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I guess I should reveal my politics…

April 21, 2009

Vox-Nova is beset by politics. For some reason, certain people seem to care more about what the writers do politically (i.e. vote) then what they think on the matter. Although the two are not in any way unrelated (indeed the connection is quite important, I think), I would venture to say that, for the harshest critics, if all the Vox-Nova contributors had voted for McCain they would have significantly fewer problems with what they seem to say on topics like peace and justice, economics, religion and so on. This being the case, I think I should let you know what kind of political beast has been added to this blog who some Catholics brothers and sisters have, in a fit of charity, affectionately nicknamed “proabort.”

First let me be clear: I am not a donkey or an elephant. I have never voted for either party at the national level, ever. Although I have not, I am not completely closed to the idea, depending on the candidate. I do hold every major party candidate in extremely  high suspicion, since, after all, you don’t just “get there” without submitting in some way to their deeply corrupt culture, as I see it.

So, I would be most comfortable to use Judith Butler’s notion of identity regarding my political self. Call me a somesuch. But I know that this obscurity is frustrating. I also know that my other term of preference, Catholic, is also too mischievous and would begin another tired rally of bickering over “Who gets to be Catholic?” As far as political parties go, the only one I know of that I would think about joining was reported here a few weeks ago: the solidarity party of Spain. But, I am not a Spanish citizen.

So I seem to be stuck. Here is something that I am sure of: I am cranky. Yes, I am cranky about politics because I am a crank about lots of its predecessors in modernity. The empire of modern science, the cult of technological innovation, the monopolies of modern security states, the servitude to modern industry, and the fact that I am not the exception, I am in it, I am part of the problem as I type on the new idol of modernity after the television, the computer.

Yet, my crankiness comes in handy from time to time. You see, I feel no need to express allegiance to, celebrate or carry-on about any of our Presidents. To be vulgar about it, I think that the line up we’ve had over the past few decades have all sucked. The only guy I seem to not dislike is Ford, but I still think pardoning Nixon was the wrong thing to do.

Call my cynical, but, I do not see Obama as a particularly good thing for America right now. To me, he is a band aid and a warm blanket that makes me feel better after getting the poop kicked out of me for sixteen years of the worst presidents we’ve had in a while (Clinton and Bush II we’re just off the charts awful, in my mind), but, the problem is that blood is soaking through the banadages and we think we’ve been healed!

Obama is a pragmatist in the worst sense. He is the brand of pragmatism that Richard Rorty and Cornel West conjured up on the undeserving backs of William James and John Dewey. He is the kind of pragmatism that enables us to “do are best” and not try to change the world.

He is emblematic of the creed that will not allow demilitarization, ending abortion without criminalizing women, denuclearization, and the abolition of material and nutritional poverty to become possible realities, even thinkable ones in any serious way.

I oppose Obama as I opposed Bush II, Clinton, and even Bush I when all I knew was that is was really scary to cross the border of Mexico during the first Gulf War because men with guns took my orange at customs. I always vote and sometime that means staying at home because there is no authentic suffrage to be had at the polls.

This past election I was stuck, so, I voted for Brian Moore, the Socialist Party candidate, to help them try and get some funding and say that this country could use a socialist party or labour party a la Britain. I might be something of a socialist, but I am no Marxist, not even close.

When people call me a cynic and a crank, I usually smile and say something like: “You’re right, but I’m Catholic, so, make no mistake, I am full of hope, joy, and love. And when I forget about that, I see Jesus in my little boys’ smiles and I weep for all the bittersweet reasons there are to weep at a time such as this.”

I guess that’s my politics. Oh, ya, and I am a sinner (and a really good one), and I constantly think this political vision is all wrong and I should start over, but I never seem to get to doing that exactly. Peace.

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31 Comments
  1. M.Z. permalink
    April 21, 2009 11:29 am

    You’re not the first to express sympathy for Moore. http://vox-nova.com/2008/10/13/proportionate-reason-not-to-vote/#comment-39814

  2. David Nickol permalink
    April 21, 2009 11:36 am

    . . . this blog who some Catholics brothers and sisters have, in a fit of charity, affectionately nicknamed “proabort.”

    Sam,

    I don’t understand why you would want to write on Vox Nova, or am I misinterpreting this remark?

  3. Paul permalink
    April 21, 2009 11:37 am

    All I can say is that I smiled reading your post. It’s honest. The part about seeing Jesus in your boys’ smiles. That’s true stuff. And to weep for bittersweet reasons is not far from being graced with the ability to have beautitudinal compassion. In my mind, our homes (children and spouse) mater the most, our personal relationships matter a ton, and politics matter too. Our (my) passion about them is often inverted, I find. Good luck and peace, too. Keep carrying the hope, joy, and love of the Lord in your heart, man! That encourages.

  4. April 21, 2009 11:43 am

    The remark is actually a defense of VN, using some satire. My biggest reason to join VN was when I saw the absurd profile they seem to keep with the other Catholic blogs I follow and people I know. Getting called “proabort” because the ideas are strange to many of certain political persuasion is beyond ridiculous to me.

  5. David Nickol permalink
    April 21, 2009 1:30 pm

    Sam,

    My apologies, then.

  6. Phillip permalink
    April 21, 2009 3:34 pm

    Sam,

    I have the same joy looking at my son. It is good we are all Catholics even if at times we come from different perspectives. It is a joy that encompasses all humanity.

  7. Br. Matthew Augustine Miller, OP permalink
    April 21, 2009 3:43 pm

    Sam,

    Thanks for the honest and insightful post. I am a little flummoxed, however, by your opposition to the pragmatists. I do not buy into pragmatism entirely and have always found Rorty more than a little obnoxious (though I admit I have an appreciation for his ability to carry a principle to its logical conclusion), but nevertheless I have grown in my appreciation of them over time. Mostly this is because they are good at deflating the Modern idol of certainty. The pragmatists and those they have influenced (Putnam, Sellars, Wittgenstein, Quine, Brandom, etc.) have (rightly, I believe) reoriented us to the importance of experience, our inferential poverty in the face of great complexity, and the theory-ladenness of much of our supposed certain knowledge about how the world actually is. I think epistemic arrogance is at the heart of many of the problems we are dealing with today; for instance, in our arrogant belief that we could eliminate economic risk through complicated financial instruments or that we could remake a foreign country through sophisticated technological warfare. I share your skepticism regarding Obama, but my skepticism doesn’t stem from his “pragmatism” (I think he could be called a pragmatist in a certain sense, but not in the Pierce/Dewey/James sense) but because of his propensity to have the answers to much of what ails us and the willingness and political power to see those answers through on a massive scale.

  8. April 21, 2009 3:51 pm

    his propensity to have the answers to much of what ails us and the willingness and political power to see those answers through on a massive scale.

    Is it possible that you just don’t like his answers, Br. Matthew?

    What if he were a pro-life Catholic who vowed to transform how America sees and deals with abortion, let’s say? (I would love this, by the way; alas…)

  9. Br. Matthew Augustine Miller, OP permalink
    April 21, 2009 4:29 pm

    Matt,

    Yes, some of Obama’s big answers to our problems (i.e., abortion) are definitely wrong. One of the ironies of modern life is that those things which really are certain, thing to which are intellects really are adequate, like the dignity and value of an unborn child, are considered so mystifyingly complex as to be “above the paygrade” of the ivy-league educated while the truly complex and intractable problems of the world can be easily solved if we only have the willingness and power to __________ (you fill in the blank: perhaps invade Iraq, give trillions to the negligent but “too big to fail” banks, pump sulphur into the atmosphere to reverse global warming, create human embryos in order to harvest their cells, etc, etc, etc.)

  10. Br. Matthew Augustine Miller, OP permalink
    April 21, 2009 4:31 pm

    That should read “our intellects…” rather than “are intellects”.

  11. April 21, 2009 4:33 pm

    Br. Matthew: My issue is with the kind of pragmatism that Rorty and West have popularized that I see as antithetical to the “pragmatism” of the big three you mention (although its not the same all the way across, as you probably well know). I have so much to say about this since my primary expertise is in James, but, for now I’ll leave it at that. Notice the difference, for example, in the readings that James gets from Rorty and Putnam. I’m on Putnam’s side, to put it roughly.

    Obama’s pragmatism is of the kind that seems to relativise things into the possible and the actionable which is a way of saying doing what I think is best. That is against the very core of the most important aspect of James’ thought: Radical Empiricism.

  12. April 21, 2009 4:34 pm

    “Obama is a pragmatist in the worst sense. He is the brand of pragmatism that Richard Rorty and Cornel West conjured up on the undeserving backs of William James and John Dewey.”

    Notice here who is “undeserving.”

  13. April 21, 2009 4:41 pm

    David: No need to apologize. As some are noticing, since this issue has come up a few times, I do not possess the most eloquent clarity of expression. I kind of just muscle it out!

  14. Br. Matthew Augustine Miller, OP permalink
    April 21, 2009 5:08 pm

    Sam,

    You are right. I seem to have misunderstood your statement. I look forward to exploring these topics along with you.

  15. April 21, 2009 5:32 pm

    Shouldn’t your political opinions be more than just criticism? Shouldn’t you have some ideas about how society ought to be organized?

    Criticism is fine and dandy, but politics is more than just criticism.

  16. April 21, 2009 5:45 pm

    Criticism is fine and dandy, but politics is more than just criticism.

    I agree, Zach – which is why lots of the political blogosphere can get tiresome (let me add, mea culpa…)

  17. April 21, 2009 6:12 pm

    Zach: I am horrible at knowing what’s wrong with my car, I have some basic principles, like I prefer for it to run without making crazy noises and jerking around, but, at the end of the day, I don’t know much about it. However, I still feel that when it makes crazy noises and jerks around or is billowing smoke and flames that I can complain about it and tell people to stay away because it might blowup or something.

    In other words, having solutions is not a pre-condition for making a credible critique. We do not fault a person who has cancer for not knowing how to cure it or the doctor who could prescribe that cure, but we can still lament their illness.

    Now, politics is a perennial theme we’ve been going around and around about since, at the very least, Plato’s Republic. Therefore, there is no reason why I would think that I have any definite solutions now. If I did, then, it would be the equivalent of having a cure for cancer, or even better. In the meantime, I am saying that it sucks to have this pain and discomfort (this cancer) in our body politic.

    At the same time, there are real, intuitive ideas one can get from the general desire to not have pain in the body, not have a car blow up, and so on. Those are the things I lamented when I listed, “demilitarization, ending abortion without criminalizing women, denuclearization, and the abolition of material and nutritional poverty.” These things are all very real ideas and desires on what would make a just society.

    Now, there is more to that, to be sure, but one can express ideas in a complaint. For example, if I say: “It sucks that I don’t have a hamburger right now!”, then, it is clear that my “idea” is that it would be nice to have a hamburger right now.

    So, when I complain about specific things (e.g. corruption of political parties, the dangers of modernity, the lack of initiative to end the things I listed earlier…) I am actually offering real ideas about what I would like to see.

    That is hardly an exhaustive treatise on the issue, but I know of no such things that solve the problem completely. In the end, we are only left with basic intuitions about trying to be happy and holy and such. We are left with the Jesus we see in children. But we do not know how to realize those desires of the heart exactly.

    Unless, however, you’ve been holding out on humanity? Do you know how to fix my (our) burning car? Do you have a cure?

  18. April 21, 2009 6:43 pm

    Matt: Politics will never get tiresome for humans, only poorly presented and argued ideas will. But, I largely agree with your sentiment about blogs, even, at times, this one. But, on the other hand, some of the ones out there basically read the news feed off whatever ideology their pushing. Widening our horizon of political and social possibility is a constant chore, to say the least.

  19. April 21, 2009 6:44 pm

    Br. Matt: Misunderstanding can be a two-way street, for my part, I will try to be more clear in the future.

  20. Policraticus permalink*
    April 21, 2009 8:57 pm

    In other words, having solutions is not a pre-condition for making a credible critique.

    Very true. In fact, it is the recognition of problems and the subsequent critiques of those problems that often lead to clear, posterior solutions.

  21. Joe Hargrave permalink
    April 22, 2009 12:30 am

    “This past election I was stuck, so, I voted for Brian Moore, the Socialist Party candidate, to help them try and get some funding and say that this country could use a socialist party or labour party a la Britain. I might be something of a socialist, but I am no Marxist, not even close.”

    I would have voted for Walt Brown, who actually is pro-life, if he weren’t run out of the SP by rabid ‘pro-aborts’. Moore, on the other hand, had a ‘pro-choice’ plank in his platform. I’m not sure Walt ever did, hence the controversy. I could be wrong, because I don’t remember the details.

  22. Kurt permalink
    April 22, 2009 11:59 am

    I remember Brian Moore back when he was a Lector at St. Vincent dePaul’s in SE DC. He is in Florida now, isn’t he?

    http://www.parishes.org/vincentdepaul.html

  23. Rocco permalink
    April 22, 2009 1:35 pm

    Sam, I’m sure all of this has been discussed elsewhere on VN but I’m selfish and willing to be repetative for my own sake-

    I wonder, and have for a while, what you find in any way consoling about Obama in light of your political preferences? Myself I disagree with him as much as his predecesors, but find what I disagree with him to be greater on issues more dear to my own beliefs (that is not in any way an absolution of his predecesors). While you mention that you are skeptical of Obama, why do you chose to describe Obama as a warm blanket and a band-aid? What is it that you find warm?

    I’ll venture a guess at a few points but I’m sure there are more and would respectfully like to hear your reasoning if you have the time.

    Would it be his lofty speech about nuclear disarmament? I hope not. Not because I oppose the idea of nuclear disarmament, but because I find it to be an insult to my intelligence. In was a manuever to distract from the North Korea situation. On top of that, it both a ‘Hail Mary’ and a punt at the same time. Throw out this hopeful plan that really has no substance to it while at the same time saying, “you’re ball kids, we can’t do this now”. It’s feckless and as I said, insulting.

    Would it be his embrace of the language to “reduce the number of abortions” that’s become so popular with Catholics who long to reconcile their choice of him as President. This too is obviously nothing more than manuevering and insult to our intelligence. Why would we take seriously the goal to “reduce” the number of abortions rather than eliminiate the practice and our governments tax-payer sponsorship and endorsement of the practice?

    Is it his opposition to capital punishment? Well, in fact, as we have seen in his own words, he in fact is not opposed to the practice.

    Is it his desire and plans to reduce poverty? A noble, although insufficient, goal of course, but his means for that end (in my weak opinion) are very weak and, in most cases, wrong.

    Is it the environment? We all (I hope) want to be good stewards of our inherited plant but so far I’ve found his means to be more than lacking but out-right wrong.

    Is it his opposition to war? Because he is no opponent of War. In fact, and I’m not opposed to this (I’m not a pacifist, at least in sense of peace at all costs), he has simply modified the Bush plan for the remaining Iraq occupation, escalated the Afganistan occupation, and never once indicated a truly pacifist philosphy.

    Is it his plan for treatment of foriegn combatants held by the U.S. military? I find it lacking as well but sure, it’s better than his predecessors’.

    Is that to be the measure of our leaders? It’s as if I could say, well, I’m consoled when I eat two Big Macs that a Big Mac has 100 less calories than a Hardees Thickburger. Or rather since I find him so much worse on so many fronts than his predecessors, most obviously with his intolerable abortion policy, that this comparison also so very weak because in fact he is just another Thickburger.

    Now, I don’t mean to put words in your mouth. You have expressed your distaste for Obama. My question is seriously, what is it, at all, that you might find comforting about him?

  24. Rocco permalink
    April 22, 2009 1:37 pm

    I should state my point because it’s not clear. It seems to me that so many people really just see the President for what they want him to be rather than what he really is.

  25. April 22, 2009 2:01 pm

    Rocco: There is nothing “substantial” that I find comforting about him. As you mentioned, and, I might add, so did I, his presidency has very little cash-out value to the things I hold dear–remember I did not vote for him.

    However, he is refreshing to see and listen to after Clinton and Bush. Now, that’s not saying much in one sense, but it is in another sense (you got it right in the hamburger analogy).

    I think he is pretty smart and not obtuse about expressing himself (compared to the Bush rhetoric-disaster and Clinton who lived off red-meat, dumbed-down rhetoric) and, his biography and identity strike me as radically different from the previous few–yes this includes his bi-race.

    Now, all this is, is that fuzzy feeling, but fuzzy feelings are good when the past 16 years has been downright assaulting sentiments of disgust and embarrassment.

    So, yes Obama functions as a comfort and a deceptive one at that. However, we are still being bled to death, as I see it. And that’s why I will oppose him as I have every other one in my (short) lifetime, unless, of course, he makes some serious changes.

  26. April 22, 2009 2:02 pm

    PS: I knew you’d be here. Love you man.

  27. Rocco permalink
    April 22, 2009 2:22 pm

    Okay, great. Now how is he better than Bush and Clinton on actual policy? On aggregate, I see no improvement. For every Gitmo closure there is a Mexico City Policy closure to wash it out.

    As far as his rhetoric, I don’t see it. First, I find it pretty dumbed down, and as I mentioned before, insulting. Second, as you know, he aint writing his own material, and he shouldn’t. Judging a President based his rhetoric is not much help.

  28. April 22, 2009 3:16 pm

    Roc, I have no serious axe to grind here. But there is a sentiment to rationality that is hard to describe, as Pascal says, “the heart has its reasons.” And, for some reason, I have that feeling, it may just be silly, but, for me, its real. Not “real” enough, though, to merit anything but criticism from me, for now.

  29. Rocco permalink
    April 23, 2009 9:54 pm

    Taking this tangent a bit further, I must erase the credit given to Obama for the Gitmo closure. It seems that, as I suspected, this move was also maneuvering, but in this case literally. They are taking Gitmo and moving it inside our natural boarders.

  30. April 25, 2009 10:09 am

    I’ve been scolded for being too harsh and too lenient on Obama all at once, sweet!

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