Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Great Mormon Novel

I am going to wade into a conversation that occurred about a year ago but which was rekindled recently by an article in Slate that asked the question:  "Where is the Great Mormon Novel?"  The article was written as a critique of the new novel by Mormon Brady Udall called The Lonely Polygamist.

This article lead back to an article in the Mormon Times that stated that the Great Mormon Novel is impossible for impossibly shallow reasons thoroughly discredited here and here.  The gist was that Mormons are not self-critical enough and not willing to question beliefs enough to write great literature.  The discussion then turned a bit more meta with the proposition that we shouldn't even be worried about creating the Great Mormon Novel because the concept itself is outdated and unworthy of our attention.  This is my incredibly glib recap of the discussion and I encourage you to read through those links and flesh out the arguments for yourselves.  (As a side note, if you haven't spent some time exploring Mormon artistic endeavors at A Motley Vision and Dialogue, it is worth your time to do so.)

I think transcendent literature is something that is universal to our shared human experience.  What makes a piece of literature timeless is that it speaks to people from different backgrounds, cultures, eras, and genders, and can reveal something new to each.  My initial reaction, then, was that a Great Mormon Novel is not very likely, not because we aren't able or willing to question faith and authority and embrace ambiguity and conflict, but because we are pretty weird.  Pres. Hinckley, on several occasions, reiterated the words of the apostle Peter in referring to us as a "peculiar people."  We have always been encouraged to live apart from the world and embrace our peculiarity.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Lean To The Right?

Bennett is out.

“When it was announced that Bennett had been eliminated from the race, a huge ovation swept through the convention hall and there were hoots and shouts of 'He's gone! He's gone!' Other delegates hugged and tea party members waved their yellow 'Do Not Tread On Me' flags.”

I am exceptionally curious about what, specifically, Bennett did that resulted in this level of vitriol. Even more, I am interested in what the Republican delegates see in Tim Bridgewater that has him as their nominee. If anybody out there has an answer better than “Bob Bennett was too liberal to represent Utah,” I would love to hear it.

My greatest fear is that democracy is slowly being smothered by popular media. Do “democrats” understand “liberal” policy? Do “republicans” truly agree with “conservative” ideology? Are “independents” and party swappers (and everyone else for that matter) simply opportunistic snakes, waiting for the chance to strike?

I don’t live in Utah, but I found a recent article from The Salt Lake Tribune that I felt brought up some excellent questions for conservatives. Naturally, one could make a similar, polarized list for “liberals”. What I struggle with is that the major gripe of the Tea Party movement is that the incumbents are not conservative enough, and as such, I thought it would be interesting to point out what “ultra-conservative” really means. Here are the ten questions from the recent article I cited above:

1. Do you oppose or support socialized medicine? If you answered "I oppose socialized medicine," will you introduce legislation to repeal Medicare for seniors -- socialized medicine brought to us by Great Society liberal Lyndon Johnson? If not, explain why you support socialized medicine for seniors and but do not support Obamacare for working families.

2. Will you introduce legislation to repeal all agriculture, grazing and mining subsidies? If not, please explain why you support socialized agriculture, grazing and mining.

3. Will you introduce legislation to sell off all federal lands in Utah to the highest bidder? If not, please explain why you think the big federal government, not the private sector and private landholders, should own Utah's lands. (Note, giving the land to the State of Utah just transfers the socialism to a different level of government, so that is not a valid answer).

4. A major criticism of Sen. Bennett was his support of the TARP in 2008. Will you pledge to oppose all government bailouts, even if that means a freezing of the credit markets and the failure of small businesses across the United States?

5. Which federal regulatory agencies will you eliminate? The Securities and Exchange Commission? The FDIC? The Consumer Product Safety Commission? The Federal Mine Safety Administration? The Environmental Protection Agency? The Agricultural Inspection Service? The Food and Drug Administration? If you support these agencies, please explain why we need big government in these areas, none of which are expressly provided for in the U.S. Constitution.

6. Do you support repealing the Small Business Administration? If not, please explain why you think big government bureaucrats know better than the free market which small businesses deserve help and support (and what a bureaucrat could possibly do to help a free market capitalist business person).

7. Do you support the National Weather Service? If so, please explain why big government can track the weather better than the private sector.

8. Will you oppose all appropriations earmarks for Utah?

9. Will you pledge to oppose government interventions to bring jobs to Utah? If not, please explain why you think you, and not the market, should determine where jobs are located in the United States.

10. Will you introduce legislation to repeal the Federal Communications Commission and the work of its nanny state, liberal, politically correct bureaucrats who regulate the words people can say on the television and radio and the images shown on TV? Or do you think bureaucrats, not the free market, should decide what is appropriate to air in America?

I’m sincerely curious about people’s responses to these questions. I will never suggest that a party member must adhere to all of said parties’ ideology; however, considering the cry that the GOP needs to be more conservative, I wonder how many people out there are ready for what that really means. Comments?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Moderation In A Crowded World

In 1800 just after the United States was formed and the Constitution ratified, the world population was about 978 million, just under 1 billion.  North America had about 7 million people.  If you had suggested to them at the time that they really should consider moderating consumption and conserving natural ecosystems, they probably would have laughed you to scorn.  "The world has more natural resources and available land than we ever could possibly develop," they would say to you with a condescending chuckle.  "Why on Earth should moderate anything?"

Today the world population is approaching 7 billion and North America has about 340 million people.  In a hundred years we'll be pushing 10 billion people.  It is a crowded world we live in now and it is not difficult to imagine running out of oil, chopping down the Amazon rain forest, and polluting our entire atmosphere and oceans to near sterility.  For thousands of years leading up to now humans have never had to moderate because the world was so big and we were so small.  So it is not altogether surprising, then, when so many people today, Americans in particular, continue to scoff at the idea of moderation, at the idea that we have to pull back in order to preserve what we have.

The oil gushing into the Gulf Coast at a rate of 210,000 gallons a day, which we are apparently powerless to stop any time soon, is a fitting example of how we are failing to be proper stewards of the Earth because we are not willing to moderate our thirst for oil.

But the idea of moderation in an ever more crowded world doesn't just pertain to the environment and consumption of goods.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Approaching Immigration With A "Spirit of Compassion"

Perhaps you heard that Arizona passed an immigration law that is controversial.  Most of the controversy centered around the following language from the bill (read it here in pdf), Article 8 paragraph B:
For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person.
As for the legal side of the thing, first, "lawful contact" may be the most broad language ever written in the history of American legislation.  It encompasses almost anything apart from an explicitly illegal traffic stop (which almost doesn't exist anymore: one mph over the speed limit, faulty tail light, "you looked like you were swerving within you lane", you vaguely fit the description of an alleged malfeasor, etc.) or the police barging into your home without a warrant.  Basically, lawful contact is not a limitation at all, let alone a reasonable one.

Second, the Constitution’s equal protection clause forbids the government from differentiating between anyone, including illegal immigrants, on the basis of race. Under the Arizona law no one has suggested any other potential grounds for the police to reasonably suspect someone is an illegal immigrant besides the fact that they have Latin American-colored skin.  What else could possibly fall under "reasonable suspicion"?  I can't think of anything.  Governmental racism is, bluntly, unconstitutional.