My General Political Philosophy

Ethics

In gen­er­al I sup­port can­di­dates, leg­is­la­tion, and civ­il behav­iors that most close­ly meet my eth­i­cal and moral stan­dards. The dis­cern­ment process becomes pro­gres­sive­ly more refined as nec­es­sary, which, it turns out, isn’t very often. I was raised Catholic, so my moral and eth­i­cal foun­da­tions are Judeo-Chris­t­ian. Core tenets:

…Thou shalt love thy neigh­bour as thy­self. There is none oth­er com­mand­ment greater than these.
Mark 12:31

But he, will­ing to jus­ti­fy him­self, said unto Jesus, And who is my neigh­bour? And Jesus answer­ing said, A cer­tain man went down from Jerusalem to Jeri­cho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his rai­ment, and wound­ed him, and depart­ed, leav­ing him half dead. And by chance there came down a cer­tain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the oth­er side. And like­wise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the oth­er side. But a cer­tain Samar­i­tan, as he jour­neyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had com­pas­sion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pour­ing in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the mor­row when he depart­ed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and what­so­ev­er thou spend­est more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, think­est thou, was neigh­bour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mer­cy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou like­wise.
Luke 10:29–37

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Ver­i­ly I say unto you, Inas­much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Matthew 25:40

Reit­er­at­ing: Meet those stan­dards and get my sup­port. Oppose them and I’m an oppo­nent.

Reason

I sup­port can­di­dates and leg­is­la­tion that make the cor­rect moral, eth­i­cal, and rea­son­able deci­sions, even when they are dif­fi­cult. Poli­cies and posi­tions based on sci­ence, empir­i­cal research, and long-term via­bil­i­ty get my sup­port. I don’t believe in quick fix­es. Gov­ern­ment works best when it is evo­lu­tion­ary — a series of very grad­ual changes we can believe in. If a leg­is­la­tor or piece of leg­is­la­tion does not meet or impedes the progress of cor­rect moral, eth­i­cal, or ratio­nal deci­sion-mak­ing, I oppose.

Anti-incumbency, Complacency, & Overton Windows

Bar­ring dis­qual­i­fy­ing ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences, if a can­di­date or par­ty has been in office or in pow­er in an area for a long time, I’m prob­a­bly going to vote for their oppo­nent, espe­cial­ly in a pri­ma­ry. I blame this on 30 years of hear­ing the same names on the night­ly news. A Bush has been either Pres­i­dent or Vice-Pres­i­dent for 20 years of my life. Clin­tons have been in the spot­light for the same amount of time. The same names have been around in Cleve­land for as long as I’ve been here. I’m not into dynas­ties — famil­ial, eth­nic, or oth­er­wise. I thought it was hilar­i­ous that the best the Ohio Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty could come up with for Sen­ate this year was Ted Strick­land, & the best they could do for the last Gov­er­nor run was Ed Fitzger­ald. Reheat­ed, thin gru­el. Yum! ← This, by the way, is how I feel about most major can­di­dates that run for office.

I also think that the longer a can­di­date is incum­bent — the longer they have to become com­fort­able, com­pla­cent, and like­ly to ignore their con­stituen­cy. You keep a knife sharp by hon­ing it. The same prin­ci­ple applies to peo­ple. Com­fort­able peo­ple are dull. I think every incum­bent should be chal­lenged in a pri­ma­ry when up for re-elec­tion. No free pass­es.

I also vote to shift the Over­ton Win­dow clos­er toward the Judeo-Chris­t­ian eth­ic illus­trat­ed above.

Hoosier Libertarianism

I don’t want leg­is­la­tors or leg­is­la­tion to dic­tate to me or oth­ers how and in what way our pri­vate, per­son­al busi­ness is han­dled. All y’all deserve the pro­tec­tions enu­mer­at­ed in our con­sti­tu­tion. And by all y’all I mean all y’all.

Whatever Remains

I real­ize that this descrip­tion of my polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy isn’t nailed down to the last shin­gle, but I don’t think it needs to be. That ortho­doxy results in the polit­i­cal cli­mate we cur­rent­ly loathe. When there were grey areas to be had in a pol­i­tics, I wel­comed the chance to dis­cuss them, learn, and pos­si­bly have my mind changed. Those days seem to be long past, and not return­ing any time soon.

Lauds

This morning, my dog and I caught God
trying to sneak through the city like
a man skipping Mass in search of a drink.

He still filled the sky and his steps were
like the echoes of an empty hallway.
My dog just wagged her tail but I

shouted at him:
I SEE YOU, OLD AFRAID MAN!
He didn’t turn, just created a dirty rabbit

which he threw over-shoulder at my dog. 
I don’t know if my dog or the rabbit was
more surprised. The rabbit dissipated 

using natural rabbit-magic, and when I
looked, so had God. The city whispered
an antiphon: Kýrie, eléison.

Love and Fear

Some­times when my son hugs me, I feel com­plete­ly hum­bled and unde­serv­ing of the love he shares with me. My love for him pours out in an unstop­pable and unend­ing tor­rent; it is easy to love him because it is invol­un­tary. My love for him is so con­sum­ing that I don’t have the spare neu­rons to expect any­thing back. So, when it comes back in the shape of his smile, its like get­ting the wind knocked out of you — it is bewil­der­ing, ter­ri­fy­ing. So, when Chris­tians talk about liv­ing in fear of the Lord, I imag­ine it’s a fear engen­dered by being over­whelmed by a love you don’t under­stand.

Love can make you hum­ble when you receive it, but it can also make you hum­ble when you give it. Some­times you give, and some­times it gets pulled from you. You can­not con­trol it, you are over­awed by it, you fear look­ing at your face, fear your lips, fear your hands because you’re not sure what they’ll do. Fear that the love will cause itself harm, or harm to those it is intend­ed for, or that it might not be received at all.

But this ter­ror noth­ing com­pared to when your love is received and then giv­en back to you. Love is hon­or­ing some­one more than your­self, it liv­ing for some­one or some­thing else, some­thing beyond you. It’s not real­ly sur­pris­ing then, that, when the per­son you love also loves you, that the acknowl­edge­ment and recep­tion of that affec­tion is con­found­ing. How could I, who am con­vinced that this per­son is more impor­tant to me than my own being, com­pre­hend that they might feel a sim­i­lar way about me. How could I be wor­thy?

That must be like stand­ing inside a bell as it is rung. For what could sus­tain love bet­ter than receiv­ing it back, ampli­fied, from the one you give it to?

Quote from Helioscope

The agnos­tics con­tend that pain has evolved blind­ly as a means of caus­ing us to avoid injury. There are two things that might be said about the the­o­ry: the first is that a few moments’ thought will pro­duce half a dozen bet­ter ways of achiev­ing the same objec­tive (one of them is intel­li­gence — but the more intel­li­gent the organ­ism, the more pain it is capa­ble of feel­ing). The sec­ond is that by and large it does not work — human beings jump their motor­cy­cles over the foun­tain at Caesar’s Palace; dogs chase cars.

What pain does do is act as a moti­va­tor in all sorts of less than obvi­ous ways. It is respon­si­ble for com­pas­sion and the hot foot; it makes peo­ple who do not believe God would per­mit it think about God. It has been remarked thou­sands of times that Christ died under tor­ture. Many of us have read so often that he was a “hum­ble car­pen­ter” that we feel a lit­tle surge on nau­sea on see­ing the words yet again. But no one ever seems to notice that the instru­ments of tor­ture were wood, nails, and a ham­mer; that the man who ham­mered in the nails was as much a car­pen­ter as a sol­dier, as much a car­pen­ter as a tor­tur­er. Very few seem even to have noticed that although Christ was a “hum­ble car­pen­ter,” the only object we are specif­i­cal­ly told he made was not a table, or a chair, but a whip.

Cas­tle of Days; Helio­scope by Gene Wolfe pp 218–219

Ignorance & Agnosticism

There isn’t a lot of dif­fer­ence between the root mean­ings of igno­rant and agnos­tic; but there is a vast dif­fer­ence in their mod­ern con­no­ta­tions. Igno­rance is essen­tial­ly the result of hold­ing a point of view due to lack of facts or a rea­son­able thought process. For the most part, it is a pas­sive sit­u­a­tion. We are, by nature, igno­rant. At some point in our devel­op­ment as peo­ple, we reach a place where we have a choice to remain igno­rant or to edu­cate our­selves on a giv­en top­ic. Since edu­ca­tion is always a dif­fi­cult task, it’s often eas­i­er to remain igno­rant, and mask that igno­rance by accept­ing what­ev­er posi­tion appeals most unique­ly to our­selves and then sound­ing author­i­ta­tive about it.

Agnos­ti­cism is a bit of a dif­fer­ent beast. I can see two ways of defin­ing agnos­ti­cism, but they both have the same result. The first angle is the result of hav­ing plen­ty of facts about a cer­tain top­ic, but when apply­ing rea­son to those facts, there is insuf­fi­cient evi­dence to meet the stan­dards of rea­son set by the mind try­ing to make that judg­ment call. The result is absten­tion from mak­ing a deci­sion. The sec­ond angle is a bit broad­er in its appli­ca­tion and effects. It prob­a­bly shouldn’t even be called agnos­ti­cism, but I can’t think of anoth­er word that fits. It is a gen­er­al prin­ci­ple of which any fact-gath­er­ing and sub­se­quent deci­sion is a spe­cif­ic case.

What I’m try­ing to say is that once some­one has cho­sen to edu­cate them­selves, and if they do so agnos­ti­cal­ly (gath­er­ing facts but mak­ing no judg­ment), at some point it is pos­si­ble to be agnos­tic about any top­ic on which you are igno­rant. Once you’ve come to the con­clu­sion that you’re agnos­tic about a few things, you can start to assume agnos­ti­cism about any top­ic instead of igno­rance.

Here’s a spe­cif­ic case:

I went to the shoot­ing range with some cowork­ers today. I hadn’t used a firearm in over 20 years, and through­out my life those clos­est to me have had igno­rant views regard­ing firearms. Guns are bad, full stop. I could have cho­sen to accept that for a vari­ety of rea­sons, but my knowl­edge didn’t meet the stan­dard for me to make that deci­sion. So, I remained agnos­tic about guns. I need­ed more infor­ma­tion, so I went to the shoot­ing range with my cowork­ers and learned more. I’m still agnos­tic right now, or rather, I still haven’t ful­ly thought through my feel­ings on the mat­ter.

By rec­og­niz­ing my igno­rance, I was able to turn it into agnos­ti­cism. I will make no judg­ment until I feel that I know enough to do so.

Agnos­ti­cism is basi­cal­ly the stance of open-mind­ed­ness. It is capa­ble of see­ing both sides and none, is sym­pa­thet­ic, empa­thet­ic and the inher­ent­ly most respect­ful posi­tion to take on a top­ic where one is not an expert. It is hard to be an agnos­tic though; espe­cial­ly in regards to reli­gion. You get caught between the mys­tics (like myself and oth­er believ­ers) and the skep­tics. So it goes for reli­gion, and so it goes for any oth­er top­ic.

Fideli­ty to your own stan­dard of truth is hard to hold on to when you’re a big hair­less mon­key that like to con­vince and be con­vinced with all the oth­er hair­less mon­keys in your world.

For All Is Vanity

I said in mine heart con­cern­ing the estate of the sons of men, that God might man­i­fest them, and that they might see that they them­selves are beasts. For that which befal­l­eth the sons of men befal­l­eth beasts; even one thing befal­l­eth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the oth­er; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no pre­em­i­nence above a beast: for all is van­i­ty. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spir­it of man that goeth upward, and the spir­it of the beast that goeth down­ward to the earth? Where­fore I per­ceive that there is noth­ing bet­ter, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his por­tion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?”

Eccle­si­astes 3:18–22, Holy Bible, King James Ver­sion

Hui Neng — The Mind That Moves

Hui Neng was an illit­er­ate peas­ant who had expe­ri­enced a sud­den awak­en­ing upon hear­ing the Lotus Sutra recit­ed aloud, and went to join the monastery of the Fifth Patri­arch of Zen. The Patri­arch rec­og­nized that Hui Neng was in the process of awak­en­ing, but rather than open­ly acknowl­edge this he assigned him to care for the pigs on the out­skirts of the monastery to pro­tect him from the aca­d­e­m­ic and spir­i­tu­al cor­rup­tions of the oth­er monks.

How­ev­er, one day as Hui Neng was going about his work he heard two monks near­by engag­ing in a clas­sic argu­ment about spir­i­tu­al real­i­ty. They were watch­ing the large monastery flag wav­ing in the wind, and one monk was argu­ing that it was the flag that was mov­ing, while the oth­er argued that it was the wind that was mov­ing. These two argu­ments cor­re­spond to clas­sic spir­i­tu­al view­points about the nature of real­i­ty, and while lis­ten­ing to the learned monks argue, Hui Neng could not hold back. He inter­rupt­ed them and told them, “It is nei­ther the flag that moves, nor the wind that moves. It is your mind that moves”.

The two monks were silenced, and Hui Neng went about his work tend­ing to the pigs.