Friday, December 30, 2005

Reading Rick: Part 4 (Moral Ecology)

This posting covers pages 197-270 of Rick Santorum’s book, It Takes a Family

Part Three: Moral Ecology

Chapter XXI: Liberty and Virtue

Chapter XXII: Moral Capital and the Moral Environment

Chapter XXIII: The Rule of Judges

Chapter XXIV: Abortion: A Personal Aside

Chapter XXV: The Impact of Partial Birth Abortion

Chapter XXVI: How Abortion Affects Our Moral Ecology

Liberty and Virtue

He opens with a discussion of the Founding Fathers and their views on religion. On p. 200 he says “In eighteenth-century America, only a lunatic could have imagined the fanciful Brave New Family arrangements that we find ourselves talking about at the dawn of the twenty-first century.” As one of the keepers of my family’s history, a lineage that in some places I can trace back 400 years, let me assure you that there is no arrangement of household that we have now that has not been in existence for centuries. As someone who has read a good deal of history, American, European and Classical, let me assure you that any family arrangement we have in place now has been around since people started keeping records. If Mr. Santorum has read his Bible he will surely recognize that everything coming before the courts today is reflected in those pages.

On p. 201 he says “In other words, high moral standards, widely shared and publicly honored and nurtured, are part of a common good and our founders knew this.” No argument from me there.

He theorizes there is a triangle needed to sustain a democracy: “Religion teaches virtue. Virtue is needed to sustain freedom. Freedom allows religion to prosper.” (p. 204) In his view this triangle is now unbalanced. He uses this definition of moral capital: “common beliefs, customs, and traditions exhibited both in public and in private, together with a willingness to make ethical judgments in public and to act upon those judgments.” He continues this train of thought on p. 206. “Social capital depends crucially on widespread practical adherence to certain common beliefs or moral norms. Social capital depends on moral capital. And when moral and social capital decrease, lawlessness increases, because there is little left to govern relations between citizens.” The problem, as I see it, are whose beliefs and customs? In the public common area only those beliefs that are held by the greatest majority, as close to unanimous as possible, can be considered the beliefs of the nation.

He ends the chapter (p. 208) with the caution that parents across America worry “what their children are learning in school, on the Internet, and on television.” I have two thoughts here. One is that concerned parents can turn off the television, monitor what the kids do on the Internet, and join the PTA. Those three things will go a long way to allay their fears.I do worry about my children, not those three things but plenty of others. None of these have been reflected in Santorum’s book.

The second thought is that the parents he describes are not concerned about spouses developing a porn addiction or having an online affair or getting involved in online gambling or worried about elderly parents falling prey to telemarketing scams.

In more than one place in this chapter he again takes liberals to task. I find this annoying.

Moral Capital and the Moral Environment

In this chapter, Sen. Santorum says Americans feel they have thrown away our moral inheritance. In his view we took a wrong turn in the 1960’s, although he admits the 1950’s were not without problems. As for the role of women during that decade he cites author Allan Carlson who “has argued that whereas the household had once been a center of productive activity, the advance of industrial technology and suburbanization often left women with few roles beyond those of infant caregiver and consumption specialist, i.e. shopper.” (p.211) This confused me. Is he saying that is was unfortunate women no longer had to do laundry with a washboard? What does this sentence mean? He does credit the 1960’s with the civil rights movement, although he thinks the political alliance between liberals and African-Americans has not served African-Americans well.

In the later part of the chapter he writes about original sin, moral corruption, and the liberal need to drive religion from the public arenas.

He decries our self-centered pop culture. “As a result, we see selfishness and the consequent lack of civility and decency toward other people.” (p. 214) He ties this with liberal policy. I see it as also arising from people like Rush Limbaugh.

Here is another gem, from p. 215 “I am not advocating a replenishment of our moral capital because I want everybody to be alike. I don’t want our government snooping through people’s private lives, either.” Excuse me? Isn't this the guy who involved himself in the Schiavo family's private life? Isn't this the guy who wants the government involved in a number of private medical decisions?

In the last part of the chapter he discusses Environmental Impact Statements, how detailed they are, and the requirement to have one done before construction or development projects can be done. He thinks government should do a moral impact statement to see how legislation will affect the moral ecosystem. As an example he again brings up the increased divorce rate and the damaging effects of divorce on children and how children of divorce often have trouble forming happy marriages themselves. I cannot help but take offense at this, as my parents were divorced but all of the children of that marriage have managed to stay married themselves for over 20 years each.

The Rule of Judges

This chapter is about the liberal orchestration of an activist judiciary. He traces the moral corruption in the family back to the Griswold Supreme Court decision in 1965 that ruled a Connecticut law stating that contraceptives were illegal was unconstitutional. It was all downhill from there. In his view there is no constitutional right to privacy (which sort of counteracts his statement that he doesn’t want government snooping through people’s private lives.) He ends by saying he thinks it is possible for Roe v. Wade to be overturned.

Abortion: A Personal Aside

Abortion is “the great moral issue of our time. Abortion is a toxin methodically polluting our fragile moral ecosystem.” (p. 239). In this chapter he discusses the development of his views on abortion.

I did note that in one of his opening statements he says “It poisons everyone it touches, from the mother and her ill-fated child, to the mother and father’s families, to the abortion provider to each of us who stands as a silent witness to this destruction and debasement of human life.” (p. 239) The father is not mentioned. His family is but he is not. I found this to be symptomatic of his discussions of the subject. Other than passing mentions of promiscuity by both genders, all of his discussions on abortion relate solely to women.

The Impact of Partial Birth Abortion

The title of the chapter is self-explanatory.

How Abortion Affects Our Moral Ecology

More of the same. I did note, in his story of a woman who had planned to get an abortion but decided against it after hearing Santorum speak on television, that his use of language is interesting. He quotes from an email he received from the woman’s boyfriend. “She never told me about her pregnancy because she knew that I would object any decision to kill our child.” It’s HER pregnancy but THEIR child. In his discussion of her decision not to abort: “It was not any easy road for this little girl’s mother. There were objections and pressure from her family and friends to look out for herself, but she persevered through the social stigma and the emotional and physical pain. Hers was a courageous, beautiful act of selflessness. It was followed by another selfless act after the little girl was born – her parents gave her in adoption to a married couple who couldn’t conceive children of their own.” (p. 267) Is there no social stigma and emotional pain for the father?

I see a pattern here. He talks about the pain of women who have had abortion but there is nothing about the fathers of these children. How can he so promote fatherhood and marriage and completely leave out the fathers of the children he says he cares so much about? Where are the education programs for men on the emotional cost of abortion? Where is the push for contraception or abstinence? Other than a discussion of abstinence education earlier in the book it is absent.

Bibliographic Essay

This chapter has one of the longer lists of books but one of the shortest list of articles.


WebGuy said...

Jane - I'm glad you're posting this - just wanted you to know.

AboveAvgJane said...


Thanks! It seemed like a more productive way to use the blog over the holidays than to talk about how much I am enjoying all my new Christmas socks. I will pull all the posts together with one title post once it's all done. It is hard going at times but I am learning a lot about the senator and his views and there is nothing like going directly to the source to do that. Thanks for taking time to write.