The Widening Gyre

“The first principle of value that we need to rediscover is this: that all reality hinges on moral foundations. In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws. (from “Rediscovering Lost Values”)” Dr. Martin Luther King

In 1972 my idealism, zeal, and what I came to learn was my naivete, led me to volunteer to participate in the nuts and bolts of activism within a political party rather than the demonstrations to which I previously had  been predisposed. First, we helped staff the survey phones for George McGovern. We were given a list of scripted issue questions, which carefully avoided directly asking for whom the subject planned to vote. After each call, we noted on our call sheet a ranking based on their answers from 1 to 5 with a 1 strongly supporting the other candidate and awarding a 5 if we thought they enthusiastically were on the side of the angels.

After some other tasks like signs and posters, on election day we newbies monitored voters at tables provided for party workers near the presiding officials at the polls. We carefully marked off each voter as they were announced, and late in the afternoon, delivered the marked off lists to our party coordinator. I was assured others would contact voters that favored us and offer them rides to the polls. I was living in Massachusetts, which was the only state the feckless Senator McGovern campaign carried, so I must have done a great job. We felt like insiders who worked the levers. How little did we know. I believe now we were “useful idiots,” as Vlad the First would say.

Years later, I learned through some who  are much more aware of how the world really works (as they are well established elected Democrat machine pols), that what really happened with my marked up list was likely some others more in tune with the party were sent in to vote for those who had not yet showed up. Especially targeted were the elderly and other registered voters known to be unlikely to venture out late in the day. Whether they were tallied in our surveys was irrelevant. Once when I was voting in the nineties before photo IDs were required, I personally witnessed at a polling place in Rhode Island[i] a chartered school bus parked out front in the early evening. A line of tired folks slogging through their civic duty was patiently queued up to reload the bus. One fellow near the front of the line asked another fellow checking names off a clipboard where they were headed next.

Before you grasp your head and moan that I am promulgating voter fraud myths and proposing that President Trump really won, I am not and cannot possibly know. Five hundred odd votes in Florida in Bush/Gore in 2000 are not 146,000 votes in Michigan in 2020. If I truly believed that voter fraud could be perpetrated on such a massive scale, I might despair. [ii]However, to believe that none occurs is to be as naïve as I was fifty years ago. I am a firm supporter of photo IDs, which we now have in Rhode Island, and they are not an onerous burden, as unwelcome as they are to the apparatchiks.

Then, again, tired poll workers may not have matched up signatures on millions of mailed in ballots as diligently as one would hope, and their training as graphologists may have been somewhat perfunctory. Lies and deceit on the scale needed to steal this most recent election seem inconceivable, but I have become a cynic, which is to be nothing more than an oft disappointed idealist.

“Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other.” Mark Twain

Lies as morally acceptable in pursuit of desired ideological goals, the ethics of utility, relativism, and radical subjectivism should be considered in any discussion of election fraud. What is justified if our goals are considered (to us anyway) as noble and right? Does the whole democratic (small “d”) project break down when such malleable values are permissible? Are we asking the right questions?

Rita and I are more than a little wonky – no surprise, I am sure, to many of you. One night this week we streamed from a website that Rita found a ninety-minute panel discussion in 2015 between George Weigel and Yoram Hazony, well known writers and thinkers from the U.S. and Israel. A portion of the annual Advanced Institute in Jerusalem of the Tikvah Fund, the 2015 seminars covered in depth “God, Politics, and the Future of Europe.” “Tikvah hosted a conversation on “Modernity, Religion and Morality” to discuss the decline of Western Civilization and to probe some of the reasons behind it. What happens when faith in the God of the Bible deteriorates? How does that affect faith in reason and are the values of liberalism enough to sustain a society?”[iii]  See link in the notes below.

Many topics were touched on which have great relevance to that which so divides our society and whether Biblical morality has been overwhelmed by an aggressive secularization agenda, especially of the left. “Separation of Church and State,” both presenters contended means only no state intrusion into the practice of anyone’s faith (or lack of faith) and no designated state religion. Yet we seem to have decreed through an activist judiciary and press that no conscience informed by its faith has sufficient credentials to speak out on the vital moral issues of the day.  Is religion merely to be privatized, a pleasant, relatively harmless hobby for the weak, and no religiously informed conscience to be considered legitimate in public debate? The late Father Richard John Neuhaus coined a name for this public forum denuded of religion: the “naked public square,” wherein only non-religious voices should be heard. To me, these voices of objective reason informed by centuries of tradition are sorely needed, indeed critical, in a violently divided culture. What G.K. Chesterton called the “democracy of the dead” must not be silenced.

In these pages there have been previous discussions of the prerequisite of a morally sound electorate to sustain a democracy[iv]. I will not pursue those arguments again here, but I will suggest that a society deracinated of moral traditions could topple. A hundred years ago, one of my favorite poets, William Butler Yeats, wrote this (first stanza of “Second Coming”), probably his most quoted verse and the source of dozens of titles of blogs and books:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

 

In our own individual lives and in the life of our mutual and precarious society, has the falcon flown beyond hearing range from the Source of wisdom, prudence, mercy, and justice? Have we pulled up all the essential moorings and, adrift, look helplessly at the rocks and surf? Is our battle spiritual, not merely political and ideological?

With a sigh of relief, maybe we are liberated from four years of turmoil and tweets; we apparently sent the traveling circus train packing and revived the progressive Kool-Aid express in a national election. Or maybe we would benefit from re-reading the fable of the scorpion and the frog[v] and wondering whom we are carrying across the river now.

What we next encounter may be an uncertain future, however the same necessary voices that the progressive vision seeks to marginalize are those which murmur their prayers and talk quietly of hope, trust, kindness, and love for every person from tiny to aged. May these voices be heard, here and now, and by their Source and Benefactor.

Look to yourselves that you do not lose what we worked for but may receive a full recompense. Anyone who is so ‘progressive’ as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son.” 2 Jn 8-9

[i] We boast a more than 90% Democrat legislature here in Lil Rhody, a textbook of venal corruption.

[ii] This is not to say that concerns of the defeated should be ignored. All legal means of verification must be pursued to their end. I did some analysis by state, and margins in the closely decided states are razor thin. In Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, (easily enough to change the final results), the average margins per voting precinct are 5.7, 6.1,6.3 and 4.7 respectively. Per thousand voters, the average margins for the same states are 3.2, 2.8, 8.8 and 6.2. A switch of between three and four voters per precinct in these states would flip the outcome. The coronation by the media notwithstanding.

[iii] From the introduction text to the video. Well worth your time some evening when CGI superhero fantasies and the bread and circuses of professional sports are not your viewing pleasure. https://tikvahfund.org/posts/modernity-religion-and-morality-a-conversation-with-george-weigel-and-yoram-hazony/

[iv] https://quovadisblog.net/2020/08/09/quaker-hill/

[v] The scorpion that could not swim asked the frog to carry him on his back across the river. The frog refused because he did not want the scorpion to sting him. The scorpion pointed out that if he did that, both would drown, so the frog agreed to take him across. Halfway across the river the scorpion struck, and the dying frog cried out, “You’ve killed us both. Why did you do it?” The scorpion replied, “Because it is my nature.”

5 Comments

Filed under Politics and government

5 responses to “The Widening Gyre

  1. Anthony Vinson

    Thoughts that bubbled up while reading your post:

    What do you believe, and why do you believe it?

    To lightly paraphrase Anais Nin, we experience the world not as it is, but rather how we believe it to be. I believe that we are in the throes of an artificially created crisis, one exacerbated and monetized by a media less concerned with truths than with maximizing shareholder profitability. Disinformation has become the coin of the realm as it reliably draws eyes and ears to media outlets eager to confirm biases and manipulate facts.

    Having eschewed broadcast and cable television since the early 90s, the bulk of my media consumption is through print and internet news sources. I subscribe to two newspapers, one with a conservative editorial board, the other a liberal board. The difference in the way they cover the news of the day is striking. I sometimes listen to short stretches of both Limbaugh’s and Hannity’s radio broadcasts, as well as short stretches of Chris Cuomo and Dan Abrams’ satellite radio shows – both being left-of-center. Again, the differences are striking. And scary. I shudder to consider what those whose biases keep them glued to a single side’s narrative must be. No wonder there is so much rancor.

    The mistake, I think, is to believe that one side is virtuous, and the other villainous; to believe that one side is not only ideologically opposed to the other, but also somehow evil. The truth, if there still exists such a thing, is that both sides contain elements of virtue and villainy. Both sides are amalgams of right and wrong, good and bad, and the pull between the two should act to maintain an ever shifting, but relatively stable balance. The dance is intricate and nuanced. There is give, there is take. Shit gets done.

    I am of the opinion that the relaxation of the FCC’s so-called Fairness Doctrine under Reagan, the syndication of Limbaugh and the subsequent discovery by flailing AM radio stations around the country of the cash cow he raised and fattened, are the sources of our current media-fueled feeding frenzy. So many choices, and yet so few drifts beyond their favorites. Harlan Ellison was ahead of his time when he referred to television as the glass teat. But even he wasn’t clever enough to have added in the internet.

    So what do you believe? Or more importantly, why do you believe it? Depends on who you choose as your source.

    FWIW, I trained and worked the polls this year. Wanted the experience. It was a trip, let me tell you. A crazy experience that I don’t want to repeat. (The training itself was laughable.) The day started at 5:30 AM and ended shortly after midnight. I was assigned to verify and approve for certification, batches of mail-in ballots, a total 1407 of them, along with two other observers, one D, one R, and me, a self-described independent, all under supervision of our county registrar. Any questionable ballots had to be assessed and agreed upon by all three, a new ballot completed and signed off on, and then set aside for further verification by the registrar. I was exhausted before lunch, but we slogged on and did, I think, a fair and fairly accurate job. (We didn’t verify signatures. That was done in advance by the registrar’s office.) If the process worked similarly elsewhere, I must believe that the election was about as fair and accurate as possible under the circumstance.

    Cheers!

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    • Anthony,

      Always appreciate the effort and enjoy reading your thoughtful responses, and I apologize for the lateness of mine. Been terribly busy around here. Can’t understand how I possibly could work full time anymore. Retirement has too full a schedule.

      I concur with Ms. Nin’s assessment on one level, however I think that the radical subjectivism of our times is fraught with danger inasmuch as it questions even the existence of objective truth. “There’s your truth, and my truth, and whatever gets you through the night.” I believe that there is “the truth” regarding these events.

      There was perhaps the Kraken (Sidney Powell’s term) of organized massive cheating; or there was some here and there that may or may not have been substantive enough to change the results in some key states; or there was just a tiny bit of cheating which takes place regularly; or there was none. But there is not several of the options simultaneously. Objective truth means that if one thing is true, its opposite is false. Granted there is always nuance, but amongst all the chaff and decoy flares, there is a plane flying around in there somewhere.

      That the media of all stripes is so deeply biased complicates any research, and I similarly read (not usually listen or watch) coverage across the spectrum. The interpretations, as you said, are so diverse as sometimes to look as though they describe different planets or dimensions. I find it interesting that over 90% of the media, both print and TV broadcast, that have enough of a commitment to political parties, donate Democrat. But the majority of talk show radio and successful podcasts seems to tend conservative. Not sure what that means.

      I admire your energy and commitment in volunteering as a poll worker. They got a good person for the job. Your experience in doing that work is encouraging. My continued question is that you were working in one precinct out of thousands and thousands, 3,400 of which had more votes than voters this time around according to a study by a Williams College economist. My hope is that your honesty and diligence was typical. One can only hope. A caveat perhaps is that even the ballots you judged had been ‘authenticated’ as to signature and provenance by a registrar of unknown loyalties.

      As I wrote in the post, unfortunately my experience in working the polls and observations at least in Rhode Island makes me a skeptic. So, apparently the confusion in news coverage, already murky due to the general abandonment of the standard to separate news coverage from editorial content, is made even more challenging by the difficulty of digging out the truth. To use the old cliché, even the objective reporter is faced with interviewing six blind witnesses feeling their way around the animal about the nature of the elephant.

      In any event, wishing you and yours a grateful and blessed Thanksgiving, hopefully in our new COVID Land with more than a cooked turkey for company.

      Best always, j

      Like

  2. We live in such a difficult era politically, socially and culturally. Can our society turn back? Yes, but it will take a move of the Holy Spirit not unlike previous Awakenings in our history. Only God can change our hearts and our stubborn minds back to him. I pray for this daily. On a more personal note, I was sitting in an AP English Class when I read this poem for the first time. I had never heard of the Second Coming. I went upstairs to library at the school and picked out a Bible. I looked in the Book of Revelation and was shocked at what I read. I believe it was my first step in truly coming to faith.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Valerie, Poetry, like song, enters more deeply into our mind and will than prose, especially so with my blog posts. ;^) I too found profound spiritual resonance with “Second Coming.” Also blessed with reflections on the poetry of others such as William Blake. One of my favorite quotes from Blake, which has sparked much thought is “And we are put on earth a little space, that we may learn to bear the beams of love.” As Jesus bore his ‘beams of love,’ especially on the road to Calvary, so, too, must I. And while a light burden compared to Him, nevertheless, love always has a cost. Thanks for joining in the discussion. Always like to hear from you.

      On Wed, Nov 18, 2020 at 7:02 PM Quo Vadis? Jack's Blog wrote:

      >

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