Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Why, I'm Shocked--shocked!--To Learn I'm a Bigot!

There seems to be a rather unsavory practical criterion operative among certain fundamentalist groups. In some such groups the practical criterion lays down constraints on what members of the group may do, but at the same time explicitly excuses the members from doing anything contrary to the criterion as long as what they do affects only those who are not members of the group. Hence, it may be permissible to lie to outsiders, or to cheat them, if the practical criterion holds that only members of the group are deserving of a given level of respect.

This may be a criterion employed by al-Qaeda, to the extent that such terrorist groups subscribe to any criteria at all. At any rate, one imagines that they would not be well pleased if the U.S. were to deliberately target their families, including their children, as a means of putting an end to their group, even though they themselves have targeted our families, including our children, as a means of putting an end to us. One imagines that the reason for this irrational asymmetry has to do with their wacky estimation of their own value as opposed to ours, or about the value of their "system" as opposed to ours.

John Hagee subscribes to the very same criterion, since his group, on the one hand, regards lying as a sin, yet on the other hand he has no scruples at all about lying to those outside of his group. According to a report from the Catholic League:
the Texas minister defends himself against charges of anti-Catholicism. Hagee says he is “shocked and saddened to learn of the mischaracterization of my views on Catholics that has spread while I spent the weekend celebrating the 50th anniversary of my entry into the ministry with family and friends.”
Notice the blatant argumentum ad misericordiam in calling attention to his celebration of 50 years of something that he calls "ministry", an entirely irrelevant fact given the context. The Catholic League documents his anti-Catholicism in some detail, but you don't need the Catholic League website to document it for yourself, you can find videos of him all over YouTube spewing his bigotry and filth, or you could just read his publications.

Now, I have suggested that John Hagee subscribes to the very same practical criterion that al-Qaeda uses to treat "outsiders" differently than they would tolerate being treated themselves, but there is, of course, another possibility, one that is, in all probability, the more likely explanation given the person with whom we are dealing. It could be that John Hagee just doesn't understand the nature of the things he has said. In other words, it could be that, in addition to being a bigot, he is also a moron. I've known people who say racist things about African Americans and then immediately point out "but I'm not a racist!" It's part of a rather interesting phenomenon, when you come to think of it: it's a rather pathetic attempt at a kind of rhetorical maneuver. Say the thing that you want to say, and then quickly point out that what you have just said should be regarded as immune to a certain kind of criticism on the grounds that you are aware that such criticism would be valid if it were true and you want to assure everyone that what you have just said does not fall under the rubric of the criticism. I'm going to say that the Roman Church is the whore of Babylon, that it is the anti-Christ, and that it is a false cult system, but hey! I'm not an anti-Catholic or anything! Geez, that would be awful! I'm just saying the truth here, and the truth is that, well, the Catholic Church is a moral monster that worked with Hitler to exterminate the Jews! Come on, that's not "anti-Catholic"! To be anti-Catholic is to say things about the Roman Church that are false in order to make people hate it for the wrong reasons! But what I say about the Roman Church is true! If what I say makes people hate it, well, the truth hurts sometimes!

My friend Paul Halsall, who is no friend of the Republican party, once told me that, in his view, anyone who could support the policies of the Republican party had to be either stupid or evil. Now, I'm not a member of that party, mind you, but they do tend to represent my views much better than the Democratic party, so I had to take issue with his characterization of things. However, I also pointed out to him that stupidity and evil are not mutually exclusive properties. Socrates thought otherwise, apparently, but in my view it is plausible that some people are evil because they are stupid, that is, they advocate morally unacceptable positions because they simply do not know any better. In some sense such people are arguably less evil than those who advocate the same positions knowing full well that they are morally unacceptable, but it seems to me that there are plenty of cases where ignorance is no excuse for the advocacy of moral banality. That's what we have in the case of al-Qaeda, it's what we had in the case of the guards at the Nazi death camps, and it's what we have now in the case of John Hagee and his ilk. You will point out to me that the consequences of the moral banality of al-Qaeda and the death camps were far worse, because people died, and in great numbers. But it is not a difference in kind, only in degree: hatred is always the same, and whenever someone advocates hatred in any form, the potential for seriously undesirable consequences is there. I don't think that anyone in his right mind would accept political support from a virulent racist, someone who called the members of a particular race "inferiors" or "whores of Babylon", nor should they. Everyone recognizes the danger of racist hatred, and contempt for Catholicism is, at least historically in this country, rooted in a form of racism.

At this point I am comfortable saying that I will stay home in November rather than vote for someone who will tolerate being associated with a disgusting, bigoted liar (or, more precisely, liar and/or moron) like John Hagee. It's time for McCain to demonstrate the same moral clarity that both Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama have demonstrated in the case of Louis Farrakhan and his support for the Democrats. Anyone who is so desperate, so craven, as to pander to a group of bigots simply to establish his conservative credentials not only does not deserve a vote: he is not worthy to serve as president. McCain has a reputation for being a man of honor, a man of principle. His valiant and heroic service to our country during the Vietnam war proves his courage and fortitude, and I have no doubt that, unlike Hagee, he does indeed possess the moral clarity to see what he must do.


CrimsonCatholic said...

While it may be the only time in history the phrase "the same moral clarity that both Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama have demonstrated" has been used without tongue firmly planted in cheek, I agree completely. However, as I noted in a comment on the thread below, I think the reasoning regarding noxious anti-Catholicism applies with roughly equal force to Joseph P. Farrell, and I hope that you will reconsider not applying the same critique to his anti-Western ethos.

Scott Carson said...

While it may be the only time in history...

Don't think it didn't gall more than just a little to write that. But of course I added immediately "in the case of Louis Farrakhan". I don't believe that they demonstrate much (if any) moral clarity otherwise.