“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.