At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

The Legend of “White Racism”

posted by Jack Kerwick

Human beings, regardless of time or place, share in common a perennial fascination with tales of enigmatic creatures, beings that, in spite of the numerous testimonials that have been offered on their behalf, remain questionable.  Sasquatch; the Lochness Monster; and the Abominable Snowman, are just some of these who immediately come to mind.  While some really believe in the existence of such entities, others are unsure, and still others just don’t care, there is a fourth class of people that never fails to crop up wherever tales of this sort prevail.  This class is composed of those who may be either indifferent to or even incredulous regarding such legends, but who, nevertheless—through sales of souvenirs, the production of documentaries, or what have you—stoke the flames of belief in order to turn a profit.

I suggest that to this list of mythic beings we add White Racism. 

Just a moment’s worth of sober reflection in no time reveals that there is more than sufficient warrant for treating White Racism of a piece with Bigfoot and the rest of similarly mythic beings.

Actually, there is a sense in which reports of Bigfoot sightings are more credible than similar reports of White Racism.  Bigfoot sightings from across time, though they tend to differ in degree as far as relatively trivial specifics are concerned—e.g. height, weight, etc.—nonetheless neatly coincide.  Reports of White Racism, on the other hand, diverge wildly from one another.  White Racism is the ugliest of creatures; upon this all who claim to have spotted it agree.  But beyond this, so varied are the accounts, it is impossible not to think that witnesses are talking about different things altogether.

White Racism is seen rearing his horrific head at a Ku Klux Klan meeting in the Deep Southof yesteryear as well as in the shop owner who keeps a suspicious eye on the group of rowdy black teenagers who wander the aisles of his store.  It is spotted in Adolph Hitler’s genocidal regime just as easily as in a Tea Party movement demonstration or a Republican Party convention.  In fact, even in the case of Hitler’s Nazism, for as awful as it was, it remains doubtful whether it is actually White Racism that we witness, for biologically or racially speaking, both the Nazis and their Jewish victims are indistinguishable: both are white.

The point is that if Bigfoot exists, we at least have some idea as to what we would see if we were to encounter him.  White Racism, on the other hand, is a far different matter.

By some accounts, White Racism sounds as if it may even be something like a god, for it is said to exist independently of individual whites.  When it is described as such, it is given the name “institutional racism.”  White Racism is at once pervasive and just as destructive as it has ever been, according to this perspective.  Indeed, it is much more destructive than it has been in the past.  White Racism is embedded in the very “structures” that constitute American society.  As such, it informs the worldview of the best intentioned, most magnanimous of whites. 

Those individual whites who voted against Barack Obama as well as those who voted for him; Obama’s grandmother, who feared being harassed and molested by a black panhandler who had already harassed and nearly molested her; those who call for an end to “affirmative action” and those who want to preserve it; those who suspect blacks of being inferior and those who think that they are superior; those who believe in a common “human nature” and those who reject it; those who demand race-neutral criteria of evaluation and those who repudiate such criteria; those white employers who provide opportunities to non-whites immigrants and those white citizens who want to diminish the flow of such immigration; Confederate soldiers and Union soldiers; Nazism, Fascism, and “the American Way”; Capitalism and Communism—White Racism allegedly appears in every instance.

There is another respect in which White Racism resembles other legendary figures like Nessie and Bigfoot.  Just as there is no shortage of would-be profiteers ready to cash in on the latter, so an entire industry has emerged to capitalize on the notion of White Racism.  The captains of this industry comprise a diverse lot, it is true: academics, media pundits, politicians, and racial (“civil rights”) activists receive the lion’s share of the spoils.  But it would be a mistake to think that they are the only beneficiaries of the Racism Industrial Complex (RIC).  It would be equally mistaken to suppose that the only benefits to be had are material in nature.

Legions of common folk, white, black, and other, gain also, but they gain much more in the way of psychic rewards than they could ever hope to gain monetarily.  Against all of the evidence that White Racism hasn’t any more substance than a phantom, the members of the various races, whatever their biological differences, ultimately rail against this mother of all monsters for the same reason: doing so elevates their own self-conceptions.

Like Roman Catholics who, in renewing their baptismal promises, unequivocally renounce Satan and all of his works, “the believers” in White Racism can’t resist the temptation to unequivocally renounce it, for doing so enables them to discern virtue in themselves.  This virtue is as much a phantom as the White Racism that fills their imaginations, of course.  It is virtue on the cheap, so to speak.  The “anti-White Racist” can no more be possessed of wisdom, justice, or courage for standing up to the unadulterated evil of White Racism than can the merchant who decides to set up shop selling souvenirs near a Bigfoot sighting be said to have such virtue.

Neither the committed “anti-White Racist” nor the merchant really believes in that of which he speaks. 

In my home state of New Jersey, we have our “Bigfoot.”  His name is “the Jersey Devil.”  The Jersey Devil is said to dwell in the Pine Barrens, thousands and thousands of acres of forestry.  Every year, just about, for several years, my late father, my brother, and I would venture out to the Pine Barrens for camping trips.  We are all born and bred in the city, mind you, three of the least “outdoorsy” guys you could ever meet.  Yet it was always fun to imagine that we were driving into the wilderness to live off of the land and combat all of the challenges that untamed nature would dare to throw our way—including and especially the abomination of the Jersey Devil. 

In reality, we spent the night on a campground with a heated bathroom and showers and a grocery story about a mile or two down the road.

And, obviously, we knew that there was no Jersey Devil.

Likewise, those who rally most ardently to defeat White Racism know, at least at some level, that there is no such thing.  They must know this.  Not only are they eons apart from reaching agreement as to what White Racism is; there is ample proof of the most virulent anti-white animus all around them and yet their silence is deafening.  Worse, the purveyors of the White Racism myth typically seek to deny or even excuse the shocking levels of hatred and violence to which blacks and Hispanics have regularly subjected whites.

If White Racism was really the ubiquitous evil that it is claimed to be, then presumably it is because “racism” is an evil; that it is whites who allegedly promote the “racism” should be neither here nor there.  That those who live and die by the ideology of White Racism, our “anti-White Racists,” those contractors of the Racism Industrial Complex, do not really believe in the windmills with which they do battle is effortlessly grasped once we consider that they care not a lick about combating real racial animus as long as the guilty are non-white and the innocent white.

No, White Racism is indeed the new Bigfoot.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.   

 

 

 

 

 

National Elections and “the Will of the People”

posted by Jack Kerwick

By now, no supporter of Ron Paul’s will find himself surprised by the glaring inconsistencies, outright distortions, and, frankly, boldfaced lies to which Republican-friendly media figures will descend in their efforts to marginalize his presidential candidacy.  Still, so unabashed is their illogic, so overt the dishonesty, it is nevertheless difficult not to be amazed, even mesmerized, by the audaciousness with which Paul’s critics subject him to one injustice after the other.  

For as ugly as it is, though, this phenomenon is not without its value.  That is, it supplies us with a classic textbook illustration of what many of us have always known: it is indeed politicians and their cohorts in the media, and not voters, who select candidates. 

Joseph A. Schumpeter was a conservative theorist who was also among the most distinguished and erudite of social scientists of the first half of the twentieth century.  In his Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, Schumpeter debunks what he characterizes as “the classical doctrine of democracy.”  According to this doctrine, it is “the people itself” that settle “issues through the election of individuals who are to assemble in order to carry out its will.”  In reality, though, “the will of the people is the product and not the motive power of the political process” (emphasis mine). 

The problem with this idealized notion of democracy—a notion, mind you, that continues to prevail today, over two centuries after it emerged—is that it ascribes to “the will of the individual an independence and a rational quality that are altogether unrealistic” (emphasis original).  Thomas Sowell, I believe it was, once said that ideology is fairy tales for adults.  Schumpeter would agree.  More specifically, inasmuch as the average democratic voter makes his decisions on the basis of largely “extra-rational and irrational” factors, he would say that the eighteenth century rationalist ideology of “Democracy” is among the grandest “fairy tales” that had ever been invented.

If the “classical doctrine of democracy” was sound, then “everyone would have to know definitely what he wants to stand for,” and this “definite will would have to be implemented by the ability to observe and interpret correctly the facts that are directly accessible to everyone and to sift critically the information about the facts that are not.”  Then, “according to the rules of logical inference,” the citizen should be able to draw “a clear and prompt conclusion as to particular issues” (emphasis original)[.]

This, though, is most certainly not how the average voter thinks. When it comes to politics, his will, far from being “determinate” and “rational,” is actually “an indeterminate bundle of vague impulses loosely playing about given slogans and mistaken impressions” thrust upon him by “pressure groups and propaganda[.]”  For the average voter, “mere assertion, often repeated” is much weightier than “rational argument” could ever hope to be.

It isn’t that the average voter is dumb.  He attends carefully to those matters with which he is intimately bound, those concerning his family, friends, work, current financial condition, church, neighborhood, and town.  When it comes to national politics, in fact, there are some issues that engage him personally.  But even then, voters not infrequently “prove themselves bad judges of their own long-run interests, for it is only the short-run promise that tells politically and only short-run rationality that asserts itself effectively.”

Schumpeter explains that the average voter easily falls prey to the manipulative machinations of politicians, journalists, and pundits because, at bottom, national affairs generally have an air of unreality for him.  “Normally, the great political questions take their place in the psychic economy of the typical citizen with those leisure hour interests that have not attained the rank of hobbies, and with the subjects of irresponsible conversation.”  Issues concerning the nation as a whole “seem so far off; they are not at all like a business proposition; dangers may not materialize at all and if they should they may not prove so very serious[.]”  In short, when it comes to national politics, the average voter “feels” like he is “moving in a fictitious world.”    

“The will” of “the people” of which politicians tirelessly proclaim themselves unqualified champions is, then, an “artifact.”  Along with the issues themselves, it is “manufactured” similarly to the ways in which the desires and wants of consumers are manufactured by “commercial advertising.”  As Schumpeter explains, in politics:

“We find the same attempts to contact the subconscious.  We find the same technique of creating favorable and unfavorable associations which are the more effective the less rational they are.  We find the same evasions and reticences [sic] and the same trick of producing opinion by reiterated assertion that is successful precisely to the extent to which it avoids rational argument and the danger of awakening the critical faculties of the people.”

Schumpeter’s argument resonates more readily with our imagistic generation than it did in 1942 when he first composed it.  While thinking about our national politics generally, and the media coverage of Ron Paul’s candidacy in particular, we would be well served to call it to mind.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published at The New American 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Values Voters and Ron Paul

posted by Jack Kerwick

Ron Paul just scored another victory in his campaign for the presidency. 

Just last year, the Texascongressman barely even registered in the Values Voters Summit straw poll.  This year, however, with 37% of the vote, he didn’t just walk away with it; he left second place contestant Herman Cain in the dust. With 23% of voters backing the latter, Paul beat Cain by a full fourteen percentage points. 

Long time self-avowed “social conservative” Senator Rick Santorum came in at third place with 16%. 

This is as ironic a twist of events as it must be exasperating for Santorum: it is Santorum, most definitely not Paul, who is supposed to be “the values voters’” candidate.  In fact, to hear the former Pennsylvania senator tell it—and he spares no occasion to tell it—“values voters” are his main body of support.  If the media was as interested in marginalizing Santorum as they are interested in doing the same to Paul, “values voters” would be known simply as “Santorum people.”  Yet Paul not only defeated Santorum among the latter’s “people”; he defeated him by a vast margin.

Even as I write this, already the masters of GOP spin are laboring inexhaustibly to reduce the significance of Paul’s achievement.  It isn’t, though, that they are diligently in search of ever more ingenious ways by which they can explain away Paul’s viability.  There are no ingenious explanations in the coming to this effect.  Moreover, there aren’t even many disingenuous explanations.  Rather, there are essentially two strategies of which Paul’s detractors continually avail themselves to dismiss him: either his latest accomplishment, whatever it may be, is ultimately of no importance, they tell us, or else it is attributable solely to his fellow cultists, those peculiar “Paul people.”  Yet in spite of the staleness of this script, Republican Party apologists are reciting it on cue this weekend as they try once again to diminish Paul.

Their protestations to the contrary aside, though Paul’s showing in this most recent poll promises to neither break nor make his campaign, it is anything but insignificant.

To reiterate, Paul has never been known for his success at attracting the vote of the so-called “values voter.”  There can be no question that neither Paul’s competitors, like Santorum, nor those GOP pundits, like Bill Bennett, who have long regarded themselves as voices of “social conservatism,” expected for Paul to have done well in this most recent straw poll, much less come in first place.  If this straw poll is any indication of a new trend—and you can rest assured that it would most certainly be unanimously regarded as such by the “conservative media” if it was any other candidate but Paul under discussion—then we can only conclude that “values voters” are now “Paul people!”

This brings me to the second consideration.

As everyone now knows, Herman Cain won the Florida Straw Poll a few weeks back.  Prior to this one achievement, though, his single digit poll numbers prevented Cain from receiving much media coverage.  Since then, however, a GOP-friendly media all too eager to catapult a black candidate into the stratosphere has exploited Cain’s success in Florida to just that end.  Now, he comes in second place in the Values Voters Summit poll behind Paul and this event the same media figures appropriate to fuel the momentum that they created for Cain initially. 

Paul, in stark contrast, from the outset of the presidential primaries, has been doing appreciably better than Cain and, for that matter, every other candidate except for the two media selected front runners—in spite of being ignored and dismissed by those entrusted with the task of providing honest coverage of events.  And now, the one GOP constituency that was supposed to lie far beyond Paul’s grasp, the “values voters,” has swung solidly behind him. 

Paul must regularly contend with a hostile, indeed, an unjust, “conservative media.”  And yet he still maintains a roughly third place showing in the polls.  Granted, now he is slightly behind Cain, whose poll numbers have “soared” sinceFlorida.  But, again, the latter’s poll numbers have “soared” precisely because his supporters in “conservative media” continually tell us about his “soaring” poll numbers.  For Paul, they reserve unqualified contempt, but still, the good doctor’s standing remains the envy of most of his rivals.

Finally, that Paul appealed to the majority of “values voters” participating in their “summit’s” straw poll just might be due the growing recognition that his ideas are not only constitutional; they are as well Christian.  The importance of this insight can’t be overstated. 

The Santorums and Bennetts of our generation have long promoted the idea that the federal government must be enlisted in the service of “Judeo-Christian” morality.  They may very well believe this.  However, in appealing to “values voters”—the vast majority of whom are Christians—Paul invites his supporters to revisit a feature of their tradition, an idea rooted in the teaching of Christ to which the rise of the dominance of our federal government and the utopian politics with which this has been coupled has all but blinded them.        

This is the idea that the realms of politics and religion—“Caesar” and God, “the City of Man” and “the City of God,” as Augustine put it—though they may and often do overlap, are nevertheless mutually distinct.  Those who would conflate the two aren’t just fools; they are blasphemers.  With those few simple words—“Give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”—Jesus opened an unbridgeable chasm between Christianity, on the one hand, and utopian politics, on the other.  Indeed, from the apostle Paul to Augustine and throughout even the medieval period, for the duration of their pre-modern history, Christians knew this well.  However, the emergence of centralized governments and the unprecedented power over which they acquired a monopoly forced this old Christian concept to the periphery. 

Perhaps Paul’s victory at the Values Voters Summit signals its resurrection.     

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published at The New American

 

Tea Partiers, Republicans, and Ron Paul

posted by Jack Kerwick

Within the last few years, a phenomenon emerged to become among the most formidable forces in contemporary American politics.  It goes by the name of “the Tea Party movement.” 

Supposedly, the Tea Party movement is not affiliated with either of our two national political parties.  Rather, it is composed of millions of ordinary Americans who, jealous as they are of the liberties bequeathed to them by their progeny, find intolerable the gargantuan proportions to which the federal government has grown. 

This, at any rate, is the conventional account of the genesis and character of the Tea Party movement. 

I once endorsed it.  Sadly, I no longer can.

It is my considered judgment—a judgment, mind you, from which I derive not the slightest satisfaction—that the Tea Party movement, like the so-called “conservative media” of Fox News and talk radio, has become, if it hasn’t always been, an organ of the GOP.

Those who would convict me of treating the Tea Party movement unfairly on this score shouldn’t be so hasty. 

Contrary to the assertions of their leftist critics, that the glaring profligacy of George W. Bush and his Republican dominated congress failed to give rise to the Tea Party most certainly is not the function of a lack of sincerity on its members’ part.  Still less can this be attributable to some racial animus that the latter have toward the current occupant of the White House.  As far as broadening the scope of the federal government is concerned, it is true that Barack H. Obama exploited the trends initiated by his predecessors, both Democrat and Republican alike; yet, understandably enough, both the rapidity and the aggressiveness with which he sought to strengthen this Colossus provoked the backlash that is the Tea Party movement. 

The Republicans spared no occasion, and no expense, to feed Leviathan—and yet the Tea Party never came.  But it is a mistake to think that this is what warrants concerns regarding Tea Partiers’ declaration of neutrality vis-à-vis political parties.  The suspicion that the Tea Party movement is essentially an arm of the Republican Party is not rooted in what it may or may not have done in the past; the suspicion is fueled by what self-identified Tea Partiers are doing right now. 

It hasn’t been uncommon to hear Republicans, whether politicians or “conservative” media personalities, wax repentant over having “lost their way” during the years that the vast apparatus of power was at their disposal.  In reality, though, the only thing for which the Republicans are sorrowful is that they lost the dominant position that they once held.  This, at least, is by far the most reasonable conclusion that we can draw, for genuine repentance demands that the penitent come to terms with his specific sins.  This Republicans have singularly failed to do. 

And yet, Tea Partiers continue to give them a pass.

Anyone who doubts this need only consider the GOP’s presidential primary contest.

If Tea Partiers really are concerned about affecting a dramatic reduction in the size and scope of the federal government; if they really want to deprive the government of much of its sustenance—i.e. “spending”; and if they really want to restore the Constitutional Republic to which our Founders gave birth and, thus, the liberty that this entails, then it should be obvious to all with eyes to see behind which of the candidates they should be throwing their unqualified support.

That candidate, of course, is Congressman Ron Paul.

In fact, truth be told, if it is the substance of a candidate’s ideas and his or her determination to realize them to which they ascribe importance, there isn’t a single other contestant in this race at whom Tea Partiers should glance twice.

My sympathies lie with Dr. Paul, of course, but it would be a grave mistake for his detractors to dismiss my verdict simply as a function of those sympathies.  There are some very good reasons—i.e. considerations that, whether they ultimately embrace them or not, reasonable people must concede are legitimate—for the judgment that, by the professed standards of the Tea Partiers, Dr. Paul is their candidate par excellence.

As of this juncture, it seems that there exists a chasm of considerable depth between, on the one hand, Tea Partiers’ rhetoric of “limited government,” “lower taxes,” and “less spending” and, on the other, their resolute failure to specify so much as a single program from the Bush era that they wish to revoke.  In this respect alone they are indistinguishable from the Republicans who they support.

This brings us to our second premise: to judge from the presidential primaries, one could be forgiven for thinking that Republicans haven’t changed their spots at all.  True, thanks to the tireless labors of Dr. Paul, some Republicans, like Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, now recognize the need to make the occasional derogatory reference to the Federal Reserve; but outside of that, none of the candidates sound any differently now than the GOP presidential candidates of 2008. 

Ron Paul, however, is an entirely different matter.

The doubling of the national debt; No Child Left Behind; Faith-Based Initiatives; the Home Ownership Society with the sub-prime mortgages that it required (and the economic collapse to which it critically contributed); endless war in Iraq and Afghanistan and, in principle, the entire Islamic world; a prescription drug benefit that is unprecedented in its scope and cost; federal funding of embryonic stem cell research; the ominously named “Patriot Act”; bailouts; and TARP; these are just some of the measures that Bush 43 and his fellow Republicans appropriated to consolidate the federal government’s power and authority over our lives to an extent that hasn’t been seen since Lyndon Banes Johnson’s Great Society. 

Yet, besides Ron Paul, no other candidate has even hinted at regret over any of this.

Some candidates certainly sound better than others, but unless Tea Partiers are being dishonest about their desires to “shrink” government, they must be naively trusting to accept at face value these Republicans’ words in light of their records.  Just a few words about each should suffice to substantiate this point.

Take, first, the two “frontrunners,” Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.  The former was a lifelong Democrat and supporter of Al Gore up until the end of the Reagan decade, while the latter was the governor of the most heavily Democratic state in theUnionand long-time ally of Ted Kennedy.

Now, that a person’s intellectual horizons should expand is something at once possible and desirable.  It is certainly anything but a strike against Perry and Romney that they should have changed their minds throughout through out their lives.  But it is neither the quantity nor the quality of the changes in perspective that renders both men suspect; it is, rather, the timing of their political conversions that calls into question their sincerity:  both “frontrunners’ seem to have changed their views at just those moments when it was to the advantage of their political careers to do so.

More specifically, Perry not only attempted to compel underage girls to receive a vaccination (whether it would have adversely or beneficially impacted them physically, is neither here nor there), he attempted to do so by way of circumventing the legislative branch, through an executive order.  Furthermore, by granting in-state tuition to illegal aliens, he extended to them what in effect amounts to a de facto amnesty.  To add insult to injury, as recently as a few weeks ago during the last GOP primary debate, he stood by his decision, and all but accused his critics of being heartless “racists.”  If ever we needed proof that Bush’s “Compassionate Conservatism” is back, and back with a vengeance, this is it.

As for Romney, he is credited by no less a figure than Obama himself as being the inspiration for the dreadful Obamacare.  Before there was Obamacare, there was Romneycare in Massachusetts.  That’s right, along with Perry (and, for that matter, Obama), Romney too has a penchant for deploying the power with which he has been entrusted in the service of coercing those over whom he presides into pursuing ends that he has chosen for them.  In the hardback edition of his book, No Excuses, Romney even expressed his enthusiasm over the prospect of implementing a national version of his state plan (When, however, the paperback edition was released, he omitted this detail). 

The second (and third, fourth, and fifth?) tier candidates aren’t significantly better. 

Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are long-time establishment Republicans.  If the Republican establishment that Americans overwhelmingly rejected in 2006 and 2008 could be said to have a face, it would be a composite of the faces of Gingrich and Santorum.  From these two we heard not a peep during the last decade about excessive government spending, the dangers of the Federal Reserve, the impending housing bubble burst and consequent economic collapse, or any other threats to liberty and prosperity that Republican rule posed to the country. 

Michele Bachmann is much more impressive than her contenders, but she did vote for $192 billion dollars in “anti-recession” stimulus, while Herman Cain ecstatically endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008, indicated not the slightest awareness as late as 2006 of the looming economic crisis, and, even now, urges, never the elimination or drastic reduction of any agency or even program, but their reform.  As for Jon Huntsman…well, he is Jon Huntsman, a former servant in the Obama administration.  This is about all that we need to know about him.

There is something else that we must never forget: every one of the forgoing candidates supports Bush’s “Freedom Agenda,” an agenda that demands for its actualization an ever expansive military and, thus, increases in government spending.

This brings us back around to our original point.  That Tea Partiers would be in the least bit conflicted as to which of the Republican candidates they should endorse would alone suffice to confirm my suspicion that they are the same old Republicans repackaged under a new label.  That they would think to chime right in there with Rick Santorum and other establishment backers in mocking, ridiculing, and booing Ron Paul all but assigns this suspicion an axiomatic status.

Ron Paul is the only single Republican presidential candidate who has a lifetime of unwavering service to precisely those ideals for which Tea Partiers claim to stand.  He should be the sole Tea Party candidate.  That he isn’t only shows that the Tea Party is an organ of the GOP.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published in The New American 

 

 

 

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