September 1st, 2013


a pox on ten-word answers

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

Whenever I get frustrated these days over Syria, I try to go to my happy place, which increasingly involves YouTube videos that make me smile. Here’s one I watched today:

I’m sharing it not just for the laughs and smiles, but also for the truth. I believe many people who voted for Obama voted for him because he seemed to promise more than ten-word answers – and that many of us who are frustrated with him are frustrated with his lack of the same. Even more than that, he seemed to promise to be president, not just of the left, but of all America, another moment that has me cheering at this video.

In many ways and on many issues I should be right at home in conservatism. I consider myself a communitarian. (Philosophers think Alisdair MacIntyre and neo-Aristotelianism more generally; anyone else who’s interested, check out this Sandel lecture.) I believe that the good life takes place in a tradition and that we have moral obligations to members of our community on par with our duties to humans generally. I don’t believe humans are completely discreet things and that we should just leave each other alone, a major problem I have with libertarianism – and, for that matter, with Great Society-style liberalism. And I believe in the importance of institutions like churches and their secular equivalents (fraternal orders, neighborhood organizations, etc.), the government, the courts – I believe in respecting all of these things. Even when it comes to sexual ethics, I have a conservative strain: I believe everyone, whatever their sexuality, should have the right to a socially-supported longterm, monogamous relationship if they want it, and I privately think that most people are best off in such relationships.

I’m not on board with the anti-intellectual, anti-expert strain I see in today’s GOP, nor am I at all okay with some of the positions people in the GOP take that seems flat-out anti-LGBt, anti-woman, anti-poor people, and anti-everyone-but-white-Christians generally. But at a certain level I find myself very drawn to what I was taught conservatism was supposed to be about. Not entirely, but enough that I can see myself voting for (say) a conservative on the Eisenhower model. I probably wouldn’t agree with this person on every issue, and I definitely think pretty much anyone the DNC comes up with will be more in line with my values than the kind of politician who could be nominated by the GOP. But strong community, the importance of personal and communal responsibility, a focus on what I would call basic decency and consideration for those around you – this fits quite well with a certain conservative approach to society. And I could go along with that.

My point is: even being as turned off by the GOP as I have been over the last thirteen or so years, I think I could still be won over by a candidate who showed an appreciation for complexity and the strength of character to buck his own base where necessary. That kind of character is so much more important than whether I agree on policy – and it’s so little focused on these days.

Bartlett/Vinnick 2016, anyone? (Or Vinnick/Barltett…)