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At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Romney or Obama: A Choice Between Two Evils?

posted by Jack Kerwick

Many of my fellow Paul supporters insist that in this year’s presidential election, under no circumstances will they vote for either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.  Even if one of these two candidates can rightly be judged the lesser of two evils, an evil is still an evil.

And one must never will an object that conscience has declared to be an evil.

The great Christian thinker Thomas Aquinas agreed.  However, he was quick to make two observations.

First, conscience, because it is nothing else than a species of reason, does indeed go wrong.  Just because my conscience declares this or that to be a good or an evil doesn’t make it so: each object of the will is good or bad independently of what we happen to think of it.

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Secondly, one’s ignorance of the moral significance of an object may or may not be pardonable.  For instance, ignorance of right and wrong—the natural law, Aquinas would say—fails as miserably as a justification for evil doing as ignorance of the law fails as a justification in court for unlawfulness.

There are just some things of which we must be aware.

In light of this highly attenuated account of Aquinas’ ethical analysis, it is safe to say that while my fellow Paul supporters are correct in their judgment that conscience forbids us from deliberately choosing evil, it is their application of this principle to the presidential election that demands further examination.

Liberty is a good.  Paul supporters recognize this.  But what is liberty? Liberty consists in a decentralization of authority and a diffusion of power.  Paul supporters know this also.  They know that the more centralized a government, the less free are its citizens.  In desiring liberty above all, every Paul supporter seeks, then, a decentralized government.

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Sadly, it has been quite some time—arguably a century-and-a-half—since Americahas had anything even remotely approximating a federal government of the scope and size delineated by our Constitution.  So, Paul supporters know—or at least should know—that if such a lost governmental structure is ever to be restored, it is not going to happen over the next four to eight years—regardless of whether our President over this time is named Obama, Romney, or Paul. 

We must judge matters from where we are at.  In other words, ignorance of our reality—ignorance of the immensity of our national government, say, and ignorance of the sheer powerlessness of any one person or even group of persons to scale it back to so much as a shadow of its counterpart from the eighteenth century—is inexcusable.  To make a decision regarding something as momentous as the future of our country on the basis of this sort of ignorance—even if it accords with one’s conscience—is to condemn oneself.

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You should know better. 

From the standpoint of liberty, I agree that Paul is a better choice than Romney.  As I have already indicated, though, this is not because Paul would necessarily be able to do all that much more than Romney would be able to do in the way of freeing up the American citizen.  But he would at least be willing to do more than Romney.  And, at this stage in our national life, this makes him a better choice. 

Paul, however, is no longer an option.  Still, the same reasoning that drives the liberty lover to choose Paul over Romney should drive him to prefer Romney to Obama: though Romney is not going to be able to dramatically reduce, or reduce at all, the size of government, he is resolved to prevent it from growing to the size that Obama desires.

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There are a number of policies that Romney advocates that are less inimical to liberty than are those advanced by Obama.  The latter—like Obamacare, for example—Romney promises to repeal.  Will Romney follow through?  No one–maybe even Romney himself–can know for sure.  But even if he doesn’t, that he has pledged to reduce the scope of the federal government while Obama has pledged to expand it yet further should be enough to bring the lover of liberty around to his side.

Think of it this way: if your loved one, your child say, had a terminal illness and there was the slightest—just the slightest—chance that he could be either saved or maybe even kept alive longer in the hope that, in the meantime, a cure may be discovered, would you not jump at the chance to stop the Grim Reaper from claiming him then and there? 

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Our country is our loved one, and it is sick.  It is very sick.  We should attend to it with all of the care and concern, all of the sobriety, with which we would attend to our children.

But, the Paul supporter will object, even if Romney is the lesser of two evils, the lesser of two evils is still an evil, and it is always wrong to choose an evil!

To meet this objection, we should again turn to Aquinas.

Aquinas articulated what has since been recognized by theologians and ethicists as the doctrine of “double effect.”  The doctrine asserts that since moral worth hinges primarily upon an agent’s intention, it is permissible for a person to will a course of action that he foresees will have bad consequences if the consequences are unintended and the action is necessary in order to prevent a greater evil. 

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For example, suicide is always immoral.  Even if a person is terminally ill, it is not permissible for him to intend his own death.  But suppose a terminally ill person seeks not to end his life, but to administer to himself dosages of morphine sufficient to relieve his pain but equally sufficient to end his life.  This would be permissible, for though death is a foreseeable consequence of his action, it is not an intended one.  It is an unintended side effect of a non-suicidal act: an act intended to relieve pain—not end life.  

It is indeed always and everywhere unacceptable to willingly choose what one thinks is evil.  Yet even if one is convinced that Romney is the lesser of two evils, in voting for him, one need no more be guilty of choosing an evil than a terminally ill person who consumes a lethal dosage of morphine to relieve pain can be said to be guilty of having chosen evil.  A liberty lover needn’t be any more attracted to any of Romney’s policies in order to vote for the Republican nominee than need the prospect of a fatal drug overdose appeal to the terminal patient in search of pain relief, or chemotherapy appeal to a cancer patient.

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The liberty lover simply (yet reasonably) needs to believe that the only way to achieve some measure—any measure—of relief for his country from Obama’s liberty-eroding agenda to “fundamentally transform” it is to vote our 44th president out of office.

However, the only way to do this is to vote for Mitt Romney.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How Political Talk Threatens Liberty

posted by Jack Kerwick

American political talk has always revolved around the concept of “liberty” or “freedom.”  This remains the case.  However, what often goes unnoticed, at least by the more vocal champions of liberty, is that much of this talk militates decisively against liberty.

Our founding fathers, recognizing that liberty requires as wide a dispersion of power and authority as possible, bequeathed to their posterity a government that is self-divided.  In spite of the singularity of the term, the American “government” actually consists of many governments, each sovereign in its own specifically delineated arena. Even the federal government is comprised of multiple branches, and within these branches, authority and power is further distributed.  As the founders conceived it, the federal government—precisely because it was a federal, and not a national, government—was severely limited in its scope.

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Although we still talk the talk of liberty, our vocabulary reveals that we have long since stopped walking the walk.

For example, we insist on crediting politicians when they “lead,” and blaming them when they fail to do so.  But this concept of leadership in politics is inimical to liberty.  The last thing that a liberty-loving people should want is a political leader.  Indeed, a champion of liberty who elects a leader is a contradiction in terms: the lover of liberty is not about to “follow” any politician anywhere. 

Although our elected representatives are custodians of our laws, they are as much bound by them as is every other citizen.  We are a nation of laws, not of men, as we are fond of saying.  Law—as opposed to commands or orders—doesn’t tell us what to do.  It simply tells us how we must do whatever it is we ourselves decide upon doing.

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Law doesn’t lead.  It has no destination, no end or purpose.

The lover of liberty abhors the notion of a political leader.  He wants nothing more or less than for his representatives to govern or, what amounts to the same thing, to rule in accordance with constitutionally sound law.

Interestingly, right-leaning commentators seem to have a glimpse of this insight when they decry as condescending or even “racist” the idea of the black leader.  Why is it, they facetiously ask, that it is only blacks who allegedly need leaders?  What they appear to be getting at here is that blacks should be treated like every other American as self-governing agents.        

Another word that I would like to see go the way of the dinosaur is “capitalism.”  This is a term that was originally coined by communists in the nineteenth century.  What it suggests—and what it was meant to suggest—is that societies differ from one another principally in terms of their economic systems or ideologies.

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In reality, however, what is derisively referred to as “capitalism” is neither an economic system nor an ideology of economics.  It isn’t a system or an ideology of any sort.  “Capitalism” is what happens when people are free.  That is, it is what occurs when political authority is decentralized and power diffused. 

Terms like “free enterprise system” and “economic liberty” are better than capitalism.  But they too fail to do justice to the liberty that we at one time prized.

As for the former,America is not an enterprise at all.  An enterprise is defined by its goal, some satisfaction that it wishes to achieve.  A business, for instance, is as clear an illustration of an enterprise as any, for the primary goal of a business is to procure the goal of profit.  In a business, there are leaders—CEO’s, say—who everyone in its employment are expected to follow.

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“Economic liberty” is a misnomer insofar as it too implies that there is some kind of liberty that is distinct from other kinds.  In other words, it obscures the fact that the liberty to trade material goods is part and parcel of the very same liberty of people to do whatever they want to do so long as their activities conform to law.

There is no “economic liberty.”  There is only liberty.

Americans from across the political spectrum have a penchant for lamenting “divisiveness” and longing for “unity.”  In some contexts, this is appropriate.  Yet the context of the political arrangements of a liberty-loving people isn’t one of them. 

Our liberty depends upon a divided government. It can thrive only if there is divisiveness—lots of divisiveness.  Indeed, if people are at liberty to formulate their own beliefs and pursue their own ends, how can there not be conflict?  How can there be unity in such an environment?

The words we use are crucial. They are the terms in which we think.

If we wish to think clearly about liberty, then we need to recognize and rid ourselves of those words that promise to impede this task.      

originally published at World Net Daily

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The Denver Debate: A Second Look

posted by Jack Kerwick

The first presidential debate of 2012 is now behind us.

And Republican challenger Mitt Romney won it handily. 

No one challenges this verdict.  Even President Obama’s most ardent supporters concede it by way of the truly laughable excuses to which they’ve resorted in accounting for the decisive drubbing that their candidate received.

But while the conventional wisdom concerning the victor is sound enough, the conventional wisdom concerning the debate’s loser is not so much.

Obama, we are told, was “off his game.”  From Denver’s altitude to personal family issues, every conceivable rationale has been offered by the President’s admirers to explain how or why he was “off his game.” 

No explanation is necessary, however, because there is nothing to explain: Obama was not off his game. 

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The Obama who arrived for his showdown with Romney is the same Obama that we have been seeing for the last four to five years, the Obama who clashed with and defeated John McCain in 2008.  He was cool and collected.  He spoke reasonably well.  He smirked and didn’t spare the occasion to look down his nose at his rival a time or two.  He threw out the same sound bites to which the country has had the great misfortune of being subjected for what now seems like an eternity.

Things like the widely accepted notion that Obama’s heart didn’t join the rest of his body in Denver are what happen when illusion and reality clash.

The illusion is what we may call “the Messianic syndrome” (TMS).  Obama suffers from TMS, it is true, but so do his supporters. 

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Jesus’ closest disciples came to recognize Him as the Messiah before He was arrested, tried, and crucified.  Yet upon witnessing His Passion, they lost faith.  From the debris of their shattered messianic expectations doubt and even despair took flight.  It took the Resurrection to resurrect their belief in Jesus’ true identity.

Obama’s disciples have also had messianic expectations for their leader to fulfill.  In part this is because Obama himself has done everything to give rise to those expectations. Yet it is also partially owing to the fact that his followers—particularly his followers in the media—have been just as diligent in creating those expectations as has Obama himself.

The problem, though, is that Obama and his accomplices in the media have been laboring away at this enterprise for so long that they have actually come to believe their own hype.  Obama, they are convinced, truly is the Messiah.  Because of this, he deserves to be recognized as such by everyone—including his opponents.

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Messiahs are supposed to be bottomless fonts of wisdom and virtue.  Messiahs are supposed to be more intelligent than everyone and anyone else.  Messiahs are expected to prevail over all countervailing forces.

And this is all because Messiahs are expected to redeem those to whom they have been sent.

Just as Jesus’ disciples were paralyzed with shock when they saw their Messiah crucified, so too are Obama’s followers still reeling in shock from the sight of the verbal crucifixion that their messiah suffered courtesy of Mitt Romney.

Of course, because Jesus really was the Messiah, His glorious Resurrection was more than enough to vindicate the faith that His disciples had placed in Him.  The reality, as opposed to the illusion, is that Obama, on the other hand, is no kind of messiah at all.  Thus, rather than accept this, he and his followers have no option but to avail themselves of any and every means—however preposterous—that enables them to evade reality.

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And the cold, merciless reality is that their candidate lost, and lost resoundingly, not because he was unprepared or disengaged.  He lost because, for at least the first time since he has been in the national limelight, Obama had to square off with a man who is in every respect his superior.

Whether measured in terms of intelligence, worldliness, articulation, or even physical appearance, Romney outshines Obama by miles. 

This is the ugly reality that Obama and his disciples can’t acknowledge. 

Still, reality is persistent.  It has a way of creeping into the consciousness.  Things are only going to get worse for the One and his followers. 

Obama will be more fired up during the next debate, for certain.  But it will be to no avail.  Romney can no more desist in overshadowing Obama than the Sistine Chapel can desist in eclipsing “piss Christ” as an artwork.

Illusions are beginning to give way to reality.

originally published at Townhall.com        

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Why the Obama Videos Matter

posted by Jack Kerwick

The Daily Caller just released a five-year old video featuring Barack Obama.  But it is at least as relevant today as it was when it was first made.

Actually, it is more relevant today.

In June of 2007, at Hampton University inVirginia, then Senator Obama delivered a speech to a group of black ministers—including his pastor of over two decades, the now notorious Jeremiah Wright.  This last is worth noting, for during his address, Obama sounded less like a politician and more like his old “spiritual mentor,” Reverend Wright.

Showcasing the one ability that so enamored him to Senator Harry Reid—his prowess at adopting a “Negro dialect” whenever the occasion called for it—Obama castigated America for neglecting the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  The federal government, he said, refused to be as generous with its resources in assisting New Orleans to rebuild as it had been in helping Manhattan in September of 2001 and those who had been harmed by Hurricane Andrew in Florida.

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The reason for this neglect, Obama confidently insinuates, is “racism.” 

“The people down in New Orleans they [the federal government] don’t care about as much!”

However, the black ministers in attendance at this conference needn’t lose any sleep, for Obama assures them that “black folks will survive.  We won’t forget where we came from.  We won’t forget what happened 19 months ago, or 15 years ago, or 300 years ago.”

First of all, Obama’s claims here are simply false: the federal government, along with the white majority of America that he implicitly, and not so implicitly, derides, were enormously generous toward the victims of Katrina. 

So, not only is Obama guilty of dishonesty.  He is equally guilty of acting with bad faith towards the country that he was then aspiring to preside over. 

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Secondly, and more importantly, this video is but another piece of evidence (not as though we needed any more) that Obama is and has always been a racial demagogue. 

In 2008, he styled himself as the one and only figure who could redeem America of her legacy of racial oppression and usher blacks, whites, and everyone else into a “post-racial” millennium.  Yet when Obama had the opportunity to do what he could to assuage the anger and distrust of a group of aggrieved black ministers, he refused to take it. 

Instead, he added fuel to the fire by confirming their hostility toward their fellow white Americans.

The reason why this video is arguably more relevant today than it was five years ago is that it sheds light upon what it is that motivates Obama the president.

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Blacks will not forget where they came from or what has happened to them.  They will not forget the cruel treatment to which the government of their country has subjected them—whether this occurred within the last few years or the last few centuries.  This is what Obama promises in his 2007 speech.

In other words, blacks will get theirs.  Things will be made right.

More specifically, if Obama is elected president, he will make things right.

Is it so implausible, especially within the light of this video and the last four years of Obama’s presidency, that it is this desire to make good on his promise to Wright and company that has been the single greatest force driving his policies?

After all, ostensibly for the purposes of helping “the poor”—among which blacks are disproportionately represented—Obama has seized a gargantuan federal government and grown it exponentially.  In doing so, he has spared no occasion to demonize “millionaires and billionaires”—the vast majority of whom are white.  This makes sense, for in order to give to the poor, the government must first take from the non-poor.

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What is called “class warfare,” though, has an unmistakably racial subtext.  At least in America this is the case.

There are other considerations.

Obama has had other opportunities to ameliorate racial strife.  However, he chose instead to either pass on them or exploit them for the sake of increasing interracial tensions.

When black Harvard professor Henry Gates had an altercation with white police officers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Obama sided with Gates—before he was privy to the facts of the situation, and before it became common knowledge that the police were in the right.

When the captain of a neighborhood watch group in Florida, George Zimmerman, shot and killed black teenager Trayvon Martin, Obama’s ignorance of the circumstances didn’t stop him from reinforcing the media-contrived narrative that Martin’s life was extinguished for no other reason than that of his race.

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When orgies of black-on-white violence—i.e. “flash mobs”—erupted in cities around the country over the last few years, Obama said nothing.  

In 2008, this video could have been used to forecast the future.  In 2012, it is even more valuable, for we can now rely upon it to make sense of the past—the past four years.

And while we are at it, maybe we can prevent four more years. 

              

 

 

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