Voting Straight Republican in Academia

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English: A female African Bush Elephant raises...

English: A female African Bush Elephant raises her trunk as a warning sign in Mikumi National Park, Tanzania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Donkey Face

Yesterday I stood in line over an hour and a half to vote on the first day of early voting in North Carolina. I voted straight Republican, the first time I have voted straight party since 1984. The reaction of liberal academics when I tell them of my vote is interesting (and I admit I enjoy telling them to see their reaction). Most know me so they later laugh about it, but the initial reaction is something like “You’re an idiot.” That can be said in good fun by a true liberal, but the more dogmatic liberals who believe that “the political is the personal” are not saying that in good fun. They truly believe that anyone who votes right of center is either a fool, insane, or a moral reprobate. Now this attitude is not confined to the left–to be fair, I have been castigated in a personal way for not buying into Christian-Israelism or the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Yet overall I have found conservatives, other than a few rabid Neoconservatives, to be more open to disagreement and to discussion than academic liberals. Liberals in the arts also tend to be intolerant in my experience. I try to avoid saying anything political in a group of writers because their reaction makes hostile reactions by academics look like  a kiss on the cheek. Although I strongly disagree with my Democratic friends and family members, I do not consider them morally reprobate. I do believe that they should examine the economy and debt and carefully reconsider their position, but if they stick with the Democrats and with Mr. Obama I do not think less of them as persons. Most Republicans, except for some Evangelicals and the more dogmatic Neocons, react the same way. On the left, older liberals, the working class unionized liberals, may fuss and fume with me, but they will be happy to have a drink with me afterwards. Academic liberals, especially those who are Marxist (most, not all Marxists) tend to divide the world into the class of good left wingers and evil right wingers, and the politics becomes the personal. That is a shame since life is more than politics and people may have other things in common. Democrats have to eat, raise families, make it through everyday problems–and so do Republicans. We are all human beings worthy of respect and, as a Christian, I would say that we are all created in God’s image. Both Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives should get out of the trap of making politics so large in their lives that it becomes a lens to evaluate people’s morality or intelligence.

Pseudo-Intellectual Assumptions

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THE NEW LEFT

THE NEW LEFT (Photo credit: SS&SS)

 

Having been in academia for so many years, and involved in creative writing for the past fourteen years, I have found many of the assumptions of academics and writers to be similar. Both classes would be considered intellectuals of a sort–I know it  takes a great deal of intelligence to do creative writing, and getting a Ph.D. takes a great of intellect and effort. When it comes to moral positions and politics, however, intellectuals seem no smarter than someone who could not make a D in English or science. On those areas, some of the “common people” have far more wisdom than the so-called intellectuals. The problem is that intellectuals believe that because they are experts in an academic discipline, they also have the practical reasoning to give good advice on political and moral positions. In these areas intellectuals often fall into pseudo-intellectuals. One way they reveal their ignorance is by their assumptions. Most academics and writers are liberals, and they assume falsely that other intellectuals and writers are all liberals like them. They also assume falsely that liberalism is self-evident rather than requiring justification and that any conservative is either ignorant, unethical, or both. The arguments of the academic and literary left, in my experience, are either abusive ad hominem, straw man, or poisoning the well. Very few genuine arguments are presented. It is easy to attack a person’s intelligence and/or character rather than engage in the difficult craft of good argumentation. Some academics and writers will listen to alternative points of view, but most, from my experience, are closed minded and identify the political and the personal. Conservatives, except for extremists, have no problems liking liberals personally or having liberal friends, and thankfully some liberals are the same way. But in academia and among many writers I have seen, liberals refuse to be friends with conservatives and tend to think they are bad people, especially those who defend traditional sexual ethics. Since the 1962 Port Huron Meeting, the New Left has gone on to dominate academia, poisoning it, most likely permanently. It is a shame that those who should be the most open to alternate points of view are often the most closed.

 

Ideology as Platonism

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English: The School of Athens (detail). Fresco...

English: The School of Athens (detail). Fresco, Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I was responding to a Facebook post regarding same-sex marriage. As usual, I was irenic, I presented the classic natural law arguments against that practice, and since the person to whom I was responding was Christian, I presented the arguments from Holy Scripture and from Catholic tradition. Instead of engaging in a reasonable discussion over an important societal issue, my respondent (who is homosexual) proceeded to say I was demeaning her, that made her feel less than a person, that she despised people like me. In other words, she resorted to an abusive ad hominem attack instead of rationally responding to my arguments.

The homosexual rights movement is one of many ideologies that came out of the 1960s and early 1970s. Feminism is another and womanism still another. All these ideologies shared a Marxist interpretation of reality in which the group advocates represented was the oppressed and society at large was the oppressor. Recently, homosexual advocates have begun labeling those who disagree with their lifestyle “haters.” Now this is a characteristic of an ideology–no matter how much compassion I show for homosexuals who are “advocates” (note that not all homosexuals agree with their “representatives”), I am, by definition, labeled as a “hater.” It does not matter that I do not hate homosexuals–the ideology accepts the following syllogism:

All persons who believe that homosexual activity is morally wrong are haters.

This person holds that homosexual activity is morally wrong.

Therefore, this person is a hater.

Given my respondent’s ideology, she had no other way to respond.

All ideologies are Platonic in the sense that they propose overarching visions of reality and apply them from at top-down perspective. That is, like rationalism in general, they do not look to sense experience for justification. The only justification is in terms of the axioms of their system, which are taken to be self-evident. Thus if one axiom says that “Anyone who believes that homosexuality is morally wrong hates homosexuals,” then that axiom applies by definition to all people in that class and cannot be questioned. As is the case with Plato’s transcendent Forms, Descartes’ Cogito, or Leibniz’s monads, reality is forced into the mold of theory instead of the theory being checked by reality.

Some versions (not all) of feminism function the same way. If, by definition, all classic literary works reflect male dominance, then scholars needing publications for tenure can search through texts for code words and sentences that reflect such male domination. In the case of Marxist ideology concerning the economic system, those who are in the bourgeois are, by definition, exploiting the proletariat. Mr. Obama’s use of class warfare recognizes the power of such a position (even though he has been more of a Chinese-style “state capitalist” than a dogmatic Communist). Envy is a powerful emotion, and if it can be justified by definition, then government should “make the rich pay their fair share” (whatever that might be).

Platonic political philosophy supports a top-down view of government–the same government is best for all people–the rule of philosopher kings (and queens). Such a position is held by Neoconservative and social democratic ideologues who desire to “spread democracy to the entire world.” The geography, history, and culture of a particular state is ignored in a naive attempt to mold the state into the pattern preferred by the Neocons or social democratic hawks.

Ideology has a convenient way of resorting to ad hominem arguments when its basic principles are attacked. After all, if they are self-evident, the person who does not recognize them is, at the very least, ignorant–and possibly reprobate as well. This position cuts the ground from under rational discussion of important societal issues and dangerously divides people into hostile groups. Ideology is, as Nietzsche recognized, a form of the “will to power,” and in a society only filled with ideologues the fundamental ethic becomes “might makes right.” This is a prescription for societal chaos. If people feel forced into a corner because of ideological labeling, and rational discussion is out of the question, what is left but assertion of raw physical force?

Aristotle recognized, in theory at least, that understanding the world requires a bottom-up approach. While all observation is “theory laden,” this does not abrogate the fact that knowledge of reality arises from the senses. Thus, unlike Plato, Aristotle placed forms in things, and held that states should follow the system that best suits their history and culture.

As Alasdair MacIntyre recognized, the only way for communities with different values can rationally discuss issues is by having the person in one community “put himself in the shoes” of someone in another community to understand that community’s values. Once that occurs (and it must be a mutual process), then rational discussion can take place. Agreement may not be reached, but there should remain a feeling of mutual respect.

Russell Kirk famously said that conservatism is not an ideology, meaning that the form that conservatism takes in a particular state will depend on the history and culture of that state. Conserving key societal values is not a matter of imposing them, Platonic-Formlike, from above–most likely one will only come up with one’s own a priori values to apply to everyone. Rather, conservatism should have a deep respect for the way things are in the actual world. There may be need for change, but this is done slowly and with appropriate concern for the history of a people.

God forbid that American society melt into a soup of competing ideologies. The end of the United States as we currently know it (what’s left of it, at least) will most likely result.

Christianity and Victimology

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Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christian scholars often tilt toward social democracy or to full-fledged socialism in their thought, as well as an activist role for the federal courts in overturning immoral laws passed by the states. I admire their sincerity and zeal in their cause, but I cannot agree with their naivety about human nature and the realities of political life in a fallen world. In addition, the moralistic way in which they present their message is sapping with more sentimentality than with logic.

There is no question that Jesus demanded the highest standards of conduct toward God and toward one’s fellow human beings. The first and greatest commandment, as Jesus said, is to love God with all one’s heart, soul, strength, and mind, with the second greatest requiring that a person love his neighbor as himself. These are not abstract demands–they require that a person take concrete actions to fulfill them. When it comes to loving one’s neighbor, this begins with one’s self, then moves out to family and friends, and finally to strangers in need. The command is also incompatible with any treatment of individuals that violates their dignity–this is like Kant’s third version of the Categorical Imperative that says one should act as much as possible so as to treat a person as an end in himself and not as a means to an end.

Now politically liberal Christians often claim that the federal government should love its neighbor by large-scale social programs for the poor. This sounds like a good, loving idea, but it runs into the problem that poor people are most effectively helped at the local level by people who know their overall situations. Throwing federal money at the poor has only made them dependent and lacking initiative to improve their lot in life. Any observer who has a modicum of objectivity can observe the failure of Lyndon Johnson‘s Great Society. A more modest government, oriented toward the states and to more local areas of control and resource allocation, can do more good to stimulate business to hire more workers and to help those among the poor who desire to raise themselves out of their situation of poverty.

The federal courts should not be in the position of enforcing the particular moral obsessions of judges into the federal law books. Well-meaning court rulings in the 1950s and 60s on Civil Rights were meant to fight clear injustices, but it would have been more in line with the Constitution to allow good people from the states along with people of good will from other places to persuade the good people in each state to fight against immoral laws. With enough political pressure, or with enough voters turning out those who support immoral practices, the state legislatures would most likely follow their best interests in changing the law in the direction of the good. There are no guarantees, but the seizing of state power by the federal courts will only lead to long term erosion of the power of the states and the growth of an inefficient, over-regulating federal government with the power to intimidate individuals through exercise of police power.

Well-meaning Christians look at the world simplistically–“We can change society for the better.” It is a short jump to go from “we” to a mammoth federal bureaucracy that will only grow in power until it engulfs the power of the states–and eventually guts freedom in general.

Victims are created and maintained to support the federal bureaucracy. Group identity trumps individual identity, and the individual is subsumed into a victim-group which in turn is kept dependent by the state in order to keep the ruling order in power. Christians are sympathetic to victims because Christ was also a victim of injustice and suffered a terrible death by crucifixion. Being a victim raises the moral status of the victim in the eyes of many Christians. The victim becomes a Christ-figure who does not need to reform his life, but only needs to say, “I am a member of minority victim Group A, therefore I should receive federal benefits B and C and D, etc.” Christianity needs to open its eyes to its own doctrine of the Fall, so that it recognizes that even well-meaning strategies to bring about justice do not work in real life, especially when those individuals who live irresponsibly do not amend their ways. The victim, in turn, enjoys the status of victim since it takes away his responsibility in life and turns his care over to others.

Christians should take care that their well-meaning, loving strategies do not leave the world a worse place than before. They can do what they can to help individuals in their own communities–that way, one small step at a time, without the poison of identity politics, people can be truly helped.

Richard Land and the Censoring of Discourse about Race in America

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English: Vectorized Southern Baptist Conventio...

English: Vectorized Southern Baptist Convention logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Richard Land‘s radio show has been canceled by the Southern Baptist Convention. Although Mr. Land was cited for plagiarism, which he apparently did commit, this was not the focus of the SBC’s statement. The SBC was concerned about Mr. Land’s allegedly inflammatory remarks concerning the Trayvon Martin case.

What did Mr. Land say that was so horrible? He said that Mr. Obama was taking political advantage of the situation. One can make a good case for this claim–Mr. Obama said that if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin–this could be construed as an attempt to shore up support among his base. Political charges similar to Mr. Land’s claims have been made quite frequently in conservative circles, though perhaps with more tact than Mr. Land used. Mr. Land also referred to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as race baiters. An even more solid case can be made for that claim–are Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sharpton beyond criticism? Should they escape the inevitable criticism that those in the public eye routinely face? Surely not except in a liberal fantasy world. Does anyone remember the Tawana Brawley case or the Duke Lacrosse case and how Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sharpton stirred emotions to a dangerous level in cases that turned out to be other than Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sharpton claimed?

Discourse about race has become so emotionally charged that the range of politically correct things to say has narrowed to the point that one cannot say anything outside the liberal party line without being labeled a racist. Now I don’t know if Mr. Zimmerman is guilty of manslaughter or not–I will wait until the facts of the case come out. Pointing out the fact that some individuals are using the case to agitate others and to stir up dangerous emotions is not irresponsible or wrong. The more the left and the pseudo-right shut off discourse, the more frustrated those silenced become. If those silenced already had wrong attitudes, they will only be hardened in them. If they did not have wrong attitudes, they are far more likely to gain them after being silenced. Cutting off discussion of race will most likely lead to an increase, not to a decrease, in racism.

I have noticed a leftward trend in conservative Evangelical churches over the last few years, fueled by liberals in their academic institutions. These colleges, universities, and seminaries train ministers and other church officials. They may be technically “conservative,” but they buy into much of the left’s beliefs, including supporting politically correct speech on race. If Mr. Land had used an obscenity to refer to another race, he should have been fired and disciplined by the church. If he had claimed that one race was intrinsically superior to another, then he should have been disciplined. He said neither of those things. Yet he lost his radio show and was forced to apologize–I do not doubt the sincerity of his apology. What I doubt (without defending everything Mr. Land said and not justifying his plagiarism)  is the apparent belief of Southern Baptist officials that any criticism of Mr. Obama, Mr. Jackson, or Mr. Sharpton is tantamount to racism, which is an absurd position.

Stop Being So Sensitive!

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I am utterly sick of sensitive people–not those “sensitive” in a good way, but those people who are professionals at being offended in order to get their way or get money. Those after money are only different in degree than someone who points a gun at someone and says, “Hand over your money.” Discussing certain issues is taboo at many colleges and universities due to the intimidation and (sometimes) violence of the left. Consider what has happened to conservative speakers who come to college and university campuses. While some are treated with respect, others have been shouted down or threatened physically (as Tom Tancredo was treated a few years ago at UNC-Chapel Hill, when a brick was thrown through a window by a thuggish group and

English: The Old Well and McCorkle Place at th...

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his talk was cancelled for the sake of everyone’s safety). In other cases, academics have lost their jobs when they criticized the politically correct mainstream–I know one personally. Most of them have either gotten their jobs back or been given a settlement since, thus far, the courts have respected freedom of speech. That could change in the future as Mr. Obama‘s appointments pile up in the federal judiciary.

Stifling discussion of controversial issues or only allowing one side to express itself does not allow room for learning and discussion. Some of the most productive class discussions I have experienced are when I bring up controversial topics or express “non-politically correct” positions. For example, I am morally opposed to abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Usually I am the only person in class holding that positions, and students are free to argue with me (and they do–vehemently). I learn something from their arguments and hopefully they learn something from mine. What if some “sensitivity Fascist” had said that my position on abortion should no longer be part of the “public square” because it offends some people? Since when did college and university students gain the right not to be offended. I do not mind the Marxist professor two doors down from me expressing his views to his classes as long as students are free to disagree and are not penalized for their positions. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and if Marxist positions can be presented, so can conservative positions in economics, morals, philosophy, and/or religion.

There are so many issues on which this nation is deeply divided–sexual ethics, racial issues, gender issues, issues regarding the role of government in combating poverty, issues surrounding health care. If discussion is halted just because someone is “offended,” this only serves to increase resentment on the part of those who disagree with the position of the professional sensitive person. We become even more divided and angry at one another. The best way for the culture war to become a true war rather than a war by means of language is to stifle discussion.

If “sensitivity training” really dealt with bad behavior, I suppose there would be no problem with it–men and women are wrong if they are in a supervisory position and request sexual favors from an employee before they promote that employee. That is unethical and illegal, and it should be. If someone constantly tells sexual jokes after being warned not to several times, that is bad behavior that can and should lead to termination from a job. But a man who is of equal rank in a company to a woman surely has the right to ask her out unless the company forbids inter-employee dating. Often a woman really will have plans on the day the man wanted to go out, so he will ask her again. Now if she says no then, if I am not mistaken, society generally says “two time’s the charm” and the man should not ask her out again (although there are men who married women whom they asked out many times–and they remain happily married). If some professional sensitive woman whines about sexual harassment when a man asks her out in a nice way on a date, this is oversensitive behavior from someone who either hates men, is a psychopath, enjoys hurting people, or wants easy money. Have some common sense, folks!

Racial issues have become so sensitive that many people won’t talk about them lest someone be offended. I do not deny that there are racists in our society–every society has them–and that sometimes racists will discriminate against those of a different race. When the race card is overplayed, however, in cases in which it is unwarranted, eventually any racial incident comes across as “crying wolf” and genuine incidents of racial prejudice may be unnecessarily ignored. When any criticism of Mr. Obama’s policies is labeled “racism,” that ignores the fact that many people disagree with the President’s policies–including some who voted for him. I do not hate or even dislike Mr. Obama, but I disagree with a number of his policies–and that does not make me a racist. I am a conservative, so of course I will disagree with Mr. Obama on some points. What else would you expect?

Liberals gain their power by playing on the sensitivity and resentments of people. They play up the envy the poor have for the middle classes and the wealthy. They emasculate man by calling any comment “sexist” that does not fit their radical feminist agenda of changing human nature, either by denying differences between males and females or trumping up “female virtues” as superior to “male virtues.” Those positions are self-contradictory, of course, but to the liberal, especially to the “postmodern” liberal, coherence is not a truth preserving condition.

As outspoken as I am, I keep some positions to myself, not because they are wrong, but because I know there would probably be a professional sensitive person in the audience who would misrepresent my beliefs–knowingly. On religious and moral issues I am more outspoken. Political issues are not values free, but they are contingent matters about which people even of similar world views disagree, and I must pick my battles. But I have grown more outspoken over the years because I am sick of a false, hypocritical “sensitivity” stifling discussion, especially of conservative positions, on issues important for the good of society.

“Hate Studies”

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journal of hate studies

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Gonzaga University has recently created a  “Gonzaga Institute for Hate Studies” (http://www.nas.org/polArticles.cfm?doctype_code=Article&doc_id=1142). Although hate is a legitimate subject for philosophy, theology, psychology, and sociology to study, the sad truth is that this program is one that will inevitably label those who hold traditional moral values or conservative political views as “haters.” The article in the link from the National Association of Scholars website discusses the program from the perspective of academic sanity. Glenn Ricketts has examined the journal published by the Institute and discovered what he suspected: that “hate studies” is an excuse to push a particular cultural, religious, and political agenda. Any Christian who believes that abortion is morally wrong, or who believes that practicing homosexuality is morally wrong, would be classified as someone full of hate. Any political conservative who opposes racial quotas would be labeled as a hater. Gonzaga has created a propaganda mill for the most radical wing of the Democratic party, the wing of which most academics, at least in the Humanities, are members.

Gonzaga is Jesuit, and although there are traditional Jesuits who still exist, this institute shows how far a Jesuit institution of learning can sink. But it also shows the level to which academia as a whole has sunk with its myriad of “special studies programs” that support a privileged status for the interest group they claim to represent. This is the case whether the group is a particular race, gender, economic class, or “sexual orientation.”

If a student wants an education rather than propaganda he should avoid such programs. He should find a college or university that teaches the history and philosophy of Western Culture first, so students understand their own culture, and then teach about other cultures and beliefs–that is true diversity. The pseudo-diversity of “race, class, gender, and sexual orientation” is only a con game for radical special interest groups to con money and favors from society. Marcuse’s Marxism for the masses through the alteration of culture has, since the 1962 Marxist takeover of the Students for a Democratic society, has come to fruition in contemporary colleges and universities. The only thing that saves American culture from ultimate disaster is that many students have enough common sense to avoid believing bull. Traditional academics have put up a fight through the National Association of Scholars and other organizations which have both liberal, moderate, and conservative members who all agree that the radical’s use of special studies programs, such as “Hate Studies,” have changed much of the academy into a version of Huxley’s “brave new world.” It is past time for traditionalists who have not joined the battle to fight back against the radicalization of higher education in the United States.

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