Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Moderating the Moderate View

Selfishly, I'd like to think it's because they read my blog.

But realistically, I'll settle for the comfort of knowing that it's because logic isn't entirely dead on this planet.

Which means political moderation doesn't have to be, either.

Why Work if You Can't Live?

First comes more news from China that rampant industrial development at the expense of ecological awareness is proving to be unsustainable.  Regular readers of my blog essays may recall the times I've talked about protecting the environment.  Not that I'm a left-winger out to save the planet from evil humans.  I just figure that God has given us resources for our existence on Earth that we need to manage well in order to live healthy lives and let our children and their heirs do the same.

Oftentimes, particularly in conservative politics, it sounds like God's instruction to Adam was to rape and pillage Creation, not rule and subdue it.  In America's heady days before environmental conservation, capitalist industry run amok seemed intent on polluting every patch of ground and body of water it could.  When ecological awareness began to take root in the 1970's, much of America's industry high-tailed it out of the country, and set up shop in countries desperate for jobs at any cost and ambivalent towards pollution.

Countries, in fact, like America was, before pollution started compromising our quality of life.

After all, if your air and water are making you sick, what good is economic wealth?

In China these days, it seems history is repeating itself.  The sprawling industrial city of Guangzhou, China's third largest, has become the country's fourth municipality to create a license plate auction and lottery system to drastically reduce the number of private vehicles on its choked roadways.  Although restricting the luxury of car ownership from Guangzhou's increasingly prosperous residents might sound politically hazardous, even in communist China, the move actually has come in response to overwhelming public outcry over oppressive gridlock and dangerous levels of pollution.

Not that personally, I endorse the specific practice of restricting car ownership.  Here in north Texas, there's no way our government bureaucracy could limit car ownership and expect our local economy to survive.  At least in China, the fees residents pay to play the license plate lottery will help fund more mass transit alternatives.  Indeed, as far as mass transit is concerned, many cities in China already far outpace their American peers.

But it's not just traffic congestion that is a burgeoning concern in China.  Slowly but surely, some cities there are growing weary of traffic pollution, as well as industrial pollution.  Factories are beginning to be pushed out into poorer, less urban regions of not only the country, but other poorer Asian countries like Vietnam.  Just like American capitalists, some business leaders who've built mighty industrial empires in China are grousing about how the government is imposing costly regulations on their smoke-belching enterprises.  By and large, however, the increasingly sophisticated Chinese public appears to be getting as intolerant of pollution as the American public did 40 years ago.

At the end of a New York Times article on the subject, one of Guangzhou's senior city planners reasoned, “What do we need gross domestic product for if we don’t have health?”

Sound familiar?

Finding "Toxic" Links in Elite Republicanism

Then there's late word coming out of last week's Republican National Convention in Florida regarding Karl Rove and Phyllis Schlafly.  Apparently, conservative activist Rove is still fuming about Missouri's Senate hopeful Todd Akin, and religious activist Schlafly, a Catholic, has caught wind of Rove's latest rant.

You'll notice I've drawn the distinction between "conservative" and "religious," since in this case, the difference appears stark.  Most of the time, the two terms can be used interchangeably, if not accurately so.  But not this time.

Speaking to an elite group of Republican donors during last week's convention, Rove has been quoted as quipping, “We should sink Todd Akin. If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!”

So much for respectful intra-party disagreements.  It's one thing to wish Akin would step aside and let the GOP put somebody less controversial on the ticket in Missouri.  But to publicly joke about his being murdered?

Schlafly, founder of the ultra-conservative Eagle Forum and normally a reliable whip of the GOP's for rallying the Christian vote, this time took great umbrage against one of the party's most visible personalities.

"Karl Rove has made himself toxic to Republicans by his incredibly offensive and dangerous statement suggesting the murder of Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri," she tartly pronounces on her blog, calling him "an embarrassment to the Republican party."

Maybe Schlafly doesn't realize it, but I've been saying something similar to that about Rove and his ilk for a while now.  I consider Rove to be part of the club of conservative political wonks who really don't care at all for the same things Catholics and evangelical Christians want to see in the United States.  Plenty of commentators have pointed out how the Republican party uses people of faith as wantonly as the Democratic party uses people of color to accomplish objectives.  Yet we like to pretend otherwise.

"Yeah, sure," each party's power players purr, "we'll get to your specific issues, but right now, we need to join forces against our common enemy."

Turns out, our common enemy may be people like Rove who probably respect us far less than many of us want to respect them.  After all, if the Christian lobby were spun off into its own political party, we'd lose a lot of influence.

Schlafly goes on to point out that Rove did apologize to Akin for the murder "joke," but Rove's apology was based on his insistence that he wouldn't have phrased his initial remarks the way he did if he'd known a reporter was in the room.  One of the GOP's big givers had quietly invited a journalist from Businessweek into the closed-door session.


Writing for World magazine, Warren Cole Smith takes note of Schlafly's call for Rove to resign from the Republican Party, and acknowledges the unlikelihood of that happening.

"The hard reality is that Rove is not an embarrassment to the Republican Party," Smith explains.  "Just the opposite: He is what the Republican Party has become."

I don't think Rove is what the Republican Party has become.  I think he represents what it probably has been for quite a while.  A party with a vast following of idealistic conservatives herded along by a leadership just as manipulating, calculating, and morally-marginalized as the leadership in their opposing party.

That, taken with China's inadvertent awakening to the very ecological dangers some of America's industrialists have tried to foist on us, help support my willingness to be a political moderate.  Just as environmental issues need to be addressed in humanitarian ways, and not just ignored for economic expedience, being "yolked with unbelievers" poses dangerous risks for people of faith in the political arena.

Not that having to align oneself with a particular party means that you should be expected to endorse the party's entire platform.  But that cuts both ways, doesn't it:  for people of faith in the Republican Party, as well as the Democratic Party?

Wholesale allegiance to one party can't provide the flexibility we'll inevitably need to chart the course of greatest good.

Hey - it's not just my opinion.  As you can see, world events speak for themselves!

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