h&f 0053 “Some Ghetto Family” and the trap of Anti-Intellectualism

image accompanying Mad Dog Palin article

A Rolling Stone article, Mad Dog Palin got me thinking…

Read on a bit for the ghetto part.  Yeah, it was title bait.  I feel no regret because it’s still accurate, and more importantly it’s what the author said.  (yep.  read on)

First, it is dead on in its indictments of us as a blind, consumer culture in general.  This is where and who we are.  But I would like to challenge the overriding voice of the article.  I’m all for bringing heat against the nonsense being heaped on us, but not in the way this article and much of the left political writing does it.

Not even below the thin surface of the proper indictment of us, you can see how the supposed intellectual class has fallen into the trap set by this gross anti-intellectualism they have correctly named, judging themselves by this new low standard, not against the standards of what simply is right, thoughtful, deliberate, compassionate, truly genius, truly genuine.

In this article, it comes out in what looks to me like forced, gratuitously arrogant language:

“…and this country is going to eat her up, cheering her every step of the way. All because most Americans no longer have the energy to do anything but lie back and allow ourselves to be jacked off by the calculating thieves who run this grasping consumer paradise we call a nation.”

OK.  Let’s get over that as arrogance.  But… how in the world could any person so committed to this premise be so blind as to the effectiveness of the Palin choice?? I was amazed at how smart many of us thought we were in criticizing the Palin choice, calling the election a done deal after McCain made it:

“Until the Alaska governor actually ascended to the podium that night, I was convinced that John McCain had made one of the all-time campaign-season blunders, that he had acted impulsively and out of utter desperation in choosing a cross-eyed political neophyte just two years removed from running a town smaller than the bleacher section at Fenway Park.”

The author corrects his thinking, still too late, in the same article. You can’t have it both ways:

“The great insight of the Palin VP choice is that huge chunks of American voters no longer even demand that their candidates actually have policy positions;”

The article also, surprisingly and not, leans head first into some condescending race-baiting,  playing on tired stereotypes – yes, there are real people who perfectly inhabit stereotypes, but he is caught red-handed with his own “government cheese’ in hand as it is no longer distributed. I know about the government cheese, a big brown box about 2lbs of fake cheese distributed to poor people.  I worked at a center in Dallas back during that program, personally distributing the boxes …and making about 8 billion grilled cheese sandwiches myself over that period.  [Man, I’m still not right from eating all that cheese…]

The cheese line is used for effect, I assume, thought not all the way sure the author knows the program is defunct.  Regardless, for a hyper-literate person to use this example is pure condescension and artifice…

“Palin herself burned this political symbiosis into the pages of history with her seminal crack about the “difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull: lipstick,” blurring once and for all the lines between meanness on the grand political scale as understood by the Roves and Bushes of the world, and meanness of the small-town variety as understood by pretty much anyone who has ever sat around in his ranch-house den dreaming of a fourth plasma-screen TV or an extra set of KC HiLites for his truck, while some ghetto family a few miles away shares a husk of government cheese.

This person is supposed to me on my side????

This kind of writing is the emblem for the exact and correct criticism of what the far right has labeled “the liberal elite.”  They are too smart for the country’s good, mixing their criticism of specific behaviors with judgments on people’s values, particularly when it comes to making fun of those who may believe in creation and/or Christianity in the person of Jesus Christ. [The irony is huge as Obama is professed Christian, having publicly acknowledge that he believes in Jesus and in Creation.  But, thankfully, O’s not into theocracies or “being religious” and these writers take that rightful liberty delivered by Obama and contort it into kinship with their narrow-mindedness.  Seems we can’t handle that intellectual freedom so well..]

“She supports teaching creationism and “abstinence only” in public schools, opposes abortion even for victims of rape, has denied the science behind global warming and attends a church that seeks to convert Jews and cure homosexuals.”

Now I wholly disagree with the arrogance of Palin’s religious right contingent but I’m not conflating that with the tenets of her supposed religion.  Her religion, if they only knew, would be the first to condemn her approach to raising these topics, and, further, if you care to read, her theology. This type of mixed criticism from the author, blending values and behaviours, is a way of hypnotizing the left.

History has proven over and over again from Albert Einstein to Richard Feynman to Umberto Eco to Bertrand Russell to C.S. Lewis that right-thinking men can disagree intellingently on values without judging each other, instead letting democracy or whatever form of government resolve to prevailing values.  …judging is defined as overt condemnation of a person for holding a particular belief.  There’s still plenty of room to condemn actions here and we all can do that as an expression of our beliefs – that’s called the working out of democracy.

There’s no place for judgment of this kind, even, to their surprise, in Christianity.  Jesus held the most visceral criticism of the self-righteous church that judged others.  His edict was simply to “just tell the world who I am and  know why you, yourself, believe.”  Force and judgment have no place.  I fear the immensity of the day that Jesus does, indeed, come with judgment as it will be final.

I disagree with many value positions of Democrats and Republicans but I can’t make fun of them – I lose my own case for rational thought and engagment.  What do I look like by calling a man a dummy and then daring to ask him to change???  I’m now a dummy arguing with a dummy – not quite a win-win.  Ravi Zacharias said it better using this Indian proverb, paraphrased:

“What good is it to cut a man’s nose off and then demand that he smell the rose?”

This is where Mad Dog Palin style articles fail, claiming superior intellect and open-mindedness while immediately shutting down on the value points where they disagree.  They confuse open-mindedness with agreement.  Open-mindedness is about engagement, honesty, and thought.

When we do disagree with the order of the day, we aren’t helpless in this democracy.  It’s just time to lobby for change while protecting the moral authority of the cause, resorting at most to civil disobedience and being willing to subject ourselves to the consequences of the laws we don’t agree with for the sake of belief.

Muhammad Ali did that in the highest act of patriotism.  He didn’t run to Canada.  He didn’t change citizenship.  By his stand, he said, at the height of his young career, “I will leave it all behind and go to jail for my belief in my Muslim faith.”    THAT IS AMERICAN!

Protest culture outside of that example tends to be very arrogant, not realising that protest itself is a luxury the way they carry it out, with nice painted signs but usually steering clear of gross personal sacrifice.  A Christian in China is, by definition, a protester.  He or she is also a true person of courage, knowing that even for simply owning a non-sanctioned bible or belonging to a non-sanctioned church, he or she in this very day subjects himself or herself to jail, torture, isolation, and deprivation.

But where, in fact, we do come to judging behaviors and debating ideals, how in the world can we be true to that when we start by comparing ourselves to the lowest standards, e.g. those set forth by Palin? ( I will call hers a very low standard on the basis of her own statements, background, and performance).  We become the same Republicans we rail against.  I believe in the war of ideas, but what I believe about that doesn’t matter.  It’s a matter of simple definition: We all must if we stand for something.  If that one thing is true, as we believe it, then the other thing must be false, but it takes an intellectual honesty and a humble approach to our debate that many voices on the left are not willing to stomach.  The number 4 cannot also be the number 3.  Yet, the relativism that these writers preach consumes their own otherwise thoughtful arguments, making all numbers the same.

So, they never engage the fringe of Republicans or Independents who are frustrated in the same way with this gross anti-intellectualism and who may be open for discussion.  Instead, they stay in a very small circle of intense, self-serving intellectualism writing condemnations like “She supports teaching creationism and “abstinence only” in public schools…”

There are non-Christians who support the first on strict grounds of the intellectual curiosity largely absent in our schools.  And there are non-Christians who support the second stance as an approach that is disease-reducing and life-saving for children.  We may disagree on methods, but we can’t call all of those people crazy without looking crazy ourselves, if only on the basis of classical liberalarts education.

…and then wonder why they’re called “liberal elite.”

The people who suffer are the people they supposedly lobby for, those who don’t have a voice in this system, and they themselves who simply want to uphold a nation of valid ideals.

In Obama’s example, the Democratic party, and politics in general have a real example of what democratic and plain ‘ol human engagement should be about.  His own party misses that concept.  For that reason, I’m glad that the recent administration and Republican party have made their nonsense so manifest as to make that difference between Obama and his party irrelevant.


~ by ericjhenderson on October 11, 2008.

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