As the Republican National Convention gets into full swing, I want to re-post a quote that my sister sent me a few years back.
“If you cannot pluck up bad ideas by the root, or cure long-standing evils to your heart’s content, you must not therefore abandon the commonwealth. Don’t give up the ship in a storm because you cannot direct the winds. . . . You must strive to influence policy indirectly, urge your case vigorously but tactfully, and thus what you cannot turn to good, you may at least make as little bad as possible. For it is impossible to make everything good unless all men are good, and that I don’t expect to see for quite a few years yet.” – St. Thomas More
I’ve been told I am a true Southern girl now.
Yesterday afternoon (after working in the morning), I headed out to the Hanson homestead to spend as much time as possible with my friend Lori before she left forever. Well, not forever. But it seems that if the Army pays for you to go to nursing school, they expect you to give them something in return. So she’s off to Texas.
I didn’t know what we would be doing — I didn’t really care, actually. I just wanted to hang out with her. She’s pretty loved, so there were two other families over at the house doing the same thing, and it turned into a really nice afternoon.
Of shooting two-litre bottles off a sawhorse.
Welcome to Tennessee.
I was thinking I would just watch, but one of the guys insisted I should try, and it was actually pretty fun. I joked to my Mom later that I worked for the Church in the morning and shot in the afternoon. That’s supposedly what we small-town people in the Midwest are doing, right? Clinging to our guns and religion?
Then this morning after Mass, we stood and talked and she told everyone goodbye… Father O’Neill blessed her and her car… and I waited until the last possible moment… until she really had to go. We hugged, I left, and my last look at her was her driving by when I was stopped at a stoplight, waving and smiling, trying to cheer me up even until the end.
I’m really going to miss that girl. We haven’t been friends for that long, comparatively. But it doesn’t matter– she’s one of the best.
Lori is amazing and special and one-of-a-kind … and since all those words have been overused, it doesn’t seem to say anything to say she’s special and amazing and one-of-a-kind. But every once and awhile you run across someone who really IS — and you feel guilty for using those words to describe anything less. Lori’s one of those people.
One of the first things we ever did together was to grab coffee after Sunday Mass at the little coffeeshop around the corner from our parish. She and her mom had attended a conference I had been in charge of, and while I had seen her around a bit, I didn’t know who she was. We got coffee that day because she had decided she wanted to be my friend. And she told me that. Straight up. I’m going to be your friend.
The fact that someone wanted to be my friend and was making a conscious decision to do something about it was humbling and touching and sort of blew me away. And when I got to know her, I soon found out I wasn’t doing her a favor being her friend — she was the gift to me.
That’s so very “Lori,” too — informing me that she wanted to be my friend. With Lori, there’s no pretense, no masks, no guile. She’s another Nathanael. What you see is what you get. That’s really rare in people these days. There’s a beautiful vulnerability, receptivity, transparency in that.
She’s incredible. Always serving, always acknowledging the other, always ready to do what needs to be done. I don’t know how to explain it, except to say she is her “brother’s keeper.” She cares about everyone — from babies to old people and everyone in between. And she wants to make sure everyone is taken care of — whether it means everyone is fed or everyone is having a heck of a good time.
And now she’s off to another city, another community, another place that needs her. With her honesty, her love, and her total self-gift to others, she will transform the world. No one gets to know Lori and remains unchanged.
“The Church’s social teaching argues on the basis of reason and natural law, namely, on the basis of what is in accord with the nature of every human being. It recognizes that it is not the Church’s responsibility to make this teaching prevail in political life. Rather, the Church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest. Building a just social and civil order, wherein each person receives what is his or her due, is an essential task which every generation must take up anew. As a political task, this cannot be the Church’s immediate responsibility. Yet, since it is also a most important human responsibility, the Church is duty-bound to offer, through the purification of reason and through ethical formation, her own specific contribution towards understanding the requirements of justice and achieving them politically.
The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply.”
Pope Benedict, Deus Caritas Est, 28
I had a number of things planned to do tonight. Laundry, write a letter to my dear friend Anne, exercise, work on the syllabus for my Church History class.
Notice that list doesn’t include “examining hyperbolic accusations against a vice presidential nominee.”
But after completely losing my cool this morning, I decided I needed to put on “paper” my thoughts about Mark Shea’s accusations against Paul Ryan. I know others have done the same throughout the day today, and I realize I’m a little late to the party, when the party is made up of bloggers who get to write about these things between 8 and 5 and 5 and 8. So feel free to go read them instead – I plan to do so, after I do some blogging of my own.
I will try to limit my examinations and critique to the post itself, not to such things as the condescending tone that drips from Shea’s post, which seems to insinuate that those of us who like Ryan and *gasp* will vote for Romney-Ryan are either naive Pollyannas or pro-abortion Objectivists.
I. Mark Shea accuses Ryan of a “good solid lie.” That’s a pretty big deal.
So stick with me here. We have several threads to sort through. Note that I am simply using Mark’s article and the articles to which he links. I think there’s enough there to work with for now.
First, Shea’s accusation. ”Ryan starts … with a good solid lie that it is a baseless ‘urban legend‘ that Rand has been a huge influence on him.”
Ryan’s actual words: “I reject her philosophy. It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview.”
Hm. Ryan doesn’t seem to be denying that Rand had an influence on him. In fact, he admits: “I, like millions of young people in America, read Rand’s novels when I was young. I enjoyed them… They spurred an interest in economics, in the Chicago School and Milton Friedman…”
It’s clear that Rand influenced him, and nowhere in that interview do I see Ryan denying influence.
So what does it mean to be influenced? Can someone influence you without you being a “fanatical devotee”? Where do we find Ryan meriting the “fanatical devotee” label which Shea sticks on him? Because he uses Ayn Rand language? Because reading her led him to study economics? Because he likes to give her book to young economists?
The only other blogger I read on this subject brought up the fact that Kant influenced John Paul II. That led to these mornings thoughts- Does John Paul II use Kantian language? Yep. Did John Paul II acknowledge that Kant influenced his own thought and study? Yep. Who knows, might John Paul II have given Kant to a young philosophy student?
What would John Paul II say if Mark Shea labeled him as a “fanatical devotee” of Kant? He probably would say something about his rejection of Kantian philosophy. Would Mark Shea then write a blog post about how John Paul II delivered a “big solid lie” when he denied Kant’s influence?
Shea has not convinced me that Ryan is a fanatical devotee. Yes, he liked reading Atlas Shrugged in his younger days and it was the reason he entered public service. He’s not the first person I’ve known who has found some of the thoughts of that book intriguing after living in a country headed towards socialism. Yes, he uses Rand language. But if you stop to listen to him, it’s pretty ridiculous to think he sees himself as part of the elite ruling class and is waging war on the non-Bill Gates/Steve Jobs of this world. Heavens. This man sold Lunchables. The idea that he’s against the working man is as crazy as the idea that he’s going to take Medicare away from his mother.
Until you convince me that he’s a fanatical devotee, you can’t convince me that he’s lying about it.
II. Mark Shea claims Ryan really doesn’t care about Catholic social teaching.
With language such as “to give his rhetoric a veneer of Catholic respectability”, “dressing his class warfare with a few rags from Catholic social teaching to make it look nice,” and “when the Randian jargon goes and is replaced with actual Catholic social teaching” Shea paints a picture for his readers of a cafeteria Catholic using the Catholic social teaching as he pleases.
Not only is this unfair to a man whose own bishop defended his beliefs, it shows a dangerous approach to Catholic social teaching.
A colleague of mine added some respectability and sanity to my wild rant this morning by pointing out that we have to distinguish between prudential decisions and principles.
There are nuances in social teaching that must be treated deftly. We have the principles of the Church’s social teaching, and they can be applied in different ways. We can disagree on the best way to apply those principals. But there are principles which are not subject for debate. … Directly causing the death of an innocent person, for instance.
How Catholic social teaching plays out, in the policies of our nation, is something that lay Catholics can dialogue about with each other. In some cases, there is an okay solution and a good solution and a better solution and a downright awful solution. We can have a good argument about minimum wage. Leo XIII talked extensively in Rerum Novarum about giving workers a just wage. But the Church isn’t going to make a de fide statement about what minimum wage should be and how it should be implemented.
We can argue about healthcare reform, but we can never advocate abortion. We can argue about Medicare and the best solutions, but one of those solutions can’t include euthanasia.
To over-simplify the nuances of Catholic social teaching is dangerous. It is also dangerous to equate Nancy Pelosi/Margaret Sanger with Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand.
When a coworker showed me that Mark Shea did that in the comments, I lost it.
In fact, he said Sanger’s influence on Pelosi was “just like” Rand’s influence on Ryan.
I’ll copy his comment here, so you don’t have to wade through the combox:
“Claiming Augustine and Aquinas and the Catholic tradition as fig leaves in order to manipulate Catholics into supporting him while denying the immense debt he owes to an evil and dangerous human tradition by an evil and dangerous thinker is…. just like Pelosi being motivated by Margaret Sanger while ocassionally pretending to care about Aquinas and Augustine. Don’t get played.”
The acts which Sanger promotes and Pelosi advocates are intrinsically evil. While Ayn Rand’s philosophy does have intrinsically evil elements, these are not the elements which have impacted Ryan’s economics. Shea points out that Rand was pro-abortion. I suppose he simply pointed it out to try to paint a picture of the woman in 144 characters or less. Ayn Rand’s beliefs were often problematic, but because she was pro-abortion and atheist doesn’t mean Paul Ryan is.
This blog post is already so long, I’m not going to spend more time on that statement of Shea. But the fact that he tosses around words like “just like,” shows that his arguments fail to adroitly distinguish when distinction is so important.
III. Hyperbole much?
Mark loses credibility by his nasty habit towards hyperbole. His rhetoric is unnecessary and off-putting. Not only does he call Ryan a “fanatical devotee,” but he calls Ayn Rand “one of the greatest enemies of God the 20th century produced.” Seriously? Forget Hitler and Stalin and Lenin and Castro and Chairman Mao or Calles or any other number of oppressors.
He throws around phrases such as Ryan’s “sudden invocation” of St. Thomas Aquinas. Is it a “sudden invocation” because Ryan is using the saint to win votes? Or could it be that St. Thomas Aquinas never came up in an interview before? (Hard to believe, I know. A US Congressman has never been asked about a scholastic theologian? what?) Why must we assume he’s “suddenly” naming him as an influence, simply because it hasn’t come out in a published interview before? He’s a practicing Catholic. It seems that he can invoke St. Thomas as an influence a bit more naturally than Pelosi invoking Augustine to back up her ideas of ensoulment.
IV. Mark Shea abuses the responsibility he has as a blogger.
I know that bloggers are not journalists, but he owes it to his readers to write as well as possible. There are several blog posts that remain unwritten in my head because I know my account would be incomplete or lack necessary clarifications, usually because I don’t have time to research the story. And I have a minuscule amount of readers compared to Shea.
Secondly, we as Catholics have a responsibility in November. For Shea to lump Ryan in with Biden, Pelosi, and Sebellius is misleading to people who will be voting in November for the future president. The Catholic vote decides the election.
Come November, I’m assuming Shea won’t vote or he’ll write someone in. If he does that, he can’t wring his hands when this country continues its path to hell. If the greatest pro-abortion president gets reelected and is able to continue his assault on the Church and the future citizens of the USofA, I will be able to say I did something to prevent it.
If you’re waiting for a candidate that’s sinless, flawless, and agrees with you about everything, you’ll be waiting a long time. You would have rejected every past American president (and you’ll reject every future one). You would have rejected Charlemagne and Constantine and probably even St. Louis IX for some reason or another. And heck, you would have rejected David, who was divinely appointed to rule. Because everyone knows he screwed up a time or two.
There is much more I could have written, but it’s time to take back my night. I’m off to go exercise. See? It’s clear I’ve become a fanatical devotee of Paul Ryan.
I hope he’s the one to coach Mitt before debates.
of course, once again… will America bother to listen? It takes time and energy to listen to what he says. Are we willing to think? Or does America know how to think anymore?
Yesterday was my feast day, and I got a wonderful feast day present when my phone alert went off at 6:10 when Romney texted his bffs to tell us who the VP pick was.
I couldn’t believe it was true, but since I haven’t woken up yet, I suppose it is… my favorite Congressman is going to become the next Vice President of the United States.
I read an interesting article this morning on the Huffington Post. (Barf, I know.) It critiqued yesterday’s speech and suggested he is used to speaking to think-tanks and not the American people. As an example, it quoted this:
“We’re in a different and dangerous moment. We’re running out of time. And we can’t afford four more years of this,” Ryan said. “Politicians from both parties have made empty promises which will soon become broken promises with painful consequences if we fail to act now.”
The article continued: The crowd paused, then applauded lightly.
This is Ryan’s calling card: He is a wonk, and that’s part of his appeal. But over the next three months, he’ll need to take the arguments that he has made mostly to policy-minded insiders and figure out how to make his case to a much larger, far less attuned audience.
I went back and re-read the quote. Where was the inside baseball lingo or the policy-speak? What is so hard to understand about that sentence? Is it because it’s more than ten words?
Have we really come so far that we can’t understand sentences with more complexity than Dick and Jane books?
I like the fact that he’s a nerd. Or a “wonk,” as they’re calling him. I agree- it’s part of his appeal. I’m sick of politicians speaking on issues they really don’t understand. If you’re going to run a country, understand how it runs.
And Ryan’s not just a nerd- he’s an articulate nerd. Watch him.
He’s a good teacher, and heavens knows Americans need good teachers.
If he’s allowed to speak over the next few months, he will show that common sense is on his side. There’s no need to twist the facts, do backflips to try to explain this policy or that action. If he’s allowed to speak, he has the Obama-Biden ticket beat.
The Democrats should be scared. And I think they probably are. With this brilliant move, Romney has shown that this campaign should be about the economy. And now it will be. For months, we’ve focused on Julia, whoever she is. Well, Julia’s suffering all right. But it’s not because she can’t afford her contraception. It’s because she can’t afford her groceries and her gas.
Romney has chosen a fiscal conservative and a social conservative. In response to the gaffe-prone, fake-Catholic, LBJ-liberal Joe Biden, he has given us articulate, real-Catholic, young conservative Paul Ryan. It’s like asking you to pick between Maude and Alex Keaton.
The Obama campaign doesn’t want to talk about the economy because they’ve done nothing but hurt it. Instead let’s talk about gay “marriage” and free contraception. Because that’s what they’ve done for the past four years. And if we’re going to talk about the economy, well, let’s make up stories blaming Mitt Romney for things.
Now that Ryan’s on the ticket, let’s scare people into thinking Paul Ryan wants to kill Medicare.
It didn’t take them long to do that, did it? Paul Ryan, why do you hate old people?
It’s time to stop scaring people and start educating them.
I don’t want any old people living on the streets. I know they paid money into Social Security and they are expecting to get that money back. (If I ever meet anyone who really thinks they’re getting their own money back, I will have to restrain myself from hitting them over the head.) But guess what? I’m paying into Social Security, too. Will I get anything? Nope.
Not unless something’s done, at least. So let’s stop wringing our hands and start doing something.
When I’ll Have Another was scratched at the Belmont Stakes, did anyone yell and scream at his owner and trainer? I’ll Have Another could have won the Triple Crown. Odds were high in his favor. But he was injured, and instead of running their horse into the ground, they decided to take him out of the race so the horse could have a future. (maybe one of his babies will win the Triple Crown someday.)
What about all those people who bought tickets to the Belmont Stakes to see a horse win the Triple Crown for the first time since 1978? What about NBC, whose ratings most assuredly dropped? What about the people who had planned Triple Crown parties (even though they probably barely knew the difference between the KY Oaks and the KY Derby)? J. Paul Reddam, why do you hate America?
When something is injured, you don’t run it into the ground. You don’t live in the present- you look forward.
Stop scaring. Start educating.
If the Romney-Ryan ticket isn’t successful, I fear it won’t be their fault– it’ll be ours. Are we smart enough to shut up and listen? Are we willing to actually attempt to understand the issues, or are we going to be swept up by rhetoric that twists facts, manipulates emotions, and puffs us up with empty promises?