Monday, December 29, 2008

Republican Compassion

I try to read broadly, to stretch my mind, test my ideas, and gain a few chuckles along the way. In a recent review of the right-wing blogosphere, I happened upon a brilliant example of Compassionate Conservatism at The Source - a rightwing blog that generates more litigation than logic. The particular article was entitled "The Christmas Rifle", and it is an unintentionally hilarious masterpiece.

It centers on the story of a kid whose father spent money on saving a widow and her family instead of buying a rifle for his son for Christmas. Set in 1881, the story is told from the point of view of the son, who comes to realize that the family's faces filled with gratitude for saving them from literal starvation were more important than his hoped-for Christmas rifle.

To really appreciate the story, it's worth noting that it's pure fiction. The author, Rian B. Anderson (the Source has the author's name wrong), wasn't born in 1881, but wisely chose to set his story in an imagined age of pre-New Deal rugged individualism he's never experienced.

The story starts off with a ritual denunciation of the demons of right-wing thought - "Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities." Just making sure you know that Widow Jenkins wasn't a welfare queen, because, if she were judged "lazy" by Pa, it would have been okay to let her little ragamuffins starve to death, right? One wonders what would have happened if Pa had seen Widow Jenkins refuse a lucrative career in prostitution, or why she hadn't been out chopping wood herself . . .

It's also humorous how taciturn Pa is - he undertakes the entire experience without explaining to his son where they're going or why. Strictly a need-to-know basis - Pa shares Dick Cheney's fetish for secrecy, it seems. Authority, to be really impressive, must assert itself without explanation.

But the funniest thing about the story is that, at the end, the kid feels all gooey and wonderful about the wonderful stroke of non-governmental largesse he has brought to a starving family, but all he really did is follow orders and he shares nothing of his own. Like so many of today's conservatives who are born on third base believing that he hit a triple, the boy in the story is blessed to be living in comfort, and perfectly untroubled with the fact that less fortunate children might have starved to death on Christmas Day if his Pa hadn't noticed "little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunnysack rags".

It takes a peculiar mindset to view near-starvation on Christmas as particularly heart-warming, but that is the intent of the post. In the world of "The Source", any act of near-compassion by a welfare-hating authority figure is worthy of celebration, even if it happened a century and a quarter ago. And even if it's fiction.

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Blogger I Travel for JOOLS said...

I didn't bother reading the article but I think you might have got your bases a little wrong in your interpretation of Republicans. Most of us grew up at home plate with nothing more than the same bat most of us have unless one was born in a third world country. We picked up the bat and swung it. We struck out a lot, but didn't give up and eventually got a hit cause we practiced and practiced.

When it came time for our kids to stand at home plate, we taught them how to hit and made them practice and practice. Eventually they got a hit too.

Give a person a fish and they'll have food for a day. Teach the person to fish and they'll have food for life.

12/29/2008 10:07 AM  
Anonymous DKC said...

I grew up Republican but those who claim the mantle today I do not recognize. Perhaps because the values they espouse are not the values they live.

12/29/2008 6:09 PM  
Blogger craig said...

WOW, you have to be one cynical person to take a heartwarming story like that and turn it negative. Holy Cow, you have this twisted beyond reasonable belief.

12/29/2008 7:51 PM  

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