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America’s Squishy Soul and Obama’s Re-Election, pt 1

Like belly-buttons and cell phones, seems everyone has an opinion about Republicans’ 2012 election day drubbing. The  most pervasive diagnosis: a demographic (African-American, Latino, woman) tidal wave swallowed up the GOP candidates. Talk-host Michael Medved begs to differ, insisting it was the Democrats’ saber-toothed negative ads which neutered the opposition. Social Conservatives? They wag the finger at the “stupid party’s” “economy-only” strategy: neglecting abortion, gay marriage and other hot-potato, “moral” issues. 

The brain cramps at the point/counterpoint. But whichever theory outs, there are broader societal developments, meta-trends that reach far beyond a single political contest, which are hobbling contemporary conservatism’s (and thus Republican) advancement — particularly in the last several election cycles. 

American Culture frowns on tough decision making.

Spanking obstreperous kids? Taking a job that helps pay the bills but is “unfulfilling”? Saying “no” to something one wants but can’t afford? In these and so many other cases, increasing numbers of Americans simply conclude, “Ewwwww” — and change the subject. 

Modern western culture avoids, sometimes explicitly  denounces,  almost any action that makes demands, that diminishes pleasure — even self-evidently necessary actions. In matters macro and micro, it encourages a flabby approach to life . So, a bunch of  Gen Xers and their offspring can’t bring themselves to put down the TV remote or turn off the X-box or take a texting pause. Then, confronted with a suggestion they spend more time bulking up their minds or learning a trade? They freeze up. Think deer and headlights.

That demographic – surprise! — congeals into a majority which can’t/won’t insist elected officials do something about scandalous, government-powered, deficit-bloating entitlement spending. Or that folks who can work, but won’t, be unambiguously disconnected from the tax-payer funded life-line. Or that the United States pays whatever, perhaps decades-spanning, price it must to vanquish shariah-spouting, jihadist-jamming barbarians (who, by the way, are positively frenzied in their willingness to make whatever hard choices they must to break America.) 

A flaccid culture begets flaccid souls which become flaccid voters — when they bestir themselves to vote at all, that is. 

A corollary of the above point: 

American Culture discourages making crucial distinctions.  

Y’know, “discriminate” used to be a perfectly serviceable word, but like “gay” and “queer” it’s been hijacked and its legitimate, original meaning browbeatingly retired from popular use. To discriminate simply means to make distinctions, to acknowledge differences, to define. A “discriminating chef” can tell the difference between a really exquisite dish and slop from the all-you-can-eat buffet. 

Over the past generation, however, commendable condemnation of “racial discrimination”, i.e., skin color or ethnic bigotry, has unintentionally but unrelentingly rendered  impermissible any alternative uses of the “D” word whatsoever. And: Voilà! Mobs of US residents, now unable even to employ the word “discriminate”, progressively go AWOL in its application. Making distinctions about vitally meaningful stuff? A vanishing practice.

Can a successful person who is a heartfelt fan of “compassion” still challenge impoverished people to behave responsibly? 

Can a male who regrets his gender’s historic disrespect for the ladies still call-out incompetent or disreputable members of that fairer sex? 

Can an elected official who deplores our globe-trotting military’s nation-building also unleash the dogs of war when United States’ security is authentically threatened? 

Time was a “discriminating” American public would have managed, no sweat, those kinds of fine-tuned, intellectual drawing-of-lines. But no longer. 

One of my favorite films, one of the greatest of all time, is 1953’s Shane. Alan Ladd in the title role portrays a melancholy, former gun-fighter. Remorseful over the murderous misdeeds of his past, he’s trying for a quieter life among a community of decent, Wyoming settlers. Despite the provocations of the plot’s sinister cattle -baron, through most of the movie Shane manfully resists returning to violence. When the people he has come to love face potentially lethal peril, however, he once again takes up his six-shooter.

The retired gun-hand could discriminate, you see – between elective, pride-or-anger-fueled physical force and honorable defense of the helpless; between criminal blood-letting and a specific and justified, if brutal, answer to mortal danger. Shane discerned the differences and responded appropriately.

Meanwhile in Obama-era America, a thirty year old Georgetown Law student took center stage last spring demanding cost-free, lifelong contraception; in the process disclosing herself to be a dunderheaded trollop. A few of us noticed and said as much;  Rush Limbaugh tagged her with a harsh — but arguably accurate — label.

Well, the caterwauling from the elitist-Left was downright cosmic.

Don’t you know all men are repressive, abusive, narrow-minded clods? And all women angelic, caring, far-sighted  sages? Always been thus; always will be; no need to cogitate too closely on that topic.  

How’s about Chicago congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.? He’s been struggling with bi-polar disorder for months now, twice-hospitalized and unable to punch the clock in any way since early last summer. Then there are adultery charges and ongoing questions about his misuse of campaign funds.

Yet, “compassionate” Windy-Citiers, many of them doubtless racked with unyielding guilt over – or embittered by — America’s sordid slave-trading past, Jim Crow, awful 20th-century racism; or perhaps advocates for the mentally handicapped; or perhaps all of the above, returned the incapacitated African-American to his congressional berth last week. That’s what “compassion” would require, right?

Not for citizens who’ve developed a capacity for showing kindness toward hurting people while also reiterating personal hardship doesn’t absolve them from all their duties. Not for citizens who bother making distinctions.

Yet, an electorate marinating in today’s squishy, touchy-feel zeitgeist threw the lever on another term for 2012’s squishy, touchy-feel presidential candidate. Is it any wonder?

To be continued …

Lower Image: Screenshot of Alan Ladd from the trailer for the film Shane; Date: 1953; public domain.

Steve Pauwels

Steve Pauwels is pastor of Church of the King, Londonderry, NH and host of Striker Radio with Steve Pauwels on the Red State Talk Radio Network. He's also husband to the lovely Maureen and proud father of three fine sons: Mike, Sam and Jake.