Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Re: We're Right Because You're an Idiot

Byron issues a plea that we point out the ugly rhetoric emanating from both sides of our political debates and not just what's coming from the left. His email is on the Feedback page.

His concern is a fair one, but as I replied to him, I'm just not hearing consequential people on the right, except for some talk radio hosts whom I have criticized in this space on more than one occasion, using the sort of invective that Paul Begala and others are using. Begala called Sarah Palin, for example, "half a whack job" because she espied the possibility of "death panels" in HR 3200. I haven't heard anyone use that kind of language to describe Mr. Obama, but maybe I'm just not tuned in to it.

I therefore invite any of our readers who would like to participate in what we'll call a "civility patrol" to submit any instances of incivility that you encounter from people who are leaders in their parties or in the media to our Feedback page, and we'll post the results. The examples can be from conservatives or liberals, it doesn't matter.


Back to the Future?

A lot of Americans are growing increasingly vocal in expressing their concerns about the ideological direction of the current administration. Some few have even peered out ahead of the trajectory and espied "Nazism" skulking about on the horizon. This seems to me to be unfair, hyperbolic, and ahistorical (I note in passing, though, that no one on the left seemed to mind when George Bush was compared to Hitler by people on the left). The Nazis were first and foremost blood and soil nationalists, bent on militarism, conquest, and, in the early 1940s, genocide. One has to have a very vivid imagination to discern those particular themes in anything President Obama has said or done.

That doesn't mean, however, that there's no reason for concern that modern progressivism, of which President Obama is the avatar, bears an eerie similarity to patterns and traits which typified other versions of twentieth century fascism, of which the Nazi party was an extreme type. The concern arises, firstly, because of the historical fact that prior to WWII American progressives and European fascists, particularly Italian fascists, enjoyed a cozy philosophical relationship.

But the apprehensions are made more acute by a number of disturbing developments on our domestic political scene that collectively sound a note that has been historically discordant with the ideals of political freedom. We have in the past year witnessed, for example, the apotheosis of a charismatic leader by a worshipful media; an inexplicable rush to pass opaque legislation that would vastly expand the role of government in our lives; and a menage a trois between big business, big finance and big government.

The perception has grown that we're being misled about the purpose of major legislation, and that health care reform would subsidize death, both early and late. We've seen our President select as advisors several men who are radical advocates of either population control, euthansia and/or eugenics. We've been alarmed by the President's weird call during the campaign for a civilian defense force as well-trained and well-funded as the military and by attempts by some in our government to intimidate, silence, and demonize those in the media who oppose them.

Together these developments have engendered deep concern among a lot of Americans, an uneasiness that's been exacerbated by the President's nebulous vow to "fundamentally change America" and the failure of his administration to keep its promise to allow ample time for the public to review and debate its legislative proposals. The confidence originally reposed in Barack Obama by the American people and the willingness to give him the benefit of the doubt on his radical past associates and associations have been eroded by the fact that so many Democrats, and the President himself, were prepared to pass a massive arrogation of power by the federal government in the form of health care reform before they, or almost anyone else, even knew what was in the bill.

All of this is very troubling to those who value personal liberty and the lessons of history because so much of it has happened before. Most of the items listed above were associated with totalitarianisms and tyrannies of various stripes which plagued the twentieth century. Mr. Obama might sincerely recoil from any suggestion that he would want to retrace that history, but the fact is that, whether intentionally or not, much of what he says and does is an echo of it. The growing fear that once his policies are implemented they'll make it much easier for his successors to impose increasingly greater control over people's lives is genuine and largely salutary. It's rooted in the same skepticism that Americans have always had for big government going all the way back to the Founding Fathers' experience with the oppression of King George III.

It may be that concerns about the political themes and direction of our country will turn out eventually to be incorrect, but, given the evidence at this point in time, they certainly seem warranted, reasonable and prudent.


Atheism and the Future

Atheists often claim to be more rational than theists. They claim to base their lives on reason rather than faith, but they don't. What reason, for example, does an atheist have for arguing that we should preserve the earth's beauty and resources for future generations? What reason is there for caring what happens to the earth after we are gone from it? Would it be immoral for the present generation to use up everything and leave nothing for those who come after? Why, on the assumption of atheism, would it?

According to the atheist all we have is our own life. There's absolutely no reason why we should care about anyone else. We may care about others, of course, but if we don't why is that wrong?

The atheist may respond that we shouldn't leave our descendents bereft because we wouldn't have wanted that done to us. Of course we wouldn't, but that's no reason why we shouldn't do it to someone else. In other words, if there is no God, there is just no reason why we shouldn't live for ourselves. Atheism can give no reason why egoism is wrong except to say that it just is.

That doesn't sound to me like a very rational reason.