A Poverty Of Thinking

There is in this world an enmity, born of envy, toward the rich from the poor. Don’t read that sentence as if it is a lament; it’s merely a statement of observable fact. In fact, understandable fact. This is not, after all, the petty envy of seeing your neighbor’s fifty-inch television. The envy born from poverty is deep and painful.

Poverty, even the comparatively milder version we have in the United States, is an intolerable state. Intolerable not for lack of having iPhones or Mercedes; it is middle-class sensibility that perceives the envy from poverty to be a desire to possess. But it is not the having-not that stabs at the heart of the have-nots. It is life made intolerable not by absence of things but by the absence of liberty. The impoverished do not have liberty in the same way that others do. Liberty to drive to the store; liberty to purchase food. Poverty is a burden of chains, weighing down the soul. It is a theft of freedom. The impoverished are enslaved, not in a conventional sense, but bound nevertheless. It is a state of being that we who love our God wish upon no man or woman. It is a bondage from which we strive to free others through good deeds, charity, and assistance. Poverty is no mere lack of money, it is often a lack of access, of mobility, of safety, and of order; and an attendant abundance of shame, fear, and pain. Poverty is a scourge.

It is a cowardly refrain, on the left, to suggest that those on the right don’t understand this or don’t want to help. It is cowardly because the accusation ends investigation of how to help and, therefore, how best to help. The inaptly named War on Poverty, for example, is inviolate in its very nature. You either acquiesce to particular political decisions or you are to be known a hater of the poor.

If you consider, even for a moment, the possibility that there may be a better way to fight poverty, to save people and raise them up from it, then you must recognize that the left, clutching tight the supposed moral authority over poverty and ending the investigation, blithely and forever remove that better way from possibility of being put to use. Think of the implication of halting, now and forever, the question of what is best for those who suffer. Doing so usurps the rights and freedoms of the most vulnerable societal group, strips them of the one freedom they yet retained, that of thought. And in place of thought, there is incarceration, in a cell of government’s making. This is how you will live now, this is what you may have.

Worse, the perversity of the captors is that they cynically manipulate that very envy – not the envy of things, but the envy of freedom – to revoke the freedom of those so chained, as well as those who would seek a better way to help them.

The silencing of thought – and I do not say it is dissent which is being quashed but reason itself – is accomplished by old and predictable methods that nevertheless work when in the hands of shameless Democrat demagogues and a dogmatically un-diverse media. They work when implemented as doctrine in our public schools and are painted thickly on the minds of the young to hinder their becoming more curious or interested in seeking truth.

If you are on the right, you already know this to be so. It is not something confined simply to the halting of investigation into how best to help the most out of poverty. No, it is evident in nearly every area of debate in this country, even down to itemized policy. Who does not recall the Democrats and their punditocracy decrying George Bush and all who would side with him as child-murderers over opposition to the expansion of SCHIP? On down to the personal level, you heard the accusation. I know this because I heard and read it as well. How, they would ask you, can Republicans oppose helping babies? Are they really that monstrous?

Or consider the stimulus bill. In arguing against it you are never presented with an argument in favor which is based on the merits. No, instead you are called an obstructionist or even a traitor. There was no debating the idea of the spending bill masquerading as stimulus. It was left to you to choose to either be on the side of good, or evilly oppose.

It is to be expected that those Democrats and left-wingers and liberals give not a moment’s consideration to the idea that sometimes a policy can appear to be helpful but actually turn out more harmful to the general well being, and often even to the perceived beneficiary, such as with the war on poverty.

There are countless other examples. In order to stop you from thinking the left will brand you as racist, they will hatefully accuse you of hate, and they do it with the self-righteous anger that comes from their own lack of critical examination. Worse, they will wrap their chains around the entire national discourse with supposed absolute truths and sacred cow ideology, even as they perversely congratulate themselves and their followers for being open-minded and liberal; meaning good rather than bad.

President Obama, far from this fatuous fairy tale of being a uniter who reaches across aisles, is himself a practitioner of “the one truth” politics, which is all the worse in his case for being “The One’s truth”. It is evident not merely in his “I Won” declarations, not merely in the dismissive manner with which he treats any reporter or average joe who dare ask a tough question. No it is also evident in the very actions he and his acolytes tout as signs of his mythical bipartisan or post-partisan methodologies. When President Obama invited top conservatives to a private dinner, it was with one purpose and with one presumption.

The one purpose, politically speaking, was to anoint friendlier opposition that he can later point to when they back him and say even the other side agrees. A fairly transparent maneuver that remains completely unearthed by the servile mainstream media.

The one presumption, though, is evidence, as I mention above, of Obama’s “The One’s truth” politics. He presumes that given the proper setting, anyone will come to agree with him. It is because his unexamined, deeply ingrained, leftist absolutes are, to his mind, unassailable truths which will be self-evident if only the outside noise of other ideas can be silenced for a time.

This, too, comes as no surprise to the right. Silencing of other ideas is thematic for the left. How could Obama be expected to be any different; being, as he is, the product of a liberal upbringing and likewise liberal educational mores, and with his birth as a fully-formed political entity being midwifed by hard-left activists groups and occurring amid the seething mixture of corruption and Democratic clichés that is the Chicago political scene. It is this, the overt and obvious fact of him, which made it all that much more frustrating when some from the middle and the moderate right turned from us toward him. That they could be convinced by the deedless words delivered over a few short months to dismiss the impact that the fires which forged him will forever hold over him compounds their guilt. He suffers from that same poverty of thought, the same aversion to investigation and reason, and that much should have been obvious.

This is not, for any left-minded who somehow continue to read, an indictment of his intellect or ability to reason. In fact I’m given to understand that he possesses both in good measure. But that, of course, is no matter when it comes to the absolutes of the left. “Government must work to end poverty.” That is not a point of view or subject of debate, it is an article of faith. Quite literally, in fact, with regard to the church he made his home for twenty years.

Last week, Rush Limbaugh went before the nation and tried to assault some of those liberal tropes. He spoke of how conservatives love people, and this is so; Love thy neighbor. He spoke of how conservative thinking produces policy designed to help the most people, not the fewest, and this is so, even if that policy is one of non-intervention. These things are not accession to progressivism or so-called “Rousseau conservatism.” To say a conservative looks at his neighbor and sees potential isn’t a sweeping philosophical statement about whether people are born innocent or not. It’s an illustration of the fact that the conservative doesn’t look at his countryman and judge him doomed to his lot. It is a silly thing to conclude that such a practice means the conservative therefore doesn’t know about or believe in bad people; but then, axe-grinding is only slightly less reasoned than leftism.

The idea that a conservative looks at a fellow citizen and sees someone who can be more is rather important, in fact. Because in practice we are, like anyone, seeking solutions to problems, comfort for our fellows, and a nation where anyone is free to pursue life, liberty and happiness. We as conservatives cherish our founding documents in part because they, too, look at a person and see someone who can, as Rush put it, “be the best he or she wants to be if certain things are just removed from their path like onerous taxes, regulations and too much government.” Government operating on this principle governs best as well as least; the least intrusively, the least onerously. We as conservatives look to freedom because we require liberty for ourselves, and because we desire it for all others.

It is on that basis that conservatives look at the failed War on Poverty and expect to be able do something better. We will consider, unlike liberals, ideas which do not start and end in the Treasury. We dare look outside the trappings of Great Society and New Deal. We believe in our time-honored institutions and traditions. In churches and charity and people. Not merely because we believe that often they can work better, but because they enhance liberty rather than limit it. The simplest of minds can understand that given is better than taken, and it is a sign of how pervasive the left’s dogma is ingrained in society that such a statement is neither heard nor would it be considered, despite that those who we oppose perversely insist they pursue “fairness.”

The real war on poverty ought to be against a poverty of thinking. It ought to be against surrendering to the absolutes on the left. We can no longer allow their witch-hunt methodology to quiet us into retreat or send us quivering to the New York Times for scraps of approval. We must do as Rush has done. We must point people to the truth with a loud voice and refuse to cower. The future of this nation, of our children and grandchildren, will be decided by how well we can accomplish our goal. We must, at long last, fight the fixing of liberal ideologies as inviolable truths of nature into the hearts and minds of Americans with our every breath.

Our path is clear: to make our message clear. Conservatives have answers that work. Unlike liberals, we will never doom an entire segment of society to perpetual misery, nor will we, like the left, work to bring more of society down into that same misery.

Poverty is a cell in which you are deprived of your liberty. Poverty of thinking is the prison that keeps those cells shut, guarded under lock and key, free from the prying light of other ideas. Our war must be on the latter if ever there is to be true relief for the former.

– Caleb Howe