I said when I began blogging that there were other blogs on politics and I did not plan to write on that topic. But lately the things rattling around my head are more in that direction, and I have a few posts taking shape that bear on current politics. I am not going to endorse any particular candidates, but I do have some things I have been thinking concerning the intersection of politics, faith, and general culture. If it goes on too long and gets too specific I may have to set it up as a separate blog, but for now I'll keep it under the Postmodern Redneck schtick.
Before I start in, I should say a bit about my own journey up to now. I've called myself Postmodern Redneck because, as I said at the start, I Are One! On one side of my family I had (until the Depression) small farmers and some small businessmen, primarily of English ancestry, at the western edge of Ohio's part of Appalachia. On the other, mountain folk from eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, of Scotch-Irish extraction (my grandfather was a Burns, my grandmother a Webb--both good Scottish names, but the family tradition is that they came to America from Ireland. There were major settlements of Protestant Scots in Ireland in the 1600s, and a quarter of a million of them moved on to America during the 1700s). My grandfather and his sons spent some time working in the coal mines; otherwise, it was likely, as the old saying goes, "Whatever it takes to get the coon."
I was born in 1950, brought up in a UAW household. My parents revered FDR, and between them and my schoolteachers, I was brought up to be a good little liberal. (There was one incident, though: sometime when I was two they got too close to an Eisenhower rally, and I picked up the catchy slogan "I like Ike!" It apparently took a few spankings after I got home to get me to shut up....) Of course, back in the '50s and early '60s, even the Republicans were liberal, primarily from the Northeast like Nelson Rockefeller.
There were a number of things that moved me away from my liberal upbringing. One is my love of history--all periods, most places, but American history especially. Another was when I started studying theology in Bible college and learned something about "liberal" theology, which has always been hand-in-glove with liberal politics (there will be a post on that in this series, I suspect). Then, after college, as I drifted away from pulpit ministry I found myself making a living for my family in small business (my great-grandfather Hawkins, who died before I was born, had owned a bus company in his small town and an electrical contracting firm).
But probably the biggest factor was the drift of the Democrat Party itself. There's a saying around, "Not your grandfather's Democrat Party." It's true; the Democrats have traveled a long way from the time when I was born. Franklin D. Roosevelt was totally opposed to the unionization of Federal employees; now government employee unions are a mainstay of the Democrat Party. I grew up during the Cold War; there would be no room among today's Democrats for men like Harry Truman, John Kennedy, or "Scoop" Jackson. It was JFK who said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." Today's Democrats are all about what they are going to do for us (and to us!).
The change in me had already taken place when I read "Modern Times," an account of the years from the end of World War I to the Reagan/Thatcher years by the English historian Paul Johnson. One thing he wrote in that book has always stayed with me. He said the real divide, in Britain and America, was not between liberal and conservative, Tory and Labour, or Republican and Democrat; it was between those who see the state and its power as the answer to every problem, and those who believe in individual freedom. You can have liberal or conservative statists; they may want to use the power of the state for different problems, but they both see the state as the ultimate answer.
This resonated with me because of something C.S. Lewis had written, I think in "Mere Christianity"--that if an individual man is a creature who lives for seventy years or so and dies and is ended, then a state that can last for hundreds of years is more important; but if man is a spiritual being who can live for eternity, then a state is a transient, passing thing, and the individual is much more important than the State.
At this point, I could probably be described as a "libertarian" (small "L"--my older son has considered being a precinct officer for the Libertarian Party, but I'm not into that). I think we as a nation have reached the point where we have too much government regulation, at all levels: not just the EPA and OSHA, but state regulations, county licenses and boards, zoning rules that go beyond sense, and even homeowners' associations. (At least I finally got free of those where I live now.) The busybodies have been allowed too much control and are strangling us! As a remodeling contractor, I have had experience with the building codes and electrical codes. The basics of these are sensible and necessary; but the revisions every few years have gone far beyond the basics. I would say that most of the revisions are trivial, made to justify the bureaucrats who write them staying on the payroll; a few are important; and once in a while they make a change that I look at and think, "They had the technology to do this forty years ago! Why did it take them this long to figure it out?" This regulatory mindset is a large part of why there were no "shovel ready" jobs a couple of years ago. It took less than a year and a half to build the Empire State Building in New York City in the 1930s; it took ten years to build the 911 memorial on the World Trade Center site, and one of the neighboring churches destroyed at the time still has not been rebuilt, because of bureaucratic dithering!
So this is where I've come from, and a bit of what has shaped my thinking over the years. In my next few posts, I hope to discuss how some of these things apply to what is going on today.