A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

On Being Liberal and Religious--Part 1

There is a great personal cleavage in me, and I am certain that it also exists in others. When I read the tea leaves among those of us who are politically grounded I find there are actually three major groups, not two, and that I belong to none of them.

For convenience, we can give them the following names: Secular Liberals, Secular Libertarians, and Religious Conservatives. Each of these, it seems to me, congregates around a hard ideological core of separate ideas and views about American life and none of these ideologies is a place where I feel intellectually and emotionally comfortable. I frankly find myself a stranger in all three.

This is not the place to elaborately outline their ideological differences and, in one sense, these differences matter less than differences of temper and tone. I have tried in my blogroll to offer samples of all three types, and skimming that roll for an hour or so gives you more direct insight, actually, into these distinct ideologies than longwinded explanations. One Hand Clapping and Winds of Change are clearly not in the same intellectual universe as Majikthise and Matthew Yglesias nor is it precisely the same place as Outside the Beltway or A Small Victory.

Again, the understanding of this cannot be fully articulated in any particular doctrine for it extends beyond doctrine to attitude, to feeling, to the intuition above, below, or beyond intellect. The key to the religious life, it seems to me, is not so much religious answers as religious questions. These questions bedevil us all, even when we don't accept religious answers for them, or when we view those religious answers as something somehow separate from our public life and politics.

But those of us who do give religious answers to religious questions as well as see our religion as permeating our entire lives, whether Liberal or Conservative, have a ground for dialog which we share with neither of the other two secular tribes in our politics.

A while back in the comment section of One Hand Clapping, Reverend Donald Sensing and I had a little conversation that started when the good Reverend posted one of many responses to the Swift Boat stories where he raised doubts about John Kerry's service to the country in war and his fitness to serve as President. It is the epitome of the common ground the religious share, whether Liberal or Conservative, or even whether Buddhist or Christian. I reproduce it here:

"Joseph Marshall: Reverend, I'd like you to stop for a minute and think about something. If you were John Kerry's spiritual confidant and advisor, what would you say to him?

"Reverend Sensing: Joseph, why do you want me to stop and think about that? Furthermore, I do not know what a "spiritual advisor" is, except I think it's a kind of New Age thing. I certainly am not a "spiritual advisor" now, and it's even more certain that Jesus was not one, either. So I think your question just doesn't scan, Joseph. Or maybe I don't get your point.

"Joseph Marshall: Well, I suppose I mean that if you had a personal relation with the real man, the human being in the blue suit, as pastor and parishioner, what would you say to him to ease the obvious human suffering inherent in what he has had to endure for the past few weeks.

"My "point" is that there is a real human being there, in as tormenting a trial as any of us are ever likely to endure. And its a good thing, spiritually, to remind ourselves of that fact.

"Reverend Sensing: It would be a good thing, spiritually, for Kerry to start telling the truth about his Vietnam service, ie, Cambodia. It would be a good thing for us, spiritually, for Kerry to sign the form 180 to release all his naval records. It would be a good thing for millions of veterans, spiritually, for Kerry to admit his vicious lies about them in the VVAW and beg their forgiveness. But are you, a Kerry supporter, suggesting that he should now be an object of pity?

"Joseph Marshall: Whatever his failings, of which I honestly know of only by report, he has human shape and deserves human doubt. This does not mean anyone needs to think him capable enough to be President, or to vote for him.

"But what it does mean is that he will face his future as we all face ours, a future that leads at the least to the same doorway, wherever we may travel beyond it. And we should ask ourselves whether, were it us in his position, our public credit, our reputation, and our self-esteem would survive vast amounts of private funds--and the no-holds-barred quest for partisan advantage--searching to magnify to its largest size any possible personal weakness we may have displayed over sixty years.

"Nothing is to be lost by asking ourselves that question. Nobody's vote is going to be swayed by it. But our own, individual, long term future may be very influenced by it. Or at least I've always been told so.

"Reverend Sensing: Joseph, seriously, please wake up. Your strongly implicit claim that all the purity of this race is on Kerry's side, all the rancor and evil on Bush's, really makes me think - pastorally, please understand - that you simply do not understand what's going on. Allowing that everything you say is true, where were your protests when MoveOn and other Dem-backed groups - and Democrat politicians themselves - were savaging Bush, as they have since 2000? Kerry hasn't received a tenth of the beating that Bush has gotten.I'd give credit to your comments if they weren't so partisan in their object. You are weeping from only one eye.

"Joseph Marshall: I sincerely think that anyone in public life is squandering a huge amount of what I would call "good karma" for very little reward, and for tremendous suffering, both now and in the future. And I have no hesitation in saying that the candidate whom I supported first, Howard Dean, is by far the luckiest person of any of the people who sought the office this year.

I have a direct, explicit, religious obligation to cultivate compassion for ALL suffering. And, to the extent my own personal failings permit, I do so. I have, on many occasions, thought about the humanity of George W. Bush and the burdens that his time in office will leave him with.

And, speaking personally, I am inclined to think that the next luckiest man to Howard Dean will be the one who loses this election."

It still remains an open religious question, I think. Modern media bring us closer to the candidate--whether Howard Dean, George Bush, or John Kerry--as a human being than we have ever been in this country. What then do we do to ourselves if we ignore that humanity in our haste to combat the ideology? I'll leave the question open. I have a religious answer to it, myself. But, as I said before, posing the question is much more important than having the answer.

To Be Continued...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

TO: Joseph Marshall
RE: What Indeed

"What then do we do to ourselves if we ignore that humanity in our haste to combat the ideology?" -- Joseph Marshall

Ever participate in a seder?

A Jewess of the group up in Denver invited any takers to partake of the Passover Seder one year. I think it was a response to the annual open house/all-day moviethon I would hold on Christmas Day for any orphans in the group.

It was very interesting. What struck me the most was how the ceremony mourns the deaths of the Egyptian army that was pursuing the fleeing Hebrews lead by Moses.

As the script reads, do not rejoice over their deaths. They are God's creatures as much as you are. Or words to that affect.

As for making haste to 'combat ideology', at the sacrifice of recognizing their humanity, I don't think the religious of us do that. However, I'm sure there are quite a few who do.

There is probably a good way to recognize those who do that as opposed to those who do not. See if there is any 'name calling', e.g., that miserable SOB. Or, as Donald might allow, "Those farging corksuckers." Or the ever popular, "Miserable iceholes."

Now, pointing out where someone is fouled up beyond all recognition is not the same thing as calling them something vile. And therein may be the way to recognize someone who is ignoring their opponent's humanity.

I've forgiven Clinton, for the things he's repented of. But that does not mean I'd want him back as president, either of this country, or of a university my daughter was going to.

RE: Head Counts

Are there any figures on how many there are in each of the three groups you stated?

Also, I'd suggest there are six groups. Not three. Broken out by political AND religious/spiritual affiliation; a matrix, if you will.

RE: And It All Goes Back...

...to the comments I made earlier. How does one determine which is the Truth?

Liked the question. Keep em coming.



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It would be a good thing for us, spiritually, for Kerry to sign the form 180 to release all his naval records.
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