Monday, November 30, 2009

If it walks like a Republican, talks like a Republican, and votes for mass deportations like a Republican...

With most of Bush’s national security policy and foreign policy co-opted by Obama, and a blizzard of domestic crises that seem to cry out for big government solutions, Republicans have been struggling to define themselves lately. They have attracted the “Party of No” label of late by opposing nearly all of Obama’s proposals without offering much in the way of alternatives. And with the growing tension between the party’s fading neoconservative wing and its rejuvenated Glenn Beck populist wing, many people – or at least, me and my friend Scott – have been asking, “What do the Republicans actually stand for?”

We may soon officially find out. At the upcoming Republican National Committee meeting this winter, Congressman James Bopp of Indiana will present a resolution containing ten principles he believes Republicans should be united on. If his resolution passes, Republican national candidates will need to publicly state their support for at least eight of the principles to get support or funding from the RNC.

I’m pretty psyched about this for two reasons: 1) I think our political system benefits when a party is more closely attached to specific policy ideas, 2), I’ve been debating lately about whether or not to call myself a Republican anymore. Now Rep. Bopp has given me a way to decide.

Here is Bopp’s list

(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill;
(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;
(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;
(4) We support workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check;
(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;
(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;
(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;
(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;
(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and
(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership.

Ok, let’s take this one thing at a time.

I’m pretty sure I'm down with 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9 (even though 7 is pretty vague, and regarding #6, the troop surge in Iraq is well-past over.)

Number one poses some problems. Do I support smaller government? Not necessarily. Smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes? Definitely. Do I oppose bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill? What the heck does that even mean? What kind of bills are “like” the stimulus? Does any bill that tries to jumpstart the economy through government spending when we’re teetering on the edge of a new depression count?

Number two: I do support market-based healthcare reform. I also support most of Obama’s health plan (which I deny introduces “government-run” healthcare). This “support/oppose” thing is starting to get tricky.

Number five: This is madness, but typical Republican madness. Sorry, RNC – I cannot support the deportation of twelve million people from the United States, so I guess I’m an “amnesty” supporter. (Also – did Rep. Bopp write this himself? What atrocious sentence structure. “We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society.” Legal immigration and assimilation of whom into American society? This sentence is practically screaming for a prepositional phrase there. Perhaps it’s Freudian.)

Number ten: Again with the false “support/oppose” linkages! This is killing me. “We support the right to keep and bear arms...” So far, so good. “ opposing government restrictions on gun ownership.” Arrgh! The only way to support the right to keep and bear arms to oppose government restrictions on gun ownership? All restrictions? Children, ex-cons, and mental cases should be able to own guns? Any kind of guns? No Republican supports that. This list needs to be rewritten. What does this Bopp guy have against prepositional phrases and qualifiers?

Six out of ten. It’s official. If the RNC passes this resolution, I can no longer call myself a Republican.

The mismatched dogmatism and ambiguity of Bopp’s Top Ten list reminds me of the “9 principles” of Glenn Beck’s 9/12 movement (“If you believe in at least seven of them, then we have something in common.” Yes, Glenn. Seven things in common, to be precise):

1. America Is Good. [Ugh. Better definition of terms, please!]
2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life. [Yep.]
3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday. [Okay.]
4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government. [Ultimate authority on what? Education? The proper care of children? Child sacrifice rituals?]
5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it. [All right.]
6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results. [All right.]
7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable. [No tax-funded welfare, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public education or disaster relief then?]
8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion. [What if my personal opinion is that America sucks? Not actually my opinion, for the record.]
9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me. [Except on financial, legal, judicial and educational matters.]

Four out of nine. Glenn, we have nothing in common.

I might have to come up with a top ten list of my own. Then I’ll just have to start my own movement. I’ll look into that.

In the meantime, peace be upon you all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

New Dordt Diamond Column: Don't Gloss Over Ft. Hood Reality

Last Thursday, an Army psychiatrist went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood army base in Texas, killing thirteen people and wounding thirty others.

The shooter’s name is Nidal Malik Hasan. He gave his neighbor a copy of the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, the night before the shooting. Multiple witnesses report hearing him shout “Allahu akbar” – Arabic for “God is the greatest” – as he gunned down his fellow soldiers.

At the time of this writing, President Obama is asking the nation not to “jump to conclusions,” and the lead Associated Press story on the case says that the shooter’s motive “remains unclear.”

The story does not mention Hasan’s Muslim-sounding name until the ninth paragraph, his shouting “Allahu akbar” until the twelfth paragraph, or his gift of a Qur’an until the forty-sixth paragraph. His religion is never directly identified. In the sixteenth paragraph, the story speculates about whether Hasan was working for an “unidentified radical group.”

I don’t think either President Obama or the Associated Press writers are stupid. I assume they’re tip-toeing around the blindingly obvious to avoid stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment.

The problem is, the average American isn’t that stupid either. And he is going to draw the obvious conclusion, whether the press and the president draw it for him or not.

No one should be prejudiced against Muslims. There are no violent religions, only violent people. But in light of current events, to claim that Hasan’s Muslim beliefs played no role in his actions is beyond dense – especially since this isn’t the first time Muslim American soldiers have turned on their comrades in recent years.

American Muslims are a tiny minority in a country that is at war in two Muslim nations overseas. At the movies and on TV, Muslims are the villains. We shouldn’t be surprised if some American Muslims feel alienated. Violent acts like Hasan’s are evidence that this alienation is nearing a dangerous point.

By driving that reality underground, our cultural gatekeepers leave the alienation of some American Muslims unresolved, and the perception that all Muslims are violent uncorrected. That is a recipe for more conflict.

As we struggle to understand this horrific attack, let’s not brush over uncomfortable realities. If President Obama and the press will treat us like adults and address this problem head-on, all Americans will be better for it. And we in the church should go out of our way to make sure our Muslim brothers and sisters feel welcome in this country.

Further reading:
A Muslim Soldier's View from Fort Hood

Jacob Weisburg: "The president needs to dip into his reservoir of good will to remind mainstream Muslims of their special responsibility."

Revolution Muslim