Anyone who is even a casual sports fan and over the age of 25, will remember an iconic press conference with former NFL coach Herm Edwards. Edwards, who is a devout Catholic, was very fired up during a post-game interview when a reporter suggested that maybe he was calling a game in a way that they may lose strategically for a play-off seeding. At this point Edwards erupted and exclaimed multiple times “You play to win the game!” As a former high school football coach, and current rugby coach, I love Herm Edwards zeal and approach to coaching. You either show up to win, or just stay home and stop wasting your time.
This is my approach to virtually everything in life. I am not an overly competitive person in the classic sense. I don’t get fired up playing board games or cards, I can’t stand video games, and I the only time I have ever bet on anything was one year when I joined an NFL pool with my dad, but that was mainly for the weekly chats we had on the phone. That being said, about things that are important, I am unyielding. As a father, coach, teacher, husband, etc. I am uncompromising when it comes to the expectations I try to live up to. I constantly fail, but I expect to fail, because the bar has been set high. I hope to reach objective and eternally binding standards of excellence in anything that is worth doing, which means I need to rely on God’s help more than my own efforts.
This brings me to some recent musings that have bounced around in my mind for some time now. I follow politics quite closely, although more from a cultural angle. I of course make sure I understand the nature of the civics of government, but I am most concerned with metaphysical side of things; the ideas, philosophies, etc. I wrote an article throughout which I argued that being a liberal isn’t an option for any serious Catholic. In rereading that article, I think I may have been to soft on Liberalism knowing all that I have come to know. In another article I will write about why even Classic Liberalism, and not just Leftism, is an untenable position for a Catholic when logically followed through, but that is for another time. In this piece, I would like to discuss the rules of the current political discourse and how as Catholics and Conservatives we can “Play to win the game”.
There are lots of names for the ideological enemy that we now must wage war with. Liberalism, leftism, modernism, post-modernism, progressivism, relativism, socialism, and so on. We could nit-pick the definitions and go on for hours, but these “isms” are all from the same Serpent. There is always a rejection of logic, morals, common sense, sanity, and inevitably a hatred of God. The political Left of today will argue that we need tighter regulations on cigarettes, and therefore we must put images on the packages of diseases that could befall pregnant if they were to smoke during gestation. We are told that we must do this in order to make sure we protect the unborn and developing child. Then, in a compartmentalization of logically contradicting realities, the same leftists scream and shout that abortion on demand is totally fine because it isn’t really a person anyway… So if you are a smoker, then you are harming your baby, but if you are simply aborting, there isn’t a baby to be harmed, because, science, or feminism, or something…
G.K. Chesterton said, “there are no rules for a castle built in the clouds,” and he was right. In the land of imagination, we can do wondrous things. However, leftists have taken to thinking that fantasyland is the same as the real world. Due to feelings and emotions, truth is relative; words mean what you want them to mean depending on your perception; and we need to protect babies from cigarettes so they don’t get sick, unless their mothers don’t smoke and they are totally healthy at which point they aren’t babies anymore… I know, it is confusing, but don’t worry, all you have to do is imagine your own reality and you can also be a Leftist.
Unfortunately, this makes any real political discussion virtually impossible. You can’t argue facts with a Leftist because facts are mean and hateful, and you can’t use logical reasoning because logic is constricting and not inclusive enough. So, what are we to do? Well, I am not certain that I have figured out a winning formula for every circumstance, but I do think we can use the Leftist Playbook to our advantage. As a side note, Leftists don’t really have any children, so the simplest way to tip the scales in our favour is to play the long game of Catholic Fertility. But, in the here and now we need a way to engage the blue-haired feminist interpretive dance PhD candidate who you are caught sitting next to at a wedding. This actually happened to me once, only the person didn’t have blue hair, and she wasn’t doing a PhD in interpretive dance, but instead her PhD was in “Feminism in stand-up comedy.” Our conversation was pleasant, and I kept it very superficial, as I just wanted to enjoy a nice dinner with my wife.
In order to actually reach a Leftist, you need to speak in their language, which is hard to do while keeping a straight face. You need to use words like “bigotry” or “hatred” or “racism.” However, in order to remain truthful and ethical, you can’t use their words in the same manner as them. That means, you can’t say something is racist when it isn’t, and you can’t claim that a diversity of opinion is actually bigotry. I am not suggesting that we use these terms frivolously, as that would make us as bad as the Leftist, but we can’t simply “take the high ground” and not engage the culture. Perhaps I should give an example of how to use Leftist language in a way that doesn’t betray our ethics as Catholics.
A couple of years ago I was having a chat with a Leftist. Somehow the topic of my faith came up and I mentioned that I couldn’t help but be Catholic. The person was shocked, and because this person was a decent person, they said, “I didn’t know religion was like that, I thought it was just something you chose.” I made it clear that I was simply following the deepest desire of my heart, and that had found a place where I felt at home. I could have talked about actual historical facts or philosophical principles to make the case of our religion, but that would have been a waste of time. In other conversations I had with this individual we had come to disagree on whether the painting on the wall was really a painting, because of course the definitions of words are “subjective to individual perceptions.” This person was a relativist to the core and there was no way to speak about objective reality, therefore, I could only appeal to feelings.
In a separate encounter with a colleague, the topic of the so-called “Muslim Ban” had come up. The person kept calling it a Muslim Ban, at which point I suggested that perhaps since some non-Muslim countries were on the list of banned nations, and that because 85% percent of the worlds Muslim population wouldn’t be effected, that maybe it was just a travel ban for nations undergoing civil conflict. Well, of course you can see how I crossed a line by using statistics and facts, and because of this I was being “Islamaphobic” and “bigoted”. This was a failure on my part, I assumed the Leftist could speak English in an objective and truthful manner, and because of this I was exposed. After being labeled all these wonderful epithets, I wrote an email to that person pointing out how our conversation “made me feel” and that it was actually quite “prejudice” for them to assume I was bigoted before asking my opinion and hearing me out. They agreed and apologized, and from there we actually had an exchange that was relatively civil and helped the person realize the futility of their position on the matter. Now, had I continued to use statistics and logic, I would have remained a bigot and a “phobe”, but since I spoke about feelings and clarified where the prejudice actually lay in our conversation, it wasn’t a total waste of time.
Finally, I think I should end with a fake dialogue to further illustrate just how strategically we can use Leftist language to our advantage as Catholic Conservatives. It is worth noting that most left-wing types actually do have something akin to compassion in their ideology, it may be misguided, but it is there. Therefore, our best bet is always to point out that the Leftist may actually be acting like the people they purport are so evil. This strategy only fails with Leftists who are essentially pathological in their delusion, but with your average person, it works pretty well.
And now the dialogue…
Leftist: Did you see Justin Trudeau’s cabinet? Isn’t it great!!
Conservative: I did see the cabinet, but I missed why it is so great. What about their policy positions and political pedigree qualifies them for the job?
Leftist: Trudeau made sure to appoint 50% women, and he also made sure that the people were really diverse, this is further proof that diversity is our strength!
Conservative: So you think it is a good thing that Justin Trudeau made sure that half the members were women, and that he also made sure to employ people with different skin colours and cultures?
Leftist: Obviously, women deserve equality, and our country is multicultural.
Conservative: So having more women and more racial groups will make the government stronger?
Leftist: Of course, diversity is important, and women are as smart as men.
Conservative: I agree. But, why does it matter if we have the same amount of women and more racial groups represented? Are you saying that because of someone’s gender or race that they are either better or worse at a specific job?
Leftist: No… What do you mean? Don’t you like diversity?
Conservative: Well, yes, I like diversity of opinion, but I don’t think race matters. And, to be honest, you are saying that having people of different races makes a government stronger, which means that you think a person’s race makes them think in a way that represents their race. I mean, you must mean that, because otherwise it wouldn’t matter which race they were, because there isn’t a real difference between people of different races. You are saying that the colour of someone’s skin makes him or her more qualified for a job than someone of a different race, which is actually quite racist…
Leftist: What!? No, I am saying that having minority races makes the government stronger by representing different voices from their community.
Conservative: Sorry, are you saying that someone will have a certain opinion that they share with other people, simply because they have the same skin colour? You realize you are saying that skin colour informs the way someone thinks or acts? That is a very racist argument and this level of bigotry towards minorities is making me uncomfortable…
Leftist: Um, wait, I must not be explaining myself well, I promise I am not racist, seriously, I’m not!
Conservative: I am sure you aren’t, most people aren’t racist, but I am also troubled about your inherent bias towards one gender as superior to another.
Leftist: What do you mean?
Conservative: Well, you said that having more women made the cabinet better, simply because they were women, but some of the women are of different races. So, is it because they are women that they are qualified, or because of their race? Because if it is their race than that’s racist, and if it is because they are women than that is sexist. Clearly a person’s gender doesn’t make them better or worse for a job, and if you believe that there are actually objective differences between men and women then how can you support the liberal advocacy for people to identify as different genders? You can’t be something you’re not, right?
Leftist: I’m sorry, I have to go; I think I need a safe space.
If you try this in real life, you will either make headway with the Leftist, or you will be publically shamed on social media for saying something complimentary about Donald Trump. Have fun!