Saturday, September 26, 2009

Follow-up on the Last Post

I should note that, last night, I left a cordial but critical comment on a column by a certain "Daily Mail" columnist. I took issue with his claim that neoconservatives were "uninterested in greater social and cultural issues". The comments on his site are monitored and, somewhat oddly, I didn't notice that he had published my comment on his blog. I'll just say here, then, that anyone familiar with the politics outlined in Irving Kristol's "Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea" knows neoconservatism began largely as a reaction to the secularized Burkeanism of Michael Oakeshott; it was precisely because the "intellectual" conservatives like Oakeshott and the Rockefeller Republicans were unwilling to confront the great moral questions of the era and because the populist conservatives of the South thought the great moral issue of the era was the protection of segregation that neoconservatives saw the need to find a third way for conservative politics; a third way that could criticize the moral catastrophes of the mid-twentieth century not from the perspective of the Romanticized Last Man of Yesterday or the Utopian New Man of Tomorrow but from the perspective of the informed mind of the present who could judge current crises according to the wisdom of the past while also avoiding its failures. Neoconservatism, once again, made present issues into moral issues.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Neoconservatism: Why It Is Still Valuable Today

The death of Irving Kristol has brought forth a number of pieces on the origins of neoconservatism. This is good; since the beginning of the Iraq War until now, neoconservatism has come to refer to anyone who dared support the Iraq War. (Does this mean that Gordon Brown is a neoconservative, anyone?)

These recent articles will, hopefully, put such legends to rest. It is true that some of those associated with Kristol--not the least of which his son, William--have been among the war's most avid supporters and also that support for robust foreign policy was a key tenant to Kristol's move toward conservatism (though application of this foreign policy is open to debate.) But the central tenent to neoconservatism was always its skepticism of human pretensions, whether these came in the form of Stalin's show trials or Johnson's Great Society.

Because of this skepticism, however, neoconservatism was critical of every ideology, not the least of which some of the ideolgical hacks of the Right (rather than those who, like myself, were content to be conservative rather than Conservatives.) These hacks all had different names and interests: the John Birch Society, Governor George Wallace and the segregationist South, Ross Perot and his protectionist Reform Party.

Neoconservatives on the other hand were willing to take to heart Burke's counsel that the society without the means for reform was without the means for its own preservation. Government could only rule in the present; it could not push the people forward toward a utopian future or pull them backward toward an ephereal past.

Out of the crooked timber of humanity, Kant says, nothing straight has ever been made; this truth was at the core of Irving Kristol's political philosophy, and today, when America has put in the White House a man who promises to create a kingdom "right here on earth," all citizens would do well to view this idealism with the same skepticism as that of Kristol. Humanity may be crooked, but not all that is beautiful is straight.

Monday, September 14, 2009


A follow-up on the previous post: Apparently, the president of Planned Parenthood has issued a statement saying that the murder of Jim Pouillon (they did report his name after all--so I was wrong) was unfortunate, but that there is "much less violence on the pro-choice side than on the pro-life side". Of course, this statement bags the question; if abortion is not murder, then this statement is true, but if abortion is murder, then violence on the pro-choice side is exponentially greater than the twenty-odd murders committed by the pro-life side over the past two decades.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I doubt that the media will ever even report the victim's name:

"Local officials and state police are confirming that a pro-life advocate was shot and killed outside a high school in this Michigan town. The person, who is described as well-known but whose identity has not been released, was shot multiple times while protesting abortion outside Owosso High School.

"Officials say the shooting occurred at 7:30 a.m. local time and most students were inside the school building at the time of the incident.

"State police have also confirmed they apprehended a suspect about 8:15 a.m at the suspect’s home in this small community northeast of Lansing."

Friday, September 4, 2009

"Jesus Camp": Who Are These People (The Ones Who Made This Insipid Schlock, I Mean)?

The documentary "Jesus Camp" self-congratulatorily refers to itself as trying to present an even-handed picture of children and the role of faith in their lives--I'm the producers thought that would sell--but the result is a very shallow bit of drivel as seen through the broad, open vision of cosmopolitanism. I suppose that the people in the film are as much to blame as the documentarians (after all, they volunteered themselves for mockery). But they are constrained to the ethics of journalism as are documentary filmmakers. How anyone thought that they might be able to present an objective portrait of the religious rites of the Religious Right by filming a Pentacostal Bible camp which is believed by many, and with some justification, to be heretical is beyond me. Then again, you won't see the heretical charges pointed out in the film, unless it's from a member of the very safe United Methodist Church. One could just as easily make the City Year kids look like fascists. I wouldn't recommend it, though; that would be equally stupid.