If you are a columnist you know you have hit a home run when your column gets read on air by multiple radio talk show hosts. Such is certainly the case with this morning’s Daniel Henninger column in the WSJ. I have personally heard it read by Hewitt and Prager this morning, and I am betting if they read it so did a lot of others. In the column, Henninger takes to task players on the Left, Right and supposed Center for their politicization of once sacredly apolitical governmental institutions, like our intelligence and law enforcement apparatus. Here’s just a few select snippets:
They knew the drill. In 2011 the Obama White House leaked details of SEAL Team Six’s assassination of Osama bin Laden within hours of the operation. They politicized the SEALs and commoditized leaking, just as they now have politicized and undermined public confidence in U.S. intelligence agencies.
But rather than develop countermeasures against the Putin subversion effort, our politics wallows in the Trump vs. Democrats smackdown.
The “investigation” Mr. Comey identified at the Nunes-Schiff hearing essentially consists of cops walking the beat and knocking on doors for clues. The 17 agencies set loose in January by the Obama administration are an unfocused perpetual-motion machine. This uncapped Beltway hydrant likely will do little about the real Putin propaganda threat, but it will gush raw, unverified anecdotes to animate media melodramas about the current presidency and private U.S. citizens.
Henninger paints a very ugly picture of our government and our media. But more importantly he paints a really ugly picture of us, the American people. Why? Because we accept, even buy into, this stuff. For sure the media does what it does because we lap it up like a thirsty dog at a desert oasis – that sells ads and they make money. The politicians feed it to the media because the media provides them with the means to manipulate the public towards their desired end – which starts with keeping their jobs or getting a better one and ends at “transforming America.” When you get to the bottom of it all, even if you want to blame education, the internet, the liberal media, whatever, it is the way it is because it is what we, the American people demand. The free market works even in this situation. We follow “the drama” of the degradation of our intelligence apparatus like it was The Crown or Downton Abbey.
But this is real life, here and now, with incredibly enormous stakes, not fiction nor fictionalized history. How did we, the American people, come to a point where we view things like this with such triviality?
It can be argued that the election so recently past was an effort at rejecting this status quo, but in a very real sense it simply fed the beast. We have changed political streams drastically, but the undercurrent of dramatizing and trivializing the highly consequential has, if anything, picked up the pace. The stakes are so high that the drama should be inherent in the situation, but we seem incapable of grasping that inherent drama. What in the world is wrong with us?
If I started listing all the things I have seen blamed for our current mess as a multiple choice, the only reasonable answer would be the least useful – “All of the Above.” This answer is useless because it gives us no place to start to try and fix things. Where can we put our stake in the ground and start to improve matters?
I would suggest that the place to set our stake is a concept absolutely fundamental to Christianity. We are, as humans, corrupt. Jews believe we choose corruption rather than are born that way, but regardless, corruption is the basic state of humanity. We call it sin. Yes, immorality, sexual and otherwise, is a sign of sin, but sin itself is our fundamental corruption, or at least corruptability. Regardless of your particular, specific view of the idea all agree that we have to fight this corruption and it is a lifelong struggle. But nowadays we all believe that everything we do is somehow sacred, just and good. If we conceive of it it must be good because or our inherent goodness. That is, of course, unless you oppose my inherent goodness, then you are evil – and wham! we are polarized. Further when evil is defined simply as opposition, then the question of good and evil becomes political and everything is politicized and here we are.
As long as we all believe in our inherent goodness, all will be political. It is inescapable, because we are bound to disagree on something. But when we all believe in our inherent corruption, then we can begin to get somewhere. Then disagreements can be explored and no longer cast as matters of good and evil.
We are never going to be able to fix this horrible, world threatening mess – so ably encapsulated by Henninger – with an election. Only the American people can, in the end, fix America and subsequently the world. I humbly submit that the place to start the fixing is by taking hold of our own inherent corruption. I don’t care if you talk to your significant other, your psychologist, your priest or your buddy, start by owning the fact that you are screwed up. I most certainly am, in more ways than you can possibly imagine. (Though thankfully, not nearly so screwed up as the Cleveland Browns, but that is a story for another time.)
Imagine a world where people’s first reaction to opposition is, “I might be wrong,” rather than “You’re evil because I know I am right.”