We dearly love an article we can enjoy examining critically. Best of all we like an opinion that we partly agree with and partly do not.
This article is by Star Parker, whose columns at Townhall on political issues we generally like. And here again we have no quarrel with her political views. It is her conviction that religion is necessary and good that sparks our opposition.
A new Pew Research Center survey of opinion about the importance of religion in American life shows an interesting picture.
Over the last 12 years, the percentage of Americans that think religion is losing influence in American life has increased dramatically. In 2002, 52 percent of those surveyed said religion is losing influence. In 2014, 72 percent of Americans said religion is losing influence.
To us, of course, that’s good news.
However, while increasing numbers of Americans feel religion is losing influence, most feel this is a bad thing.
Fifty-six percent say that the waning influence of religion is a bad thing compared to 12 percent that say it is a good thing.
In a survey done by Pew in 2012, 58 percent of Americans said religion is “very important” and only 18 percent said it is not “too important” or “not important at all”.
This raises some interesting questions.
One clear one is why, when Americans think religion is very important, has the percentage of Americans who think religion is losing influence in American life increased almost 40 percent over the last 14 years?
Another one is what are the political implications? Certainly, in the Republican Party, there is an increasingly vocal libertarian leaning faction that sees religion as costly political baggage.
Yes – and that is one of the libertarian views with which we are in strong sympathy.
I attribute why almost three fourths of Americans feel that religion is losing influence in American life, while most feel this is a bad thing, to the law of unintended consequences.
She goes on to describe the disaster of welfare policies. We too think they have been – and continue to be – disastrous.
Many Americans have been unwittingly supporting policies for more than a half-century that they thought were good ideas and consistent with their values which have been neither. Now more Americans are beginning to appreciate the damage that has been done and how far the nation has strayed from their own sense of right and wrong.
Take the example of welfare.
When Aid to Families with Dependent Children program was dramatically expanded in the 1960s, it seemed morally correct for government to get more aggressive in the lives of the poor, particularly poor black women. … Massive increases of government in the lives of low-income black families were accompanied by a tripling of single parent households and out-of wedlock births, laying the groundwork for intergenerational poverty.
Right. Those have been and are the causes of “intergenerational poverty”.
But we omitted a sentence. It was this:
Who appreciated that the program would undermine the very religious, traditional values that keep families intact, essential for the work ethic that leads people out poverty?
It may well have been the case that Church-taught values contributed to a belief that children should be born to married parents. Many held that belief also because it is plainly best for children to be raised by a mother and a father. The principle is good whether endorsed or not by a religion.
We contend that it is because the state took over the responsibility of providing for children that men could so easily opt out of the traditional role of bread-winner to their families. It was government incursion into private life that did the damage to believers and non-believers alike. Their religion or lack of it had nothing to do with the “unintended consequences” of welfarism.
Now it’s happening in the whole country. As we’ve gotten more government telling Americans how to save for retirement, how to deal with their health care, how to educate their children – American families have been damaged and out-of-wedlock births have increased six-fold from 1960 to 42 percent today. Government has displaced family.
Some say today we have competing views about the role of government.
Conservatives and progressives do have different views about the role of government. That is not a matter of opinion, but a fact.
I would say we have competing views about what life is about.
Yes. We think life can be “about” anything that free individuals want to make it. Star Parker thinks that life was created, and the creator had a purpose, and that purpose, though impossible to define, is somehow helped along by this or that set of religious doctrines. About which set of doctrines in particular, there are “competing views” among the multitude of religions, each of which claims to teach “the truth”.
One view – a decidedly secular, materialistic view – sees no mystery in life.
We have a decidedly secular view – materialistic too in that we see the need to sustain our physical existence as well and as pleasantly as we possibly can. But we do not think there is no mystery. On the contrary, we are aware that humankind knows very little. To learn more, to explore what we do not know about our universe and ourselves is the most exciting adventure of our conscious lives, and discovery is the engine of all progress.
Pretending to know that there is a purpose to life known only to a supernatural being who created it but chooses to keep his purpose secret, is to opt out of the great adventure.
The left wing version, which dominates the Democratic Party, says government can solve all of life’s problems.
Or most of them. And it’s a wrong and dangerous belief.
The hard-core libertarian version, found among some Republicans — says just leave everybody alone — you don’t bother me and I won’t bother you — and everything will work out for the best.
That is an absurd encapsulation of the libertarian view. No intelligent libertarian thinks that if people are left to make their own choices, if they are self-reliant, “everything will work out for the best”. Every individual will make his own successes and failures – and take responsibility for them. He knows that government cannot solve “all life’s problems” – and, what’s more, does a pretty poor job of solving the one problem it exists to solve: how best to protect liberty.
The other view maintains that you can’t have a free society that is not also a virtuous society.
A free society starts off with the virtue of being a free society. Freedom needs to be protected by law, and, if it is, crime will be punished, foreign enemies will be kept away, and the people can prosper. How good they are in their private lives remains forever dependent on individual character and choice.
It was what George Washington meant when he said in his farewell address that “of all the dispensations and habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports”.
We are sorry we can only partially agree with George Washington on this. Morality, yes. Religion? What religion has a history that can withstand moral criticism? Some – Christianity and Islam in particular – have a history of carnage and cruelty. That Christianity preaches against both make its actual record all the worse.
It is my sense that more Americans are beginning to wake up to the unintended, damaging consequences of the often well-intended government policies they have been supporting for many years.
More Americans are beginning to appreciate that we can’t separate our fiscal and economic problems from our moral problems and that if we want to recapture our freedom and prosperity, we must recapture our virtue.
Certainly. But we won’t do that by returning into the mental darkness of religion. We can do it by limiting the powers of government and recovering the idea of liberty as the highest value. That is political and moral virtue.
It was something to celebrate this past week – the departure of the (now former) attorney general, Eric Holder, from the Department of Justice.
This is from an article by Matthew Vadum at Front Page:
Attorney General Eric Holder is at long last relinquishing his cabinet post after nearly six unprecedented, catastrophic years of racial demagoguery and gangsterism.
Holder … will leave behind what is probably the most ugly and toxic legacy of any attorney general ever in the history of the republic. …
He is a protected, pampered member of the ruling class and his arrogance knows no bounds. He ignores court orders and gives congressional overseers the finger.
Holder has transformed the U.S. Department of Justice into a racial grievance incubator, an intensive care unit for kooky, authoritarian ideas that should have died after the 1960s.
The DoJ, especially its rotten, totally corrupt Civil Rights Division, is a lawyerly commune for revolutionaries who oppose the very idea of the rule of law. Critical Legal Theory and Critical Race Theory govern much of what goes on in the department.
It is no exaggeration to say that Holder leaves death and destruction behind after saturation-bombing the Constitution, orchestrating criminal activity in order to whip up public support for policy changes, fomenting racial tension and violence, persecuting political opponents and disfavored industries, obstructing justice, and enforcing laws arbitrarily and capriciously and in a manner calculated to benefit his friends and allies.
It was all too predictable. Holder was the official assigned to vet President Bill Clinton’s 176 last-minute pardons in January 2001. Among those pardoned were former Weather Underground members Susan Rosenberg and Linda Evans. He was deeply involved in Clinton’s pardons of fugitive financier Marc Rich and Puerto Rican terrorists.
Holder is an archetype, a living, breathing embodiment of American political corruption. …
Holder is about race, race, and race. It’s what gets him up in the morning. His sick fixation on skin color is notable even in an administration jam-packed with racial obsessives and identity politics-driven Marxists. He brands those who oppose him as racists. This is usually enough to shut up most Republican lawmakers. …
Of course, Holder is the first black U.S. attorney general, a fact he loves to repeat over and over again in speeches and media interviews, as if his race were a bona fide job qualification.
But he is also the first U.S. attorney general in memory to openly declare that he works only to protect the interests of what he calls “my people,” or those who share his skin color. …
Holder possesses an off-putting combination of creepy self-righteousness, cockiness, hatred of country, and racist contempt for white Americans that makes him the darling of the activist Left and the mainstream media that refuse to report on his many, many misdeeds. …
He serves as a personal consigliere, or mob lawyer, to President Obama, the highest elected gangster in the land. And he will never double-cross the capo di tutti capi. …
Holder is the legal ringleader for today’s Democrats and their culture of corruption.
After being held in criminal contempt of Congress in June 2012 – the first such citation against a sitting attorney general in American history – he is just a few steps away from being impeached in the House of Representatives and tried in the Senate for the high crimes and misdemeanors he has committed against the American people. …
This morally bankrupt racketeer ought to spend the rest of his life in prison. Probably nothing will happen to him.
But … in the midst of celebration we hear of new danger from this horrible man. Vadum’s last sentence is alarming:
Rumor around Washington has it that President Obama wants to put Holder on the Supreme Court.
(For a detailed account of Eric Holder’s disgraceful career, go here to Discover the Networks.)
Our most reliable truth-teller is with us again.
Here Pat Condell talks about the 1,400 children who were raped, drugged, beaten, and prostituted in Rotherham, Northern England, over 16 years at the hands of Muslims by permission of the lefty “progressive” authorities:
A writer by the name of Enza Ferreri has written an article against Reason. She probably doesn’t see that that is what she’s done. But that is what she’s done. She writes:
It’s all very simple. We can’t fight Islam in the West without fighting the enablers of Islam in the West, namely the Leftists.
So far, so good.
And, since the Left has many different and separate aspects, we have to fight against each one of them. Secularism, environmentalism, global warming alarmism, homosexualism, militant feminism, sexual relativism, multiculturalism, anti-Christianity, Islamophilia, post-nationalism, internationalism are just as important targets to attack as Marxist economics, the expropriation of the capitalist class (or, in its modern reincarnation, redistribution of wealth), and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The words we have put in bold mark the issues we dispute with Enza Ferreri.
We don’t know what “homosexualism” is, or “sexual relativism”.
We consider sexual choices to be private matters (unless they involve children). They are certainly not dangerous threats to the survival of the West.
But while we agree with the author on her other “targets”, we emphatically disagree with her when it comes to secularism and anti-Christianity.
Secularism is not the same as Leftism. Between the founding of the United States of America and the dawning in the 1960s of this Leftist age, there was a very long stretch of secularism, liberty, and prosperity.
But in those times and those countries where a church (in the widest sense) has been the ruling power, there has always been tyranny. What greater tyranny can there be than the imposition of an orthodoxy on every mind?
Communism and Nazism also impose orthodoxy, and punish dissent as cruelly as a theocracy. That is one of the reasons why we class these ideologies as religions. Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Maoist China were not secular states; they were orthodoxies, as tyrannous as the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, or the newly declared Islamic State now.
The secular state, and only the secular state, is a free state. Secularism is freedom. Freedom is only possible in the secular state.
In a free, secular society, people are free to be Christians. But people are equally free to criticize Christianity.
Neglecting any of these fronts is like fighting a war leaving a battleground to the enemy, like fighting on the Western front and leaving totally undefended the Eastern one.
Secularism and atheism are certainly the first lines of important wars.
So she contends that the prime enemy in her war is freedom. That being so, she has no case to make against Islam or Marxism.
For all that she seems to be speaking for tolerance (being against Islamophilia) and reason (being against environmentalism, global warming alarmism, “militant feminism”); and against Islam (aka multiculturalism) and Marxism (redistribution etc.), she is actually speaking for her own choice of intolerant, irrational, orthodox tyranny.
A secularist West will always lose to Islam, because it will have enough compassion, tolerance and self-restraint from violence that are the remnants of its Christian heritage, but it will have lost the ideals, the passion and certainty of fighting for a just cause that were once part of Christianity and have disappeared with its erosion.
Her assumptions are arrogant to an extreme. Compassion, tolerance and self-restraint from violence are not the legacies of “a Christian heritage” but of enlightened reason.
It is pointless to try and fight one irrational belief, such as Islam or Marxism, by setting up another irrational belief, such as Christianity, in opposition to it. There is no better reason to believe in the Trinity than in Allah or the inevitability of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Two quotes here serve as epigrams. Robert Spencer wrote in his great work Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t: “People who are ashamed of their own culture will not defend it.” And Dennis Prager said during one of his radio broadcasts, “Only good religion can counter bad religion.”
We admire much that Robert Spencer and Denis Prager write. And we think Spencer makes a point here worth thinking about. But to Prager’s assertion we say, nonsense!
Some people claim that there won’t be a religious revival in Europe because we are past believing in God. That this is not true can be seen by the high – and increasing – number of Westerners who convert to Islam. Many of them give as a reason for their conversion the need for absolutes, boundaries and well-defined status. A journalist writing for The Spectator on this subject explained why she is Catholic:
But above all, I like the moral certainties. I don’t mind the dogma one bit. I would rather dogma and impossible ideals than confusion and compromise. In that sense, I do identify with those who choose Islam over the way of no faith, or a seemingly uncertain faith, like the woolly old C of E.
Confusion and compromise is inescapable. How can dogma – which is to say being incurably wrong – and “impossible ideals” be better than admitting the truth of scio nescio: I know that I do not know? It is as if the culture on which such persons as the quoted Catholic and the author of the article have been raised was never affected by Socratean doubt, the Enlightenment, the assumption of ignorance upon which all true science proceeds.
William Kilpatrick, in Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West – a book I thoroughly recommend reading -, writes: Brian Young’s friends said he was troubled by the decadence of Western society. David Courtrailler’s lawyer said, “For David, Islam ordered his life.” These are the sorts of reasons ordinary converts to Islam give. A common refrain from converts is that Islam provides a complete plan for life in contrast to the ruleless and clueless life offered by secular society. As Mary Fallot, a young French convert, explains, “Islam demands a closeness to God. Islam is simpler, more rigorous, and it’s easier because it is explicit. I was looking for a framework; man needs rules and behavior to follow. Christianity did not give me the same reference points.” If you look at the convert testimonials on Muslim websites, they echo this refrain: Islam brings “peace”, “order”, “discipline”, and a way of life that Christianity and other religions fail to offer.
Islam brings peace! He – and she – can say that with a straight face? While IS (ISIS, ISIL) is rampaging through Syria and Iraq mass-slaughtering, impaling, crucifying, decapitating, raping, enslaving; while Hamas is firing thousands of rockets into Israel; while civil war rages in Syria; while Yezidis, Kurds, Baha’is, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, other Muslims are being daily killed and constantly persecuted by Muslims?
Astonishing that some women crave the “order” and “discipline” of subjugation; when the “discipline” is exerted by enslavement, beatings, whippings, stonings, legal discrimination.
Human beings will never be past the need for believing in something bigger than themselves, because that need is part of the human mind.
Where are there human beings who do not know that natural forces are “bigger than themselves”? Who among us does not know that we are mortal?
She continues in the same vein. We’ll not irritate our readers with all of it. She is a true believer. And what she believes is that Christianity is good and true.
We will skip to what she quotes as wisdom from a Catholic primate:
A clear direction was given by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy. As early as 30 September 2000, before 9/11, when very few in the West even thought of worrying about Islam, he delivered a very forward-looking speech, which included this premonition:
… Either Europe will become Christian again or it will become Muslim. What I see without future is the “culture of nothing”, of freedom without limits and without content, of skepticism boasted as intellectual achievement, which seems to be the attitude largely dominant among European peoples, all more or less rich of means and poor of truths. This “culture of nothingness” (sustained by hedonism and libertarian insatiability) will not be able to withstand the ideological onslaught of Islam, which will not be missing: only the rediscovery of the Christian event as the only salvation for man – and therefore only a strong resurrection of the ancient soul of Europe – will offer a different outcome to this inevitable confrontation.
The culture of reason is not a “culture of nothing”. It is a culture of rational humility; of admitting ignorance and trying to find the truth, even if one can never be certain one has found it. Skepticism is the only engine of discovery.
“Freedom without limits”? Freedom of action always has a limit. In a free society, everyone’s freedom is limited by everyone else’s under the rule of law. But indeed the freedom of the mind has no limits, nor should it have any.
Notice the snide swipe at riches and “hedonism”. Do you think that he, as a cardinal, pigs it in some hovel?
By “truths” he means the patent absurdities of Christian theological belief.
“Libertarian insatiability”. What the heck does that mean?
If the Western culture of reason, secularism, liberty, skepticism, science, cannot withstand the onslaught of Islam, it will be because that culture has been abandoned by people like Enza Ferreri.
She goes on to blame shrinking birthrates on secularism. Then she ends with this:
Militant atheists à la Richard Dawkins have not really given enough thought to the long-term consequences of their ideas, which we are beginning to see.
And of which we are reminded whenever, for example, we read in the news of doctors and missionaries who die of Ebola while assisting affected patients for Christian charities. Not many atheist charities are involved in that work.
How many cures for diseases have been found by scientists among whom atheists are in a huge majority? The medical researchers who eliminated smallpox; those who found how to detect the beginnings of cancer and treat it before it becomes lethal, and how to restore wholeness to lepers and replace a faulty heart or kidney …. the list could run on for hours … cure more people than all the martyrdom-seeking self-righteous preachy Christians out to save their imaginary souls by “assisting affected patients” have ever done or could do in a thousand years.
As a reminder to readers who have a strong stomach of what happened when the Christian Churches provided “order” and “discipline” to Europe and wherever else they could reach, we recommend The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual by Jonathan Kirsch, and our own post Calvin: a chapter in the terrible history of Christianity by Jillian Becker, April 25, 2010. (Put the title in our search slot.)
Nothing IS (ISIS, ISIL) is doing now in the name of Islam is worse in type or degree than what those Christians did in the name of Christianity.
The world needs saving from religion.
We took this excellent though horrifying video from Front Page.
We feel the need to comment on only one thing. At the end, Bill Whittle says that Obama is “up against” the mass murderer Putin. But we doubt Obama sees Putin as an opponent. Obama was raised as a Communist. We think he is more likely to see Putin – even now – as an ideological ally than as an enemy.
A video made by conservative Rod Shelton in strong attack mode. (“God” is mentioned in passing, but is moved along briskly.)
(Hat-tip to our Facebook commenter Ramon Homan)
Daniel Hannan speaks as intelligently as always in this interview. We are somewhat less favorably impressed by the present Conservative government of Britain than he is, but we fully agree with everything he says about America – how great it was, how wrong it’s going. And we also like what he says about the EU. Asked by the interviewer if he see the Euro in danger of collapsing, Hannan replies, “No, I see the Euro in danger of surviving.”
(Hat-tip Don L.)
Pat Condell, truth-teller.
“This whole conflict,” the foreign journalist said over coffee, “is a prime time show; the Palestinians provide us with the more romantic story.”
We quote from an article by documentary film-maker Pierre Rehov at Gatestone:
Terrorism is a show; it needs a producer and a distributor.
Without a certain complicity from the international media, terrorism would not be so effective and might even disappear altogether.
While Hamas is raining rockets and missiles on the Israeli civilian population, and in return is suffering a high level of destruction and hundreds of casualties as a result of collateral damage, one might ask: “What is the purpose?” The same question is also true of suicide terrorism. The genuine aim seems to be to gather sympathy while terrorizing the enemy, with an audience on an unlimited number of channels. …
If a rocket succeeds in going through Israel’s anti-missile defense and causing damage to Israel, Hamas is “showing its strength,” by hitting the Jewish state. If a retaliation by Israel sadly results in the death of Arab civilians, Hamas is “showing how inhuman Israel is,” and therefore how much Israel deserves the world’s opprobrium. For Hamas and similar terror groups, therefore, the “show” is always a win-win. …
The media are the real leaders of the free world. …
And to a large extent they are abusing that power.
There should never be a moral equivalence painted between the deliberate killing of civilians, and a retaliation that tragically leads to casualties among civilians. Yet, in the eye of the camera, there is. A dead child covered with blood is the strong moment of the show. [So] Hamas is asking [ordering] the population of Gaza to stay in their homes, while Israel is asking the civilians in Gaza to run away from places it might bomb. I imagine the leaders of Hamas, who are running the show, hiding in the basement of schools, mosques, hospitals, and tunnels, making comments on the latest developments: “More blood. We need more blood.”
The media who are pro-Palestinian, when they do not find enough horrific images from inside Gaza, recycle old pictures, Photoshop them, or use footage from other conflicts, mostly from Iraq and Syria. In the current conflict, they are already doing just that.
Even though YouTube, Facebook and other social media are useful in building a larger audience for the show, reporters and journalists play their role. Sadly, they do not have a choice.
We think this article is good, but just there we have to disagree. They do have a choice: “Report what Hamas wants you to, or lose your accreditation with us and so possibly your job”. (Almost all of them make the wrong choice.)
- As Rehov goes on to demonstrate:
As the journalist went on to explain, “Palestinians have written the scenario of this prime-time piece. As the editors say, ‘If it bleeds, it leads’.”
On the field, they are urged to send back a “juicy” story that might even make the front page.
A reporter is a professional, making a living by writing up what he sees and hears … Reporters risk theirs lives.
In the West Bank, they are taken in hand by Palestinian “translators,” fixers trained to escort journalists the same way that in the Soviet era, sputniks, or “minders,” were trained to promote communism, and to make sure that the tourists and journalists saw only what the government wanted them to see, and, even more, that thy did not see what the government did not want them to see. … In the Middle East, reporters are threatened, except in Israel.
Their choice becomes a simple one: promote the Palestinian point of view (or whichever), or stop working in the West Bank (or wherever).
Rehov himself was offered a lucrative opportunity by a Palestinian to get world attention by filming a dead child whom he would have to say was “killed by an Israeli soldier”.
When making one of my documentaries, the Palestinian who was leading my crew offered me a scoop. As I was French, he trusted me to be on the Palestinians’ side. “You know,” he said, “what pays well? When an Israeli soldier kills a child. Are you interested?” he continued. “We can arrange that. For $10,000, I can organize everything.” Was he talking of a staging, or the real killing of a child? I did not dare to ask. I still nurture hope, despite the facts, that people would not willingly sacrifice children just to promote a show.
Our guess? Had it been some other Western film-maker and the offer had been accepted, a child would have been killed in front of the camera by “an Israeli soldier”; the “Israeli soldier” would have been fake, but the killing of the child would have been real.
Too far-fetched? Beyond any human being’s capacity for evil? Not at all. Hamas is having hundreds of real children killed by real Israeli soldiers right now in order to have them photographed and shown in newspapers and on television and computer screens all over the world. For that and that only they are forcing their children to suffer and die.
Could anything be more immoral, more absolutely evil, than this: to insist, despite advance warnings, that civilians, including as many children as possible, stay in or on the building – a house, a school, a hospital – from which rockets are being launched, so that they will be killed and maimed and dismembered when the rocket base is struck, simply in order to exploit the moral sentiment of the Western world by showing it the wounded and the dead with help from complicit media? Children as theater props, bleeding and dead.
As Rehov says:
Everything in Palestinian society is designed to promote martyrdom.
In fact the Palestinians were created as a separate nation by the Arab states in order to be martyrs. That is their function in Arab and Islamic politics and international relations. That is why rich and powerful Arabs don’t help them. That is why their sympathizers in the UN and wherever else keep them dependent on aid.
The Palestinians have embraced that role. And they will go on martyring themselves as long as the West allows them to. And no longer.
Now for a look at the thoughts of a leftist intellectual.
Hold your nose. It’s a junk-pile of sentimentality, self-congratulation, pious do-goodery, elitist classical allusion, and heavy emotion.
They are the thoughts of Joe Klein, writing at Time online. He is criticizing President Obama for not doing his job of governing. But would the way Klein thinks that job should be done be any improvement on Obama’s doing nothing?
Klein starts by saying:
It’s time to stop running away from the nation’s troubles.
He means that’s what President Obama should do – stop running away. He doesn’t go so far as to say that Obama had a hand in causing the troubles.
The trouble he turns to is the case of the child immigrants streaming illegally into the US from Central America. He calls them “refugees”. He paints a touching scene of what’s going on at the border.
A woman named Libby Casanova brings her four children to volunteer every day. She is a pathologist in the real world but does intake at the center; she’s the first person the refugees encounter. “Many of them start to cry when they hear the applause,” she says. “They are so grateful.”
What applause? Who are they who applaud Lily Casanova and her four children when they arrive daily to tend to the “refugees”?*
In Klein’s mind – and probably in the mind of the charitable mother-of-four – the “refugees” are humble petitioners, overflowing with gratitude to their benefactors. It must make Klein feel good by proxy.
Never mind who applauds. Get the picture as Joe Klein sees it and would have his readers see it:
Casanova brought her children on the first day so they could see that not everyone was as fortunate as they are – and the kids insisted on coming back and volunteering every day.
Rosy-faced little Christian saints. Christian? Yes, a nun pops into the picture:
“This place is making the entire community stronger,” Sister Norma says. And there is an infectious spiritual joy in the air. As Sister Norma says, “Jesus did not say, ‘I was hungry and you asked for my papers.’ “
Pause to overcome nausea. Then on:
Barack Obama should see the Catholic Charities mission in McAllen. He should also have a town meeting with the Tea Party nativists who are so angry and threatened by the rush of refugees – 43,933 unaccompanied children alone since October – who began to appear from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
And here comes more criticism of Obama:
His job, after all, is to rise above the rancor and, well, lead. You don’t do this by making a speech to a favored audience. You do it by taking action, setting a personal example. All sorts of Protestant congregations are sending volunteers to Sacred Heart – perhaps he could encourage a Tea Party group to do the same. The President has gone to the scene of other human tragedies. He has acknowledged the suffering personally in the past.
What scenes of human tragedy has he gone to? Whose suffering has he acknowledged? Not the choking to death of Ambassador Chris Stevens. Osama bin Laden’s perhaps?
But not now, and you have to wonder why.
True political courage is near extinct. I saw the real thing for the first time on the night of April 4, 1968, when riots broke out across the country after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Senator Robert Kennedy decided to go into the heart of the Indianapolis ghetto – he was running for President at the time – and talk to the people. His aides and the local police pleaded with him not to do it. He was putting his life in danger, but he believed he had a responsibility to show up. He spoke for only five minutes, without a text – you can watch it on YouTube – and he calmed the crowd by quoting Aeschylus about the experience of excruciating pain that leads to deeper wisdom. Indianapolis was one of the few major cities that remained quiet that night.
There’s a lesson for us all. To calm a seething mob, quote Aeschylus at it. Calms it in minutes.
Nowadays politicians are swaddled by their media consultants, who determine whether it is “safe” to be “courageous”. But acts of courage don’t come with a money-back guarantee. They are courageous because they’re potentially dangerous or, more likely, embarrassing. Courage’s reward comes subtly, in the form of trust as the public learns that a politician is willing to take risks to tell the truth. Obama is currently wandering about the country, trying to meet average people, but the choreography is more stringent than the Bolshoi’s. He said he didn’t want to go to the border because it would only be a “photo op” … on the same day his office published a photo of the President and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper shooting pool. Who choreographed that? …
The last bit makes sense. Why is a photo of the President playing pool okay, but one of him looking into smelly warehouses where heaps of diseased teens are awaiting charity from church or state not okay?
These are precisely the sort of things that Obama doesn’t seem to do anymore. There has been a skein of stories indicating he’s thrown in the towel. He’s so tired of head-banging with Republicans that he has taken refuge in late-night dinners with celebrities and intellectuals.
“Refuge in late-night dinners with celebrities and intellectuals”? Refuge from Republicans! Phew! Ya gotta feel for the guy! He’s a refugee too. Perhaps Lily Casanova and her rosy kids could visit him and cast their love-light upon him. And Sister Norma. And delegates from Protestant congregations.
Robert Kennedy did a lot of that too. But Kennedy never gave the impression that politics was distasteful, beneath him, as Obama too frequently does. Kennedy was all about passion; Obama seems all about decorum.
We haven’t noticed the decorum. We think decorum might be quite a good thing in a president. Klein doesn’t. He prefers and recommends passion.
He needs to go to the border – on a lot of issues. If he’s going to accomplish anything in the last two years of his presidency, he’s going to have to change his style, which will be near impossible for a man as entrenched behind his flacks-in-jackets as the President is. He’s right about photo ops. Enough already. But there are other “ops” – study ops, passion ops, conversation ops. He needs to do something dramatic to win back the country.
Oh no! Please not “something dramatic”! No more floodlit speeches among fake temple columns. No more apologizing to Islam from a platform in Cairo. No more healing the planet, calming the seas, walking on water! Let him sleep. Let him play pool. And golf. Let him dine with celebrities and intellectuals deep into the small hours of the morning. Wish only that the remaining two and a half years of his presidency pass without the entire globe going up in flames while he dines and plays.
* Apparently “the entire staff” of the “processing center on the grounds of the Sacred Heart Church” applaud each “family” as it arrives. We missed that in his second paragraph. Because we didn’t read it. It was a tough read and we shirked some parts of it.