Archives For 21st century politics
Another trend that has sapped Congress’ influence is the decline of congressional expertise on foreign policy and national security. Simply put, legislators used to know more about foreign policy than they do now. Greater expertise strengthened Congress’ formal and visible role, since committees could engage in greater oversight of the executive branch. Expertise also reinforced Congress’ invisible means of constraining presidential power. Presidents had to think about how a seasoned committee chair or member would assess a policy. During his initial escalation of the Vietnam War, for example, President Lyndon Johnson was careful to maintain the support of powerful committee chairs, such as Senator J. William Fulbright, who led the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1959 to 1974. Fulbright shepherded the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution through the Senate in 1964, but two years later, his probative hearings helped shift public opinion against the war.
This survey is just the latest exhibit in a mounting case that suggests students have been presented with a warped view of the tradeoffs associated with unfettered free expression. Inclusivity is not in conflict with free speech. Whoever taught these students that these two phenomena were contradictory did them and the nation a terrible disservice.
What’s failing, exactly? I wonder if, like intel agencies pre-9/11, mass shooting threats are lumped in to a vastly broader pool, responsibility spread across many agencies federal and local, so no single force is in charge, dedicated to spotting them. Dedicated local task forces like the ones described here strike me as having a great deal of potential. We should be thinking and talking about them more.
There is, to my knowledge, no dedicated national law enforcement + criminologist group specifically looking for potential infamy shooters, for institutional holes that might impede finding them, or trying to educate local officials on warning signs. This may also offer a way to think more clearly about security reforms and the like — Not arming teachers or lightly trained, bored rent-a-cops, but increasing both random and occasionally intel-based patrols by trained police who are specifically there to deter shooters.
The alt-right is anti-Christian. Not by implication or insinuation, but by confession. Its leading thinkers flaunt their rejection of Christianity and their desire to convert believers away from it. Greg Johnson, an influential theorist with a doctorate in philosophy from Catholic University of America, argues that “Christianity is one of the main causes of white decline” and a “necessary condition of white racial suicide.” Johnson edits a website that publishes footnoted essays on topics that range from H. P. Lovecraft to Martin Heidegger, where a common feature is its subject’s criticisms of Christian doctrine. “Like acid, Christianity burns through ties of kinship and blood,” writesGregory Hood, one of the website’s most talented essayists. It is “the essential religious step in paving the way for decadent modernity and its toxic creeds.”
The temptation to dismiss the alt-right should be resisted. Like Christians in late antiquity, we ought to see ourselves through the eyes of our pagan critics and their growing ranks of online popularizers. They distort many truths, through both malice and ignorance, and lead young men into espousing views and defending authors they scarcely understand. Yet we can learn from their distortions, and in doing so show how Christian theology, whose failings have contributed to the movement’s rise, might also be its remedy.
The alt-right’s understanding of human identity is reductive, and its rejection of Christian solidarity premature. “Christianity provides an identity that is above or before racial and ethnic identity,” Richard Spencer complains. “It’s not like other religions that come out of a folk spirit.” Spencer is right that the baptismal covenant transcends our local loyalties and identities. It does not, however, eradicate them.
On Oct. 1, he predicted, Catalonia will be swept up in “a democratic tsunami,” as its streets fill with citizens casting their vote in favor of independence. Democracy, Mr. Puigdemont argued, is “to listen to citizens,” while Mr. Rajoy is doing “another thing” by threatening punishment, with the support of Spanish judges.