On Schaeffer’s Beatification of Obama

Barack Obama painted portrait DSC_3641.JPG
Barack Obama painted portrait DSC_3641.JPG (Photo credit: Abode of Chaos)

A quote by commentator Frank Schaeffer is becoming a web-meme due to the efforts of Occupy Democrats. The paragraph, taken from a Huffington Post article Schaeffer penned in November, is a pocket panegyric to President Obama, and appears to be an appeal less to the Republican right (or center) than an attempt to woo back disaffected Democrats:

Senator Obama won scholarships to America’s top academic institutions, was voted by his peers to be editor of the Harvard Law Review, is a family man with an exemplary and obviously loving marriage, has a wife who is a brilliant charismatic woman, two lovely children, is a born-again Christian comfortable with his faith, has avoided making the fast buck in the new gilded age of greed when he could have, served his community, is thoughtful, considered in his opinions, slow to anger, proved right in his judgment about the Iraq war, the economy and just about everything else, looks at every side of a question before making a decision, and is not given to grandstanding let alone defending himself. That is who I voted for twice. That is who the president still is.

I include this lengthy paragraph neither to endorse it nor to refute it, but to demonstrate the degree to which public debate has been hijacked by the politics of personality. The endless ping-pong between personal demonization and political beatification is a waste of time and effort and, in the end, is the sign of a debater who has run out of arguments in his favor.

As far as Mr. Obama is concerned, those who have been his detractors since the beginning acknowledge scant virtue in him. Those who have been his most ardent supporters concede few if any of his vices. The truth lies somewhere between the two extremes, and we should leave judgment on the man to history and the Almighty.

Enough of the ad hominem politics from both sides. I stand in firm opposition to the Administration, but I stand with those who eschew the temptation to create heroes and villains, choosing instead to focus their efforts on hashing out policies, debating the thinking behind them, and framing a future for the nation.

Alec Baldwin and Tolerance

Yeah, Alec Baldwin Really Is a Bigot”
The Atlantic

Ta-Nehisi Coates
November 27, 2013

English: to fill
Alec Baldwin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After long years fighting the battle for the soul of the GOP, it is a bit of a relief to look across the aisle and watch similar battles take place on the other side.

At a superficial level, it is fascinating to watch the American left try to find a way to reconcile Alec Baldwin’s vocal and active support of LGBT rights on the one hand, and his insensitive, ostensibly homophobic outbursts on the other. It echoes struggles we have on the right about some of the personalities in our own party.

Schadenfreude aside, though, Baldwin’s less-savory remarks hint at something darker, the possibility that there are those hiding among the ranks of celebrities and other notables whose professed values are at odds with the values they truly hold. How difficult it must be for such luminaries to live a life in contradiction of their values, merely because they fear the approbation of others who are less tolerant of viewpoints other than their own.

I do not know if this is the case for Baldwin, and even if it is I do not wish to defend his outbursts. He is a public figure and thus must live with the consequences of his public behavior.

But it does suggest that we need to remain vigilant against all forms of intolerance, not just racism, sexism, or religious chauvinism, but also intolerance of alternate viewpoints. We have become a nation where racial intolerance is unacceptable, but where it is still considered quietly appropriate to shun someone because his political viewpoints are different than yours. For example, fear of blacklisting has driven many Republicans in Hollywood all but underground, yet the industry that did much to celebrate the defeat of McCarthyism now seems to be cultivating the same sort of ideological intolerance from the other side of the spectrum.

We may never know whether Baldwin was just a closet conservative who was finally driven to extreme behavior by his own cognitive dissonance. We do know, however, that no American should cultivate or countenance political intolerance. We are all entitled to our views, however unfathomable they may seem to others, and if those views are arrived at honestly, without fear or enticement, they are legitimate. We must go back to the ethos that says that I may disagree with what you believe and say, but I will fight to the death for your right to believe and say that.

That is a good fight, and it does not just take place on a battlefield, but in the workplace an in our own hearts. This holiday season, we would do well to recommit ourselves to the sort of open-mindedness that allows us to believe good things about fellow Americans with whom we disagree vehemently.

To Whom Does Your Child Belong?

Cover of "Brave New World"
Cover of Brave New World

One of the vices I try to foreswear in this forum is the singling-out of a single liberal voice. People on all sides of an issue have a right to their opinion, no matter how loony. But when something comes up that suggests a major divergence of values or perspective from the Bull Moose standpoint, it is worth highlighting if for no other reason than it offers an opportunity for us to stake out a claim.

Case in point: MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry stepped into a very deep pile of something unpleasant when she said in a promotional spot last week:

…we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.

This has provoked outrage among conservatives, and I think rightly so. William Bigelow, writing for Breitbart, fumed:

[Melissa Harris-Perry] may call those of us who know the value of parenting as opposed to being raised by the state trolls, but she shouldn’t be surprised by the furor over her remarks. To insult all of us who devote our lives to our children and also truly believe that we are completely responsible for their welfare is beyond offensive and repugnant; it is an attack on the foundations of western civilization itself.

I do not often agree with the Breitbart editorial line, but I have a hard time disagreeing on this one. It may take a village to raise a child, but that rearing is the responsibility of the parent(s.) To disagree is to do more than grant the state its right to act in loco parentis: it is to place on the community, and by extension the state, the responsibility for rearing children, and for the decisions about their health, welfare, education, clothing, feeding, and spiritual growth.

That statist approach to child-rearing is not only anathema to the principles that underlie this republic, they are the very precepts followed by totalitarian societies to ensure that the purpose of children is to support the state against all else. Indeed, leaving aside the implicit moral hazard of telling parents to have children without worrying about taking responsibility for them later, having the state assume that children become wards of the “community” places us on the road to fascism, to a brave new world none of us seek.