Cal Thomas, conservative columnist who with his counterpart/adversary Bob Beckel a liberal Democratic strategist, banters back and forth in the recurring USA Today “Common Ground” oped installments. I usually skip reading what two old white guys might bitch about to each other but Mr. Thomas had this to say recently about his fear of the impending demise of the US and it really put the hook in me:
“The world no longer respects us, terrorists don’t fear us, the border with Mexico has been erased, major cities resemble war zones, a failure of US Middle East policy, $17 trillion debt, fewer fathers in the home, overflowing prisons, a sense of entitlement rather than personal responsibility …
There’s more, but I wont go any further with his laments. There’s plenty enough to chew on already.
And later in the same piece from July 18:
…”When a nation loses its moral center… The modern media glorify promiscuous sex and everything else that would have shocked our grandparents, another cause of our decline…”
Then he quotes the Bible, “Judges” no less, one of the most disgusting chapters written in any book, ever. Yahweh, when not smiting his own people for idolatry, is busy commanding them to slaughter men, women, and children, burn them alive in their villages, gouge their eyes out, slit them stem to stern, behead them, impale them through the forehead; its really charming, such a representative piece from the “Good Book“. There’s more violence at god’s command in those 17 pages of that particularly ugly chapter… and this is his source for analysis and guidance of modern problems? Holy Moly.
He harkens back to a 2,000 year-old book from a rather un-advanced and barbaric culture from the most primitive and repressive of times, for guidance on how to reshape the future and tackle the problems of today that he sees as so depressing… and save America herself (hooray!!!)
Where to begin?
Looking backwards, instead of to the future for answers and to what he sees as old “authorities” instead of looking forwards and bringing modern knowledge to bear on the problem, really?
Fuck that old book, that’s your first mistake.
Cal is listed as an evangelical Xian in his wiki article, and referred to as both Catholic and Protestant elsewhere on the net. His own website and his Fox News bio don’t say.
His commentary leans toward evangelical; he is not happy about gays or birth control and he of course quotes the Bible.
Whatever his affiliation, I’d like to address his pessimism for today’s accelerating decline.
Lets turn the clock back 50 years to 1964-1969 for some comparisons:
“The world no longer respects us.”
How do you think the world felt about us in the midst of the Vietnam morass: the destruction and casualties, including the not-so-collateral damage of bombing Hanoi, Haiphong, and other sites as well as the Agent Orange and napalm decimation of civilians? Estimates of total dead on both sides, combatants and civilians ranges from 750,000 to a million during roughly a decade of our involvement. Compared to even conservative estimates, the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts left less than 10,000 US, and maybe 100,000 dead in “collateral damage.”
Did we earn any respect then or now?
“Terrorists don’t fear us?”
Well, Cal, Obama as a Democratic sitting President didnt hamper the military taking out bin Laden, nor the Somali pirates, nor Gaddhafi, and he’s under fire from his own constituency and the rest of the civilized world for his sidestepping Gitmo and his hundreds of regular drone strikes on suspected Islamists. Just what else would you have him do? He’s been damn aggressive for any kind of President. I’ve said it before if Obama was white and a Republican he’d acquire sainthood faster than you can say Ronald Reagan.
As far as the Mexican border being erased…
A common derogatory term one heard regularly in the 60’s was “wetback.” It is not a new problem and the economic reasons behind the border issues loom larger now more than ever.
“Major cities resemble combat zones.”
Yes, Mr. Thomas, the gun violence in the poor neighborhoods of Chicago and LA for example is out of control, but I remember as a kid during the late 60’s race riots when the West Side of Chicago and Watts actually were burning for blocks, for miles. They literally were burned out war zones after the fires and mass looting.
“A failure of US Middle East Policy.”
Should we go back to Bush’s no exit nation-building policy? Have you forgotten the 1967 7 day war; a full-blown conflict where Israel humiliated Egypt in a week? Today, Egypt is trying to negotiate the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. The whole Middle East is a powder keg of Islamic factionism, medieval political structures, repression, underdevelopment, corruption, theocracy… like we are gonna fix that somehow? They may kill each other for decades. Do things still suck there as they have been seesawing back and forth since 1948? You bet. Our failure? Hardly. Our responsibility?
“$17 trillion in debt.”
4 trillion on Bush’s wars in Islamic countries, a 700 billion defense budget bloated bigger than what the next 10 other countries spend? Can’t blame that stuff on the liberal Democrats, gays, and welfare moms, sorry Cal. Oh and I forgot all the subsidies and corporate tax shelters and breaks.
“Fewer fathers in the home.”
The divorce rate among evangelicals or Catholics (whatever you are, maybe you attend church with Rick Santorum at Saint Scholastica on Steroids Holy Roller Roman Catholic Church) isn’t any better than the general population Cal.
Times are changing, we do serial monogamy now. Even Rush and Newt have hopped on the bandwagon, so to speak… Get used to it.
We can hang that one directly on you conservatives, pal. War on Drugs anyone? Billions pissed away and 2 million locked down now (more than fucking China, bro!) since Ronnie and George Herbert led us down the path of righteousness to root out all those evil people making themselves feel better or making a buck where there are no other jobs. And like every other nation in the world with 30+ years of utter failure to reduce demand or supply, we are FINALLY legalizing benign drugs and backing off on sentencing, no thanks to your ilk, Mr. Thomas.
“A sense of entitlement rather than personal responsibility.”
Dontcha remember the 60’s mantra, “Tune in, turn on, drop out“? Remember that Cal? You’re as old as me, I know you do. And my favorite whine that says it all.
“When a nation loses its moral center… promiscuous sex… another cause of our decline.”
You KNEW he’d get “sex” in there somehow.
Whose moral center? Protect an unconscious, barely formed embryo or ball of cells but a living adult human with relationships, dependents, loved ones… psshh, mere collateral damage or cannon fodder or an injectable receptacle for righteous revenge in the heavy Xian states like Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida…. And gays and fornicators burn in Hell. Some higher moral ground ya got there, pal.
Again late 60’s when the pill was new, the AIDS epidemic hadn’t appeared yet, free love, hippie communes, the beginning of inter-racial and homosexual sex both heading toward mainstream, that’s when you lost the war between the sheets, Cal. Your whining is a bit late. Please try to remember whatever denomination you belong to, the vast majority of the rest of us don’t go to your church. We may not buy into much of your belief system regarding abortion, birth control, homosexuality, and sexual practices.
So, how much worse is it today really? What about the 5 decades of incredible progress in human rights: civil, women’s, gays, and now (horrors!) the secular movement! Charitable giving is at an all-time high. Even most poor people have air conditioning, damn few did in the 60’s. Childhood deaths worldwide before age 5 have plummeted despite a more than doubling of population, thanks to huge outpourings of aid in the form of vaccines and education on clean water and municipal health practices.
Can’t Conservatives ever concentrate on what’s been done, what progress we have made and can yet make?
I’ll take the less than 10,000 US service peoples deaths from Iraq/Afghanistan over the nearly 60,000 Vietnam deaths anyday.
I wonder if at times the Conservatives can’t appreciate progress or even acknowledge it ‘cuz progress is change, and they just don’t like it. There is a lot of psychological data on personality types that tend to conservatism, and they tend to prefer less change.
And what does Mr. Thomas want? What will save his vision of ‘Merica?
A “revival,” a “concert of prayer” like in the late 1800’s. That will fix it all!
Didn’t Michelle Bachmann and a host of other charismatic leaning evangelical politicos try prayer to stop Obamacare before it even started? And didn’t Governor Rick Perry host that big August tent revival prayer fest in his home state before the last primary to fix our declining moral center, convert the gays, cure acne, and garner a few votes in the process? He’d even put out an official State proclamation to pray for rain to end the Texas drought not long before that.
Revivals and prayer concerts with a dorky Xian “rock” band don’t seem to work so pretty good, Cal.
If there is a god, he knows that music suuuuuuckssss and shouldn’t be called rock anyway.
Conservatives don’t seem to like change, progress, “social experimentation,” sex in general, or drugs it seems. Anything that might feel good or change things must be bad somehow.
And concentrating on the “bad” seems to be the preoccupation of the Conservatives, the religious. After all they are taught we are all incorrigible, inveterate sinners that cannot function right without god’s grace and will burn in hell for all our inevitable sins. With that bleak and absurd worldview as a starting point, its no surprise you look for signs of the irreversible decay you are taught is the defining aspect of human nature.
Yes, there are problems in the world, in the US today, Mr. Thomas. However one could make the case I did above that the world is incomparably improved since the 60’s when you and I were kids and is comparatively a much, much better place for twice as many people to live in.
The whole of human progress, since the Enlightenment and Age of Reason and especially with the institutionalization of science and full-time practicing scientists working on how the world really works and our real world problems beginning in the late 1800’s; the exponential expansion of which we take for granted as normal in the 21st century, has been one of greater freedoms, less experience of violence, healthier living, and extended life expectancy even among the poorest of the poor.
Let’s focus on that as a worldview and a plan for the future, not on phony bleak conceptions of human nature and ignorant perspectives from 2,000 year old hopelessly primitive and barbaric writings.
One of these days I’ll get a chance to research in depth the literature that must be out there on conservatism, because the more I observe, I really wonder, what have Conservatives ever done for us but preserve the status quo of repression, and stifle progress?
We went to the moon the first time 45 years ago, yesterday. Haven’t been back since ’72. And we went on less computer power than you have on your smartphone. Smartphones.
We can spend more and more on having things like 3-4 times as many aircraft carriers as anyone else, but gotta strangle the NASA budget down to the barest essentials and shitcan the Super Collider. That’s what Conservatives have done for us, along with the War on Drugs, Wars in Muslim countries, and the Republican preoccupation with restricting women’s reproductive rights to whatever the Evangelicals think is what god REALLY wants.
A focus on our supposed “innate depravity” and the past does no good now, or ever.
What if we had listened to the Conservatives like Cal Thomas, the “heavy-duty oh so certain they know what god wants us NOT to do and we’d better listen or else” Xians, the religionists, the people that cite chapter and verse?
Black folks would be still riding in the back of the bus, maybe in chains, women wouldn’t vote, and gays wouldn’t be getting married anywhere.
Yup, just what the world needs, more chapter and verse.
End Religion Now.