Monday, August 31, 2009

Ross Douthat's Weekly Exercise in Inanity

It's Monday, people, and my favorite joke of a journalist has regaled us with his weekly effort at writing. As an educator, I feel a painful itch to find him and tell him all about the way an argument should be structured and the most common rhetorical errors people commit when writing an analytical piece. Today's article, "A Different Kind of Liberal", should have been titled "Why can't liberals be as close-minded, uneducated, hateful, fanatical, and conservative as ... well, conservatives?"

In this piece, Douthat laments the near disappearance of "America’s dwindling population of outspoken pro-life liberals." What he fails to see, however, is an inherent contradiction between the words "pro-life" and "liberal." The truth is that the mere fact of using the word "pro-life" marks you as decidedly anti-liberal. We have a whole group of society dedicated to a very outspoken defense of this point of view. Those people are called Republicans in the best of cases, and religious fundamentalists in the worst. The idea that liberals would suddenly convert to this ideology is bizarre. What next? The support for "free markets", no gun control. no medicare, no social programs? Can we do all that and still consider ourselves liberals? Apparently, Douthat thinks we can.

One of the things I hate the most about conservatives of Douthat's ilk is their judgmental hypocrisy. He laments the fact that "the abortion rate for fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome, for instance, is estimated to be as high as 90 percent." In my opinion, you have to have some nerve to judge people who honestly see themselves incapable of raising a Down's syndrome child and choose to terminate. A truly religious person, in my opinion, can have no problem with abortion. For a believer, a mere human being cannot possibly hope to thwart God's plans. I believe that this child will be born eventually, only without the syndrome. Or, as a possibility, it will be born to parents who feel they have the strength to raise such a kid. Douthat's anti-abortion stance, however, has nothing to do with actual religious feeling. As we have seen many times, he is terrified of female independence and feels a profound need to control women.

Another annoying characteristic of this kind of writing is the constant effort at coopting feminism as a way of promoting an anti-feminist agenda. Douthat believes that he somehow has the right of telling women what "real" feminism is all about (in this case, being anti-abortion): "[Eunice Kennedy Shriver] knew what patriarchy meant: she was born into a household out of “Mad Men,” where the father paraded his mistress around his family, the sons were groomed for high office, and the daughters were expected to marry well, rear children and suffer silently. And she transcended that stifling milieu, doing more than most men to change the world, and earning the right to disagree with her fellow liberals about what true feminism required." The daring of a profoundly anti-feminist Douthat in judging what "true feminism" is would bewilder anybody even marginally acquainted with his women-hating writing.

What's so shocking about Douthat is that having failed to understand what being a Conservative means, he would set out to teach liberals and feminists what they should believe or do. He never even mastered the tenets of his own political persuasion and has the cheek to pontificate to others. People like Douthat are an insult to Conservative thought.

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