Tuesday, December 18, 2007

You've got the brain of a four-year-old boy, and I'll bet he was glad to get rid of it.

Meanwhile, on the Mike Huckabee front, David Corn quotes this really weird Huckabee passage from his book Kids Who Kill:

It is now difficult to keep track of the vast array of publicly endorsed and institutionally supported aberrations—from homosexuality and pedophilia to sadomasochism and necrophilia.
Andrew Sullivan states the obvious here: that passage is completely insane. What public institution has ever supported necrophilia? In what world is it publicly supported? And pedophilia? What in the world could he be talking about? What's even more disturbing is the sense you get that the surge of support for Huckabee comes from strange, repressed, uneducated people whose imaginations rival the Marquis de Sade and who think that Huckabee really understands them. He's one of them, protecting society from necrophilia and state mandated pedophilia.

I should make it clear that, while I mock right-wingers quite a lot here, it's with as much pathos as anything else I make fun of. It's downright depressing to watch American conservatism sink into this pathetic morass of anti-intellectualism and irrationality. It reminds me of what happened to "the left" in the 70s, when every other book talks about how we'll "finally be free" when we destroy the family or stop having heterosexual sex. There's an unwillingness to compromise with anything, least of all logic or rationality, in the quest for ideological purity at work here that reminds me of an encounter movement. Connect with your inner Huckabee!

My friend David, who actually is a radical and probably an anarchist, believes that everyone is a conservative in some area of their lives. For him, it's religion. For me, I would say it should be clear by now that my views on education are extremely "traditional', if not basically conservative. Moreover, I feel the decline in the arts and culture over the last three decades like a melodramatic, ridiculous psychic wound, the same way some people bleed over Christ's crucifixion. I imagine that I would have been a dandy 100 years ago, and am probably approaching one now.

On the other hand, unlike many cultural conservatives, I actually like culture. A good film or record still excites me, although they seem to be relatively scarce these days. I love the strange and exotic, and I feel the cold grip of nostalgia tightening like a noose whenever I read cultural conservatives like Roger Kimball. Unlike them, I admire much of the writing and music of the 60s, that dreaded decade, and would much rather listen to Allen Ginsberg masturbating over William Blake than Allan Bloom grousing about how nothing has ever been the same as Plato. Unlike them, I believe that Western culture would have been impossible without homosexuality or drug abuse. Most importantly, unlike cultural conservatives like Philip Rieff, I fully expect a cultural renaissance to occur in my lifetime.

Moreover, I recognize that the political left and the political right are both right about some things and wrong about many others. I don't think the left has ever figured out a solution to the problem of widespread poverty; but at least they recognize it as a social problem. I don't think the right has ever understood why cultural standards have declined; but at least they recognize cultural problems. When it comes to terrorism, the left makes me uncomfortable with their weird inability to recognize the existence of psychopathology, while the right makes me uncomfortable with their righteous crusader mentality. In many areas, I'd guess most political movements are about 25% right, and 75% wrong. But they balance each other out through an open conversation, whether or not such a thing exists any longer.

I think what bothers me about Mike Huckabee is that I'd like to see a viable conservatism continue to exist in this country, in balance with a viable liberalism. My idea of "conservatism" might be closer to Edmund Burke than George Will, but I recognize the value of ideas like restraint, preservation, and a basic humility about what we, as human beings, can achieve on earth. I think of these ideas as conservative ones.

But Mike Huckabee reflects none of these values whatsoever. And there's something disconcerting about the fact that "conservatives" in America keep selecting people like George Bush or Rudy Guiliani who exhibit no restraint, humility, or sober-mindedness. Huckabee appeals to a sort of Christian nationalism that would have repulsed Burke, a willingness to justify any means so long as "good Christian men" are the ends. That's not saying he believes in this; but I think his supporters do, and in that sense, they believe he "gets" them.

Don't get me wrong: I think Mike Huckabee will lose. But I'd much rather see the Republicans run someone like John McCain or Ron Paul, who appear to have decency and a modicum of intelligence, than their religious icon du jour.

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