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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Politics of fear defeats courage, closes borders, builds walls, but won't make us rich or safe


   GEORGE TEMPLETON  
        COMMENTARY        
 
By George Templeton
Rim Country Gazette Columnist
 
An Ethical Democracy
“…the “democratic spirit” leads to a nation without great men, a nation mainly of subliterates, morally flaccid from lack of discipline in youth, full of the cocksureness which flattery breeds on ignorance, and soft from lifelong pampering and that is what Hell wishes every democratic people to be.”  C. S. Lewis
The Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, believed in the doctrine of man’s fall in the Garden of Eden.  He could not accept democratic rule by fallen people.
The bible is the story of God’s covenant with the Hebrews.  Their nation became arrogant and corrupt.  It repeatedly rose and fell in spite of the warning of the prophets.  It should be a lesson to politicians who think America can be made great while ignoring history.     
‘I think, somehow, the Lord’s plan is being put in place for America and these people are not only revolting against Trump, they’re revolting against what God’s plan is for America.”  Pat Robertson
Pat has a hot line to God.  Republicans cite Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not make provision … for members of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  Making America great is the motivation to protect our nation from undesirable immigrants and the “lazy governments” of their countries.
Both conservatives and progressives believe that government should serve the people.  People should not serve their government.  But what does that mean?  Some of us imagine that they are slaves to a greedy, corrupt government that controls every aspect of their lives.  Suppose that this is true and that the power of their master could be gradually reduced.  At what point would they be really free?
Public Chatter from 2010
  1. My weapons are necessary to make our political leaders afraid.
  2. We need them so we can shoot the bad guys.
  3. God gives us permission to smite the evil ones.
  4. Welfare enslaves people by giving them more than they deserve.
  5. We promote class warfare by creating a class of lazy parasites.
  6. Minimum wage increases hurt the least powerful people. 
  7. Minimum wage jobs are for spoiled kids who don’t know how to work.  They should pay their employers. 
  8. We don’t need immigration or a path to citizenship.
  9. Immigrants don’t earn the price of their admission.
  10. Immigrants don’t have “our values”.
  11. The DACA “dreamer” children broke the law.
  12. We don’t need Medicare, Medicaid, and health insurance.
  13. Medicaid “dumps” Americans into hospitals, where they are twice as likely to die as those with private insurance.
  14. Business is always ethical.
  15. Greed is good.
  16. Pride trumps humility.
  17. Government must not be involved in business.
  18. Social security is an unconstitutional, socialist, Ponzi con game that robs young people.
  19. If everyone just believed like me there would be no problems.
  20. The bible is factual.  It trumps the constitution.
  21. Jerusalem must be Christian so God can carry out his end-times plan.
  22. Liberals removed God from our schools.
  23. There’s no such thing as evolution.
  24. God said.
  25. Our president is the Anti-Christ.
  26. Our golfing president is mentally unstable.
  27. Corporations are people.
  28. The education that was good enough for me is good enough for my kids.
  29. There’s no such thing as global warming.
  30. We don’t need environmental sustainability.
  31. Cutting taxes increases revenue.
Social constants reveal our nature.  We could make the same list today.  The big questions persist.  They are matters of policy, not people.
A common propaganda technique is to attack the person instead of the policy.  Trump turns it upside down when he claims “I don’t know that person” when in fact policy is the issue.  When he has no philosophy, no policy, he has only himself.  His mind is easily changed.
America’s Self
Aren’t you the same person that you were when you were ten years old?  Deep down inside we know our personhood has not changed.  Why should we be anyone else?  The young child chants in unrealized insightfulness, “I’m me.”!  It all begins with the individual and only later becomes social.  Growing up develops wisdom but the person does not feel that he has become an imposter with a foreign identity.   
The cells in our body die and are completely replaced as we grow, yet we are the same person.  We are ourselves.  Then, what makes us think that we are the same nation?  Is it something more than geography?  Is it psychology?  Are their proxies for this, like the rings in a tree that measure age and rain?  Is there a token, like barking that most dogs do even though they are of different breeds?  Technology and culture change.  Yet we are the same people and the same nation.  Minds can be changed.  Brains don’t change.
There is a democratic way of doing things, but somehow America is more than this.  Is there an American soul, like the religious one that is immortal, unbound, that takes action but can be corrupted?  There is no concrete evidence, yet the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Perhaps it is the American spirit.  These days, it isn’t holy. 
Politics has become an entertainment business where the actors lack the professionalism that would be required in business.  The source of disputed data is never given.  Congressional meetings do not have action items.  There will not be agreement when further work is required.  Our leaders need to help us understand each other.  Only then can we come together to solve problems. 
Authority cannot stand forever or alone even though sometimes decisions must be made.  Claims need justification and assumptions should be made explicit.  This requires transparency.  Ideology has muzzled discourse.  Witness the lack of public congressional hearings on taxation and healthcare.
Structured Thinking
Before facts can “speak” they must be arranged.  In science, relationships can be better understood by placing them on a graph.  There are many different coordinate systems.  Often, a particular frame of reference makes things easier to understand.
In Physics, the equations of motion can be written in terms of energy or inertia.  They are intertwined in reality.  You can’t change one without denying the other. That is why the Bible’s story of the sun and moon stopping their motion about the earth at the battle of Jericho is problematic.
In electronics, the behavior of a circuit can be described in terms of impedances or admittances (standing on your head so to speak).  The equations look very different but they describe the same factual reality.  Verifiable facts unite the tribes of impedance and admittance.  But in politics there are no facts.  We can’t progress without them.
The Road to Serfdom
The Tea-Party brought Friedrich Hayek’s old book back to life, but they neglected to place it within the structure of culture and time.  The Barbra Streisand movie, The Way We Were, sets the stage.  It was the time of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, the great depression, unregulated banks, irrational over exuberance, and two world wars.
Hayek explained the danger of unfeeling bureaucracies.  He knew that prices could not be set according to perceived merit.  What something is worth is what you can get for it.  Control of the economy could not be centralized.  He knew that life was about personal property, striving, and competition.  He was not against social support and welfare.
A Second Coming
When Jesus comes for the second time, he will find a much more complex and interdependent world.  The Ten Commandments are an ethical and spiritual teaching reflecting personal morality.  The bible expands their short form to treat slavery and justice.
John Rawls was not trying to replace the Bible when he recognized that there was a need for a moral foundation to our democratic tradition.  A strong ethic can learn from and incorporate new ideas without losing its identity.  It can explain the successes and failures of other traditions better than they themselves can.  It can understand other ideologies well enough to humbly explain its own failures to them in their own terms.
Rawls argued that each person is to have an equal right to liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others.  He argued for equal opportunity and that social and economic inequalities must be to everyone’s advantage.  The latter concerns a social contract.  We need a vibrant middle class to buy the products that Trump says will be built with expensive American labor.
Democratic Realism
Democracy requires participative debate, where arguments are for learning instead of winning.  The February 2018 issue of the Scientific American explains that sometimes there is no single truth.  The compulsion to win changes the question, legitimizes lies, and rewards triviality.
They didn’t take our jobs, we lost them.  They don’t send their worst to the USA.  Immigrants don’t get welfare.  The dreamers are not criminals.  It isn’t a lottery.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins don’t get admitted.  Professional people, who have held jobs for 25 years, have homes, wife, and children get deported.  That’s not a sanctuary.  Abortion is not legal in the ninth month of pregnancy.  Doctors don’t tear the heads off of crying infants still in the womb.  There is much to be learned.
Treating other human beings as subjects instead of objects is a solution.  Objects are given welfare.  They are a means to an end.  They are manipulated into voting.  They are simple.  Subjects come to understanding and overcome differences.  They act as if they had a soul.
The Soul of America
Religions disagree on the concept of the soul, perhaps because there is no evidence.  It lacks paint for the narrow brush of science to use.  The broad brush of religion is mutually contradictory and ambiguous.  If the soul resides in no particular place, moving the trigger finger, it violates physics.  “Where does the energy go?” is the fundamental question.  Yet America has a conscience, and an archetype.  We need only to look to see it.   
A Man of La Mancha
Character and virtue trump “should” and “ought”.  Was Don Quixote, the man who pursued the impossible dream, a story of heroism that went unavoidably wrong or was it because Don was cleverly using other people?  Should we aspire to impractical idealism because it powers the American dream?
Our politics of fear defeats courage, closes borders, and builds walls, but what will make us rich and safe?  Chanting “USA”, like in the Glow TV series, where gorgeous wrestling ladies portrayed heroes or villains, won’t do it.  Pride is not enough.  It takes discipline.  Destroying the accumulation and continuity of democracy won’t do.   As the Beatles song goes, are we better to just “let it be”?

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