looking at a particular tree, I cannot abstract that which belongs to the concept "tree"; I cannot say that this tree shares anything by the very fact of being a tree with any other tree. We call them "trees" because we've decided so, not because the universal "tree" actually exists. I'm going to rely on Dr. Cross to clean up any errors in my account here, but suffice to say, nominalism is so stupid that I'm baffled that anyone would defend it. It's a standard Catholic claim to say that Protestant theology relies on nominalism, and your mileage may vary.

Also, I find it snarkily amusing that Dreher can't really push this point too far, because the first Protestants in vast numbers were the Orthodox. Sad, and possibly offensive, but true. It's at this point also that his lamenting the general loss of religious authority can do everything, except recommend a return to the Catholic Church. You will note again that his audience is all Christians, so when he says "church" in this work, he's conceiving of the universal Church as invisible. "Back to the sources!" is only as strong as his weakest link, and that's Protestant ecclesiology. Unstated and sort of implied is somehow that the East escaped these disasters, and that's more than debatable. Anyway, let's move on.

3. The Enlightenment. This movement in the 18th century replaced the Christian religion with "Reason," says Dreher. What's happening philosophically is a truncation of what counts as true knowledge to the empirical. Rene Descartes (1596-1650) was a major figure here, for our purposes, mainly introducing a starting-point of skepticism into a working epistemology. Notice also it's the exact opposite of the classical account. Indeed, Descartes thought we should doubt our own senses, rather than extrapolate from them to higher things. He may be the father of modern philosophy. Frankly, he's lucky I don't blame him for everything. I will add in capitalism and democracy as fruits of the Enlightenment, and if you catch me on the wrong day, (most of them) I won't see either one as good.

4. The Industrial Revolution. This mostly 19th century phenomenon accelerated the movement to cities and away from farming villages. In addition of course, great technological advances were happening at the same time. Many commentators will argue (to some extent Dreher among them) that all these causes are linked in some way or another.

5. The Sexual Revolution. Dreher marks this beginning in 1960, with the advent of widely available hormonal contraception. This of course fully and finally severed the link between procreation and pleasure, and in the Catholic phrasing, made pleasure the primary end of sex. A whole host of disasters are the direct result of this revolution: divorce, adultery, abortion, sexual violence, etc. In short, Pope St. Paul VI was absolutely right, and I doubt Dreher disagrees.

In the end, this is a common traditional Christian recounting of the West. Dreher concedes that it's an intellectually-driven account of historical causation. I'm not inclined to quibble with this basic account.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

"Intemperate" Thoughts Related To Yesterday's Post

I'll start by saying I read Anthony Esolen on bad poetry. He's right, of course. And despite my healthy dislike for some of his other pieces, I got through it all right. I did snarkily wonder when they were going to start putting "Trump 2020" banners on all of his essays. [You flat-out consider voting for Trump a moral failing, don't you?--ed.] Yes.

Anyway, I got to thinking about it--there was a funny moment in my grandmother's funeral Mass, of all places--when we sang "On Eagles' Wings". I get it, it's a terrible song, that no faithful Catholic should ever love. Yet I do. I really do, and I'll tell you why: I've experienced some really tough things in this life. I'm not trolling for sympathy, I'm just letting you know. I got pretty emotional just typing that out, honestly. Anyway, every time I hear that song, I understand God is here, and He loves you. That's what it means to me.

I understand people hate it, and I understand that many people associate it with liberalism in the Church in the '70s. What is that to me? I wasn't here. I would even agree that we shouldn't sing it in Mass, if we have a choice. I'm still glad somebody wrote the song.

Which brings us to the funny moment: Father hates it as well. He processed out in his beautiful, reverent vestments, heard the song, and rolled his eyes. Then, in a great act of virtue, humility, and service, he began singing loudly, with great gusto. Think of what that says: I hate this song, but I'm the priest. We're thankful to God, and we're going to act like it.

Finally, I have a vague distrust of people who don't like popular things. Even if I become a total snob, I'll never lose this. I'll probably dislike myself, if I turn my nose up at Bette Midler, or Barry Manilow. Yes, mock if you must. I've obviously overcome this vague distrust, in several instances. Ahem.

Perhaps I could learn to regret that I know more pop songs than sacred songs. Then again, I am The Man Of A Thousand Friends, and such people know the words to "Don't Stop Believin'".

Another thought on this "moral failing" discussed above: It's not that I don't understand the difficulty of making a binary choice, especially if you think you ought to. But I don't see the cause for celebrating, cheerleading, that kind of a thing. If I know that you see what I see, and can articulate it, I can see voting against transgenderism, homosexuality, abortion, etc. but somebody ought to be able to say that the daily denigration of the office that's occurring now is really happening. I don't fear "The Left". I am who I am; I don't need a champion or a "fighter". I expect my presidents to behave with a modicum of dignity, and good sense, and despite my own radicalism, I don't favor blowing up "the system" just to make a point. I'm happy for President Jimmy for being the oldest living president ever. It's common and decent to wish your opponents well, even to think of them well, and so I do. We can't even get the current guy to lay off a dead guy! Don't dare ask me why I don't like Trump. If you don't know, I can't help you.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Beauty Is Objective, But

I heard a lecture on beauty by my good friend, Dr. Larry Feingold. I am fully convinced that Aristotle and St. Thomas are right about this, of course. I'm Catholic, after all. [You don't realize how easily, or how often, that is taken for granted.--ed.] Nevertheless, as far as I am able, I will intentionally plant myself in that tradition, and I will take the Catholic philosophical, theological, aesthetic, etc. as a starting position.

So it's not rap I will defend, but pop-folk-rock legend James Taylor. This is my "teenage rebellion" of the day. My musical formation is partially owed to this guy. Don't worry; I will listen to Mozart or Palestrina after this or something. How I wish Dr. Cross knew this man's music as well as I do! Which isn't to say that I know it well, in some respects. But you could do much, much, worse. As a side-note, you'll see in fact that he's the whitest guy ever, in case there had been some doubt.

I appreciate that Dr. Feingold said that there is some goodness in any art, no matter how low-brow, or lacking in the transcendentals. For the purposes of this discussion, that's all I needed to know. [You just want license to indulge your terrible taste in music.--ed.] Perhaps! Ha! But what's really exciting is, I'm always expanding my tastes. I'm no longer an egalitarian, with respect to any art, or with respect to expertise. Therefore, experiencing art in the broad sense is about discernment, from here on in. For whatever it's worth. Inquiry: If the problem with modern art or music is that it prizes self-expression that ends in a kind of nihilism and banality, how do we convey things like sorrow, deep disaffection, and tragedy, in a world made by God, against the backdrop of putatively desiring to be in harmony with Good?

As one example, evangelical Christian movies are preachy, heavy-handed, and arguably, not art. This is because the works themselves are so subordinated to conveying the message of good news as they understand it that the works lack the mysterious power of the beautiful. We want to inspire mankind to its highest end, but we don't want to destroy the natural in that pursuit. It's a trickier set of questions than it may appear. Further investigation is warranted. And long live JT!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Goodbye and Hello (Loretta G. Kettinger, 1925-2019)

There are a lot of things I might say about my Grandma. That's how I knew her, too. Sometimes, even before she died, I wished to know her in younger days. What was she really like? What was my Grandpa Bill like, who died before I was born, in 1979? He had to be quieter than her! It's odd, you know, a family in Missouri, that's to a person Dodgers fans (except my brother and me). That's weird, you know. You'd have to let my Uncle John tell you the story. The boys, her sons, they all love baseball. That's why I love baseball. They wore out the tape of Game 1 of the Series in '88. Kirk Gibson's home run, when he could hardly walk. It's as much a part of our family as anyone's. My Aunt Karen made the mistake once of saying, "Haven't you guys seen this enough? You know what happens!" John, without missing a beat, said, "Be quiet! I'm afraid he'll strike out this time!" Grandma would laugh and laugh, as if we'd never heard it, or a hundred other stories. She poured herself into her children and grandchildren. That's who she was. If you know us, you know her. Her house is where we always met. And she always cooked, and we always ate. "No thanks, I'm not hungry" would be ignored, as if it were not spoken. That's just how it went.

And then I think of my aunts and uncles I still have, and those departed. How hard they worked, and still work, as well as the kind of reputations they have. The point makes itself: This lady was their mother. When I think of how much I admire my Uncle John, and have heard the stories of who my father was, especially, I realize: Who do you think taught them all that?

You notice she was preceded in death by 6 of her 10 children. How strong do you have to be, to bury one child? I gave you the obituary, so you could perhaps pray for all of them. But how strong do you have to be? I guess you have to be a Kettinger. We have cried rivers over the years, and that is true. But if you saw us together, you'd see the joy of living. She was the focal point, but we have lived. It seems we take joy in every little thing, and we got that from her.

I think I was about 30 when I realized Grandma snuck off to an early Mass before I woke up, on the days I stayed over. She never spoke of such matters, but I knew we were Catholic. I had my own journey to the Church, but I also understood another blessing: I am to be the one who fills in the hole in her heart. Every Mass, every prayer, every thought of higher things, was for her, and for those we lost.

We're not a churchy bunch, as a group, but someone has to do it. I will never fully understand the power of the Church's intercession, nor of the sacraments, but I understand we have been leaning on them, one way or another, our entire lives.

If I could stay in 1988 forever, I would. I still had my Dad, Rick, and most everybody, except for Uncle David, and Aunt Janet, who died as children. They made a funny video celebrating Loretta, and Dad was the director. It may be in the same shape as that Dodgers World Series tape, for all I know. Those were joyous days. Those are the days I remember.

I didn't feel too sad today, because she poured all she was into us. I remember the way she called me "Jay," and mountains of fried potatoes. I remember the way she laughed, how she started, and could never stop. I remember how loud her phone was when it rang, and how it was one of us, usually. Then again, everyone who came through her door was family. I took it for granted, because I thought that's how everybody was. I would love to be this naive again, and I would love to be as generous as she was.

Friday, March 15, 2019

St. John Vianney, Pray For Us!

What a great day! I resolved to go to Holy Mass, because a relic of St. John Vianney would be there. I don't always get to go during the week these days, but today is special. I had in mind Confirmation Sponsor Lady, and one of my sisters, who has been sick. Truthfully, whenever I am at our parish, I think of them.

It strikes me as odd that the separated brethren of the Reformation are so convinced of the error of the cult of the saints. As one hymn puts it, "Yet she on Earth hath union/With God the Three in One/And mystic sweet communion/With those whose rest is won." As I was thinking about this, I realized that in the hearts of the saints, there are no strangers. Therefore, in the one Eucharist, we know each other, and are fully known. There is so much loss in death and suffering, but even this can be rendered sweet in redemption. John Vianney got my requests to heal some people--not usually his normal thing--and my thanks for my family, especially since we are partly French (on one side) like him. I heard a talk about Therese of Lisieux last night. I felt much closer to her since I heard that she struggled with prayer. In recent days, I find my sole anchor in repeated recitations of the Memorare.

I had my normal Lenten dinner at the neighborhood restaurant, and as I walked home in the bright sunshine, I said to a dear departed friend, "Man, Raff, you'd have loved a day like today!" I caught myself, and added, "Then again, in Heaven, every day is like this." I hope she gets to meet my Grandma Loretta, who died this week (if they haven't already). Maybe we cry on this side of the vale, but the joy of Heaven utterly swallows up every sadness. The exercise of hope is to invite God to give us a foretaste of it while we are here.

There is so much fellowship denied or delayed by the trials of this life. In any case, beloved brethren, I'll see you in the Eucharist, by the mercy of God.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Keep It Simple

The trial of life eventually reduces down to this reality: every joy, prayer, work, and suffering is brought to the altar. Everything becomes a question of faith, or the lack of it.

Everything pertaining to worship that isn't the Mass imitates it. It is both intriguing and tragic to know that so many people believe other things, and quite doggedly at that. God in Christ either answers sorrow and sin with grace, or he does not. I find myself with little patience to debate the theological particulars of the holy Mass with those not yet reconciled to holy mother Church, if only because there is little time to reconcile that which remains unredeemed in my life, and in my sphere of influence. If ecumenism does not include the possibility of return to the Catholic Church, it is a waste of time.

It still remains true that I am gentler on those outside the Catholic Church than I am on those within. It may be in part a function of my own pride and forgetfulness, in the sense that I did not know once that which I know now. I have become a native now, for better and worse.

This life will be beat you down, and just when you think that you can't take anymore, this life will demand more. Without faith--without the reality of the supernatural--there is no comfort in religion. May we be spared this nonsense of religion as a comfort despite not being true. I would laugh at such patronizing foolishness, except for the fact that so many people think it is a true account of what is going on. Christianity is either maximally true, a totalizing reality, or it is useless. I'm not the first to say it, and I won't be the last. But there's probably someone out there who hasn't taken religion seriously enough to consider it. Perhaps someone even reading this blog.

There is almost a cottage industry of those who set up a false dichotomy between piety, and an ability to deal with reality. Such people almost use "pious" as a slur, or a backhanded compliment. To be pious, however, is to accept what God reveals to be the truth; indeed, the total truth, and to order one's life in accordance with that reality. We are quite aware that life here offers us many opportunities for distraction, and even to be convinced of some other reality, but in the end, we either believe that God has spoken, or we believe that he has not.

Friday, March 08, 2019

The Blunt Force Of Unbelief

I used this phrase with a friend the other day, and I think its aptness is its directness. If God does not exist, then all manner of things become possible as choices that decent people don't consider, at least most of the time. This is not to say that one must be devoted to religion in order to be good; not at all. It's that the intelligibility of goodness makes sense in a world created by the God who spoke to Abraham. It's a subtle difference, but it's real.

A lot of people may not sign on the dotted line, as it were, for what the Church teaches. They like their adulteries, their abundance of strong drinks, or the glamour of believing in Reason. Press them a bit, though, and they are not ready to actually live in a senseless world. This inconsistency is an implicit acknowledgement of God.

I thank God for this inconsistency. I thank God, in a way, for this hypocrisy. If we are open, we can be led in virtue to the threshold of faith itself. Faith is ever and always an unmerited gift, but the path is not completely dark for those willing to follow the truth of goodness wherever it leads.

Unbelief, true unbelief, is blunt; it is violent. It admits of no degrees; it has no pity or sentiment. An inconsistent theist may be amusing, or even galling; a consistent anti-theist is a monster. When we struggle, we are invited by our worst inclinations to cast aside our furtive movements toward goodness, to live consistently in our rejection of God. Most don't take this path, thankfully.

The trouble is that none of us will be held guiltless for our inconsistency. The trouble is that we will become what we have exerted ourselves to become. Such is the reality and finality of judgment.

Suffering And The Inner Logic Of God

Suffering is an evil. Even the saints don't desire suffering for its own sake. But I keep saying: physical pain, sorrow, whatever else, those are distinct modes of existence. I can feel the pain of that, even rightly hate it, while accepting whatever has brought me to this place. One of its great gifts is the opportunity to explore the meaning of me. This experience of pain or loss is not intrinsic to me, nor to the world, but it's a part of my existence, and therefore, it's part of the world and part of others I have touched.

There's a fundamental difference between asking Why? in hope, and asking Why? in despair. Hope starts with the acknowledgement of the fundamental problem: It's not supposed to be this way. Yet it is this way. Why? Experiencing suffering isn't so much a matter of logical argument, but here it is:

Suffering is an evil;
God is good, indeed all Good;
The all-Good God has permitted me to suffer; (Why?)
There must be a more profound goodness to be found.

There's no how-to book in getting from the first premise to the end. There's no timetable. But I believe this is the Christian answer to suffering. The despairing argument is this:

Suffering is an evil;
Suffering should be avoided;
Some claim there is an all-good God;
But there is not;
Therefore, suffering is meaningless.

--
You could even add extra premises to the despairing argument, such as, "When you run out of meanings you make yourself, you can and should end your life." Functionally, it makes absolute sense why existentialism has ended in suicide. This is the blunt force of unbelief.

On the other hand, Jesus Christ who loves me is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. He had a reason to endure. "He shall see his offspring; they shall prolong his days." (see also Psalm 22) The crucifixion was the most senseless miscarriage of justice ever, because Jesus was not only innocent of the crimes for which he was accused, but innocent and perfect in everything. The human injustice of it sits right alongside its theological meaning. To affirm one is not to deny the other.

I once did not know it was possible to cough continuously, almost uninterrupted, for 10 or 12 straight hours. I do now. (Part of the recovery from the car accident.) I don't know what meaning or merit it had. I would have done almost anything to stop it. But if I found out its meaning, especially for someone else, in the Grand Tapestry of Providence, would I be able to refuse it? I should hope not!

What a lot of people don't seem to understand is that the righteous hatred of suffering fuels the search for its inner logic. If it were not seemingly in conflict with God's perfect goodness, there would be no reason to ask. There is joy in the asking, joy in the waiting, and joy in the aftermath. Not joy in the suffering, as such.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

"The Right To Choose" As A Function Of Market Ideology

Basically the argument goes like this:

1. This political and economic system prizes individual consumer choice above all else;

2. That is, this econo-political system is utilitarian;

3. Utilitarianism values people only in relation to their value to someone or something else, especially considered in economic terms;

4. Therefore, "the right to choose" endures as the maximum expression of individual choice, and economic empowerment.

A thought for your consideration, if you haven't: There are a great many things simply taken for granted by us as Americans which also communicate that human value ought to be understood in utilitarian economic terms. 

Of Course I'm Disaffected; Why Aren't You?

I took one of those implicit bias tests, actually for partisan affiliation. It said I was a raging Republican. Honestly, I have doubts about its scientific accuracy or applicability. On the other hand, it's true that I fell in with Republicans shortly after starting college. A huge thing was becoming convinced about the murderous nature of abortion. I had, and still retain, a deep sense of compassion and thirst for justice, so I never was unchangeable on other things, but I said, "These are my people, because they see this issue clearly."

And I don't know how your family is, but my family on my mother's side reads Ayn Rand. Now, please spare me your vituperative judgments here. That's just how it goes. Never made it through Atlas Shrugged, or The Fountainhead, but I've read Anthem at least 15 times. Smart people find her dull and plodding, and her philosophy wanting (fair enough), but I am still mesmerized by that story. I'm an American, after all. I know that Communism and various socialisms are bad; it's in the water here.

Then I was 23, and I read Radical Son, by David Horowitz. I cried like a baby. "This is what actual Communism does: it destroys a family, and destroys this man that I think I like." Now, he says and does a lot of things I don't like, but I felt I understood him. I still think I understand him, because I read this memoir. And quite frankly, when I surveyed my landscape, politics as I saw it then, it seemed like the fault-lines were still the same as the late '60s. I joined the conservative side fully at that moment. It was still a Boomer family argument, but I was in. The picture he shows you is leftist radicals without principle, abandoning all pretense of principle, abandoning morality, and justice, in service to an ideology in the negative sense, or for power. On my scene, that's also what I saw: Mizzou (the University of Missouri-Columbia) is not a radical hotbed, and it wasn't then, but the leftists I met, I didn't like. Same with most of the College Democrats, quite honestly. They were smug, loud, and it seemed to me, impervious to reason. I wasn't nearly as reasonable or thoughtful as I thought I was, but we can't see ourselves as clearly as we think we can see others.

I loved George W. Bush, and I wasn't alone. Loved him. People don't really understand what that's like now. The Iraq war went so bad in some ways, and was ethically dubious in others, that folks forget how happily his voters supported him. I don't care how close that first election was. Gore had no chance, and we all knew it. Smug know-it-all, who felt entitled to the presidency, it seemed. And showed it, often. Then 9/11 happened. I still carry a great fondness for the president and his words then. When he is on his deathbed, as his father was a short time ago, he will absolutely deserve the nostalgia and the victory laps he will receive. Even the "Hold on a minute" pieces that follow will have to speak favorably of the basic decency which characterized the time of George W. Bush.

Kerry had no chance, either. He's also an arrogant know-it-all, but he was different: he was so afraid to tell people what he really believed that he sounded downright unprepared to be the president. Bush probably won that election when he responded to Kerry's "global test" comment with something like, "What's this stuff about a global test? I don't need to take a test, but I will defend the American people." Lame, but effective, especially against Kerry, who seemed annoyed at having to explain his views to the peons, and suffered the loss consequently.

By the time I was 28, I wrote, "The GOP idea machine has run dry, lulled into complacency by too many easy elections against unworthy and unlikable opponents." I had also grown tired of voting pro-life, it seemed, to little effect. In support of Obama, I had written that. The Democrats were always so dour; we could ignore them, and still win. Obama had aspirations, and he wanted you to have them, too. He knew, as a practical matter, that he could be against the Iraq war without it costing him or the region too much, and for all intents and purposes, he cruised to victory. I'll skip ahead by saying I grew to love Mitt Romney, and was thrilled to support him. The HHS mandate alone was reason enough to vote against Obama, and so I did.

Donald Trump? Seriously? I don't get the decency of Bush or Romney, or the intellect of Obama. This isn't a great treatise on policy substance, I grant you. But this person is dumb. This might be a worse crime in my mind than anything else. We don't even have the pretense of high-minded principle, or aspiration. We went from Bush 41, who counted Maureen Dowd of the New York Times as a friend--in spite of all the mean things she said--to this. The bipartisan things about both Bushes were the best things. Did we abandon aspiration and even basic decency, because we couldn't beat the black guy? How did basic norms of behavior become liberal things?

I can honestly say I never had a racist thought about Barack or Michelle Obama. I got tired of him; I stopped watching the State of the Union somewhere back there. Take it back, I watched his last one. I loved Nikki Haley's direct shot at Trump in her response that night. Immigrants are my people, and they always will be. That was one of Bush's "liberal" and bipartisan things, and he was right. Maybe I should have known something was up when Romney chose immigration as the issue to prove he was "conservative." Nativism, pure and simple. "Enforcement" needs to keep the basic humanity of border-jumpers always in view. If in fact you are actually concerned because there are too many Mexicans at the factory in town, you are not my people. Nobody's in favor of murderers and drug dealers, OK? Why is this even an argument? I think we should do what Nancy Pelosi proposed. No, seriously: Spend a whole bunch of money on sensors, drones, and agents. If you're illegal, pay a fine, taxes, and we'll move on. Obama actually said this exact thing 5 years ago. Now, you've got ICE agents tossing families apart when people do what we've asked them to do! Make them citizens, or leave them alone. Aside from being contrarian for the sake of argument, this is what I've always believed. And immigration is Trump's reason for running. This is it. You, sir, are definitely not my people. I want the stodgy Republicans back. I want the Bushes back. I might be a pro-life liberal, but that was the Republican Party I knew and understood. And I'm done with it, for the foreseeable future.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

I Am Seeing A False Choice

It may not have been from a place of charity when the evocative phrase, "Republican Rite Catholic" was first deployed, but it's often apt. Just today, I was invited to choose between the transcendentals (goodness, truth, and beauty) and diversity, inclusion, and tolerance.

Why not both?

Let's say what this is really about, shall we? Those people over there want to lecture me about racism, and they can't even recognize a baby. Believe me, I've been here; I know what this feels like. You might even be able to say that a particular hierarchy of values is misaligned. It is an act of love, and deep respect, to submit yourself, even theoretically, to another person for correction. We're not seeing a whole lot of deep respect across politics these days. One cannot do much honest reflection when the only goal of politics is winning. Maybe Ian Barrs is right: There's no winning this culture war, in the arena of politics. It's going to be a longer game, and frankly, we might have to change more than we thought we would.

Yet this truth remains: If we ignore a moral problem long enough, we become desensitized to it. We may repeat like a mantra that racism is less grave than the murder of a baby in the womb, but that calculation does not render the damage of racism to zero. There could be 5000 Jussie Smollett stories a day, and it would not relieve me from the obligation to consider my participation in racism, and to take steps to correct it. It may even be true, for example, that the vast majority of police do a wonderful job in trying circumstances. Truth, however, does not allow me to disregard those who do not do a wonderful job. The popular culture even invites us to be reactionary about this. Almost every cop show I've ever seen treats Internal Affairs officers (who investigate other police) like betrayers to the brotherhood of cops.

I think it's rather silly to assert, in another vein, that having children as such is harmful to the environment. This doesn't mean that anyone who raises the question has nothing good to say. It doesn't mean that climate change is a hoax, or that it is imprudent (at best) to consider large-scale changes to the use and production of energy. Those who raise alarms may have their own reductionisms to contend with; my first obligation is to my own reductionism, as a matter of intellectual honesty.

Prudential disagreement involves choosing different means to the same ends. It does not mean ignoring whatever problems it does not suit me to consider.