This is shaping up to be that kind of day.
Catholic writer David Mills, over at the blog aleteia.org, has some very interesting things to say about the ability of partisan politics to destroy even basic sympathy and empathy within us, all in the name of whatever greater good or cause we are supporting.
One of the worst effects of political passion is that it destroys sympathy. Feeling sympathy has no political use. The partisans train themselves to fight for their man without care for the other side and all the people in the middle. They train themselves not to see and not to listen. I know this because I’ve been the partisan.
Vexing for me has been the way so many conservative religious men excuse or ignore Donald Trump’s hot mic comments, and others of the same sort. Some are real friends and some internet friends, and many of the rest allies. I’m also vexed with the way Hillary Clinton’s supporters so blithely reject the unborn child, but don’t have the same personal connections.
These men gave up, because their politics requires they give it up, the sympathy to see how such remarks affect others. The men I’m thinking of aren’t normally so callous. But politics.
They know rape is bad, but that’s as much as they’ll admit. Every form of sexual abuse, even being “handsy” and making suggestive remarks, has a place on the spectrum with rape at the other end. Each violates the woman’s integrity and dignity and each includes the threat of further violations. Each objectifies the victim, de-humanizes her, and thereby makes her vulnerable.
Many men would be surprised at how many women they know have such stories and how angry they are about it. Christian men might be surprised at how often these stories involve Christian men.
I want to tell such men: If you can’t understand how this experience affects women in general, try to imagine a man talking like that about your wife or your daughters. How would you feel if you walked into a room and found an older man being “handsy” with your 22-year-old daughter or making flirtatious remarks to your wife about her body?
What would you say or do then? That’s what you’re not saying or doing when you say the hot mic remarks are just the way guys talk, or declare “He who is without sin, cast the first stone,” or demand Christians forgive the speaker though he hasn’t repented, or change the subject to the political issue you think is at stake, or try to divert attention by pointing to the other side’s problems, or in one of several other ways rationalize away such talk. You are not caring for the least of these as Jesus tells you to.
Listen, Mills says, to the stories women tell. I may not like so much of the talk about wives and sisters and daughters that has come out of conservative politicians since it was revealed that Donald J. Trump, billionaire presidential candidate (who owns a mansion and a yacht), is also an admitted abuser, assaulter, and molester of women, but that talk at least least gets them to understand what’s at stake here.
The whole point of listening to stories is to hear pain, suffering, sorrow, endurance, and strength — what it takes, sometimes, for some people to get up and live. In the face of our partisan political projects, in which we use ideology as both brick and mortar to build and fortify our tribal ideas, stories are supposed chip holes in those walls, let a little light and breeze through, so that in it all, we can encounter someone as a human being.
Ideology blinds us. It hardens our hearts, and makes it hard — perhaps impossible — to see or encounter our shared humanity. It turns compassion and kindness into weakness. It sees nothing but evil in enemies and nothing but virtue in allies no matter how bad they are.
And this leads me to a tweet from that moral reprobate Dinesh D’Souza, who had this to say about President Barack Hussein Obama:
I grant that D’Souza, a washed-up liar and a fraud who has fallen to such intellectual depths he can no longer think straight or honestly anymore, is probably not worth dealing with here. But I couldn’t simply pass the sheer spiteful awfulness of this tweet by. He doesn’t even hint or suggest at his horrible conclusion, he just comes out with it — Obama’s father abandoned him not because the father was a careless or even bad man, but because there was just something in this tiny child worth abandoning.
Obama’s mother didn’t leave him to be raised by her parents because she was self-involved and preoccupied with other kinds of work, but because a ten-year-old child was not worth raising.
And that the child’s abandonment should tell us something, something we should have known about this man when he ran for president. The child Obama was responsible, at fault, for his own abandonment. And we should have known — should have known — when he ran for president. This is man worth abandoning, not worth caring for. Not worth loving, encouraging, admiring, or respecting.
Not worth electing.
Goddamit, who are these people claiming the moral high ground (remember, they are all defending something they keep referring to as Christian civilization) who cruelly blame a child for his own abandonment, and refuse to see any accomplishment or character in the ability to overcome that abandonment, to find some kind of meaning and purpose in life in it or because of it?
I’ve long thought one of the unspoken presumptions enfolding our whole approach to foster care is that if God really loved these kids, if they were really valued by the cosmos, they would just have families, they wouldn’t have been left to be raised by the state. And that this deeply unspoken assumption about the world means we really don’t care what happens to kids in foster care. Not really. They don’t matter.
We can do whatever we want to them. We can abuse them and break them and use them and throw them away.
After all, if they’ve been abandoned — for whatever reason — that should tell us something about these kids. They aren’t worth wanting. They aren’t worth loving.
I have no idea if D’Souza believes any of this or not. It sure seems like it, though, at least based on this tweet. Obama’s is a life he’d of thrown away, and I have to ask — who else would D’Souza consign to the scrapheap of history because they had the tremendous misfortune of having parents die or go to prison or simply disappear? Or parents so self-absorbed they cannot be bothered to meaningfully parent?
Maybe listening to D’Souza’s story would tell me something, would help me understand why he has become this man, and see something human in him.
But if this is civilization-saving, moral, Christian conservatism, then Lord, let godless, pagan, Molech-sacrificing, hedonistic secularism bash down our walls and lay waste to our city. And bring it down upon us quickly.
Because it can’t possibly be any worse than this.