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At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Some Thoughts Before Election Day

posted by Jack Kerwick

Election Day is just a few days off.  I offer four thoughts on Hurricane Sandy, the economy, and the September 11 attack on our embassy inLibya. The first is for Republicans, the last three for voters generally.

(1). The fears of conservatives and Republicans to the contrary aside, the positive coverage that President Obama has received in the wake of Hurricane Sandy is not likely to alter the outcome of the election.  There is more than one reason for this.

First, the two areas hardest hit by the storm—New Jersey and New York—have long been Democratic strongholds.  If anyone is going to be emotionally impacted for the better by Obama’s visit to the Jersey shore, it will be residents from the Jersey shore. 

Yet these are people who were already disposed to vote for him anyhow.

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Second, as difficult as it undoubtedly is, those of us from the Northeastern United States (that includes yours truly) need to remember that our little section of the country is not America’s epicenter.  Simply put, the preoccupations of our fellow Americans from across the fruited plain are not those of the residents of Manhattan, Boston, or Philadelphia. 

Recall, just last year a tornado swept through Joplin, Missouri.  By the time that it had ended, it had claimed 158 of our fellow Americans.  Sandy, in spite of having encompassed nearly 1,000 miles, isn’t responsible for nearly as many deaths. 

And yet, most Americans couldn’t find Joplin on a map.  Most Americans probably don’t even remember having heard much about this event at all.  There was very little coverage, and the President, who was off in Ireland at the time, uttered scarcely a word about it.

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(2). Obama has managed to convince a whole lot of people that he “inherited” a bad economy.  For his success in pushing this line, he has two groups of people to thank: his allies in the media and Republicans.

It is true that Obama inherited a bad economy. But to know this isn’t to know much, and it certainly doesn’t establish that Obama and his party had nothing to do with the economy that he “inherited.”  The real story isn’t nearly as accommodating of Obama’s agenda.

In reality, there are two crucial facts that no one—neither Republican nor Democrat—ever bothers to mention.

First, while Obama inherited a bad economy, he inherited it from Republicans and Democrats alike. After all, the Democrats had control of both chambers of Congress for the last two years of George W. Bush’s second term.

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Second, because the economy that newly elected President Obama inherited was the legacy of both Republicans and Democrats, this means that Senator Obama is among those from whom he inherited it. 

So, even before he became president, Senator Obama could be implicated in the bad economy with which President Obama was faced in 2008. 

(3). The bad economy that President Obama inherited is not the economy over which he has presided for the last four years. The latter is actually worse than the former.

(4). While an ever growing number of people are becoming persuaded that the Obama administration is guilty of a “cover up” vis-à-vis the September 11th attack on our embassy in Libya, the President and his supporters continue to deny this.  Just a second’s worth of common sense, however, effortlessly establishes that, indeed, Obama lied when four Americans died in Libya. 

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Obama insisted for about two weeks that the attack on our consulate in Libya was a “spontaneous” response to an anti-Islamic film.  Not only did he speak with certitude about this, but so did several people within his administration.  But we now know that not only were there never any grounds for this position; all of the evidence from the first moment of the attack militated decisively against it.

The conclusion is obvious: this was pure deception on Obama’s part.

These are just some thoughts that voters should bear in mind as they storm the polls on November 6.

 

 

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Some Thoughts on “Frankenstorm”

posted by Jack Kerwick

“Frankenstorm,” the worst storm in American history, is currently beating down upon my home state of New Jersey.  As I write this, there is rain and wind, but nothing in the least bit remarkable—at least not as far as weather goes in this neck of my woods of theGardenState. 

Still, I continue to be told by media personalities and Facebook friends that this storm promises to visit havoc upon the northeastern United States the likes of which it has never before experienced.  To hear people talk—including and especially those who talk about these matters for a living—one could be forgiven for thinking that it is nothing less than Armageddon that is coming our way.

I offer some thoughts.

(1).Virtually everything that we have been hearing about Hurricane Sandy for the better part of a week has been hyperbole—pure and simple.  To be sure, the meteorologists were correct in identifying this storm for the historically unusual phenomenon that it promises to be.  But that everything else that they have been saying ever since has been a textbook case of sensationalism becomes obvious once we consider the bare fact that nothing else beyond the weather forecast needed to be said.

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Round-the-clock predictions regarding power outages lasting seven to ten days and other similarly grisly prognostications do nothing but promote hysteria. 

Some will object that incessant coverage of Sandy is necessary in order to save human life.  To this, we need only note that animals don’t need to be told to protect themselves against threats.  Anyone with an IQ above two knows, or should know, that if there is just a decent chance that a hurricane is heading in his direction, then he needs to do his best to guard against it.  By bombarding them with inexhaustible coverage of a life-threatening event, no network does its viewers any favors if those viewers are in harm’s way. 

Such coverage generates panic, and panic reduces the capacity for sober judgment.  This is one respect in which excessive media coverage of Sandy and the like potentially imperils viewers. 

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It is a bad enough when one person panics.  But it is infinitely worse when a whole bunch of people do so.  The creation of mass panic is the second sense in which the media may actually do more harm than good in spending all of their time talking about “Frankenstorm” and the like. 

The third respect in which the media may imperil those who it ostensibly wants to assist is in consuming all of viewers’ attention with their sensationalistic coverage of disasters!  Those who are threatened by Sandy or whatever else need to spend less time watching television and more time actually preparing to meet the threat!

(2). Modern Westerners, at least since the time of the Enlightenment (and probably earlier), are politically peculiar creatures. With the rise of the centralized modern state, the politics of Western peoples have assumed a distinctive form.

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Politics, as we have always known it, is an engagement in crisis-management. 

Government, in our political universe, exists in order to supply “solutions” to “problems.”

What this means is that, intoxicated by the sea of power that lies at the disposal of modern governments—a measure of power that would have been unimaginable to rulers of earlier eras—we inescapably find ourselves forever oscillating between two extremes, each of which is inseparable from the other. On the one hand, we suppose that there is no problem, however dismal, that our government can’t put out to pasture.  That is, whether comprehensively or in detail, we are hopelessly utopian.  On the other hand, we just as readily suppose that disasters of one sort or the other are never more than millimeters away from devouring our way of life.

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To put it simply, we never fail to ignore the old adage that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  Yet we also ignore another piece of wisdom: if something sounds too bad to be true, it usually is.

These two propensities are inextricably linked to one another: we need to reduce life to an endless series of crises if we are to sustain our belief in government, for government exists to relieve us of these troubles.

There can be no savior if there aren’t monsters from which we need saving. 

Now, Hurricane Sandy, or, more precisely, the coverage of Hurricane Sandy, fits seamlessly into this understanding of politics and government.  The biggest storm of all time can be met only by the biggest government of all time—or at least an activist government well disposed to protecting citizens from themselves. 

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(3). Consideration (2) explains why we seem to simultaneously dread and relish in events like Sandy. The media, politicians, and, yes, the rest of us, effortlessly accommodate Sandy, for crisis is the stuff of which modern Western life is made, and Sandy—or at least Sandy as it is being depicted—is a crisis par excellence.

(4).Yet in addition to the psychic satisfactions that all modern Westerners receive from reckoning with epic disasters, politicians and media personalities reap other kinds of benefits. 

Media figures, obviously, reap ratings, lots of ratings.  This translates into ever bigger bucks.  It also means something of a legacy for those commentators and meteorologists who can claim to have covered, or who are remembered for having covered, “the largest storm of our time.”

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The rewards to which politicians can look forward, however, are—what else?—political.  As President Obama’s former White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, once said: “You never want to let a good crisis go to waste.” A crisis, Emmanuel explained, permits politicians opportunities to do things—i.e. grow government—that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Crises exist to be exploited, and the greater the crisis, the greater the opportunities for political exploitation. This is why politicians have an invested interest in seeing to it that every troubling situation be spun so as to sound like the end times: the greater the disaster the greater the need for a Messiah—the greater the need for ever larger government.

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None of this, of course, is to deny that Sandy will have done its share of damage.  And none of it is meant to deny that those whose lives were impacted by it are deserving of our prayers and support.  But all natural disasters, from thunder and lightning storms to snow storms and blizzards, are damaging. 

The forgoing points stand.

originally published at The New American

 

 

 

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Hurricane Sandy and Our Sexism

posted by Jack Kerwick

As I write this from my New Jersey residence, on the eve of the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, one thing is crystal clear to me: our culture remains sexist to the bone.  What is worse, its sexism is of a particularly invidious variety, i.e. the misogynistic type. 

Universally, the reaction to Sandy has been one of unmitigated fear, the same fear with which we would respond to word of an invasion of the inhabitants of another planet.  Invariably, this exhibition of raw nature has been characterized in adversarial terms, a threat to our way of life from which we need protection.

This, though, is what we should expect from an incorrigibly patriarchal civilization. You see, the terms in which Western Man has described nature are the same terms that he has reserved for his vision of Woman. Anyone who doubts this claim should consider that, for millennia to the present day, the dominant image of nature is unmistakably feminine in character (e.g. “Mother Nature”).

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This is no accident.

The idea of nature as something that is distinct from and antagonistic toward “civilization” is inseparable from the idea of woman as something distinct from and antagonistic toward man.  In turn, these ideas inform another, namely, the idea that, respectively, nature and women need to be tamed.

The western world within which we live is as logocentric (literally, reason-centered) as it is sexist. Its values reflect the prejudices and biases of the men—the white men—who spawned it.  Had Western Man’s obsession with rationality not blinded him to the fact that his scheme of values is as parochial a phenomenon as the dialect with which he speaks, perhaps there would have been no harm done.  But as is the case with all forms of zealotry, Western Man’s preoccupation with rational inquiry rendered him oblivious to the very possibility that the world just might consist of people who weren’t interested in taking up his cause. 

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As a result, through his philosophy and religion, Western Man universalized his values.  Yet this in turn resulted in his carving up reality—or his vision of reality—into a series of dualisms, binary oppositions in which everything that he associated with himself is privileged above those attributes that he associated with women.  Indissolubly conjoined with his man/woman dualism are the dualisms of civilization/nature, reason/emotion, mind/matter, good/evil, etc.

As ecofeminist Marti Kreel observes, Western patriarchy has viewed nature and women as things to be either broken or exploited.  

The first image is that of “the beast,” the “symbol for all that is not human,” “evil, irrational, and wild.” The Beast is that which must be conquered and/or destroyed if civilization is to prevail.

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The second image, which Kreel traces back to Plato and Aristotle, is that of mindless matter. Mindless matter is not so much irrational as “nonrational,” not so much a thing to be conquered and eliminated as much as a that “which exists to serve the needs of superior, rational ‘Man.’”

The first image promotes violence against nature, women, and every other “Other” that Western Man defines against himself.  The second, while promoting violence “in its own way,” is more subtle.

As Kreel explains, Aristotle, with whom she associates the latter, thought that there is “a natural hierarchical ordering to the world, within which each being moved toward fulfillment of its own particular end.” This is significant, for “rational contemplation” is the highest and best end to which any being can aspire, but only “Man” was capable of doing so.  This means that “the rest of nature” is “conveniently ordered to free ‘Man’ to attain this contemplative goal.”

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It isn’t just ancient Greek philosophy that perpetuates the objectification and subjugation of both nature and women.  Christianity—Western Man’s dominant religious tradition for the last two centuries—is just as guilty.  Kreel writes that the “Jewish-Christian tradition has also contributed to an instrumental and hierarchical conception of nature” through its insistence that at creation, God gave “‘Man’” dominion” over all living things.

Our reaction to Hurricane Sandy shows just how environmentally insensitive, and sexist, Western Man—and, tragically, Woman—remains.  But perhaps we can use this opportunity to defeat our bigoted fears and view Sandy, not as a beast to be slewed or a force to be mastered, but as part and parcel of the same nature of which we are parts.  Perhaps we can recognize that, ultimately,Sandy is us and we are her. 

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And while we are at it, maybe—just maybe—we can finally begin to alter the misogynistic intellectual landscape—the ecology of erroneous and hostile assumptions—that accounts for the systematic oppression to which women continue to be relentlessly subjected.

Neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama will dare to speak to the inextricable connection between the mistreatment of nature and the mistreatment of women. But if they did—if they even recognized it—they would realize that, philosophically, there is no difference in the motivation that leads us to reject Sandy as a “monster” and that which leads us to pay women 72 cents of every dollar paid to men.   

One final point: if you haven’t yet realized that I don’t believe a word that is written in this article, then you haven’t read anything that I have ever written in the past.  I just thought that everyone could stand to benefit from a little levity as Frankenstorm is about to crash into the Northeast. 

 

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The Age of Obama and the Racism Industrial Complex (RIC)

posted by Jack Kerwick

Sarah Palin is under fire.

Early Wednesday morning, in reference to the murderous September 11th attacks on an American embassy in Libya, Palin remarked that “President Obama’s shuck and jive shtick with these Benghazi lies must end.”

All too predictably, the usual suspects have accused the 2008 vice presidential candidate and former Alaskan governor of racial insensitivity. 

Never mind that Palin quickly responded that “I would have used the exact same expression if I had been writing about President Carter, whose foreign policy rivaled Obama’s in its ineptitude, or about the Nixon administration, which was also famously rocked by a cover-up.” 

And never mind that she noted that “I’ve been known to use the phrase most often when chastising my daughter Piper to stop procrastinating and do her homework.”

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Because the expression “shuck and jive” has historically been associated with the attempt of blacks to “deceive racist Euro-Americans in power,” according to Urban Dictionary, Palin is not so subtly being charged by her opponents with peddling racism.

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone.  Palin is not the first person who Barack Obama and his surrogates have branded with “the R word,” and she most certainly will not be the last.  As long as there remain whites who regard the label with all of the dread with which a vampire views a cross, there will always be those who will hang it over their heads like an axe. 

But there is more to it than this.

Of all of the industries to which our country has been home over the last 50 to 60 years, there is one that has flourished to at least as great an extent as any other.  This is what we may call the Racism-Industrial-Complex (RIC).  The influence of the RIC is felt in virtually every precipice of American life, for RIC agents have been busy at work to insure a couple of things. 

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First, they are preoccupied—obsessed, really—with making sure that white racism—and it is always white racism—is treated by all Americans as the single greatest threat to world peace. 

Second, RIC agents are equally consumed with making sure that Americans believe, or at least act as if they believe, that white racism poses as potent a threat today as it ever did in the past.  

The benefits to be reaped by promulgating these ideas can’t be overestimated. 

Those who comply with RIC diminish their odds of being branded with the allegation of racism.  In a day and age when, thanks precisely to the labors of RIC agents, just the suggestion that one is a racist can effortlessly destroy livelihoods and reputations, this is no slight reward.  Monetarily, professionally, and even psychically, RIC agents, on the other hand, achieve far more.

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That the sky’s the limit for a RIC agent was witnessed by the entire planet on the evening that Barack Hussein Obama was elected as America’s 44th president. 

The Racism-Industrial-Complex has almost single-handedly created the world that we inhabit, a world in which whites’ dread of being charged with racism coexists with their genuine hope that interracial conflict will soon go the way of the dinosaur.  RIC agents generally—and Obama particularly—know this.  And four years ago, they exploited it by convincing whites that if only they would elect the country’s first black president, their fears would be vanquished and their hopes fulfilled.

Obama would redeem America of her blemished past and a new, post-racial era would be inaugurated.

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Of course, this was a lie, but it was one that many whites wanted desperately to believe.

RIC agents crave power, but, in this case, their quest may have come at too great of a cost.  Being that he is one of their own, they wanted to see Obama elected so that he could advance their agenda more aggressively and robustly than it had ever been advanced before.  However, that he is now the first black president means that a great deal of their industry’s lifeblood—the notion that America remains a bastion of white racism—has been sucked out of it.

But RIC will not die without a fight.  This explains why its agents will continue to find white racism under every nook and cranny.  It explains why they are now jumping all over Sarah Palin.

And it explains why, if Obama loses his bid for reelection, we will be hearing nothing but cries of racism ad infinitum.

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