Thursday, October 18, 2012

Don't buy into the crazy

In Jane Austen's masterful work Northanger Abbey (one of my favorites, I must admit) the heroine, Catherine Morland, who is addicted to reading novels, forms such terrible suspicions about the long-ago death of her friend Miss Tilney's mother that she ends up treating the Tilney's home like one of those settings from the Gothic romances which were very popular in Regency England; she seems to think that dark secrets and dreadful mysteries lurk around her, and in the height of her imagination she is caught by Henry Tilney when she has crept off to visit the late Mrs. Tilney's erstwhile room.  That leads to this embarrassing exchange between Catherine and Henry:
"And from these circumstances," he replied (his quick eye fixed on hers), "you infer perhaps the probability of some negligence—some"—(involuntarily she shook her head)—"or it may be—of something still less pardonable." She raised her eyes towards him more fully than she had ever done before. "My mother's illness," he continued, "the seizure which ended in her death, was sudden. The malady itself, one from which she had often suffered, a bilious fever—its cause therefore constitutional. On the third day, in short, as soon as she could be prevailed on, a physician attended her, a very respectable man, and one in whom she had always placed great confidence. Upon his opinion of her danger, two others were called in the next day, and remained in almost constant attendance for four and twenty hours. On the fifth day she died. During the progress of her disorder, Frederick and I (we were both at home) saw her repeatedly; and from our own observation can bear witness to her having received every possible attention which could spring from the affection of those about her, or which her situation in life could command. Poor Eleanor was absent, and at such a distance as to return only to see her mother in her coffin."

"But your father," said Catherine, "was he afflicted?"

"For a time, greatly so. You have erred in supposing him not attached to her. He loved her, I am persuaded, as well as it was possible for him to—we have not all, you know, the same tenderness of disposition—and I will not pretend to say that while she lived, she might not often have had much to bear, but though his temper injured her, his judgment never did. His value of her was sincere; and, if not permanently, he was truly afflicted by her death."

"I am very glad of it," said Catherine; "it would have been very shocking!"

"If I understand you rightly, you had formed a surmise of such horror as I have hardly words to—Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?"

They had reached the end of the gallery, and with tears of shame she ran off to her own room. 
I was reminded of these paragraphs recently when I thought about some of the things I have seen passing between my fellow Christians and fellow Catholics regarding this 2012 election.  There are those Catholics who claim that if Obama is re-elected we may soon be living in the pages of one of this man's novels, for instance, as the Church is openly persecuted by the agents of the Antichrist.  There are the theories that a second term will give Barack Obama the opportunity to unleash his heretofore super-secret Marxist plot to end capitalism in America and impose communism.  There are those who claim that the HHS mandate is the first step in a plan to make being Catholic illegal; there are those who claim that Obama's open hostility to the Church is because he is really a Muslim--and these are some of the milder, less "out-there" things I've seen in recent days.

Related, but different in degree, to these wild notions are some of the more reasonable things trotted out as reasons why all good Catholics must (not can, or could consider, but MUST) line up and vote for Romney.  I'd like to take a look at two of these below:

1. Obama will impose the HHS mandate and cripple Catholic businesses.  Romney has promised to remove this policy.  Unfortunately, Romney's language on this (as on many things) is vague and does not inspire confidence.  Does that mean that either way, we're doomed?

No--because we have yet to see if the Supreme Court will find the idea of individuals being forced to buy sinful things for other individuals against the first set of individuals' religious beliefs and consciences fine and dandy or a violation of the Bill of Rights.  And we also have Congress, not that that's a very encouraging thought, but the festering career chair-fillers who plague both our houses might be stirred to do a thing or two if actual consequences were at stake.  In other words, thinking that the only or even the best way to address the HHS mandate is to buy into the notion that it's proper for the executive branch to be essentially making laws about this sort of thing in the first place is already a steep step off a cliff hanging over the wrong direction.  What's next: do we let the Department of Education mandate that parents buy crayons, drawing paper, blunted scissors and packs of condoms and emergency BC for their children as a prerequisite for enrolling them in public schools?  If we're willing to let the notion of liberty rise and fall based on which party occupies the White House and thus which agencies of the Executive Branch get to make "policies" that have the force of law, we're already--excuse my unusually blunt language--screwed.

2.  Obama is pro-abortion.  Romney is pro-life and will save babies.  Well, provided you ignore Romney's pro-abortion past, mixed present, and confusing future, you can indeed say that his re-institution of the Mexico City policy could hypothetically save some babies, if he does, in fact, re-institute it as he has promised to do.  And I respect those who will vote for Romney even if this small pro-life nod is the only reason why.  But it's a big stretch to say that Romney is pro-life and is going to save babies, or is committed to saving babies, or even wants to save babies, when it's pretty clear that what he wants is for the abortion issue to stop taking up his time so he can convince everybody he's going to save the economy.  We keep electing Republicans like this, and we keep having legalized abortion on demand in America.

Here's the thing: either we believe that it's very, very important for a president to be a pro-life leader and we try to elect real pro-life leaders to the presidency, or we don't believe that it's all that important for a president to be a pro-life leader and are, in fact, fine with some tepid posturing and political crumbs thrown our way once every four years, in which case we'll keep voting for weak-sauce pro-life pretenders with big portfolios and good hair.  We can't keep saying that this is the issue of primary importance and then relegating it to the back seat.  Or the roof of the car.  Because when we do that, what we're saying to the candidates is: look, we know you can't get elected in America if you actually care about unborn American human beings and the fact that a million or so of them get torn to shreds by bloodthirsty "doctors" every year, so we'll look the other way while you pretend to the right sort of people that this butchery isn't a big deal, so long as you do what we want you to in re: abortion once you're elected, at which point our leverage is totally gone and you've totally used us and you still don't want the people who like abortion to vote against you next time around...

Does that sound like a winning strategy for the pro-life movement to you?  Because it doesn't, to me.

Like I said, though, I can respect people who really think that Romney will end the HHS mandate and do at least a tiny bit of good for the unborn.  I can't respect people who really think that Obama is second cousin to the Antichrist and that we're about to be plunged into the pages of an apocalyptic novel in which forced conversions to Islam somehow share the public spaces with forced secularism and raids on Catholic churches and the confiscation of everybody's second amendment rights and a dizzying level of totalitarianism imposed upon the people of this nation within a mere four-year time span such that a new Age of Martyrs unfolds before our dazzled eyes right before the Three Days of Darkness starts.  Vote for Romney if you believe he will limit evil (even against his will or completely by accident, if you like); but don't vote for Romney because you've bought into the crazy.  Sane, rational, well-formed Catholics shouldn't fall for that stuff.  Remember, Catherine Morland turned out to be right that General Tilney was a deeply unpleasant man, but she committed the sin of rash judgment when she unjustly allowed her imagination to run wild on the possibility that he might be a murderer.


Saphira said...

How is the Mexico City policy a "small nod" to the pro-life movement?

I get your point, but I do believe a *lot* of damage can be done in four years (has already been done and could be much worse), especially at what I believe is a kind of tipping-point in our country. My generation does not remember a time before Roe v. Wade, which has huge psychological implications. Belloc explained that so much of history is determined by what can happen in the course of one lifetime; what happens is often dependent upon what a generation is able to remember. It seems, alarmingly, that many people my age and younger now view the Constitution, the amendments, as something quaint but not particularly relevant. So I do believe that because of this, what we have gained as a country could be lost in a relatively short time. I'm not a conspiracy theorists but right now Canadian politicians are suggesting that Catholic teachers in Catholic schools not be allowed to speak against abortion under a "hate crime" law. That is very real. Foster parents are losing their rights to foster children in England because they are not actively teaching the children that homosexuality is a good and valid lifestyle choice. I just don't see too terribly many steps between this and open persecution, so right now, as never before, I feel a real fear and a real urgency about who is in the White House.

As I said I will not say that anyone is morally obligated to vote for Romney; in fact I don't really think anyone is morally obligated to vote at all, and finally, no one person's vote makes a difference. But I do think that overall it is really important to get Obama out of there, not to let him appoint any Supreme Court justices, and not to let Obamacare get a foothold. It is imperative and I am praying fervently for this intention, even though I am not crazy about Rommey at all.

I understand that conservatives need to decide together not to settle for candidates who are not consistently principled. But the time for putting such candidates forward and backing them and promoting them is between elections, it seems to me. Or maybe, if this election were not so imperative, we could use this opportunity to send a clear message to the Republican party and pressure them into getting someone better up there, but given all the circumstances I do not see that as good strategy right now; there is just too much to lose. I would be open to hearing that this is good strategy, but so far I have not heard why or how it would be. I have only heard that Rommey and Obama are both nasty, and I'm just not swallowing it; they are in entirely different leagues.

Saphira said... lighten things up, here is a brilliant lip read from the first debate (which I didn't watch), I almost died laughing:

and here is a clip from the recent Al Smith dinner. I thought Romney comported himself graciously and with good humor:!

Erin Manning said...

Rebecca, a full-scale discussion of the Mexico City policy would require more than a comment box; maybe it would be a good post for me to work on for next week. For now, let me just say that there are some significant loopholes in the policy that make it less effective than it ought to be, and that it would be much better for Congress to pass a stricter law modeled after the policy than to keep playing the "funding" game based on whether the White House occupant has an "R" or a "D" after his name.

But Congress, even when we've had an overwhelming Republican majority, has never done so. It has never been a priority to codify the Mexico City policy into law and thus make it much harder for future presidents to overturn it.

Unknown said...

What reason does Romney have to not overturn the HHS mandate? It costs him nothing with anyone who'd support him.

What reason does he have to not appoint anti-Roe justices?

You're grasping for straws here

Unknown said...

Romney and the Republicans are campaigning on the promise to repeal ObamaCare, which gives HHS the power to impose the mandate in the first place.

Thus, repeal of ObamaCare will solve the problem.

BTW, tomorrow is the day when Americans around the country will rally against the HHS mandate.

It's time for all of us to make our voices heard!

eulogos said...

I don't really think there is an equivalence between the fantasies of Catherine Morland and political fears. While all possible evil consequences are not likely to happen within four years, we can be set on a course to some of them by the wrong policies now. I wrote on another thread why I think Romney is a much better candidate than Obama. I don't know for sure how bad things will get under Obama or because of Obama, and my imagination can encompass a spectrum of possibilities, some not good but much less drastic than others. Even the least serious are worth avoiding. I don't understand why anyone would hesitate to vote for Romney when he is running againt Obama unless he or she thought politicians had to be saints and/or 100% doctrinally correct Catholics.

That's my way of looking at it.
I might try M. OBrien's writing. But if he criticizes Lewis and Tolkien, I don't think I will find him sympatico.

Susan Peterson

alcogito said...

I have only missed voting in one (primary) election in my (long) life. Meeting that standard responsibly forces me to study all the candidates and issues carefully before I mark my ballot and thus am aware of what is going on in my locality and nationally. But it also makes me aware that no candidate is perfect, and no initiative or referendum will bring about a perfect society. "Perfect is the enemy of the good".

Obama's promises have not been met and his actions, both before election and after, have proven that his goals were the opposite of his promises. We cannot know whether Romney will fulfill his promises, but his actions in the past have shown what he has accomplished. I will make my choice on the basis of his history and realistic expectations, regardless of party. The same standards apply to all candidates.

In my state both candidates for attorney general are "pro-choice". Given that, I have to choose based on other criteria. Not choosing is irresponsible.