Oh Boy, Another Baby Boomer Election

Last night the Baby Boomers once again cemented their death-grip on American politics as Ted Cruz, the last Generation X candidate running for president, suspended his campaign. While I didn’t particularly care for Mr. Cruz, it was nice to have someone running who wasn’t born in the 1940s. The youngest candidate still in the race is now John Kasich, who was born in 1952. Donald Trump was born in 1946, Hillary Clinton was born in 1947, and Bernie Sanders was born in 1941, just before our nation entered the Second World War.

DONALD TRUMP, the presumptive Republican nominee, is the Yuppie candidate, all about money, power, and the unfettered pursuit of personal gratification. He used to be a Democrat because that was the way to get what he wanted in New York. Now he’s a Republican because these days the Progressive Left is far more intolerant and puritanical than the Religious Right. Trump isn’t a bigot–he communicates a kind of live-and-let live demeanor and doesn’t have a problem with teh gays or other bogeypersons of the Right. He’s happy to acommodate “the blacks,” “the Mexicans,” etc. But Trump’s arrogant, self-absorbed way of talking about things is of course highly offensive to all of these interest groups. You can bet that in private he’s said things about minorities that would make Donald Sterling blush.

HILLARY CLINTON, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is the heiress of the Democratic political machine. She is swift to make gestures of support for every interest group she thinks will get her votes, although she has no real beliefs, only a burning desire for political power. Her endless train of scandals just shows what a clever politician she is. She desperately wants everyone to love her, and is willing to do anything and everything to make that happen. No wonder her daughter and granddaughter don’t want her around.

BERNIE SANDERS is the unreconstructed Hippie candidate; a real blast from the past. Unlike Clinton, he is sincere in his naive socialism, and this appeals to many Millennials who lean toward the Left and haven’t had enough of a reality check yet. It also appeals to other unreconstructed Hippies of Sanders’ own generation, which is why some of my own siblings and my parents’ older siblings are Sanders fans. Basically, anyone whose ears might perk up at the phrase “organic pot.” Sanders has achieved the distinction of maintaining a bubble of unreality around him his entire life.

JOHN KASICH is basically my dad. Younger than the other Boomer candidates, he was still in middle school when “the Sixties” happened. He’s followed his own path and is a decent, nerdy, practical person, moderate in both his personal life and his politics. He is the only remaining candidate who would be a good president. There is little chance of this happening, though.

So the Baby Boomers have 4 more years to finish the program of national and cultural demolition they started in the ’60s. If there’s any America left by then, maybe we’ll get a cool, pragmatic Gen-X president like Paul Ryan to take on the difficult job of building the country back up.

In the meantime, come November, I’m going to write in Scott Walker for president.

Featured image by Flickr user DonkeyHotey

Black Bodies in Space

In a recent Washington Post column (in the Lifestyles section, to be sure, but a column nonetheless), Lonnae O’Neal complains that Star Wars: The Force Awakens does not give John Boyega a sufficiently heroic role to atone for Hollywood’s past misapprehensions about “the direction this country is really going in.” She quotes a Washington writer, Tim Gordon, who observes that “every time [Finn] picks up a lightsaber, he’s getting beat down and the lightsaber is getting taken from him.” That Boyega’s character is not an annoyingly flawless, Superman-like character seems to O’Neal and Gordon sufficient evidence that the creators of Star Wars are still mired in the racist past, although they admit that the film’s casting represents about as much progress as might be expected given the persistence of reactionary elements in the highest echelons of American filmmaking.

It’s not my intention to defend Star Wars to the hilt, or to offer a blanket condemnation of O’Neal’s style of socially conscious film criticism; movies certainly exercise an outsized influence on the American imagination and understanding their subliminal messages is a worthy project. But in fact O’Neal and Gordon’s criticism is a fascinating testament to the hollowness of the atheist approach to anti-racism that’s evidently been gaining ground of late in contemporary civil rights activism. Continue reading Black Bodies in Space

The refugee crisis & why America is different—part 1

This piece originally appeared at Musings On the Right. It is published here in modified form.

As someone interested in immigration from a conservative, American perspective, the recent migration crisis in Europe is fascinating to me. For starters, the genuine human tragedy is palpable. Even the most stringent of nativists must be moved by the images of humanity dying en masse in the Mediterranean Sea.

Furthermore even the most cheerful pro-immigration advocates can’t help but furrow their brows at the potential difficulties with assimilating and integrating migrants from North Africa and the Near East—especially Muslim migrants—in Europe.

These difficulties and America’s recent refugee crisis with Central American children has left me wondering about how the American situation compares to Europe. I want to analyze a few major questions: How does America differ from Europe? What are the pros and cons of Muslim immigration to Europe? Is there a legitimate comparison to be made between the European and American refugee situations? Continue reading The refugee crisis & why America is different—part 1

Why We Need Organized Religion: Starbucks Edition

Because in the wild west of American religion, this stuff happens.

A self-styled “evangelist” vlogger in Nevada was able to gin up yet another silly media frenzy with a video criticizing Starbucks for their red holiday-themed cup. This time it’s not old Pat Robertson on TBN, folks. It’s an idiot with an iPhone.

Now, the media is gleefully reporting this as if there is a massive Christian outrage campaign against Starbucks.

Since zero respectable Christians actually give a crap about Starbucks’ red cups, this to me suggests one more reason we need strong denominations and church authority structures—so idiots like this can be plausibly disclaimed and shut up. Christianity doesn’t have an image problem, it has an authority problem.

Also, Starbucks coffee is burnt and nasty. But that’s not what we’re talking about here, is it.

:sips Folgers:

Featured image CC BY-ND 2.0

Marxism’s exhausted legacy:
A conservative reads Norman Birnbaum

If there is really a such thing as “Cultural Marxism,” it is no doubt represented in the person of American socialist sociologist Norman Birnbaum, who has taught for a long time at Georgetown University. I happened to pick up his book The Radical Renewal: The Politics of Ideas in Modern America because it was either free or quite cheap. Also, it had a back-cover blurb by Robert Bellah, author of Habits of the Heart, which I enjoyed in my undergraduate political theory studies.

Recently I’ve been exchanging pleasantries on Twitter with a professed Marxist who is distressed by the lack of political solutions advanced by Marxists. I thought I would read this book on his behalf, since, if any discipline is likely to to advance political recommendations worth heeding, it is certainly sociology and not economics.

So I’ll be reading and blogging about this book with no particular program other than to explore and engage with Birnbaum’s ideas. Continue reading Marxism’s exhausted legacy:
A conservative reads Norman Birnbaum

Buzzfeed Bans ‘Basic;’
or, Slouching Toward Cultural Marxism

A writer for the alchemic Buzzfeed (a philosopher’s stone which turns all it touches into virulent internet content) explains “why we actually hate all things pumpkin spice.” Turns out, we don’t hate syrupy venti Starbucks lattes, glottal fry, or Ugg boots for their own sake, but for what they represent, which is a certain class identity characterized by

a banal existence, obsessed with Instagramming photos of things that themselves betray their basicness (other basic friends, pumpkin patches, falling leaves), tagging them #blessed and #thankful, and then reposting them to the basic breeding grounds of Facebook and Pinterest.

In other words, the conspicuous consumption of products which show the consumer to have uncultivated taste and lack of individuality. The writer suggests that our position of judging said consumer to be “basic” is rooted in class insecurity—the need to separate one’s own more discriminating tastes from those of the petit bourgeois mob.

One must give the writer some credit for seemingly having discovered the existence of class consciousness without the benefit of a liberal-arts education. However, her attempt at diagnosing “our” snobbery falls short. Continue reading Buzzfeed Bans ‘Basic;’
or, Slouching Toward Cultural Marxism

Should we get rid of the child tax credit?

Evangelical college president Greg Thornbury and libertarian biographer Amity Shlaes have written an editorial to explain why a flat tax is better for families than the present regime of child tax credits. (The article said “religious families,” although I don’t see what religion has to do with it other than the fact that my wife and I are married, and our habit of giving 10% of our income to a religious institution.)

A flat tax means everyone’s income is taxed at the same rate, presumably a lower rate than the current average tax rate. The wealthy still end up paying more in taxes as a function of their greater income; the poor pay in proportion to their poverty. It is certainly more fair than a system in which people are taxed both directly and indirectly—a system in which one’s ability to avoid excessive taxes depends on one’s facility with the byzantine complex of exemptions and loopholes built willy-nilly into the tax code.

However, federal income tax is just a fraction of the taxes we all pay. Continue reading Should we get rid of the child tax credit?

A Guy’s Guide to Islam

Recently I read a story written by Jeremy, a young man about my age who, like me, was raised in beautiful Maryland, in a conservative evangelical subculture. We both later came to abandon some, but not all, of the beliefs we were raised with. For me, this involved questioning fundamentalism, trying on Calvinism, and finding a home in the Anglican Way. For Jeremy, it involved being kicked out of the house by his Catholic and Seventh-Day Adventist parents, rejecting Christianity but realizing he still believed in God, trying out other religions, and finally settling on Islam.

In many ways, the teachings and practices of Islam were in accord with Jeremy’s most sincerely-held convictions. For instance, he was struck by its emphasis on equality before God. “Nearly everything I believed and actively tried to practice in my life,” he writes, “was present, to my great surprise, in Islam.” He appreciated that Islam requires its adherents to study its beliefs to become better people, and that it recognizes that sometimes people must take up arms for what they believe in. Continue reading A Guy’s Guide to Islam

Conservatism and progress

Near the end of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamozov, the eldest brother Dmitri is wrongly accused of his father Fyodor’s murder. Spectators at the trial had mostly assumed Dmitri’s guilt, and many in the crowd felt that Dmitri’s personal wrongs against them were being avenged. Only the reader has witnessed the scene in which Dmitri, seething with rage at his wretched adulterer of a father, grasps a pestle in his pocket—and then, mastering himself, swallows his anger and backs out of his plan to kill his forebear. Only the reader has seen Fyodor’s illegitimate son Smerdyakov admit to the murder.

The Brothers Karamozov concludes, some months after Dmitri’s trial, with the funeral of a peasant boy named Ilyusha. Earlier, Dmitri had learned that Ilyusha’s impoverished father, the “Captain,” was involved in Fyodor Karamozov’s illicit business dealings. Dmitri, who had been swindled by the Captain, exacted a humiliating revenge, dragging him through the street by his beard as his son and neighbors looked on. Ilyusha’s schoolmates teased him violently for the incident, throwing stones that hit him hard in his chest. Ilyusha died from his wounds two days after Dmitri was found guilty for a murder he did not commit.

No court could ever convict Dmitri for Ilyusha’s death. The legal system can only sentence the person immediately responsible for a murder. But Dostoevsky’s genius shines a floodlight on the intricate and thorny web of moral cause and effect. Continue reading Conservatism and progress

Farting around at National Review

Conservatives: we don’t have to freak out about National Review. They haven’t “sold out,” and they haven’t endorsed same-sex marriage, as you can see from articles like these. Their only error is that they continue to employ a managing editor who suffers from intellectual and moral imbecility.

But we must offer them sympathy in this. One wouldn’t, after all, want to cast such a person out on his own resources. He might be driven into prostitution sex work (not that there’s anything wrong with that, by his reasoning).

Joseph Bottum had at least the decency to be wrong in a literary and interesting way. Not so Jason Lee Stearts, whose entire argument—all five thousand, four hundred gassy words of it—rests on an inability to define or use the word “fulfillment” properly. I’m not kidding—there is literally nothing of substance there.

Karl Marx quipped that history repeats itself, “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Unfortunately, Stearts’s article doesn’t even rise to the level of farce. It’s just flatulence, and not even of the kind that’s likely to provoke intellectual climate change.