Sunday, September 09, 2007

Distorted Calvinism and America's Predicament

Morning's Minion has a great post up at Vox Nova, where he explores some of the theological underpinnings of American arrogance. Read the whole thing: here's an excerpt:

It ultimately derives from a derivative form of Calvinism whereby the world can be divided into good and evil, the elect and the damned. From its earliest days, America has seen itself as God’s chosen nation, the idea of the Calvinist elect projected onto a country. The role model, of course, was ancient Israel. The early settlers were the “elect”, chosen by God to be saved through no action of their own. And America was their country. This concept resonates deeply among the American evangelical culture today. There was much outcry over Jerry Falwell’s comments after 9/11, when he was accused of blaming abortion, gays etc. for the catastrophe. But what Falwell really said was that God had withdrawn his shroud of protection from America. That presupposes that God was protecting America in a way that other countries could not access.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Two things to make America more just

I'm for de-regulating the border - no more fences, certainly no walls, no patrolling the border (or, let's say, assigning the same number of agents to the Mexican border as the Canadian border).

Make the new rule: "Anyone who wants to come to the United States and be a citizen, can do so." Just live here for 5 years, keep your nose clean and work - don't be a burden on society - and the folks at the INS will swear you in, and congratulate you on becoming a citizen. The Immigration and Naturalization Service's new mission will be solely to Serve the needs of people who want to Immigrate and become Naturalized, absurd as that may sound. Put up signs at the border that say:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

If America is to be a beacon of hope, a place where people can renew themselves and their prospects, then it must act as a beacon of hope.

I think this will spur countries south of the border to reform their systems in order to keep their populations from emigrating en mass. It would renew American life, leavening it with new energy, hybridize its culture for the better, in the same way that African Americans gave our culture the gifts of Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Soul and so on.

Also, it would be just.

Quick story: When I was in the Army and stationed in El Paso, Texas, I took a walk one day to a suburb in the southwestern corner of the city. There, I saw a view I will never forget: I looked through someone's side yard, over their back yard swimming pool, and saw, maybe a mile away, Mexicans living on the opposite slope of the Rio Grande valley, in shacks and cinderblock houses, no electricity, no sewage system...and it occured to me how strange it was. Only a mile or so separated American opulence and Mexican poverty, and all because some people had decided that there was a notional thing called a "border" between the two places. It gave me a distinct feeling of metaphysical dread: here was glaring, concrete injustice, unrepented: unexamined, even.


I'm for a (truly) progressive income tax. "To whom much has been given, much will be required." "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." (Both those quotes are from the Bible. Let the Dominionists chew on those.)The rate on income over a certain amount (to be determined) should be 91%, the same as it was under that fiery Leninist, Eisenhower.

There was once a consensus in this country that we wanted the government we had chartered to help balance society by keeping things fairly equal, at least more equal than they end up being under unfettered capitalism, and thus provide stability. It's worth mentioning that places in the the world where this ethic does not obtain are places that, gee, always seem to be on the verge of armed revolution.

Franklin Roosevelt spoke about this explicitly in his acceptance speech at the 1936 Democratic Convention [hat tip: Sara at Orcinus]:

Throughout the nation, opportunity was limited by monopoly. Individual initiative was crushed in the cogs of a great machine. The field open for free business was more and more restricted. Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise.

An old English judge once said: "Necessitous men are not free men." Liberty requires opportunity to make a living - a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.

For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor - other people's lives. For too many of us life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness.

Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people's mandate to end it. Under that mandate it is being ended.

The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody's business. They granted that the government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live.

Hmm, reminds me of a certain regime in Washington...

This is becomeing kind of epic, so I'll quit for now.