Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Political Tuesdays - Cultural Reclamation

I've never been able to stick to one topic.  Earlier in the political season I gave myself permission to take Tuesdays for political wonkery and punditry, with my own particular lighthearted satirical twist.  I return to blogging about knitting, quilting, book reviews, family events, etc. on the other days.  I figure no one has to read my blog, but I know some are interested in politics who aren't interested in needlework.  And I'm interested in the bigger political picture.  You can take the girl out of Washington (D.C.), but you can't take Washington out of the girl.

Of course, I've never been purely a political wonk.  I'd describe myself as a cultural conservative, a values voter who came of age in the days of Reagan and the Moral Majority.  I like the Republican party, even though its leaders have been curiously unable to articulate a unifying vision in recent years.  I dislike the modern Democratic party, although family history says I have to be sympathetic with those coming from the Democratic party of a generation ago, which didn't have quite the hostility toward issues of moral principle as we routinely see today.  I've saved a special measure of my political snark for Libertarians, who seem to have an idea that political decisions need to be made in a moral vacuum.  I have a problem with this way of thinking even though I agree with them on fiscal policy, and for the life of me can't understand libertarianism's appeal to many of my Christian friends.

Of course, it's not politics that is weighing down our hearts right now.  Yesterday as I watched the elementary school across the street I saw sherriff's cars making repeated stops, to reassure and provide a stable presence.  I visited my daughter's middle school to see her dance class practice; the holiday "spirit day" assembly they were to perform at postponed until January, multiple 8th-grade girls dropped out of the dance routine to cry and hug each other.  It's hard for teachers after last Friday; it's hard for parents and it's very hard for the kids.

"Moral values" in the culture are important to me not just because of my background but because of my 13-year-old daughter, the one with Down syndrome. For the present, in America, wanted children with disabilities, as long as they are allowed to be born, receive the best medical and educational interventions in the world, frequently administered by the very people who are most in favor of legalized abortion. This ethical schizophrenia works in my daughter's favor, but I don't feel I can trust it. Just today I heard of a UK politician who advocated mandatory abortions of babies with Down syndrome and other disabilities. I'm thankful for the outrage that has stopped it... so far.

The unthinkable has happened, several times over, aggravated in horrific ways and brought to our national attention in a way we can't ignore.  The economic situation may have more of a practical impact on all of our lives, but somehow no one can give full attention to the fiscal cliff negotiations.  Perhaps the most ancient taboo is matricide; add to this the slaughter of innocents, by someone not far out of childhood himself.  Is there a political solution?

Only insofar as political solutions ever address moral issues.  "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."  Check out Ben Stein's always wise remarks.  In reality, the culture wars of the 80's and 90's never went away; we just ignored the underlying moral decay because we were distracted by the shiny internet.  I'm of the opinion that gun control is a minor issue; treatment for mental illness is a better fit for this particular case - many have read the viral essay on this topic, and it resonates with us at the same time that it grieves us.  But maybe in addition to discussing mental illness, we could spare a bit of time for discussion of how to restore a culture of common decency and respect for fundamental moral values.  I'm going to go out on my preacher's kid, Christian schoolteacher limb and say yes, we should.

Someone needs to tell people not to get divorced.  How many of these crazed killers come from broken or fatherless homes?  Someone needs to tell kids not to rot their brains with constant exposure to violent video games, and parents not to let them.  Someone needs to tell rich people not to use their money to try to buy their own and their kids' happiness at the expense of ordinary human contact.  Someone needs to tell them that personal peace and affluence only goes so far or lasts so long.  Someone needs to tell them they should be going to church each Sunday, and working hard the other days at something other than a gaming console.  I have no problem saying those kinds of things.  I'm used to being ignored; I'm both a mom and a teacher.

In the recent election cycle, the Romney/Ryan ticket was criticized for wanting to return to the America of the 1950's.  That's not looking so bad to me, right now.

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