Saturday, October 16, 2004

Once more into the breach

I was surprised to find that discussions are still going on about Dr. Bouteneff's article (with Dr. Bouteneff himself chiming in, so no one needs to worry about him being misrepresented). Those who are tired of hearing about all this will undoubtedly want to give it a miss.

For my own peace of mind, I feel like I have to try to get to the bottom of the Orthodox objections to George Bush just once. This is probably a complete exercise in futility, but I would swear that there are some obvious points that aren't being made. So here's some of what I'm hearing:

* "Bush doesn't reflect Orthodox values." -- And neither does Kerry. And I'm pretty sure that none of the Little Division of Hallmark Cards parties do either. Saint Herman of Alaska isn't running this year. When Orthodox are more than 1% of the US population, maybe we can do something about that. Until then, there's the one guy, the other guy, or the little guys. Which one do you think is closest? Vote for that one. Go to church. Pray for your new president.

* "Terrible war crimes and atrocities are going on. Bush has to pay." -- And the idea is that under the leadership of President Kerry, there will be no civilian casualties, no loss of life, no need to interrogate anyone? The idea of an unobtrusive war is a delusion.

* "We shouldn't be at war at all. Kerry will get us out." -- What are the odds? He won't even go on record (unequivocably, that is, which is always the difficulty with Kerry) that he thinks it's a good idea to withdraw. He seems just as happy saying that we need to have more troops, and since his good friends over at France, Germany and Russia (whose checks from Saddam have finally all cleared the bank -- praise be!) have said that they won't chip in, that would mean more Americans.

* "George Bush has done [insert unspeakably awful, improbable and weird accusation]." -- This is the rule: If you see "Farenheit 9/11", go see "Farenhype 9/11". If you read the New York Times, read the New York Post too. If you listen to NPR, listen to talk radio. Think of it as equal time. Just listening to one side these days will make you certain that the person in question ought to be sent to prison forever.

* "We don't have respect in the global community anymore." -- Actually, these days, they don't have much of my respect, but I bet they're okay with that. Anti-Americanism isn't new, and the only way I can imagine that Kerry could mollify the EU and Muslim hotheads is by appeasing them with a lot of lip service and gratuitous obsequiousness. Which he's probably good at, for what that's worth. But I don't see that appeasement has worked all that well for us in the last twenty years. Can someone please stop to remember the other terrorist attacks -- the World Trade Center in 1993 (6 dead), the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996 (19 dead), U.S. Embassy bombing in East Africa in 1998 (291 dead) and more -- that showed terrorist networks growing steadily in size, ability and sophistication, and in response to which the U.S. took no aggressive action? Were we "respected" in the global community then? Maybe so, if appeasers love other appeasers, but I don't remember the halcyon days when we were hearing our praises sung in faraway lands for the mere price of the "nuisance" (thanks, Senator) of growing loss of life. And if I'm just missing it, is it worth it to be popular? The strikes on 9/11 were not unpremeditated. They were not out of the blue. We had been warned over and over that the extremist factions of Muslim weren't going to be content with just talking trash and burning effigies forever. We did nothing. Now we're doing something. And if the global community doesn't like it ... well, words fail me. It's nothing that they shouldn't have been doing for decades.

* "Political right and left have no meaning to us Orthodox. Both parties are the same. They're both bad. Bush and Kerry are both bad." -- I've heard this one now more times than I would've believed possible. If you think that there's no difference between them, then you're in a tiny, tiny minority. Christians have overwhelmingly found a more receptive ear at the GOP. That doesn't make it God's party or mean that Christians can't exist outside of that, but as a generalization, it's historically and presently true. The party has not conformed to our views on everything (how could it? Even we don't agree -- have you checked out an Orthodox list-serv lately?), but since I don't believe the arguments against Bush based on the war (see above), I'd have to say that the Republicans' record on life-or-death issues is far better to me than the Democrats'.

* "Democrats have a better stand on equality, social programs and ending poverty." -- Important to be clear-headed here. The Democrats' stand on any of these good things is that you put more power and more funds into the hands of the government, and they do it for you. So voting Democrat because of the wonderful programs they espouse is the same as going to a rich uncle and telling him to give to the poor, feed the homeless, take care of the sick, and so on. The conservative viewpoint on these things is that you can do those things better than the govenrnment can, and the only thing they can do for you is to not tax you so heavily that you have no alms to give.

* "The Democrats are friendlier to the environment." -- But in my personal experience, all the good environmentalism in the world is of no worth without the context of Orthodoxy that is so lacking on the left. Liberals have picked up words like 'stewards' lately, but their concept of stewardship has nothing to do with personal sacrifice and self-restraint, and everything to do with arresting every new sign of development they can see. Apart from Christian virtue, environmentalism seems destined to become a false god.

* "Republicans are in the pocket of big business." -- And Democrats are in the pockets of trial lawyers, labor unions, show-biz people and lots of other unsavory types, besides having their own agenda of growing the government bigger in order to keep their power. Not sure if there's a clear winner there. I see less threat in big business, but that might just be me.

* "It's just a choice between the evil party and the stupid party." -- Okay, here maybe I'll surprise somebody. I know I come off like a smart-aleck, so it might sound disingenuous of me to say, but that language offends me coming from an Orthodox person. I leave it to secular people to throw words like 'evil' around as if they have no meaning. In weak moments, I probably have thought of liberals as stupid, and I'm not proud of that, but to have a fellow Orthodox brother or sister tell me that I would willingly associate with something evil is a foul thing to say. If you want to go for the same impact, and you dislike Republicans that much, how about 'mean' or 'greedy'? I still think it's inaccurate, but I can live with it.

That's my take. The usual disclaimer is in place about these just being my impressions. I'm not a pundit, even by blog standards.

If I can end with one faint conciliatory note, can we please all agree to pray very, VERY hard on Election Day that whatever the results are, they would be decisive? Even if I have to live with President Kerry for four years, I don't want a replay of the 2000 election.

Lord, have mercy on all of us.

5 Comments:

Blogger Huw Raphael said...

Hi Grace -

I use (invented?) "evil" and "stupid" parties because you can't tell which is which by those names.

No matter who you are the "evil" one is the one that is furthest from where you are and the "stupid" one is the one that's not close enough, but you'll hold your nose and vote for it... I've personally not decided which was which - for you it sounds as if maybe the GOP is the one you'll vote for. For the folks at a certain Magazine the "evil" party is actually called "the Godless party" and John Kerry is their "evil" man. For my Mom, the lables are totally reversed because the stupid party would have been less stupid with another candidate and the evil party would only be less evil if it were missing five or 6 key families. For my Dad, he'll agree with you - but not with the Magazine. He still thinks the evil party at least has enough God in it to keep my Mom around. And I think in my writing that I try to always keep the reader guessing which party is which. Sorry if I've failed.

But "evil" and "stupid" were used to make a comment about the divisions that secular politics cause among us who are supposed to be united in Christ and among those who are seeking to be united to us... In that light "evil" and "stupid" are 100% correct.

Sorry if I've offended you. But it is allowed to use the word "evil" in Orthodoxy - even to imply that doing something or associating with it is evil. But that wasn't the point of "the evil party and the stupid party".

Of all of this post I agree most with the paragraph that says none of these guys reflect Orthodox values. Pray for our leaders: that's what we're commanded to do. (Although the other replies to objections to Bush are maybe valid. I don't know enough about it to worry.)

BTW, where has Dr Bouteneff chimed in himself?

October 17, 2004 at 2:25 AM  
Blogger Grace said...

I goofed. The link for "discussions" should have gone to OrthodoxyToday.org, not to your site. I fixed it, so if you click on it now, it'll take you to the thread, or if you want to go straight to Dr. Bouteneff's comments, here's one with others further down http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/blog/index.php?p=445#comment-1985
These were the people who I had in mind with my series of points, not you. Sorry about the confusion. Your post wasn't taking pot-shots at Bush. Some of these comments were.

Re: the evil party -- I didn't mean to take offense where none was intended (particularly during the election season when you can just hang out and wait for the stuff that *was* intended!). I feel like I've heard those labels used before where R = evil, D = stupid, but if you invented it maybe I haven't. I appreciate your efforts to talk about the dynamics of election time without using the words that make everyone divide up into sides. As you can tell, I've given up and figure if people are inclined to judge me for being conservative, they probably won't think much better of me if I wasn't clear about it from the beginning.

Two questions for you. (If it's easier to answer via e-mail, I'm at graceb@west-third.com)
1) What is The Magazine? Is it "Touchstone"?
2) What would a dream candidate for you be like? (Not a trick question. I'm sort of wondering myself, and trying to get other perspectives.)

October 17, 2004 at 1:30 PM  
Blogger Karl Thienes said...

Grace and Huw,

The "evil" party and "stupid" party labels were coined by Mark Shea (a popular Catholic apologist) several years ago. Maybe he took them from Huw before that--I don't know.

In any case, as he is famous for using them, evil=Dem, stupid=Rep for reasons very similiar to those espoused by the editorial staff of Touchstone.

October 17, 2004 at 1:40 PM  
Blogger Grace said...

Son of a gun! Well, I need to travel in wider circles. I assumed if I heard "the evil party" it would always be Republicans.

For what it's worth from someone who is pretty solidly conservative, my rant about using that word still holds. I don't think it's appropriate to use the word 'evil' regarding the Democratic Party, even when they're at their most crazy. It just doesn't seem appropriate to me.

October 17, 2004 at 4:27 PM  
Blogger Huw Raphael said...

Karl - thanks fo rthe info on Mark! Props where props belong!

Still, I think devoid of any partisan identifiers, "evil and stupid" as generics (depending on the voter's ideas rather than the writer's) is only a this-cycle event.

Grace, that is the magazine in Question.

Were I to vote, my party of choice would be the Constitution party. THe double joke-on-me is that (A) the CP is not listed on the ballot in the state of NC; and (B) after "officially" noting that I wouldn't be political any more this year I got an email notifying me that doxos was listed on the "Blogs for Peroutka" website (that is as a blog endorsing the CP's man for president, which indeed, I'd done).

October 17, 2004 at 6:50 PM  

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