The Supreme Court Abuses Power Yet Again

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English: The United States Supreme Court, the ...

English: The United States Supreme Court, the highest court in the United States, in 2009. Top row (left to right): Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer, and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Bottom row (left to right): Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Antonin G. Scalia, and Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although I can understand why the Supreme Court would invalidate the Defense of Marriage Act (marriage has been traditionally a state, rather than a federal, matter), I do not understand its voiding of California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage. That act was passed by the majority of the people of the state of California–yet the majority of the Supreme Court (with Justice Kennedy getting up on the left side of bed this time) once again imposed its radical view of morality onto the American people.This ruling is a clear violation of state’s rights (if the term has any meaning left after being gutted by the federal courts). With the 14th Amendment imposing de facto slavery on the states to federal decrees, any other state that tries to ban same sex marriage will probably not be able to do so without its law being overturned by dictatorial decree. Any attempt to defy federal law via nullification will result in a stiff monetary–or worse–penalty by the overarching federal government onto the states. The United States is, in effect, a dictatorship in which the majority of people have been overwhelmed by elitist academics, Hollywood radicals, and their supporters in government. The federal government has the long arm of power enforced by tax policy, by federal law enforcement agencies, and by perhaps one of the greatest threats to American freedom, a large standing army.

The Supreme Court ruling affirmed a lower court ruling that described moral views on marriage as private matters not to be imposed on all people. To call marriage, a fundamental institution of all human societies, a private matter and not a matter of public policy is absurd. The radical individualism ensconced in the Enlightenment has finally come home to roost.

Traditionalists of all religions and ideologies who oppose this ruling may find themselves subject to persecution in the future. In academia, such persecution is already in place in some colleges, universities, and in the public school system. The radicals who, since 1969, have been pushing a homosexual lifestyle down the American people’s throats (pun intended), have won politically. They should focus on changing the culture, and if persecuted, pray and live virtuous lives, as the ancient Christians in the Roman Empire attempted to do. At least Christians know that evil–whether it be the evil of federal abuse of power or of radicals finishing off the destruction of traditional marriage that had already begun with easing divorce laws in the nineteenth century–will not finally triumph over good.

In a fallen world, even the best of intentions for good government go wrong over time. The United States has outspent its time as a republic, and with the virtue of people falling and the family failing, the end of the nation as those of my age has known it is only a matter of time (and a short time, I believe). May God strengthen those who have not bowed their knees to Baal.

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True, There Never Was a Golden Age, but….

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Small town Arizona

I enjoy looking through the books other faculty require as reading at the university where I teach–it gives me a sense of the focus of their classes and the gist of the material taught in a particular class. One day I found a book on the 1950s, arguing that it was not a “golden age” for family life, and that families had severe problems then as they do now. My first response was to say to myself, “No kidding.” Only a fool would think that the 1950s or any other decade was some kind of “Golden Age” that bypassed human frailties. Marriages had problems in the 1950s, some spouses were abused as well as some children, and some families were dysfunctional. However, apart from these obvious facts, and apart from useful advances in technology and medicine since the 1950s, it does appear that, despite its flaws, that decade was the last true “Era of Good Feeling” in the United States. It was also the last decade in which a generally Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic was dominant in American thought, even among most Roman Catholics and Jews. Although divorce was sometimes necessary in extreme circumstances of physical and/or emotional abuse or serial adultery, in most cases divorce was frowned upon. Although the Hollywood set would get abortions as well as others, abortion was recognized as a grave moral evil. Only a small minority disagreed. Premarital sex occurred, of course, and the hypocritical aspects of 1950s sexual mores are well known, but at least there was an ideal that the wedding night would be a special beginning of  a new life between two people that is sealed by their first act of sexual intercourse. More extended families existed, especially in the South, the Midwest, and (as is still the case today) in the Italian-American community. Although people moved, outside of the military or of upper business management, extensive moving was rare. The new suburbs, for a time, retained the notion of a “neighorhood” with cookouts and regular visits between neighbors. Small town life, though declining, still flourished in many parts of the country. Alcoholism was a problem, as was always the case, but extensive use of hard drugs such as heroin was rare outside some inner city neighborhoods. There was a growing problem with juvenile crime, but most teenaged social life was tame by today’s “standards.” Although conformity was sometimes taken to an extreme, there was a strong sense that the older generation felt a responsibility to rear a virtuous younger generation. Perhaps the “greatest generation” did not understand the degree to which easy access to material things would create the spoiled and self-serving whiners of the mid-1960s onward, but most tried to rear their children with high moral values. My parents told me that at least in the 1950s a person knew whom he could trust. Today, they said, it is difficult to trust anyone.

The “Great Society” and the destruction of underclass society which arose through their dependency on federal aid, was in the future. The vast majority of children, white and black, were born in stable two-parent homes. A strong work ethic permeated most of American society.

This is not to say that the 1950s did not have deep flaws–struggles over race and the threat of nuclear war, for example. However, I would have rather lived in that kind of culture rather than the upside down world of 2012, in which people “call evil good and good evil” and Nietzsche’s “transvaluation of values” took place, though not in the direction of the Homeric virtues as Nietzsche desired. Christian culture is rapidly declining in influence, with a new breed of young secularists coming into view who, as Rush Limbaugh (who is right on this point) notes are both desirous of a government “nanny state” to take care of their physical needs while at the same time desiring that the government let them “do their thing” regarding gay marriage, abortion, and other “choices” they deem “personal.” The rapidity of the decline in American character since the 1950s has been astounding. In my own lifetime the world has turned upside down, to the delight of the anti-Christian left and to the chagrin of the few traditionalists standing against the plague of barbarism overwhelming the country.

No generation is unfallen. Yet most members of the 1950s generation would admit when they did wrong. They might do bad things anyway, but they understood them to be morally wrong. Today people strut immoral activity without believing it to be immoral. Academia has been part of the fuel for the fire of relativism, but it is, ironically, an absolutist relativism that denies traditionalists their right to express their views. The universities have become cesspools of relativism, Marxism, and a stifling politically correct orthodoxy. At least in the 1950s, faculty had academic freedom to express their views. Traditional conservatives may have been a small minority, but they were not censored. The university was generally a place of open discussion of ideas rather than the cesspool of radical orthodoxy it has become now.

It is too late to go back–the United States as I knew it as a child is dying. The sense of anomie I and other traditionalists feel has driven some to emigrate from the country and others to retreat to enclaves of like-minded people. In the 1950s I would have felt at home. Even in the 1980s there seemed to be hope for the future. Now I feel like a stranger in a strange land, and I am sure many other people do as well. There are times I want to go back to my grandparents’ house where my parents lived with my sister and I from 1965-1969 and enjoy the simplicity of it all before the madness of the 1960s froze into place in the 1970s. It may be a good thing for Christians, for it forces us to focus on God as the only One who is eternal, the only One who does not change. Going back to the past is pointless–traditionalists have lost the culture. We can trust in God, try to live good moral lives and be good examples to others, be active in church, and enjoy visits with like-minded people without isolating ourselves from the larger society. We know that God will triumph in the end, but until then, we wait “with earnest expectation” for Christ to come.

 

The Modern American City

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Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peal...

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No reasonable person could deny that there is some good in large American cities–symphony halls, museums, unique shops, and in some cities, classical architecture (Nashville, Tennessee’s building housing their symphony orchestra is an example). Overall, however, the verdict on most of America’s large cities must be negative. Large cities have become cesspools of crime, alcoholism, illegal drug use, prostitution, lonely, isolated people, rudeness–places where the dregs of human existence can hide. This is not to deny that there is much evil in small towns and in rural areas; as Flannery O’Connor pointed out in “Good Country People,” there are wicked people in the country as well as in the city.

That caveat aside, large American cities have, in the individualistic culture of the United States, become havens for evil and vice of all stripes. Often there is very little interaction between people who are strangers to each other, who often come from many parts of the country and from many other countries. The stable neighborhoods necessary to establish healthy human communities rarely exist in the contemporary large metropolis. Although community is breaking down in every area, a person is more likely to find a human community with healthy interactions, families, and stable friendships in a small town or in a rural area. Thomas Jefferson noted this fact over two hundred years ago. He believed that Americans could, despite their individualism, live a virtuous life (in the sense of eudaimonia, Aristotle’s term for enlightened well-being, a well-lived life) in small towns and in small family farms that nurture human interaction and overcome the self-seeking of individuals striving to seek the products of their own desires. Small communities help a person to reach outside himself for the good of those he loves, beginning with his family, then outward to close friends, and then to the wider community. A sense of obligation to the wider community is more likely when the community is small and when people share common values and goals. In large cosmopolitan cities, there are few shared ends, and there are so many people that any obligation outside an illusory self-fulfillment is difficult to accept. The loneliest people live in large cities because they do not know anyone who shares their values, and they can hide in the lies of seeking money, status, or power. Like Citizen Kane, they would be happiest near their family, around people they know and love, and perhaps doing something as seemingly mundane as playing on a sled. Kane tried to help mankind and ended up losing his fellow man.

With the loneliness and isolation of individuals in large cities and the attendant breakdown of families, more and more citizens of large American cities will grow up into vicious, rather than into virtuous, human beings. Vicious human beings can only be controlled, as Thomas Hobbes recognized, by law, by a state that sets up penalties strong enough to deter crime. For less vicious people, contracts may hold them in line for a while, but contracts, already based on distrust, are not the best tool for uniting a human community. In the small town South and Midwest prior to World War II, a man’s word was his bond. Local businesses routinely gave credit to poor farmers while the farmers waited for the harvest so they could pay their bills. It was rare that such agreements were written down on paper. Those who violated their agreements, unless there were extenuating circumstances, were, at the very least, ostracized from the community. Even “rough people” who would get into fights, wound honor the ancient code that if one is beaten, he should walk away. There was none of the barbarism of today’s fights, when the loser of a fair fight tries to murder the winner. In a small community that values honor, such behavior would get the dishonorable person either killed or exiled from that community. Such honor is possible on a small scale. But the notion of “fairness” is defined differently  by the various groups in a large city–not all would accept the notion of a fair fight or of honoring one’s word. The overall moral direction in such large cities is inevitably down–until finally people get tired of anarchy and a strongman takes power over the state to enforce order–and people willingly accept such dictatorship in order to feel safe. I pray that the United States does not get to that level, but unless the country can focus less on large urban population centers with large, faceless businesses and more on small towns and small farms with community-based businesses, there will be little hope for avoiding the final end of the republic.

But hope never fully dies–more people are leaving large cities and moving to small towns and to the country. More people are going into gardening and into raising their own food. Even in large cities, unified communities, primarily ethnic, offer a sense of belonging to those people who live in those communities. Eventually, the methods of large corporate factory farms may backfire, and the government will be forced to allow room for the return of small family farms. There are still traditional churches who have not bought into liberal theology or the faddish worship trends of Evangelical Protestants. Not only do these churches affirm tradition, they also become surrogate families for people who no longer have a family in any meaningful sense. In the northern industrial states, large cities continue to shrink, but there are some small towns that are still thriving and have not been affected by the recent massive emigration to large southern cities. I would love an America that was again an agricultural country of small towns and only a few large cities. If American does not return to that state, I pray that some of the stopgap measures I mentioned above will hold enough virtuous people together to prevent total anarchy and to preserve the freedom within constraints of voluntary community that Jefferson desired.

The World Turned Upside Down

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World upside down

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Imagine that aliens invade the United States (space aliens, not illegal aliens). Suppose that instead of attacking the American people with weapons, they plant ideas into the minds of the people. Enough ideas take root that the old order of society is uprooted, and the individuals who resisted the alien attack feel as if the world has been turned upside down. Unfortunately, the aliens go through to most educators, journalists, and other cultural elites. Ordinary people who lived prior to the invasion feel ostracized and out-of-place. The fear that the old order on which they have based their lives has been completely destroyed.

Today many Americans find themselves in a world turned upside down. A comparison of the American of 1963 compared with the America of today reveals seismic shifts have occurred which have altered the very fabric that holds society together. Some would say they have ripped the fabric into shreds, and any hope for patching has long passed.

There are many causes for the cultural shift, which had already taken place in Europe by the end of the 1930s and which was accelerated by the end of the Second World War. Supreme Court rulings in 1948 and 1962 limited religion’s public expression and banned required organized prayer in public schools. The Supreme Court claimed to have discovered a “right to privacy” in 1965, a “right” that the Court used to justify legalization of abortion in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The last year of the great post-World War II religious revival was 1965; after that year, weekly church attendance began a decline which continues today. The development of effective, cheap contraception with the birth control pill helped to revolutionize sexual mores to the point that only very conservative religious people believe that sexual intercourse should wait until marriage. The problem of juvenile delinquency in the 1950s grew from problems with street thugs and motorcycle ganges to problems with the use and sale of hard drugs and cold-blooded murder. The traditional family structure of a man and woman married with children has been replaced in many circles with the notion of the “family” as a fluid structure that can be modified to suit individual needs. Many young people today reject initiative, thrift, and hard work. College and university professors complain about the poor quality of their students, but supervisors also complain about workers failing to report for work and multiple firings. To their surprise, many workers don’t care if they’re fired–yet they have a sense of entitlement to material things even if they are too lazy to work for the money to buy these things. People have more to do than ever, but are lonlier than ever. The government plays a greater and greater role in individuals’ lives, and mediating institutions between the state and the individual, such as family and church, move more and more to cultural irrelevancy.

I believe this seismic shift to be a disaster that threatens the very structure of American society. When individuals decided to find meaning in their own subjective desires, mainly involving pleasure, and were unrestrained by permissive parents, they became contemporary barbarians–or even worse–at least the barbarians hunted and farmed for their food. With the search for transcendent meaning finding effortless New Age “spirituality” or a vapid Evangelical Christianity that caters to the lowest elements of popular culture, especially in music, it is no surprise that American society has been turned upside down. It is not just the trendy leftist followers of Herbert Marcuse in the 1960s who have fomented a disasterous cultural revolution; it has also been many Americans. When a society aborts its most vulnerable citizens, allows others (in two states) to off themselves legally, is promiscuous in both sex and in mind-altering substances, and which puts vapid “self-help” above all, that society is dying. Those Americans who hold traditional values stemming from orthodox Christianity feel out of place, for the university and the media ridicule their theological and moral positions. A sense of anomie pervades what is left of traditional Americana.

What should traditional Americans do? Some have emigrated to more traditional countries such as Poland. A more realistic option is to begin to develop  an island of normalcy and civilization in one’s own home. Parents in such an environment would try to guide their children toward tradtional cultural and moral values; they will not practice permissive parenting. At the very least, if parents can instill in their children a sense of reponsiblity and a sense of avoiding the urge for entitlement, this will do a great deal toward righting the world. The toughest task, which seems almost impossible, is to change people’s hearts. But despair is the unpardonable sin–those of us who are traditionalists should not despair but fight the good fight and finish the course as people of virtue and honor.

Sperm and Egg from Stem Cells

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A colony of embryonic stem cells, from the H9 ...

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What if sperm and eggs could be manufactured by scientists from any cell in the body? In an article by Fiona MacRae in the October 29, 2009 issue of Mail Online, she describes a recent Stanford University study in which sperm and eggs were produced from embryonic stem cells. The researchers want to move on to producing sperm and eggs from other cells.

This study raises the possibility that such manufactured sperm could join with a manufactured egg to conceive an embryo, and then the embryo could be implanted in a woman, who could then give birth to a healthy baby. Medical ethicists who advocate absolute autonomy would argue that there is nothing wrong with this. If someone wishes to have a child this way (for example, a homosexual couple), why not? If an egg could be coaxed out of a male’s stem cell or a sperm out of a female’s stem cells, the theoretically, a lesbian couple or a male homosexual couple could have children genetically related to both partners. Or, it would be possible for a man to be both a father and a mother (genetically) or a woman a father and mother (genetically). But in a world in which we all are our own lawgivers, and have the power of self-determination, why not?

However, as ethicist Leon Kass has long pointed out, questions about reproduction are not questions about our private desires. They reach to the very heart of human and family identity. Even adopted children sometimes struggle with their identity. Would it not be more of a struggle for the child who is genetically related to one father-mother? And is the male-female family relationship really just a matter of choice rather than a matter of nature? Is a child more than a product of manufactured sperm and a manufactured egg? Isn’t there something wrong (as Kass notes concerning another issue, reproductive human cloning) for a child to be a manufactured product?

Human beings are biological creatures who are the products of evolution (although I believe that God guides the evolutionary process, this discussion is neutral on that point). Evolution has led to the development of biological creatures who are sexually differentiated, who are naturally social, and who naturally come together as men and as women into some kind of family arrangement. Children arise due to sexual intercourse between a man and a woman, normally (and I do mean “normally” as a normative and not only a descriptive term) in the context of a family relationship–a husband and wife. (Even polygamous or polyandrous societies have stable family units). Exceptions make bad law, and this is the case in ethics as well as in the legal system. To form “family units” with manufactured sperm and egg in the context either of homosexual relationships or in the context of one person wanting to have a child genetically related to him or her is against the natural ends or goals of human beings re reproduction. Questions about inheritance, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members are not trivial issues. They are issues that would involve real children with real feelings. Human beings are not their own masters; any practice that violates human nature will eventually be destructive of society. If the technology of producing sperm and eggs via stem cells is expanded to the point that children are born as a result, this “expansion of freedom” will only result in a more confused and chaotic society in which family relationships become twisted to the point of becoming mere matters of choice.