13 September 2008

Political Dogma, Cynical Karma, and the Sweet Smell of Heretics Roasting on an Open Fire

You heard it first here. I’m a terrible person. I have more angles than a tesseract, and I throw words around like “tesseract,” and that’s an angle, too. (A “tesseract” is a “hypercube,” a theoretical construct of what a cube would look like in four dimensions. When contemplating tesseracts, fractals and stuff like that there, I look thoughtful and intellectual, especially if I remember to put on the tweed jacket with the leather elbow patches, but I don’t have a hoot in hell what I’m talking about.) Where was I? Oh, yeah, angles. I get ideas and little hypotheses and I do quasi-proto-scientific or if–only-it-were statistical testing of them. I have a modest, but uneven and very dated background in science, and a decent but VERY dated background in statistics. The last time I did formal statistical analysis, chi-squares, all of that, I prepared the data for processing on a punch card machine. I doubt that anyone under 50 even knows what that is.

Liberal/conservative doctrine - no, dogma - is all the rage right now. Is Obama a (shudder) capital-L Liberal or a (shudder-more) hidden New Democrat Clintonesque Red-shaded Progressive? Is McCain worthy of the Conservative Crown of Father Reagan? (He wants it; he claims it; so does every other self-identified conservative – it’s the Gold Standard.) And as we all know, If You Are Not With Us, You Are Against Us. Get On Board or Get Thee Behind Me, Satan.

My hypothesis is this: There is a “club,” a tribe for Liberals, and one for Conservatives. Everyone else is a Fence Sitter, and not worthy to spit-shine the boots of the Believers. If you agree with Dogma on merely Most Issues, you are still Unworthy because you are Unreliable.

And so, I’ve come up with 11 issues for which there is a Liberal Dogma and a Conservative Dogma. I have made these somewhat bland. For example, some conservatives insist that absolutely any abortion is unacceptable under any circumstances. Others, who are still accepted into the conservative Club, make limited exceptions. Some liberals require that any written material be afforded First Amendment protection. Most, though, admit at least a few exceptions. I’ve also left out things that most people (meaning me and I certainly hope intelligent people) find totally moronic, such as reparations for pre-Civil War slavery, returning Florida to the Seminole nation, and joining Vincent Bugliosi in an actual indictment and trial of George W. Bush for murder regarding the Iraq debacle.

What our political blather (I will not call it discourse, because it isn’t) cannot stand is the person who doesn’t adhere to all of the tenets of one basic dogma or the other. We do not THINK, we follow. We do not reason about issues, we sign up to our particular version of the Lone Ranger Code, and follow it point by point, even when we don’t understand some of them. We substitute authority for thought. What does Michael Moore say? Or Dick Cheney? John Hagee? Jesse Jackson? Fox News? Nancy Grace? Mike Huckabee? Britney, Lindsay & Miley? We might as well pray that they convene Liberal and Conservative Councils of Nicea behind closed cloisters, and publish the results so that we will know the creed that we will recite at bedtime.

Well, I’ve been testing these for some months and so far, the hypothesis is holding up pretty well. If I express 3 conservative positions and 1 liberal, a conservative listener will give me a “how could you?” Ditto the reverse.

(A word on reasoning - The Assault on Reason, by Al Gore, is a superior discussion of the shrillness and closed mindedness of contemporary anti-thought. The fact that it’s Al Gore makes Conservatives believe that it’s political blather and Liberals believe that it’s divinely inspired. It’s neither. The point is to quit adopting other people’s rules and THINK.)

So, here is my first attempt at basic political dogma. I think that I’ve avoided giving any of the positions an unfair slant in accordance with whatever my opinions might be, although you may disagree. The Conservative Club is in bold; the Liberal Club, in italics.

1 - Guns -

A law-abiding citizen should be able to possess a handgun in his/her home and, at reasonable times and with reasonable limitations, at other places, and use it to defend themselves from deadly force.

Only police and the military should be permitted to possess handguns without a good reason and a government license.

2 - Porno -

Some extreme pornographic materials are so destructive and abhorent to society’s values that banning them is wise and permitted under the First Amendment.

Pornography which hurts no identifiable victim and involves no minors is protected speech under the First Amendment.

3 - Flag burning -

Burning or intentionally defacing the American Flag is so abhorent and disrespectful to our nation that it is either not protected speech under the First Amendment or a Constitutional Amendment to the contrary is appropriate.

Flag burning and defacing is disrespectful and while I certainly don’t do it, it is protected speech. Banning it would betray the very values that the flag stands for.

4 - Abortion -

Abortion for purposes of economics, family planning or gender selection should not be permitted. It is the taking of human life, and therefore fundamentally immoral.

Abortion for any purpose should be permitted at the decision of the mother within sound medical practice in the first trimester.

5 - Detailed government regulation -

Government regulation of lawful action (e.g., the manufacture and sale of incandescent light bulbs) is an improper interference on citizens’ rights and the free market.

Government acts in the broader public interest by regulating or correcting actions (e.g., manufacture and sale of terribly energy inefficient incandescent light bulbs) which individual desires and market forces will not be sufficient to fix.

6 - English -

No matter what your opinion is on how much legal immigration should be permitted or what to do with illegal immigrants, once they are here, it doesn’t matter what language they speak at home, but they need to learn English.

America has room for many cultures, including those without any English.

7 - Health Care -

Health Care should be permitted to progress and expand without artificial limitation, should be driven and paid for by market forces, and the government should stay out of way between me and my doctor.

We must have some form of basic universal health care, and government action is necessary to bring that about, whether the private sector remains involved or not.

8- Teaching Evolution & Creation -

Public schools should teach at least the existence and basics of Creationism and Intelligent Design Doctrine, in addition to the Theory of Darwinian Evolution.

Creationism and Intelligent Design are religious doctrines to be left to the churches and parents. Unlike evolution, they are not science nor scientifically provable, and public money should not be used to teach religious doctrine.

9 - Executing criminals -

It is permissible to execute some persons who have committed horrible crimes after they have been given a fair trial, and that punishment should be accomplished quickly and fairly.

Executions are neither practical (i.e., they do not prevent or reduce crime) nor are they moral in a just society.

(By the way, let’s use plain language - “Capital punishment” is a mealy-mouthed way to say that we kill people in an intentional and planned fashion.)

10 - Use of Natural Resources -

A free, growing and thriving society requires the continued development and use of natural resources, even where those resources may be depleted permanently or landscape permanently altered, or some acceptable level of pollutants released. We should, of course, do so in as responsible a manner as is reasonable. (Some would add that the Bible gives Man dominion over the Earth, etc.)

Physical, chemical and thermal pollution are much more serious problems than we generally acknowledge, will require a commitment to fix, and failure to do so will have dire consequences.

11 - Iraq -

America has vital interests in the Middle East. If we don’t take the conflict to them, they are bringing it to us, so this is a moral and necessary war.

It’s a shitty little country, but it’s THEIR shitty little country, and we have no business being there, taking their lives and sacrificing American life and limb.

By the way, a word on the use of terms: Why "Liberal"? Why not the modern-speak, “Progressive”? That is the language of TR, which is not the doctrine of those who identify themselves as Progressives today, any more than it is the doctrine of those who brag that they are the party of Lincoln and TR. The term “Conservative” has not (yet) become a negative term. When it does, some euphemism will emerge, and adherents will trot out distinctions without differences.

Oh, by the way, I’m not a member of either Club, I don’t adhere to a pure dogma. I score 5 points conservative (I was expecting 3, tops), 5 points liberal, and 1 point (abortion) fie-on-both-your-houses. (I didn’t know whether to add this, but I am waiting with amusement to hear the first person assign some hidden motive or agenda for who got the bold and who got the italics. I’m also looking forward to calls & emails from those who will be miffed that I dared to write down without condemnation a political philosophy with which they disagree.)

How about you? My score is a thoroughly confused 5-5-1. How about you? Will you be burned at the stake with me?

Pippa passes.


1 comment:

Bertram000 said...

Roger, I was 5 Conservative, 4 Liberal and because of your particular wording, unable to decide on two.

The two abstentions were Heath Care and the evolution/creationism debate. Regarding the latter, I simply don't care. Kids waste enough time in school, so what's a semester spent discussing the fact that there are people who can ignore science for religious reasons? On the health care issue, I think Universal Access to Urgent Care is all the government should provide and can afford.