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Thursday, March 05, 2020

Real Clear Motivated Reasoning (The Decline Of The Right, Continued)

Real Clear Politics is a great site, especially during election season. Data, commentary, major speeches, and all the rest make it highly useful and enjoyable for political junkies. That's still an accurate descriptor of me.

And I don't know who finds the opinion and analysis pieces, but I notice those that lean Right have noticeably declined in quality, with respect to avoiding ad hominems. The headlines are ad hominems, as are the pieces themselves. There seem to be alternate realities, and there doesn't appear to be any willingness to seek any neutral ground of fact to re-establish some basis for constructive conversation.

The Right in general is given over to conspiracies and a bunker mentality. Most people I know and see who are "conservative" (whatever that means) ignore the mainstream media altogether, in favor of ideological sources. Here's the thing, though: You can't persuade someone without a common language, and common facts. The political Right is of no use if it completely abandons a shared vision, shared language, and shared facts. Politics itself is impossible without this.

This new "anti-politics" of "owning the libs" seems to appeal to many people. It gets dangerous and ultimately self-defeating when one's tribe no longer holds the levers of power, and the level of contempt one shows has inspired a furious backlash.

Most importantly, people forget more fundamentally that we have to live together.

Politics has never been this consequential to people, and yet more frivolous, as it is today. That makes me sad. I'm not sure what to do about it.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Abortion Politics And Me

You know, I reamed Dr. Charlie Camosy once, because he remained a Democrat, in the face of their abortion immorality. I wasn't fair to him, and I deserved the silence I got. It turns out that we would meet here in the middle on this. Dr. Camosy wrote a book about abortion dialogue, and hopefully turning the temperature down a bit. I should have listened to him.

On the other hand, he's since left the Democratic Party because of these radical positions in the party on abortion. Someone pro-life will have to run and win as a Democrat, to face down Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and whomever else. Maybe become president. And then, maybe, such a visible person could give others the courage to be pro-life Democrats again. Maybe one day soon.

And that's the other thing: it is an outrage that there is no room among major players in that party for the pro-life position. I can't in conscience vote for their presidential candidates, because there's no ambivalence at all: a Democrat today will not do anything to restrict abortion.

A pro-life position as a political matter is a public declaration that the opposite position of "choice" is morally unacceptable as such, for all people. A pro-life politician moves to restrict abortion, because it is a moral stain upon all of us, whether or not we participate in procuring or providing one. It is beneath a people who claim to be decent and compassionate. It doesn't seem that way to many people; hence, the stain. We're so used to it that we tolerate all sorts of flimsy arguments to keep it around.

In my experience, most pro-life Republicans actually do the things pro-choice Democrats say they do not do: helping mothers, fighting poverty, etc.

On the other hand, I actually believe that most serious policy debates of moral consequence are happening inside the Democratic Party. Even before the Republican Party became a full-blown cult of personality, the Republicans had become unserious about our most pressing problems. On the one hand, this is to be expected: parties exist solely to win elections. Expecting coherence from pragmatism is a fool's errand. Yet too many times I realized: If I want to actually solve this problem--whatever it is--or to acknowledge it as a problem, I can't think like a Republican.

A party as an heuristic for an ideology had become confining. In addition, I realized that my anger at the Democrats over abortion and related ethical missteps wasn't useful. I wasn't actually helping anything or anyone. That's what they want. If the powerful on both sides of the issue can keep us angry and voting while changing nothing, all aboard the gravy train.

I'm no Democrat; I don't believe that any form of individualism--in the bedroom, or in public--truly reflects love and solidarity with others.

I'm no Republican; I don't believe that the biggest threat to our existence is government at any level. I believe that government that doesn't work and doesn't respond to people's real needs is a bigger threat. I don't think we should crowd out private associations doing good, but make no mistake: Government is philosophically and actually primarily responsible for the common good. A government that exists legitimately only because it hasn't been overthrown is no way to found a country.

I don't believe in capitalism. I don't believe in socialism, either. We can't even have a real discussion about that, because some people are afraid of the Reds again. Moreover, the same people are so enraged at the advocates of "choice" on abortion that they won't listen to any other moral claim about anything else.

I have no credibility to lecture anyone about contempt for others, but I know that contempt precludes thinking and rational dialogue.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

An Odd Day And Night

I went to McDonald's in the afternoon. I wanted to enjoy something greasy and appalling before I went to Mass. As it happened, I had to go to Reconciliation first. I booked it away from the McDonald's at 3:36 PM, and I arrived in line at 3:50 PM.

I only had to wait a couple of minutes, and I had intended to stay for Mass, but in that moment I had no desire to wait around for the celebration. I knew that I should make it back before dark, because rolling in a wheelchair isn't terribly safe in the daylight, and less so at night. When I looked at my clock at home, it was 4:30. I knew we had a couple of hours before the results came in from the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary. I knew that former Vice President Biden would win, but I don't think anyone knew it would be as big a win as it turned out to be. I'm thrilled for Joe, and I'm thrilled for the Democratic Party--as far as it goes--because I do think that he's their best chance to win.

I turned on Columbo, one of the ones from the late '80s. The killer was a sketchy dude with an ex-wife and two mistresses. At this moment, I'm not even sure how Columbo caught the guy. I'd have to go back and watch it a couple more times. At least one of the women reminded me that I'm a normal, red-blooded man. An odd feeling, that.

Then I went over to a friend's place to watch the returns come in from South Carolina. We watched it on MSNBC. In recent months, it hasn't been nearly as liberal as it was before. Oddly enough, perhaps it is all those Never Trump Republicans they kept bringing in. Sitting in a certain place, that might as well be liberal, but not sitting in mine. I flipped the channel briefly to see the Blues win the hockey game in a shootout over Dallas. We probably watched the MSNBC coverage until just short of 11 o'clock, and over 99% of the vote had come in by that time. I was wound up, so I didn't go to bed.

I remembered that I had added "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" to my Netflix queue. I remembered the things I loved about it, and I remembered the things I hated about it, but I decided in any case that it's worth it for Katharine Hepburn. I've always been charmed by her niece, Katharine Houghton, who plays Joey Drayton. And of course, Sidney Poitier will never let us down. When I got to the end, I was sad. I wasn't made sad by anything in the story per se, but I remember the feeling of being "in love," and the two young leads portray that very well. Truthfully though, I am no John Prentice, so I felt a little down for a few minutes after the film was over. I knew that the adventures of Capt. Picard and the Enterprise would cheer me up. True to form, I fell asleep somewhere in there. The true things remain true, even if we get down for one reason or another. When I woke up today, those negative thoughts didn't stick.

I'm still me, but me is different somehow. I have to believe that God has a purpose for everything in my life, not only the things that are positive and joyous. Perhaps the enemy wanted to know if my faith was genuine, so he asked permission, just as he did in the case of Job.

I could be wrong, but I sense that prayer is the means to achieve what I truly desire at the core of my being. I desire to know, and be known. When we first begin with God, he rewards us for right conduct and good decisions, so that we continue to do those things. A firm faith sustains us when God sees fit to reward us no longer when we do good things. All of us have surface desires, for food and other pleasures. Most people are easy to distract this way. The desire to delve more deeply into God is stronger than the sensible desire; it's simply harder to discern. Jesus, lover of my soul, take me deeper into your Sacred Heart. Give me the gift of a wild love for you that never ceases.