Trump supporters – can you blame them?

In his outstanding essay, “Conservatives have failed Donald Trump’s supporters,” Michael Brendan Dougherty, hits the nail on the head: working class Americans are between a rock and a hard place, sometimes ignored, often disrespected, and, in effect, frequently told to suck it up by upper and upper middle-class conservatives . Donald Trump doesn’t have the answers, but he at least says what they’re thinking. Trump ridicules a lot of people. But, he doesn’t ridicule the working class.

Dougherty is right:”traditional” conservatives from all camps–country club, neocon, intellectual, social–need to recognize their arrogance and the political and moral foolishness of telling Trump followers to–as summarized by Dougherty–“Get a job, you racists, and stop playing the victim! Don’t you remember the ’80s?”

Read the whole thing.

Finding the right words on PC campuses

Hobey Baker posted this recommendation over at First Things a few months ago in the midst of on-campus turmoil about language, speech, words, and titles. I wholeheartedly agree that universities should consider his tongue-in-cheek advice. Of course, they probably won’t recognize it as tongue-in-cheek. Who knows; maybe some of them will actually adopt the recommendation. How sweet that would be.

The limits of free speech according to Bernie and Hillary

The first amendment protects our right to free speech. Does that right extend to groups that we join comprised of like-minded people?

During the midst of the civil rights struggle of the 1950s, the state of Alabama decided that the NAACP was stirring up too much trouble. The state went to court to kick the NAACP out of Alabama, using a variety of arguments and legal maneuvers, including a subpoena for the NAACP’s membership lists.

The NAACP brought a countersuit, NAACP v. Alabama. The case ultimately went to the Supreme Court. The Court ruled in favor of the NAACP’s right to continue operating in Alabama. Furthermore, the Court held that “freedom to associate with organizations dedicated to the ‘advancement of beliefs and ideas’ is an inseparable part of the the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Makes sense to me.

But, as George Will points out, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and legions of others think that such protection should NOT be extended to groups involved in political campaigns.

Under a logic that escapes me, the opponents of collective free speech in political campaigns (isn’t that a venue where we want to maximize free speech?), think that the Supreme Court’s 1958 NAACP v. Alabama decision is wonderful, but that the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which held that the government can’t stop non-profit groups from spending their money to express their opinions in political campaigns, is egregiously unfair and awful.

Would I prefer that less “group” money be spent in political campaigns? Probably. I also would prefer that we Americans spend less money on our pets and more on charitable causes.

Should the government regulate our spending on political campaigns or our pets? No.

Free speech in a democracy, particularly in political campaigns, is not limited to individuals standing on street corners shouting their ideas or tweeting their ideas on Twitter. Free speech includes banding together with others, raising money, and spending money on advertising. This is a liberty that is worth the abuses and ugliness that come along with it.

If Bernie and Hillary don’t like it, they should propose an amendment to the Constitution that makes an exception to free speech that prohibits campaign spending by groups. Then, the stakes will be out in the open for all to see and debate.

Rubio’s Foreign Policy – Not so impressive

A few days ago I expressed my appreciation for Marco Rubio’s articulate rationale for pursuing and supporting policies that will reduce the number of abortions, even if those policies are half-measures compared to the equal protection deserved by unborn babies.

I’m not nearly impressed with Rubio’s foreign policy vision. As pointed out by Daniel Larison and A.J. Delgado at The American Conservative, Rubio promises to be an aggressive, activist international interventionist. As Larison puts it:

“While he [Rubio] claims not to want to promote conflict, Rubio has a remarkable knack for advocating policies that would raise tensions in almost every region of the world. He imagines that this is necessary as ‘a means of preserving peace,’ but in practice it is a recipe for confrontation and costly entanglements.”

There’s a lot I like about Rubio. This, I don’t.

The Foolishness of Making Things Happen

Dallas Willard is so right:

“So often the work of the leader or pastor is so hard and so full of disappointments and their own lives are empty – and, they eventually blow up. It’s because they haven’t heard the message that Jesus gave. They heard another message. And, perhaps with the best of intentions they were driven into a life whether they thought their job was to make things happen — and that’s the worst position you can be in. Of course, you’re going to act. But, your job is not to make things happen. We live in the Kingdom of God where God is active, His Spirit is present, His Son is alive; that’s where we live. They will make it happen. And if we make it happen the result will be our converts, and then probably we’re going to have to keep making them do things, because they’re depending on us to jump start them, and keep them going, rather than putting them on to the living Kingdom of God and the living Christ and allowing them to live interactively, one-on-one, with God — and transform the world in which they’re living.” – Dallas Willard (Living in the Presence of Christ, Lecture 1)

Birds in Our Backyard This Afternoon

A sunny, breezy, mild spring afternoon (and some food in the feeders) brought these birds to our backyard this afternoon.

American Nations Within the American Nation

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North Americaby Colin Woodard is a cultural history of the federation that we call the United States. See my last blog, where I gave my first (glowing) impressions.

I still highly recommend American Nations, for all the reasons I gave in my earlier report. But, after the last third of the book I had had enough of Woodard’s unrelenting criticism of the “Deep South,” and his fawning praise of “Yankeedom,” which are labels Woodard uses for two of the eleven North American “nations” he describes.

I certainly agree with many of Woodard’s negative characterizations of the Deep South. But, he is either incapable or unwilling to see any virtue in its culture. Does Woodard think that race relations in Mississippi are the same in 2014 as in 1964? Is he oblivious to the fact that the culture of the Deep South is, in fact, very much a product of the interaction between southern African-Americans and southern whites, and not simply an oppressive, authoritarian culture imposed by Deep Southern oligarchs? Is Woodard capable of entertaining the idea that at least some of the positive changes in race relations in the Deep South were made possible by positive traits in that culture? Or does he think that those changes are entirely the result of unwilling acceptance by southern whites of the agenda imposed on them by Yankeedom? Although I agree with Woodard that it took intervention by the Yankee-led federal government (think, for example, Massachusetts-born President Kennedy and his attorney general brother, Robert) to force the South to begin to end segregation in the 1960s and 1970s, I contend that the subsequent progress in this region owes at least part of its success to qualities deeply embedded in the shared culture of Deep South whites and African-Americans – for example, hospitality, neighborliness, and the deep Christian faith of many in its population.

Conversely, among his descriptions of enlightened Yankeedom and its commitment to making the world a better place, Woodard fails to mention, much less explain, events such as the busing violence and riots in Boston in the 1970s, or how segregationist George Wallace could win the Democratic presidential primary in Michigan in 1972. Obviously, there are many powerful factors influencing politics in American over the past forty years of which the regional conflicts between the eleven “nations” that comprise the USA are just one set.

Despite these shortcomings, I found Woodard’s descriptions of those eleven nations and their alliances and conflicts fascinating.  I highly recommend  American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.

American Nations (plural)

One of my favorite books is David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed, which I read 20 years ago. In a similar vein is American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North Americaby Colin Woodard. Although I’m only a third of the way through, it’s well on its way to making my all-time top ten book list. Both books tell the stories of the very different peoples who first settled North America – and their very different cultures. Fischer deals with four groups from the British Isles that dominated the early settlement of colonial America. Woodard’s scope expands to include eleven cultures – he calls them “nations” – that comprise the entire continent. Woodard also looks at how those eleven cultures have influenced the United States throughout its history – and how, they are still vying for power and preeminence within the USA.

Of particular interest to me are the two nations of which my family and I have been and are a part: the Deep South and “Greater Appalachia.” Even at my current reading point in the book, it’s obvious that Woodard is not a fan of either – and that may be putting it mildly. I think there’s much more to commend both of these “nations” than Woodard sees or wants to credit. In addition to that bias, Woodard seems to me to occasionally draw simplified, over-generalized conclusions.

But, on the whole, there is much truth to Woodard’s observations – at least about the southern cultures that I know the best. And, he provides some intriguing explanations for the bitter arguments that divide the USA today.  As Woodard demonstrates, similar divisions have plagued our country since its inception, and, in fact, are inherent in our cultural DNA.

And, hey – I can’t help but find interesting a guy who does political and cultural analysis by looking at the distribution of Waffle Houses. I’m adding Woodard’s blog to my reading list.

More to follow as I move through the book.

Afraid of Missing God’s Will?

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” (Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Chapter 8) That’s the bedrock truth that conditions all circumstances, imperatives, and attitudes. But, it doesn’t do away with the question that is present in every situation in which we find ourselves.

That question is, “What is God’s will, right here, right now, in this moment?” But for those “in Christ Jesus,” this question does not carry angst or fear, driving us to worry that we may answer wrongly and miss the mark, or that we may fail to obey rightly; because, in Christ we are exempt from condemnation. So, we can boldly seek the Father’s will and freely act in alignment with His will and the Spirit’s movement even if we are not certain – and how could we be? – of His will and movement.