Tuesday, June 14, 2016

No More Double Standards

I am afraid I no longer know if I have a political home. And no, I do not mean because of my departure from the Republicans. Rather, I am at a loss of what political group  with which I want to associate myself. I think of myself as conservative, or more accurately federalist, but there are two problems there (as I shall describe in a moment). I might be a libertarian*, except the party is so juvenile, even silly, pulling all sorts of unworthy antics to show how "free" they are, so many that no one takes them seriously, because they don't seem to take themselves seriously. But I might overlook that, were they not inclined to let in any group, no matter how much at odds with their beliefs, provided they claim to be "for freedom". And so, you have communo-anarchists and Austrian school economists trying to fit under the same "big tent". That is not a tent, that is a tarp the size of Great Plains! And obviously I am not anything on the left, and if conservatives consider my economic and political views extreme, I don't fit in with moderates, so I am at a loss as to what I am

But, why am I not comfortable with conservative, or conservative federalist, any longer? Well, it may cost me my few remaining intermittent (and silent) readers, but there is something that troubles me about conservatives, or rather two things. Maybe it would be most accurate to say two expressions of what seems to be the same thing.

The first problem I have discussed before, and that is the inclusion of some disparate, and often troubling, factions within the Republican party, and even the broader conservative movement. As anyone who reads me knows, I am a small government, free trade, federalist conservative. To me, the primary interest is to politically limit the power of the state. I am not upset by social conservatives as such, I even agree with some goals. My problem is with those who seek to increase state power to force their ethical views upon others. As a minimalist, I believe the proper means of changing behaviors that do not violate the rights of others is through a combination of persuasion and social pressure. So, I disagree with the more authoritarian social conservatives, but they are not my primary concern.

No, my first objection is to the nationalist and paleocon movements which were embraced by the Republican big tent. Countless times, I felt I had to hold my tongue to avoid fights when someone would start tossing around racist theories or explain why only Christians could be conservatives or offer up some other theory. Why? Because it was one of those arguments that came up constantly, but could never be settled. I could object to nativist theories, but the other individual would inevitably argue he was the "true conservative" and I was a "RINO". I could allege the opposite, but thanks to the big tent, there was no arbiter, no platform to which we could appeal. The party catered to both conflicting views, and so we were equally right, or equally wrong. It was pointless. And infuriating.

And now, thanks to the Trump candidacy, it has come back to bite us, splitting the party as one faction tries to gain control over the whole.

But that has been discussed endlessly, and it was not enough for me to bemoan my situation, so, what is the second problem? Well, it is related, and sadly, much harder to work out.

You see, I thought, now with the Trump fanciers gone, for the most part, anti-Trump bastions should be relatively sane. Of course you always have a few outliers, a few odd individuals. For that matter, with my extreme views on government's role, I am sometimes an outlier myself. I accept that. But, for a time, I was happy associating with people who recognized how offensive Donald's comments about "Mexican" judges were. I thought I was finally comfortable in a political movement.

And then the shooting happened.

And I discovered there was a side to conservatives that still remained. Not every one, but a huge number, suddenly lost their minds.

It is a common line for conservatives to argue that liberals respond with their hearts and conservatives with their heads. But you can't tell when it comes to Moslems.

Suddenly, everyone was calling for deportation. Insisting every statement was a hidden sign of radicalism. Decrying the lack of moderate Moslems denouncing this event, but when they did denounce it, claiming it was just taqiyya and meant nothing. In short, they were sounding a lot like Trump's followers.

Now, I am not saying there are no Islamic radicals, even entire states supporting terrorist elements. Between fundamentalist Islam and Arab nationalism, there are plenty of hostile states. But, it is absurd to imagine Islam is "a political movement not a religion" or imagine every Moslem is predisposed to violence. It is sad to hear those who rankle at cherry picking offensive quotes from the Bible doing the same to the Koran. Hearing those who claim God opposes homosexuality saying the same statement from the shooter's father proves the father is a radical. People otherwise favoring small government wondering why the FBI did not just arbitrarily arrest the shooter, why we don't deport his family, why we don't ban Islam and so on. And the insistence that this shooting could not be due to any individual insanity, but had to be laid at the door of Islam. (If a Christian said he killed people because of his faith, we would call him mad, but let a Moslem says ISIS did it, and we lap it up.)

Of course, reading this I know many will object. They will argue Christianity and Islam are different, there are no Christian terrorists, and so on. But, no, in many ways they are quite wrong.

For example, those shooting abortion doctors, they do so from religious motives. Were they Moslems doing it, we would sure call it terrorism, so why do they say there are no Christian terrorists? Same for the Klan and Christian Identity folks, they claim to be motivated by religion when assaulting and killing others. Granted, the state has kept them largely in check in recent times, but it is absurd to say there are no Christian terrorists.

Now, I am not saying the two faiths are exactly equivalent, nor denying Islam has some radical elements. What I am saying, is it absurd and excessively emotional to instantly assume every Moslem is a secret terrorist, or that the instant a Moslem does anything bad it is because of his faith. When the left blames Christianity for every nutty act by a Christian we denounce it, but we do the same for Moslems. That is hypocritical.

And that is my problem. I thought without the Trumpers and the nationalists and paleocons I would be happy among the rump Republicans (or conservatives, if the Trump types seize the party), but I have discovered that the belief they are being "sensible and hard headed" about Islam has made many Republicans every bit as bigoted as the Trump crowd. Well, maybe not quite so bad, but their belief that there is a single, blood thirsty Moslem mindset reminds me of the nativist claims about Catholic, or just "immigrants" a century ago, and I cannot in good faith continue to belong to a party that does it. I put up with it from the paleocons and others for a time, but only because I thought they were but one element of the party, not the whole. Now that the party is reduced to a single faction, and I find the beliefs still prevalent, I don't know where I can go.

As I said, this will probably offend most of my minute number of remaining readers, and likely a good number of those who happen upon my site, but I am tired of putting up with this sort of bigotry in the name of getting along. Doing that led to Trump. Unfortunately, the only alternatives seem to be bad ones. There are the Constitutional Party groups, but they embrace a "fear of government" position that worries me, including the associated extreme isolationism, at least they did last time I checked out their policies. (If they have changed, then perhaps that is a possibility.) And, as I said, the Libertarians are too doctrinaire in avoiding doctrine, if that makes sense, seeing no difference between Bakunin and Bastiat, vonMises and Marx, and accepting anarchists, utopian socialists, near terrorist national liberation groups and others, all in the name of a big tent for freedom. Add to that their incredibly immature antics, and I cannot in good faith join them.

And so I am left trying to figure out where I belong once more. I know what I believe. I want government as small and as local as possible, with the power mostly resting in the individual. I believe government is not a "necessary evil", but a tool, a tool often abused, but still a necessary and useful tool. I believe wars can be fought when the enemy is not in our territory for the same reason you don't have to wait for a burglar to aim his gun before defending yourself. If there is a clear threat, acting is not just allowed, but an obligation, as waiting makes things worse. I believe the state should limit itself to protecting the rights of individuals, anything else is the province of society, private decisions and private activity. And I think that's it, at least as far as government is concerned.

Well, we shall see, maybe I will eventually find a home of some sort.

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* See "Why I am not a Libertarian".

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POSTSCRIPT (Update 2016/06/15)

It is odd, but both sides of the aisle have troubles handling reality. The left wants to insist Islam is no different than the Rotary or Kiwanis, that it has no part in any of the terrorism we see, while the right wants to see it as something akin to the Illumniati, a secret society which can never be trusted whose members never mean what they say.  Then again both make absurd comparisons to Christianity as well, with the left seeming to see both religions as pretty much equivalent (though since the left tends to be pretty hard on believing Christians, they may see Moslems as slightly better), while the right, because they are so favorably disposed toward Christianity, cannot understand many of the ways they attack Islam could just as easily be used to distort Christian teaching as well, and also fail to see Christianity is used to justify bad things at times. To the right, because Christianity is true, no bad can come from it, so of course it is nothing like Islam, while the left see all religions as slightly suspect, so don't see much difference.

As I said, both are a bit blind, just in different ways.

UPDATE (2016/06/19): I was looking through comments on Facebook and saw a number of great examples of this. First, farming the Koran for anti-unbeliever quotes. Then, a piece about the Woodsboro Baptist Church.  The response, "they're not real Christians", "probably mudslimes", and so on. So, if Christians misbehave, they're not "real Christians" but if Moslems behave, or espouse peaceful intent, they are deceiving us, or denying the "truth" of the Koran. Likewise, Bible quotes that endorse slavery, murder or killing the unfaithful are "taken out of context", but the same from the Koran show the truth of Islam. It is a double standard which inevitably convinces its believers Islam is always evil and Christians always good. And a non-productive double standard at that.

Let me be clear, there are radical Moslems, more than radical Christians, for a number of reasons both historical and political. For the historical see my old essays "What About the Crusades?" (which may interest those who dislike this post, as its point is why so many militant, radical Islamic states exist) and "Perceptions of Iraq" (which argues against claims Iraq was "not ready for Democracy") , which I still think fairly accurate, for the political, one need only recall how the Palestinian refugees were used for political ends of various states, or how Iran has used its position as a theocratic state to attempt to exert control in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, or even how the Saudis -- or at one time Saddam Hussein -- cynically use religion to bolster their regime and exert control over their populace. Thanks to those realities, there are many radical Moslems. On the other hand, there are also many non-radical Moslems, and to treat them all as enemies is to needlessly multiply foes. Why not give them a fair shake? After all, who better to distinguish between radicals and moderates than moderate Moslems themselves? But, of course, if we decide to start shouting about "mudslimes" and "sandni**ers" I doubt they will be much inclined to assist in that undertaking.

So, no, I am not denying reality, I am not ignoring the radicals in Islam. What I am doing is not making the opposite mistake and ignoring all the faults of Christianity, as well as ignoring the Moslems who are not our enemies. To do so is foolish, and, though many will dislike me for saying this, bigoted. And that is why, aside from my general distaste for the mindset which embraces racism and bigotry, I oppose a lot of the current thinking in the conservative movement, and, sadly, not just among Trump followers.

NOTE (2016/06/19): I noticed I forgot to include the entry for the note I included in the essay when I originally wrote it. I have gone back and provided the link I had intended to include.

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