Saturday, May 21, 2016

I'm Willing To Take 4 Years Of Clinton

Sorry to disappoint some of you. There is no meaning behind the word "conservative" any more. Better said, there are no concrete solutions behind it. We have been defined by what--or whom--we hate. And the party of Abraham Lincoln is lining up behind an intellectual midget, and worse, the most morally vacuous and repugnant person I have seen in my entire life. Absolutely, Hillary is better, for what that's worth, and it's not much. Nevertheless, it must be said. A few judges people like--even ones I'd like--are not going to make me forget what's happened here. Hillary Clinton belongs in federal prison, and she's still the better choice. That's what you did, angry white men. That's what you did, and I won't let you off the hook for it.

Don't talk to me about abortion. If you're not out there on the sidewalks and in the pregnancy resource centers, (or some equivalent level of engagement) you don't get to tell me about the duty to hold my nose, and... I have been doing that my whole life, and it gets me nothing. And this time, so much worse than nothing. Sorry, I'm done with GOP "bargains".

I believe in limited government. I believe in letting people make their own choices, and generally living how they want to live. But I also believe that not everyone gets a fair shake out of the gate, in human terms. The government's main job is actually to make sure that those misfortunes don't define people before they start. It's happening all the time. And some of us let it happen, because we have an abiding fear of superficial comparisons to dead socialist empires.

If you press me, I will tell you that I want to maintain the social safety net, and perhaps even expand it. This is not because I don't believe in hard work, or family, or the market economy. It's because we have forgotten about the dignity of every human person, in our zeal to distance ourselves from failed leftist social experiments. A woman working 3 jobs in New Jersey dies from her own car exhaust, because she doesn't have time or money to sleep in her own bed. You may not agree with whatever particular solution I come up with in response, but I know that shouldn't be happening in America, and so do you.

If America were being America, we wouldn't be arguing about who's lives matter the most; we'd be working to value them all, and finding solutions. At the moment, some segment of the voting public doesn't care about solutions, but they will. I have faith in our people, even now. It is disheartening that at the very moment we need to come together, we're breaking apart, or so it seems.

I do know that nothing Hillary Clinton could do or would do truly scares me. Democratic leaders today exist to defend abortion at all costs. Nothing new there. Once I came to accept that everything President Obama does proceeds from the prevailing Democratic worldview in the main, I got less angry, actually. And he is truly, I think, a nice, well-meaning person. But he's a product of his political culture, one as damaged by our post-Christian society as the Right has been.

I think this election is generational, more than anything. I want to hope that President Clinton's personal flaws will not overwhelm her and us, and my generation can pick up the banner after that.

There is something fundamentally conservative about reforming our justice system, starting with the abolition of the death penalty and its apparatus. The fact that it's "liberal" to advocate for that today is a good example of what's wrong with "conservatism."

I think it's fundamentally conservative to tirelessly work for peace, to identify the principles and conditions under which military force will, and will not be used. It's conservative to strengthen cooperative organizations like the United Nations, especially for the sake of peace among nations. It is indeed true that a certain anti-human ethics is being forced on other nations in a kind of new colonialism under those auspices. It is also true that Americans don't abandon good ideas and things, just because they are misused.

I'm sitting this election out, at the presidential level. When in doubt, do not act, as the wise ethicists might say. The leaders we need will be those with passion, but temperance. They will need selflessness, a willingness to lose for the right reasons, instead of winning for the wrong ones. They need to govern with a long view, without regard to their own political fortunes. Where are the heroes, the icons, of this generation?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Living Vicariously

I am a total bro. By that I mean that in some ways, I am a stereotype: I love sports, I love Tom Cruise, (especially between the years of 1986-1992) and I don't need an invitation to eat steak. And I guess that the very idea of sports, and men talking about it, is upsetting to some people. They could after all be talking about whatever is in The Atlantic, or on NPR right now. Non-bros satirize things; they talk ironically; they drink craft beer. I drink Budweiser, for 2 reasons: I don't like taste explorations in food or drink, and the Busch family owned the Cardinals for who knows how long. Done, and done.

Sure, I'm deeper than that. I'm actually curious about what's in The Atlantic right now. With regard to sports, though, it's pretty simple: Men want to feel useful, connected, and alive. The next time you are tempted to dismiss 2 guys talking about sports, don't. Aside from the ways the sport accomplishes those three things in its limited way, realize what else is taking place: they are studying each other. You can tell a lot about a guy by how he talks about sports, not whether he does. Seriously. If a man is critical and ungracious, it'll come out by how he reacts. Sidebar.

Anyway, we are especially keen on remaining alive, even if we don't consciously realize it most of the time. And I'm not even close to being morose about having a severe disability, but I absolutely know that my enjoyment of sports is a rebuke of the Fall and its miseries. My favorite athletes are the aging ones. All athletes fail, but aging athletes fail habitually. They struggle. They are no longer expected to do what they did before. But sometimes, they do. That's something I understand.

I am a catalogue of factoids and intriguing trivia, such as the fact that when the French Open tennis major tournament starts on Sunday, it will be the first time in 66 major tournaments that the field will not include Roger Federer. There are 4 major tournaments annually. I trust you can do the math.

And oh, what a joy it is to watch him! When I was trying to finish college, and beginning graduate school, Federer ruled men's tennis. It was the graceful savagery of total dominance in those days. I only regret I hadn't the time to take it in. Now, the grace is still there, but there is a hint of average human in there. He's not the favorite when he comes into the big matches. Of course not. Federer was reigning (along with Nadal) when Novak Djokovic was asking that one girl to the prom.

I find myself having a really intense emotional experience when I watch him now. C'mon, Roger! You can do this. You're the greatest ever. Just this one time, show them again. It's not about just him anymore. Surely we know that. He will walk away in a short time, spending most of his days with his lovely wife and wonderful children. None of this hardship is strictly necessary, in the grand scheme. But maybe just this one time, in a small way, let's soar. Finitude can wait.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

O Captain, My Captain

I was in a discussion today, and somebody basically made a meme--and it was for humor's sake--of that moment from Dead Poets' Society, after the boys stand on the desk and begin to recite the famous poem. Keating looks, and pauses, before saying, "thank you, boys," and departing. Anyway, it got everyone sort of wistful for Robin Williams, even though its usage had nothing whatsoever to do with him, or the film.

I realized that for me personally, he impacted me several times, and in several ways, and I had not acknowledged it or realized it until he died. Let's give ourselves a break on self-condemnation for so-called "celebrity worship," because for many of these people, to continue working and entertaining is their way of serving, and for us to continue watching is the way we thank them. No one plans on dying, for the most part, and we never think that perhaps the time to say thanks is growing short. That's how death is. Family, friends, neighbors, and these friends in art and artistry; in this respect, the outcome is the same.

I have a friend who walked out of the film, "What Dreams May Come." And from a Christian point of view, I understand that. It's not the most theologically precise movie you'll ever see. He's a little more logical and less sanguine than me, so fair enough. It nonetheless remains one of my favorite movies. There are moments where it rings so true emotionally and relationally actually, that I can't watch it. And overall, that's what Robin did: He left us with a series of moments that rang true from somewhere in our guts, so deep that "logic" seems like a vulgarity.

I probably won't watch "Good Will Hunting" ever again. And that is by no means a criticism. Art can get too real at times, and loving oneself means leaving whatever it is alone.

"Hook" is far and away my favorite Robin Williams film. If "generosity of spirit" fairly characterizes the man at all, that movie is a lasting monument to it. If I ever meet the great Spielberg, please keep me from slapping him. I read that he disavowed the film. I have no idea why. Then again, if you make great art, chances are it's bigger and greater than the hearts of those who make it.

There's an anniversary edition of the film, "The Princess Bride," deservedly regarded as a classic in its own right. As I am sure you know, Mandy Patinkin has a celebrated role in that film as "Inigo Montoya." In any case, you can see Mandy discussing his role, and what it means to him, and he just starts borderline weeping. As he tells you why, it becomes clear: I have been a part of something bigger and greater than my heart and my words can contain. People who want to do that, to experience it, and share it, those are my kind of people.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bad Sense Of Direction

It's my reality. It's also a good tune from the short-lived indie Christian supergroup, Kerosene Halo. [And honestly, that is one of the best band names ever.--ed.] I agree.

But I'm getting more comfortable just walking around the neighborhood without fear of getting lost. In daily life, and in matters spiritual, this makes a big difference.

When we know we are safe and loved, we grow bold; we find ourselves and our place. It is true that human experience is only an analogy to life with God. Analogies break down. But we wouldn't and couldn't use them at all, unless they were true.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Codes, Whistles, And The Stubborn Impatience Of Bigotry

I used to get mad when political liberals accused conservatives of bigotry and racism. I felt something  very close to rage when I read books in college littered with that accusation. We Republicans have a narrative as equally compelling to us as that of any Democrat's. We deplore bigotry in all its forms. Still, the beginning of the fight against "political correctness" was actually about masking political arguments as factual ones, and using whatever power that was available to silence dissenting views offered in good faith and goodwill.

Now, some vociferous non-progressives--for they do not appear to be conserving anything--deplore "political correctness" as anything that does not confirm them in whatever they happen to already believe. Ignorance masquerades as courageous free thought, for those who lack the character and humility to tell the difference.

Let me "tell it like it is," in the form of a question: Have we as conservatives been reflexively reacting against liberal intolerance so long that we can't see real stupidity and hate when it's staring us in the face? If you actually were an intellectually incurious, ignorant, provincial bigot, how could you tell? Or is the New York Times always wrong, by definition?

I'm just asking.

Donald Trump is going to become the Republican nominee for president, precisely because he approximates, or actually is, a moderately educated, bigoted, aggrieved white person. You can sense it, if you think back to the fear you felt when you figured out what liberal Massachusetts has in common with conservative Mississippi. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio made plenty of mistakes, and fair enough. The truth is, though, young Hispanic immigrants aren't going to catch the breaks, no matter how well and consistently they advocate for things people say they want. That isn't what they really wanted. They wanted the "good old days" back, with a minimum of fuss. At least for the people like them.

If you've been left behind, you'll believe anything that tells you it's not your fault. Especially if you have an almost unfathomable ability to avoid introspection. Trump could promise to build the starship Enterprise in a week, and some people would believe it. As long as he also promised not to hire any immigrants to do it.

Well, I'm not going to pretend that it isn't that simple, even if some progressives get to take some sanctimonious victory laps as a result. Heaven help us, and President-elect Hillary Clinton.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Love In A Wheelchair: Actually, I Don't Want To Keep It In The "Community"

On the one hand, I really appreciate being able to share experiences with people whose disability is similar to my own. I appreciate also many friends who advocate for persons with disabilities, and where our interests intersect, I'm happy to help.

Bottom line here, though: A beautiful woman is a beautiful woman. We're pretty much the same here, dudes. You could say that having a disability, and knowing others who may share common experiences creates a culture. Well and good. But it isn't an impenetrable barrier to me. For others with other characteristics, culture plays a bigger role in that decision-making process. But my role in the disability culture is not such that I need a woman to share that part of my life in common.

I worry about how my limitations will affect me as a faithful Catholic father, more than anything. And we all must consider whether we have been given the grace to fulfill that vocation.

At bottom, I'm just a guy. "Is she faithful?" will be running neck-and-neck with, "Is she hot?" (forgive the word choice, pious readers) until I am dead, or a vowed celibate, and no physical impairment changes that. Just thought you should know.

In Defense Of Public School

It begins with the theoretical: knowledge is a common good, so the wide dissemination of that knowledge is in the purview of the civil authority. That purview or jurisdiction is by no means exclusive, or even primary, but it's real. Therefore, it is not an injustice per se to make the dissemination and acquisition of true knowledge a matter of public concern.

Of course, the problem increasingly is that the public schools are teaching a defective morality or anthropology to the students they serve. That is, from my perspective as a Catholic, the problem is ethical and moral, not ideological. Or, I might say, political, except where those areas by necessity intersect.

There are some people who argue that non-public school options are more successful or efficient, and it's at that point that we need a definition of terms, because "efficiency" (or success) can be understood in purely economic or technocratic terms. If so, that paradigm is as much contrary to Christian ethics as any counterfeit sexual ethics. In fact, more intelligent people than me have argued that the errors economic and sexual have the same source.

What is our ultimate end as human beings? The authority and legitimate jurisdiction of the government in this sphere of activity (however limited) depends on it acting in accordance with the moral law, which establishes that legitimate authority in the first place.

I do not accept the premise that democratic consensus alone establishes the justice of a law. We are infected with this insidious legal positivism at the present time. As long as we accept that premise, any advocacy for traditional morality, and the individual freedom to choose will be ineffective.