Long week—two funerals and sick kids—so I’m behind on where I wanted to be; but the New York Times‘ response to this election, in the form of columnists Nicholas Kristof and Thomas Friedman, was so egregious, I had to come back to it.
Kristof had the gall to title his column “Living Poor, Voting Rich,” and to talk about “the millions of farmers, factory workers and waitresses who ended up voting—utterly against their own interests—for Republican candidates.” Excuse me? How Marxist, and how condescending! Even if one grants his economic analysis that Bush has been and will be bad economically for those he mentions (which I most emphatically do not), who is Kristof to define people’s “own interests” for them? Who said we viewed our own interests in purely economic terms? Perhaps his view of the world begins and ends with his checkbook, but mine certainly doesn’t, and I’m not alone in that. For a great many of us, our “own interests” have a great deal to do with what sort of country we want to live in; to accept a country which is far less than what we believe it should be in exchange for a few more dollars in the pocket is a deal many of us wouldn’t want to make.
On this one, Kristof would do well to read the rest of the NYC media; Newsday columnist Joseph Dolman pegged him pretty good when he wrote, “National Democrats . . . keep thinking their losses stem from Republican demagoguery or from a misunderstanding of their message by voters in the hinterlands or—let’s be totally honest—from an epidemic of stupidity among the people whose minds they want to win.
“In short, they haven’t a clue.”
Dolman’s right, which is why, as he put it, the Democrats are “whistling Dixie after another defeat.”
On the flip side, Friedman was perceptive enough to realize this, though I think he was overstating things to declare us “two nations under God.” When he writes, “this election was tipped because of an outpouring of support for George Bush by people who don’t just favor different policies than I do—they favor a whole different kind of America. We don’t just disagree on what America should be doing; we disagree on what America is,” he’s absolutely correct. My problem with his column is where he goes next:
“Is it a country that does not intrude into people’s sexual preferences and the marriage unions they want to make? Is it a country that allows a woman to have control over her body? Is it a country where the line between church and state bequeathed to us by our Founding Fathers should be inviolate? Is it a country where religion doesn’t trump science? And, most important, is it a country whose president mobilizes its deep moral energies to unite us—instead of dividing us from one another and from the world?”
Let’s take this piece by piece, shall we?
“Is it a country that does not intrude into people’s sexual preferences . . .”
Umm, two problems with this statement. One, this country always has intruded into such preferences, both at the level of who can marry whom (polygamy, for instance, is out) and at deeper levels (isn’t pedophilia a “sexual preference”?). Two, since I know Friedman isn’t really talking about “sexual preferences” generically (unless he surprises me by coming out with defenses of pedophilia and incest), last I checked, the federal government does nothing whatsoever against homosexual sex.
“. . . and the marriage unions they want to make?”
Again, our government has always defined marriage, and to define is by definition to set limits. There is nothing new about this, nor is insisting on the current operating definition of marriage anything the slightest bit new; what’s new is that some people want to change that definition. This isn’t about giving people of homosexual preference the same rights as everyone else, because they already have the same rights as everyone else: the right to marry anyone who is legally available to be married to them. What they want is to expand that definition, to change the rights which are available to anyone, and if the argument works for homosexuality, it logically works for pedophilia and incest as well. Friedman’s cast of the argument is simply a canard.
“Is it a country that allows a woman to have control over her body?”
No doubt; but this begs the question of whether or not her unborn child is in fact part of her body. I used to watch Perry Mason when I was a kid, and Perry was always objecting that Hamilton Burger’s questions “assumed facts not in evidence.” Friedman’s guilty of the same thing here.
“Is it a country where the line between church and state bequeathed to us by our Founding Fathers should be inviolate?”
History lesson, Mr. Friedman: Not “Founding Fathers,” but “Founding Father,” as in, one of them: Thomas Jefferson—and he wasn’t around when the Constitution and Bill of Rights were being drafted. The “line between church and state” is in fact a constitutionally dubious interpretation of the religion clause of the First Amendment, one which has been used to deny the actual sense of that clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion [in other words, it isn’t allowed to do anything about the establishment of religion one way or the other], or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” There’s been a heck of a lot of “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” done in the name of “separation of church and state,” which ain’t even a constitutional principle.
“Is it a country where religion doesn’t trump science?”
That’s not really the issue. The issue is competing religions—one particular branch (or collection of branches) of Christianity versus the religion of scientism, which is aggressively atheistic. For most on the Christian side of these battles, all we’re fighting for is a level playing field.
“And, most important, is it a country whose president mobilizes its deep moral energies to unite us—instead of dividing us from one another and from the world?”
When those who oppose this president and everything he stands for have done everything in their power to mobilize the country against him, why is it that our divisions are suddenly all his fault? In my experience, it generally takes two to be divided.
Given these questions, it’s probably no wonder that Friedman goes on to declare, “None of the real problems facing the nation were really discussed.” Personally, I’d disagree. Fortunately, we do agree on this:
“Meanwhile, there is a lot of talk that Mr. Bush has a mandate . . . . Yes, he does have a mandate, but he also has a date—a date with history.” Yes, indeed; and following Friedman’s motto, “Never put yourself in a position where your party wins only if your country fails,” I know we’ll both be rooting for President Bush to meet that date honorably and well.