Archive for March, 2008|Monthly archive page

ObamaNos

As I was saying some time ago, Obama’s campaign slogan, ‘Yes, we can!’ is the English version of the pro-amnesty for illegal immigrants slogan, ‘Sí se puede.’

The San Francisco Citizen has the pics.

a breakthrough, not a breakdown

Now Victor Davis Hanson is on about it:

This is what the triangulation of Obama has helped to unleash: most Americans will now doubt the moral authority of the African-American intellectual and religious community not just to question the questionable racial remarks of a Bill Clinton, Ed Rendell, or Geraldine Ferraro, but also the Wright-like crudity of a Don Imus or a Michael Richards. Context is now king.

This disastrous regression in race relations is the natural dividend of liberal identity politics, most recently brought to the fore by the wife of the first “black President”, the first “transracial” black Presidential candidate, and the “prophet” and “healer” Reverend Wright.

Why are people decrying the truth getting out? All that’s happening is Americans are finally seeing what’s been going on all this time, that racism is not just something white people feel, but something quite common in the black community as well. Hiding it, giving black racists unquestioned moral authority, WAS the disaster.

Now we are seeing what I hope will be an awakening, a realization that we MUST question the moral authority of black leaders, and white leaders, and Asian leaders, male and female leaders, in fact, we MUST QUESTION ALL AUTHORITY. That which passes the test, we should hold in high regard. That which doesn’t, i.e., that authority which is being misused by racists and sexists and other bigots, should be dashed against the rocks. That is the only way forward, the only way towards racial conciliation in this nation.

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H/t Instapundit

Cf. just rhetoric? what?

just rhetoric? what?

All of the hooplah about Obama’s spiritual advisor has generated a little blogstorm it seems. The Anchoress, whom I very much respect, says this is destructive:

I was in the car today and flipped on Sean Hannity and heard him really carrying on, saying that because Obama “sat in those pews for 20 years,” even if he repudiated Wright it would not be “credible.”

. . .

Is Hannity suggesting that a politician must review a pastor’s sermons each week and run around denouncing and deserting those preachers who might cause him a little bit of political heat? Wouldn’t that be both extreme behavior and a bit dis-crediting?

. . .

Wright’s rhetoric is extreme, but it’s just rhetoric.

This issue is pretty thoroughly hashed out in the comments and, whichever side you are on, I highly recommend them. The Anchoress’ comments in response to opponents especially made me think about this issue.

But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about that last line up there, “it’s just rhetoric.”

Nonsense. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, and it is rarely empty. All a political campaign is, for example, is rhetoric. Nothing more. Even the showy parts, wearing a flag pin (or not), kissing babies, making policy speeches, debates, these are all rhetoric. If the Anchoress means that Wright’s rhetoric is hyperbolic, that’s one thing. To say it’s just rhetoric, as if there is no meaning imparted, as if no one’s mind could possibly be changed by it, is false and dangerous. It was ignoring Hitler’s rhetoric that resulted in WWII. It was ignoring Al Qaeda’s rhetoric that probably led us to fail to predict the 9/11 attacks. It’s been ignoring the racist, hateful, divisive rhetoric of certain black preachers and the Nation of Islam that has strengthened racial division in the US and prevented healing and reconciliation to a certain extent.

Rhetoric should be treated seriously. When the results of one’s words have real consequences, one can stick to his guns or modify his words. Either way, it is only by taking words seriously and acting on what our fellow citizens say that we find out whether the words were truly meaningful or empty rhetoric.

(This post will have a follow-up.) Update 2008 June 21: Or maybe not. It’s been too long to even remember what I wanted to follow up with. I blame grad school.

warriors, pacifists, enchanters and Christianity

Grim has an interesting post up today on the breadth of the Christian faith.  I cut this bit out to discuss:

The interesting thing about Christianity is the degree to which it accepts men as they are: the Christian law is not the Ten Commandments, but the Great Commandment: “Love each other as you love yourself; forgive everything.” If I am to love a man, I must love him as he is; yet if I am to love him as I love myself, then I may fight with him to the degree that I would fight myself. I may even kill him, if there are things I would rather kill myself than be guilty of having done.

If I can but forgive his soul, I am doing all that is asked in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If I can do that, then we may fight each other as hard as needs be — and we may even love the chance to strike a blow for what is right, best, just. Even the most wicked man is therefore lovable, insofar as he gives us the greatest opportunity to create good in the world. Even our own capacity for sin is lovable, for the same reason.

This is quite a new idea to me, or rather, a sharp twist on some old ideas, and I need some time to mull it over.  But, first thoughts (very bloggish of me, eh? shoot first, think later . . .):

1. Are Christians called to forgive everything?  If so, then we must forgive even those things we would kill someone for?  That seems a bit contradictory, but let’s see.  CS Lewis in Mere Christianity says this about loving one’s neighbor as oneself:

In my most clear-sighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one.  I can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing.  So apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do. . . .

The real test is this.  Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper.  Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true . . .  Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible?

. . .

Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him?  No, for loving myself does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punishment — even to death. . . .

If I didn’t know better (and, well, actually I don’t), I’d say Grim had been reading CS Lewis.

2. Then, the idea that we may kill for those things we would wish to be killed for is a brainbender.  However, let’s do a thought experiment.  Let’s say I flipped out, bought guns and ammo, and was on my way to a place to kill a bunch of people.  My sane self would certainly hope someone stopped me, and given the choice between my insane self carrying out that act and some armed citizen or police officer killing me, I would choose to be killed.  That is true; I would rather be killed than commit an act like that.

What about an immoral war?  I presume Grim’s rule would mean that soldiers should only participate in wars they believe are moral, and should only kill enemies who are doing things, or working towards aims, that the moral soldier himself would rather be killed than accomplish.  We have faced this in Iraq, with Watada and others refusing to go for moral reasons.

CS Lewis (MC again) had this to say about the Christian warrior:

All killing is not murder any more than all sexual intercourse is adultery.  When soldiers came to St John the Baptist asking what to do, he never remotely suggested that they ought to leave the army: nor did Christ when He met a Roman sergeant-major — what they called a centurion.  The idea of the knight — the Christian in arms for the defence of a good cause — is one of the great Christian ideas.  War is a dreadful thing, and I can respect an honest pacifist, though I think he is entirely mistaken.  What I cannot understand is this sort of semi-pacifism you get nowadays which gives people the idea that though you have to fight, you ought to do it with a long face and as if you were ashamed of it.  It is that feeling that robs lots of magnificent young Christians in the Services of something they have a right to, something which is the natural accompaniment of courage — a kind of gaiety and wholeheartedness.

I have often thought to myself how it would have been if, when I served in the First World War, I and some young German had killed each other simultaneously and found ourselves together a moment after death.  I cannot imagine that either of us would have felt any resentment or even any embarrassment.  I think we might have laughed over it.

3. I certainly agree that Christianity is much more broad and open than it is often portrayed, and that it has often accommodated itself to the peoples and times it finds itself among.  Some see this as a weakness, but I see it as a strength.  There is always the danger of bending so far the branch breaks and one particular effort is no longer part of the tree of Christianity, but I think we can bend quite a bit before we reach that point.

4. Oh, I have more to say, particularly about Grim’s choice of poem for his post, but I suspect this post is long enough.  I’ll save “The Last Hero” for later days.

american empire?

In response to a dreadful piece of faux-journalism in the Atlantic entitled The Price of Empire:

In 1945 neither the Germans nor Japanese had a choice in whether or not to be occupied. However, since then, the democratically elected governments of both nations have renewed the defense treaties and agreed to continue to host US bases. What is more, both governments have enacted policies antithetical to American interests from time to time, for example, Japan’s export policies, and Germany’s refusal to go along with the invasion of Iraq.

Next, empires by definition are physically maintained by force (cf. Rome, British Empire) and for the economic benefit of the empire, frequently to the detriment of the subservient regions. In the cases of both Germany and Japan, however, we see a voluntary military association that could be abridged by the German or Japanese governments, and we see that rather than economically profiting from these associations, the US poured huge sums of money into these nations for no defined economic gain. These two nations are in no way cases of empire as normally understood.

However, in the early 20th century, the Lenin-Hobson (i.e., communist) theory of empire asserted that capitalist nations who run out of internal ways to use capital will then turn outwards and will force weaker nations into economic subservience, creating a new kind of empire. The Lenin-Hobson concept of empire also turns on the use of coercion backed up by armed force. This has turned out to be false, but has become a mainstay of leftist thinking since it was published.

If, for the sake of argument, we allow both cases, then an empire is maintained by coercion and at least the threat of military force. Iraq and Afghanistan may or may not fit into this category (depending on whether the US pours more money in or takes more out of each of them)*, but Japan and Germany, who freely signed renewals of their defense treaties with the US, certainly do not.

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h/t to Winds of Change

* Update: Actually, whether or not these two nations are part of an alleged American empire depends on several factors, first among them being whether or not they become fully independent nations, whether they are being exploited economically, etc. Right now I find it highly improbable, but I also maintain that we don’t know everything going on, so my estimate may change later.

Update ( June 29, 2008 ): Armed and Dangerous has an excellent post that approaches the topic from a different angle, followed up by a reply to a commenter.

man and boy

After becoming a man, after the blood and bones and endless nights of rush and fade and fatality and being razor-edged ragged alive there is still something the man needs. The anger and sadness will always be there, and the hope if he doesn’t give it up or sell it out.

But there is still something else. It is looking back, once out of the zone, and knowing that he was always a boy, that he still is, even as a man — becoming a man doesn’t take the boy away, it only adds to him.