William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On The American "Ruling Class" Supposedly Attacking The Family

The comment was made:

"The July-Aug. 2010 issue of The American Spectator presents an article by Angelo M. Codevilla entitled "America's Ruling Class -- and the Perils of Revolution." The article is stunningly brilliant, detailing what has brought America to the brink of moral and financial collapse. Apropos for this forum, I believe, is what Codevilla states about the ruling class's disdain for the traditional family. (Codevilla defines "ruling class" as power-elites in both parties and those in influential positions whose allegiance they have purchased with government [taxpayer] dollars and favors.) Here are excerpts:

"The ruling class is keener to reform the American people's family and spiritual lives than their economic and civic ones. In no other areas is the ruling class's self-definition so definite, its contempt for opposition so patent, its Kulturkampf so open. It believes that the Christian family (and the Orthodox Jewish one too) is rooted in and perpetuates the ignorance commonly called religion, divisive social prejudices, and repressive gender roles. . . . Since marriage is the family's fertile seed, government at all levels, along with 'mainstream' academics and media, have waged war on it. They legislate, regulate, and exhort in support not of 'the family'--meaning married parents raising children--but rather of 'families,' meaning mostly households based on something other than marriage. . . . . Hillary Clinton [has] written law review articles and books advocating a direct relationship between the government and children, effectively abolishing the presumption of parental authority."

This article should be mandatory reading for every American who cherishes this nation and is willing to do whatever is necessary to preserve its time-honored values. And as Latter-day Saints, it should give us new appreciation for the inspiration found in "Proclamation on the Family." To access all 22 pages of Codevilla's article, enter "The American Spectator" in your search engine and click on the article's title."

To which I responded:

Reading the article in depth would take me much longer than an hour, which I unfortunately do not have at the moment, so I scanned it as best as I could in ~45 minutes. There is way too much material for me to respond to here, so here are some brief comments:

Codevilla's piece is best read as his own opinion, rather than a serious scholarly essay. It is riddled with his own perceptions and judgments concerning numerous disputed issues, including, inter alia: 1) the proper interpretation of the constitution; 2) the motivations of people in power for doing what they do; 3) what defines a "ruling class"; 4) the proper role of government; 5) the causes of American apathy and ignorance; 6) the likely effects which various laws will have on the lives of average Americans; etc.

The article is also packed full of broad, unjustified assumptions, such as the idea that the defined "ruling class" somehow is atheist and despises all religion, the idea that virtually politicians are highly corrupt, the idea that a secular focus in governmental policy amounts to an attack on religios liberties, the idea that America's "founding generation" somehow was vastly different than ours in having an egalitarian society (glossing over the slavery issue which was sactioned by our original constitution), etc.

I believe this article is a far cry from needing to be "mandatory reading for every American who cherishes this nation and is willing to do whatever is necessary to preserve its time-honored values". I do, believe, however, that we do have a duty to educate ourselves and consider all views on various subjects to the extent we reasonably have the resources to do so (time being one of them). So for that reason, it would be good to read this article to hear the author's arguments and views.

As for myself, I espouse many of the political views that Codevilla apparently despises. But I am no atheist. I believe in religious faith as playing a critical role in both spiritual enlightenment and personal commitment to live a moral life. I strongly believe in separation between church and state, and I have had many life experiences which lead me to believe that there is in fact a connection between religious conservatism, political conservatism, narrow-mindedness, and lack of secular education. That is not at all to say that people who didn't go to a prestigious secular school are automatically stupid, narrow-minded, uneducated, or foolish. But my life experience has been that, more often than not, people who have not had much diverse exposure to opposing cultural values and religions, and who have not received a robust secular education, tend to be much more paranoid about people who are different, and they are much quicker to jump to conclusions about ill-motives and to perceive conspiracies when in fact the supposed conspirators are acting in good faith based upon honest disagreements and viewpoints. Although I have strong political views on a number of subjects, I recognize that there is room for reasonable disagreement in many areas, and I certainly do not claim that all of my conservative friends and family members who disagree with me are "just stupid" or that my view is the only was a reasonable person could view the issue. I do believe that many of our disagreements stem from our world views about human nature, which in turn are heavily influenced by both our upbringing and life experiences. I tend to be somewhat of an idealist, but there is also a hefty dose of cynicism influencing my views.

I do believe there is certainly corruption in the American political system, on both sides of the aisle. I do not know of a single politician who either agrees with me on every issue or who is free of character flaws (I'm not either). But I honestly believe that, in general, our elected officials are trying to do what they think is right. Many of them realize they don't have all the answers and that policy decisions will have to be made which inevitably disfavor some class of people while favoring others. But in the aggregate, I think we've got a great system in the U.S., and I also believe that our society today is far more just, prosperous, and free of oppression than it was in past generations. And a great deal of this progress has resulted from laws passed by government, including the U.S. federal government.

I suppose what bothers me most about Codevilla's article is that he comes across as taking for granted that his perceptions and interpretations of history are the only reasonable ones to have. Things are rarely black and white, and there are a lot of grey areas where healthy debate and study are needed to arrive at resolutions.

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