Thursday, March 13, 2008

Who/what is politics about? Getting it right

Plato & Aristotle, by Raphael
from the Sistine Chapel


Contra disgraced former New York governor Eliot Spitzer's platonic philsopho-babble, politics is about people, not ideas. It's just that, ideally, politics is not about politicians, it is about the common good, that is, the rest of us, particularly the least among us. As our Bishops remind us every four years: "A basic moral test for our society is how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst. In a society marred by deepening disparities between rich and poor, Scripture gives us the story of the Last Judgment (see Mt 25:31-46) and reminds us that we will be judged by our response to the 'least among us'".

When those we elect cease to see themselves as beholden to we the people and begin to see themselves as our rulers, as somehow above the law, our democracy is endangered.

On the day the sex scandal exploded, then-Gov. Spitzer had a 3:00 PM appointment with the Catholic bishops of New York, who were going to register their protest to his abortion bill, which was pending in the legislature. Paul Moses, writing over on dotCommonweal, writes about this bill that seeks to legislatively "declare abortion a 'fundamental right'". Can you imagine, among those inalienable rights with which the human person is endowed by her Creator, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and, oh yeah, abortion? In such a schema, which happens to be the one set forth by our nation's founders and bolstered by our our faith, abortion would negate the right to life with which we are endowed, that is, gifted, by our Creator. To paraphrase Pope John Paul II, without the right to life all other rights are kind of meaningless. Taking my cue from David Letterman, I am hoping to have water-skiiing drunk added to the laundry list of fundamental rights.

Such foolishness is the direct result of a fundamental error. That error is precisely conceiving of politics as being about ideas and not about people, about the human person, who is a direct relationship with the Mystery, from the time of conception throughout eternity. This puts me in mind of the beginning of St. Augustine's Confessions, where we read: "Great are You, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Your power, and of Your wisdom there is no end. And man, being a part of Your creation, desires to praise You, man, who bears about with him his mortality, the witness of his sin, even the witness that Thou 'resistest the proud,'—yet man, this part of Your creation, desires to praise You. Thou movest us to delight in praising You; for You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You." (Book I, chapter 1).

No comments:

Post a Comment