Sunday, February 28, 2010

Regarding the "Mount Vernon Statement"

I've been asked by a conservative friend to "sign" the Mount Vernon Statement.  Actually, he sent me a canned email message I assume he was provided when he electronically accepted it himself, and was thereupon encouraged to foward to the email boxes of unsuspecting others.

It seems a relatively harmless statement, as such silly statements go.  Doubtless it was carefully drafted to be acceptable to most of that ideological persuasion.  There seems nothing especially weird about it.  No insistence, for example, on the United States being a "Christian" nation, whatever that is supposed to mean, or being the instrument of God's will in this evil world (one wonders what battles were fought to exclude such pretentions).   And, being of a libertarian bent (which does not mean Libertarian, my dear readers), if I have any political position at all, I'm not automatically adverse to all those who call themselves conservative, though certain of them--all too visible in these tiresome times--make me groan.  I have no intention of signing it, however.

First, I'm fearful of what would happen if I did.  Would I appear on some dreadful electronic list, and be bombarded with exhortations and appeals from such as Limbaugh or Beck or, worse yet, the Republican Party or its members?  There may be worse fates, true.  I could be subjected to communications from the Democratic Party as well.  The idiots and venal creatures infecting our politics are legion; I wish there was some Ambrose Bierce for our time, who would shower them with the splendid vituperation they deserve.

Second, I'm hesitant to identify myself with any political group which holds itself out as being, somehow, wise, or at least wiser than others.  Why bother to do so?  Being something of a pragmatist, I understand that I will never agree with such and such group or party on all things, because I believe that intelligence, properly applied, is not rigid.  Intelligence, as I believe Dewey would say, is a method of resolving problems; it isn't a set of select standards to be applied in each case, or a recipe to be followed in every instance.  There may be certain things we have found to be most, or more, effective in bringing about desirable results over the years; it may be that certain forms of government have been shown to be more likely to result in the free application of intelligence and freedom of thought, and the freedom to live our lives most productively in accordance with our own desires, than others.  But, purporting to commit ourselves to such things as "family, neighborhood, community and faith" to paraphrase this statement, to the extent it means anything at all, is either to commit ourselves to a limited and possibly (and most likely) exclusivist point of view, or to something so vague as to be practically meaningless.

The statement is merely another aspect of the increasing polarization taking place in our politics, I fear.   There is no need to make a such a statement.  There is a need to identify problems and attempt to resolve them, in a realistic and non-ideological manner.

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