aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Andrew Sullivan spells it out in an extraordinary review of Dinesh D’Souza’s The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11 (no link, Google it if you’re so inclined) in the New Republic:
This is the central argument of D’Souza’s book: that cultural globalization is the last chance for theoconservatism in its death match with liberal modernity. If a majority of Americans do not support a system of government resting on an external and divine moral order, then the obvious next move is to enlist the billions of fundamentalist believers in the developing world to forge a global alliance. If you combine the premodern patriarchs among the Christians of Africa and Asia and the Muslims of the Middle East and pit them against the degenerate, declining individualists in the West, a global theoconservative victory is possible.
That is D’Souza’s vision, and he is not shy about it. The test case for this strategy can be seen most graphically in the Anglican Church. Theoconservative Episcopalians in Northern Virginia have sought protection under a Nigerian prelate who believes that even speech about homosexuality should be criminalized. If theoconservatism cannot work as a govern- ing majority in the First World, then it is time to forge an alliance between half of America with the Third World.
One has to admire at least the frankness with which this secessionist strategy for conservatism is laid out. “How can we use the war on terror to win the culture war?” D’Souza asks in a final chapter called “Battle Plan for the Right.” Notice here that defeating the forces of Islamist terror is merely instrumental to the deeper struggle to defeat modern individualism and autonomy. The idea of a common American commitment to the Constitution’s guarantees of individual freedom and autonomy is secondary to the global battle for the “external moral order.” Loyalty is not to country, but to a worldwide theoconservative ideology. Like the Marxists of old, the theoconservatives see their movement increasingly as global, resting on eternal truths, and not compatible with the “liberal morality” of their autonomous bourgeois fellow Westerners. [...]
Just to be clear: D’Souza is arguing that a democracy under divine authority and subject to theological truth is “a perfect expression of the conservative understanding of American democracy.” Why should we be surprised that he wants an alliance with theocratic autocracies in the devel- oping world? In D’Souza’s eyes, both the American Constitution and traditional Islam have a common foe. “Secularism is the common enemy,” D’Souza quotes a Muslim scholar as saying. “Men and women in the West who are still devoted to the life of faith should know that those closest to them in this world are Muslims.” In a spectacular attempt to prove he means exactly this, D’Souza throws into the mix an excoriation of Turkey as excessively secular. AtatÃƒÂ¼rk’s “militant secularization of Turkey is being reversed,” D’Souza notes, “and on balance it is a good thing. Muslims have the right to live in Islamic states under Muslim law if they wish.”
D’Souza is rehearsing the mainstream view of the religious right with respect to the notion of separating church and state. They oppose it, and so does he. But with what a twist! Where he differs from the religious right is in his willingness to find the proper political authority, the proper models of political virtue, in Islam. Islam and Christianity together: that is D’Souza’s dream. He does not seem especially interested in God. He writes nothing about his own faith, whatever it is. His interest is not in the metaphysics or the mysteries of religion, but in the uses of religion for social control. (Somewhere Machiavelli is smiling.) In the goal of maintaining patriarchy, banning divorce, outlawing homosexuality, and policing blasphemy, any orthodoxy will do.
What about that subtitle?
D’Souza does not believe that the cultural left “helped 9/11 happen.” He believes that the cultural left made 9/11 happen. D’Souza, again, never speaks of God or his own faith in this book: his causality includes nothing supernatural. In his view, the cultural left “actively fostered” the murder of three thousand Westerners without any indirect assistance from the Almighty. In his words: “Thus when leading figures on the left say, We made them do this to us,’ in a sense they are correct. They are not correct that America is to blame. But their statement is true in that their actions and their America are responsible for fostering Islamic anti-Americanism in general and 9/11 in particular.”
The fight is to get to vote on animal welfare
In my work as an environmental lawyer, I’ve toured a dozen hog confinement operations and seen hundreds from the outside. My task was to evaluate their polluting potential, which was considerable. But what haunted me was the miserable creatures inside.
They were crowded into pens and cages, never allowed outdoors, and never even provided a soft place to lie down. Their tails had been cut off without anesthetic. Regardless of how well the operations are managed, the pigs subsist in inherently hostile settings. (Disclosure: my husband founded a network of farms that raise pigs using traditional, non-confinement methods.)
The stress, crowding and contamination inside confinement buildings foster disease, especially respiratory illnesses. In addition to toxic fumes, bacteria, yeast and molds have been recorded in swine buildings at a level more than 1,000 times higher than in normal air. To prevent disease outbreaks (and to stimulate faster growth), the hog industry adds more than 10 million pounds of antibiotics to its feed, the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates. This mountain of drugs - a staggering three times more than all antibiotics used to treat human illnesses - is a grim yardstick of the wretchedness of these facilities.
There are other reasons that merely phasing out gestation crates does not go nearly far enough. Keeping animals in such barren environments is a serious deprivation. Pigs in nature are active, curious creatures that typically spend 10 hours a day foraging, rooting and roaming.
Veterinarians consider pigs as smart as dogs. Imagine keeping a dog in a tight cage or crowded pen day after day with absolutely nothing to chew on, play with or otherwise occupy its mind. Americans would universally denounce that as inhumane.
In a passage reminiscent of Michael Pollan’s call for glass walls in slaughterhouses, she points out that all of this takes place far from cities in buildings with no windows. She says that 81 percent of respondents to a 2004 survey by Ohio State University think the well-being of livestock is as important as that of pets.
When given the option, Americans vote for humane treatment for farm animals. We can only vote on what’s on the ballot; that’s the battle we have to fight.
A reaction to Pace
Now Pace says his comments were just his “personal moral views” and “personal opinions.” Well, ye-ah! Meanwhile, in my rushed reaction to Joint Chiefs’ Chairman General Peter Pace’s comments yesterday, I missed this:
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., one of Congress’ most respected authorities on military matters and a former Navy secretary, said, “I respectfully but strongly disagree with the chairman’s view that homosexuality is immoral.”
Via Stephen H. Miller, “the threshold of anti-gay bigotry is much lower these days, even among Republicans (see Coulter, Ann, response to), suggesting that the gay ban is unlikely to survive the post-Bush presidency, whichever party takes the White House.”
Ubuntu Media Players
I’m falling behind in my efforts to get an old laptop up and going running Ubuntu. The goal is to get up to speed enough that by next year I am no longer using Quicken. I’ve been using Quicken since 1988 and have grown to despise the company, most notably for its sunset policy. The plan is to be and running on GnuCash by January 1. None too ambitious that.
I’m watching for the promised Ubuntu Studio optimized for multimedia creation and due out in April. Today I spotted a handy list of media players available for Ubuntu Linux with detailed install instructions.