Friday, July 03, 2015

Why Matt Walsh is Wrong about America

Matt Walsh is a very popular conservative blogger, and justly so. But he is wrong about America.

In a post today, titled, "No, America is Not Great," he gives a litany of the cultural atrocities Americans are committing: moral relativism, abortion, gay marriage, pornography, sexual promiscuity, recreational looting, illegal immigration.

He is right so far: Americans are doing really bad things―and lots of them. Some of them are even done in the name of America. But, just as he has gotten a good list of symptoms, he lapses into a bad diagnosis.

In fact, the disease metaphor is an apt one, since he is basically blaming the patient for his sickness.

G.K. Chesterton once argued that the best argument against Christianity was Christians. But what Chesterton did not do is to blame Christianity for it. What would we think if someone gave the litany of sins that professed Christians commonly engaged in and said, "No. Christianity is Not a Great Religion."

I know what I would think.

Is America's greatness suspect because of what Americans do? This is Walsh's thesis, but he is wrong, and here's why.

Walsh's mistake is that he fails to make an important distinction: that between America as an ideal and America is a practical reality. If the problem is the practical reality, which in this case it is, it is not the fault of the ideal. In fact, the whole problem is the failure to live up to the ideal, and you don't reject the ideal because people fail to live up to it.

Walsh quotes Chesterton in making his case, but Chesterton would have disagreed with him. Chesterton talks about what he calls "primary loyalties." What is a "primary loyalty"?

A primary loyalty is a commitment we must have to a thing, and it is a loyalty over which we have no choice and may not even be aware. It is not the result of any commitment we may have consciously made or that we can ever escape from. It is something we are born to, in addition to being born into. There are various primary loyalties in our lives. Our family is one of them. If we are Christians, our Church is another. Another primary loyalty is that to our community or nation.

To be an American is to have a primary loyalty to America, a primary loyalty from which no one's deviation from its ideals can detract. And the contrast to that ideal should make us more, not less loyal to it. In fact, it is only by contrast with that ideal that we can say these things―abortion, pornography, same-sex marriage, looting―can be considered wrong at all.

If we do not have an ideal which we expect our nation's action to live up to, then we have undermined our ability to criticize the actions of its citizens at all, since we have no standard by which to criticize it.

In fact, the very passage in a Chesterton essay Walsh refers to to bolster his argument is in complete contradiction to his point:
I’m a patriot, but to borrow from Chesterton, a patriot who is uncritical of his country while it teeters on the edge of total destruction is like a son who doesn’t warn his mother that she’s about to fall off a cliff. In this case, however, we already fell off the cliff. We are shattered on the rocks below, and I’m truly not certain if we can be repaired.
Chesterton's essay was written precisely against such despair:
On all sides we hear to-day of the love of our country, and yet anyone who has literally such a love must be bewildered at the talk, like a man hearing all men say that the moon shines by day and the sun by night. The conviction must come to him at last that these men do not realize what the word 'love' means, that they mean by the love of country, not what a mystic might mean by the love of God, but something of what a child might mean by the love of jam.
If we are to take Walsh seriously (as I hope Walsh himself does not), then we are led to the conclusion that Walsh loves America like a child loves jam, and not like a grown man loves God: He doesn't like the way it tastes and so he throws it on the floor.

When hard times come, we don't reject God, although we may argue with him like Job. Maybe what Walsh needs is a voice out of the whirlwind.

Chesterton provides it:
It is the essence of love to be sensitive, it is a part of its doom; and anyone who objects to the one must certainly get rid of the other. This sensitiveness, rising sometimes to an almost morbid sensitiveness, was the mark of all great lovers like Dante and all great patriots like Chatham. 'My country, right or wrong,' is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, 'My mother, drunk or sober.' No doubt if a decent man's mother took to drink he would share her troubles to the last; but to talk as if he would be in a state of gay indifference as to whether his mother took to drink or not is certainly not the language of men who know the great mystery. 
What we really need for the frustration and overthrow of a deaf and raucous Jingoism is a renascence of the love of the native land. When that comes, all shrill cries will cease suddenly. 
Contrary to Walsh, we should share our countries troubles to the last, partly by pointing out how its so-called supporters ill serve it so badly.

Same-sex marriage, for example, was not mandated because of anything American (like the Constitution), but precisely by something that was un-American (judges violating the separation of powers).

This question comes up in my work with classical education, which studies the cultures of Athens and Rome. Some people point out that there are some pretty bad things that Greeks and Romans did. My response is always the same: that we admire these cultures―and judge them―on the basis of their ideals, not by their failures to live up to them. We judge Rome on the basis of Rome, not on the basis of Romans. And we do the same with Greece and every other civilization. Why would we not do this with America?

The problem with Matt Walsh is that he thinks what is wrong with America is America. What he fails to see is that what is wrong with America is only Americans. "[T]he point is," said Chesterton, "that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more."

"After Democracy": My Ep-Ed in Today's Louisville Courier-Journal

My new op-ed in today's Louisville Courier-Journal:
Okay, boys and girls, today we're going to talk about the time before Obergefell v. Hodges, the decision by the United States Supreme Court in the early 21st century that prohibited states from defining marriage as between a man and a woman. 
Until the time of this decision (and several others at about the same time), America was what was called a "democratic republic" and the people themselves, through their elected representatives, decided issues of public consequence. You may have read about this in your history books ...
Read the rest on the Courier-Journal's site here.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Why Sister Wives are Celebrating the Supreme Court Marriage Decision

Let's see, where does the logic of the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision ultimately lead. Oh, here we go:
Polygamist Nathan Collier, who has appeared on the TLC reality show Sister Wives, said Wednesday that he had applied for a marriage license with his second wife, Christine, claiming he was inspired by last week's Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. The reality TV star and his wives Victoria and Christine applied in Billings, Montana. Collier said he would sue if the application is turned down. "It's about marriage equality," he said. "You can't have this without polygamy."
Read more here.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Even some liberals admitting Supreme's decision on same-sex marriage a "logical disaster"

Even some liberals admitting Supreme's decision on same-sex marriage a "logical disaster"

When all of the partying over the liberal's political victory in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision abates, they're going to realize an ugly truth: the majority decision by Justice Anthony Kennedy is an intellectual embarrassment.

Granted, this realization will take a while, since contemporary liberals care as little but the Constitution actually says as the five justices who just rewrote it. But, although they really don't care about the Constitution, they at least try to keep up the pretension of being rational.

If conservatives play it right, they can hang this albatross around the liberal neck.

Here is Brian Beutler, writing in the liberal New Republic in an article titled, "Anthony Kennedy’s Same-Sex Marriage Opinion Was a Logical Disaster":
Outside of academic specialties, historic Supreme Court decisions aren’t generally taught as logical treatises, but as watershed moments, which is great news for Kennedy because his opinion in Obergefell is, logically speaking, kind of a disaster.
Read more here.

More People Who Shouldn't Vote: Same-Sex Marriage and Keeping Your Selfishness to Yourself

Ellen Rosenman has a rather strange op-ed in the Herald-Leader today arguing (and I use that term loosely) that since the gay marriage decision had no discernible impact on her family the day after, that therefore there was nothing wrong with it.

So far the government has not seized our house to bestow it on a gay couple. We've managed to keep our jobs, our cars, our marital tax break and our children. Our dogs remain clueless as ever (especially Bailey, the white one, whom the vet once diagnosed as D-U-M-B).
Now Rosenman is a professor in the English department at the University of Kentucky. I take great comfort in knowing that, and in knowing that she isn't in, say, the philosophy or political science department. I'm assuming there are at least intellectual standards in those departments.

Of course, she's using this fact--that the decision didn't seem to make any difference in her own life--as an argument that the Obergefell decision is perfectly fine. Presumably the opposite ruling would have had the same immediate lack of impact on her life. So would she have penned this same article if the outcome had been different?

Of course not.

Why is the lack of impact on her life an argument in favor of the decision rather than against it? In fact, it isn't much of an argument at all.

I have always wondered what it is the people who use this kind of reasoning see in it. Whenever anyone asks me, "But how would this affect your family?" (which I have been asked a number of times), my answer is always the same: It doesn't matter. Why should it?

Do you mean that, as a citizen, I am only supposed to be concerned with myself? Is that what this whole citizen thing is about? It's really just all about me?

If this is the way people think, no wonder we're so screwed up.

Of course, this is the outcome of the long process of radical individualism stemming from John Locke and Thomas Hobbes: All we are as a society is a group of atomistic individuals who have agreed to get along with each other. The social contract. Check it out.

This is the view shared by both social liberals and the liberals who call themselves libertarians or, in a popular oxymoronic expression, "libertarian conservatives." They share the same exact view: It's all about me.

I hear Leland Conway, an otherwise great radio talk show host on WHAS, making this same argument all the time.

Well, it ain't all about me. It's about the common good. And if I don't have the ability to think beyond that simplistic and selfish notion, then I just shouldn't say anything publicly at all. And furthermore, I should stay away from the ballot box. And everyone else who thinks this way should stay away from it too.

Keep your selfishness to yourself. It's not good for the country.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Scalia: The Supreme Court's "Judicial Putsch"

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, from his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, on the pigs ruling the Orwellian barnyard and how they are rewriting the Constitution:
But what really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch. The five Justices who compose today’s majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every State violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification and Massachusetts’ permitting of same-sex marriages in 2003. They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment a “fundamental right” overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since. They see what lesser legal minds—minds like Thomas Cooley, John Marshall Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Learned Hand, Louis Brandeis, William Howard Taft, Benjamin Cardozo, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, and Henry Friendly—could not. They are certain that the People ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to bestow on them the power to remove questions from the democratic process when that is called for by their “reasoned judgment.” These Justices know that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason; they know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until 15 years ago, cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry. And they are willing to say that any citizen who does not agree with that, who adheres to what was, until 15 years ago, the unanimous judgment of all generations and all societies, stands against the Constitution.
Read more here.

Memo from Beshear to Conway about county clerks uncovered


FROM: Gov. Steve Beshear

TO: Attorney General Jack Conway

RE: Get Yer Act Together


I bin discussin' this matter of the county clerks who are defahing my order about enforcin' the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage last Friday with my advisors and we are wonderin' over here why yer office hasn't said a werd about it.

Hep' me out here.

Maybe I'm readin' my Constertution wrong, but ain't you the state's chief law enforcement officer? Where've you bin? Why am I having to do yer job for yer?

My daddy used to say that a man that don't do is job is no better then a run-over varmint.

Of course it doesn't hep that last year you did basically the same thang. You got up in front 'a the cameras over here and had yer little cryin' fit and told everyone you had to foller yer conchince and couldn't do whut ya swore you were gonna do when you got e-lected. And now people are dredgin' all that stuff up agin' an pointin' out that the county clerks got conchinces too.

If I hear anything more about conchinces, I'm gonna file a executive order agin' 'em.

In fact, now that I thank about it, I had to pay for a lawyer 'cuz a yer conchince. As soon as this county clerk thang is all over, I'm gonna start takin' it outta yer paycheck. You kin call it a "conchince de-duction."

So now here I am doin' this a second time. Fer one thing, you stand about six foot four and tawk pritty. I stand about five foot four and tawk like the Turtleman. Who you thank's gonna do this better?

So git your hind end in gear and do yer job.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Family Foundation Press Release: State county clerks should not have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples


June 29, 2015   

LEXINGTON, KY— "If it was okay for Jack Conway to do it, it should be okay for county clerks," said a spokesman for the group that pushed for Kentucky traditional marriage law that was struck down by Friday's U. S. Supreme Court decision. On Friday Gov. Steve Beshear told county clerks across the state that they were required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of Kentucky's Constitution. The Family Foundation said today that county clerks whose conscience would be violated by following the Governor's order should consider their options.

"There are county clerks out there who have a religious objection to same-sex marriage," said Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst with the Family Foundation. "They should be able to do what our own attorney general did last year when he refused to defend Kentucky's marriage law on conscience grounds. County clerks have consciences too."

In fact, said Cothran, county clerks are on more solid ground than Attorney General Conway because they would not have to violate their oath of office to refuse to issue such licenses. "While Jack Conway violated his oath of office in not defending Kentucky voters, county clerks would actually be honoring theirs. County clerks take an oath to both the federal and state constitutions. The U.S. Constitution nowhere says anything about same-sex marriage and the Kentucky Constitution expressly prohibits it. In refusing to issue licenses, they would actually be complying with the constitutions to which they swore their oaths."

"If the Governor is so concerned about public officials doing their duty, why didn't he write the same kind of letter to Jack Conway that he wrote to county clerks?" asked Cothran.

Cothran also pointed out that there is 25-day period following Supreme Court decisions in which a request for rehearing can be filed, a technical fact that could also affect what county clerks can do.


Scalia: "No social transformation without representation"

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, from his dissent in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision striking down marriage laws in all 50 states, on just how unrepresentative of America the elite judges who now rule our country are:
Judges are selected precisely for their skill as lawyers; whether they reflect the policy views of a particular con­stituency is not (or should not be) relevant. Not surpris­ingly then, the Federal Judiciary is hardly a cross-section of America. Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single South-westerner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination. The strikingly unrepresentative character of the body voting on today’s social upheaval would be irrelevant if they were functioning as judges, answering the legal question whether the American people had ever ratified a constitutional provision that was understood to proscribe the traditional definition of marriage. But of course the Justices in today’s majority are not voting on that basis; they say they are not. And to allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Justice Scalia's Greatest Hits, Part II (does the 14th Amendment prohibit states from defining marriage as between a man and a woman?)

Justice Antonin Scalia responds to the reasoning in the Obergefell v. Hodges majority opinion that the 14th Amendment prohibits states from defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman:
When the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, every State limited marriage to one man and one woman, and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so. That resolves these cases. When it comes to determining the meaning of a vague constitutional provision—such as “due process of law” or “equal protection of the laws”—it is unquestionable that the People who ratified that provision did not understand it to prohibit a practice that remained both universal and uncontroversial in the years after ratification. We have no basis for striking down a practice that is not expressly prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment’s text, and that bears the endorsement of a long tradition of open, widespread, and unchallenged use dating back to the Amendment’s ratification. Since there is no doubt whatever that the People never decided to prohibit the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples, the public debate over same-sex marriage must be allowed to continue. 
But the Court ends this debate, in an opinion lackingeven a thin veneer of law. Buried beneath the mummeries and straining-to-be-memorable passages of the opinion is a candid and startling assertion: No matter what it was the People ratified, the Fourteenth Amendment protects those rights that the Judiciary, in its “reasoned judgment,”thinks the Fourteenth Amendment ought to protect. 
... This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, eventhose that offend the esteemed Justices’ “reasoned judgment.” A system of government that makes the Peoplesubordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.

Amen, Tony.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Matt Bevin issues statement on High Court's marriage decision

Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin on today's ruling by the Supreme Court prohibiting states from defining marriage as between a man and a woman:

I strongly disagree with today's ruling by the Supreme Court.  When the definition of marriage was put on the ballot 10 years ago, 74% of Kentuckians made it clear that they supported traditional marriage. Since that time, however, activist judges have chosen to ignore the will of the people, and to ignore the Constitutional principle of state's rights.

More here.

Supremes, "Stop (your democratic activities) in the name of (politics)"

Scalia, in his dissent from today's Supreme Court decision prohibiting states from defining marring as between a man and a woman:
Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court ...  the Court’s claimed power to create “liberties” that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves. 
Read more here.