but suddenly is gimlet-eyed when it comes to a just wage for troops who are on food stamps and welfare, or unemployed to the tune of a million returning vets:
The other day, on my FB page, I happened to be scrolling down and ran across this little graphic, which made what I took to be the thoroughly common sense point that if we can find billions to pay for drones to target and murder women and children, we should be able to scrape together the cash to help a brain-damaged vet whose wife couldn’t handle it and ditched him after he returned from his fourth tour of duty permanently disabled. Trouble was, the graphic I happened to run across that made this elementary moral point was this:
So, putting the Epic in Epistemic Closure, the commentary from readers was, overwhelmingly, not “We need to treat our troops with justice and honor” but:
Too bad that John Stewart is an antichrist of the first order who must answer for equal crimes.
Wow: opposing Mitt Romney and supporting John Stewart. Who’s your patron St Thomas Amarxist? BTW I appreciated your stand-alone comment, but to try ti use the hypocritical self-contradictory Stewart for support is sublime.
I couldn’t agree more with your sentiment, Mark. John Stewart, however, is a partisan hack who would gladly say the exact opposite of this if it meant supporting his own party.
And so on for 150-200 comments. Almost instantly the actual point–that would be the injustice done our troops–was totally forgotten and the subject became–overwhelmingly–the grave danger that the graphic was somehow “giving credibility” to Jon Stewart and failing to maintain tribal purity.
About 99% of everything that is wrong with the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism is found right in that thread, beginning with its total obsession with Identity Politics (aka the Genetic Fallacy). The very suggestion that somebody who is Not of the Tribe could have something to say that is worth hearing was rejected without trial and the only thing under discussion was not the point being made but the person making it.
It’s not terribly mysterious how, in such a climate of petty power struggles, people like our troops get utterly forgotten. Indeed, as the thread progressed, one badly wounded vet with chronic health struggles attempted to actually bring the conversation back from the lunacy of “You quoted Jon Stewart! This information is ritually impure!” to describing his struggles with a state system rigged to screw vets. It was very painful reading. But some readers would not be deterred. They resolutely returned to the burning issue of quoting Jon Stewart as a tribal marker of my *real* agenda, as well as explaining that it’s all so complicated and there’s just no money for vets, etc. blah blah. But the main thing was Stewart. What mattered was not whether the central point was true. All that *really* mattered was that I had happened to use a graphic of Jon Stewart making the point.
How can a conservatism, more importantly how can a Catholic faith, that does this *possibly* hope to engage a world in which, incredibly, not everybody agrees with it about everything? In a healthy civil culture, you work together for the common good with people who are very different from you, affirming in common what can be affirmed. If a garden variety New York Jewish liberal says, “We should treat our troops justly and not screw them” a healthy conservative–and a healthy Catholic–recognizes that the New York Jewish liberal may not be too keen on the Catholic Church a lot of times (Stewart has made the Church the butt of his jokes many times, no denying that), but at least he’s right about this so God bless him for that. If Catholic conservatives cannot make common cause with a generally reasonable Lefty on something as bloody obviously true as “Don’t screw our troops over”, (because that might somehow mean the Lefty does not receive the maximum amount of tribal hatred that must be maintained at all times in order to retain ones’s bona fides as a True Catholic conservative), then how can we possibly hope to evangelize a world that is not confined to Fortress Catholicus? I don’t have any big answers. But it seems like a good start is “Reject Identity Politics and the Genetic Fallacy.”
Somebody in the thread claimed that Stewart was a Marxist (I don’t believe that for a second) and that this somehow put him beyond the pale of engagement. Pope Benedict is able to engage with all sorts of people of good will who hold ideas that are often quite antithetical to the Faith. These include Marxists, who are often far *more* hostile to the Church than Stewart is. I attempted, in vain, to point out that the Church has historically tried to engage with whatever is true from anything in human culture and pointed out that Thomas used the work of pagans and Muslims. The response, of course, was to completely miss the point and say, “So you are comparing Jon Stewart to Aristotle and Averroes?”
Um, no. I am saying that the Church does not practice the Genetic Fallacy. More importantly, the Church thinks that soldiers and their families should not be screwed out of a just wage or subjected to intolerable strains while monies are spent on enriching our Ruling Class–and is willing to work with anybody who thinks likewise to achieve a more just end for poor people being screwed by corrupt pols and corrupt cronies. Catholics should be able to affirm this elementary truth without the distraction of Identity Politics, which is undiluted folly-making poison.