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At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Politics and Emoting: A Brief Introduction for Republicans

posted by Jack Kerwick

President Obama’s decision to have himself surrounded with school children as he announced his “proposals” to deal with “gun violence” on Wednesday caused a lot of hand wringing among his opponents. 

“Demagogic,” “offensive,” “disgusting,” and “shameless” were just some of the adjectives used to describe it.

I have no interest in defending Obama.  Anyone with an IQ above four and just a modicum of decency has no difficulty seeing the President’s rush to exploit children—both those who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook School shooting as well as those with whom he surrounded himself—as the intellectually and morally impoverished enterprise that it is.

But what does rationality and moral virtue have to do with political strategy? 

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Obama and his fellow travelers on the left are often accused by their rivals on the right of “emoting.” That the left is not infrequently guilty of this charge is true enough.  Yet what those on the right refuse to grasp is that what they perceive to be a weakness is, politically speaking, the left’s greatest strength.

While this doesn’t accord with the myth—and, yes, it is indeed a myth—of the Wisdom of the American People, the brute, immovable fact of the matter is that when it comes to politics, the vast majority of American voters do not live by reason.  Emotion is the air they breathe.  Emoting is what they do.

That is, the left stands a far greater chance of making inroads with the average American voter because the left speaks his language.

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Notice, I am not suggesting for a moment that the average American acts unduly irrational or emotional. It is the average American voter who acts thus.  It is within the realm of politics, particularly national politics, that he is most susceptible to abandoning reason, for the average voter is just not all that attentive to the events that unfold on this stage—or how those events are framed so as to serve predetermined political ends.

As the conservative theorist Joseph Schumpeter noted, the average voter “drops down to a lower level of mental performance as soon as he enters the political field.” Schumpeter explains that he “argues and analyzes in a way which he would readily recognize as infantile within the sphere of his real interests.  He becomes a primitive again.  His thinking becomes associative and affective.”

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Translation: the average voter emotes. 

Not only does the average voter “tend to yield to extra-rational or irrational prejudice and impulse,” but “because he is not ‘all there,’ he will relax his usual moral standards as well and occasionally give in to dark urges which the conditions of private life help him to repress.” 

The average voter then becomes easy prey for “groups with an ax to grind,” groups that “are able to fashion and, within very wide limits, even to create the will of the people” (emphasis added).      

Whether Obama and his ilk have ever read Schumpeter is irrelevant.  They are more than slightly aware of the truth of which he speaks.

And there is nothing or no one that they won’t manipulate to advance their political agenda.

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No class of persons, no event, and no emotion is exempt from being conscripted into the service of perfecting the left’s mission to “fundamentally transform” the country.

Republicans can bellyache all day long about Obama’s and the Democrats’ tactics.  Or the former can realize that only by playing the latter’s game, only by combating image with image, can Republicans defeat Democrats.

Republicans are not very adept at this sport.  Sadly, there is more than enough proof of this, but the most recent exhibition comes to us from last year’s presidential race when the candidates insisted upon centering the bulk of their focus on debts, deficits, and numbers that aren’t remotely fathomable to the average voter.  

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If Republicans understood what Schumpeter and Obama know, then on Wednesday they could’ve choreographed a rebuttal to Obama’s push for greater “gun control.” Rather than surround themselves with children, they could’ve surrounded themselves with images—statues and/or paintings—of the men who ratified the United States Constitution. They could’ve delivered their rebuttal in front of a huge screen with the words of the Second Amendment on it, or grand illustrations of American colonists voluntarily taking to the hills and the streets with their guns in order to do battle with the English King and his Redcoats who threatened their liberties.

Besides reminding Americans of their Fathers and their Fathers’ legacy, this tactic could have also sent the powerful, if subtle, message that while Obama and company prefer to turn to little children for advice on issues of national import, the President’s enemies consult the wisdom of the country’s Founders.

 

 

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“Gun Control” and “Fairness”

posted by Jack Kerwick

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was a liberal Democrat’s fantasy.  In this fourth and final installment of the film franchise launched by Richard Donner, Christopher Reeve’s Man of Steel rids the planet of all of its nuclear weapons by rounding them up and launching them into the heart of the sun.  The nations of the Earth rejoice as a new era of world peace begins.   

Superman thinks about nuclear weapons the way liberals think about nuclear weapons and guns: if we get rid of them both, we get rid of the death and violence of which they are the “cause.”  

To President Obama and his fellow partisans who are now itching to add ever stricter “gun-control” measures to the mountain of such laws that are already on the books, I propose that we follow their logic all of the way through and aim to divest everyone of access to guns.

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For years, those on the left have mocked their opponents who have insisted that it isn’t guns, but people, that “kill.” But if this is so, then not only should we seek to prevent the average law-abiding citizen from bearing arms. Police officers and secret service members, soldiers and professional bodyguards, should be prevented from doing so as well.

The heart of logic is consistency. 

Yet it isn’t just formal consistency that is at stake here.  There is also the issue of fairness. 

The concept of a “state of nature” figures prominently in “the social contract” strain of the liberal tradition. According to this approach, (government-) organized society is like a contract.  As long as its members consent to its terms, it is legitimate.  The biggest non-negotiable of such terms is the demand that in signing on to society, so to speak, individuals agree to abandon the right to be judge, jury, and executioner that belongs to them in “the state of nature” when each is on his own.  

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In spite of their many differences, all of the great social contract theorists agree that unless individuals were willing to forfeit or delegate this right, there could be no state or society.  This is a cost to being a member of society, for it makes the task of self-defense more difficult than it otherwise would be in a state of nature.

But it is a cost that everyone must be willing to pay if they want to reap the benefits to be had from living in society.

However, in our society, not everyone is willing to shoulder this burden of self-restraint.

Namely, the privileged, society’s top one percent especially, have escaped paying their fair share of this burden that has been unequally distributed among the remaining 99%.  Worst, it is the top one percent–like President Obama and his allies in government and Big Media—who seek to make it all that much heavier while doing nothing to lift a finger to chip in.

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Obama is not paying his fair share.

Neither are New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo paying their fair share. 

Obama, Bloomberg, and Cuomo don’t have to worry about their homes being burglarized.  They don’t have to worry about their children’s schools being shot up by a demented gunman. They don’t have to worry about being physically assaulted on the street or in a crowded movie theater. 

They and the rest of the one percent, whether its members are politicians or celebrities, have abundant access to armed bodyguards and security of various sorts. The 99% have no such resources.  Because they have only their own guns to rely upon, the latter are already at a disadvantage relative to the former.  There is no level playing field here.  But Obama and his ilk in the one percent want to disadvantage the disadvantaged even further by making it that much more difficult for them to defend themselves.

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We are in dire need of a dramatic redistribution of goods and burdens.  Such a scheme demands that Obama and the one percent make the same “sacrifice” that they are now demanding of the 99% and, thus, drastically reduce, if not altogether abandon, the firepower currently at their fingertips. 

Of course, not for a moment will they consider this.  There is, though, another option of which lovers of equality and fairness can avail themselves: Obama and the one percent can remedy the unequal distribution of burdens that they have imposed upon the backs of the 99% by removing the obstacles to self-defense that they continue to throw up. 

After all, nothing says equality like a gun.  With a firearm, the weakest and smallest can topple the strongest and largest without breaking a sweat.

Unfortunately, there is about much of a chance that Obama and company will consider this possibility as there is that they will consider the first.  

 

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A Story of Life: A Review of Ken Conklin’s, “Don’t Thank Me, Thank Your Recruiter”

posted by Jack Kerwick

It has been quite some time since the fictional character, Rocky Balboa, has achieved the stature of a cultural icon.  Sylvester Stallone’s hugely successful film franchise has his beloved “Italian Stallion” exchanging blows with one adversary after the other.  Yet Stallone has repeatedly insisted over the decades since the debut of the original Rocky that the series is not ultimately about boxing at all.  

Rather, it is about life.

As he reveals in his recently published, Don’t Thank Me, Thank Your Recruiter, Army veteran Ken Conklin is one person who knows the value of using metaphors to better discern the pearls that life has to offer.  But there are two differences between Conklin and Stallone in this regard.

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First, it is by way of the imagery of the military, not boxing, that Conklin delineates for his readers the contours of life.

Second, it is from his experience in the military that Conklin draws. 

That is, in contrast to Rocky, Conklin, and the story that he recapitulates, are real.

Yet Conklin’s book is dramatically unlike any other centered on the military in supplying readers with an insider’s account of life among “Support Soldiers”—not “Combat Soldiers.” It would be a grave mistake, however, to think that it is any less ridden with action and adventure for this.

And it would be an equally grave mistake to think that Support Soldiers generally, and Conklin in particular, aren’t the most determined of fighters.

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Written in an earthy, matter of fact style, Conklin pulls no punches as he shares with readers his nearly ten year journey in the United States Army.  This is a journey that originates in the weeks following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and ends (well, sort of ends) in 2011 when the author leaves the military.  It is a journey that, despite its humble beginnings in Smallville, USA, Conklin’s beloved Saint Johnsville, New York, winds up transcending continents: Iraq, South Korea, and Afghanistan are just some of the far off places on Conklin’s itinerary, lands that he describes with all of the blood, sweat, and tears of which only an American soldier is capable of shedding.

Yet in the last resort, Conklin’s is not a journey about places and times. It is a personal odyssey, an adolescent’s trek toward manhood.  

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Again, Don’t Thank Me, Thank Your Recruiter is not about the military, much less about war.  Readers are no more required to take an interest in such matters to delight in this book than are the millions of Rocky fans worldwide first required to be fans of professional boxing.  In fact, whether one shares Conklin’s vision of the good life or distrusts the military and vehemently opposes the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—wars that Conklin believes America was justified in prosecuting and in which Americans like himself, from the love, not of government, but of country, were justified in serving—one can still appreciate, and even fall in love, with Conklin’s book.

The reason for this is twofold. 

First, it is a story to which every human being can relate.  Despite its particularity, Conklin’s is a narrative that strikes a universal chord insofar as it reenacts the failures and successes, the trials and the joys, of the human experience.

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Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it is Conklin’s perspective upon life—his philosophy of life, so to speak—from which any reader promises to reap an incalculable reward.  Uniting the emotionally varied episodes that he relays is an eternal optimism that the reader can’t help finding infectious.

Conklin, though, while an optimist, is not a “wide eyed optimist.”  He has neither the will nor, given his experiences, the ability to view the world through the proverbial rose-colored glasses.  His optimism is not naivety, a denial of pain, suffering, and outright evil in the world.  Conklin of all people is all too aware of the brute fact that as long as our world exists, such things are here to stay.  His optimism boils down to a faith that, for however dark and dismal one’s circumstances may be at any given time, the darkness is never impenetrable.  Light can and will prevail.  Yet for this to happen, one must be willing to fight for right. 

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Edmund Burke famously said: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  Conklin would agree.  The evil, though, is as frequently—and probably more frequently—within oneself as it is outside of it.  Nor are those with whom one is joined as a comrade in arms exempt from acting treacherously.  This Conklin makes clear.  

Don’t Thank Me, Thank Your Recruiter is an inspirational work of the first order.  It is the book for those who want to “support the troops.”  Yet it is also the book for those who are interested in rediscovering the timeless truth that the only things worth having in life are those worth fighting for.      

 

 

 

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Institutional Racism: If You Are White, You Are Racist

posted by Jack Kerwick

The view that “racism” is limited to the prejudices of individuals and/or the discriminatory policies of the government dies hard. 

Those who have thought longest and hardest on the evil of racism—the “experts”—have been telling us for quite some time that racism contaminates the very institutions or “structures” of Western civilization.  The philosopher Richard Wasserstrom is a case in point.

While “institutional racism” is more “subtle” and “unintentional” than more covert or traditional expressions of racism, Wasserstrom tells us, it is also the most intractable for this reason.  In fact, institutional racism pervades our very concepts.  “Quite often,” Wasserstrom explains, “without realizing it,” our concepts “take for granted certain objectionable aspects of racist ideology without our being aware of it.”

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Take for example the concept of “a common humanity,” a concept that supplies the philosophical backbone of such related concepts as the rule of law, equality before the law, the dignity of persons, and the ideal of “color blindness.”  Though treated by most people as an antidote to racism, the concept of a common humanity reinforces racism.  Moreover, it makes it that much more difficult to defeat the latter.   

As the political scientist Iris Marion Young informs us, in spite of posing as “neutral and universal,” the concept of a common humanity is a “culturally and experientially specific” instrument by which whites, and white men particularly, “structure privilege and oppression.”  That is, “cultural imperialism” continues courtesy of the ideal of a common humanity.  Young writes: “Blindness to difference [color-blindness] perpetuates cultural imperialism by allowing norms expressing the point of view and experience of privileged groups [whites] to appear neutral and universal.”

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The verdict is inescapable: white people are incorrigibly racist.  How can matters be otherwise when the very ideas that whites use to combat racism are themselves racist?

If racism really is embodied in our institutions, our modes of perceiving our world, then it is as ubiquitous as is the air we breathe.  It is omnipresent.  And if it is omnipresent, then there is no place to which we can turn to evade it.

Whites are incorrigibly racist.

The great philosopher David Hume observed that the more general and abstract an idea is, the more plausible it is.  When we spell it out concretely the idea of institutional racism, there is no getting around the following.  

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If you are a white, you are a racist.  So too are your children racist.

Since I am white, I am a racist, as is my three year-old son.

The 20 children gunned down in Newtown, Connecticut last month, are racist.

Gabbie Giffords is a racist.

The four Americans murdered during the latest attack on an American embassy in Libya are racist.

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Abraham Lincoln, Joe Biden, FDR, Glenn Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, George Washington, Dick Clark, Andy Griffith, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bill Maher, Sean Penn, Audie Murphy, and the mostly white firefighters who rushed into the World Trade Center towers on 9/11 to rescue strangers are all racist.

Chris Mathews, Ed Shultz, St. Francis of Assisi, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Moore, and Rachel Maddow are racist.

The most saintly of whites no less than the most evil, the most committed anti-racists no less than the most virulent neo-Nazi skinheads and Klan members, are alike racist.

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Richard Wasserstrom and Iris Marion Young, both white, are racist.

Those white editors who would refuse to publish this article for fear of being portrayed as racist are as racist as those who have no such fears.

There are still other implications of the claim that racism is “institutional.”

If even the most seemingly innocuous, anti-racist of the concepts in which whites routinely trade are mired in racism, then the concept that racism is immoral is also racist!  The thought that everyone deserves to be treated equally regardless of their race is a racist thought, for it is a thought rooted in that of a common humanity, a thought that was conspicuously absent from the Earth until men of European decent fought hard for it.

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Translation: in advocating on behalf of measures that benefit, or ostensibly benefit, racial minorities—the abolition of slavery and Jim Crow, say, and “affirmative action”—non-whites prove just how “culturally imperialistic”—how racist—they remain.

If institutional racism is a reality, then every single white person is a racist.  And if we want to overcome racism, then the only way to do so is by “fundamentally transforming”—i.e. repealing and replacing—Western civilization.      

 

 

 

 

    

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