In yesterday's mail was an envelope from my folks, quite unexpected. It contained Xerox'ed copies of two magazine articles (how un-green of them, I know, when those same articles are easily found online and emailed!) with no commentary other than "FYI" scrawled at the top of one. I already knew what to expect. One was an article by Thomas Sowell, the other by Andrée Seu.
Needless to say, I have a number of comments about both articles. So here is my response. First, let’s look at Sowell’s self-admittedly pessimistic plea for a miracle, which begins by comparing the quality of life for modern Americans with the heroes who wintered at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War. We’ve become soft, he suggests, and he can’t understand why what keeps today’s Americans awake at night isn’t the remote and highly unlikely threat of nuclear war with Iran, but the more immediate threat of losing their job, home, health care, and pension. Further, he can’t understand these same Americans’ outrage at the gigantic bonuses paid to the very executives whose greed and recklessness led to this economic nightmare, WITH THEIR TAX MONEY! Well Dad, put it this way: just like some taxpayers (maybe you?) are outraged that the government would “redistribute” “your” money and give it to the needy (who you privately believe are not really needy, just lazy), some other taxpayers are outraged that THEIR tax money is going to handouts for the very wealthiest while they scrimp, suffer, and go without!
Just as an aside here – I wonder if Mr. Sowell realizes that abortion and sex outside of wedlock are outlawed in Iran, while they’re legal in Israel. Or that, in Islam, Jesus is revered as a prophet, whereas Judaism sees Him as merely a noted rabbi. I should tell him, just to see if he would come out with another article, this time calling on Iran to destroy Israel.
But I would say that I entirely agree that our nation is in need of a miracle, as Sowell suggests. However, I think our miracle is closer to us than it appears, and it will not come in the form of an Israeli attack on Iran, which would surely lead to an unstoppable course of worldwide destruction. Instead, I think this BBC writer gets it right — diplomacy, strengthening ties, cultivating allies, and building mutual trust and respect will get us to security and keep us there much better than going around trying to pummel everybody into submission, which we have tragically proven that we cannot do anyway, and which will only further alienate, not only our enemies, but our allies as well. The Obama administration is already taking steps to forge more positive ties with Iran, using his favorite strategy for neutralizing enemies – put them to work for you! By inviting Iran to the Afghanistan conference, he not only validates them but enlists their help where it is sorely needed in combating a maddeningly pernicious and elusive enemy. How better to soften their stance toward us and open a path toward peace?
As far as the Seu article, I'm puzzled that she would attack education, of all things, and that my stepmom, who is an educator, would agree! Furthermore, I note that according to NationMaster.com, the five countries who lead in "average years of schooling" are the USA, Norway, New Zealand, Canada, and Sweden. The five at the bottom of the list are Guinea-Bissau (where?), Mali, Niger, Mozambique, and Afghanistan. In the category "duration of compulsory education," we've got Angola, Nepal, Pakistan, Equatorial Guinea, Vietnam, Burma, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Syria all at the bottom. In "expected duration of education," the last places are occupied by Turkey, China, Jordan, Mexico, and Tunisia. And in "tertiary enrollment," you have to scroll up several screens before you find a country that could be considered at all modern, prosperous, or "Christian" — presumably the direction my folks would like to see our own country headed. So there you have it — is a widely educated populace now an evil thing? Or is it just the "requirement" that is feared? (FWIW, I don't foresee us ever implementing a national requirement for college, so this is a straw man.)
Furthermore, Ms. Seu warns that "the final stage is reached when entitlement is codified into law and implemented by the State…" Aha, so what you really object to is the government trying to provide peace and prosperity to those whom you might personally deem unworthy. "I'm all for charity, but on MY terms!" Funny thing, though — you DO fervently hope and pray that our government will act to criminalize abortion — to codify THAT "entitlement" (life for the embryo) into law, punish dissenters, yada yada yada… Pardon me, but your contradiction is showing!
Psst, Ms. Seu – I hate to be the one to break it to ya, but in the Bible, God holds governments responsible for the welfare of the downtrodden. Check out Isaiah 10:1-2, Micah 3:1-4, and Matthew 25 if you get a chance. Do we, as a country, want to be among the “goats” at the Last Judgment? No, I know that entire nations will not have to answer for their conduct then, but what about now? There are those who say America is already under judgment….
Ms. Seu then shifts into a rant about how "redistribution of wealth" would inevitably lead to a nightmarish society where everybody is basically a clone of everybody else, using a 1960's Twilight Zone episode to scare us into believing that, carried to an extreme, even our bodies and facial features would be government-mandated! Huh? Dear lady, that was fiction! Please, calm down, splash some water on your face, have a sip of tea or something — and stop scaring my folks!
Finally, Seu attacks self-esteem, or actually, the lack of it betrayed by the statement "I'm as good as you." Because in C.S. Lewis's original essay, that is exactly what he says: "No man who says I’m as good as you believes it. He would not say it if he did. The St. Bernard never says it to the toy dog, nor the scholar to the dunce, nor the employable to the bum, nor the pretty woman to the plain. The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior."
But Seu is somewhat disingenuous when she plucks out the last sentence of that essay without the preceding point: "The ultimate value, for [the devil], of any revolution, war, or famine lies in the individual anguish, treachery, hatred, rage, and despair which it may produce." Should we not then support programs and policies that decrease "anguish, treachery, hatred, rage, and despair" for as many individuals as possible?
Lewis's essay is not, in my opinion, an example of his most brilliant writing. But the scenario he paints of ineffective schools is exactly what we've got right now, in this country! And it is the precise situation that Obama plans to change, by decreasing reliance on standardized tests, for example, and rewarding excellence in teachers.
I know that when my folks send me this kind of stuff, they're doing it as a subtle criticism of the man I worked so hard to get elected. But every time I read these things, I am even gladder that I did.