20 June 2018

Conservativism vs. anti-liberalism

David Brooks opposes the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy toward undocumented immigrants, believing that it unjustly targets many we've become useful members of society after their original offense. He also sees the policy as a betrayal of conservative values, being instead an instance of statist overreach, of "government officials blindly following a regulation." That observation moves him to clarify his distinction between Trumpists and authentic conservatives. Trumpists are merely anti-liberalism, and often "anti-liberalism trolls." Brooks has a theory that Trumpism, if not Trump, was shaped by the battles against political correctness on college campuses. While those struggles supposedly have been motivated by a spirit of liberty, Brooks charges that Trumpist anti-liberalism are interested less in liberty or any limited-government principle than in simply crushing liberals. They are uninterested, as principled conservatives presumably should be, in the "tangled realities" of a complex issue, but resort to "inhumane abstractions" and oversimplification, e.g. that any alternative to zero-tolerance is "amnesty." The immigration debate aside, Brooks is contesting the ownership of the word "conservative" and the right of some of the right to describe themselves as conservative. This is nothing new; it has gone on as long as fascists and anti-communists have been lumped together as part of "the right" and as long as many on the left have said they are all the same thing. Anti-statist conservatives have been at pains to deny any affinity with fascism and so emphasize their opposition to statism and any self-styled conservatism driven, as Trumpism allegedly is, by mere enmity. Theirs is a valid and perhaps even a coherent position, but it doesn't necessarily entitle them to exclusive ownership of the word "conservative." History argues against the claim, as there were statist conservatives in history long before American anti-communists aspired to define what was legitimately worth conserving and how it was to be conserved. Conservatism cannot be limited to limited government, and it's arguably contrary to the conservative modesty of someone like Brooks to claim that conservatism can only be one thing. On the other hand, it probably would be a good thing if each conservative faction adopted its own label, and just as good if every liberal or progressive faction did likewise. The sooner we all see that there are always more than two sides or two ways to view every question, the sooner we might form effective coalitions of factions or interests dedicated to governing rather than destroying or driving out the so-called enemy.  It might also make it easier to see whether there are actual enemies of the people in our midst.

19 June 2018

Le mot injuste

I gave the President a pass on the "animals" thing a few weeks ago, on the understanding that he meant that word to refer only to the MS-13 gang and similar criminal groups. I understand the implicit objection that no white man should refer to any non-white person as an "animal," but I don't think criminal gangs should enjoy any exemption from invective on the ground that they're depraved on account of they're deprived. Today, however, Trump seriously F'd up. Responding to criticism of the separation of illegal immigrant parents from their children, the Chief Executive pushed the button, sending out a tweet railing against Democrats for their opposition to stricter border controls. He tweeted that Democrats "want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13." There's just no way to defend "infest." You'll notice that he tried to save himself at the last minute with that "like MS-13," and he and his sycophants will certainly say that gangs only are the subject for the verb "infest." Grammar doesn't work that way, however; the self-evident meaning of his sentence is that all illegal immigrants are infesting the country -- and given the direction he looks in when he thinks of illegal immigrants, he's going to have a very hard time, much more so than the last time, denying any racist intent. I won't go as far as some critics who claim to see an implicitly exterminationist meaning to "infest," but you don't need to take the long jump to that extreme conclusion to see that this sentence is going to haunt Trump and the Republican party for some time to come. Inevitably he'll whine that he's being misinterpreted or misrepresented, but the President has only himself to blame for this one. 

10 June 2018

THINK 3 VIDEO NEWS: Pride and Sin

The annual Capital Pride parade took place today in Albany NY. A parade always draws a big crowd, and you no more had to conclude that all the people lining Lark Street and Madison Avenue were gay than you have to assume that people cheering a St. Patrick's Day parade are Catholic. One people's celebration is often everyone's occasion to celebrate. As well, cheering the gay marchers, at least at the corner of Lark and Madison where the marchers and floats turn toward Washington Park, is an opportunity to stick it to the killjoys who ever year occupy their own little free-speech zone to cast their anathemas at homosexuals in particular and sinners in general. They moved slightly, or were moved, from their usual spot at the southwest corner, in front of the neighborhood gas station, to the head of Dana Park, a pedestrian island across Lark from the corner, dividing that street from Delaware Avenue. I suspect they were moved with the idea being that the marchers should not have to see them as they turned the corner, though they may still have heard the leader preaching with his bullhorn -- and sounding rather like a Dalek in tone if not in vocabulary, over the cheers and whistles from noisemakers thrown to the crowd. Here's a bit of the parade first.

And here's some of the heckling, giving you a better idea of their distance from the turn of the march.

I wonder whether the protesters felt emboldened in any way by last week's Supreme Court decision upholding a baker's right to refuse service to a gay marriage. A strong majority found the state law in question overly hostile toward religion but stopped short of saying no law could be made against "principled" homophobic discrimination. For the time being, religious homophobia has a constitutional advantage over the gay rights movement, and may retain that advantage until the Constitution can be amended. The courts must defer to, or at least respect the religious opinion that homosexuality is sin and undeserving of civil authority, and while religion can't veto the political enactment of civil equality individual believers are effectively entitled to deny equality at the "civil society" level of private enterprise. This is a uniquely cruel privilege to which many feel obliged to acquiesce on the ground that any group of people of sufficient antiquity is entitled to stigmatize whatever the deem to be "sin." Ask whether you'd be as tolerant of any faith that deemed interracial marriage sinful before retreating into complacence. While it may be comforting to think that men like the assholes of Dana Park are a dying breed whose superstitions needn't trouble us in the future, it seems like a constitutional amendment is necessary on principle to draw a line limiting the "exercise" of religion when it becomes subversive of civil equality, specifically on the point of sexual preference. Obviously you can't force fools like these to change their own minds, but when they seek to deny, explicitly or implicitly, equality of sexual preference (for consenting adults) in any way other than pathetic displays like today's, we should expect the federal government not to defend them, much less take their side.