I hadn't taken much interest in this year's Presidential election. Truth to be told, John McCain's campaign seemed to me to be a rather lackluster affair. I find Obama entirely unpalatable, and yet singularly uninteresting. The choice of Biden as his VP also further bored me. I mean, sure it was fun ripping on him again and waiting for him to say something silly. But for someone who can't finish out a paragraph without mentioning "change" at least four times, he chooses Biden?? You can't help but look like "an agent of change" (whatever that means) next to Joe Biden. Maybe that was his idea. I dunno.
My disinterestedness changed with McCain's veep choice. All joking about her killing her food aside, Sarah Palin was something different in the campaign. A bit of an unknown quantity. She had the conservative credentials, and her policies, both official and personal, seemed to fit with that wisest system of government. The real test was in her address to the convention, which came out very well. At the same time, though, one of the most disheartening things is how ugly the campaign has gotten since. While Barack can try to cling to the moral high ground with his fingernails, his partisans clearly have no such scruples. His hounds have been unleashed, and they're out for blood.
The first indication that the gloves had come off was when the news broke about Palin's daughter's pregnancy. The initial reaction ranged from the reasonable, responsible "That was irresponsible of her, but it's very good that she's having the baby," to the doctrinaire shock, dismay, and revulsion that she would have first the temerity to get pregnant, and the sheer gall to have the child. But the most frequent phrase I heard around campus ran something like "flies in the face of conservative 'family values'" (how do you make a sneer emoticon?), or "totally shoots down any notion that conservatives have a claim on values" and other such. In what way, pray tell? I can't think of any conservative, or any Christian, who will look you in the face and tell you without a four drink minimum, that teens aren't having sex. We know. That's why we're on about this abstinence thing, by the way. Implicit in all of this was the accusation that the sins of the daughter fall upon the mother. I'd be willing to concede that, if it could be shown, that the mother either condoned her daughter having sex outside of marriage or simply didn't care. It hasn't. My own opinion is that it can't. But what it also reveals is an increasing inability of large sections of American society to think clearly and rationally about "values". I'd go back to Mao Ze-Dean's zinger a few years back that "Hypocrisy is a value [sic] practiced by the Republican Party". For any people who actually possess values, I'm willing to bet whatever's left in my bank account that "hypocrisy" doesn't make the list. Howie's ultimate goal in all of this was clear: 1) he wanted to get the word "value" in there, both to make the media take note and therefore ensure that the electorate was paying attention and 2) he wanted to insult the Republicans. What this showed, though, was a fundamental misunderstanding of what values are, nay, a complete inability to even use the concept to make an intelligent statement.
Take also, for your consideration, the massive attempt to "reach out" to "values voters", said with the sort of bewilderment one would have in talking about reaching out to ET. This at the same time when head-scratching dust-collectors like What's the Matter With Kansas? are still being pondered over by the cognoscenti. As this relates to young Ms. Palin, the problem is that these political attack dogs are equating the inability to live up to a value either with a cynical disbelief in values at all, or the invalidation of a given value. Does a value cease to be worthwhile if it is transgressed? "Thou shalt not kill" has been broken pretty regularly, but I'm willing to bet there's still some consensus on that. So while there's plenty of political mud-slinging over it, this is all symbolic of a deeper conflict within our culture. We're slowly forgetting what a value even is, or what it means.
The other really disgusting part that's becoming more and more of an issue is the response to Sarah Palin's decision to give birth to a child with Down's Syndrome. I do not think I do her a disservice to say that this action is not courageous in the sense it's being portrayed. Even with people on the right side of the aisle, it's being cast almost as a sort of selfless, ascetic renunciation to the difficulties of raising a child with a terrible affliction. I give her more credit. It was, indeed, a courageous action- but a courageous action in the sense of standing up for what is good, and true, and right, and just in a world where to do so is increasingly being seen as backwards, provincial, or ecologically harmful. I agree that those parents who have decided to give birth to children with such severe impairments are brave people- but they are brave in defending life and standing for the truth, not merely for a stoic resignation to drudgery in order to satisfy an abstract principle. And the truth be told, I've worked with children with Down's Syndrome, and met their parents. Few people love their children so fiercely, or so well. So many of these families know what a treasure God has given them, and thank Him every day for His blessing.
The most recent shock, though, was when Canada has once again proven how tribal and brutal it's become. One of their Ob.-Gyn. ghouls recently got down to worrying that Mrs. Palin's decision to give birth to her baby might actually decrease the number of abortions. We can only hope. But the chilling thing implicit in all of this is the subtle shift in the way pro-abortion folks are talking. Abortion isn't merely a "right" women have; it's almost becoming a eugenic duty. To some degree, that's always been there. But now, it's no longer just dirty historical laundry. Abortion as a means of social engineering could one day be a reality. Oh, Kirkman, you say, you're being melodramatic. Lighten up, will you? Perhaps I am. Okay, sometimes I am. Usually I am. Enough!- Now, where was I? Ah yes. It might be melodrama to say it now. When a given life is seen as a burden, and a method is prescribed for ridding society of this burden, how long before people start getting the same idea about other burdens to society? How soon before it goes from a right to be exercised to an act which is mandated by law? It's horrifying, and it's distant enough that my saying it might sound ridiculous and semiapocalyptic. But isn't this how such things always progress, incrementally? The campaign to make abortion acceptable to a larger swathe of the electorate is also pretty sizable.
So those are my musings for the moment.