Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Top 10 Liberal Hypocrisies" Considered (2): "Contradiction #2: Pro-Technology vs. Anti-Free Market"

This one's easy -- so easy I'm almost embarrassed to even bother.  But, here goes.

Mr. Vallorani's 2nd attempt at a stab-wound:

Contradiction #2: Pro-Technology vs. Anti-Free Market
I love Apple products. I think Steve Jobs was a genius. I have a MacBook Pro, an iPad, and an iPhone 4s. Many liberals (especially Occupiers) love Apple products too. As a capitalist, I am consistent in purchasing Apple products. They are not. They build web sites to promote their socialist causes while using software and technology that is only made possible in a free market environment. Apple products would not (and could not) have been created in a socialist nation. There’s no way liberals could fight capitalism without the very tools capitalism provides!
Yes, I too have a Macbook and an iPhone.  Vallorani's claim that these could not have been invented in socialist nations is, at best, ignorant, and at worst . . . well, politeness keeps me from saying it.

Here's a link to a recent Washington Post op-ed by Francis Tapon, in which he says:
Hungarians, for example, invented the ballpoint pen and holography. A Hungarian, John George Kemeny, co-invented the BASIC programming language with American Thomas Kurtz. Hungarians also invented artificial blood and the Rubik’s Cube. Four Estonians designed Skype. Russians were the first in space, made the biggest nuclear bomb, designed Tetris, and created the iPhone of assault rifles (the AK-47).
Claims such as Vallorani has made are akin to claims of "American Exceptionalism," which seems to be a doctrinal sine qua non for running for president: we have to promote the myth that we Americans are God's chosen nation, and that we are the "best nation on earth," and such is exhibited in our supremacy in the field of technology.  In so doing, we have to have something with which to compare ourselves so that our exceptionalism is supported, and we like to choose those nasty socialist European countries, yada yada yada.

I know most of you (if there are any!) who read this don't actually need to hear what I'm about to say, but just in case someone wanders into my blogden of iniquity: America is a great place to live in many ways, and preferable to many.  Personally, I like it (some parts better than others, of course). But guess what: Hungarians and Estonians and Russians and Norwegians and Spaniards (ad infinitum) would also say that they would rather live in their own countries than anywhere else on earth -- and by the way, some of them have indeed visited the United States, and still want to live in their own country.  Go figure.

Those claims are also akin to some of the political rhetoric going on among the Republican presidential candidates, which is sometimes directed also at President Obama, concerning their alleged ties to or (at some level) acceptance of the cultures -- and specifically the languages -- of other countries.  So, one of them speaks French, another once did a commercial in really bad Spanish, etc. And those things were cast as somehow "bad" or as an affront to American Exceptionalism.  Sad. Are we really that determined to be ignorant?

We're not exceptional, and innovation can take place anywhere -- and it has.  We're one country among many great places to live.  We are not God's chosen nation (just ask the Jews).  If we had been, I'm pretty sure God would have unchosen us over the whole genocide thing against the original peoples of this geographical territory, anyway.

Finally, it seems to me that Vallorani's assumption about the free market being necessary to creative work assumes something else that is basically wrong: that greed, acquisition or self-promotion are the only things that can drive innovation.  It seems to me that's a godless assumption.  Can love of friends and family also drive innovation?  What about pure curiosity?  What about seeking after God? What about simply trying to understand God's creation?  All of these -- and more -- have driven some of the greatest innovations in history, and all without a capitalist "free market" economy.

The fact that some "conservatives" view America this way is ignorant and dangerous.  Ignorant we've already discussed.  How is it dangerous?  Well, ignorance means you will be unable to anticipate threats, because it creates a hubris that assumes our exceptionalism is so clear that no one would dare to challenge us.  I think that hubris was what led to 911.  Further, the hubris causes us not to take challenges (when we actually see them) seriously.  We think we can just stomp into a nation and "shock and awe" them into complete submission.  Ten years of Iraqi occupation didn't do that, and apparently has not taught some people anything at all.  Hubris.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Top 10 Liberal Hypocrisies" Considered (1c): First "Contradiction": "Pro-Abortion vs. Anti-Capital Punishment"

The author of the post, Mr. Brandon Vallorani, lists this as his first example:
Contradiction #1: Pro-Abortion vs. Anti-Capital Punishment
Liberals support the killing of unborn children in the name of convenience, choice, etc. These children have committed no crimes; however, if that child survives abortion and grows up to commit murder later in life, a Liberal will scream “injustice” if that person is sentenced to death.
Interestingly, I know of plenty of Republicans -- in fact, MOST of them -- who would support abortions in cases of rape and incest, or if the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother.  So my first objection to this caricature (and it IS a caricature) is its own hypocrisy.

Let me make my own stance clear here before I go on.  My wife and I discussed this when we were engaged (and perhaps even before that, as we became aware that our relationship might become "serious"), and her own statement was to the effect that, if she were pregnant in such a condition, she would carry the baby full term.  Period.  Even if it cost her own life.

As a young man madly in love, I had a hard time with that.  (I'm definitely anti-abortion, but specifically because I'm fully pro-life.  Yes, I'm a pro-life Democrat.)  I had to picture myself telling doctors, according to my wife's wishes, to let her die and save an unborn fetus.  I had to picture my sweet young fiance carrying a baby full-term that was the result of some horrendous act of violence against her.  But I also think she was making the right choices.  I agree, reluctantly.  That's the kind of thing that eventually led us to marry -- we have deep agreement on the big "life-issues" (though we still disagree about the value of country music!).  Thankfully we never had that difficult situation arise -- we've been very fortunate.  But other people have actually had to face such choices.

In the end, I also have to recognize that I live in a country that at least fashions itself to be a democracy.  I don't get to make everybody's choices for them.  Most of the people in our nation apparently believe that abortion ought to be allowed in at least certain conditions.  That's part of what it means to live in a democratic society.  I have to go along with the majority, even if I disagree.  I may not like it; I may think the majority is wrong or even immoral.  But, I have to go along, just as others have to go along when they hold the minority opinion and I happen to side with the majority.

Most of the Democrats I know are pro-life, even those who believe that everybody gets to make their own choices about abortion.  And that's one of the things that Mr. Vallorani doesn't quite grasp, thus he doesn't understand the stance against capital punishment (which many "liberals" hold, though many do not -- so to caricature all liberals as hypocritical seems a bit of a stretch here).  I would wager that I'm more pro-life than Mr. Vallorani.

You see, no one is "pro-abortion."  That's just a lie that makes a great sound-bite on certain "news" channels and in Republican campaign speeches.  It's great to be able to caricature your opponents as horrible death-mongers who are worse than Attila the Hun, etc.  Sometimes the comparison might actually have some truth to it, but in this case, it's just hot air.  I have never, NEVER had a conversation with a "pro-choice" person who was actually "pro-abortion."

Now, I do have to admit that there are some people who take the whole abortion issue rather casually.  I sincerely believe they're wrong to do so, and they do not share my moral convictions.  I am fine with, should occasion arise, sharing my own moral convictions with such a person and trying to convince them not to abort.  But again, this is a democracy, and there are areas of disagreement on this issue that must also be taken seriously -- for instance, are we talking about a "baby" here, or a "fetus"?  To be "pro-life" means to value "life."  But when can we call this fetus/baby a "life"?  That's a question not of science but of semantics.  My own definition I hope is clear, but I have to admit that most others in America have a different set of semantic values that go into their use of the word "life," and I have to allow them their own space and freedom.

So, the caricature of "liberals" is severely misguided here, and even dishonest.  One of the responders to the original post (either 1 or 1b) mentioned that in this series I'm attacking a rather weak opponent, and that I should tackle one of the more (allegedly) nuanced statements.  I'm ok with that, but this is the statement that, first of all, was being sent around by some of my (allegedly) "conservative" friends, and I'm hearing the same kinds of statements as Mr. Vallorani has made in various campaign speeches of the Republican candidates.  So, I don't think I'm out of bounds by trying to point out the flaws in the logic of these statements.

Here's what I would propose: those who style themselves "pro-life" should be consistent about it, and that means also abolishing capital punishment.  It also means we have to value not just American babies, but the babies of the Afghans, Iraqis and Iranians -- or wherever else our government decides we need to bomb next.  You see, some of my friends (whom I love!) are "anti-abortion" but have no qualms about killing our enemies, even those who are pregnant -- thus killing their unborn babies as well.  We don't even spend a lot of time lamenting the destruction.  We just sigh and shrug it off as "collateral damage" and "part of the price of war."  Bull.  Shrugging it off is hypocrisy.  Such killings are tragic, and if we took it seriously we'd put a stop to it.  But they're our enemies, and despite Jesus' command to love them, we believe it's ok to kill them, including their unborn babies.  That, my friends, is indeed hypocrisy.

Again, I'm pro-life.  Period.  But I also value the lives of those would-be mothers who are faced with tremendously difficult choices.  Yes, I want them to take those choices seriously and not casually.  But I also want anti-abortionists to take those choices seriously.  Unfortunately, most of the anti-abortionist folk are anti-abortion but also anti-involvement.  They want to pass a law against abortion, but don't want to do much to help these women face the consequences of carrying this child.  I think if we're going to do away with abortion, we need involvement.  The children produced have to be cared for and raised -- and in quality homes.  If we're not willing to do that by means of personal involvement, it seems rather calloused and indeed casual to be screaming that we need to outlaw abortion.

Further, I don't think we would eliminate abortion by passing laws against it.  Abortions occurred even before they were legal, and oftentimes they were fatal or severely injurious to the women.  We do NOT want to have the black-market abortions revived!  But besides that, the abortions would continue.  Why? Because so many Americans have value systems that allow for it.  So, the solution is not legislation, but to seek to change the value system.  But folks, it seems to me impossible to teach the value of life when we so easily take it and justify it in so many other areas of our civil existence.  The truth is that very few even of the Republicans who rail against abortion are really pro-life.  Want to end abortion?  Stop the wars. Stop invading countries as a "preemptive strike" against something we fear they might do in the future. Stop capital punishment.  Pass stricter gun laws and actually enforce them.  Pull the plug on the weapons industry.  Start putting all that weapons-money we spend as a nation each year into anti-poverty programs that result in real, living-wage jobs for people.  And the list could go on and on.  Only by valuing life as a society can we convey that "valuing life" means we should do away with abortion.  Go figure.

See, being "pro-life" means much more than simply being "anti-abortion."  The equation of those two is a major logic-flaw in the "conservative" position.