Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Why I’m neither a conservative nor a liberal

The other night, I ran across a headline in my Facebook feed which said that Michele Bachmann had suggested the children of illegal immigrants be put into labor camps. I forgot my own rule and “shared” it; in mitigation of my own stupidity, I did ask that someone tell me the story was a distortion of something she actually said.

Not fifteen seconds after “sharing” it, I came across a status update from Simcha Fisher that said in essence, “Stop sharing the Michele Bachmann story. It’s a satire.” Quickly I took it down and replaced it with an apology and Tom McDonald’s meme (left).

Minutes later, a friend of mine who’s a member of the Omaha tribe posted yet another headline, in which Ted Nugent allegedly called Native Americans “vermin”. I told Verdel (my friend) what had just occurred with me, giving him a “heads up” that the story might not be what it appeared. In fact, it seems that the quote may have been taken out of context, and Nugent’s organization has posted an official denial on his website. I’m willing to give Nugent the benefit of the doubt because I distrust journalists more than I dislike him.

It’s not just liberals who do this. Just over a month ago, I debunked a clip that took a couple of phrases spoken by Pres. Obama in his Address to European Youth out of context, mashed them together and created a Hitleresque sentiment that, on his worst, most careless day, the man would never say in front of cameras. (He may or may not think like that, but he’s too smart a politician to ever publicly say it.)

Once upon a time, the self-dubbed electronic journalists of the new media loudly proclaimed that they would keep the mainstream media honest. Unfortunately, all they seem to do now is make the MSM look honest by comparison.

Within a couple of days of each other, two tales of ideological realignment came to my attention. The first, Danusha V. Goska’s oddly-titled “Weekend Must-Read: Ten Reasons Why I Am No Longer a Leftist” (odd because it was published in American Thinker on a Monday), paints a picture of the liberal establishment as populated — apparently — by vicious, manipulative narcissists who hide rampant bigotry and misogyny under the guise of a benevolent white paternalism and female empowerment.

The second, Thomas E. Ricks’ “Why Am I Moving Left?” in Politico, is more limited in its scope; a journalist who specializes in military affairs, Ricks’ reasons have mostly to do with the government’s actions in the Middle East in response to 9/11/01, with the added concern over growing income inequality. Since by his own admission Ricks started from a more centrist position, it remains to be seen what other leftist positions, if any, he already held prior to his going more blue.

In a surprisingly insightful comment, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently admitted, “Our average voter is not John Galt. Hymns to entrepreneurialism are largely irrelevant.” This is an understatement: Many of the least attractive points of American conservativism have to do with protecting the wealthy from taxation and corporations from regulation, at the cost of seniors, the poverty-stricken, military veterans, a healthy environment and consumer safety. As Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal noted last November, “It may be possible to have worse political positioning, but I’m not sure how.”

Goska’s essay sums up, in its essentials, why I can’t and don’t consider myself a liberal or progressive. But Ricks’ essay doesn’t come close to completing my objections to American conservatives. If I had to give just one example, I’d refer you to the border crisis.

Nothing brings out the raving xenophobe hiding in the American breast like a wave of illegal immigrants from South of the Border. Nothing says, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,” like forcing impoverished women and children to go through a byzantine bureaucratic process in order to fit into an arbitrary number of people given permission to flee their rotten hellhole of a country to come here on the off chance that they might have a better life. Nothing speaks more clearly about conservative fairness and integrity like passing around pictures of tattooed cartel thugs as “the real face of the illegal-immigrant problem”.

Yes, many might well be “mules” for the cartels, though probably nowhere near as many as the more hysterical imagine. But I bet that, if the people who yell the loudest look back far enough, many will find an immigrant ancestor who left his country not because he was fleeing religious persecution but because he was avoiding capital prosecution. Many white people have ancestors who arrived before the first restrictive immigration law (Page Act of 1875); it’s facile to say of them with any pride that they arrived “legally” when it was impossible to arrive illegally. And, from the Native American perspective, it’s not so much hysteria as hypocrisy; the South American mestizos have more right to be here than any gringo.

The most appalling aspect of the xenophobia is the number of Christians who abandon the guideline “What Would Jesus Do?” in favor of “What Would John Wayne Do?”. The Blogger Who Must Not Be Named gives us a screenshot of two such men, one of whom (presumably trying to be witty) suggested the problem be solved with Zyklon-B; this charming fellow, The Blogger acidly noted, “featured a ‘Massachusetts for Life’ link on his [Facebook] page.”

But this sterling Witness for Life was just advocating a slightly more swift efficiency than his peers [The Blogger continued].  Much of the rest of the “prolife” commentary simply advocated the more hands-off approach of turning the busses around and sending them who cares where as long as it’s not here: effectively abandoning the children to their fate in Mexico, (meaning “being sent back to the desert, sex slavery, or death”). Others were recommending bullets and land mines. A deeply affecting prolife witness.

The law is a means to an end: the just ordering of society. It isn’t an end in itself. When law is used as an excuse and a weapon to thwart mercy and compassion, to deny people their basic, intrinsic dignity as fellow humans, it stands as a curse and a judgment against those who use it so.

Of course, not every charge I can (and do) lay against conservatives as a group is true of all conservatives everywhere. In particular, I acknowledge Glenn Beck and George Will for breaking with the standard fear-driven immigration narrative highlighting freeloaders, terrorists, and gangsters to see the humanitarian crisis as something separate from, and more important than, the security issue. And I give props to Jindal and Rick Santorum for recognizing that it’s Joe and Jane Sixpack they need to work for, not Mr. and Mrs. Gotrocks. As for the rest ….

There are seven corporal works of mercy, four of which are: 1) To feed the hungry. 2) To give drink to the thirsty. 3) To clothe the naked. 4) To harbor the harborless. What it comes down to is this — while liberals and progressives may want the government to do these things the wrong way, by setting up a monstrous socialist “nanny state”, conservatives and libertarians don’t want the government to do these things at all. While the defining sins of the left are Anger and Lust, the defining sins of the right are Greed and Covetousness. The left’s answer to certain human problems is to kill people with surgery and drugs; the right’s answer to other problems is to let people die of neglect.

I am not a liberal. I am not a conservative.

I am a Catholic Christian and an American.