Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Katrina vanden Heuvel on Corrupt, Unhelpful "Center" and Its Flight from Reality

As a complement to the two postings I've just made: there's been valuable discussion recently of the shortcomings of beltway centrism and the predictable cry of centrists as each election cycle rolls around that we just need to get along, be more bipartisan and cooperative--and move right as the political pendulum moves ever more decisively to the right.  

At Salon, Alex Pareene tackled these issues a day or so ago, noting that the New York Times's war-mongering centrist commentator Bill Keller has (predictably) weighed in on the recent kerfuffle that ensued when Paul Krugman exposed David Brooks's "centrism" for the hot mess of right-wing propaganda it really is.  Keller's, of course, all for Brooks's proposal to move the conversation to the right to the center.

And at Common Dreams today, Katrina vanden Heuvel offers first-rate analysis of the deep corruption at the heart of the beltway centrist enterprise.  As she notes, the essential thing that the centrist proposals for us to get along keep overlooking is reality itself: the reality that the pendulum has swung so far to the right in the Republican party as it's now configured that there's not the least intent of compromise on the part of the GOP.  And so, to all intents and purposes, the centrist proposal that we engage in bipartisan compromise effectively means that those to the left of the center should keep conceding ground to the right, even as the right moves further and further to the right.

This discussion has pertinence, I think, for what I've just posted about the pro-USCCB cheerleading of beltway centrist Catholic commentators.  Under the guise of applauding the bishops' concern for the poor, what the beltway centrist Catholic commentariat has long done--what it keeps doing--is working to assure that the official Catholic public conversation is heavily weighted to the right.  And that the Democratic party, to the extent that it expects to have Catholic support, has to dance to the tune played by the Catholic bishops.

As I've suggested, and as I think vanden Heuvel's analysis of corrupt, unhelpful beltway centrism underscores, this centrist Catholic pro-USCCB cheerleading has little to do with the reality of the American Catholic church right now--a church in which the bishops' penchant for the Republican party is readily apparent and undisguised; a church in which the bishops are attacking the human rights of marginalized communities under the guise of protecting human rights; a church in which the bishops are spending millions to engage in these political crusades while abandoning the poor; a church in which the bishops have decidedly not protected the least among us in their handling of the abuse of children, etc.

When we abandon reality for ideological stuff and nonsense, we seldom end up serving moral ends.  Since, as Jesus constantly reminds his followers throughout the gospels, living lives of faithful devotion to God's word requires us to immerse ourselves in the nitty-gritty real world, in the world of the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the sick, the stranger, those shoved to the margins.  In the world in which love becomes incarnate precisely by acting in solidarity with those on the margins.

And as Jesus also constantly reminds his followers in the gospels, living lives of practical compassion in the real world  requires us to speak the truth in love and let our yea be yea and our nay be nay.  Not to lie on behalf of the powers that be, so that we can preserve our comfortable jobs as interpreters of religious meaning while we remain comfortably ensconced in the very power centers that make the decisions that result in misery for the least among us.

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