Thursday, September 24, 2009

On Truth

Note: This article originally appeared on Wednesday in different form. The original article contained factual errors that I was unwilling to leave in place. Responsibility for those errors is mine and I apologize to anyone who read the incorrect article. I offer this rewritten piece in its place, hopefully as some amount of compensation.

- Chris

The moral outrage of the immoral, the ethical standards of the unethical, the intellectual chauvinism of of the intellectually bankrupt, and the calls for truth of liars began to bore me in the 1990s. I am less dismayed now by the fact that the basic rhetoric and tactics of the right have not changed than I am that even people ON the right can still tolerate it.

I've been spending this week commenting on the most active of the two liberal blogs I follow (Dr. Ron Chusid's Liberal Values and The Anonymous Liberal... a doctor and a lawyer, which I find immensely poetic) and doing web research for a piece on poverty. In the course of both of these activities I was struck by two things. The first of these was the pure shamelessness in which 'thinkers' on the right present a specious argument with bald-faced purity even as they accuse the left of great evil and dishonesty. The second of these was the strange sense of innocence (or perhaps glee) with which these statements are made.

One of part of the process of researching an article on poverty was the attempt to find out what conservatives have to say about it. The answer was, 'not much.' Nearly every right wing blog reference to poverty online is connected in some way to an attack on policies perceived as 'liberal' by the writer. There is very little writing about actual poverty, whether or not it is a problem, or what should be done about it. The intellectual desert of conservative thoughts and writing on poverty surprised me a great deal, though in retrospect I should have expected it.

Christ, whom many on the right claim tells them what to do and when to do it on a personal basis, had a great deal to say about poverty. He spoke of charity, of caring for the poor, and of society's responsibility to its least members.

He also had interesting things to say about wealth, things which do not sit next to right wing policies very well.

'Now behold, one came and said to him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?
So He said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."
He said to Him, "Which ones?"
Jesus said to him, "'You shall not murder'; 'You shall not commit adultery'; 'You shall not steal'; 'You shall not bear false witness'; 'Honor your father and your mother'; and 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"
The young man said to him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?"
Jesus said to him, "If you want to be prefect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

-- Matthew 19:16-24'

As you can see, the Jesus of the Gospels saw wealth and poverty very differently from the politicians who would marshal the forces of the religious right on their own behalf today. When a faction that claims Biblical and Godly authority for their every action ignores the words of scripture, just how trustworthy are they?

The Anonymous Liberal describes House Minority Whip Eric Cantor's response to a constituent at a health care town hall meeting. The following transcript of the exchange is from his site, but is originally from Alan Colmes.

"CONSTITUENT: I have a very close relative, a woman in her early forties, who did have a wonderful, high-paying job, owns her own home and is a real contributing member of society. She lost her job. Just a couple of weeks ago, she found out that she has tumors in her belly and that she needs an operation. Her doctors told her that they are growing and that she needs to get this operation quickly. She has no insurance.


CANTOR: First of all I guess I would ask what the situation is in terms of income eligibility and the existing programs that are out there. Because if we look at the uninsured that are out there right now, there is probably 23, 24% of the uninsured that is already eligible for an existing government program [...] Beyond that, I know that there are programs, there are charitable organizations, there are hospitals here who do provide charity care if there’s an instance of indigency and the individual is not eligible for existing programs that there can be some cooperative effort. No one in this country, given who we are, should be sitting without an option to be addressed."
As the Anonymous Liberal says aptly:

"Faced with this all too common scenario, Cantor has nothing to offer. The suggestions he eventually comes up with are profoundly unhelpful and deeply hypocritical. This outspoken opponent of government-run health care suggests, feebly, that perhaps the woman might qualify for an existing government program. This, of course, is highly unlikely given that she owns her home and just recently lost her job..."

The irony of this, of course, is that Cantor and other conservatives would cut existing government programs if their views of health care prevailed in House and Senate. I have written about this before.

The party that claims to be the guardian of American morality has abandoned basic moral values. There are no facts behind their 'truth.' There is no Jesus in their 'Christianity.' There is no logic in their 'common sense.' There is no patriotism in their worship of all things 'American.'

This is immensely dangerous. While, in recent years, this appears to have caused many sensible people of moderate and conservative views to step away from the Republican Party and movement conservatism it has also enflamed the passions of those who desperately want to believe they are better than their neighbors. The right has kindled a populist elitism that combines the worst features of both and sells authoritarian truth with anti-authoritarian lies of the worst kind while shamelessly pointing to the very facts that prove their intellectual bankruptcy.

Yet they have faith to move mountains.

Can you think of anything more dangerous than a lunatic with faith?

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