“I do think that one of the characteristics of our age is the growth of this culture of offendedness. It has to do with the rise of identity politics, where you’re invited to define your identity quite narrowly – you know, Western, Islamic, whatever it might be. … Classically, we have defined ourselves by the things we love. By the place which is our home, by our family, by our friends. But in this age we’re asked to define ourselves by hate. That what defines you is what pisses you off. And if nothing pisses you off, who are you?”
— Salman Rushdie

Time was when, say, John Wayne and Katherine Hepburn could star in a movie together, totally loathe each other’s politics, and yet still have enormous respect for one another. Wayne could say of JFK, “I didn’t vote for him. But he’s my president and I hope he does a good job.”

Now we live in an age where Rush Limbaugh’s deepest hope for Obama is, “I hope he fails.” It’s more important to hate one’s ideological enemies than to hope, for the sake of the country we share with them, that they succeed in their office.

Relatedly, one has to be careful about saying *anything* nice about the Others and Outsiders to the tribe, lest one be vehemently suspect of contamination. among my own conservative tribe, God forbid you say you’ve watched something like “The West Wing” and found it enjoyable and well-written. You’re a marked man after that. Don’t really much care about the Tridentine rite and can take it or leave it as much as the Novus Ordo with equal contentment? You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Lack a burning need to hear and tell Obummer jokes 24/7? What agenda are you hiding? I can’t tell you how often I’ve been told I’m a “liberal” because I’ve noted some aspect of Catholic teaching that doesn’t fit the militaristic, immigrant-despising, war-glorifying, Mammon worshipping narrative of the talk radio educated mind. No matter how often I point out that I am a Catholic who believes that all that the Holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims is revealed by God, that I affirm just war doctrine, believe abortion gravely sinful, oppose gay “marriage”, loathe communism, affirm capitalism (within reason), and think sex is for lifelong heterosexual marriage, somehow lunatics on the Right (of which there seem to be more and more) keep insisting I’m a “liberal” with increasing frequency. You know, like Reagan. This sort of crazy is but one of the many reasons I think the Right is destined for a good long time in the desert. It has, weirdly, absorbed the absolute worst features of the Identity Politics, shibboleths, and code word thinking that made the Left so obnoxiously toxic in the 80s and early 90s. It’s defined far more by its hatreds than its loves, by the hunt for heretics instead of the search for converts. It’s positively Soviet in the way it looks for trigger words that may be telltale signs of ideologically impure thoughtcrime.

No thanks. I prefer a certain Chestertonian freedom of joyous thought to the harried and cramped Thing that Used to be Conservatism or the stifling Obama hagiography of the Thing that Used to be Liberalism. It is still the case that the Catholic Church is the only thing that saves a person from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.

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  • GodsGadfly

    When Fr Groeschel came to Columbia in 2009, he said, “I get the worst hate mail from conservatives. However, I get *no* mail from liberals; they wrote me off years ago.”

  • Daniel Nour

    Yes Yes Mark. There hurtful, insipid comments do go too far

  • Paxton Reis

    “I do think that one of the characteristics of our age is the growth of this culture of offendedness. It has to do with the rise of identity politics, where you’re invited to define your identity quite narrowly…”

    Being “offended” gives one a sense of power, and for that individual a position to look down upon the “offendee”; to shut them up and hopefully have that person scurry away. And their is a selfish angle to it as well: “look at me, I have been hurt. Look at me, I am a victim who needs your sympathy; who needs attention; who desires to be the focus of the moment.

  • Patty


  • Steve

    Mark, I think you owe a modicum of fairness to Rush Limbaugh. When he said his famous, “I hope he fails” comment, he was noting that Obama wants to move America in a secularist, anti-family, leftwing-authoritarian path. And Rush said that he hoped Obama failed in that endeavor. Rush might be a crass right-winger, but I don’t think that makes it OK to be unfair to the fella.

    • Rosemarie


      True, here’s a link to his original words in full context:


      He’s clearly saying that he hopes Obama fails in his attempt to absorb the private sector into the government and make the country more liberal and socialistic. He’s being specific; he’s not hoping for general failure in all areas as president. At one point he even says:

      “He is the president of the United States, he’s my president, he’s a
      human being, and his ideas and policies are what count for me, not his
      skin color, not his past, not whatever ties he doesn’t have to being
      down with the struggle, all of that’s irrelevant to me. We’re talking
      about my country, the United States of America, my nieces, my nephews,
      your kids, your grandkids. Why in the world do we want to saddle them
      with more liberalism and socialism? Why would I want to do that? So I
      can answer it, four words, ‘I hope he fails.'” – Rush Limbaugh, 1/16/09

      I don’t listen to Limbaugh if I can help it, but I do believe that context matters. We would hate it if someone ripped something we said out-of-context and tried to claim we meant what we didn’t mean. I see too much of that on the Internet and I can’t let it go unchallenged.

  • wlinden

    I am offended that you posted this!

  • Rebecca Duncan

    In my experience by and large, people don’t care about politics…they gave up long ago or never cared to begin with. Unless you’re on the internet. That’s just my experience. Both of the parties are ridiculous and I think most people know that. Maybe my family, friends, acquaintances and people I go to Church with are just the exception? *shrugs*

  • KM

    One of my beloved family members the other day asked me “When did you become a liberal?!” when I opined that cutting food stamps for the poor (while doing nothing about corporate welfare) was an anti-christian thing to do, or when I said that unemployed and poor adults and children need health care so maybe conservatives ought to come up with better solutions than futilely trying to defund Obamacare.

    Finally, when I said that I remember the Reagan years less fondly for various reasons including Iran-Contra, and that I questioned Reagan’s status as a saint in Republican circles these days, I apparently committed some kind of hate speech. The reaction I received was rage. It actually made me sad, not angry.

    So, Mark, I know exactly what you’re writing about here.

  • BadMF

    I have fought a temptation recently to bait a FB friend who is all about identity politics with this tidbit, “I recently discovered that I am descended from both slave owners and Native Americans, are my ancestors sins cancelled by the victimization of my other ancestors? Or must I pay for my disgusting crimes and consult the nearest leftist authority for my penance?”

    But I like the FB friend. And see Christ in her. Shucks.

    • BadMF

      I am stealing that Salman Rushdie quote and putting it on FB though.

      • enness

        It crossed my mind too.

  • Obpoet

    Not a fair representation of Rush. I am no fan of his, but at least be fair to him. Do not treat him like the MSM does Francis.

  • Elmwood

    Hopefully Pope Francis with his new approach will help wash away the scales from the eyes of American Catholics to see the evils inherent in our two party system–GOP and democrat. We need a religion that is right where we are wrong and not a religion which doesn’t challenge our way of thinking or political ideology.

  • enness

    “Now we live in an age where Rush Limbaugh’s deepest hope for Obama is, “I hope he fails.””

    Well, it depends what we’re talking about. If it’s the HHS mandate, yes, I do hope he fails.

  • D.C.

    Not that I’ve given up completely in hoping my elected representatives can work together to build a better society and nation, but am I the only one who thinks he can get much more accomplished by spending 15 minutes before the Blessed Sacrament than pulling the levers in any voting booth? Not knocking the privilege to vote, mind, you. I consider it a civic duty. But I believe prayer trumps politics.