Sex and Violence

Sex and violence are often linked together as “adult” realities. Responsible adults don’t let children see such things.

As a pro-life kinda guy, I find it troubling that society conventionally links these two things together. Violence results in suffering and death. Sex results in pleasure and new life.

Violence is an evil (even if sometimes, arguably, it is a necessary evil); sex is a good (even if sometimes it leads to mistakes and regrets).

Yes, I understand why we shield children from things sexual. Children are relatively innocent, and that state of innocence passes all too quickly. We don’t want to rush children headlong toward a knowledge of adult matters.

As a wise woman once instructed me, we should enjoy each experience in life for what it is. We shouldn’t be always longing for and rushing on toward some other experience, around the next corner or over the next hill. Be. Here. Now.

Nonetheless, I insist that sex and violence are not morally equivalent realities. I think society should be more concerned than we are about not exposing children to violence and less concerned than we are about not exposing children to sex.

OK, let me clarify that:  I agree that graphic sex should be out of sight of children. But society could stand to ease up a little about nudity and sexually suggestive situations.

Children are exposed to enormous levels of violence on TV and in the movies. But my God, just let Janet Jackson’s nipple be exposed on TV for a fraction of a section and people react as if America’s children will be scarred for life. The horror! The horror!

You might be wondering what has started me down the path of this rant. Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction”, and the ludicrous overreaction to it, is old news. So here’s my story.
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On Abortion

Abortion, argues Andrew Sullivan in his book The Conservative Soul, has been made the pre-eminent political issue not by rational citizens, but by fundamentalist Christians. Their position, he claims, flies in the face of reason, and seeks to undermine the principles of freedom upon which our society has been based. While conservatives maintain freedom of choice for the individual, the fundamentalist demands social adherence to a strict set of rules, which go above and beyond human judgement. And the abortion argument — that all people should have to ascribe to a zero-tolerance policy — is an affront to choice and part of a larger theoconservative project of restructuralization.

And yet, of all the issues Sullivan could have chosen to attack, the abortion issue is probably the least plausible. Others which he focuses on are much more feasible. Taste in music? A choice of individuals. Religious beliefs? A choice of individuals. Homosexuality? Also arguably a choice of individuals, although the “choice” argument is as often used against them as for them. But the one issue he seems most intent on confronting is the only one where a black and white overruling of individual choice seems to be logical. And in the same line of thinking, it is actually reasonable for abortion to be made into the most important issue in an election, as some Republicans have attempted to make it over the last decade.

Take Chris Selley’s position in a recent blog post at Macleans.ca:

I’ve long argued (not here, but elsewhere) that despite legitimate concerns over how Canada’s legal vacuum on abortion came about, ours is the single most logically coherent way for any nation to allow its citizens freedom of choice. A fetus is a fetus, and subject to the choices of its host, until it’s entirely outside the mother, at which point it’s a human being. The other pro-choice frameworks out there in the world aren’t without virtue, but they suffer from arbitrariness. In Sweden, for example, restrictions kick in at the 12th week, well before any definition of fetal viability. Why 12? Ten’s an even nicer round number, surely. And in systems that bestow protection on fetuses at or around the point of viability, such as in the UK, the arbitrariness is revealed whenever gaggles of politicians, very few of whom are OB/GYNs, start campaigning to lower it.

Canada doesn’t mess around with any of that. And as Cynthia Gorney pointed out in a brilliant piece in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, neither does Sarah Palin. Her views, says Gorney, represent “abortion opposition at its most coherent.”

If a fetus is genuinely a child from the instant of conception, then the law can’t permit killing it for any reason except the extraordinary circumstance of an emergency to save a woman’s life (and in some right-to-life circles there’s argument about that, too, or whether equal measures should be taken to save woman and unborn alike).

Selley misses the ball in a few ways. But his overall point is sound. If a position on abortion depends on the humanity of a fetus, it is logically a black and white issue. There is no grey if the core reasoning depends on a yes or no conclusion. For this reason, Sullivan and other realists like him are missing the mark when they say that yes, there is a logical middle ground that the extremes should be ascribing to.

However, the debate is clearly not quite as black and white as this. There are many factors which contribute to one’s thoughts on abortion. And I’d like to consider these, and through this dialogue justify what I think to be the right position on abortion. Consider it a response to my father’s post a couple days ago if you like, or a response to some of the comments on my own post slightly earlier. It’s an ongoing discussion, and I don’t hope to sway many people, but what I really aim for is to justify the theoconservative position on abortion, and hopefully show that we “fundamentalists” can think, too.

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The Real McCain

Andrew Sullivan dishes on the Republican Candidate’s true nature:

Mickey, of course, is obsessed with immigration and believes that McCain would actually support a Bush-style immigration law were he to win next week. Really? Really? You see: what I’ve learned from watching McCain these past two months is that there’s nothing he wouldn’t do if it could get him a small bump in a news cycle, polarize the electorate, and appeal to a rabid base that is now his only source of power.

In my view, McCain would clearly be prepared to veto such a bill if it helped bring his party base behind him. He would also have a veep who is running from Day One to succeed him and eager to play the most revanchist elements in her base against her boss.

[…]

As for McCain, we have seen how he deals with what were once his principles. Balancing the budget? He caved to Bush’s tax cuts and proposes to increase the deficit more than a liberal Democrat in his first term. Torture? He agreed to the 2006 Military Commissions Act, thereby legalizing the very torture techniques that were once used against him. Climate change? He picked a veep who doesn’t believe it’s man-made. When people talk about this man’s honor, they need to grapple with these facts. If McCain is prepared to authorize the torture of other human beings, to do to others what was once done to him in order to help Karl Rove’s 2006 election strategy, there is nothing deep down inside him but a desire for power, no line he won’t cross.

This is the real reason I could never vote for McCain based on his “pro-life” stance, despite the Conservative assertion that Christians should. I would find it very difficult to elect someone who has as voted so clearly in favour of abortion without restriction as Obama has. But I would find it even harder to vote for someone whose stance on abortion is based purely on political aspirations.

Palin I trust when it comes to the pro-life issue. But of course, she’s proven that she’s willing to go even further than McCain regarding political backstabs. Still, considering my assertion that a foetus is a human being, I also believe that thousands of deaths a week would constitute a huge crime toll. If it weren’t for the fact that I believe laws aren’t sufficient to stop abortion from occurring, I would be a lot more conflicted over a battle between Palin and Obama. At least it’s relatively certain she would attempt something to reduce the abortion count.

As it is, McCain, not Palin, is the one who concerns me when it comes to an issue which is a lot more than political, if one accepts the conservative Christian perspective. If we’re really worried about millions of lives being lost, why do so many Christians back someone who has only made this a key issue relatively recently, once it became clear that he needed to win key votes back in the Evangelical base?

An Obama-Biden ticket is superior in many ways to the Republican pair. Conservatives would attempt to make this into a one-issue vote. But if McCain can’t be relied upon for anything else, I’m not convinced we should be making abortion the key talking point… because that’s all it is: Talk.

(Another) Conservative Minority

Stephen Harper’s early election gamble managed to pretty much crush the Liberals, but it didn’t quite win him the majority he was seeking:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were preparing to return to Ottawa after winning a strengthened mandate in a general election Tuesday that resulted in Canada’s third consecutive minority government.

“Canadians have voted to move our country forward and they have done so with confidence,” Harper told a rally in Calgary as supporters celebrated the party’s victory and the end of a tumultuous — and at times rancorous — 37-day campaign.

As of early Wednesday with almost 60 per cent of votes counted, the Conservatives were elected or leading in 143 ridings, up from 127 in 2006, while the Liberals were elected or leading in 76, a drop of 19 seats from the party’s standing at dissolution.

The analysts were divided on whether to call this story a success from any front. For the Liberals, it was a definite failure, with Dion’s leadership coming under real scrutiny after his party dropped so many seats. The NDP gained seats, but Jack Layton isn’t the Prime Minister, nor did he even come close. The Green Party managed to increase their popular vote, polling at upwards of 6%, and yet again failed to attain a single seat in the election. And the Conservatives won, with increased power, but they failed to gain full control of their parliament, and another issue reared its head late in the evening:

But with just under 60 per cent of the votes counted at 2 a.m. ET Wednesday, turnout hovered around 59 per cent. That figure was slightly below the lowest turnout recorded in 2004 at 60.9 per cent when Paul Martin’s Liberals won a minority government.

Only two years ago, 64.7 per cent of Canadians went to the polls, also giving Stephen Harper’s Conservatives a minority government.

As the CBC commentors noted, this election seems to have utterly failed to capture the Canadian imagination. One analyst pointed out that it seemed to be a big turning point when the Canadian leaders were asked about the Economic Crisis, and all of them failed to lend any inspirational words to the matter. Harper’s position — the least drastic — was ultimately good enough to get him a minority but lose him the majority he was oh-so-close to around the time that the crisis sprung up.

In fact, the irony of the situation is that the only party that could really come away happy after this election were the Bloc Quebecois, who managed to gain around two thirds of the Quebec seats. This, despite the fact that both the Liberals and Conservatives were dead set on undermining the Bloc in order to gain seats outside of their normal strongholds.

The next three or four years will be telling. Will Harper manage to reconcile some of his differences with the smaller parties? Will it be another round of politics without a cause? Or will Harper finally reveal to the nation what he intends for the country, rather than playing his hand tight to his chest in his chronic damage-control mode?

Seems to me that we’ve been here before.

Sick.

There’s a newspiece floating around Canada today. I don’t know if it’s made its way to the US yet, but it’s been all over national news here. And it makes me sick, for a number of reasons.

The story involves a killing on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba — a long way from Ontario, where I (and a good portion of Canadians) live. It’s a graphic tale, consisting of a man getting stabbed and then decapitated in a seemingly random act of violence. And the Globe and Mail was all over it — enough so that it was the first thing listed in my e-mail inbox this morning.

The story is greusome. So much so that I’m unwilling to even link to it. To be frank, I didn’t make it all the way through the story. I closed it, and had to apologize to my girlfriend for having snapped at her a bit in so doing. It’s not often that an issue stirs me enough that I shout at her — especially when it has nothing to do with her in the first place.

If you want, search it out. It’s on the front page of the news sites I visit. And I don’t know if other places are covering it so vividly as the Globe and Mail. But I suspect they are. After all, it sells papers and attracts viewers.

And we’re not just talking responsible newscasting. The piece went into moment-by-moment details, blood and gore included. One friend commented (without having seen the story) that it’s sometimes good for the media to keep us aware about these issues. Not this one. It took place far, far away from us, in a random incident that is terribly unlikely to occur to the next person to get on a bus. The man must have been psychopathic. Apparently he was completely calm throughout the incident. I don’t need to worry about him, and it’s hard to copycat psychotic composure. And even if there’s some inconceivable reason why I did need to know about this, there was no reason for them to go into the details they did. Except for the cashflow.

Sick.

Sick that this kind of thing happens.

Sick that these are more and more frequently occurring.

Sick that the media gives them the attention at all. That seems to motivate them, at least somewhat. After all, there was Mr. “Now I’ll Be Famous” last time we talked about one of these incidences.

Sick that death is glorified, and violence is loved by our culture. Sick that this is considered normal news. Sick that this is the type of thing people mindlessly absorb in the evening, and turn into water cooler conversation the next day at the office.

Sick. Sick. Sick!

Intractable ignorance

Large numbers of people are ignorant, even in the well-educated West. And it’s a serious problem.

Here’s an example. Chris Selley of Megapundit summarizes an Ottawa Citizen column by John Robson:

John Robson … is sick of ignorant, selfish people who demand antibiotics for non-biotic illnesses, the doctors who indulge them, and genuinely sick people who don’t follow the directions their doctors and pharmacists helpfully provide — all of which, of course, contributes to antibiotic resistance. “I don’t want to die of some wretched superbug because people were too lazy or insolent to follow simple directions on a bottle, or had a misplaced sense of entitlement that the universe owed them a cure for the common cold,” he writes. We couldn’t agree more.

I agree, too, but what’s the fix for this problem? The misuse of antibiotics, and its connection to superbugs, has been widely discussed in the media. Every doctor I’ve ever seen has emphasized the importance of taking all the antibiotics in the bottle, even if I start to feel better part way through the prescription. Ditto for the pharmacists who dispense the medicine.

The public’s ignorance is intractable. I read the other day that 25% of Americans, including many Democrat supporters, continue to believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim. How far do you have to have your head up your ass to believe that, this far into the process, given how much coverage Obama’s candidacy has received? Similarly for the widespread view that Saddam Hussein actually did have weapons of mass destruction, etc., etc.

If secularism is a kind of religion, education is supposed to function as the means of salvation. This is an easy way to define and compare religions. Every religion proposes (a) a diagnosis of why there is so much misery in the world and (b) a way of salvation. For example, Christians claim that sin is the ultimate source of misery and atonement is the means to set things right. Secularists substitute ignorance for sin and education for atonement.

But (as in every other religion) the secularist’s proposed means of salvation demonstrably fails to deliver the goods. OK, more education is effective to a point. But beyond that point, the iron law of diminishing returns takes hold. There is a reservoir of profound ignorance among the public that more education won’t drain.

I don’t have a better alternative to propose. But if the question is, Will the informed, rational people of the world one day be destroyed by events set in motion by other people’s ignorance?, the answer is You betcha!

I don’t think there’s much point even writing about it. I’m sorry I wasted your time with this blog post. Blame it on Robson and Selley, who sent me off on this snipe hunt.

[A]+[Be] Critics: The Dark Knight

Rating: A cautionary *****

The newest installment in the Batman saga is everything it was cracked up to be. It has action sequences that outshine Iron Man and Hulk. It has characterization that is frighteningly acute. But mostly, it is dark, bringing the series full-circle since the days of Tim Burton’s cartoonish portrayal of the Joker. And because of this last fact, it is necessary to qualify the high rating that this movie deserves. Because, despite the fact that The Dark Knight was indeed the most intense ride of this summer, it is not a super-hero movie. It is a thriller. And the mis-packaging of this film may lead one to make the terrible mistake of taking the movie lightly and, God forbid, even taking one’s kids to see it.

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