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I hope we can all agree we each have one — a filter, that is. By its nature, though, a filter isn’t something you’re conscious of unless you step back and look at it, instead of through it. This has come up because a longtime friend believes he’s “conservative” (whatever that means), as do Mr. C and I, and yet we differ strongly on many important issues. I think I’m seeing his filter (a very progressive Trump-hating wife and adult daughter), but it’s made me ponder my own.
I’d like to think I’m looking at politics through a Catholic lens, but I know I already struggle to intellectually submit to at least two positions the Church takes: 1) use of the atomic bomb in Japan was utterly, inexcusably immoral and 2) the death penalty is “inadmissible” (Pope Francis’s addendum to the Catechism). The host of the Catholic Answers podcast has decried the use of the atomic bomb because it’s immoral to target children and whole cities. To which I would normally answer, “obviously.” But, is that really what happened at the end of World War II in Japan?
I don’t believe American forces specifically targeted children and, given that the atomic bomb had never been used over actual cities and the people living there, I’m not sure we knew just how devastating it would be. In addition, the firebombing of Tokyo killed approximately 100,000 Japanese and displaced roughly 1 million people — the most devastating air raid of the war. By comparison, the casualty estimates for Hiroshima and Nagasaki are, respectively, 70,000 and 40,000. I’m pretty sure the Catholic Answers guys would say the firebombing was immoral, too, but for some reason the focus is always on the atomic bomb, about which multiple warnings were given and the second one deployed only after the failure of the Japanese to surrender after the first.
But, but. . . I have to humbly consider that I’m wrong in my inclination to defend its use. I haven’t read Father Miscamble’s book on the subject, Counting the Dead at Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan, but I understand it is a thorough academic accounting and a moral defense given the likelihood of devastating casualties on both sides if the Allies had made an island-to-island invasion in the attempt to defeat Japan. Given the inhumane treatment of POWs by the Japanese and the propagandizing of their people that allied forces would cannibalize them (I’ve seen the film of a Japanese woman throwing her child off a cliff and jumping to her death to avoid such an outcome), I’m inclined to see the issue Fr. Miscamble’s way, although he and I may both be wrong.
I will grant that the whole of both world wars is a moral stain on humanity, beginning (typically) with the Germans. [Why is it always the Germans??] I’m just not sure there was a better way to resolve the conflict, given the intransigence of the enemies involved. And I don’t think anyone else knows either. Hindsight and second-guessing are sort of cheap and easy.
Although, I also have to consider that the issue is somewhat personal for me. If my father had been deployed to the Pacific after his service in Europe, chances are very good I and five of my six siblings wouldn’t be here to contemplate the morality of the atomic attack on Japan. That might be contributing to my bias.
On the death penalty, my conscience rests a little easier. I don’t believe in the “evolution” of doctrine (Pope Francis’s famously ambiguous airplane interview term). The development of a better understanding of revelation, sure, but not a change from one thing to something entirely opposite. The Church has long held that the death penalty is acceptable in cases of heinous murder. Pope Francis seems to think that because modern prisons are more secure, a lifetime spent in one is more humane treatment of the murderer and still protects society from him. I demur in two ways.
The prison staff are still threatened by criminally violent inmates and suffer injury and sometimes death. And facing execution and one’s Creator and Judge has a way of focusing the mind and is more likely to lead to a soul-saving conversion and repentance of the murderer than keeping him comfortably incarcerated for the last 30 years of his life until he has no mind left to focus. Also, with the advancement of DNA forensics, we’re much more secure in our knowledge of who the heinous murderer really is and have much less concern about executing an innocent man. It helps my position that God calls for the execution of murderers in all five books of the Torah, too. I don’t recall reading in the Bible where He changed His mind, so capital punishment is not only supported by Scripture, but also Catholic Tradition, and Magisterial teaching. It checks all the boxes.
I’ve come around 180 degrees on other Church teachings since my braindead atheist lefty days — specifically abortion and ideas about labor and laborers. I can say I absolutely believe in a woman’s right to control her own body in agreement with my progressive-influenced conservative friend. But, the abortion issue is about whether a woman has a right to make a life or death decision about someone else’s body. Hint: she doesn’t, no matter the circumstances of a child’s conception.
I also have a more nuanced view of work and labor unions than before. I’m no longer a fan of the Protestant work ethic. Sure America is prosperous because at least some of her people work hard, but at what price to their humanity? I say “yes” to collective bargaining in the private sector and a hard “no” to public employee unions. The only people not represented at the public union employee bargaining table are the “public” the government and its employees are supposed to be serving.
When it comes to our Trump-hating “conservative” friends, we’re likely to agree on some/many policy issues, but not on the man himself or the 2020 election. I’m inclined to believe the 2020 election was dirty, no matter how hated Trump is and was by voters for the following reasons:
1) the corporate media are inveterate, shameless liars — especially about Trump, but really about pretty much everything. Trump did not say Nazis are “very fine people” about Charlottesville. He isn’t a chronic liar, he’s an exaggerator for entertainment/effect. Joe Biden is a pathological liar about his record, his family tragedies, his faith, his accomplishments, about others . . . you name it. Donald Trump is hated because he tells people outrageous truths they’d rather not hear and he shares exactly what he’s thinking (speaking the same language many of us use), sometimes in a New York mean tweet way. He’s broken the presidential mold. Trump did not take nuclear secrets to Mar a Lago to sell them to our enemies. . . change my mind. He did not try to damage his political opponent by his Ukraine call — he tried to uncover the truth the media won’t tell us. The media is the enemy of the people and totally in the tank for Democrats and the status quo Leviathan governing our lives.
2) Zuckerbucks, ballot harvesting, 10,000 mules. Dismissal of Republican observers for post-midnight ballot counting. Blue districts famously “finding” votes, and not just in 2020.
3) COVID electoral shenanigans and the incurious state prosecutors and the DoJ refusing to investigate clear violations of states’ constitutions (and, therefore, the US Constitution) regarding the conduct of elections (mass mailing of ballots). The courts refusing to consider the cases because the states who brought them “lacked standing.” It was a freaking national election! Every state and every voter in it should have “standing.”
So, that’s a brief assessment of my filter, even though this is a lengthy post. I still have a lot more self-reflection to do and I might be wrong on any or most of these issues (not abortion, though). But, I know that to engage our friend, I’m going to have to have clarity about my biases and to seek areas of agreement first. None of this is easy, but no one is going to be convinced either way without a good-faith attempt to try to see more clearly the lens we’re looking through.Published in