Saturday, May 3, 2008

It's Not All About How You Want To Look At It

When Pope Benedict came to America recently, President Bush told the EWTN Global Catholic Network he agreed with the Pope's view that "there's right and wrong in life, that moral relativism has a danger of undermining the capacity to have more hopeful and free societies." This is one of the things I like about our president: say what you will about the details (understanding that in politics we have to be able to compromise, and he's a believer and I can't) but when it gets to the big picture - like the basics of right and wrong - we (all three, this atheist and those two commited believers, alike) can easily agree. President Bush always seems to know what's right in that regard, while most people I encounter, whether in my life or my reading, are floundering. He's much smarter than people give him credit for.

Moral relativism (assuming there's no such thing as "right" and "wrong" or they're kind of the same) is a big problem in this country, and the Pope's visit highlights one of my favorite examples of it.

As everyone knows, I'm no fan of religion, and that includes Catholicism. (Though I do enjoy reading The Anchoress.) But not being a relativist, it also includes Buddhism - and it's own spiritually-atheistic emissary, the Dali Lama. President Bush likes both men. But most Leftists treat the Dali Lama like there's something unique about what he's selling, while the Pope is just a hypocrite who shuttles around in a bullet-proof funny car, spouting a bunch of Thou Shalt Nots. It just isn't so. Long ago, I posted a quote from Patrick French's essay, "Dali Lama Lite", about what Lama-lovers either don't know or refuse to accept - here it is again:

"Tibetan Buddhism is not a values-free system oriented around smiles and a warm heart. It is a religion with tough ethical underpinnings that sometimes get lost in translation. For example, the Dalai Lama explicitly condemns homosexuality, as well as all oral and anal sex. His stand is close to that of Pope John Paul II, something his Western followers find embarrassing and prefer to ignore. His American publisher even asked him to remove the injunctions against homosexuality from his book, ''Ethics for the New Millennium,'' for fear they would offend American readers, and the Dalai Lama acquiesced."
That would seem to make the Dali Lama the exact same type of man as the Popes. But, actually, that makes the Dali Lama even less of a figure because the Popes haven't lied, or tried hide their shit, merely for the sake of good propaganda. They've been up-front about what they think, and if you don't like it, tough. The Dali Lama, on the other hand, is playing his followers for the incense burning suckers they are. It's just one big morally relativist spiritual party with him: I won't show you my hypocrisy if you won't show me yours.

I'm mentioning all this because my friend (and regular reader) Elizabeth Mika, just sent me two articles (from the Chicago Tribune) that highlight how moral relativism is being applied, regarding the presidential election battle between Barack Obama and John McCain.

In the first article, Steve Chapman takes John McCain to task for criticizing Barack Obama, regarding his friendship with the Weatherman Bill Ayers, when McCain is also friends with the convicted former Watergate conspirator - and now radio host - G. Gordon Liddy. McCain once told Liddy it was "always a pleasure for me to come on your program, Gordon, and congratulations on your continued success and adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great." Chapman then says:

"Which principles would those be? The ones that told Liddy it was fine to break into the office of the Democratic National Committee to plant bugs and photograph documents? The ones that made him propose to kidnap anti-war activists so they couldn't disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention? The ones that inspired him to plan the murder (never carried out) of an unfriendly newspaper columnist?

Liddy was in the thick of the biggest political scandal in American history—and one of the greatest threats to the rule of law. He has said he has no regrets about what he did, insisting that he went to jail as 'a prisoner of war.'"
O.K., you got all that? And I can tell you (as an old hand at this political game) it's all true: G. Gordon Liddy is a true-blue American nut case. How he ever got into politics, or inside the White House for that matter, is still a mystery to me after all these years and I know the guy's story pretty-fucking-well. My favorite Liddy tale, behavior-wise, regards an incident where he held his hand over an open flame for an extended period of time to prove he was "harder" than everyone else in the room.

I can hear some of you now (we've got him!) thinking because McCain associates with Liddy - and I support McCain - this is practically some kind of political double-play, that might have the capacity to shut me up, turn the election leftward, and gain some kind of advantage for Obama, the Democrats, and/or the Left. Well, I hate to bust your bubble, but no such luck. Let's finish dealing with Giddy Liddy, first, and you'll see why:

G. Gordon Liddy, despite all his faults (and, boy, are we talking about a guy with a lot of 'em) is an American patriot in the Ollie North mode. The kind of guy who, if his president (it was Richard Nixon at the time) asked him to crawl through broken glass to do something - he'd do it. Even crazier, if Liddy got an assignment that didn't require crawling through broken glass, he'd request that broken glass be added just so A) he could really show his loyalty to the president and the country B) he could show his courage was off-the-fucking-charts (compared to the rest of us "wimps") and C) so he could brag about it, for the rest of his fucking days, on that goofy little radio show of his.

Now keep in mind, to their credit, career Democrats in government (as opposed to anti-war protesting civilian weenies) are no slouches when it comes to the "crazy patriot" routine either. (I like patriots, y'all:) Richard Armitage (the guy who admitted he revealed Valarie Plame's CIA identity - not Scooter Libby - though I don't hear anybody screaming about that little fuck up,...) is pretty crazy too. My favorite Armitage story is from right after 9/11, when the government wanted to go into Afghanistan. Ol' Rich called up President Mussharaf and gave him an ultimatum - in the form of The Macho Response:

Join with the United States in the War On Terror or we'll bomb Pakistan "back to the Stone Age".

Mussharaf, a military general - who no one on earth would call a coward - got Armitage's message, loud and clear, and the rest is history.

My point is, we've got these guys - Democrats, and Republicans, who don't take crap and are batshit crazy - on our side. Totally insane or not, they are patriots, and G. Gordon Liddy, for all his crimes, never killed anyone (though he has proposed doing so, probably, every day) and he proudly went to prison with his head held high (mostly because he's so nutty he isn't capable of lowering it.). That's why he - and Ollie North - have got radio shows, speaking engagements, and millions of fans, despite doing time.

One of which is, apparently, John McCain.

On the other hand, Barack Obama's friend, Bill Ayers, was fighting against our government in an organization that got many Americans killed and (when you add in children, etc.) devastated more lives than I can calculate. When the Weathermen's (accidental) Greenwich Village townhouse explosion occured, they were building bombs to set off at a dance - at a dance! - for noncommissioned officers at the Fort Dix, New Jersey Army base. Three Weathermen (actually Weather-women) were killed in that "gory" blast alone. The rest went underground to continue their vicious nonsense and, when it was all over, Bill Ayers only escaped punishment on a technicality.

You can read the other Chicago Tribune article Elizabeth sent me for more on Ayers' illustrious "career".

My point, here, is to say that for anyone to suggest - in trying to assess the associates of Barack Obama and John McCain - that there's anything alike, between a terrorist like Bill Ayers and a patriot like G. Gordon Liddy, is just taking moral relativism to it's extreme. This example is an even much more outrageous use of moral relativism than when Obama compared his grandmother's comment (she, a white woman, once voiced her fear of a single black male to him, in private, family member to family member) to Jeremiah Wright's weekly paranoid ravings in front of a congregation of thousands, as well as on TV, radio, and on CDs. There's just no comparison, but, somehow - with Democrats using moral relativism - Barack Obama got away with it, and the Left agreed he did a marvelous job doing so.

I wouldn't let him do it again.


  1. Spot on. I like your oppositon to moral relativism. I have a very good, well educated friend who simply can not bring himself to understand that there are finite limits to morality and behavior.

    I did not know that about the Dalai Lama. Interesting, I wonder how many Unity ministers reconcile his staunch opposition to same gender relationships with their inclusive ideals?

    PS - Elizabeth's blog is great!

  2. I like this pope's straighforwardness too. I posted about him before, and the fact that he met with victims of the sex abuse scandal while in the US was not lost on me. But the organization he heads is flawed in its structure, and I think the open secrets will continue to flourish.

    Interesting about the Dalai Lama.

  3. Hey, CMC, thank you for the plug -- and CD, thank you for your appreciative comment!

  4. Now on to less pleasant matters (or not?).

    I like -- and agree with -- your stance against moral relativism, CMC. And you make a good argument for not equating Liddy with Ayers.


    There is a thin line between rejection of moral relativism and slipping into moral absolutism, which, more often than not, serves as a "pretty" cover for the worst of human impulses. Far from trying to defend moral relativists (with whom I disagree), I must observe that too often those who set themselves up as the arbiters of morality and the noblest values -- the moral absolutists, especially of the religious kind -- display shocking intolerance and hatred of others, down to their desire, often turned into action, to obliterate them to bloody hell. As Pascal said long time ago, bless his wise soul, "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." I would add here, "from *any ideological* conviction."

    Those of us who reject moral relativism must choose our values according to some yardsticks of morality. Too often, I'm afraid, those are defined by the absolutist fanatics, of the religious or other ideological kind. Thus I'm wary of those who set up idols and exemplars of moral righteousness for others to follow, be it the popes, or the religious and political leaders and patriotic heroes.

    This is a real challenge for those of us who reject moral relativism, especially the atheists* -- we need to define the values we uphold as universal and worth cherishing without slipping into absolutism and trying to justify our prejudice in effect. I wonder if this is even possible. (I hope it is, but the everyday practice -- i.e. experience with those who claim to reject moral relativism -- makes me doubt it.)

    *Or perhaps not, as the atheists seem, theoretically at least, to have a greater freedom here in defining their universal set of values. The problem is, again and perennially so with us, human beings, that we are not very good judges of what is *objectively* right and good, and what we like because it simply confirms our private bias.

  5. "And you make a good argument for not equating Liddy with Ayers."

    E: pathetic.
    OBVIOUSLY. I just don't know what else to say about that.