Again I find myself extracted from hybernation to the soap box of my blog. Hewitt's pulling the whiskers of kittens again, and the mayhem is irresistable. For his latest Vox Blogoli, Hugh links to the excerpt of an article from The Atlantic written by Jonathan Rauch concerning the current state of political division in America.
The most notable passage from the piece is as follows:
“On balance it is probably healthier if religious conservatives are inside the political system than if they operate as insurgents and provocateurs on the outside. Better they should write anti-abortion planks into the Republican platform than bomb abortion clinics. The same is true of the left. The clashes over civil rights and Vietnam turned into street warfare partly because activists were locked out of their own party establishments and had to fight, literally, to be heard. When Michael Moore receives a hero’s welcome at the Democratic National Convention, we moderates grumble; but if the parties engage fierce activists while marginalizing tame centrists, that is probably better for the social peace than the other way around.”Let it be known that the initial response to this passage evolved in absence of the context of the entire copywrited article. Nevertheless, much can be understood about the writing and editing by elements of the passage itself. Like a reference to native americans as vicious redskin savages or african american men as sub-human, referring to Christians as insurgents in the context of the 4th year of the 21st Century given the nature of current events would seem similarly as derogatory in both its intention and its comprehension. Furthermore, to suggest in the next sentence that indeed Christian Conservatives would be inclined to the violence of terrorists underscores the author's previous assumptions about their sensibility. Mr Rauch goes on to ostensibly make a parallel assessment of Secular Liberals and further exposes his prejudice as we are left with two prominent defining principles by which two describe the 'bipolar' extremes of American Democracy.
Conservatives: Operate as insurgents and provocateurs on the outside by bombing abortion clinicsYesterday on his show, Hugh interviewed Mr. Rauch allowing him opportunity to clarify and discuss his viewpoint, both as held and as expressed in the article. Self-proclaimed moderate that he purported to be (and we'll give the lean benefit of heavy doubt for the sake of this point) Mr. Rauch, at the time, evaded ownership of the seed of his prose more ardently than Peter's trifecta denial of his controversial aquaintance. The blogosphere's roosters crowed! If you write it, Sir, own it. If you believe it, defend it. If you can't defend what you have written, abdicate the position. But, don't add furher insult to ad hominem by denying meaning and inferring misrepresentation by lack of context. Granted insult is taken not offered. But, bigotry is in fact sown before it is harvested. The article is spreading seed while yoddleing moderation, despite Mr. Rauches apparent backpeddling.
Liberals: Clashed over civil rights when they were locked out of their own party establishment and had to fight, literally, to be heard.
Mr. Rauch expects the reader to acknowledge the Left's Gentleman's Agreement where concepts implied do not actually exists if not expressly admitted. With regard to Christians today, Moderates and Liberals alike feign public tolerance for a disagreeable 'sensibility,' while privately and in the company of like-minded 'gentlefolk' express their open prejudice, bias, suspicion, disrespect, and outright disgust. I witness this on a daily basis in email and in conversation working in one of the most hardcore Leftist cities in the nation. Derision is offered as a procondition in various aspects of normal conversation. In some cases - notably in the realm of tight email circles - the hatred is veritable and blatant. But for most, like Rauch I expect, it isn't that they even acknowledge the reality of their own bigotry. As with the latent animosity of bygone eras toward 'indians,' Irish, blacks or jews, this new animosity is perceived as both imperative and acceptable, even as the insidious nature of the subliminal hatred may likewise turn violent and deadly. When caught in the open, gentlefolk defer to polite evasion and the expectation of honor for 'the agreement.' One might expect them to say something along the lines of, "... some of my best friends are Christian Conservatives." In his case, Rauch does this by insisting that we acknowledge the context in order to ascertain his actual point. Well, today we do just that as he has afforded a broader review of his article titled, "State of the Union: Bipolar Disorder."
Upon further reading one is introduced to an assessment of the nation's current political divide... a football with a fat moderate middle tapered to two pointy fringes. This observation is illustrated in a lengthy yet superficial analysis of its cosmopolitan fabric over the metaphysical condition of the nation's current existence. It is a conjectural observation regarding its politics while ignoring it's collective soul. The Left continually grapples in this fashion trying to define and modify what We are. The Right, on the other hand is intently focused on establishing what We should be. The nature of the debate surrounds the concepts that are imperative to the survival of the principles about which we are united. The principles are a set of idealistic concepts that are fundamental to our civilization. A philosophy if you will is supported by its concepts as established by its precepts. These precepts, we call 'values.' In order to determine the quality of a particular philosophy, one need look no further than its concepts and how they rest (if at all) on the premise of its values. Mr. Raunch's observations are expressly vacant of any such investigations. There is little context to his point at all if one is trying to understand the nature of the ideological debate influencing the moderate middle, except to offer his own strident definitions of the bipolar extremes as mentioned before, based on inherent prejudice, and by which he chooses position:
Conservatives (Christian Moralists) are violent terrorists. "Reds vote for guns, capital punishmnet and war..."
Liberals (Secular Progressives) are radical activists. "...blues [vote] for abortion rights and the environment."
From this, others should choose appropriately. What Mr. Rauch ignores is the true nature of that choice, both for him and the rest in that fat moderate middle.
For the sake of argument, one may agree that both polical extremes value freedom as a concept. But what are the precepts of freedom... the values that make it not merely possible, but actually legitimate. Answer: Life! Freedom in life and to live as one chooses is irrelevant without acknowledging existence first, and the primacy of life as a corollary. As political issues, the value of life is fundamental to discussions of abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, and even environmental policy. The acknowledgement of existence is fundamental to Rational philosophies and Judeo-Christian dogma. The Left, for the most part, as Rauch acknowledges, embraces relativism and existentialism, both of which begin by questioning existence.
What then is Freedom? The Left embraces the notion of collective freedom. The Right maintains freedom at the individual level. Freedom can not, however, by its nature be both collective and individual. Collective freedom is qualified by the subjective notion of fairness. Sacrifice is necessary in part for the health of the body. Individual freedom is defined by the objective quality of rational self-interest. It can be balanced with a sense of genuine compassion. But compassion cannot be obligated in order for freedom to be maintained as a concept. Freedom is the capacity to exercise choice in accordance with one's own interests. Therefore collective freedom with its subjective preconditions inhibiting choice is neither rational nor possible. If one is being compelled, free will ceases to exist. This particular debate is politically significant in the context of taxation, social security, healthcare, and even environmental policy. Mr.Rauch like others must choose between justice and fairness as manifested accordingly in the realm of politics.
Capitalism is the economic manifestation of individual freedom. Interactions among parties are conducted as transactions exchanging goods and services... the products of one's being for those of another in accordance with needs or desires. In order for this to take place, ownership must be acknowledged. The objective value of property is the means by which man sustains existence in a rational universe where consumption and production are prerequisites to the maintenance of existence. Collectivism on the other hand negates property rights and subjugates the thoughts and efforts of one to the needs of the many, again according to a subjective notion of fairness. As previously noted, the political extremes in America are polarized according to these opposing concepts in terms of taxation, corporations, litigation, globalization, the second amendment and even environmental policy.
Mr. Rauch does touch on one fundamental issue to the Republic when he probes the subject of representation, for which he clearly has passion, noteing that, "... the practice of gerrymandering congressional districts to entrench partisans (and thus extremists) is a scandal, far more insulting to popular sovereignty than anything to do with campaign finance." He quickly, and in true moderate fashion, pulls away from that subject, however, proclaiming ".. that is not the note I wish to end on." Far be it from discussing principle for a note on which to end a tune about political division, despite its relevant congruity. Afterall, the character of a polarized Republic ought to be accurately reflected in its representation. And the two most notable gerrymandering debates at present involve in the first case, districts that are changed by legislators to conform to the latest Census data (Texas); and the second case, districts modified by judges to achieve and abstract notion of ' fairness' (California). One is left to wonder which case has infuriated Mr. Rauch.
The curiosity is short-lived, however, as Mr. Rauch chooses the subject on which to end his investigation. In the matter of fundamental ideological issues, in his view, the "Republican Party has acquired its distinctively tart right-wing flavor largely because it has absorbed, in fact, to a significant extent has organizationally merged with the religious right." Note that they (Christains and Conservatives) could not possible share a set of fundamental values; values that are profoundly absent or diametrically opposed on the Left. The gentlefolk do not acknowledge the possibility, nor should propriety lend itself to inquiry about such things. Better rest the analysis - according to the prejudicial sensibilities of Mr. Rauch and his editors, co-workers, and compatriots - on dimishing one side of the political discourse to the inhuman level of barbarian butchers... thus leaving the impression for others to complete as a conclusion.
By the adopted standards of your unspoken agreements, Mr. Rauch, I proudly acknowledge, I am no Gentleman.
Over at Both Worlds, Gary entertains the idea that Jonathon Rauch actually believes that political extremists should be embraced by their respective parties. He makes some good points. But, I tend to think Mr. Rauch was being overtly provocative when linking politically active Christians, and fringe zealots. Note, that the problem with the contemporary Democrat Party is that they have embraced their most dangerous and irrational fringe Left 60's elements. They have appropriatly been marginalized as a political force. Republicans and Christians alike have uniformly condemned the actions of its violent fringe and rejected them completely as the criminal enemies of civilization that they are. If indeed what Rauch is suggesting is that all extremes must be afforded legitimacy in public discourse, then he is even more absurd than I had suggested. The current dilemma of Islam is that they are unable to differentiate the legitimate body from its insane fringe. This will only serve to ensure its ultimate demise as the conflict between Men and monsters requires the supremacy of Man. Rational discourse must remain rational in order to maintain legitimacy. And any group that, by its nature, embraces violence and compulsion, regardless of its affiliations, has no place in the company of free Men.
More good insight at Evangelical Outpost, Carol Platt Liebau, Kowabunga, Molten Thought (great last line), The Usual Suspects, Psuedo-Polymath (EXACTLY!), and many more.