Saturday, February 27, 2016

I Don't Think Fascism Is Too Strong A Word

Donald Trump may simply be a vicious, self-interested, ignorant buffoon, but it's about more than just him; it's about the resentment and hate that he's uncovering. Do you want to put your name on a party that puts his name on their brand? I'm not sure I can. In fact, I know I can't.

If we don't beat him, and sanity doesn't eventually prevail, I'm leaving the Republican Party. I'm still ideologically whatever I am, but I don't want to have to explain why I did nothing, while evil triumphed. Lincoln wouldn't stay. Reagan wouldn't. And I can't. Call it sanctimony if you will, but I can't chase the votes of angry, disaffected blue-collar whites with a wink, either. Losing with your dignity is better than selling your soul to win.

I definitely respect those folks who--on account of abortion and euthanasia--will do their duty, and vote against Clinton or Sanders. We're Catholics, after all. I just can't vote for the man. For all the eye-rolling about reductio ad Hitlerum on the internet, maybe our mockery blinds us to the real danger right in front of our eyes. If you were seeing fascism for real, how would you know? Could you fight through the derision to raise your voice? Well, I can.

On another note, I cannot but have a simmering disdain for the position, becoming more prominent as we speak--that Trump's foreign policy is less aggressive that that hawkish fool Rubio's. I'm a dove if there ever was one. I think the Libya intervention was flatly illegal, and unconstitutional. I think the Iran deal is preferable to war. I largely opposed McCain because of his, and the party's, nearly reflexive resort to military force. But Rubio the hawk is decidedly more preferable than a flat-out nationalist. And one that is completely incapable of understanding even the choices before him, and of reasoning to a good one. I'd be a better president than Donald Trump, right now. I wish I were kidding.

So, you'd better believe I'm with Marco. I liked him, anyway. But now, he's the last sane person with a shot, and as a patriot, and accountable to God, that's all I need to know. (Please feel free to rise from  the ashes, Gov. Kasich, but I don't think so.)

The Three Questions That Change A Political Philosophy

Ever since I was 21 or so, I self-identified as a political conservative, and a Republican. A reasonable person could easily argue that I came by it a little emotionally, and not by reason. A big part of it was simply wanting to hear an opposing view, unwilling to concede as a starting point that "liberals" are more intelligent, more informed, more compassionate than everyone else. I maintain a visceral distaste for smugness, though of course I am a hypocrite. I can be very unfair if I don't like someone, or some thing.

Anyway, the most basic question concerns the goodness of government as such. If governments of people hold power because those under its influence lack the force to overthrow it, or the willingness, one should say that that government is a permissible evil. Short of that position are countless others, advocating for more or less intervention according to preference.

These are the questions that have altered the moral landscape for me. They now require an affirmative answer:

1. Is the common good real?

2. Are there things that cannot, and should not be made into commodities?

3. Are government actions which do not violate the moral law presumed just, even if I think they are unwise?

Why I'm not a libertarian, in three simple questions.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Super Tuesday Prediction

I think we're going to see a Rubio wave. 6 or 7 wins would not be crazy. He will be the clear second choice at the very worst, and the pressure on Ted Cruz will be immense. He will have to decide how long staying in the race will help the party.

The media will be at least a week behind the new reality, and this benefits them, because "Actual Electorate, Now Paying Attention, Finds Broadly Acceptable Nominee" is way less interesting than, "Rubio Rises From The Dead."

Marco Rubio will be the Republican nominee for president of the United States of America.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Go On

Some things are worth doing, even if you feel like dirt. Because you're not dirt, metaphysically anyway, and you are loved, even if you don't believe it. Even if you act like you don't want it, you do. God knows this, which is why we're always drowning in mercy.

Go on. Go toward the love. Even if you hate yourself, go on, because your shame is the enemy's tool for keeping you away from God.

I sat there, realizing that I didn't want to go to Mass. I was ashamed to go. Entrepreneur Bob couldn't make it, and so I could have stayed home. No one would have minded, and a scarce few would have noticed.

But I said to myself, "I don't stop doing what I always do, simply because I made a mistake." Sins, which in the grand tapestry of God's covenant mercy will be forgotten, cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. We may indeed have to decide what that means to us, but when all is made manifest, no one will be able to deny it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Moralists, Continued

Just recently, I said here we should bring back the moralists in politics. By that, I meant that politics is both worthy and compelling to people when the relevant discussions are cast in moral terms. A possible danger is that we are all emotivists, motivated and polarized by feelings into tribes that never disarm, and never cooperate. Our polarization is quite in evidence. But empathy and civility are not simply desirable, and affectations for gaining power; they are tools to till the discussion space for a constructive moral discussion.

Then yesterday, a man named Matthew Continenti (sp?) argued that America's conservative party has abandoned the realm of moral argument entirely. I think he's right, and I hope it doesn't stay that way. When he asked, "Where are the moralists?" I said to myself, "Here I am; send me!" That moral case cannot be made up of issue positions like badges of tribal loyalty, but a comprehensive case that arises out of a coherent theory of the human person, and his or her destiny.

This all sounds lovely, but electoral politics is nasty, and people with real ideas finish poorly in the South Carolina primary, you might note. Governing is equally nasty. Granted. Making arguments and cooperation are not being praised right now. Still, we can try. And we should, until that task falls to others. If we don't, who will?

Abba, Father

We know that the Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, if indeed by faith and baptism we have been born again, for that is what God said through St. Paul and St. John, recorded in the Scriptures.

But have you ever been afraid? And more than afraid of our failures or a bad outcome, but the sort of fear that doubts the love of God. If you have, you're not alone. Here is the good news: we contemplate the fatherhood of God, because only His love can free us from our wounds, our mistrust, and our pride.

We could be misled, through terrible experiences and bad examples, about what it means to call the Father "Daddy." It could ever only be an analogy, because of our limitations. Nevertheless, if we have ever known a true father's love, or at least hoped for it, we know the Father loves us more. Infinitely so, but not less.

What chains would fall off if we could trust Him? At the least to say, "I don't trust You as I should, but I want to". The gateway to perfect love. And perfect love drives out fear.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

I Will Not Publicly Criticize Pope Francis, And Here's Why

You are free to call me whatever it is for people who march in lockstep, you may remind me of your educated pieties of the niceties of papal infallibility, as to where it does, and does not extend. I would most likely agree, in the abstract.

But here in the concrete, I don't care.

The reason I don't care is because the Church is the new Ark, the water is rising, and people you and I love need the grace of the sacraments, the grace of salvation. And the human man holding the very keys to the Kingdom is Pope Francis. If you want to be reasonably confident of salvation, that is, of not going to Hell, you need to submit to him, and to the Church to which he has been given charge. How inspired are your friends and family to become Catholic by the way you discuss the pope? We American Catholics treat him worse than we do Barack Obama, and then we cover ourselves with chatter like, "Well, it's not ex cathedra, and he's not infallible." True, and utterly irrelevant.

I obviously don't hear the pope's confessions. Maybe he confesses being a people-pleaser 5 times a week. Maybe he deeply regrets appointing so-and-so, or being unclear about such-and-such. But you are not the Holy Spirit, nor am I.

Please do not say, "I respect the pope, but..." Human respect is worthless, anyway. I am obligated--for the sake of the gospel and its proclamation--to give the Holy Father beyond the benefit of the doubt, because when I do not, the people outside the Church don't contemplate their need of the Church, they just wonder when this one's term is up. This isn't Barack Obama; there isn't a "better one" coming, or one who just left. There is only the sheepfold of Christ, and the successor of Peter.

St. Peter, pray for us!

Blessed Is He Who Comes In The Name Of The Lord

If I may be direct and honest with you, I was worried and distracted at Mass today. I won't make any bold predictions about my vocation(s), but I personally feel pulled toward public life. I have loved politics since before I can remember. I care about it; I was defending Richard Nixon's pre-Watergate contributions to our country in the 45 seconds before I walked into the cathedral this morning. This is who I am. I'm also a theologian of sorts, and at the very least, hopefully, I'm not boring.

So, like I said, I'm worried. I don't think the current front-runner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States is worthy of it. His character is not worthy of emulation, much less to merit serious consideration for such a high office. I don't find anything to soften that. I won't, unless instructed by Church authority that the Democratic nominee would, in their judgment, be worse.

But then we spoke the words we always do right before the priest begins to make the Eucharistic sacrifice: "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts! Heaven and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!..."

I forgot to say the second "Hosanna in the highest!" It goes right where I cut off the quote. I got stuck right there: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! That statement doesn't apply or belong to Donald J. Trump, Marco Rubio, or any others. I say that as someone who is dismissive of those who yell out, "Jesus is King!" in every discussion, because the truth often is, they don't know enough or care enough to contribute. But Jesus really is King. Politics is not irrelevant to our lives, imaginary, or any such thing. But in the ultimate sense, the politics is settled. Remember what Jesus started with when He commissioned his apostles: All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. I am moved right now upon reflection of this truth. If you will pardon the cleverness, Jesus has all the delegates.

Jesus, I trust in You!

Monday, February 22, 2016

In Praise Of John Kasich

I will never disparage anyone who runs for president in the United States with a relentlessly positive campaign. That's part of the essence of being American: optimism. Doesn't the optimist win every cycle? Maybe it's easier to be winsome when you are winning, but I appreciate the way this man is going about things. He's not winning, by the way. And he won't. That's all the more reason to appreciate it, and him.

Gov. Kasich hasn't gotten to speak in debates much, and it's also true that I have not spent a great deal of time watching all the debates, but when he does speak, it's worth listening to. Either to learn something (which is rare in this game), or to hear a person willing to risk turning down the rhetorical and emotional temperature in the debate venue, in a year we especially need it.

I read a conservative commentator who mocked Kasich for attempting to be the "Counselor-in-Chief," suggesting that the warm sentiment shared between John and his audiences wasn't relevant to the office he seeks. I must say, I disagree. In the last few years of George W. Bush's presidency, I came to appreciate the president's pathos in the face of countless tragedies. I started calling him the "Comforter-in-Chief," and not with sarcasm. Those are the human moments that can truly make a nation great again.

Frankly, I hope that he drops out soon, so that Marco and Ted can get about the business of slaying the dragon (let the reader understand). And we won't agree on the social issues, which has kept me from considering him in all but the most dire circumstances. But I remain thankful that he's reminded us of our better selves, and stood to be counted.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Hard Truth: "Evangelical" Means White

This is the reason a wretched person like Donald Trump is peeling off evangelical, self-described "very conservative" people. It's also why you could forget Ted Cruz is Cuban. He's trying to act white. He seems white, even.

Donald Trump does not appeal to actual evangelical Christians, by and large. He is supported by people who added the label "Christian" to the privilege of their whiteness, to add an air of respectability.

Suppose I were older, and I had not been blessed with the chance to attend university and graduate school. Suppose I had done manual labor for my entire life. I (would)
see the Democrats as the party of blacks, gays, and foreigners. The Republicans said they understood me, but they don't. Where do I go?

Where do you think?

We can call it "telling it like it is," or "Not PC," but what it means is, "The America we knew is gone, and we're begging for scraps from these rich, entitled, world citizen types, who think they're better than us."

It's race and class, bottom line. Educated whites became liberals. Their privilege is reflected in the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, even if not their preference. Hillary Clinton represents the dying husk of failed neoliberalism, though their coming of age owed a lot, at least in mythology, to the New Left. Bill Clinton snatched up enough of these lower-class white people to put a dark cloud over Reagan's enduring American morning.

But seriously, look at this: Al Gore lost because he lost less-educated whites. Kerry, too. Neoliberalism took its toll on the GOP, as well. But "W" resonated culturally, if not economically.

But everything Ann Coulter writes proves that some white people aren't too happy. It's not about principles. If it were, she'd go running toward Nikki Haley and Marco Rubio, not insulting them. They are the political epitome of everything Reagan symbolizes, if not stood for.

Someone needs to help these whites, but tell them they are wrong.