Thursday, October 02, 2008

Choosing Your Phrases Carefully

Oh, and one more thing on the debate....

Was I the only (Jewish?) person who winced when Sarah Palin repeatedly used the phrase "never again" to refer to how we should respond to the financial crisis? Obviously that phrase has very particular connotations to me that aren't appropriately applied to even the worst economic situation, but I can't decide if I was being objectively unreasonable or if other Jews might have reacted the same way.


PG said...

Make sure you bring that up at the Great Schlep.

Julia said...

YES, when she said that I definitely got the heebie jeebies. It didn't feel right.

PG said...

Come to think of it, the McCain/ Palin idea that our problems are of individual morality rather than institutional failures fits neatly with what you've said before about how conservatives tend to convert any expressed concern about how an institution (e.g. standardized testing) may have racial bias into an accusation against themselves that they are racist.

I'm afraid that McCain/ Palin's focus on individual morality in the financial industry is going to be about as useless in fixing those problems as the conservative focus on individual morality in our racial problems has been.

Reminds me of the old Goldwater thing against the Civil Rights Act of 1964: "you can't legislate morality." Of course you can't. Government can't make us morally better; it only can minimize how much we hurt each other with our moral fallibility. The concern with anti-discrimination legislation is not making those who otherwise would discriminate into morally better people. You get no virtue points for being the Holmesian bad man who does only what he must to avoid arrest (or in the case of discrimination law, a civil suit). The goal is to minimize how much the individual immorality of race discrimination hurts other people.

It's one of those things where Ron Paul demonstrated how much he's beholden to conservative thinking:
"the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not improve race relations ... the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions ... it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony ... Relations between the races have improved despite, not because of, the 1964 Civil Rights Act."

None of the purposes stated in the law are "promotion of racial harmony" or "improving race relations." Only individuals can feel harmonious with other individuals. But government sure as hell can act "to enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon
the district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief
against discrimination in public accommodations, to authorize the attorney General to institute suits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities and public education, to extend the Commission on Civil Rights, to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, to establish a
Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity."

McCain-Feingold can't prevent politicians from being greedy and corrupt; Palin can't prevent Wall Street from being greedy and corrupt. Setting the correction of morality as one's goal is to set oneself up for failure.