Showdown at High Noon
February 19, 2010 § 12 Comments
Well, technically it was 12:40.
Before I continue my series on the pathologies of the “waterboarding is not torture” idea and why it is (and is not) significant, a brief mention of another matter. My new friend Austin Ruse and I had lunch yesterday in Washington, DC. (It was just lunch. The following are impressions from lunch. This does not imply that I have done comprehensive due diligence on everything Mr. Ruse has ever said and everyone with whom he has ever associated, or that I am interested in debating his character, or in rehashing the details of the combox encounter, or anything of the sort. You know who you are. Stow it.)
Austin and I first “met” in the comboxes of this shootout at The American Catholic. As the transcript reveals, we decided to meet in person.
Mr. Ruse is a gentleman: warm, genuine, and smart, one of those guys who is really interested in people, their organization into formal institutions, and the activities of those institutions; the kind of guy who will wander around with you and introduce you to everyone he knows with handshakes and smiles and talk about all the various groups and programs and things going on in the community. A very likeable man, with a great love of the Church and a passionate devotion to protecting the unborn.
The whole debate – the substantive part of it – is new to him. His impression of anti-torture Catholics was formed, prior to this recent encounter, almost entirely by interactions with Catholics of a certain sort: the kind of Catholics who will see marchers at a protest of Roe vs Wade and snarl under their breath “Pro-life! If you were really pro-life you’d be out there helping get the Obama health plan passed!”; as opposed to, say, “Bless them. I really should be doing more myself.” You know the type I mean.
It was just a nice lunch between two Catholic guys with rather different personality traits and personal interests. But there is one substantive matter relating to the earlier thread which I should address. Tom summarizes the concern thus:
I suppose there are three possibilities:
1. He’s mistaken; decrying torture will not hurt his interests.
2. He’s correct that decrying torture will hurt his interests, because he has accidentally scoped his interests too narrowly (I think in particular of his implications that voting Republican is a necessary good, which may simply be a means he’s become accustomed to seeking uncritically).
3. He’s correct that decrying torture will hurt his interests, because his interests are not wholly directed to the common good. (This is essentially the Vox Nova position, that organizations like C-FAM are merely Republican or called-conservative-but-as-liberal-as-they-come shops.)
Before reading his own words, I would have dismissed possibility #3 out of hand.
I think the real answer is a variant of (1):
When you are deeply committed to protecting the unborn, the holocaust of whom is possibly a worse stain on humanity than even the large-scale atrocities of the last century, and one of your personal passions is organizing people into formal institutions to engage in political action; and when you further see nothing but unprincipled political hatchet jobs coming from people who literally hate anything resembling an existing actual formally organized anti-abortion group; and when a principal weapon employed in these hatchet jobs is this particular issue — when all of that is true, you can’t help but have a particular impression of this whole debate.
Until, that is, you encounter orthodox Catholics who are also deeply passionate about protecting the unborn on that same side, the side forming the edge of the hatchet, under the “stopped clock” theory, of this particular issue.
In fact, being the sort who does the organization think-tank policy dance every day, he was enthusiastic about orthodox activist-anti-torture Catholics getting involved at that level and in that manner. A great idea; though probably a job for someone other than myself.
Well met, Austin.