"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Guns, Abortion, Gay Rights, And Religious Liberty–Passion vs Secular Logic And Trump’s Ultimate Victory

A colleague of mine at the World Bank a few years back was considering a move to Abidjan.  A chance to work with one of Africa’s more enlightened governments, live in an exclusive expatriate neighborhood, dine in excellent French restaurants and order lobster and foie gras from the Auvergnat detailer who guaranteed shipments from France a la minute and not selon l’arrivage was irresistible.

There was only one problem – crime.  Beneath its composed, cosmopolitan, and respectable veneer, Abidjan was fast becoming one of Africa’s most violent cities.   Despite good international schools, superb housing, and excellent European amenities, how could he – in all good conscience – move there with his wife and two young children.

For the first time in his life, he considered buying a gun; and given the level of threat in the country, more than one.  Ivorian customs were notoriously lax, and no one would ever look for let alone discover his personal firearms at the bottom of the lift van.

The problem was that he had been a lifelong gun control advocate, and one who had always counseled tolerance, moderation, and patience.   Violent self-defense was unconscionable, given the understandably dysfunctional nature of the African American family.  Slavery was never an afterthought, and the persistent racism of white America drove black men to extreme measures.  He contributed to every gun control lobby in Washington, spoke out loudly and insistently whenever he had a chance against the corrosive and degrading nature of gun culture in America.

Yet here he was, facing life in an an African nation teetering on the edge of civil and political chaos, and voluntarily taking  his innocent wife and children to such a benighted, unhappy place.  A good World Bank economist, he weighed costs and benefits, and decided that moving to the Ivory Coast, despite the risks, would be good for all.  The children would get a first class French education.  His wife would be able to socialize with la crème de la crème of post-colonial African intellectuals and artists, and he would be sure to get a Bank directorship.

How to reconcile the obvious benefits of the assignment with its equally obvious risks?  A Glock 9mm, a Colt .22 sidearm, and an Uzi semi-automatic. 

At first my colleague did the usual and predictable moral gymnastics.  It might be wrong to own guns and promote gun ownership in America where the civil, democratic process provided so many remedies for social dysfunction and violence; but in an increasingly lawless environment in countries like the Ivory Coast where such democratic protections and progressive programs did not exist, who could blame him for arming himself to protect his family?

The point is that no one wants to be Lear’s ‘bare, forked animal”, naked on the heath, at the mercy of the elements and the most treacherous, immoral, and violent human beings.  In everyone’s heart of hearts, there is a weapon.


In Sam Pekinpah’s Straw Dogs, the main character – an Eastern Establishment academic and liberal – is transformed in the face of a violent, brutal, and savage attack on his family from a mild-mannered, on-the-one-hand-on-the-other liberal, to a Wild West, gun-toting, defender of family, hearth, and home.  Peckinpah said that this self-protective violent streak is in all of us.  All liberal cant and posturing goes out the window when one’s family is threatened.


Such sub-rasa conservatism extends far beyond the right to bear arms.  Despite the persistent, universal calls by progressives shilled by a complaisant and supportive media establishment for tolerance – a woman’s right to choose; a gay man’s right to marry; a mixed-gender man or woman’s right to use the bathroom of his or her choice; open borders and a generous welcome to all migrants and refugees – many if not most Americans are saying, “Enough already”.

There is a video circulating on the Internet (May, 2016) which documents an abortion - by any criteria an invasive, bloody event designed to cut loose a fetus from its supporting placenta, to deprive it of nourishment, growth, and life; to scrape it out from its mother and discard it as hospital waste. 

It is not surprising that young women who watch this video – no matter how pro-choice they may have been – change their minds.  No woman wants an abortion.  It is an unconscionable invasion of privacy, sanctity, body and soul.

Pope Paul II was the first to use the term ‘expediency’ when referring to abortion and Pope Francis reprised his argument this year.  Abortion is not only the killing of an unborn child, but a moral insult to all life. Once abortion is taken for granted, then respect for the sanctity of all life is degraded.


In other words, even the most committed Eastern Establishment progressive woman has to think twice about what she is doing when she fits her feet into the stirrups and agrees to a D+C.  She may have been committed in principle to civil rights and especially the rights of women, but when she is about to subject herself to an abortion, she cannot possibly be neutral.

There is no liberal heterosexual who does not turn away from a chance viewing of homosexual sex on late-night cable.  Although he might have concluded that Deuteronomy is time-based, socially and morally relative, and contrary to Christ’s inclusive and more general teachings, he is still disgusted by male anal sex.  No matter how he may struggle to square his politico-philosophical tolerance with actual, vivid, and explicit homosexual bedtime activity, he cannot.

Religious tolerance and liberty are important principles, enshrined in the Bill of Rights and defended by progressive and conservatives alike.  Yet the idea that the Little Sisters of the Poor must buckle under to the secular authority of the State and cannot refuse any legislation, executive fiat, or court order which denies them their own religious rights strikes even the most devoted progressive as untoward.  A baker who cannot turn down a request to bake a homo-erotic themed cake; a photographer who cannot refuse to record a gay wedding; a school principle in a rural, conservative district who must allow open bathrooms – all offend not intellectually but viscerally.  It simply does not seem right.


The United States has always been a country which has welcomed immigrants.  If it had not been for Polish, Irish, Italian, and Chinese immigrants in the 19th century, the railroads would never have been built, the industrial revolution would have sputtered, and the vitality of New York, Chicago, and San Francisco would have been denied.  Yet in an age of high fertility, overpopulation measured against resources and demand, and porous borders which threaten social and cultural integrity as well as economic well-being, it is no surprise that many Americans agree with Donald Trump that we should keep all new-comers out.

It simply doesn’t seem right that waves of non-English-speaking, Third World, politically disaffected immigrants should be given a free pass in the name of inclusivity, compassion, and tolerance.  There is, like it or not, a common American culture – one borne of liberty, independence, and enterprise – and it in the minds of many is being threatened.  Already the notion of cultural solidarity is being corroded from within.  Campaigns of ‘diversity’ only lead to separatism, conflict, venal demands, and the eventual fraying of the formerly tightly-woven fabric of American society.  God only knows what will happen if we let in all comers.

These issues – abortion, gay rights, religious liberty, immigration, etc., – have been on the back burner of American politics for years.  But in this election year they have been moved to the front of the stove.  They are hot, burning, visceral, and imperative.  The millions of Americans who have become disaffected by faux intellectualism and progressive arrogance are making their will, opinions, and emotions known.  No matter how much traditional intellectual elites may dismiss America’s middle as uninformed, emotional, and misguided, it is their time.

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