In these divisive days, I’m drawn to the U.S. Civil War. Not only are its monuments a matter of debate, but something about that quintessential national division is cathartic to the sense of animosity and alienation that plague me every time I scroll through my newsfeed. Recent events like those in Charlottesville echo many of the motifs that played out in the Civil War, reminding us once again that our history is never entirely buried in the past. As in the days of Lincoln, the United States is in a moment of (re)definition, something David Brooks has referred to as an “national identity crisis.” Although the current crisis is not necessarily about federalism, states’ rights, and slavery, it certainly implicates race relations and the role of the government in legislating morality, and ultimately boils down to what it means to be American. The current contestation and negotiation of these questions may not culminate in war, but the battle lines are being drawn—gay marriage, abortion, immigration, health care, welfare—our own ideological Mason-Dixon lines.
I have turned to the Civil War to learn what I can about a divided America, and its ultimately victorious refusal to remain divided. Continue reading →
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By now we ought to know that below cliche is often the deepest sincerity. And that below what can only be called “non-cliche,” by which I mean words and deeds of originality, is often the fumbling of the insincere.
This was made evident to me once again after the Las Vegas shooting. Throughout my social media channels I came across a common and cliche response which read, “sending thoughts and prayers.” The next day I encountered several reactions to these responses which criticized them for their seemingly trivial and laissez-faire approach to a tragedy which took over 50 lives. Continue reading →
I am perfectly comfortable with being thought wrong by those who think gay marriage a huge moral victory. But they do not seem to be OK with me thinking them wrong. Why is this?
There is a serious imbalance in the way our culture views its own culture wars. Those who promotes traditional sexual morality, including the prohibition against sexual relations outside of dual-gendered marriage, are criticized for promoting ideologies that are hurtful and insensitive towards LGBT and other non-conforming persons. Those who promote the “new sexual morality” (really more of a sexual amorality) are praised for granting those who were previously considered sexual deviants the respect they deserve.
So far so good. I have no problem with the proponent of traditional morality being criticized in this way. I have no problem with the proponent of the new [a]morality being praised in this way either. My problem–and the “serious imbalance” to which I referred–is that I have never heard anybody criticize the proponent of the new morality for promoting an ideology that is hurtful and insensitive towards the nonconforming tradition, and I have never heard anybody praise the proponent of traditional morality for granting tradition and its proponents the respect they deserve. Continue reading →
In the past, when any one of us draft an essay, we ask for comments and revisions from the other Brothers Sabey. We want to continue that–but we thought, in the spirit of vulnerability and in the interest of getting more feedback, that we would try an experiment. We will now be posting links to draft versions of the document for the other brothers and for anyone else to provide suggestions for revision or other feedback. Hopefully, some of you will read and comment and then get to see the improved version at the end. At the least, hopefully it will create some excitement about upcoming posts.
To launch this experiment, I’m including below a link to my next essay, which I have (so far) entitled The Culture War: Why Sexual Whateverism Hurts Me As Much And In The Same Way As Traditional Sexual Morality Hurts Them.
It’s about this time of year that all the undeclared students start setting up academic counseling appointments to help them make that inevitable decision. I am not a counselor but, as an English major, I have had several occasions to attempt to persuade my peers, friends, and acquaintances to pursue a humanities degree. There are many reasons I give for the benefit of these degrees but I am becoming increasingly convinced that the reason I most often give will probably not pan out. Continue reading →
Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites . . . . It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.
–Edmund Burke, Letter to a Member of the National Assembly
I have written several essays critiquing contemporary liberal values such as equality, tolerance, and diversity. This adds to the number.
Autonomy too is a poor ideal to live by. It fails in roughly the same way as “equality,” which is incoherent if it means anything other than the semi-tautological and completely unhelpful proposition that we should “treat likes alike,” as I have argued elsewhere, though it is taken to mean much more, to the confusion of our political discourse. In the same way, there is a huge gap between the proper philosophical definition of “autonomy” and its popular meaning. “Autonomy” can mean mere unconstrainedness (lawless liberty, which is the popular meaning) or conscientiousness (following the law generated by one’s own conscience, the proper philosophical definition). Continue reading →