Friday, October 31, 2008

There are some who say we should disregard the negligible effect our vote will have on the election, and instead consider the substantial effect our vote will have on our souls.

I think this is a worthwhile factor to include in the decision making calculus when we go to the polls (or abstain, if that's how you feel), especially when trying to weigh voting quixotically against voting tactically isn't making one candidate stand out. However, I think this philosophy is prone to a few abuses that should disqualify it from being used in isolation.

The first is presuming that the utility of voting is outwardly nil, but the spiritual effect is grave. The former is a reasonable statistical conclusion except in contentious districts, but we never really know how close a race is until the polls close. The latter is true as far as everything we do here echoes in eternity, but in my mind doesn't pass muster because otherwise if we do something, anything, in an attempt to mitigate evil, in a world where remote material cooperation with evil is often (not always, make no mistake) absolutely impossible to avoid, then either committing a particular act out of prudence rather than enthusiastic endorsement cannot be intrinsically grave or everything we do is objectively disordered and there's no point in singling out things that don't have immediate grave effects.

The second is that the primary ends of voting is subverted to the secondary ends, or really the ternary ends. The intent of casting a vote is to participate in the selection of a leader, whether the person is well qualified, relatively well or poorly qualified, or purely unfit for the job. A subsidiary end is to care for the state of our soul. Obviously everything we do should be done with an eye to our spiritual health, but that informs how we do something, not just what we do. For example, the fact that life should be protected and that one person may be too gentle to harm another does not preclude a different person from having the duty and disposition to become a soldier.

Taking our moral priorities as read, then, if we subvert an act's primary end in order to achieve a secondary end, then we commit an abuse of that act, and abuse is always disordered. Just as we are not to dismiss procreation in the marital act in order to pursue pleasure, we should not go to the poll thinking "It doesn't matter whom I vote for as long as I don't endanger my soul." Your soul may be your greatest responsibility, but it is not your sole responsibility, and you even fail in that duty if you are too blithe in disregarding the duty you have to be a conscientious citizen.

This is Catholicism, folks. The dichotomy between CYA and spiritual combat in a communal theater is false.

Maybe there is no good choice, but don't pervert the ends of an act because the effectiveness of achieving one result doesn't seem to scale with another. A safe choice isn't bad but it might not be the best one.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I can't believe how angry some people are getting over the election.

After the bitterness of Gore's supporters when W. was given the presidency, I'm less surprised than I should be, I suppose. What gets me is how personally the race is being taken.

I've been seeing it more from the liberal side, but I don't know if my experience has been representative.

I'll go online and I'll see screeds left and right with the thesis "I hate Sarah Palin." What? She's running for office with the guy you're probably voting against. Maybe she's dangerous to your way of life and thinking, but she's doing a job and trying to do what seems right.

Heck, the guy I'm voting against (not sure whom I'm voting for, but I know whom I'm voting against) not only differs with me on major policy issues, he supports widespread infanticide, as far as I'm concerned, and while that makes his platform overqualified in the heinousness tryouts, I don't hate the man. His positions and campaigning make me angry, but not hateful.

I just can't understand how rational people can find Palin so infuriating. I mean, I'm a pretty low-energy, even-keel person, and I get that some people are a little more volatile than I am, but where does this fully-flowered hate for someone most people had never even heard of until a few weeks ago spring from?

Anyone have any anecdotes they'd care to share that support or contradict my observations?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

"I've yet to detect a liberal bias in the media"

This observation was made either by a guest or by the host (I think it was George McGovern, but there were several unfamiliar voices on the show last week) on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," a weekly radio show that riffs on current events. I've noticed more Bush-bashing than Democrat-bashing on the show, and tried to ignore it, even when it wasn't particularly witty, because I didn't listen to the show much when Clinton was in power so I couldn't judge whether they were being nicer to him than to his successor, and because Bush does make for an easy target no matter how you slice his rhetoric. I suppose I just got a bit fed up at one more insinuation that conservatives just aren't all that lucid, after all.

Seems a bit rich, coming from the folks who truck with people who believe that truth is personal--relative--before anything else, but...well, maybe I'll answer that attitude another time.

On the very radio network where this denial of visible bias was made, I sometimes catch parts of All Things Considered on my afternoon commute. For most of the first summer after I moved to where I could get NPR on the drive home and little else, they talked about the horrors of the war--dealing with casualties and ruined infrastructure in Iraq, broken veterans' bodies and families in America. For most of the second summer, they gave a pretty round introduction to the person of Barack Obama, which brings us to now.

That kind of programming content isn't liberal, is it? Surely, if it were, it would confirm the trope that reality had a liberal bias, wouldn't it?

No, not exactly; and no, it wouldn't; in that order.

Covering the tragedy of war is a fine thing. Keeping it from getting sanitized helps make us circumspect when we consider waging war. Covering nothing but tragedy, however, is not news. Nothing against human interest stories, but the majority of the stories presented covered nothing but the horrific side effects of war--the collateral damage, not the accomplishment or failure of the war's actual, you know, goals.

What about Obama? He's a relative unknown, so isn't it fitting to do a sort of expose series?

Yes, generally, but it's odd that the few allusions to his dark horse candidacy (three years ago, Illinoisians were expressing surprise at the sudden rise of their now-junior senator, who has now spent half his national career running for president) have a faintly messianic tone to them that goes largely unobserved.

I'm not saying the coverage of Obama has been unfair, either for or against him. I'm just saying that coverage of the presidential race had been largely exclusive of any candidate who didn't have a D after his name.

In journalism, that's technically called slant, so maybe saying "there's no bias" is really a half truth.

Oh, all right. They did talk about Sarah Palin for a few days after her selection, but they didn't seem happy about it.

"Wait, Ed: what about all the NPR you didn't listen to? Surely your drive home isn't that long! Or 'ATC' isn't representative of all their reporting!"

No, it's not a long drive, but do you honestly think that, over two years, I would always and only catch the current-administration-defaming segment on the program?

"Shouldn't the media take a skeptical attitude toward what they're being told?"

Yes, and I would expect them to dig for the truth, rather than assume the guys they don't like are lying and run with whatever facts corroborate that assumption. That's not skepticism. Sometimes good things happen, too, and sometimes bad things happen that don't fit our preconceptions. Question everything, including what you'd like to be true.