David Rodeback's Blog
Local Politics and Culture, National Politics,
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Election 2012: My Thoughts in the Light of Day
In the aftermath of an ominous election, I find my thoughts inclined toward, of all things, faith, hope, and charity.
I have taken inventory this morning, in the light of day, and I find myself inclined to report on faith, hope, and charity. I offer my apologies in advance to any reader for whom that trinity of virtues smacks too much of religion. When important but lesser things, such as politics among mortals, go badly, I prefer to turn to first principles.
Some of my friends will think I am overthinking things or making far too much of a single election, because I think far too little of the winner, or because I'm too partisan or apocalyptic or simply delusional. In truth, it's not just one election, and it's not just the guy who won it. But if the following doesn't speak to you, that's okay. Perhaps you can find or write something that does.
It Went Badly
Our latest mortal skirmish went badly indeed.
Mitt Romney turned out to be an excellent candidate, the best Republican nominee I have seen since Ronald Reagan. Romney was not exactly what many wanted him to be; nor was he as others portrayed him. He was himself, which is a virtue -- let's call it integrity -- we don't see every day in our candidates. He showed himself to be a good enough man and a good enough leader that I cannot think the failure was his. It was ours. Somewhat to my own surprise, I now want him to run again in 2016, if he can and will. (Sorry, Mrs. Romney. I've stopped thinking he might be good enough. Now I think we'll need him. Notably, I felt this way about Ronald Reagan, but not Bob Dole or John McCain.)
In this election about 52 percent of my fellow American voters turned a blind or indifferent eye to history, economics, the principles of the American founding, and a sliver of hope for fiscal sanity. They chose to prolong an essentially lawless and duplicitous regime, to turn the US Supreme Court sharply to the left, and to thumb their noses at the moral obligation to pay our own bills. They chose to entrust the future of freedom in America and the world to an apologizer and dilettante beloved of dictators and tyrants, to an opponent of many of our founding principles, to a man who is in his views (I say nothing of his actual birth) more of a European anti-colonialist than a freedom-loving American, and more of a social democrat than an American Democrat. As a nation, we chose to retain in power a Senate majority which is contemptuous of even its most basic duties, such as debating and passing a budget. We chose to build our only fortification in the only place available: the US House of Representatives. At least procedurally, though perhaps not morally, choosing all this is our right. God help us.
Speaking of God, Mitt Romney urged us last night to pray for President Obama, as well we should. I have been doing so for four years already -- even though my primary loyalty is to the Constitution and American founding principles, not directly to the current resident of the White House. Whoever this election's victor proved to be, we already knew that only God could make him man enough, leader enough, American enough (in the sense of founding principles), and resilient enough to lead us wisely and effectively back to a free and prosperous future. If I happen to believe that this will now require a much greater miracle than it would have, had the election gone the other way, yet the fundamental fact remains: Without the mercy and power of God, this nation could never have been founded, and it could not have endured and prospered this long. Without the mercy and power of God, it will not survive much longer under any leader -- and this has been true from the beginning.
My faith in God is entirely intact. I would like to believe that it cannot be shaken by the foolish choices of mere mortals; at least it has not been in this instance. Equally robust is my conviction that human freedom matters to God as much as anything -- and more than almost everything -- in the universe. This implies a divine reluctance to overrule our choices and many of their consequences for ourselves and others. My faith includes the conviction that God can and will derive all possible good from the messes we humans create. He alone can take our electoral blunder, like all other human folly, and use it somehow to advance the freedom and salvation of his billions of children around the world, and his hundreds of millions of children here in what the anthem still calls the "land of the free." My conviction that the eternal happiness and welfare of families and individual souls matter more to God than political parties and platforms is, if anything, reinforced by present events.
My faith is that the end is happy, glorious, and worth the battle -- and it is located elsewhere, outside this place and time. If this part of our path to it is more difficult than we hoped, should we be surprised, dispirited, or unwilling to press on?
While there is life, there is hope. But how much hope is there, really, for American freedom?
Quite a lot, I believe. Here are some of my reasons for this belief.
There is quite a lot of hope.
Charity and Charity
We shall require more of two kinds of charity.
In the sense of love for one's fellow beings, charity will restrain us from lashing out destructively against opponents for their victories and abuses, and against our own people for their defeats. It will restrain us from demonizing our opponents, no matter how thoroughly we ourselves are demonized -- as we will be by some, if we defend our freedom as we must. Charity will school us not to make politics a condition of friendship, service, or good manners. It will overrule our inclination to pass judgment where judgment is not required. If we expect divine help in a struggle which requires it, we cannot surrender this charity. We must increase it.
Only charity can preserve civility in the struggle to come.
In the sense of selflessly caring for others' physical and other needs, the need for a dramatic increase in our charity is clear. By our cruel social policies, which induce and foster dependency, and by our unimaginably reckless monetary and fiscal policies, we have sown -- and now watered and fertilized -- the seeds of higher unemployment and greater poverty. Higher taxes will accompany them in one way or another. Government already cannot care for us, our families, and our neighbors to the level of present need; a further impoverished government can never meet the dramatically increased needs which lie before us. Hence the need for charity and compassion, which are individual, not institutional, virtues. We shall have to care for each other better, even as we send more of our means to government. We shall have to "smile at an old pair of shoes," as someone put it. In truth, the sacrifice will be much greater than this. It may require far more than scaling back the size of that new television we want for Christmas from, say, 60 to 32 inches.
Only charity can absorb the tsunami of unmet basic human needs which approaches. But "tsunami" is the wrong word; we need a metaphor that suggests wreaking havoc slowly and then lingering, not destroying quickly before disappearing back into the ocean.
Where will we find this greater charity? I propose to ask God for it and, while I await delivery, to act as if it already arrived.
There is no bad time to read Abraham Lincoln's brief Second Inaugural Address, but today may be a better time than most. By my lights, despite coming decades after the American founding, it is one of our most important founding documents and is among the finest and most significant literature our nation has ever produced. He gave the speech near the end of the Civil War. Not too long before that, he gave us the more famous Gettysburg Address.
By quoting both speeches here I do not wish to suggest that the partial, self-inflicted slavery which looms for us, if we fail, is akin to the horrors of full slavery as some in the nation then knew it. Yet the larger war between freedom and oppression is the same. First, from the later address:
The Gettysburg Address begins, "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." Now it's elevenscore and sixteen years ago; forgive me if I change a word or two to fit the times:
Faith. Hope. Charity.
Freedom. Honor. Sacrifice.
Courage . . . As much as part of me wants to wallow a while in discouragement, then throw up my hands, disengage, and bury myself even more deeply in the necessary task of supporting my family, I cannot bring myself to be such a coward. Furthermore, let's skip the hand-wringing and Monday-morning quarterbacking. Let someone else sift through the demographics and try to figure how to reach this or that slice of the voting population with better goodies than the other guys. And let's forsake forever the seductive blood sport of cannibalizing our own.
We have work to do. We have freedom to explain and promote. Few in the history of the world have ever been given higher work to do; no one has ever been granted higher principles to defend.
Freedom is our watchword, vigilance our stance. Faith, hope, and charity are our sure defense. Truth and persuasion are our tools. Let's get on with it.
And let's talk more than we have lately (which is my fault).
Copyright 2012 by David Rodeback.