Posts Tagged politics

The New Abolitionists

Every fifty years or so since the founding of our Republic, there seems to be a major societal revolution.

The founding itself took place in a revolution, and our nation was built on revolutionary ideas (such as a constitutional government which rested on natural law and popular sovereignty) which today are taken for granted. A little more than a half century later, we fought a bloody civil war, and a revolutionary idea, equal protection under the law, began to be put into practice. In the beginning of the 20th century, the country was split over giving women the right to vote; again, justice prevailed. Almost fifty years later, segregation’s time was up, and a revolution in civil rights took place once again.

We look back today at the men and women who fought these battles–the abolitionists, the suffragettes, the civil rights activists–as the heroes that they are. Their courage and actions changed the world. In each case, they were defending a vulnerable group against injustice from those in power. In each case, as the arc of history bent towards justice, they were the benders. And their heroism lies in no small part due to the fact that in each case, they faced a culture that was split around the issue; by standing up for what they knew to be right, they faced widespread public derision, possible rejection by their own family and friends, even violence.

If the pattern holds, we’re due for another of these cultural shifts.

We also look back today at 41 years of legal abortion, and at 56 million dead children. Again the country is split. And again, an abolitionist movement is gaining strength.

It amazes me how the pro-choice arguments mirror so closely the old pro-slavery arguments. “They’re not people. You can’t give them the same rights as real people.” “They’re really better off this way. What kind of life would they have if you got your way?” In any event, the slave owners and their supporters were simply trying to protect their freedom to choose to own slaves. That is, if you don’t like slavery, then don’t own slaves. But how dare you take away someone else’s right to choose based on your beliefs! Right?

I don’t want to belabor this too much. It doesn’t need it. This is a simple issue (don’t kill kids) and momentum is already on the side of justice. Just allow me one little harangue. Look to the examples I listed above. We are in our revolution. It is taking place now. We are today’s abolitionists. History will look back at today and see either courage, or cowardice. People will look back at us and admire those who stood up to protect the vulnerable from the powerful, just as we look back with admiration for those who have fought this battle before. They fought on different battlegrounds, but justice is the same today as it was yesterday; and it makes the same demand whether the victim is a slave or an infant.

"Thousands" gather for the 2013 March For Life*

“Thousands” gather for the 2013 March For Life*

So to my harangue. Be the person today that you will look back at with pride, knowing that you stood up when it was hard to do. Don’t be silent. Remember that “don’t kill kids” will one day be as obvious as “don’t make people slaves” is to us today. Don’t be afraid. The tide has already turned. Speak up. Most Americans are with you, even if the news won’t report it.


*Image stolen without asking from http://martinfamilymoments.blogspot.com/2013/01/bits-of-tid-tuesday.html. Yes, I used a 2013 picture despite today being the 2014 March For Life. This is just such a fantastic picture. Today’s pictures are all full of snow.

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The Simplistic Nelson Mandela

So everyone has an opinion on the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela.

The coverage and commentary I’ve seen over the last few days has pushed something to the front of my mind which has been percolating semi-consciously for a while: the universal human tendency to reduce complex things (like people) to simplistic things (like bumper stickers). In particular, I have watched with fascination and frustration the political manifestation of this tendency, the reduction of a real, complex human being to either a Saint or a Demon.

This isn’t a partisan post, because this isn’t a partisan issue. If you, whatever your views, think that only the Other Side does this, or even just that the Other Side does it WAY WORSE than your team, you are wrong, and go sit in the corner and think about what you have done. Everybody does this, and it’s never acceptable, and it’s never helpful, and we all need to stop it.

So on to the current case. I’m not an expert on Mandela. But I know enough to know that everything I have read so far from all sources is criminally simplistic. I know to expect this to some degree, but I would hope that on the occasion of the death of the respected 95-year-old South African statesman, we could wait at least a couple of weeks here in the US before starting to make this all about us.

To those making Mandela out to be a saint: calm down. The man was the founder of a terrorist group. This fact is not in dispute. He was imprisoned for attempting to violently overthrow the government via this group, for which he was guilty. He was friends with Fidel Castro and Muammar Gaddafi, violent dictators that as a matter of policy murdered their own people. He was married to a woman for almost 40 years who was found by South Africa’s own TRC to be both “accountable” and “responsible” for “gross violations of human rights.” He was proudly Marxist throughout his life. He remained in prison for part of those 27 years because he refused what was in at least one offer the only condition he was presented: that he “unconditionally reject violence as a political weapon.”

To those making Mandela out to be a demon: calm down. The man successfully navigated the end of apartheid and saw South Africa to its first truly democratic election. He personally held Marxist views, yes, but did not follow through on his early goals of nationalizing much of South Africa’s economy. He was committed to nonviolent means of protest for many years until he became convinced by the grave injustice and violence he constantly witnessed that sometimes there may be no other way to prevent future violence. This is the same justification given by any hawk for military action. While in prison and after his release, he seems to have attempted to exert what influence he had over the ANC to end the violence. After his release and as President, he was deeply committed to racial reconciliation and forgiveness for both sides, so much so that some of the violent revolutionaries he used to lead turned on him.

Finally, to those yelling at each other over this: calm down. It’s fitting and proper to celebrate the good things Mandela accomplished. They are real, and they are significant. It’s also fitting and proper in a political and historical context to remember accurately his violent past and his controversial positions. There is nothing racist about the above paragraphs.

All of these things can be true at the same time because–and if you’ll remember, this is what prompted me to write this whole thing–people are not simplistic. People are complex. They live in real life and make real judgments with real consequences. Sometimes they change. Another of Mandela’s friends, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, had the following to say about him: “Before Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962, he was an angry, relatively young man. He founded the ANC’s military wing. When he was released, he surprised everyone because he was talking about reconciliation and forgiveness and not about revenge.”

Let’s all think about that as we reflect on the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. Let us keep some decorum, and let us remember that he was a man, not an ideology, neither a saint nor a demon. He was complex. He was not a bumper sticker. Let us strive to live up to that description ourselves.

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Myth v. Fact: Eliminate the Government!

“Look, I get that you don’t like the government, but how do you plan to pay the cops if we abolish all taxes?”

Conservatives are regularly derided by liberals–from bloggers to Presidents–as wanting to tear down the entire government and stop all government functions and programs. I’ve been attacked for this myself.

If the charge is not, “You hate the government and want to close it down,” then it’s, “You’re a hypocrite because you say you hate the government but you still drive on public roads!”

Are either of these charges accurate?

This attack often presents as evidence either 1) the conservative desire to lower everyone’s taxes, or 2) conservative opposition to particular projects.

Let’s take these one at a time. Issue one is taxes. The reasoning goes that since government needs money to function, if conservatives want to cut taxes, then conservatives must want the government to stop functioning.bridge2

But while lowering taxes might mean having to cut or scale back some government programs or services, the idea that conservatives want to eliminate ALL taxes and cease ALL programs does not follow. If I’m spending too much in my personal life and decide I ought to cancel my cable TV, this does not mean I secretly want to stop wearing deodorant and become a hermit.

Then what about Republican opposition to specific spending projects? Do conservatives want to eliminate roads and schools? I’ve been hearing that charge my entire life, along with the claim that Republicans want to fire all the cops and firefighters. Or, opponents will point to conservatives’ desire to eliminate certain federal programs or departments–the Department of Education, for example, or the Affordable Care Act.

The answer to these attacks lies in two related principles: Federalism and Subsidiarity.

Federalism means that governing power is shared and divided between central and local governing bodies (e.g. states or provinces). Subsidiarity is the organizational principle that the smallest, most local authority that can effectively accomplish a task, should be the authority responsible for it.

We all know these concepts instinctively. We recognize that individual employees are capable of walking to the supply room and taking a box of staples when they run out, and we react against micromanagerial policies that require a manager’s signature to requisition staples and pens and a supervisor to open the supply room. It wastes the time of both manager and employee, it saps morale by treating people like children, and that all means a waste of money.

Subsidiarity does not say that local government should do everything and the federal government should do nothing. A staple czar is a bad idea, but a company can’t function without a chief at all. So of course there are things that only a central government can manage well, and subsidiarity says that the central government should do those things. Subsidiarity simply means that we ought to direct our efforts where they will be effective.

Within this framework, conservatives believe that the federal government, and local governments, and businesses, and individuals are all going to be good at certain things; and, if we’re smart, we’ll avoid making any of those groups responsible for tasks to which they are not suited. The point is to avoid wasting money and effort.

So it’s not that I don’t want public roads. I think that’s something government can be relatively good at, as long as we keep an eye on corruption. It’s not that I don’t want schools. It’s that I don’t think the federal government is at all good at running them. State and local governments are handling it, so let’s not waste effort where it’s not needed. Let’s not send money from Illinois to Washington, D.C. to pay for an expensive building full of expensive bureaucrats who will then decide how much of that money comes back to Illinois and how we should spend it.

Yes, I bristle when conservatives are called anti-education for taking issue with the Dept of Education, a federal, Cabinet-level Department with a nearly $70 billion budget whose mission is to “promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” What does that mean? It means the Dept. of Education doesn’t educate a single student. State and local government handles this.

Back to the beginning. Why, then, is this presented as, “Conservatives don’t want the government to do anything at all, ever!”? Because it looks that way from the point of view of today’s liberal Democratic party. The left today acts as if every social issue can and should be solved by a new shiny federal office full of federal workers. Progressives today argue without irony that a government’s effectiveness is defined by the number of laws it passes, and that when conservatives say, “Let’s cut this program because it’s not helping the poor,” they must really mean, “We don’t want to help the poor.” But subsidiarity means not doing things that won’t work. And I think that’s a reasonable principle to follow.

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Moving On

I’ll say it, so I can move on to more productive things. Okay. I’m disappointed.

There’s a ton of post-election analysis out there, but I don’t want to get in to that too much. I will say that I don’t think this is a sign that America is lost, or found, or anything. This does not mean that America has rejected conservative values or that Republicans will never win the White House again, any more than 2010 meant that America had rejected liberalism, or that 2006/08 meant that America had rejected conservatism, or that 2004 meant that America had rejected liberalism… hopefully you see my point. This is how it goes.

I also don’t think that this is a sign that Romney and the GOP went too far towards radical right-wing extremism, or anything of the sort. People are saying that the Republican party needs to give up on social issues, that Republicans lost because the party went hard-line and embraced people like Todd Akin. These people are wrong; the Republicans rejected Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, not the swing voters.

Romney carried Indiana by almost 11%, but Mourdock lost Indiana by over five points. Romney won Missouri by around 9%, and Akin lost the same state by over 15%. It was Republicans that voted against these guys. Commentators are claiming that the GOP needs to learn from this election that the “independent voters” will reject them unless they moderate on social issues. Nonsense. Mourdock’s opponent was a staunchly pro-life Democrat who even co-sponsored the controversial “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act” which defined the now-infamous term “forcible rape.” Indiana wanted a pro-life Senator. Mourdock wasn’t rejected for being pro-life, and he wasn’t rejected by the moderate swing voters. He was rejected by conservative Republicans for saying something deeply stupid which made us all look bad.

Which is my point. Romney didn’t lose because people rejected conservatism. Romney lost because people don’t know what conservatism is. Romney lost because a lot of people thought things about conservatives that aren’t true. Romney also lost because he said and did some very stupid things himself (I’m looking at you, DREAM act), but that’s not the central issue, because all politicians say stupid things here and there. President Obama successfully convinced a lot of groups that, if you’re a part of X group, you’re betraying people if you don’t vote Democrat. Women have to vote Democrat because Democrats care about women, and Republicans don’t. Same for various minority groups, ethnicities, industries. Young people think that Democrats “get” them and Republicans just don’t care about them. Whereas Romney and the Republicans didn’t talk to groups or ethnicities or genders as if we are all fighting each other. They preached a message of caring about, and doing what’s best for, all Americans–all of us together, since we’re all in this together–but people didn’t hear. America was unconvinced.

But where others see an obstacle, I see an opportunity. That’s the point of this blog. Conservatives have been awful at communicating why conservative policies help everyone, regardless of color or class, and far too many people really believe we’re all in groups and classes that have to fight and take from each other in order to get ahead.

So I’m working on a new series: Conservative Myth vs Fact. I want to take on these fallacies. I want to discuss like adults why the right sees things the way we do, things like public sector unions, taxing the rich, education reform, social security reform, and others. And I do hope for a real discussion. I know many of my readers disagree with my point of view, and I hope you will join in. If you have a specific topic in mind you’d like to bring up, post it in the comments here. And I look forward to the process.

Onward and upward!

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Real Leadership

The last few days have seen the Republican nominees and all-stars enter full attack mode. And the Great American Pastime of arguing, fact-checking, and commentary has moved into its final stretch–with the conventions, we start our engines for the playoff season, and I’m excited to see the contenders enter the ring.

In addition to giving bloggers like me an opportunity to badly mix metaphors, this is also a good moment to comment on the left-wing responses to some of the RNC speeches.

What I’ve heard and read from the left in the last few days can be divided into two categories: arguments centered on Romney and Ryan, and arguments centered on President Obama. The arguments I’ve heard about Romney and Ryan have been predictable; their speeches were nothing but lies and distortions (and also racist!), they only want to help the rich, yadda yadda yadda. More on that in a further post. But it’s the arguments about Obama’s record that I want to talk about here.

Romney and Ryan have reasonably spent a fair amount of time highlighting the President’s failed record. Almost four years now–a full term–and unemployment has yet to come back below 8%, we still have 23 million people unemployed or underemployed, and his first term will have added nearly $6 trillion in debt.

I think it’s fair to point those things out. So what has been the response?

Republicans are mean.

Seriously! I still hear, after almost four years of failure, that it’s all the mean Republicans’ fault. Obama wanted to fix the economy, but Bush left him such a mess, and he’s NEVER been able to get any of his plans through those mean Republicans in Congress that block him at every turn! They even admit they want him to fail, and that’s just mean!

So I’d just like to remind us all of something.

Despite the way the left talks today, Obama had large majorities in both houses of Congress for the first two years of his Presidency. During that time he got everything he wanted passed. Stimulus, Dodd-Frank, Obamacare–multiple major, far-reaching works of legislative overhaul.

People talk as if the President has never been able to pass a bill. “Of course the economy hasn’t turned around,” they say, “Congress won’t let a single one of the President’s ideas through!” The facts contradict this. Americans have extraordinarily short memories. Every one of the President’s ideas got through.

Finally, after having two years of carte blanche to pass anything he wanted, the American people recoiled at what they saw the Democrats doing, and responded with their votes. Obama himself referred to it as an electoral “shellacking.” Since then, the fact that he’s had any opposition in Congress at all has been the central excuse of the left for our economic situation.

And still, the stimulus WAS passed, and we still sailed beyond 10% unemployment. Dodd-Frank was passed, and the housing market has yet to rebound. The President’s policies aren’t some vague “what-if” that may have fixed our problems. President Obama’s policies are in place and we are seeing their effects in our economy’s failure to grow.

The position of President of the United States used to be referred to as the “leader of the free world.” I haven’t heard that term used in years. I don’t think people see this President as a leader at all.

So instead of a President that blames every problem on someone else, I think we need a leader that can work with whatever difficult situation he’s dealt. Someone that has been able to work with a hostile legislature and still get things done. A leader that has been able to step into existing failures and turn them into successes. If we can find one, I want a leader that’s been so amazingly good at turning failures around, maybe he’s even sheepish about how much money he made doing it.

That’s not about being mean. That’s getting things done. Let’s get things done, America.

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Don’t Overcomplicate Abortion

20w ultrasoundThis is a picture of my son from a couple months ago. He still has a month or two to go now. Specifically, his gestational age is just over 20 weeks in this picture.

You can see that he’s already got all his parts at this point. He spent his time in the ultrasound room running in place, stretching, rolling around, and basically dancing around non-stop.

Many of the recent state laws that have come up in the abortion debate have centered on banning abortions after the 20-22 week range. Advocates for abortion rights have lost their minds over the very idea that someone would want to restrict a woman’s right to terminate her 22-week old fetus–how dare anyone, any MAN, tell a woman what she can do with her body!

Look again at my 20 week old son. Really look at him.

There is another body involved. Another living human being.

My son is not a lump of undifferentiated cells. If you saw him move (and according to my wife, it seems like he never stops moving), you would not say that he’s not alive.

If you support abortion rights, do you really look at that picture and not see a human child? Do you really believe that if his mother wants to kill him, that’s nobody’s business but hers?

The burden of proof is not on the pro-life camp here. This argument isn’t based on some out of context quote from the book of Leviticus. This isn’t about controlling people, or men telling women what to do with their bodies. The argument is based on the fact that my son is a living human baby, and should not be killed. Abortion defenders argue that, if we feel like it, we should have the right to ask a doctor to reach in with a knife and suction tube and, living, cut him to pieces.

Look at my son again and tell me if you would be okay with that. I’m completely serious. Look at my son right now, and picture that procedure. I’ll wait. Now tell yourself that’s perfectly fine, if that’s what you think.

If you can’t do that, you might need to spend some time considering your position.

My son’s humanity does not depend on his level of brain activity or whether or not he happens to be inside a uterus at the moment. He’s a human being by the fact of his very DNA and the fact that he is alive and growing.

The pro-life argument is very simple. All it comes down to is that it’s not okay to kill a baby. The opposition screams a thousand insults; I am called a misogynist, a fundamentalist, a theocrat, a hypocrite. I am called hateful, judgmental; I may lose friends over this.

And still, all I have said and all I am saying is that it’s not okay to kill a baby.

That’s really the extent of the pro-life argument.

I truly believe that the reason the pro-abortion side gets so blindingly fanatical, so irrational in these arguments is because on some level, they know that killing a child is unjustifiable. I believe that much of the rage and hatred against pro-life arguments and pro-life supporters find their unconscious source in a need to justify to oneself that one is still a good person despite arguing for the right to kill children.

If this were not the case, you would hear different arguments in favor of abortion. But very few argue that abortion is okay. The argument is almost always some form of, “it’s a woman’s right to choose,” with the implied follow-up, “(regardless of whether it’s right or wrong.)” President Clinton pontificated that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. But if it should be rare… why?

Why assent that it should be rare? If it’s morally acceptable, who cares how widespread it is?

But if you think it ought to be rare because you know it’s killing a child, that’s an issue that overrides some of our individual liberties. Freedom and government noninterference doesn’t go as far as allowing murder.

If you agree that abortion ought to be rare, think about that. Meditate on why you think so.

Look one last time at my son. The pro-abortion argument says that the right to end his life is a matter of equal rights for women.

All I’m saying is that it’s not okay to kill a baby.

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Stand Up For Freedom Tomorrow

Tomorrow, starting at 12 noon in every time zone, in 160 cities (and counting) across America, there will be major rallies in support of religious freedom, about which you may not hear a peep from the mainstream media.

The movement is a massive, nationwide, concerted protest against the new HHS mandate, which is a regulation contained within Obamacare. If you haven’t heard yet of this mandate, it’s a requirement placed upon all employers, including religious groups, to pay for their employees’ contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs under their insurance coverage. There are very narrow exemptions that would not exclude religious schools, hospitals, or charities.

So a non-profit Catholic hospital, under this mandate, is faced with the choice of either paying for contraception for its employees, in direct contradiction of Catholic teaching, or simply closing its doors.

If you think this doesn’t matter because you’re not Catholic, or not Christian, or not even religious, keep reading.

This is not an issue that only affects Christians. This is an issue of freedom of conscience for every single American.

I defer to the clear and succinct summary at stophhs.com:

The HHS Mandate violates the United States Constitution and statutory law.  The HHS Mandate violates the free exercise of religion and the freedom of speech – both guaranteed under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.  It also violates, among other laws, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The HHS Mandate isn’t simply a Catholic issue.  This is an unprecedented attack on religious liberty.  The HHS Mandate allows the government to define whether an organization is religious enough and leads the way toward redefining religious liberty as freedom to worship.  As Americans, our Frist Amendment Right to the Free Exercise of Religion is much more than the right to worship privately in a church building or pray in our homes.  Our right allows us, as Americans, to live our faith publicly through our religious ministries and to serve others precisely because of our religious beliefs.  The HHS Mandate dictates that religious employers can only employ their own and serve their own or be forced out of ministry due to hefty fines. (emphasis added)

This goes far beyond the issue of contraception. Ask yourself what the role of government is in this case. Should the federal government be dictating to every employer every detail of every benefit package offered to every employee? If you accept that, should the government be able to tell a faith-based school that they must provide their employees with something that violates the tenets of their faith? Does free exercise of religion mean nothing?

Should the government tell a vegetarian business owner that he must provide lunch for his staff, and it must contain meat?

This is a dangerous intrusion into the rights of each of us to follow our own conscience. Dangerous in itself, and dangerous for what it would mean for our rights in the future.

Today’s attack is against the rights of Catholic organizations. Forgetting tomorrow’s dangers for a minute, let’s think about that danger. The Catholic school system is the largest private school system in America. 2.5 million students are educated at thousands of Catholic schools across the country. Catholic high schools have a 99% (!) graduation rate and save the taxpayer over $19 billion a year, as they are funded by tuition, donations, and their local parishes. There are 221 Catholic colleges and universities in America, 615 Catholic hospitals (12.5% of the nation’s hospitals), and 1600 local charitable agencies including food banks, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters.

The HHS mandate threatens to shut them all down.

Who is on the right side here?

So go to standupforreligiousfreedom.com. Find your nearest rally tomorrow and GO. Tell your friends.

Stand up.

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