Archive for the ‘ Politics & Government ’ Category

The Rush to Self-Deception

Paris AttacksEveryone who has a blog is probably commenting today on the Paris attacks of last Friday. Although I haven’t superimposed the French flag on my Facebook image (I’m not one for fads of that kind), that doesn’t mean I’m not deeply disturbed over what has occurred. This was another prime example of Islamic terrorism, even if our president stubbornly continues to avoid using that terminology.

Paris Attacks MapThe attacks in Paris took place at a number of locations at approximately the same time. They were well orchestrated. ISIS has claimed credit for them. At least one of the attackers was part of the Syrian refugee flood, a tide of humanity that ISIS takes advantage of by inserting its adherents, knowing that they will not be vetted properly before infiltrating the welcoming nation’s population.

This is nothing new, of course. Western nations have been the greatest abettors of their own destruction. We are so afraid of appearing insensitive, racist, or intolerant, that we opt for allowing avowed enemies into our midst.

I’m reminded of Mark Steyn’s comments in his book America Alone:

America AloneAfter September 11, the first reaction of just about every prominent Western leader was to visit a mosque: President Bush did, so did the Prince of Wales, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, the prime minister of Canada and many more. And, when the get-me-to-the-mosque-on-time fever died away, you couldn’t help feeling that this would strike almost any previous society as, well, bizarre.

Pearl Harbor’s been attacked? Quick, order some sushi and get me into a matinee of Madam Butterfly! Seeking to reassure the co-religionists of those who attack you that you do not regard them all as the enemy is a worthy aim but a curious first priority. And, given that more than a few of the imams in those mosque photo-ops turned out to be at best equivocal on the matter of Islamic terrorism and at worst somewhat enthusiastic supporters of it, it involved way too much self-deception on our part.

That self-deception seems to exist more at the top levels of our government than among our citizens in general. Polls show that most Americans expect Paris-type attacks to be coming soon to a city near us. A government’s first task is to protect its own citizens; are we sure our current government really believes in that?

For Christians, there is kind of a divided mind on these matters at times. We want to help genuine refugees, particularly since we know that some of them are Christian brothers and sisters trying to escape persecution and annihilation. We don’t want them sent back into that maelstrom.

Yet we can help those refugees through some very effective ministries, and we should do so, even as my church is doing now. But that doesn’t mean we ignore the very real threat that this refugee explosion contains. It’s not Christian to blindly accept everyone, thereby endangering our fellow countrymen.

This unfolding tragedy has no easy answers, but governmentally, it could at least start with an acknowledgement of the real problem. With our present government, that will not happen.

Lewis & the Omnicompetent State (Part 2)

Last Saturday I offered the first section of the paper I presented at the C. S. Lewis Foundation’s fall retreat. Here’s the next segment, dealing with Lewis’s concern that we may develop what he called the “omnicompetent state.”

It’s in The Abolition of Man and That Hideous Strength that Lewis’s concerns come to the forefront. The former lays out the philosophical case against the loss of absolutes and the consequences that will follow in the wake of that loss. The latter is his imaginative approach to describe what might happen in a society that suffers from the arrogant amalgamation of science, pseudo-science, occultism, and totalitarian government.

Abolition of ManThe final chapter of The Abolition of Man is where Lewis directs his readers’ thoughts to the practical outworking of the rise of this totalitarianism. “Man’s conquest of Nature, if the dreams of some scientific planners are realized,” he warns, “means the rule of a few hundreds of men over billions upon billions of men.”

What we need to understand, he continues, is that “there neither is nor can be any simple increase of power on Man’s side. Each new power won by man is a power over man as well.” In essence, this will be “the power of some men to make other men what they please.”

He is careful to note that this is not new: men in all ages have attempted such things. However, this time he believes the danger is greater. Even though Plato would have liked every infant “nursed in a bureau,” and others have devised similar educational schemes, he says we can “thank the beneficent obstinacy of real mothers, real nurses, and (above all) real children for preserving the human race in such sanity as it still possesses.” So what is different now?

But the man-moulders of the new age will be armed with the powers of an omnicompetent state and an irresistible scientific technique: we shall get at last a race of conditioners who really can cut out all posterity in what shape they please.

This will be made easier by the rejection of the Tao, or natural law, that all societies have, up until now, acknowledged. The conditioners will concoct an artificial Tao of their own making and will be free, therefore, to start from scratch.

C. S. Lewis 8To the hope that perhaps these new elite planners will somehow be benevolent, Lewis has a rather succinct reply: “I am very doubtful whether history shows us one example of a man who, having stepped outside traditional morality and attained power, has used that power benevolently. I am inclined to think that the Conditioners will hate the conditioned.” Once we give up our souls to get power in return, we will discover that we have become “slaves and puppets of that to which we have given ourselves.”

Lewis then brings the subject directly to types of government:

The process which, if not checked, will abolish Man goes on apace among Communists and Democrats no less than among Fascists. The methods may (at first) differ in brutality. But many a mild-eyed scientist in pince-nez, many a popular dramatist, many an amateur philosopher in our midst, means in the long run just the same as the Nazi rulers of Germany.

Traditional values are to be “debunked” and mankind to be cut out into some fresh shape at the will (which must, by hypothesis, be an arbitrary will) of some few lucky people in one lucky generation which has learned how to do it.

More on this next Saturday.

The Media vs. the Truth

Journalists can do a lot of good if they take their calling seriously. I’m certainly in favor of trained journalists who understand the need for fairness in reporting. But what do we get when most journalists are schooled in a university atmosphere of progressivism and either cynicism or outright hostility toward traditional Christian beliefs and/or cultural and political conservatism?

We get what has happened to Ben Carson recently—an all-out attempt to destroy an individual who doesn’t fit the progressive mold. In Carson’s case, from the mainstream media’s point of view, he is such an anomaly that he must be taken down.

A black Christian conservative, in their world, cannot exist, and if such a person does exist, he must not be allowed to succeed. Nothing must stand in the way of the progressive agenda, so while journalists mouth the platitudes of their profession—objectivity, etc.—the reality is something else:

Conjoined Twins

And if there’s nothing bad to report, they will create something themselves:

Pant on Fire

Nothing that they have “uncovered” about Carson’s past has any credibility, yet they somehow find a way to ignore another candidate with the greatest history of lies and corruption imaginable:

Media Trash

Did anyone in the mainstream media follow up on the whoppers Hillary has told about Benghazi, for instance—even before a congressional committee? No, they were too busy concentrating on really important matters:

Lies

Carson, to his credit, fought back, boldly contrasting the treatment he has received with the kid gloves used against Hillary and Obama. I love this picture that has been finding its way around social media:

Ben Carson Congratulations

It’s not just Carson, of course, and the attacks don’t come solely from “professional” journalists. Carly Fiorina has had to counter the snide comments from the ladies women on “The View” who decided to attack her personally. She handled them quite well:

Fiorina on the View

I applaud the steadfastness demonstrated by both Carson and Fiorina in the face of this onslaught. For the sake of truth, those who foster the politics of personal destruction must not be allowed to go unanswered.

Last Night’s Debates–An Overview

I watched both debates last night. What a blessed difference from the CNBC debacle a couple of weeks ago. The moderators at Fox Business Network didn’t use their moment in the limelight to focus on themselves or cause unnecessary turbulence with their questions. Instead, the questions were direct, short, meaningful, and fair. Congratulations, Fox Business, for bringing back professionalism to these debates.

The first debate, with the so-called “undercard” candidates, was quite good, primarily because there were only four debaters. All had plenty of time to express their views without having to resort to quick sound bites to make news. All four—Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum—were articulate and focused on their desired messages.

My only concern about that first debate was Jindal’s approach. I’ve always liked Jindal, and most of what he said last night was what I believe. Yet he came across as so pugnacious in attacking the others that I fear he lost ground. I was disappointed with the attitude he displayed; it came across to me as a desperate attempt to be noticed. While it is important to point out the differences among the candidates, he almost made the others seem like the opposition when the real opposition is in the other party.

The main debate was substantive, thanks primarily to the honest questioners. There were only a couple instances of the back-and-forth threatening to go off the rails, but even those were rather entertaining and allowed us to see how the candidates can handle themselves in a tense situation.

Wisconsin Debate

I won’t go down the list of all the candidates and even attempt to point out the strengths and weaknesses—it would fill this post so full you wouldn’t want to read to the end.

I do, though, believe there were some genuine “winners,” in the sense that they came across as the real adults on the stage. In my opinion, the following helped their cause the most (in alphabetical order): Cruz, Fiorina, and Rubio. Carson held his own and had a good moment with his humorous response to the criticisms he has had to endure about his life story.

Jeb Bush did better than in the other debates, but I don’t think he did what was needed to put himself back in the top tier. Rand Paul is always good when talking about limiting government, but not anywhere near what I want when he weighs in on defense and terrorism.

Trump is trying to be more civil, but you can see the snarkiness seeking an outlet. It turns out he was substantively wrong in his answer to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement; he included China in it, but China was not a part of it.

Kasich needs to go home and be a good governor. Sorry, but to me he is more than a little annoying.

As I watch these debates, I simultaneously watch the Twitter feeds from National Review and Townhall. The comments are often amusing, and I enjoy the immediate feedback. What I noticed, however, is the wide swing of opinion about the candidates’ performances, even among those who call themselves conservatives. A glowing report from one person is followed immediately by a negative report from another about the same incident or comment from one of the candidates.

Not all conservatives see these candidates in the same light. I’m hoping the field winnows down considerably in the next weeks, but we’ll probably have to wait until after Iowa and New Hampshire in February.

In the meantime, listen carefully to each one who is telling you why he or she should be the next commander in chief. This is a critical decision.

Lewis & the Omnicompetent State (Part 1)

C. S. Lewis 13C. S. Lewis often protested that he had no interest in or taste for politics. What he really meant by that was the type of politics he imbibed growing up in a Belfast suburb, listening to his father discuss with friends the nature of the local and national politics of his Irish/English homeland. Was it the pettiness that turned him against political discussion or the boredom he suffered from those overheard conversations? Whatever the cause, he normally abhorred purely political discussions.

Yet there is a clear distinction that must be drawn between politics per se and the principles of governing a civil society. That second topic interested Lewis considerably, and he commented often, both in his published works and in letters, particularly to Americans, on the subject of government. He was quite direct in his statements on the tendency of civil government to take upon itself too much power over individuals’ lives.

Lewis’s 1937 novel, Out of the Silent Planet, is arguably his first foray into commentary on an elite that seeks to use science and government to attain absolute control over a society, but it’s not until the 1940s that he begins to stress that theme more frequently.

For instance, in his 1943 essay, “The Poison of Subjectivism,” he takes aim at a self-appointed societal leadership that wants to plan everyone’s lives minutely. “Many a popular ‘planner’ on a democratic platform, many a mild-eyed scientist in a democratic laboratory means, in the last resort, just what the Fascist means,” Lewis opined. “He believes that ‘good’ means whatever men are conditioned to approve. He believes that it is the function of him and his kind to condition men; to create consciences by eugenics, psychological manipulation of infants, state education and mass propaganda.”

In that same essay, he critiques the qualities voters are beginning to look for in political leaders: vision, dynamism, and creativity. Instead, he urges that we turn from a government-created “good” and return to God’s absolutes. In doing so, we would then value more highly “virtue, knowledge, diligence, and skill.” He concludes, “Give me a man who will do a day’s work for a day’s pay, who will refuse bribes, who will not make up his facts, and who has learned his job.”

The preceding comments come from the paper I presented at the C. S. Lewis Foundation’s retreat last weekend. For the next few Saturdays I’ll continue to share thoughts from that paper.

The Obligatory Obama Update

I so much prefer using this blog to showcase positive things, highlighting people like C. S. Lewis, Whittaker Chambers, and Ronald Reagan. But I feel I must continue to offer commentary on contemporary developments, both cultural and political.

I’m going to use the blog today to do a little catch-up. Lest we forget, we still have someone residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. doing his best to transform the country. I’ve avoided making him the focus of this blog for a while, but now it’s time to provide an overview of how his national transformation is working.

I’ll let political cartoons do most of my talking.

On the Obamacare front (yes, mainstream media, it’s still a relevant issue), more bad news for the occupant of the White House. State co-ops are folding because they are going broke, premiums are rising significantly (which anyone with any knowledge of economics predicted), and all those wonderful promises of state-controlled healthcare for everyone are wilting.

Co-Ops

Coverage

Tweaks

Then there’s Obama’s about-face on putting “boots on the ground” in the Middle East, specifically Syria. Now, I’m not an advocate of sending massive numbers of US troops into that quagmire, but if you’re going to do it at all, shouldn’t you send more than fifty Special Ops soldiers? Fifty? Yes, you heard correctly. Does anyone really believe that’s going to turn the tide there? And just what tide are we trying to turn anyway? Supporting the so-called “moderates” against ISIS sounds good, but how many of those moderates are there, and can they really be trusted?

One is tempted to view this action as just for show—no substance at all.

Limited Action

Flip-Flops

Squiggle

Then there’s his executive action to release a large number of drug offenders from prison. Now, I certainly can agree that some of them may have received sentences that didn’t comport with the offense, yet there’s significant testimony that many of those being released were not simply casual users but dealers. And now they are to be sent out into the general population again.

My cynical side will show here: how many of those released prisoners will now be allowed to vote in the next presidential election? Do you think they will vote for Republicans? Right.

Employers are also not supposed to be able to investigate the criminal past of applicants as readily as before. Well, that definitely helps one person in particular:

Criminal History

You are now updated. I’ve done my duty. Tomorrow, back to C. S. Lewis.

What People Don’t Know

Teaching about Andrew Jackson and his faith in the common people the other day, I noted another of my Snyderian truisms: “Public opinion polls are not the fount of all wisdom.” I mentioned to my class that it really would be nice if voters had some concept of how our government was set up in the Constitution and what limitations there are on the federal government’s authority before allowing them to vote.

Of course, it would be rather unwieldy to quiz each voter as he or she approaches the voting booth, but one can dream, right?

And then, shortly after commenting on this in the classroom, I came across a couple of comic strips that addressed that very problem. I thought you might like them today; they may provide a few minutes of profitable meditation:

Small Test

Voting Test

And then there’s our citizens’ knowledge base about the rest of the world:

What's Canada

If you think my blog today betrays the weariness of a professor attempting to enlighten the current generation of college students, you are a person of great insight. I have to keep in mind the encouragement of this Scripture:

And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.

Thank you, Lord, for the reminder.