Time to Admit It: I Live in the Suburbs and Love It

have to finally confess to myself: I live in a suburb. It has taken me a while to admit it. Suburban living has never been my ambition but it has become my fate. Even with a Kansas City, Missouri address, where I now live is indisputably a suburb. That’s because we live in Platte County north of the Missouri River above Jackson County. Jackson County is Kansas City; everywhere else is a suburb. Continue Reading »

The Courage to Stand for Principle

Bravo to Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana for vetoing a gestational surrogacy bill passed by the state legislature. Fighting infertility is good. Promoting the adoption of children in need of parents is good. But gestational surrogacy is bad—bad for children, bad for women, bad for the community. There are better ways. If you doubt that (or even if you don’t), please see the documentary film “Breeders: A Subclass of Women” by the great Jennifer Lahl. Anyway, Jindal did the right thing and demonstrated that he is someone who possesses the courage—rare among politicians—to stand for principle.Wouldn’t you love to see that quality in a President? Continue Reading »

Recasting Religious Freedom

Few among us concerned for the defense of religious freedom can doubt that these have become dark times indeed. Most recently, arguments have been brought before the Supreme Court—there has been a veritable cascade of briefs—against the government on Obamacare. Many of these have one way and another concentrated on the argument that even a business organized as a corporation, in reflecting the character of its founders, may still be touched with a religious character.A corporation is an association of free persons, and no one is contesting any longer that a corporation, for many legal purposes, has the standing of a person. Every association, as Aristotle taught us, is aimed at some notion of a good, whether that good be the making of shoes for profit or the relieving of famine. Based both on legal precedents and the logic of the thing, it should be clear that there is no plausible way to argue that, among all the things that may shape the notion of the “good” sought by a corporation, a religious understanding is the only one that must be ruled out as illegitimate. Thus one has reason to be fairly confident that such an understanding will prevail in these cases. But it could prevail and yet the case still be lost. In the end, the heart of the matter will come down to something else.Even people experienced in politics were jolted to discover that the Obama administration had deliberately chosen, as a political stroke, to pick a fight with the Catholic Church by compelling both Catholic institutions and Catholic businessmen to cover abortifacients and contraceptives in the medical insurance they offer to their employees. (And what can be said in regard to Catholics can be said just as well for Mormons and Evangelicals.) The religious, now embattled in the courts, have been persistent in invoking part of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Yet it appears to be coming as a surprise to religious Americans and their lawyers—even so late in the seasons of our experience—just how thin and equivocal the First Amendment might prove to be as a support for their religious freedom. Continue Reading »

Empire of Desire

These days a man can wake up and say, “Enough! I’m tired of fighting against my innermost feelings. I’ve always felt myself to be a woman, and I’ll be damned if I’ll let myself go on like this.” Medical professionals stand ready at hand; psychologists are prepared to help. If he has generous and expansive insurance coverage, then the way is clear. Hormones are administered, surgeries performed, wardrobes changed.Eventually family, friends, and coworkers are informed that Charlie is now Charlene.In itself this does not shock me. The Golden Ass, written by Apuleius in the second century, is a ribald tale of human depravity and excess, a useful reminder that Michael Jackson was not a uniquely modern phenomenon. The human psyche has always been unstable and diverse. Like water finding its way downhill, our intense wants and urgent desires seek paths toward satisfaction. Continue Reading »

The Good of Government

In his first inaugural address, President Reagan announced that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” and his remark struck a chord in the hearts of his conservative supporters. American conservatives, called upon to define their position, reiterate the message that there is “too much government.” The seemingly unstoppable expansion of regulations; the increasing control over what happens in the workplace, in the public square, and even in the family; the constant manufacturing of new crimes and misdemeanors, aimed at controlling how we associate and with whom; the attempts to limit First and Second Amendment rights—these developments are viewed by many conservatives with alarm. They seem to be taking America in a new direction, away from the free association of self-governing individuals envisaged by the founders, toward a society of obedient dependents, who exchange their freedom and their responsibilities for a perpetual lien on the public purse. And you only have to look at Europe to see the result.The European countries are governed by a political class that can escape from accountability behind the closed doors of the European institutions. Those institutions deliver an unending flow of laws and regulations covering all aspects of life, from the hours of work to the rights of sexual minorities. Everywhere in the European Union a regime of political correctness makes it difficult either to maintain, or to live by, precepts that violate the state-imposed orthodoxies. Non-discrimination laws force many religious people to go against the teachings of their faith in the matters of homosexuality, public preaching, and the display of religious symbols. Activists in the European Parliament seek to impose on all states of the Union, regardless of culture, faith, or sovereignty, an unqualified right to abortion, together with forms of “sex education” calculated to prepare young people as commodities in the sexual market, rather than as responsible adults seeking commitment and love.A kind of hysteria of repudiation rages in European opinion-forming circles, picking one by one on the old and settled customs of a two-thousand-year-old civilization, and forbidding them or distorting them into some barely recognizable caricature. And all this goes with a gradual transfer of economic life from private enterprise to central government, so that in France and Italy more than half of citizens are net recipients of income from the state while small businesses struggle to comply with a regime of regulations that seems designed on purpose to suppress them. Continue Reading »

A Tea Party for Everyone

What will the legacy of the Tea Party be? A few Senate wins and government shutdowns? Or a whole new trajectory for our politics? We don’t know yet, but we do know this: If Tea Party activists can refashion their movement to appeal to a wider fraction of the American electorate, they might have a chance of expanding the Tea Party’s influence beyond its current limits. The alternative is for the Tea Party to remain a conservative faction subordinate to the Republican party establishment. Continue Reading »

Piling Cliché Upon Cliché

In the past two days, federal courts have redefined marriage in two states: Oregon and Pennsylvania. No one should be surprised by this; though the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor v. U.S., which struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, could be shrewdly navigated so as to permit state definitions of marriage to survive scrutiny, it was unlikely that any federal judge would bring attention to himself by defying the accumulating mass of pro-same-sex marriage rulings. Continue Reading »