You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June, 2006.
Every society depends on an experience of membership: a sense of who ‘we’ are, why we belong together, and what we share. This experience is pre-political: it precedes all political institutions, and provides our reason for accepting them. It unites left and right, blue-collar and white-collar, man and woman, parent and child. To threaten this ‘first-person plural’ is to open the way to atomisation, as people cease to recognize any general duty to their neighbours, and set out to pillage the accumulated resources while they can. Without membership we risk a new ‘tragedy of the commons’, as our inherited social assets are seized for present use. ~Roger Scruton
Mr. Scruton makes many excellent points, including his valuable discussion of his neologism oikophobia (fear of home, fear of one’s own), but I do wonder about this claim:
Communities founded on a national rather than a religious conception of membership are inherently open to newcomers, in the way that religious communities are not. An immigrant to a religious community must be prepared to convert; an immigrant to a national community need only obey the law.
At the risk of being pedantic, communities founded on a national conception of membership raise the bar much higher than religious communities, if by “national conception of membership” we mean belonging to the nation, the natio, the tribe. Perhaps Mr. Scruton means something else, in which case the following will be redundant, but I do not really know what it would mean to describe a “national conception of membership” if it does not mean this. It is possible to become a member of another nation, but the resistance to newcomers is surely greater in a community defined by nationality than one defnied by religion.
The Byzantines could welcome Theophobos and his Persian soldiers, provided they converted, and nothing else save the obvious loyalty to the empire was required. Because religion is so fundamental, particularly to traditional peoples, this requirement can seem a heavier burden, but it is practically much more open to newcomers who wish to become part of the community. There are actually fewer and less daunting barriers to changing religious identity than attempting to enter into a community that defines itself along “national” lines, as joining a national community–as we are re-discovering again and again–is not simply a question of obeying laws but also a question of the identity of that national community and the extent to which newcomers must embrace a new identity in order to belong. A national community often expects its newcomers to adapt linguistically, culturally and, broadly speaking, morally in the habits they must discard and adopt. Failure to expect, indeed require, this adaptation seems to frequently result in failed long-term integration and the breakdown of social relations between immigrants and natives.
Cross-posted at Enchiridion Militis
Conservatives venerate the free market and see smaller government as an end in itself. Liberals do not venerate government in the same way, and we do not see larger government as an end in and of itself. For us, everything works on a case-by-case basis. Should government provide everybody’s education? Yes. Should government manufacture everybody’s blue jeans? No. And so on.
Now, it’s true that conservative Republicans have done an awful job of limiting government. But that doesn’t stop Republicans from communicating their ideology. Everybody knows what they stand for. They’re for lower taxes, strong defense and less spending–even if they habitually fail at the spending part and have royally screwed up the defense portion of late.
But nobody knows what Democrats stand for because you cannot, and should not, formulate sweeping dogmas when you’re operating on a case-by-case basis. ~Jonathan Chait, The New Republic
Via Ross Douthat
Cross-posted at Enchiridion Militis
It must be one of the oddest consequences of the Bush years that the GOP has managed to associate the name of conservatism, which is by definition non-ideological and anti-ideological, with a universally applicable ideology that ignores all realistic constraints or considerations of casuistry, when it has always properly been the Freisinnigen who want a single standard and universal solutions for all problems.
Somehow liberals like Mr. Chait have gotten it into their heads that they do not espouse this same kind of blinkered universalism, even though they routinely determine policy positions based on abstract commitments to human rights, “justice” and “equality.” Unless Mr. Chait was being ironic when he said that liberals take things on a case-by-case basis, what he must have meant was this: “We take things on a case-by-case basis, and our response to every case is always the same.” See The New Republic’s position on Darfur as one example of this predictable response.
The “case-by-case” rhetoric is another maneuver in a long tradition of liberalism’s pretense to neutrality and rationality: other people embrace inflexible ideological positions, whereas we liberals respond reasonably and according to what the situation demands. This fits nicely with the current climate that frowns on dogmatism and certainty: if the neocons haven’t much use for the “reality-based community,” liberals haven’t much use for anything rooted in traditional definitions of truth.
To the extent that this “case-by-case” approach may be true of Democratic politicians, it has probably been the fruit of opportunism. This is not to belittle approaching things on a more “case-by-case” basis, but to highlight that it is not characteristic of the liberal mind. It seems to me undeniable that liberals (and especially those who prefer to call themselves progressives) have very definite universalist commitments to which they expect everyone else to submit as a matter of right and “justice.” Failure to comply on the part of the insufficiently enlightened has historically resulted in liberal recourse to coercion or the sword. Regional and local variation on the single standard is permissible only if it advances some larger purpose of subverting traditional institutions and culture.
Mr. Chait is right about one thing–progressives do not see larger government as an end in itself as such (not, of course, that conservatives actually see small government as an end in itself), but as a means to eradicate hierarchies, traditions and authorities that bar the way to the “benevolent” despotism of liberal rationality and modernity. If time-honoured constitutional restrictions and protections become obstacles to the progressives’ progress, they will be done away with or reinterpreted to suit the times.
Government is the acid that destroys the dense webs of relationships and habits that make up local and traditional societies. As acid burns flesh, it will typically destroy living communities and living traditions the more it comes in contact with them. It is predictable that the conservative should want to contain this acid as much as possible and preserve his community against its ravages, while the liberal and revolutionary should want to throw the acid on the thick growth of long-established custom and venerable tradition to make way for his own model. To the extent that capitalism and market forces possess this same destructive and acidic quality, liberals of the 19th century embraced them and even modern liberals have accommodated themselves to these forces for the same reasons that they have embraced centralised and consolidated government.
This is why, as a general rule, liberals will always prefer to strengthen the government and conservatives will prefer to constrain, limit and check it; it is not an exhaustive definition of the difference between the two, rightly understood, but it remains an important difference. You can, however, reliably use it as a guide in determining who real conservatives are and who the fraudulent poseurs playing at being conservative are.
There is much to be said in favor of the classical liberal tradition, even in its extreme libertarian form. But where has this tradition ended up: in the adulation of rich zombies who are the perfect illustration of all that has gone wrong in America life, our stupidity, our weakness and cowardice, our complete inability to enjoy life unless it is enhanced by Japanese computer graphics and soaked in MSG and sugar. A real human being, given a few billion dollars, might make himself dangerous or at least obnoxious, but America’s billionaires are too weak and silly to do anything but what will make them Time magazine’s Man of the Year. ~Thomas Fleming
Daniel McCarthy points out a new blog by libertarian (or is it Jeremytarian?) Jeremy Lott, author of the new book, In Defense of Hypocrisy. He also happens to be acquainted with Michael Brendan Dougherty (I know, I know, who ISN’T acquainted with Michael Brendan Dougherty?). Due to some technical problems, I cannot yet add his site to my blogroll, but I thought I should draw attention to it in some way.
Leave it to Charles Krauthammer to take something as simple and decent as a paean to a country he loves and admires (in this case, Australia) and turn it into another tendentious argument about interventionist foreign policy:
That bravery breeds affection in America for another reason as well. Australia is the only country that has fought with the United States in every one of its major conflicts since 1914, the good and the bad, the winning and the losing.
Why? Because Australia’s geographic and historical isolation has bred a wisdom about the structure of peace — a wisdom that eludes most other countries. Australia has no illusions about the “international community” and its feckless institutions. An island of tranquility in a roiling region, Australia understands that peace and prosperity do not come with the air we breathe but are maintained by power — once the power of the British Empire, now the power of the United States.
There are actually things in life that don’t relate to the debate about American hegemony, the war in Iraq or the deployment of military forces overseas, but somehow no Krauthammer column would be complete without setting his appreciation for Australian plain speaking, common sense and bravery in the context of warmongering.
Yes, the Australians have been in every major conflict alongside the U.S. since 1914, except for the abomination of Kosovo. So, as it happens, have the Canadians, who were “with us” in Kosovo and not Vietnam, though they get no credit from the Canadian refugee Krauthammer for being almost as steadfast. However, they have typically had better reasons to be in some of these fights than we have. The Australians arguably had actual compelling reasons of immediate national defense and national interest in WWII and, less directly, Vietnam (the success of communism in southeast Asia probably would have seemed of more immediate importance to Australian security than it would have reasonably been for America). Unlike Washington Canberra has typically not gone looking for fights to involve itself in. But what Krauthammer never asks (I’m sure it does not occur to him) is whether Australia and America being in all of these conflicts together has actually been better for either nation. On the American side, I see scant benefit. Perhaps there are Australians out there who can explain how these wars have benefited their country.
Sadly, Krauthammer describes Australian involvement in WWI and WWII in this way:
Australia joined the faraway wars of early-20th-century Europe not out of imperial nostalgia but out of a deep understanding that its fate and the fate of liberty were intimately bound with that of the British Empire as principal underwriter of the international system. Today the underwriter is America, and Australia understands that an American retreat or defeat — a chastening consummation devoutly, if secretly, wished by many a Western ally — would be catastrophic for Australia and for the world.
This is risible, in part because it is not correct but mostly because it is opportunistic nonsense. Australians were sent to fight in Britain’s wars precisely out of a sense of imperial loyalty and solidarity. Typically, the Australians were ill-served for their loyalty. The “transcendent courage” at Gallipoli was necessary in part because of the monumental arrogance and incompetence of the imperialists in London–the Australian, New Zealander and Commonwealth soldiers there rose to the impossible occasion brought about by a quarrel among European powers on the other side of the world. The Australians today might be forgiven for thinking that their men were used (and, to some small degree, are still being used) as cannon fodder in wars that have had nothing to do with them. Do Australians now really want to hold the coat of another hegemon? Krauthammer seems to think so. I hope the Australians, who are a great people regardless of which foreign policy they choose to follow, prove him wrong.
Unbeknownst to anyone on the Right, we have received a defector in the form of The New Republic! So says Kos himself here. Jonathan Chait at TNR complains about the Kossacks’ “sectarian” mentality and Kos’ own “paranoid” mentality. Is there any way that we could return said defector to his home country? We certainly don’t want TNR! Having seen Markos Moulitsas on some of the talk shows when Yearly Kos was going on in Vegas, I can well imagine that the paranoid charge is true–there is something about the man’s eyes that suggest some kind of madness. As for Kos’ recommendation to stop purchasing TNR, I can only encourage this sentiment and hope that a great many “progressive” people will listen to Kos on this point alone. The Kossacks may be annoying, but the New Republicans are dangerous interventionists, and if fellow liberals want to take them down to serve their own ends I am all for it.
Though I am not a party to these internecine liberal (or, if you like, “progressive”) quarrels, I still find it fascinating to observe how the Democratic Party loyalist Kossacks and neocon-like “New Republicans” attack and belittle each other. It takes on a very different dynamic from the quarrels on what is normally counted as being the political Right, which is today dominated by a broad but thin, superficial consensus centered around the security state and nationalism. Part of the difference is that the Kossacks and New Republicans are beating each other up over how to contest GOP power from their position in the opposition party, whereas those of us on the Right keep beating up on each other whether any of “us” are in power or not.
That’s Leon Hadar’s very good, sarcastic response to the latest jingo “news” stories. I’m still waiting for Mr. Bush to tell us about the great opportunity to buy prime oceanfront property in Midland, or perhaps Rick Santorum will offer to sell us a bridge in Brooklyn.
Just when I might have been starting to feel sorry that he was going to get humiliated in this fall’s election (he is the closest thing to a traditional conservative on social issues in the Senate), Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) reminds me why I will not be sorry to see him go. In the latest chapter of the GOP’s inexplicable kamikaze election year strategy of closely identifying themselves with the President’s most generally unpopular policy (no doubt because it is “the right thing to do,” eh?), Sen. Santorum announced that 500 degraded mustard and sarin nerve gas shells had been found in Iraq since the invasion. This is apparently supposed to be the justification the jingoes have been seeking for three years. If I were a true believer in this war, I think I might be a bit underwhelmed. 500 degraded shells? That’s all? I would guarantee right now that there must be several countries, hostile and allied, that possess a significantly greater quantity of chemical weapons than this. Scott Richert, Clark Stooksbury and Matt Barganier at Antiwar’s blog have more comment, all of which shows pretty clearly that this “revelation” is not very meaningful and that the War Party is getting pathetically desperate in this latest bid to revive the WMD aspect of their argument.
I’m not a chemical weapons expert, nor am I someone with military experience, but if these shells are degraded chemical weapons this would probably mean two things: they are relatively much less dangerous than they are intended to be, which makes them even less than the small threat they would otherwise be, and they have been sitting around, unused, for a substantial period of time. As Scott notes, the evidence would point to a pre-1991 date for these weapons, which would reconfirm (for the nth time) that Iraq’s weapons programs were debilitated and controlled by the inspections and sanctions regime. As Dr. Fleming has noted before, when the administration said that they knew that WMDs existed in Iraq, they were lying when they said they knew something they very plainly did not and, as it turns out, could not have known (because, for starters, there were no weapons or facilities to know about).
The Iraqis’ failure to maintain even a small cache of fully lethal chemical weapon shells must point up the stunning weakness of their chemical weapons program in the intervening years since 1991; it would suggest that so few resources were dedicated to the manufacture and maintenance of such weapons that the Iraqis did not even have a reasonably large supply of chemical weapons to be used in basic artillery, which I suspect must be one of the easier ways to deploy such weapons, to say nothing of more elaborate distribution systems or delivery vehicles. Does Mr. Santorum really want to base his support for the war on such flimsy, nay, irrelevant evidence? Apparently he does. But that would be no different from what war supporters have done from the beginning.
Now, even George Bush’s speechwriters know that the Hungarians did not actually succeed in 1956, nor did they actually overthrow their own Communist dictatorship nor expel the Soviets. The Soviet Union was the “Evil Empire” that claimed to have liberated Eastern Europe and establish true democracy. Eventually that Evil Empire died of its own excesses, and the Russians had to abandon their subject nations.
What the President is obviously telling the world is that Iraq, too, has been occupied by an empire that promised democracy but delivered only tyranny and violence, and the only hope he holds out for Iraq is the eventual dissolution of the American Empire.
I conclude from this speech that David Frum has been replaced by Stephen Colbert. ~Thomas Fleming
Dr. Fleming’s remarks are spot on. On a slightly different note, it is offensive to me, especially as someone with Hungarian ancestors, that Mr. Bush would dare to use the example of the rebellion of 1956 to justify his dreadful policy. The obvious anti-imperialist, anti-hegemonist nature of the 1956 rebellion is a standing repudiation of the foreign policy of any great power that seeks to dictate the political life of a small country through force of arms. 1956 was the failed, but heroic, attempt to reassert patriotic loyalty and the interests of the Hungarian people over the requirements of imported ideology and empire. It continues to puzzle me at least a little why the sons of those who rose up in 1956 have also so readily signed on with Brussels and Washington for another round of both.
Why the heirs of the victors of 1956 would join is no mystery. I would note that it was the “reformed” communists on the Socialist Party who threw their support behind the Iraq war and Mr. Bush, not the parties of the Hungarian right. Viktor Orban’s Fidesz consistently criticised and opposed Hungarian involvement in Iraq. The “New Europeans” the neocons and their friends are so keen to push as our best allies are typically the center-left and ex-communists of the old communist bloc, the ideological and political heirs of the very people who butchered the Hungarian patriots of 1956. Those are the sorts of people Mr. Bush joins hands with now, even as he desecrates the memory of 1956 with his opportunistic propagandising.
I have so far refrained from commenting on the World Cup, pro or con, even though it seems to have become the thing bloggers want to discuss, either as a jumping-off point for some other political argument or as an exercise in Franklin Foer-like expertise on a sport about which most American bloggers, like their countrymen, do not really care very much. Franklin Foer “and friends” at TNR have cornered the blogging market, so to speak, on World Cup commentary, but this would not have required very much effort, as there is hardly any competition for this particular job. On the right, the competition has mostly been to come up with new and clever ways to see soccer as a threat to the American way of life (as usual).
In fact, outside of the blogosphere, the loyal sports junkies tuned to ESPN and actual American soccer fans who watch soccer matches in non-World Cup years (including the obnoxious ones, such as Foer, who feel the need to refer to “the pitch” rather than “the field”), I have to wonder how many Americans were aware that their national team was playing in Nuremberg today. Of those who knew, how many cared, much less took the time this morning to watch?
As with many other things in life, ignorance would have been bliss, as the U.S. team was outmatched and outplayed (again) in a 2-1 loss to Ghana. American fans will complain, rightly, about the bogus penalty kick given to the Ghanaians that gave them the go-ahead goal, but this would be to forget the painfully weak play against a competent but hardly dominating Ghana squad.
The game was full of the sort of melodramatic fake injuries that make soccer seem to any American who has played any other contact sport to be a pathetic shadow of a real athletic contest (that the referees encourage this drama queen routine, especially this year, by inventing fouls and throwing yellow cards around as if they were confetti only exacerbates a problem that has long plagued international soccer). This display came on the heels of the Italy match, which was so poorly officiated that it would cause any casual American observer to conclude that the game was entirely arbitrary and futile. (It should be noted that there is a growing consensus that this is one of the worst-officiated World Cups ever.) Add to that the rather pitiful American performance, following the excessive billing of the USA team as the greatest soccer force ever assembled by this country, and you have the recipe for complete disinterest and disenchantment.
Do You Know Where Ghana Is?
One of my working theories on why most Americans, myself excepted, find soccer boring is that they lack a sufficiently strong rooting interest in most soccer matches, in part because so few Americans know where most of the countries participating in the World Cup actually are on the planet. Take Ghana as an extreme example. If surprisingly few American youths can locate their own country on a map, imagine how much trouble they would have in finding the west African nation of Ghana! To be fair, I consider myself to be fairly well-informed on geography and I probably could not have told you two weeks ago very much about Ghana except for its capital (Accra) and its location (between Ivory Coast and Togo).
Imagine how uninteresting it would have to be for Americans, who might be only vaguely familiar with where countries such as Croatia and Switzerland are, to watch match after match of a game they may have never played (or only played in childhood) according to rules that seem shabbily and arbitrarily enforced in the only sport in the world where crying like a girl will concretely help your team. That is not necessarily how soccer has to be played, but it is how soccer under this year’s FIFA rules is being played in Germany.
In the matches between quality teams (the Germany-Ecuador match earlier this week, for example) or the close games with surprise underdog performances (the Mexico-Angola tie last week), soccer can be genuinely entertaining and exciting. It has its tremendous lulls, of course, and soccer between mediocre teams is mind-numbingly dull and sloppy (as is any mediocre performance in any sport–see the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals as Exhibit A), but it has started to strike me as odd that Americans can complain about the boring quality of soccer considering that two of our national sports (football, baseball) have more time where nothing is happening than any other sports in the world. There are moments when soccer can rise to its billing as “the beautiful game,” but between the horrible officiating, melodramatic players and lacklustre play of more than a few allegedly world-class teams those moments are becoming fewer and fewer.
Back to the original question, I think—to no one’s surprise—that much of the best intellectually curious, non-partisan stuff on the right(ish) is coming from the libertarian writers; Wilkinson, Sanchez, Balko, etc, though the paleocons and religious traditionalists seem to be giving them a run for their (free-market loving) money. ~Peter Suderman
I am grateful to Mr. Suderman for including Eunomia in such independent-minded, intelligent company. But speaking of excellent intellectually curious, non-partisan writers, there are at least two from among the Radicals who deserve special mention: Clark Stooksbury and Daniel McCarthy, both of whom have been carrying the standard of independent-minded conservatism and libertarianism a lot longer than I have. Much of their best work can be found in print in The American Conservative and Chronicles, but their blogs make great contributions to the debate from the right.
At the Scene, Reihan draws attention to Niall Ferguson’s conversion to the cause of Scottish independence and his recognition that New Labour-style devolution is sham self-government. Jonah Goldberg, always two steps behind, will be stunned and amazed by this news, just as he was stunned and amazed to find that there is socialism in the land of Adam Smith.
There is some sort of weird irony in an open apologist for hegemonism and imperialism now advocating the independence of a small state. For some reason, this brings to my mind the line from the old Fenian ballad, The Foggy Dew:
‘Twas England bade our wild geese go/
That small nations might be free.
There is something very strange about a fellow-traveller of our own neo-imperialists embracing the sort of economic liberal, small-state solution advocated by the Vlaams Belang (formerly Vlaams Blok) in Belgium (where it is the largest single party), for example, since the VB proposes to create an independent Flanders that has precisely the sort of enterprising, free economy that Feruson wishes for Scotland. Perhaps Mr. Ferguson will begin his quest for a free Scotland by singing the praises of Flemish nationalists as an example to follow? Don’t hold your breath.
There is, however, something a little odd about desiring an independent Scotland expressed in terms of essentially wishing to create a free enterprise zone. Surely if Scotland’s interests broadly dictate independence (though the SNP would simply lead them to feed at the trough of Brussels directly), or if the Scots wish to have self-determination, these considerations alone should probably be more compelling than whether or not an independent Scotland follows the path of the Celtic Tiger. The Republic went along for a good seventy years before embracing the economics that have given it the booming growth of the last decade, so there is no telling what changes will happen after a nation separates itself from London.
To make amends for my sloppy post that originally credited Rep. John Boehner with Rep. Charlie Norwood’s quote, here are Rep. Norwood’s remarks from the debate in full from his Congressional website:
Mr. Speaker, this rule will allow perhaps one of the most critical actions to date in the War on Terror.
This action is not military in nature – it is entirely political. But it will determine victory or defeat as surely as any battle.
Our troops can defeat any enemy on earth, under any conditions – if we have the will. That is what we debate under this rule – do we have the will to win.
Many – not all – of the other side of the aisle lack the will to win. The American public needs to know precisely who they are. If there are any on this side of the aisle who hold the same view this will allow them to be found out as well. Then the public can decide the course of this war in November, by throwing the defeatists out of office.
This debate, under the rule, is as critical a fight as any our troops could have on the battlefield. No one has any doubt our soldiers will win any fight we send them to. The world’s doubt is entirely over the backbone of this Congress.
Because of the statements of Members of this body and the Senate that have given substantial propaganda assistance to the enemy, this rule, this debate, is absolutely essential to preserving the victories our troops have won with their blood and their lives.
Time to decide – Al Qaeda or America? Let the voters take note.
This is hyperbolic nonsense, of course. This was a nonbinding resolution that has only symbolic significance. News accounts, such as the WSJ print article I quoted and this New York Times article, have quoted Rep. Norwood as having said, “It is time to stand up and vote. Is it al Qaeda or is it America?” But the meaning of that version and the one given by Rep. Norwood’s own site is the same: agree with standing Iraq policy, or be effectively counted a tacit supporter of al Qaeda.
Rep. Norwood very clearly sets this question in the context of accusing members of the House of virtual treason (giving “substantial propaganda assistance to the enemy” sounds an awful lot like an accusation of giving aid and comfort to the enemy). He makes it absolutely clear that he considers this resolution a vote to prove one’s loyalty to the country. Defeatists support al Qaeda, and Rep. Norwood and his side support America–it doesn’t get any more blunt and obnoxious than that. That is the level of the debate on the side of the supporters of this war. Let the supporters of the war defend it, if they can.
I agree with you that [Orwell]’s talking about power-worship which, I believe, resides at the core of all identity politics. The rise of identity politics in the United States — and the West — is ultimately an exercise in gaining power. Black power, and the enabling rhetoric that went with it, was all about power-relations. Identity politics arguments “empower” members of the Coalition of the Oppressed to trump reason and democracy by claiming positions of moral and political privilege. ~Jonah “Lie For a Just Cause” Goldberg
Not to beat a thoroughly mauled and dead horse too much, but what would Goldberg think attachment to a creed or doctrine (his notion of patriotism) is except “identity politics”? It is an identity politics premised on ideology or shared propositions, but it is identity politics all the same. If you are an Enlightenment liberal, you are engaged in “identity politics.” What people often mean by “identity politics” is the politics of ethnicity, religion or race. This is a kind of politics that managerial elites tend to discourage because this sort of politics taps into resources and possesses authority that they cannot co-opt or eliminate. They cannot operate in that sort of political environment, and so it unnerves them more than a little. But is there any kind of politics that is not aimed at the acquisition of power? That is not all that politics is, of course, and the sorry state of our politics today stems from the reality that too many people assume that this is all there is to the affairs of the polity, but all political life consists of the contest for control and power.
Claims of identity are claims of power of one kind or another–there is power in solidarity, self-definition, the creation of myths, as well as using shared identity to organise a group of people to lay claim to political power. When you identify yourself with a political persuasion, you are engaged in “identity politics” as sure as if you joined MEChA. Obviously, the style and content of your identity politics will be as various as the different kinds of identity that exist, but it is part of a conceit deeply ingrained in the liberal tradition that liberal politics represent a neutral or more rational open space in politics upon which the old order and mass movements alike intrude. Just see how Goldberg frames the issue: identity politics seek to trump “reason and democracy,” which, of course, his “creed or doctrine” (i.e., his notion of patriotism) embodies more or less ideally.
Identity is often forged in the midst of contestation and sharpened by the struggle to acquire power. That is not all that identity is (power relations alone certainly do not define our identity), but it is an inescapable part of human existence, just as political contestation itself is inescapable here below. The kind of identity politics Goldberg objects to is not necessarily any old kind of identity politics, but probably only those based on religious or ethnic identity. These are forms of identity that are less pliable and more resistant to an ideology of homogenisation and consolidation. He is saying: “Do not identify with your place or people, which provide you with an identity over which I, Jonah Goldberg, have no control, but instead identify with the creed or doctrine with which I identify and submit to the identity of which I am a chief exponent at the moment.” That is not surprising–it is what everyone is attempting when he makes an argument in political philosophy. What is misleading is the distinction between the practitioners of “identity politics” (in which only the “Coalition of the Oppressed” participate) and the friends of “reason and democracy,” as if the invocation of “reason and democracy” was not itself the interested statement of the member of a particular political body.
For the record, John Lukacs has many great observations about the differences between patriotism and nationalism. The difference, to me and I believe to him, is that nationalism is rooted in the mystic concept of a nation—most famously in blood and soil—while patriotism is rooted in adherence to a creed or doctrine. A patriot in the Weimar Republic was considered a traitor by most nationalists, for example. ~Jonah “Lie For a Just Cause” Goldberg, The Corner
As already noted yesterday and earlier today, Goldberg doesn’t know his Lukacs very well. But what struck me this morning as I thought a little more on this bizarre quote is this strange example about the Weimar Republic at the end. There were both ideological nationalists and ordinary German patriots who regarded people in the SDP Weimar governments as traitors, but this was tied up with both nationalist and patriotic resentment against acquiescence to various provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. Resentment against the Ruhr occupation, reparations and the guilt clause, to which successive Weimar governments felt obliged to submit, fed the impression that the government of the Reich (as Germany was still constitutionally termed in the Weimar period) was not defending the people or interests of Germany. A patriot could be legitimately outraged at all these foreign impositions without therefore embracing an aggressive or revanchist nationalism. In some circumstances nationalists might regard patriots as traitors, but the Weimar example is the perfect case where this did not happen. Nationalists did not necessarily resent the Weimar Republic, whose institutional structures the Nazis maintained even after taking power, but did resent the policies of the government when it was ruled by other factions. Where Goldberg goes terribly wrong in this example is in the assumption that one’s positive attitude towards the government is a measure of one’s patriotism. Nothing could be more misleading or dangerous. It recalls Clinton’s line that you cannot love your country and hate your government–but, of course, you can do this, and in some cases to be a real patriot you must.
A key difference in the modern period between a patriot and a nationalist lies in his response to the state: the patriot is willing to see that the interests of his country and his government may diverge and conflict, in which case his loyalty belongs to his country and causes him to work against his government, whereas for most nationalists the state is an embodiment of the nation and a force for integrating the nation, which means that to be a nationalist is often to be a government loyalist virtually no matter what it does. Today both major parties are dominated by this sort of nationalism, and as Prof. Lukacs has observed often over the past several years, and again in Democracy and Populism, the GOP has enjoyed ongoing success because it has remained the more nationalist of the two major parties. (In that light, the GOP commitment to Big Government conservatism, the warfare state and an aggressive chauvinism is not so much a departure from form as a revelation of its true form.) We are, of course, still awaiting the rise of a patriotic Front Porch Party.
For that reason the Lukacs argument (as presented by Jonah) seems to me to be very shaky. Loyalty to an idea is another variant of Orwell’s power-worshipping version of nationalism and open to his charge that “it is most virulent” when attached to some other unit of humnanity (rather than one’s own country.) Loyalty to institutions transmitted by a common culture and shared historical memory seems to me to be a better definition of patriotism. People come to share a national identity, mutual loyalty, and sense of common destiny as the result of sharing the same language and culture and of living under the same institutions over a long period of time. sometimes those people will be ethnically united, but not always. ~John O’Sullivan, The Corner
It is important to note right away that Goldberg has Prof. Lukacs’ argument precisely backwards, as Scott Richert and I noted yesterday. It is Goldberg’s own confused understanding of patriotism, which he wrongfully pins on Prof. Lukacs, that is “very shaky.” It’s good to see that Mr. O’Sullivan seems to agree with at least part of Prof. Lukacs’ view and finds loyalty to a creed or doctrine (which is what Goldberg thinks patriotism is) to be a variant of “power-worshipping version of nationalism.” Exactly. However, it is a shame that no one at National Review seems to have even a remedial acquaintance with Prof. Lukacs’ works to know one way or the other what his views actually are.
It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that Goldberg could not be more mistaken, both about Lukacs’s understanding of patriotism and his understanding of nationalism. Considering that this has been one of Lukacs’s chief preoccupations (if not the chief preoccupation) of his 60-plus years of professional historianship, there is simply no excuse for Goldberg’s ignorance. It is, after all, the chief theme of Lukacs’s 2005 book, Democracy and Populism.
Let’s assume for the moment, though, that Goldberg is behind in his reading. Surely, as an admirer of Lukacs, he’s familiar with “About Historical Factors,” the fifth chapter of Lukacs’s magnum opus, Historical Consciousness (first published in 1968, with new editions in 1985 and 1994). If not, perhaps he’d like to pick up a copy of ISI’s Remembered Past: John Lukacs on History, Historians, and Historical Knowledge, a remarkably inexpensive 900-plus-page reader which reprints “About Historical Factors,” as well as 66 other major essays.
What prompted this? At The Corner, Goldberg said this:
For the record, John Lukacs has many great observations about the differences between patriotism and nationalism. The difference, to me and I believe to him, is that nationalism is rooted in the mystic concept of a nation—most famously in blood and soil—while patriotism is rooted in adherence to a creed or doctrine. A patriot in the Weimar Republic was considered a traitor by most nationalists, for example.
Let’s just say for the moment that this stunning conceptual error does not bode well for the content and argumentation of Goldberg’s forthcoming book, Liberal Fascism (not that we expected very much that was worthwhile). What is a little surprising about this post is that it came in response to Iain Murray quoting Orwell (the same quote that Prof. Lukacs cites and which Scott also uses in his post) on the difference between patriotism and nationalism. Goldberg had at his disposal the exact quote that would have guided him to the correct conclusion and he still managed to get it wrong! More entertainingly, Murray’s post was a clarifying follow-up to Andrew Stuttaford noting with approval the revival of healthy expressions of German patriotism during the World Cup in Germany this year. Somehow, between Murray quoting Orwell’s affirmation of the patriotic love of place and Stuttaford affirming healthy national pride (German national pride, no less!), Goldberg still wound up scoring an own goal by misunderstanding the concepts entirely.
In the rest of his post, Scott delivers body blow after body blow to Goldberg’s comment, about which more in a moment, and if anyone should know Prof. Lukacs’ view on this and other matters it would be Scott Richert. Scott goes on:
In other words, patriotism is rooted in a particular place, and the people who live there, not in “adherence to a creed or doctrine.” By “a particular way of life,” Orwell (and Lukacs) mean just that: not abstract credal principles but the real life of real people in a real place—their language, their food, their religion, their manners, etc.
Nationalism, on the other hand, is, for Lukacs (and Orwell), an ideological phenomenon. It subsumes man in the nation; it divorces the nation from “a particular place and a particular way of life”; it defines the nation at least in part in terms of its opposition to the other.
This is an excellent summary of Prof. Lukacs’ understanding and a fine statement of the real difference between the two phenomena. This distinction is certainly a fairly old one circa 2006. It is one that the late Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (to return to another great man whose name Goldberg waves around to demonstrate superficial familiarity with the better minds on the Right, since such minds are so sorely lacking among his comrades) also stressed very strongly by way of correctly indicting (abstract) nationalism as a child of 1789 and a monstrous form of leftism and what he called identitarianism. The words themselves indicate the difference: the patriot loves his fatherland (Lat., patria, Gr., patris), something distinct and different from himself, while the nationalist identifies with and loves those like himself, which K-L maintained was more like self-love than real love.
K-L distinguished the two by tendencies towards natural diversity, such as one might find in various regions or local communities in the same country, and the deadening uniformity imposed across an entire people to fabricate a superficial unity. Toeing an ideological line to be a “good American” is as far removed from patriotism as can be. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I think K-L underestimated the importance of language and culture as natural and good things that do make a people’s identity that contributes to and makes up their love of country, but he inherited the revulsion that any sane man would have when confronted with the consequences of the abominations of Pan-Germanism and all other forms of abstract nationalism and formed his opinions accordingly.
Rather obviously love of the patria has more than a little to do with the soil, the land itself, since the word refers to the land. There is some disagreement among defenders of patriotism against the ravages of nationalism over whether loyalty to one’s “blood” (that is, one’s ethnicity) is a necessary component of patriotism, or whether it is something that coexists distinctly alongside love of country. Cosmopolitan men of the Right will tend to play down the importance of “blood” as less important and the potential source of political excesses, even as they reemphasise loyalty to “soil” and the living communities that are planted in that soil. But none of them would ever make the mistake of confusing patriotism with commitment to a creed, doctrine or ideology.
So why does Goldberg make this lamentable etymological and conceptual mistake? Ignorance must account for some of it, of course, but there is also a built-in bias among neoconservatives and their hangers-on against thinking of patriotism in terms of either “blood” or “soil.” Loyalty to place and people is not very useful for someone whose other commitments require him to affirm that America is a proposition nation, a “creedal” and ideological nation, so he must reverse the obvious meaning of the words to make loyalty to a shallow, ideological definition of American identity the essence of patriotism or else find himself on the wrong side of the patriot-nationalist divide.
Those who find that they cannot honestly pledge allegiance to the historic America, but only to the “ideals” that America is supposed to represent (on account of which much of historic America must be denounced or discarded) and the imagined community of this ideal America, have no choice but to define loyalty to place and people as the fictive and “mystic” loyalty, even though it is the primary and perhaps only grounded, natural and normal loyalty that men know in their political life. If Goldberg’s definition of patriotism were correct, it would surely be a badge of honour to be called unpatriotic. Fortunately for us all, his definition is as wrong as can be. Happily, we do not have to surrender speaking of the virtue of patriotism with its proper name; we can instead recognise the ideological nationalists for who they are by the ways in which they abuse and misunderstand this admirable term and noble love of country.
For the nationalist, the country and the people are only worth respecting to the extent that they live up to the imagined pure form of the nation, a supposed destiny of greatness, a world mission or some other ugly lie. When they fail to measure up, the nationalist has no use for them and will even turn against their best interests to fashion the nation with (the shedding of) blood and iron.
Yet allowing all this, and allowing that a Christian or a Jew or a conservative liberal might increasingly doubt the wisdom of rights-talk as the foundation of political order, we are nonetheless citizens of a country in which rights-talk is basically the only kind of talk there is - and I have a hard time seeing the case for pro-lifers abandoning the idea of a “right to life” in favor of a language of duties and obligations that might be philosophically closer to the truth but would definitely be less politically appealing. In so doing, they would be giving up the one great arrow in the pro-life quiver right now, which is that abortion isn’t consonant with American liberalism as originally conceived, and the original interpretation of American liberalism still has a lot of purchase on our country’s political mind, in a way that arguments based on duties and obligations just don’t. Indeed, by abandoning a “right to life” language, pro-lifers wouldn’t just be giving up on any short-term hope of changing America’s abortion laws, they would be effectively giving up on liberalism altogether. Some people think that time has come (or that liberalism was a mistake from the beginning); I’m not persuaded. ~Ross Douthat
I appreciate Mr. Douthat’s link to my recent post and the generous quote from it. We are in considerable agreement on the problem of conceiving of people as autonomous selves invested with “rights,” so on the substance of the truth of this particular matter I think there is relatively little to argue about. Mr. Douthat should probably also be in substantial agreement with this statement in Dr. Fleming’s The Morality of Everyday Life:
Believers in the theory of rights take exactly the same point of view. Asked where rights come from, they will either refer to a mythical story (such as the wondrous tale of the social contract), or, following Calvin, they will dismiss all criticism by saying that everybody knows what rights are. If the believer in rights is Catholic, he will quickly proceed to confound the liberal theory of rights with the rather different teachings of St. Thomas on natural law, or he will refer loftily to a divine origin of rights, though there is nothing in scripture and very little in the traditions of the Church to justify such a notion.
A nonbeliever–a libertarian, for example, who cnanot have recourse to any supernatural arguments–will attempt to deduce his theory of “rights” from other unprovable principles he happens to believe in, such as the principle of nonaggression. This tactic resembles that of some neo-Darwinists who, confronted with the apparent impossibility of life spontaneously originating on earth, take refuge in the extraterrestrial theory that life arrived on earth in the form of spores, as in the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If there is convincing proof of the existence or origin of rights, I have never read it in a book or article and never, in discussions with true-believing philosophers, heard anything persuasive, much less convincing. Rights, one has to conclude, are to be taken on faith–but only by those who profess to have no religion. (p. 197)
Where Mr. Douthat’s post goes awry, aside from the curious statement of ambivalence about the language and theory of rights duly noted and criticised by Michael Brendan Dougherty, is in the claim that even if the language and theory of rights are less philosophically true (which is to say, they are false) they are more appealing and useful to advance the practical goal of outlawing and preventing abortion. Advocates of the right to life have hung all of their credibility on the claim that the right to life is a truth of human existence, one of the basic aspects of human dignity, so can we really wink at the use of this sort of argument if rights do not exist and thinking in terms of rights significantly distorts our understanding of the person and ethics? This would be very much like someone who does not really believe in the Resurrection, to use a more significant example, but thinks it will be more acceptable and popular to pretend to believe it. Surely the better, truer argument is the one that ought to be used. Setting aside the truer argument for the allegedly more useful or appealing scheme has been the essence of the failure of Bushism.
To continue to play the game of using the language and theory of rights to define our understanding of what is just and good is to perpetuate something that, as far as I can tell, both Mr. Douthat and I regard as being untrue in large measure. So long as the debate is framed in terms of “I’ve got a right!”, those with the relatively greater power will consistently win every contest. In all likelihood, framing the debate in terms of competing rights will not hasten the day when the brutal savagery of abortion is punished and, one hopes, largely prevented, but will probably ensure that the public continues to view attempts to prevent this crime as an intrusion on some special protected individual space.
Coulter’s prose style is reminiscent of exiled National Review editor Joe Sobran who is quoted in the book and thanked in the acknowledgements. Like Sobran, Coulter’s gift as a polemicist is the counterpunch. Responding to Howard Dean’s statement, “I don’t have any objection to someone who is pro-life, if they are really dedicated to the welfare of children,” Coulter responds, “Conversely, I suppose, if you are pro-abortion and you hate kids, Dr. Dean would be cool with that, too.” ~Michael Brendan Dougherty, Brainwash
Michael makes another important point in remembering that Enlightenment liberals and their fellows since the late 17th century have sought to replace traditional religion, which has invariably meant Christianity in their mind, with a vague theism, “rational religion” (which often amounts to rationalism combined with social do-gooding) or a loopy kind of humanistic ethics such as the substitute religion of Positivism or Tolstoy’s watered down gospel of labour and simplicity.
In that light, the persistent effort of our own Freisinnigen to make liberalism their working equivalent of religion is nothing new. Realising this should have consequences for how conservatives in this country understand their own relationship to the liberal tradition, and should drive home why the liberal and Christian heritages coexist so awkwardly in Western culture and within the conservative “movement” as well.
But we should also pause to consider whether the Intelligent Design movement itself is not another sort of this kind of vague theism that may discomfit the dedicated materialists among us but does nothing to affirm the living God Whom liberals have consistently sought to dethrone or displace. The safe, mechanistic God of Deism and ID does not command, does not act and does not love–this is the god of the philosophers, who may serve as a necessary cause, but who relates to his creatures as an engineer relates to a complex structure, and not as the Lord of glory. Aside from the problems of introducing ID into science classrooms, ID as it is conventionally argued concedes the sort of minimal deity that liberals have sought to fashion in the minds of men.
As many of you will have seen elsewhere, David Brooks has written an article in The New York Times, “Changing Bedfellows” (which, in appropriately elitist fashion, is available only to NYT Select subscribers), that has generated more than a little comment and conversation among some prominent bloggers. In the latest Brooksian revision of our political taxonomy, he presents us with the divide between “populist nationalists” (henceforth pop-nats) and “progressive globalists” (prog-globs) and apparently gives the Iraq war (and foreign policy more generally) as one of the decisive issues separating the two camps. According to Rod Dreher’s description:
Populist nationalists (PNs) would be “liberal on economics, conservative on values and realist on foreign policy.” The gist of their politics, in Brooks’ words, is: “We are the ordinary, burden-bearing people of this country. We are the ones who work hard and build communities. It’s time for us to come together and recognize that our loyalty to our fellow Americans comes first.”
On the other side are the progressive globalists (PGs), who “would be market-oriented on economics, liberal on values and multilateral interventionists in foreign affairs.” Brooks cites John McCain, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani and Mark Warner as examples of this orientation. PGs are inspired by economic globalism, “technological dynamis and cultural diversity.” They want to build international institutions to share the prosperity. Trade needs to be opened up, not shut down, and new policies must be put into place to manage the flow of people across borders, not close them off. We have to make our economy more flexible, and work together internationally to solve global problems.
Note how Brooks has defined determining trade policies in the light of national interest or maintaining a domestic industrial base (the sorts of policies that he, as a prog-glob, despises) as “liberal” economics (as Brooks is relying on the phrase “liberal on economics” to scare the well-to-do to side with the prog-globs), whereas policies dedicated to shoring up the interests of the extensive bureaucratic machinery of multinational corporations and international governing institutions are allegedly “market-oriented.” You don’t need to think on that much to see that the prog-glob embrace of “market-oriented” policies is a corrupt and distorted one that aims to use certain mechanisms of “the market” to expand their control.
Leon Hadar makes the basic good points poking holes in Brooks’ idea (many opponents of the war don’t begin to fit the pop-nat mould and, he might have added, plenty of pop-nats who oppose mass immigration and outsourcing are also some of the staunchest administration supporters on Iraq), and elaborates on his comments in a second post. There he makes the excellent and all-important point that this new terminology is really just another attempt to shut up critics of the war.
Derision is not just for “unpatriotic conservatives” anymore–the entire constituency of a “closed” American society must be challenged by the prog-globs. Of course, the entire discourse of “open” and “closed” societies is a polemical one designed to make a social democratic, capitalist seem to be the self-evidently correct alternative–it defines its “openness” by all the ways in which it is unlike, and therefore automatically more desirable than, all other regimes and so precludes the possibility that anyone should regard the allegedly “Open Society” as stifling and constricting in its exceedingly narrow range of permissible opinion, its dogmatic commitment to what Mr. Bush might call the “single model of human progress” or its relentless drive to squeeze out every bit of local, ethnic or cultural distinctiveness from the societies “the Open Society” corrupts.
The greatest flaw in Brooks’ description of the pop-nats is the identification of their position with realism. As others have noted many times, the pop-nats reflect what is often called the Jacksonian foreign policy tradition, which has traces of a realist view, but which would tend to see things in terms of national interest and national prestige, but which might define national interest and national prestige in very different terms from realists in today’s foreign policy circles. Fundamentally, contemporary realists are all internationalists, more or less committed to the same international institutions and conventions that the prog-globs are, and are in many ways in agreement with the idea of the “Open Society” and the blessings of “free trade” and globalisation. Their realism stems from their willingness to take account of the hard realities of strategic interest, power and resources, while a great many prog-globs engage in delusional wishful thinking (neoconservative democratism) or sappy humanitarian interventionism. Needless to say, a pop-nat brand of foreign policy realism would be almost unrecognisable, and certainly unwelcome, to a Chuck Hagel.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posting has been very slow for me this week, and I beg my regular readers’ indulgence. Having fallen into the quicksand of following four major sporting events (World Cup, Stanley Cup, Finals, U.S. Open) on my first week of real vacation, and working via dial-up from home, time for posting has been limited. There will still be posts trickling in over the next three weeks, but I won’t be resuming the old pace until next month.
Let me be clear: Those who say this is a war of choice are nothing more than wrong. This is a war of necessity. ~Rep. John Boehner
In a move that required the courage of a churchmouse, the House passed, by a substantial majority, a nonbinding resolution that rejects withdrawal from Iraq. Withdrawal (or refusing to rule out withdrawal) won 153 votes, almost all Democrats. If the Congressional GOP wishes to identify itself with a failed Iraq policy and a bankrupt foreign policy five months before the elections, they are only too welcome to do so.
Reps. Paul, Duncan and Leach deserve praise for once again bucking the trend in their party of toadying conformity and voting against the resolution. House Majority Leader Boehner shows that he deserves to lead the morally and politically bankrupt GOP majority by embracing its most indefensible and dreadful policy with absolute conviction and the willful blindness that has characterised its most adamant defenders since the beginning.
Correction: Originally, I hastily attributed the following quote of Rep. Norwood to Rep. Boehner. I appreciate having the error pointed out to me, and I apologise for the mistake.
Most news reports neglected to include Georgia Rep. Charlie Norwood’s inflammatory and offensive comment (which I saw in this morning’s WSJ print edition), when he said:
It’s time to stand up and vote. Is it al Qaeda or is it America?
Presumably Mr. Norwood thinks that voting for his position on Iraq puts you in league with America rather than al Qaeda (some choice!). If Mr. Norwood really wants to cast the divide over Iraq policy that starkly, he had better be ready for the response, and he may find that he is actually on the wrong side of that rhetorical question.
The reality is that those who have voted support for an extended presence in Iraq have affirmed that they wish to see al Qaeda and groups like it flourish by providing them with an invaluable asset: the continued occupation of an Islamic country and a reprise of the jihadis’ experience of Afghanistan in the 1980s that gave birth to al Qaeda in the first place. Of the two options in Mr. Norwood’s dreadful question, Mr. Norwood and company have chosen to vote for al Qaeda.
“Outrageous!” the warmongers will yell. “How dare you accuse us of such a thing?” they will cry. I say so because those who continue to vote money and voice support for an unconstitutional, illegal and immoral war, in contravention of their duty to the Constitution and to their constituents, have done more for improving al Qaeda’s strength than practically anyone else. If there were really only two options, as Mr. Norwood believes, then those who wish to deprive al Qaeda of the invaluable asset that they have in the Iraq war have voted for America.
Not only does the Iraq war provide a field of operations and propaganda fodder for al Qaeda, both of which are oxygen for it and likeminded groups, but it stands to reason that just as the Afghan jihad made bin Laden into the terrorist leader that he is and created al Qaeda the Iraqi jihad will create its own jihadist offspring whom Mr. Norwood and his fellow war supporters foolishly nurture with every new appropriation of money and commitment to “stay the course.” Would Mr. Norwood vote for a resolution expressing American dedication to creating the next generation’s bin Laden? Not in so many words, of course, but that is what he has done. Put less polemically, persisting in the folly of the Iraq war is a short-term waste of resources needed for real security threats and a long-term foreign policy disaster. Those who wish to “vote for America” will liquidate this pointless, wasteful and indefensible war with all due haste.
The GOP likes to pose (and I do mean pose) as the party of national strength and security, so why does it routinely endorse a war that daily weakens and strains our armed forces, distracts us from real threats elsewhere in the world and gradually diminishes public resolve for the broader fight against al Qaeda? Why is the party that pretends to place high priority on national security so committed to a war that steadily wears down our ability to fight our real enemies? Why won’t the GOP vote for America, Mr. Norwood?
Some of the latest talk out there in the last few days has been about this Religion News Service article in The Washington Post, this GetReligion post, the topic of the “feminization of Christianity” and the consequent decline in the numbers of men attending church services. The post includes a quote from David Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church, which has been making the rounds. Joanna of Fey Accompli affirms her agreement with what Mr. Murrow says here:
“Every Muslim man knows that he is locked in a great battle between good and evil, and although that was a prevalent teaching in Christianity until about 100 years ago, today it’s primarily about having a relationship with a man who loves you unconditionally,” Murrow said. “And if that’s the punch line of the Gospel, then you’re going to have a lot more women than men taking you up on your offer because women are interested in a personal relationship with a man who loves you unconditionally. Men, generally, are not.”
Where shall I begin? Let’s start with the easy stuff. Islam is not principally concerned with a great battle between good and evil, but with the complete submission to the will of Allah. Part of that submission then entails a way of life and dedication to the cause of Islam, part of which involves struggling against what Allah has deemed evil, be it in the forms of the nafs within or the kafir outside.
Christianity, even in its more obnoxiously silly forms, does not preach a personal relationship with a man who loves you unconditionally, but Christ crucified and risen from the dead and all that this entails. Some are not very strong on the “all that this entails” bit, but most (Bishop Spong et al. excepted) do manage to understand this important point. Christianity preaches that Christ is God, and that we should love Him with all our heart, soul and mind because He is the Lord God. If it were not so, Areios would have been right and there would today be a lot fewer Christians of either sex, since there is no salvation or hope in such a man and little good reason to adhere to such a religion.
There is an all together too common misperception, which allows the charlatans of the Da Vinci Code sort to peddle their nonsense so successfully among the semi-educated, that because Christ was and is individually a man that we should speak of Him in terms of maleness, mistaking this for masculinity. Christ possessed the whole human nature, both male and female, and if He had not our common nature would not have been healed–just as He “created them male and female,” so in Himself He recreated and redeemed us male and female. There is no idea more misogynistic and twisted than conceiving of Christ simply as a male to whom women will relate better (since thinking of Christ only in terms of maleness would cut women out of the economy of salvation), so naturally it would probably be the sort of idea feminists might adopt in their attacks on Christianity. But as C.S. Lewis observed some time ago (and still it has not sunk in, even among some Christians), in relation to God all people are essentially feminine. In this sense, to say that Christianity is being “feminised” is to give the phenomenon in question the wrong name–in relation to God, Christians should be the most “feminine” of all (though this would be to use very old-fashioned, nay, reactionary ideas of what feminine virtues are, which would make the so-called “feminised” Christians very unhappy). So to speak of the changes in modern Christianity as “feminisation” is to mistake making churches womanish, if you will, with making them truly feminine.
What is happening is that the Faith in these sorts of churches is being sentimentalised, trivialised and reduced to the level of feeling, which is to take the Pearl of great price and drop it in the muck of the passions while pretending that this leads to closer communion with God. In our common revulsion at this sort of Christianity, Joanna and I are surprisingly and very unusually in strong agreement.
Read the rest of this entry »
A proxy war is now under way in Eastern Chad. On the side of the Sudanese government are the Janjaweed and the Chadean rebels, who are ethnically cleansing thousands of square miles to the east of the country. Ranged against them are the forces of the official Chadean army, such as it is, and the SLA. Areas of Chad are now under Janjaweed control. It is a common sight to pass on the road little groups of villagers heading away from the border in search of some kind of security.
They will not find it. The camps where they end up are vulnerable and unprotected. Claire Bourgeois, the senior United Nations official in Eastern Chad, warns there is a heavy risk that the camps will be attacked by the Janjaweed, repeating the pattern of atrocity that has already occurred inside Darfur — a threat made worse, she says, because the SLA uses the camps as recruitment centres. She is pressing for a well-armed and effective protection force inside Chad, but so far without success. ~Peter Oborne, The Spectator
The spread of conflict into Chad over the last year is one of the least noticed aspects of the war in Darfur. The ease with which the conflict has inflamed internal Chadian politics points up the great weakness of the state in Africa, an extreme form of the weakening of the state around the world (which somehow has not generated “spontaneous order,” but more brutality and violence), and the return or, more accurately, reaffirmation of primary loyalties to tribe and the tribe’s allies.
There’s some truth to this, but I think something larger is going on here, which has to do with the Christian relationship to rights-based liberalism, and particularly the Lockean tradition that America is (roughly speaking) founded on. To oversimplify egregiously but not, I think, inaccurately, the modern Anglo-American political tradition came into being because Christians were willing to accept the Christianity-lite political settlement offered by social-contract liberalism - and they were willing to accept it because its major premise, that man was endowed with natural and inalienable rights by Nature’s God, was broadly congruent with Christian tradition. In a Lockean-liberal society, the law might not do everything that some Christians would like it to do - compel belief, for instance - but neither would it directly violate basic Christian principles. ~Ross Douthat
Very few Christians I have ever met or read about have ever wanted to “compel belief,” since most Christians who give it much thought understand that belief cannot be compelled. What they may want is to penalise heresy and unbelief, which is different from compelling belief. The Byzantines barred heretics from the civil service and the army and put them under legal disadvantages with respect to inheritance and other property matters, but with very few exceptions they never “compelled belief.” Medieval Catholics were a bit more robust in enforcing anti-heresy provisions, but these laws aimed at prohibiting false beliefs and not compelling adherence as such. Of course, these prohibitions were aimed at encouraging people to move towards the Faith, but as we all know regulations of this kind will often fail to change people in their most basic convictions. This may seem like a secondary point, but it is important to puncture this myth straightaway, since it is one of Mr. Douthat’s favourite refrains in talking about his more theocratically inclined brethren.
But someone must really explain why social contract liberalism is Christianity Lite. I can see that many of its adherents were Christians, most often of a Dissenting confession, and that almost the entire population of the colonies when these ideas were at their most fashionable and politically significant was made up of practicing Christians. I can also see that it was only in the peculiar circumstances of Reformed England and Scotland that Presbyterian and Independent applications of covenant theology to political theory lent a certain cultural and social heft to Roundhead interpretations of sovereignty, and I can also see that most English Enlightenment theorists would make the necessary references to a vague theism as the ultimate source of the rights that Englishmen had by virtue of constitutional law. But how does any of this add up to “social contract liberalism” being Christianity Lite? Far from being Christianity Lite, it was one of the first moves that pushed Christianity from public and political thought and life. It provided an alternative narrative of the formation and purpose of social and political life in which religious truth and religious authority alike ceased to possess their former centrality. If the notion that “Nature’s God” endowed man with inalienable rights was man was “broadly congruent with Christian tradition,” why did Catholics and Orthodox find this notion so fundamentally at odds with Christian tradition for a very long time?
Chesterton told us that the patriot never, under any circumstances, boasts of the largeness of his country, but always, and of necessity, boasts of its smallness. Dorothy Day spoke of the Little Way. Or little way. As the anti-American Empire crumbles into unlamented dust, patriots of the little America, on their front porches and in their backyards, will reclaim our country. Read back through this discussion. Our side is fiddles and poetry and baseball and country churches and the local beer. Their side is bombs and tanks and television. How can we lose? ~Bill Kauffman, Reactionary Radicals
For too many American Orthodox Christians, the mixed-marriage conventional wisdom follows this line of reasoning. In our pluralistic society, we cannot avoid the fact that most of our youth will choose spouses who have had a different religious upbringing. With these unions comes an inevitable dilution and disintegration of the practices of the Orthodox Faith. The Greek Orthodox version of the typical harangue sounds something like this: “My boy Costa married a xeni (stranger, outsider, foreigner) and now he doesn’t come to Church!”
I don’t buy it.
My mother became Orthodox because of marriage. So did my father-in-law. So did my mother-in-law’s mother-the first or one of the first converts in Jacksonville, Florida. Yia-Yia (Greek for “grandmother”) could not have been more white-bread. She grew up a Methodist in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Her grandfather was a sergeant in the Confederate Army who fought under General Lee at Appomattox. All three embraced Orthodoxy at a time when the Liturgy was perfomed completely in the Greek langauge and there was no strategy for Church growth like small groups or Wednesday evening Bible studies.
My family’s witness confirms what I have seen in parish ministry. Whenever the Orthodox partner in a marriage is strong in his or her beliefs, the non-Orthodox spouse develops almost immediate admiration for the Orthodox Church. Very often this esteem leads to conversion and when it doesn’t there is usually at least a sense of respect for the Orthodox way.
Mixed-marriages in America expose a problem, and it’s not that Vassiliki is engaged to a blonde named Bubba. Protestant and Roman Catholic fiancés are not leading our young away from the Church. We are the source of the problem. We raise young people who are lukewarm in their faith. ~Fr. Aris Metrakos, Orthodoxy Today
This is a thorny problem, especially for Orthodox in the West, where we are a very small religious minority. With respect, while Fr. Aris is surely right to insist that all Orthodox could stand to be more dedicated and faithful, it is undoubtedly a mistake to think that marriage between confessions does not lead to a certain slackening in keeping Orthodox traditions and observances. This would be more of a problem, I suppose, in jurisdictions where fasts are kept more strictly as a general practice–but then it is also in those jurisdictions where conversion of the non-Orthodox intended will more often precede the wedding.
But the loss of some observances has to be expected in such cases, which is why they cause such consternation. For every anecdote Fr. Aris could produce from his own family history, I suspect many more could be produced to affirm the opposite. Of course, it would be ideal for every Orthodox person to be strong and dedicated to the Faith, causing his spouse eventually to respect and love the Orthodox Church, but this certainly imposes something of an unusual burden on the Orthodox spouse, perhaps more than is always wise or sound from a pastoral perspective.
Read the rest of this entry »
In the anticlimactic conclusion to the saga of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2005, the Senate failed to invoke cloture and so advance the Akaka bill. The vote was 56 for cloture against 41 against. Here is the roll call. Some rather curious, if not entirely inexplicable, Republican crossovers supporting cloture: Cochran of Mississippi, Coleman of Minnesota, Grassley of Iowa and New Mexico’s own Pete Domenici. Domenici I can understand (if there is pandering to be done, whether on Puerto Rican statehood or anything else, Pete is the man to do it), but what does a Senator from Mississippi get out of this? Lindsay Graham, said to be a supporter of the bill, didn’t cast a vote. In this, he was smarter than McCain. The two Arizonan Senators went along with the bill, as did a handful of the usual liberal Republican suspects. If rank-and-file Republicans needed any more reason to oppose John McCain’s future presidential aspirations, they just got it with this vote.
Fr. Jape has some interesting remarks on the ongoing debate over Ramesh Ponnuru’s The Party of Death between Ponnuru and Derbyshire as well as Ross Douthat’s response to Derbyshire’s review of the book.
I find Derbyshire’s review to be a generally unconvincing mish-mash of critiques. He occasionally focuses on problems with the organisation or argument of the book, which is what you might expect a review to do, and then sometimes drifts to a general criticism of what he calls RTL (right-to-life), the “frigid and pitiless dogma” itself (though one gets the impression from everything Derbyshire writes that he has never met a dogma that he did not consider frigid and pitiless by dint of being a dogma), and some of the time latches on to moments of RTL hysteria so extreme (the Schiavo case) that even I, who would agree with the RTL folks 99 out of 100 times, find Derbyshire’s description of many of the activists in terms of cultishness apt (and not in a good way!). He does not help himself when he claims that Michael Schiavo is a “decent man”–in the tragedy of that family, he may have had the better legal claim as guardian, the entire affair ought to have remained his own business and we all might give him the benefit of the doubt in what was undoubtedly an extremely hard situation, but surely the standards of decency will have to have fallen rather low for him to fit that description. It is a minor point, but it is this consistent tendency to aim low in moral standards that will leave even the seriously anti-liberal, non-universalist conservative cold.
Even if, on the other hand, I find Mr. Douthat’s description of Christianity as an “abstract morality” vaguely horrifying and not a little bizarre and yet another example of the mistake of conflating Christianity with some scheme of universalist ethics, and even though I tend to side with Jape in preferring my authority of cult straight rather than watered down by the seltzer of liberalism (Ponnuru’s alternative), Mr. Derbyshire cannot manage much of an argument extending beyond, “Don’t Tread On Me” and the use of an uncharacteristically sappy appeal to let people live their lives (and by people Derbyshire means autonomous adults who can’t be bothered by the monks and the schoolmarms). Thus Derbyshire says:
We likewise feel that an adult woman’s life, even a few months of it, is worth more than that of a hardly-formed fetus; and that the vigorous, usefully-employed, merrily procreating Michael Schiavo has a life, a life, more worthy of the name than had the incurably insensate relict of his spouse. Those like Ponnuru who think differently are working against the grain of human nature, against our feelings—yes, our feelings—about what life is. The life of a newly-formed embryo, or of a brain-damaged patient who has shown no trace of consciousness for fifteen years, is worth just as much as the life of a healthy adult, Ponnuru insists. Well, most of us instinctively but emphatically disagree, and no amount of argumentative ingenuity is likely to change our minds. Hearts, whatever.
This certainly has great appeal for autonomous man, which doesn’t make it the least bit true, but if Mr. Derbyshire finds those preoccupied with these matters “a bit creepy” his unapologetic embrace of vitalism certainly has its own creepiness. He writes above that the RTL crowd is “working against the grain of human nature, against our feelings—yes, our feelings—about what life is.” Derbyshire has not held anything back: “the grain of human nature” is what is empirically knowable from our experience, and his view of human nature is defined in vitalistic and sentimental terms. This is why sugar-coated moral theology, dressed up in the ill-fitting costume of Lockean rights, will always fail to convince, because this law of nature (especially as a scientific materialist will see it) does not have any account of why Derbyshire’s notion of “the grain of human nature” is basically flawed and misunderstands the human predicament.
Without taking account of the effects of the Fall on human nature as we see it today, it is almost hopeless to convince a John Derbyshire that common feelings about what goes against “the grain of human nature” are more likely erroneous than not. Of course, everyone does have a conscience, but this has been darkened by the Fall and stands in need of illumination. To say that people determine what is moral by their feelings probably does describe fairly well how people reach their conclusions on these matters, but it also demonstrates that people are typically ensnared by the passions in making moral judgements and are making use of gnomic will, which does not reliably or regularly will the Good. To use these arguments would be to make specifically Christian arguments using the language of the Fathers in defining what a person is, what we owe to our fellow men and what God has commanded us to do. This might strike some people as impolitic, but it probably ought to strike Christians as the proper and obvious thing to do.
If we did this, we could, for example, return to discussing how the person only truly, fully exists in relationship with others, which might begin to undo a good deal of the conceptual damage in the abortion debate over whether the child is sufficiently “independent” of the mother to constitute his own person. A proper theological understanding that persons may be distinct and yet never entirely separate from each other might cause some to reconsider the entire shape of the debate, and it might cause still others to oppose abortion not because of violated “rights” but because of the sundering of relationships, violating the integrity of all people involved, that it entails.
Casting the entire argument in terms of competing rights, as “RTL” inevitably and really mistakenly does, has already let the horse of autonomy out of the barn, empowering the very logic of “choice” that brought us to our current predicament, and ultimately forces some external authority to adjudicate the competing claims of the rights of the different agents. RTL has mainly been aimed at trying to have the “rights” of the unborn child recognised and protected by law (and certainly I agree in the strongest terms with the practical goal of protecting the unborn from the ravages of abortion), but even once this is done the contest between the competing claimants will be profoundly uneven, as the unborn will always need advocates to affirm their “rights” against their immeasurably more powerful opponents. The recourse to rights language is a function of widespread aversion to thinking in terms of obligation–it would undoubtedly be less “effective” on the hustings to speak of the obligations women owe their children, for example, the obligations children owe their aged and infirm parents or the obligations men have before God, even if it would be more coherent as a moral argument–but the use of this language simply feeds the sense of autonomy and entitlement that talk of rights will produce.
It seems that I was not alone in raising a few pointed objections to the Greek/Western-Semitic dichotomy that Micah Hayes set up in his article, The Early Syriac Poets and Cognitive Science. Mr. D. Ian Dalrymple correctly notes in his letter to The New Pantagruel:
But the language of paradox in worship and doctrine is far from absent among the Orthodox. Mr Hayes attempts to anticipate the criticism by suggesting:
Some may think that this statement overlooks the similarity of the Greek apophatic tradition, in which God can only be defined negatively ( e.g. uncreated, invisible, etc.), and to speak positively of God (e.g. as being wise, or existing) ultimately leads to idolatry. A negative definition, however, is still a definition and is different from the metaphoric, Semitic tradition.
But even if one accepts this (rash, in my opinion) brushing aside of apophaticism, one need only walk into an Orthodox celebration of Divine Liturgy to feast oneself on a liturgy and hymnography replete with the theological language of metaphor and paradox. Definition of God, properly speaking, is simply not on the menu.
Certainly, there are other elements (some native Greek, and others through western influence) within the Orthodox tradition. But the Semitic inheritance is far from absent and was never forgotten in the Orthodox Church. After all, St. Ephrem (along with St. Isaac the Syrian and others) is one of our most honored holy fathers and we still sing his hymns to this day.
At Cultural Revolutions Online (on the Chronicles site), Tom Piatak aims some withering fire at the dreadful Christopher Hitchens and his recent abominable remarks about Mother Teresa at Georgetown University. Mr. Piatak drolly describes the university as “an institution that at one point was connected with the Catholic Church,” and makes several other telling observations. I recommend reading the entire post.
It is interesting to catch up on the furore over the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2005, since I have to admit that I am a latecomer to the question. Now here is a question for readers to bat around: granted that the Akaka bill is based on the particular, local circumstances of Hawaii, isn’t this recourse to such an ethnic state that claims the right of secession one of the few paths left to decentralists now that state sovereignty is largely irrelevant in our politics? Might this law enable the native Hawaiians to do what the Vermont Republic folks hope to do? The “native Hawaiians” tell a tale of exploitation and oppression–much of it is mythologised and exaggerated, as such tales will always be (anyone read the implausible list of grievances in the Declaration of Independence lately?)–but aren’t perceived grievances, even if they seem absurd to us, real grievances all the same? But before anyone peg me as an enthusiast for Hawaiian nationalism, let’s not get carried away.
The problem with the Akaka bill is not that it threatens Hawaiian independence (in any event, the government, and the Navy in particular, would never allow a strategic territory like Hawaii to be lost), but that it will simply be another layer of bureaucracy within the existing system, like the Scottish Parliament and other token contrivances of New Labour’s brand of oppressive pseudo-decentralisation. The problem is not that it will run the risk of challenging the forces of consolidation, which would be excellent, but that it is actually going to be just another vehicle for controlling government spoils.
The Akaka bill is a terrible piece of legislation. Every aspect of it—from its premises to its goals to its methods—undermines the American belief that we are one people from many. ~National Review
This “belief” is a lot of rot–E pluribus unum referred (and still refers) to the Union of the thirteen independent colonies. It was not a precocious slogan for multicultural synthesis or the blather about a “nation of immigrants.” Since NR has taken it upon itself the task of giving us the “good” history and castigating the “bad,” it hardly helps that they don’t seem to know what the motto from the Great Seal actually means.
Complaining about the 1993 Apology Resolution, which forms part of the basis for the new law’s claims, NR offers this:
But the United States had only a tangential part in that insurrection, which was primarily carried out by inhabitants of the kingdom acting outside U.S. jurisdiction.
Now where did these “inhabitants” come from and what were their interests in the kingdom? I expect Smedley Butler would have had some choice words in his later years about the use of Marines in facilitating the sugar planters’ coup. That is what our “tangential part” was–providing the force that made the coup successful. The Marines were deployed in Honolulu from January 16 until April 1, 1893. Doesn’t sound very tangential to me. It seems like the crucial difference keeping the republicans in power.
National Review doesn’t like Akaka’s bill and the “native Hawaiian” government idea–fair enough. I see that it certainly works to the detriment of the non-”natives” (though, if intermarriage is as common and widespread as the critics claim, wouldn’t “native rights” extend to a large part of the population?). Couldn’t NR make their argument without resorting to deception about the nature of the coup against the Hawaiian monarchy? Perhaps they could enlist Max Boot to give us a lecture on the virtues of interfering in other nations’ affairs. But they could spare us the pose of defending the real historical record, when it seems clear that they are less than eager to pay attention to what the record shows.
More laughable is the conclusion of the editorial:
Even so, the greatest victim of the Akaka bill would not be non-native Hawaiians. It would be, rather, the belief that every American belongs to a single, indivisible society.
The Akaka bill might or might not be wise (in a decentralist order, it would be a problem for Hawaiians, not one for New Mexicans and New Yorkers to sort out!), but if its success means that we are no longer labouring under the delusion of belonging to “a single, indivisible society” I think I am all for it. When Baroness Thatcher said that society did not exist, it was this sort of society she was rejecting. Elsewhere, Rich Lowry cites Reconstruction-era Court rulings bantering on about the “indestructible Union composed of indestructible States” (which is actually impious–only God is indestructible) as if it were absolute truth. For my money, the states ought to be a good deal more indestructible than the Union, but somehow it has worked out the other way round.
In truth, the Akaka bill will not actually loosen the federal government’s grip on anything (if it did, do you suppose it would even get a hearing in Congress?) but simply introduce a new actor, the “native Hawaiian” government, into the mix. But clearly the critics desperately fear anything that smacks of decentralism. They also seem to find it difficult to grasp that the means by which Hawaii was brought into the Union were, shall we say, less than honourable (and it was because of this, as well as his basic aversion to imperialism, that motivated Cleveland’s resistance to annexation), or that imperial gains might ever be reversed.
Daniel Akaka and Daniel Larison (as an aside, isn’t it odd that the only national politicians still around today with the first name of Daniel are the two Hawaiian Senators?) alike do not belong to “a single, indivisible society,” but to a whole range of intermediary associations, groups and loyalties. By the way, what is this weird obsession with everything being indivisible? A society is not like the Incarnation!
Multiple multi-layered, complex societies are the sorts of societies, which is very often divisible and composite, that mean something to real people. No one belongs to “a single, indivisible society,” at least not an earthly one, and claims to this effect suggest a basic hostility to all other forms of belonging other than belonging to the consolidated society of the consolidated nation-state.
But far beyond the stinging zingers, this is a book of uncommon wisdom, delighting in what is best in the sometimes eccentric American tradition. I can honestly say that this book has inspired me more than any in recent memory, breathing new life and fire from these ashen Caelum et Terra-type coals, long dormant within me, grown still from disuse and distraction.
I don’t know what will come of Bill Kauffman’s book; probalby not much. If noticed by the bigshots it will be with a sneer. But for all us littleshots, the meandering creeks and dancing rivulets far from the Main Stream, all the hick philosophers, holy fools, hippie monks and American outsiders, this book is to be received with gratitude, a gift if not from On High, at least from Batavia, New York, which if I am not mistaken is not far from Bedford Falls. ~Daniel Nichols, Caelum et Terra
Mr. Nichols gives both books a fair shake and also acknowledges their many differences. He is clearly much more taken with Bill Kauffman’s writing and subject matter, and prefers the Sage of Batavia for his Bataviacentricity, but nonetheless appreciates both for their correctives to conservative drift or, to be more accurate, wild veering off course.
There is a good legal basis for such action. Ahmadinejad’s words clearly violate Article 2.4 of the U.N. Charter. This provision, to which Iran has agreed, requires all U.N. member states to “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” Ahmadinejad’s specific formulation — wiping Israel off the map and prophesying a coming nuclear conflagration in which much of humanity would expire — also clearly entails a threat of committing genocide, which member nations are obliged, under the Genocide Convention, to prevent. ~David Rivkin and Lee Casey, The Washington Post
Messrs. Rivkin and Casey are long-time servitors of Empire and experts at “finding” pathetic legal justifications for the illegal and unconscionable. In the last five years, they have made more convenient, Washington and executive-empowering discoveries in the nuances of interpreting international and constitutional law than most activist jurists can hope to accomplish in a career.
To catch everyone up to speed: Iran cannot threaten force against anyone, because that violates the U.N. Charter, but presumably we can initiate unprovoked hostilities and trample on other nations’ sovereignty and territorial integrity and we can make threats against Iran’s territorial integrity and these are not violations of the U.N. Charter, at least not in Rivkin-Caseyworld. Further, because Iran has made those threats, we and the “international community” (that most deceitful euphemism) are now obliged to do actual harm–not just threaten it–to Iran. See? Doesn’t that make sense?
There’s no love for anarchists in some parts of the old ’sphere. Clark Stooksbury points to critics of our very own A.C. Kleinheider (we knew Kleinheider before he was a rich and famous blogger at Volunteer Voters), who criticise him for some of his links (including to Clark Stooksbury’s RR post on Wendell Berry and corporations) and seem to assume that Kleinheider must agree with whatever it is he links to. Apparently it wouldn’t be enough for them for Kleinheider to be a predictable yes-man (which they seem to be and he definitely is not), but he would also have to abjure ever linking to objectionable material unless a withering denunciation followed. What really seems to bother the first fellow is the possibility that Kleinheider might actually agree with Wendell Berry and take a dim view of corporations. Question: who doesn’t take a dim view of vast bureaucratic corporate structures and their built-in capacity to evade responsibility? Whoever those people are, they are the ones who need to do the explaining, not the “anarchists.”
The Radicals are coming close to the end of their blog’s run, but they have not slowed down just yet. Bill Kauffman comments on nonprofessional astronomer Leslie Peltier and opponent of “conquest of the moon,” mentions his own forthcoming books, including a biography of Anti-Federalist Luther Martin, and offers a good Vidal quote as the RR credo. After remembering Marvin Gaye, Dan McCarthy picks up the Anti-Federalist ball and runs with it, stepping on David Brooks in the process. Jeremy Beer writes on the works of Booth Tarkington. Caleb Stegall considers the career of William Jennings Bryan in the light of reactionary radicalism and started a discussion about the prospects for “neo-populism” prompted by Peggy Noonan’s recent column.
I should explain the last few days of my relatively lackadaisical blogging. I have been preparing for my dissertation proposal hearing, which occurred this morning. It went very well, and I have now been admitted to candidacy. All you inquiring minds who desperately want to know more about monotheletism (because there are so very many out there) are in luck, as I will be working on the acts of the sixth ecumenical council (680-81) and related seventh-century sources.
…if the bill to organise a “native Hawaiian” government has been condemned because it could be a means of encouraging secession and has received the neocon kiss of death of being likened to something that Jefferson Davis would embrace and “reverse Manifest Destiny.” Reverse Manifest Destiny? Horrors! Why, at this rate, we might even get back to small, self-governing republics. But here’s a question: if this is reverse Manifest Destiny, why would a Democratic expansionist like Davis support it?
All of this causes us to remember Gover Cleveland, who opposed the coup against the Hawaiian monarchy and regarded the annexation of Hawaii, which he also opposed, as shameful–if we had listened to Grover, the Hawaiians could go about their business without causing any of us the least bit of anxiety. (An additional bonus–there probably would have been no U.S. entry in WWII!)
It seems to me that the Hawaiians are trying to to find a mechanism to restore the status quo ante before the Court overruled the earlier practice of barring non-native Hawaiians from voting for or serving in said Office. Somehow the Hawaiians managed to go for quite some time under that old system without causing anyone too much difficulty. Of course, the bill is designed to restore those privileges by means of creating a “native Hawaiian” government, which is really what has the consolidators up in arms, far more than the fact that it is “race-based.”
They haven’t been busily centralising all government in Washington just to see some uppity Hawaiians discover the advantages of their own spoils system! Critics are only too keen to point out the differences between the Hawaiians and Indian tribes here on the mainland, but what scares the critics is not an imitation of the “sovereignty” of the tribes–who are more dependent on the federal government than anyone–but the possibility that a native Hawaiian government might theoretically encourage separatism and less dependence on the center. (The odds of Hawaii ever seceding are so bad that it is bizarre that anyone should even mention it.)
The danger of encouraging the revanchist hopes of Aztlan nationalists is invoked here mostly as a scare tactic (since when have the editors of NR taken this particular threat seriously?), but this latter danger only underscores the need for a much stronger line on first removing illegal immigrants from this country and preventing any future mass immigration from Mexico; it should have relatively little bearing on the Hawaiian law.
As at other times in our history, we are a target because of who we are and how we live, our society, our diversity and our values — values such as freedom, democracy and the rule of law — the values that make Canada great, values that Canadians cherish. ~Stephen Harper
When exactly was any part of Canada a target because of its diversity? Battle of Quebec, c. 1759? How can people say this stuff with a straight face?
Former president Alan García defeated nationalist candidate Ollanta Humala in Sunday’s runoff election, earning a second chance to lead the country he steered to economic devastation in the 1980s.
García campaigned to protect Peru’s free-trade economy from what he portrayed as the false promise of Latin American populism, arguing that Humala’s plan to exert more state control over Peru’s mining and energy sectors would isolate the country economically and discourage private investment. ~The Washington Post
Mr. Garcia, from the old school of disastrous economic mismanagement and veniality, now serves as one of the rallying points for Western anti-populist sentiment in South America, which tells you something about how desperate Washington is to find any good news in the midst of the ever-increasing Chavista miasma. I feel sorry for the Peruvians–they were not offered much of a choice (”responsible” leftism vs. populist leftism) and gave the presidential victory to the representative of the urban interests while empowering Humala’s followers in their legislature and making them the largest fraction. If Bolivia is any guide, this is a recipe for years of political instability and protest as the largely Indian constituency of the populist movement adamantly resists the new government and eventually manages to cripple it and then bring it down.
Peru has dodged the populist bullet only for a short time, but the underlying reasons for Humala’s political strength in the countryside have not changed. Neo-liberalism, being a not-very-subtle cover for serving multinational corporate interests at the expense of existing economic structures, is the natural enemy of the large rural, agricultural sections of every South American country, and will cause still more backlashes as “free trade” policies go forward in their countries.
We have not yet reached Whigdom and besides, we don’t have a ridiculous name like “Whig” either. ~Julie Ponzi, No Left Turns
This is an extension of Ms. Ponzi’s notion that only two parties will exist in our system to provide alternative interpretations of the Constitution–as if there could only be two! But the Republicans are the heirs of the Whigs in toto, and I daresay that the Red Republicans have lately been outstanding heirs of the original party of treason.
“Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the Whiggish treason and plot. I know of no reason why the Whig Party’s treason should ever be forgot.”
After all, the heartland has no claim to moral authority. The states whose voters are most obsessed with “moral values” have the highest divorce and teen pregnancy rates. The country’s highest murder rates are in the South and the lowest are in New England. The five states with the best-ranked public schools in the country — Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey and Wisconsin — are all progressive redoubts. The five states with the worst — New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Mississippi and Louisiana — all went for Bush. ~Michelle Goldberg (cited by Joseph Knippenberg, No Left Turns)
This is one of Ms. Goldberg’s bits of supporting evidence, taken from an excerpt from her book Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, that “the heartland” must be disenfranchised as much as possible through the dismantling of the last safeguards against ochlocracy, the Electoral College and giving each state an equal number of Senators. You see, this “anti-urban bias” in our system (which did so much to bring all those Populists to the White House–don’t you remember President William Jennings Bryan?) has to be done away with.
Nevermind that these safeguards also serve as guards of the poor and less populated states against the tyranny of larger and wealthier populations–Ms. Goldberg isn’t interested in whether those people are fairly represented, but whether people like her get to have power. Fair enough–that’s what most democrats at all times have wanted anyway. Tilting the balance back towards urban mobs would probably do wonders for “progressive” electoral success, no doubt, and would always reduce those voters even more to a servile, peon status from which they would never recover. So much the better for a “progressive” agenda.
Nevermind also investigating into the reasons why people in states suffering from the consequences of social and moral disorder would be so “obsessed” with moral values. Perhaps it is because they see the disastrous consequences of a lack of such “values” and are making some desperate gesture, however ineffective, at righting the situation? No, it can only be hypocrisy and proof that these folks should be less well represented than they currently are. And let’s be very clear about that–Ms. Goldberg is talking openly about diminishing the representation of entire swathes of the country because they are allegedly “overrepresented.” Because the inhabitants of Topeka, Boise and Boulder have had such great influence on the course of our politics and culture, and they must be held in check for the sake of the oppressed victims of Los Angeles and New York! Rarely do you get to see metropolitan arrogance and contempt for the provinces so clearly and unabashedly expressed. Take a good look, O ye peasants, at the mind of the urban rulers who see you with nothing but loathing!
But I don’t know which I find funnier–that my home state of New Mexico, a veritable province of the federal government (we are second, I believe, only to Nevada in having our land controlled by the feds), is considered archetypically “heartland” (67% of New Mexicans register as Democrats, half are Hispanic or Indian and both houses in the Roundhouse has been controlled continuously by Democrats since 1928) or that the heartland is identified with support for the Yankee transplant liberal Dobleve. Surely there is something fishy here.
Read the rest of this entry »
“I believe if he really could, he would help us.”
That belief, far more than anything Ahmadinejad has said about nuclear power or the Holocaust, defines Iran’s energetic president for the people who elected him almost a year ago, as well as the legions he appears to have won over since taking office in August. If his image in the West is that of a banty radical dangerously out of touch with reality — “a psychopath of the worst kind,” in the words of Israel’s prime minister — the prevailing impression in Iran is precisely the opposite.
Here, ordinary people marvel at how their president comes across as someone in touch, as populist candidate turned caring incumbent. In speeches, 17-hour workdays and biweekly trips like the one that brought him here to Central Province, Ahmadinejad showcases a relentless preoccupation with the health, housing and, most of all, money problems that may barely register on the global agenda but represent the most clear and present danger for most in this nation of 70 million.
“It’s good to have a very kind person near you, caring about your problems,” said Akram Rashidi, 34, at the counter of a stationery store where the run on envelopes outpaced the supply of change. “The important thing is that the president and important people are caring about the people.” ~The Washington Post
It would hardly be the first time that a populist, nationalist demagogue would be elected on the basis of his solidarity with the common man, and also hardly the first time that such a demagogue would be militant and combative towards the outside world. These are two sides of what Kuehnelt-Leddihn awkwardly called identitarianism, and they are main features of every kind of leftism, including democracy. The rise of such demagogues is, of course, the flaw inherent in mass democracy or, if you prefer, any system infected by mass democratic practices such as general elections that make the head of government the tribune of “the people.”
Lost in the banter of ignorant or ideological Western pundits is the recognition that Ahmadinejad was elected (and, lest we forget this, he was popularly elected) principally on the basis of his “man of the people” routine, and that his rise to power has come on the basis of the very dissatisfaction with the rule of “the mullahs” that the most outspoken critics of Ahmadinejad also oppose. What is Farsi for “I feel your pain”?
To that extent, as much as he has been personally, intimately involved with the Islamic Revolution, he remains a political outsider in relation to the people who are actually in charge of long-term security policy. The demagogue will say what he will while he goes on making his show of concern for the common folk, but real security policy will still be decided by the clerical and military authorities.
The observation of one analyst in the story that “he is in a perpetual campaign” is telling–it reminds me immediately of Clinton, and it also smacks of a Rovian sort of politics. If the man is perpetually campaigning, it is much less likely that what he says about any particular issue can be taken as anything other than more demagoguery to cement his position. On the other hand, if his domestic program is in earnest he will rapidly earn the enmity of entrenched elites and could go the way of Tiberius Gracchus.
If he suffered the fate of Gracchus it would undoubtedly annoy the jingoes in this country, who need Ahmadinejad’s explosive rhetoric to justify their anti-Iranian attitudes, but it would surely be ironic that the representative of the democracy about which they are allegedly so keen should also be the source of their greatest anxiety in international affairs. You might think it would cause them to reconsider the wisdom of further democratising the Near and Middle East, but somehow I think they prefer the danger and instability democracy foments. It gives them crises to “solve,” which they solve, of course, by sending other people to do all the real work.
Canadian police and intelligence agents say they foiled a “series of terrorist attacks” by a group that had obtained three tons of explosive fertilizer–more than the amount used in the Oklahoma City bombings–to attack targets in Ontario.
Twelve men–described as “mainly Canadian citizens” –and five juveniles were arrested in a series of raids Friday night at locations in the outlying suburbs of Toronto in enclaves for immigrant groups in Canada. The men, all with Arabic names, were mostly in their 20s. ~The Washington Post
The Canucks did well. The Canadians managed to succeed where our “staunch” allies in Iraq, Britain and Spain, signally failed, namely in protecting their own countries from attack in this here post-9/11 world. London and Madrid instead made sure that Basra and Nasiriyah were somewhat well in hand (though these days Basra is looking pretty shaky) while their capitals were rocked with bomb blasts. You can expect that the usual suspects, especially the Canadian refugees who have set themselves up in this country as ardent warmongers (Frum, Krauthammer), will berate the Canadians for every weakness, both imagined and real. They will use the episode not as an occasion to give the Canadians their due respect as competent allies in the fight against al-Qaeda but as one more opportunity to belittle our northern neighbours (whose lack of militancy far more offends the neocons than their form of social democracy). They will exploit the foiled attacks (which have been directed at them because of their alliance with us, and not because of their “freedom”) as more proof that “we are at war” (which, as a matter of law, we are not) and, of course, they will somehow use it as yet another justification for remaining in Iraq indefinitely.
America has a two party system for very good and very legitimate CONSTITUTIONAL reasons–even though the parties might be said to be “extra-Constitutional.” The two parties still perform a constitutional function in focusing our minds on the issues of that Constitution. That’s why wierd parties (like the Greens, for example) never do well in America–they seem to be out to lunch because they disregard our system in favor of some other ideology. If an American party wants to do something that is outside of the bounds of our Constitution–they at least have to wear the window dressing of constitutionality. They have to stretch the bounds of credibility by employing the talents of “constitutional scholars” who can find “legitimacy” for their arguments in that venerable document. Fortunately for our republic, the great thing about stretching is that even if the thing stretched gets alittle mishapen, it still retains its form. We can deal with stretch marks if we keep our soul. ~Julie Ponzi, No Left Turns
Actually, we have two parties because of historical accident and the inheritance of the English Court-Country dichotomy. When the Founders gave political factions any thought, they viewed them as pernicious, destructive of the common good and injurious to the stability of republics, as Roman and medieval Italian history had taught them. In this they were right. Unfortunately, the wisdom of that lesson was quickly lost in the hurly-burly of grabbing for power.
So Ms. Ponzi doesn’t like Peggy Noonan’s suggestion that the time may be coming (indeed, it is already here!) for a viable third-party alternative to offer people some kind of representation to replace the sham government they currently have. Here are Ms. Noonan’s concluding remarks:
I don’t see any potential party, or potential candidate, on the scene right now who can harness the disaffection of growing portions of the electorate. But a new group or entity that could define the problem correctly–that sees the big divide not as something between the parties but between America’s ruling elite and its people–would be making long strides in putting third party ideas in play in America again.
Between these two assessments is an enormous, unbridgeable gulf. On the one side, someone who thinks that the parties serve some kind of valuable function that only works as long as there are two parties and no more, the other who sees them more or less for what they are: the two identical shells in the permanent shell game of our own brand of managed democracy (Putin has nothing on us in this regard), in which the people running the game always win and keep compelling us, the suckers, to play yet again.
There is every reason to believe that factions are mechanisms for controlling people and making them dependent on a set of alliances that they soon believe they cannot do without. This breeds servility and encourages a lack of civic responsibility–you become simply another foot-soldier in an unwieldy army of hangers-on being mobilised to support politicians and policies that in all likelihood have nothing to do with you and do not serve your best interest or the interest of the commonwealth. The factions inspire narrow, limited passions dedicated to interests that are at odds with the good of the commonwealth. Just as there ought to be no permanent or entangling alliances with other nations, and we have gone horribly wrong in creating such alliances in the last century, I suggest that our people also went horribly awry when they entered into the habit of creating permanent and entangling alliances domestically. Instead of “permanent interests,” that key phrase for all activists, what if we all simply minded our own business?
The factions are unnatural tribes that claim your allegiance on the basis of your horror of the other “tribe” having power over you and their manipulation of what you hold dear. It is perverse to think that the Republicans and Democrats give a moment’s notice to the Constitution, much less “focus” our attention on it and its “issues.” I don’t know how many “constitutional scholars” are on the Green Party’s payroll (my guess would be zero), but even a handful of the Greens, Libertarians and Constitutionalists have more common sense understanding of what the Constitution says and what the Old Republic was supposed to be than the entire leadership of both major parties put together.
If you must endorse the duopoly, do so for the pragmatic reasons that you don’t want the other fellow to have power–don’t kid us with these appeals to a Constitution that the Red Republicans have spent the last five years gutting like a trout. Ms. Ponzi’s waxing rhapsodic about “our system,” which those “wierd” [sic] third parties want to supplant, seems to confirm a common libertarian critique of many “conservatives” that the latter have no idea what “our system” is or what the Constitution actually says.
Update: Caleb Stegall at Reactionary Radicals had already started an interesting discussion of the potential for “neo-populism” in the situation Ms. Noonan was describing. It seems to me that the question for the Radicals is this: how do you have a vibrant populist movement that does not turn into the nationalists who understandably fill Prof. Lukacs with such horror?
Read the rest of this entry »
A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to hear Isabel Bayrakdarian, a brilliant, young soprano from Canada, sing during a performance of Mahler’s 4th Symphony. I was enchanted by her voice, which, in my entirely amateur and untutored estimation, is one of the finest of our time. Then, by chance, my Armenian professor showed us the DVD of the CBC documentary about Ms. Bayrakdarian on the occasion of her first visit to Armenia, and soon I was caught up in Bayrakdarian fever. As I quickly discovered, she has a number of impressive and diverse albums to her credit, and all are worth a listen whether your interests are in opera, Armenian church music or traditional folk melodies.
In some minor notes related to her, she is the vocalist on the soundtracks of both Ararat and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, so both Armenophiles and Tolkien fans can take an interest in her magnificent singing.
Let no one think that I mean by “the choicest gifts” the things that to most people’s liking–the things greedy minds always long for, which do not last, nor are capable of making their possessor a better person. Such are the pleasant things of the present life, which cannot attain to lasting power, but “collapse around themselves” and immediately perish, even if people possess them in superfluity. No indeed, it is not for us to admire such things, nor is this portion of those who fear the Lord! Rather, we admire the gifts that are really attractive and lovely to those whose thoughts are true, goods that remain forever: things that please God and that produce ripe fruit in those who have acquired them. I mean the virtues, which give their fruit in due season–give the fruit, that is, of eternal life in the coming age for those have labored worthily and have invested the results of their exertions there, as far as possible. Labour, after all, comes before the virtues, and eternal blessedness follows them! ~St. John of Damascus, On the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God, Homily I (from On the Dormition of Mary, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1998)
Nobel Peace laureate Jose Ramos Horta said Friday he would take over East Timor’s top security posts in a bid to end factional divisions that have plunged the country into chaos.
His announcement came as fresh looting and rioting broke out in the capital, and was likely to further isolate embattled Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. ~Forbes
See also Leon Hadar’s post on Darfur and East Timor and this article on the chaos in East Timor. International action has really done wonders for this small land. Just imagine–one day it can reach the level of Equatorial Guinea in terms of oil money, corruption and dictatorship!
Iain - Maybe you could explain something to me, What’s up with Scotland? I was there for the first time last summer on the NR Cruise. My lovely bride and I loved the place, at first. We thought Edinburgh — despite some of the usual Euro-grime — was just fantastic and we immediately hatched a fantasy of spending a year there someday. Then, it was slowly revealed to us that Scotland is becoming the land of kilt-wearing Marxists and environmentalists (hence, I suppose, all the green and red in their plaids). Fireplaces have been banned in Edinburgh and there’s a legalized heroin vibe coming off many a park bench and back alley. It’s the frickn’ birthplace of the good enlightenment for Pete’s sake! And yet, the Irish are going all free market while Adam Smith’s ancestral home is becoming haggis-soaked kibbutz. Okay, I exaggerate, a little. But seriously, what’s the deal? ~Jonah “Lie for a Just Cause” Goldberg, The Corner
Point of fact: you cannot soak something in haggis, except in the most metaphorical sense. You can bury something in, or cover something with, haggis (which is quite an image), but there is no soaking. It is, after all, quite solid. It also happens to be fairly tasty (it is a bit salty, but it has a solid consistency that every Celt and connoisseur of fatback can appreciate). But enough about haggis (for now).
Mr. Goldberg seems to be competing with Andrew Sullivan for the Historical Dunce award this year (it will be a tough decision in the end, but I believe Mr. Goldberg can still win), as if a moment in late 18th century Scottish intellectual history can be taken as being somehow definitive of the country’s people or culture. (I would note in passing that the reference to the Scotch Enlightenment at the “good enlightenment” reconfirms my thesis that modern conservatism is fundamentally incoherent and wedded to philosophical assumptions at odds with the ideals of the conservative tradition embodied in the figures of the Scotch Counter-Enlightenment, such as Sir Walter Scott, etc.) Also, bad kilt jokes will get you nowhere fast in a room full of Scotsmen. What, incidentally, do the Irish have to do with any of this? Is this some backhanded way of saying, “Hey, if even dumb, old Paddy can figure it out, then the Scots should have no trouble!”? I am part Scotch-Irish, and I think Goldberg has managed to irritate both the Scotch and the Irish in me.
Historically ignorant fans of John Adams might ask with similar incredulity how Massachusetts could have become so shockingly statist in its inclinations (though our Jeffersonian friends would insist that the Federalists were always up to no good). After all, wasn’t Boston the first home of the Sons of Liberty? The short answer to “what happened to Scotland?” might be: the last 200 years and the industrial revolution. In Scotland’s particular case, the political suppression of the Highlands in the mid-18th century paved the way for the supremacy of a Scottish elite reconciled to the Hanoverians and the development of the mercantile economy in the Lowlands. There followed the rise of the privileged position of the mercantile classes in Edinburgh and Glasgow, followed in the 19th century by the expansion of industry to the North during the era of Manchester liberalism, which all worked towards creating the gradual growth of both conservative and left-wing hostility to industry and the abuse of labour. Empire served as a major drain on the resources and manpower of Scotland for better than 200 years, and managed to divert what could have once again become an internal political challenge to central control into an advantage for imperial expansion; at the same time, this diversion of manpower ensured that the country stayed less developed than it could have been. Was traditional Presbyterianism responsible for cultivating a different social and political ethic from that of Anglicans and Dissenters to the south? Undoubtedly this had something to do with how Scottish politics evolved over the last 200 years.
In the 20th century, underdevelopment of Scotland, England’s internal colony ere long, has been a chronic problem and an abiding reason for the success of left-wing politics north of the Firth of Forth. In post-war Britain, the Tories have steadily been driven further and further south as the people who work in the industrial cities and the towns of the North have increasingly wanted nothing to do with them. Perhaps someone better versed in Scottish history could offer corrections or supplements to this summary, but I think it is a bit more compelling than Iain Murray’s “cycles of collectivist fervor,” which strikes me as very strange.
The New York-based Conference Board said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index fell almost 7 points to 103.2, down from the revised 109.8 in April. Still, May’s reading was better than the 100.9 expected by analysts. ~Seattle P-I
This bit of somewhat bad economic news has Charles Morris, author of Tycoons, remember the not-so-halcyon days of the 1870s and issuing this warning:
But as the 1870’s suggest, economic well-being doesn’t come just from piling up toys. An economy has psychological or, if you will, spiritual, dimensions. A conviction of fairness, a feeling of not being totally on one’s own, a sense of reasonable stability and predictability are all essential components of good economic performance. When they were missing in the 1870’s, in the midst of a boom, the populace was brought to the brink of revolt.
Reihan Salam at The American Scene, he of the bizarre metaphors and “strong-government conservatism,” offers this bizarre comment on Morris’ op-ed:
Such a revolt, were it to interrupt the extraordinary scientific and material progress we’re seeing today worldwide, would be nothing short of tragic. Forestalling it is the great political challenge. And if this calls for Bismarckian means, well, we happen to have very little choice.
Um, okay. What? Consumer confidence drops a few ticks and we’re on the road to “Bismarckian means” to save Progress (extraordinary progress at that)! What does this mean? Will we start persecuting social democrats? Enacting more of the same broken Prussian welfare programs we already have? Will we invade France? Will we solve our problems with Blut und Eisen? There ought to be some kind of basic blogging rule when invoking historical analogies and figures: your reference has to make a bare minimum of sense to those who know something about the thing to which you’re referring. On this score, alas, Mr. Salam has failed most spectacularly.
Read the rest of this entry »
I have seen a number of responses to Pope Benedict’s speech at Auschwitz, but none of them compares with this one in the author’s ability to miss entirely what the Pope was trying to say. Many things about the speech irk Prof. Muller, but none so much as Pope Benedict’s claim linking the Holocaust to an attack on the Christian Faith as well:
“Deep down, those vicious criminals, by wiping out this people, wanted to kill the God who called Abraham, who spoke on Sinai and laid down principles to serve as a guide for mankind, principles that are eternally valid. If this people, by its very existence, was a witness to the God who spoke to humanity and took us to himself, then that God finally had to die and power had to belong to man alone — to those men, who thought that by force they had made themselves masters of the world. By destroying Israel, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of man, the rule of the powerful.”
It is important to see that Ratzinger is here offering a couple of precise claims about the historical intent of those who planned and executed the Final Solution. And the claims are that their intent was essentially theological, and that it was “ultimately” directed at Christianity.
With some people, you can’t win for losing. Here Pope Benedict very plainly intends to exhort Christians to understand that the Holocaust, which has its significance for Pope Benedict as an attempt to obliterate the Jewish people and overturn God’s promise, was an attack also on the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Who is the God of the Christians, and thus was an attack on all of Christianity as well. It was an expression of profound solidarity and an expression of a view very similar to the reflections of Karl Barth in the bombed-out ruins of Nuremberg University that the Germans went against Israel, the Chosen People, and inevitably lost because they had also gone against God. In saying this, Barth was stating the significance an attack on the Jewish people was supposed to have for Christians. There is no reasonable way that the Pope could give an address and not speak as a Christian, or that he could speak without deriving his judgements from the teachings of the Catholic Faith. For attempting to understand the significance of the Holocaust in Christian terms, Pope Benedict is supposed to have desecrated the memory of the murdered Jewish people when he is in fact making his best effort to honour them with a speech delivered in the only idiom a Christian bishop could use, the idiom of Christianity. Whether or not this accords with more traditional understandings that the Church is the New Israel is not the question here, and it is not one that was raised by Pope Benedict.
It is unfortunate that this most irenic message expressing theological solidarity (which must be the greatest kind that a Christian pontiff can offer) has been taken as an insult and an attempt to exploit the Holocaust as a chance to score rhetorical points for Christian martyrs. There is nothing more powerful in the traditional Christian mind than to witness to a common experience of martyrdom. Surely if Pope Benedict held up Catholic martyrs to Nazism as examples, it was because he was exhorting his flock to embody the virtues that these people possessed and to identify a common enemy. It is a pity that this message was lost on so many.
Read the rest of this entry »
My jab at Jonah Goldberg the other day took on new significance when it led to a debate at Chronicles’ site (thanks to Scott Richert’s generous link to my post) over the virtues of secession, the circumstances when secession may be justified and whether secessionism is ever worthy of support. Scott Richert and Dr. Clyde Wilson have joined in the discussion, which is ongoing, and I have also put in my two cents, so take a look at it, if you have not already done so.
Thou hast ascended in glory O Christ our God, granting joy to Thy disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit. Through the blessing they were assured that Thou art the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world!
When Thou didst fulfill the dispensation for our sake, and didst unite earth to heaven, Thou didst ascend in glory, 0 Christ our God, not being parted from those who love Thee, but remaining with them and crying: I am with you and no one will be against you!