Some of my best friends are conservatives.
Okay, since I’d probably consider myself a Catholic classical liberal, I line up with conservatives far more often than progressives. At one point I considered myself conservative without having to add qualifiers. My transition away from the label was slow and had many causes: Sean Hannity dressing down Fr. Thomas Euteneuer in an attempt to be Catholic and in favor of contraception; George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” which was statism-lite; the GOP’s complete abandonment of the principles of the Contract with America (remember wanting to abolish the Department of Education?); Michael Savage’s (and others’) anti-immigrant xenophobia; Mark Levin’s lame attempts at being outrageous; etc. I actually liked Sean Hannity for a while when he was more reserved and thoughtful. But then his intro theme to his radio show included the poetic line “♪ We’ll put a boot in your a**, ♫ it’s the American way ♪,” which seemed to signal his new direction.
Essentially, most regular conservatives seemed to parrot the lines of media conservatives, who (in search of ratings, no doubt), preferred bombast to reasoned, sober argumentation. Name-calling and dismissals of folks deemed to be “big libs” was sufficient to defuse progressive beliefs.
Of course, the grass certainly isn’t any greener on the progressive side, which seems heck-bent to adopt policy positions on the basis of whichever is furthest from orthodox Christianity.
But two recent headline-grabbers again reaffirmed my desire to keep the modern conservative movement at arm’s length. First was Sarah Palin’s “waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists” line. It’s not easy to combine the advocating of torture with sacrilege and still keep it hilarious, but Tina Fey’s doppelganger nails it! It was a line meant to tickle the conservative funny bone; I fail to see how anyone who respects the dignity of human life and/or the beauty, grace, and power of the sacraments would find it anything less than repugnant. The standard defense seems to be that, well, it’s pretty horrible but if it reveals intel that saves ‘Murican lives, then it’s not too horrible. What if your family was held hostage and only waterboarding could get you information to free your family; wouldn’t you allow it? So it goes.
Second was the news report with various titles like “Man Dies from Botched Execution.” Conservatives’ newsfeeds and tweets filled with applause at the too-long-in-coming death of a death row inmate. “Justice is served!” “He never gave his victims’ mercy!” “If it was YOUR family that got killed by this inmate, you’d be singing a different tune!” Gentle reminders of the obvious moral truth that no intrinsic evil may be used even if good may come from it went unheeded or laughed at. No effort is made to distinguish justice from vengeance, and I think I recall who has sole dominion over meting out vengeance…
Yes, I realize that one can be a Catholic in good standing and support the death penalty, that it is not an intrinsic evil. And yes, I realize that there has been no official Vatican pronouncement on the specific procedure of waterboarding. But, come on. Pope St. John Paul the Great famously said about the death penalty that its necessity in modern countries is very limited, if not nonexistent. And while waterboarding may not cause lasting physical damage (sheesh, even in its first line Wikipedia calls it torture), is that our bar for legitimate behavior toward other humans, even terrorists?
Someone should remind the conservative movement that there are plenty of other ideologies that do a much better job at embracing the culture of death. Wanting to protect society from terrorists and murderers is great, but at the price of violating basic moral principles?
Keep it humane, conservatism.