Sunday, February 19, 2006

Whad'ya Know?

Had a moment today as I was running around doing errands. It was a busy Saturday. I had a special class in hsing i, then had to go tear the carpet out of the new house (closed yesterday, moving in two weeks). Anyhoo, I went to Home Depot to pick up some additional supplies, "accidentally" wandered into CompUSA and wound up with a copy of Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood in my hands as I walked out, and I drove back to finish up some work at the new place.

I sometimes get tired of listening to the same play lists on the three Christian radio stations I have programmed in my stereo, so I switched briefly to NPR to see if Prarie Home Companion was on yet. Whad'ya Know? was still on. If you haven't heard this show, it begins when the host says, "Whad'ya know?"

The audience responds, "Not much, you?" Noting that customary exchange, I really shouldn't have been too surprised by what transpired. I listened long enough to hear a woman comment that when "Bill Clinton was president, nobody died."

If I had been drinking something, it would've sprayed instantly out of my nose, covered the dash and windshield, and likely caused a bit of a commotion (as I would've been swerving into on coming traffic and trying to find my way to a box of tissue somewhere).

Thank God I wasn't working on my computer!

I think that might've been one of the most ludicrous over-generalizations I've ever heard in my life. It used to be, "When Clinton lied, no one died." Okay, simple enough. His lie about his activities with a woman who was not his wife didn't have dramatic repercussions that caused people to die. His actions might've had other dire consequences, but it's likely they did not result in people's deaths.

So that's now evolved to "When Bill Clinton was president, no one died." Oh really?

Okay, so let's dismiss the patent silliness of the idea that for eight years no one on earth passed away. We "know" that's not what the caller meant. Surely she couldn't have been that daft.

So no one died in

- Somalia in 1992 to 1995?

- In Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995 and later?

- In Operation Infinite Reach (Strikes on Sudan and Afghanistan) in 1998?

- In Kosovo in 1999?

Clearly, people did die—innocent people even. This is just how "facts" evolve in the world-wide rumor mill. As a Catholic, I'm quite familiar with how it works. First, someone writes a book about, say, the Spanish Inquisition. That phrase is too cumbersome, so people reduce it to "the Inquisition." All of the evils of the former become attached to an office of the Church responsible for various inquisitions, and we have a much bigger "Inquisition." Or a crusade, which we all acknowledge were awful horrible imperial incursions into the Middle East by the Roman Catholic Church... until we understand that Muslims invaded and conquered Christian territories first.

These days, we have Dan Brown and the whole New-Age Gnostic movement. Suddenly, Albino Opus-Dei monks lurk behind every corner. (Wait, scratch that—Jesuit agents. I don't want to get Jack Chick on my case.)

A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth.

I used to be a liberal. Parenthood, reversion to the faith of my childhood, and some professional success cured me of it (the first two more than the last). Now that I've been clean and sober (so to speak) for a few years, I'm struck by a few things regarding the voices I hear on the left:

- For all the claims liberals make to being enlightened, they seem to dispense with reason with alarming frequency. The case above is a prime example.

- For all the complaints about dialogue by sound byte, they seem far too willing to engage in such reductive debates (for example, the so-called right to choose).

- For all the claims to tolerance and compassion, they seem to be more willing to dispense with both when confronted with someone (or some group) they don't like.

I like the old liberalism—the idea that one should listen to new ideas and be willing to reform institutions that need reform; the respect for liberal education and its deep approach to method rather than a superficial approach to immediate concerns; the affirmation of equality in human dignity as opposed to sameness.

When I listen to the voices on the left these days, I have to wonder under what delusions I was operating when I gave them creedence?
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