At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

How We Can Fight the Evil of Crime

posted by Jack Kerwick

The United States of America is “a nation of laws,” as we say.  That being so, it follows that no one poses a greater threat to us than the criminals who live among us, for by definition, criminals are resolved to undermine the law.  And since, unlike the slave who lives by directives, commands, and orders, the free man is abides only by laws, a sustained assault against the law is an attack against the freedom of every person who enjoys it.

Considering this, it is indeed puzzling that such pundits on the establishment right as, say, Sean Hannity and Dennis Prager, “conservative” talk show hosts who never tire of reminding us of the need to combat the evil of “radical Islam,” should remain virtually silent when it comes to this far greater evil.  Maybe, however, this phenomenon isn’t as enigmatic as it appears, for speaking out against the evil of Islamic terrorism in contemporary America doesn’t require nearly as much courage as speaking out against the evil of crime.

For one thing, even though it is undeniably true that criminals come in all colors, the stone cold fact of the matter is that in America, overwhelmingly it is blacks and Hispanics who are the purveyors of crime.  To put it bluntly, it is impossible to discuss the issue of crime without speaking to its racial subtext.  Although “the War on Terror” has a racial subtext as well, as of this juncture, American pundits pay hardly a price at all for comments that are perceived as derogatory of Muslims; such, needless to say, is most certainly not the case when it comes to Hispanics, to say nothing of blacks.

But it isn’t just the fear of being charged with “racism” that I suspect accounts for the right wing pundit’s silence with respect to crime, for when we consider the variety of criminal organizations to which whites of various sorts have belonged, it becomes painfully clear that there is no shortage of the chronically evil among the Caucasoid race.  Perhaps the right wing enemy of evil simply fears for his physical well being.

Some may recall the shame that the New York City newspaper publications invited upon themselves some years ago upon the death of the infamous “dapper don,” John Gotti.  Gotti was a career criminal, a convicted murderer and the head of one of the most notorious mafia families in the country.  Yet in spite of all of this, and in spite of the fact that he died while serving a life sentence in prison, the papers paid him tribute.  While there were some right-leaning commentators who challenged them on this, with remarkably few exceptions (of whom former talk radio host, founder of The Guardian Angels, and one time Gotti victim, Curtis Sliwa, is the most notable), I don’t recollect any who were willing to call out Gotti for the thug that he was.  Could it be that they feared Gotti would have put out a “contract” on them?       

More recently, an Irish-American mobster from Boston named James “Whitey” Bulger was arrested in California after having been on the run for the last 15 years or so.  Bulger, too, was the lowest of low lives, from all accounts, a career criminal responsible for all manner of crime, from murder to extortion and everything in between.  Before he went on the lam, Bulger began cooperating with the FBI.  It appears now that corrupt agents within the Bureau had been aiding Bulger all along.  Surely, then, this is no small story and yet, to my knowledge, none of the usual fighters of evil have touched it.

All of us, whether we are in law enforcement or not, have an obligation to combat evil. The Islamic terrorist who deliberately targets for death innocent men, women, and children is evil, to be sure, but, this evil doesn’t pose as clear and present a danger to us as the evil of the Criminal.  With the exception of the darkness that lurks within our own hearts, in our campaign against wickedness it is the Criminal who should receive the lion’s share of our attention. 

For those of who aren’t in law enforcement, there is only so much that we can do. But the little that we can do may ultimately prove to be quite considerable.

Besides regularly observing the law, cooperating with law enforcement officers when necessary, and enthusiastically pledging our support for the toughest of penalties for the Criminal, we can also strive to inculcate in ourselves the utter contempt for him that he so richly deserves.  This in turn means that we must steadfastly refuse to so much as remotely endorse any and all attempts on the part of Hollywood and the media to romanticize him.  If nothing else, while enjoying, say, but another viewing of The Godfather, we must continually remind ourselves that while it is undoubtedly a fine piece of art, it is emphatically not an accurate depiction of mafia life.

Just as importantly, because language contributes in no small measure to shaping the world that we inhabit, the world that we perceive, we must set out to subvert the conventional vocabulary in terms of which the Criminal is characteristically described.  Words invoking manliness—“tough,” “bold,” “respect,” “honor,” etc.—have all too frequently been used in connection with the Criminal—even though his unwillingness and/or inability to order his life in accordance with the law without which a true man degenerates into something less than a real man should establish beyond a doubt that they have no place when it comes to him. 

For most of the history of what we now call Western civilization, a real man or a true man was recognized as being synonymous with the good man, the man of virtue.  A virtue is an excellence.  Of two eyes, only one of which has sight, we say that it alone is “the good eye,” for only an eye with sight is capable of doing that for the sake of which eyes exist to begin with: see.  An eye with perfect vision, as we say, is a “virtuous” eye, for it excels at fulfilling this purpose.  In contrast, an eye devoid of all sight, being a bad eye, is not really an eye at all; it is an eye in name only.  Similarly, an evil man is in reality something less than a real man. 

In order to be good men, real men (and, of course, good, true women) we must resolve to express this truth every chance we can. 

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

Why We Must Combat the Evil of Crime

posted by Jack Kerwick

In promoting the nation-building enterprises upon which President George W. Bush embarked the U.S. military, the most visible and loudest voices of the conventional right are forever reminding the rest of us of the need for interminable war against the dreaded “Islamo-Fascist.”  Anyone who doesn’t endorse the neoconservative vision of “the War on Terror,” or anyone, like President Obama, who doesn’t prosecute it with the neoconservative’s zeal, is deemed weak.  As neoconservative radio and television personality Sean Hannity typically says of his political opponents, they simply do not grasp “the nature of evil in our time.”

Let us note, firstly, that inasmuch as the Islamic terrorist deliberately targets for death innocent human beings—not just men, but women and children—the neoconservative is correct that such a creature is indeed evil.  Yet few people in the non-Islamic world, and doubtless not even all Muslims, fail to recognize this at least at some level of consciousness. And yes, the neoconservative is further correct that Islamic terrorism poses a threat to our way of life against which we must remain forever vigilant.

Ironically, though, because of his singular focus on—some would say obsession with—Islamic terrorism, and his relative silence with respect to the crime with which America is plagued, it is actually the neoconservative who fails to reckon with “the nature of evil in our time.”  This is no exaggeration, for America’s criminals pose a far greater threat to her than do Islamic terrorists.

There are a couple of reasons for this verdict.

First, a modern state is a legal association.  The members of a state—its associates—are citizens related to one another through the laws that constitute the association.  This, I believe, is what Americans mean when they describe their beloved country as “a nation of laws, not of men,” or when they say that “no one is above the law.” 

Since, then, as citizens we are held together by law, every instance of outlawry, every crime, is an assault against our association.  And because the Criminal is as much an associate as the rest of us, he imperils his fellow citizens to an extent the likes of which the Islamic terrorist can only dream.

The second argument for my thesis is really a variant of the first. Another respect in which criminals undercut the thread—the law—that makes us citizens and binds us together pertains to the power that they assume over their prey. 

The early modern philosopher Thomas Hobbes contrasted civil society—life under government—with what he called “the state of nature,” a pre-political condition from which government was absent.  In Hobbes’ vision, life in the state of nature is most unpleasant, a “war of all against all,” for in a state of nature there is no “common power” (authority) to which all individuals are bound, no law to which they can appeal in adjudicating their conflicts.  And because there is no settled law, there are no obligations: each individual has an absolute right to appropriate whatever means he deems fit for the sake of preserving his always precarious existence.

It is precisely because of life’s wretchedness in a state of nature that individuals agree to abandon it by creating government, an office of rule whose jurisdiction extends over all who consent to exchange their unconditional right to self-preservation for the peace that government’s establishment and enforcement of law promises to secure.

Now, there is much to quarrel with in Hobbes’ classic statement of the rise and justification of government, but it is not without more than its share of insights. The idea on which we should focus here is the idea that as long as individuals refuse to submit to one and the same system of law, as long as they remain determined to seek their own advancement regardless of the costs it imposes on others, they in effect repudiate the civil condition and, thus, reignite the war of all against all that characterized the state of nature. 

This is what the Criminal has done.  In throwing all constraints to the wind, he becomes the predator to the law abiding citizen’s prey. 

Indeed, this isn’t just a point of abstract theory. The Criminal has been exploiting and intimidating the law abiding for as long as he has existed. But when he joins himself to those who think as he does—when he becomes a mobster or a gangster—it is then that his power over others becomes truly invidious.  To the old familiar objection that mobsters, especially Mafiosi, only bother one another, two replies are in the coming. 

First, insofar as it those victims specifically targeted for attack of whom we are concerned, this statement is generally—but only generally—true.  For example, former head of the Gambino crime family, John Gotti, had a neighbor who accidentally killed Gotti’s twelve year-old son with his car.  The ever merciful Gotti had the poor man murdered. 

Second, momentarily putting to one side the main point of my argument—which is that every law abiding member of our legal association is the Criminal’s victim—we can turn to the bulk of the residents of the Criminal’s stomping grounds to see the immense power that he is able to wield over them.  After all, how many law abiding blacks and Hispanics in the ‘hoods and barrios of America have shown the will to cooperate with law enforcement officers in bringing the Bloods, the Crips, the Latino Kings, and other gang members to justice?  And the fear that black and brown criminals have inspired in the law abiding members of their communities white criminals have been inspiring in the law abiding members of theirs, whether it is in America’s “Little Italy’s” or anywhere else.

Neoconservative Republicans have been critical of “moderate Muslims” for their alleged failure to speak out against the evil of the Islamic terrorist.  Yet neither the neoconservatives nor, for all of that, most of us been outspoken when it comes to combating the evil of the Criminal right here at home.

In this article, I hoped to show why our domestic crime is the greatest evil with which we have to contend. In the next, I hope to show how each of us may do our best to combat it.             

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published at The New American

Alienation and Obama

posted by Jack Kerwick

Within no time of Barack Obama’s election to the presidency, his honeymoon was met with a backlash of epic proportions, an uprising against “Big Government” of which the newly created Tea Party was an emblem.  Many of Obama’s left-leaning supporters, both in Washington as well as in the media, identified this phenomenon as a “racist” reaction to the election of our “first black president.”

Those on the right, forever ready to prove their color-blindness, insist that Obama’s color or race hasn’t anything to do with their frustrations; rather, it is his determination to grow the government well beyond anything that it has ever been—and even further beyond anything that it was originally intended to be—that is the source of their angst.  In a word, it is Obama’s “socialism” that unleashed the beast typified by the Tea Party movement.  Had he been any other color and still been a socialist, his conduct would have been greeted by exactly the same response.

So, does Obama’s race factor into the grassroots rebellion that his election invited?

It may interest readers of this column to discover that I find the left’s account of events to contain some truth.  Of course, the idea that the overwhelming majority of whites that constitute the Tea Party and “conservative” movements, to say nothing of the Republican Party, are driven by an irrational and malevolent pathology called “racism” is absurd.  However, that Obama’s race informs, to some extent, the great awakening that appears to have transpired over the last couple of years is a proposition that isn’t so easy to circumvent.

The aggressiveness with which Obama and his Democrats pursued his socialist agenda isn’t itself what gave rise to the resistance with which it has been met.  I have no doubts that had John McCain or some other Republican been president, and had this Republican moved just as speedily and ambitiously as Obama in advancing the same exact program as the latter, the town hall meetings, massive Tea Party demonstrations, and the like would never have occurred.  Moreover, while there would have been some measure of outrage, I suspect that even had any other Democrat been president and moved with the swiftness that Obama moved, chances are that this outrage would not have been as intense as that which Obama faces.

Conservative students of modernity have long noted the sense of “alienation” experienced by citizens of the modern state.  The modern state—what is commonly (but not always correctly) called “the nation-state”—is unprecedented for its largeness of size and scope.  Thus, the national governments of such entities, of necessity, are far removed from the everyday lives of the citizens over which they preside.  Due to this, citizens tend to feel as if their government is something over and above them.  That is, they feel alienated from it.

Much to the chagrin of many a leftist, from its inception to the present day, the vast majority of America’s citizens have been white.  The segment of the population with ancestral roots in Europe has diminished some in recent decades, it is true, but the country remains predominantly white.  Given this fact, for as racially enlightened as 21st whites undoubtedly are relative to other peoples around the world and throughout history, this tacit sense on the part of Tea Partiers and scores of others that their federal government is among them, not of them, intensified with the election of our 44th president. 

However, as Obama’s opponents have repeatedly insisted, the color of his skin alone isn’t relevant to their feelings toward him and their government. After all, contrary to popular opinion, no one, white, black, or other, ever sees just color.  Race is never thought of as a just a matter of biology.  In every person’s mind, race encompasses certain cultural, and even ideological, characteristics.  Blacks more so than anyone recognize this, a fact that explains such otherwise puzzling phenomena as their description of Bill Clinton as “the first black president” and the insistence of left-leaning blacks that their more conservative minded brethren aren’t really black. 

No, that our president has more melanin than the majority of Americans is by itself neither here nor there.  His color isn’t at issue.  But Obama is a “race man.”  This much has always been abundantly clear to anyone who was willing to read his first memoir—Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance—or consider his selection of allies.  Whites chose to ignore all of this. Blacks, in stark contrast, are well aware of it.       

By some estimates, Obama received as much as 96% of the black vote.  Thus, blacks have no doubts regarding his racial authenticity. Yet Obama is considered authentically black precisely because of both his alliances—let us never forget the colorful cast of far left racial ideologues with whom Obama surrounded himself for most of his life, beginning with his pastor and “spiritual mentor” of over two decades, Jeremiah Wright—as well as his unapologetic endorsement of a robust redistributive scheme designed to transfer resources from whites to non-whites.  

Though they won’t admit this, even to themselves, I maintain that since his election, it has dawned on an ever growing number of whites that this black president may regard himself as black before he regards himself as the president.    

It is this realization, I contend, that has exacerbated their sense that their government is as alien to them as is Obama’s name.   

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

The Real Ron Paul on Foreign Policy

posted by Jack Kerwick

Ron Paul’s fellow Republicans haven’t just castigated him for his foreign policy positions; they have routinely and resoundingly mocked him.  What has the Texas congressman said that is so rationally and morally indefensible?  When we move beyond the universe of sound bites that is our contemporary politics and look at Paul’s actual arguments for the views that he holds, the answer to this question hits us like a ton of bricks: nothing.

In his most recently published, Liberty Defined, Paul elaborates at some length on his controversial view.  Contra the Republican neoconservative establishment, he thinks the current course of waging an interminable War on Terror for the sake of establishing “democratic” governments throughout the Middle East (and beyond?) is most unwise. America’s crusade to transform the world in its image—what else could it be given that we have “troops in 135 countries” and “900 [military] bases” around the world?—has had the effect of transforming America from a republic into an empire.  But empire and liberty are incompatible.  Paul is swift and decisive: “The American Empire is the enemy of American freedom.  It is every bit as much the enemy of American citizens as it is of its victims around the world.” 

This isn’t hyperbole.  As Paul correctly states, an empire “is incompatible with a free society,” for the former “requires perpetual war and preparation for war [.]” As many an observer—students of the classical conservative tradition in particular—have long noted, a “free society” is at no time more unrecognizable to itself than during times of war.  And when this “war” is undeclared, as is our current War on Terror—that is, when the Constitution’s demand for a declaration of war is ignored—American style liberty is dealt a blow of incalculable proportions.    

War is the quintessential crisis, and as Rahm Emmanuel once succinctly put it, it is imprudent for government to ever “let a good crisis go to waste.”  The point is that during a crisis, especially a crisis like war when the governed are threatened by an enemy resolved to destroy them, a free people, in order to satiate its desire for safety and victory, will be more disposed to relinquish its liberties than it otherwise would be.  At the same time that citizens become less free, the government becomes less constrained.  Paul writes: “War feeds the growth of the state.  The state is nourished on the liberties of the people.”

A second reason that Paul supplies for his opposition to “our foreign policy of interventionism” pertains to the extent to which it debases its supporters.  President George W. Bush himself provided a vintage example of this back in 2004 at the Annual Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner.  Some may recall that at this event, the president presented a slide show of himself searching the White House for the weapons of mass destruction that were never found in Iraq.  “To treat with such levity such a serious blunder (some would call it a lie) that has caused so much death and destruction,” Paul asserts, “is beyond the pale.”  Worse, “those present at the dinner all had a good laugh over it.” 

Another illustration of this “callous disregard for decency relating to foreign policy” transpired during Democratic Senator Max Cleland’s reelection race in 2002.  Cleland lost both of his legs and an arm while serving in the Vietnam War, yet because he opposed the impending invasion of Iraq, his Republican rivals ran ads depicting Cleland as weak on issues of national defense.  Paul explains: “The ad had Senator Cleland’s face morphed into Saddam Hussein’s while it implied that Cleland didn’t’ care about the security of the American people because he didn’t always vote with President Bush.”  Moreover, there were Republicans who “even insisted that Max Cleland not be referred to as a war hero though he had been awarded a Silver Star for gallantry in action.”

Paul concludes that all of this “was about as low as one can get in politics.” 

The third reason Paul resists with every fiber of his being “our foreign policy of interventionism” is its exorbitant monetary costs.  “When empires are rich…the people grow dependent, work and produce less, and enjoy the ‘bread and circuses’ or their ‘guns and butter’ while drowning in consumer excesses, encouraged by moral decay and financed by debt.”  But this only “hastens the day of reckoning when the bills come due and the empire collapses.” 

As Paul points out, “Tea Party activists” who “often claim to oppose the system of tax and spend, bailouts and socialism,” fail to realize that “to the extent that they uncritically defend U.S. foreign policy, they are supporting all the policies they claim to be against.” 

The fourth and final reason Paul gives for his position is, quite simply, that it doesn’t work.  Our invasions and occupations of Islamic lands, far from rendering us more secure, have made an already dangerous world that much more dangerous, for our aggression only emboldens those against whom our policies are aimed.  No amount of   “lying, or denying the…blowback” from our actions in “other nations, especially Arab and Muslim countries,” can nullify it.  And all such lying or denying actually “presents the greatest danger to our security, freedom, and prosperity.”

In summary, Ron Paul, like the George W. Bush of 2000, favors a more “humble” foreign policy. He opposes the “foreign adventurism,” as he characterizes it, of his neoconservative Republican detractors for essentially four reasons.  This militaristic enterprise: undermines our liberties; corrupts the characters of those who endorse it; depletes our resources; and makes us less secure.

The reader is now left with a thought or two to ponder:  Is there anything in Congressman Paul’s case against the Republican establishment’s foreign policy vision that warrants the treatment to which it has subjected him?  In fact is Paul’s position not eminently sensible?

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published at The New American

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