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Re: Calling Mr. Dreher



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Glad to, Peter.

1) If Hillary Clinton means that it takes the government to raise a
child, then obviously I strongly disagree. But I take her to mean that
the social context in which one raises a child is important. Michael
Medved has made the same point before, saying that you and your spouse
can do a terrific job of making sure your kids don’t watch trashy TV,
etc., but if the parents of your kids’ peer group don’t do the same
thing, you face a much more difficult struggle to keep your kids solid.
One reason Julie and I relocated to Dallas from NYC was because it’s
easier here to find people who share conservative moral and religious
values — which is to say, it’s easier to find friends for our boys to
play with whose parents share our values, and will help us raise our
kids by reinforcing our own mores.

2) Because I believe we are made in the image of God, I believe that
there is a deep longing in our souls for the good, the true and the
beautiful. Of course history is full of examples to the contrary, and
I’m the last person to believe in the innate perfectibility of man. But
I do believe quite sincerely that even those who have given themselves
over to wickedness in some sense, underneath the twistedness and
brokenness, can hear the call to goodness and truth and beauty, and
respond. Anyway, a political order that doesn’t recognize this, and
commit itself in some sense to virtue, is in some sense lacking.
Dorothy Day, I think it was, said the good society is not one that
forces people to be good, but one that makes it easy to choose to be
good.

3) Rod certainly means this. Does the reader honestly believe that
civilization is merely a collection of human desires, no more? Or that
rightly considered, it is built around an idea of virtue? Good grief,
what would the reader say to John Adams, who wrote: “We have no
government armed with the power capable of contending with human
passions unbridled by morality and religion. …Our Constitution was
made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to
the government of any other.” In other words, as I write in my book, “a
people lacking in the kind of self-restraint provided by authentic
religious belief and moral custom are going to find the effects of its
private pursuits and passions overwhelming the battlements of
constitutional government.” Look, this thing we call Western
civilization, which I’d very much like to keep, is built around some
pretty basic ideas having to do with the human dignity, human nature
and our duty to God, if you like, and each other; it is not built
around the multiplication of desires. I’m talking about the difference
between a citizen and a consumer.

Also:

Dreher claims conservatives have lost respect for authority,
families, communities, and generations past and future.

Dreher’s solution – legislate new economic and social policies.

Wrong. As I noted in my Times piece, I consider crunchy conservatism to
be a kind of what Vaclav Havel called “antipolitical politics,” in
which people who identify with this sensibility devote themselves
chiefly to their families and the little platoons in their lives, as a
way to rebuild civil society. A stronger civil society means we can all
do with much smaller government, for starters. Still, there is a role
for government to play in making it easier for people to devote
themselves to strengthening their families. The pioneering role of the
homeschooling movement, with its legislative victories in places like
Texas and Virginia, have done a world of good in this regard. Reihan
Salam and Ross Douthat recently wrote an excellent piece in the Weekly
Standard proposing a more family-friendly economic policy for the GOP.
There are things the government can do legislatively to strengthen the
family, and thereby strengthen society, but ultimately this is
something that we have to do for ourselves.


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