I wanted to offer a few clarifications for readers who were outraged by yesterday's essay, "Kavanaugh: The Cost of Trump
." They're the sort of things that are worth saying, but only after a little time, and definitely not in a shrill tone.
I believe strongly in standing behind what you write or publish. It's far too easy nowadays to dissociate oneself from one's own opinions. Permanence doesn't fix bad thinking, but it makes discourse incarnate and more personal, and that can
fix bad thinking. Along these lines, Ethika Politika
is not afraid to publish unpopular opinions (and I'm not afraid to write them). But unpopular doesn't include patently false or misleading statements. And holding an unpopular position means being prepared to deal with legitimate concerns of that sort, when and if they arise. The truth demands nothing less.
And so, there are three falsehoods I'd like to avoid, and that I'd like to make clear in case they weren't before.
First, I don't assume Kavanaugh is guilty of sexual assault, and any reading of my essay that purports as much is evidently only cursory and profoundly mistaken. Whether Kavanaugh is guilty doesn't affect the point I tried to make. And, in fact, the point might even be more noticeable just because
we don't know that. (At least one person I spoke with prior to publishing advised me to wait until the investigative facts were clearer to make the claims I did. But I resisted precisely because I didn't want those eventualities to cloud an important philosophical point.) Reactions to the piece—some by long-time Ethika Politika
readers—accusing me of judging Kavanaugh prematurely are at best sloppy and highly uncharitable.
Second, a popular refrain (no doubt derived from the same type of media soundbites that sparked the reaction, above) has been: "But Trump is no worse than Clinton." That might be true. But pro-lifers didn't
vote for Clinton, so that's not the difficulty we have to confront.
Third, I admit, calling pro-life politics "finally and utterly worthless" was obnoxiously strong. But not too strong. I carefully avoiding saying that the pro-life movement
was "worthless." I said the movement, sadly, has walked over an ethical cliff. I didn't suggest that building a culture of life was meaningless, or that ending legal abortion would be a hollow victory. Those are precisely the things we should be concerned about. But they're very different challenges than what we've allowed to crystallize in our minds (especially for those of us born sometime in the last millennium). They require more than ever that we employ profoundly cultural, human, and spiritual tools. The people I know who I disagree with on political points invariably share a deep concern for protecting their families, and even the family and human life, in general. This is the only ground we have left to cultivate, that hasn't been made fallow by political ideologies of all sorts.
(For the record, I think the weakest and most susceptible point I made is that "partisan opportunism and vindictiveness" is incompatible with pro-life politics. But I haven't seen anyone seize on that yet. It would be pretty tough to counter a prima facie
objection to that claim, and I'd very much welcome a submission
I think in this I've been far more charitable than many particular challenges to my essay have warranted. But "enlightened civic discourse" demands nothing less. We claim
that Ethika Politika