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Sunday, January 02, 2005

Somebody fetch that man his fiddle!

At some point it becomes sort of silly for a blogger to start every post with an apology for how long it's been since the last post. I'd hoped to post on Saturday and thereby start a tradition of one post every third major holiday, but the weather conspired against me. Still, it's 2005 - a new year, full of new beginnings. I'll go ahead and promise at least a post a week average for the year (some would say I have as good a chance of maintaining a post a minute for the year, but since this is my blog those some can just keep their pessimism to themselves). Dave Barry's retired now, after all; the world needs someone else to write about nothing in particular and hope people are entertained by it.

I'm not a politically-minded fellow, overall, and I'm aware the election was over two months ago, but I think I'd be remiss if I didn't say anything, so if you'll pardon me a moment or so on the soapbox, I'd like to make and then try to defend the following statement: I'm really quite frightened by what this election showed me about us Americans.

I think Bush's administration has made some horrible decisions. I'm generally more Republican than anything else in mindset, but I lost Dubya a couple of exits back. The economy has nosedived and we as a country seem to still cling to the idea that our resources are still better spent lingering in the Middle East trying to achieve goals which are apparently vitally important but which no one seems to be able to articulate. This isn't World War II and smashing the evil Nazi empire, this is turning a child that we're finally fed up with over our knee and then sitting him down to explain why what he did was wrong and how he can do better in the future - while he keeps kicking us in the knee. I'm just a 30 year old from Iowa, but it seems like they don't want us there and we don't want to be there and no one can figure out a common solution.

But that's not what bothers me about the election. I disagree with most of the things I've been aware of Bush having done and I become increasing more convinced that he's just a little too dumb to be the leader of the free world, but if he'd been elected because a majority of my fellow Americans felt otherwise I could have lived with that. Every President has had masses of people who strongly disagreed with his politics, and I'll bet every President got some votes because people were more afraid of his opponent's politics than they were of his. As long as the American people are choosing a President, I think the system we have in place is a very good one.

This time, though, I don't think all of us were electing a President. I think a large block of voters was essentially acting as a call committee, trying to choose a pastor to lead us. And that's frightening. I don't begrudge people their strong feelings on gay marriage or stem cell research or anything else - indeed, I think a healthy debate can only do the country good. But holy cow gee whiz what the fleebing flop - the President shouldn't even be the moderator of that debate. He certainly shouldn't have any input into the discussion. Not as the office, anyway. George Bush can have all the opinions he wants; President Bush should focus on keeping the dollar from dwindling away to nothing and figuring out a way to keep American boys and girls from dying so he can feel like he's finishing something his father started and if he finds himself with extra free time on his hands maybe even playing some golf at Camp David.

I was talking about his to a friend of mine, and he said "Government can't make itself a moral police," which I think is a lovely sentiment but unfortunately untrue. Examples of governments making moral decisions on behalf of citizens abound - Nazi Germany, the Spanish Inquisition (didn't expect that one, did you?), and the Taliban, just to name a few. There are only two ways to instill morals - teach by example or punish those that don't comply. Governments only have one option open to them.

Especially ironic is the fact that Dubya's a Republican. This idea of federalizing morals is much more the sort of thing one generally associates with the left. We're cutting taxes because the American people know how to spend their money better than the federal government does! But we would like to add a few caveats - no spending it on gay weddings, or investing in stem cell research, or speaking out against the United Church of America, which is proud to accounce that Reverend Bush is back for four more years! Alleluia, yip-yip yee-ha!

I'm a little frightened by Bush's politics, and I have very little confidence in his ability to lead, but mostly I'm terrified by what it signifies for the future of this country that he wasn't elected on any of those points.

I'll step off the soapbox now. Apologies if I've offended or (probably more likely) if I've lost anyone with my random-connections-of-thoughts composition style (in my defense, it's almost 7:00 a.m. now and I've been up since yesterday). Three holidays from now... see you all in July!

Hi Charlie, you didn't lose me. You are far more eloquent than you think.. or at least far more eloquent than you SAY you think. :-) It seems to me that you have looked at this issue with a pretty clear head and come to some solid conclusions (which I also happen to agree on, especially as professional churchy person!). Can I challenge you on one statement?

"There are only two ways to instill morals - teach by example or punish those that don't comply. Governments only have one option open to them." So here I go on my old Europe soapbox again... but I think governemnts DO have the option open to them to teach by example (that was the one you were negating, wasn't it?)... for example, by mandating recycling and putting environmental concerns into the school curriculum. And practically every single German I have ever talked to believes that adequate health care is a fundamental human right AND one that should be attended to by the state AND they are willing to pay enough taxes and scrimp a bit so that it can happen. They learned this because the state started it, by attending to the fundamental right of all people to have health care. And the people saw that it was good.
Definitely the government can and must enforce laws and punish lawbreakers. But I really think it can also legislate vision, at least to some extent.
Charlie, I think you're probably coming up against the divide between radical conservatism and "real" conservatism--that is, between wanting to tell everyone how to conduct their private lives and wanting a government that leaves most power in the hands of citizens. But the ascendant radical conservatives have done nothing but expand the powers of government, balloon the defecit, and restrict the rights of citizens. (Oh, wait, they've also given cut taxes for rich people.)

You're probably more of a liberal than you think, given what you say about legislating morality, the rationale for the war, and taxes. I think you should read Reason by Robert Reich (which I can lend you), which describes traditional liberal values and makes the case that Bush and his cohorts aren't true conservatives. It's a well-written book, even-handed and respectful of the right even as it argues against it. I'm not trying to convert you; I just think you'll find Reich's political philosophy more palatable than George W. Bush's.

The best analysis of W's thought process and the internal split in the Republican part that I've seen is this article by Ron Suskind:

http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/101704A.shtml-- Paul
You didn't lose or offend me, Charlie. Like JH, though, I think you have a promising future as a liberal, albeit a reluctant one. Joinnnn ussssss...

And I've been meaning to read Reason, also.
Nah, I'm not a liberal. The Conservatives have just forgotten to be conservative. Put another way, it's someone else's fault.

Paul, that's an excellent article - thanks for the link!
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