My Conservative Friend’s Funny Pictures

Barry Goldwater was an avid photographer. He got started as a kid when his mother showed him how to use a box camera. It became a lifelong passion.

He took pictures all over Arizona. Tens of thousands of photographs. He documented the ordinary life of native Americans and became an advocate. He took pictures of vast desert vistas.

When he was in Washington, he became a loud conservative voice. He was a bitter opponent of John F. Kennedy and what he stood for.

And they became close friends.

Kennedy was a frequent guest at the Goldwater home. Goldwater’s wife and kids later reminisced about Jack Kennedy’s visits. Barry and John enjoyed each other’s company.

In those days, political opponents could become good friends without betraying core principles. Ted Kennedy was sometimes seen sitting with elderly segregationist John Stennis of Mississippi, occasionally laughing softly together at some inside joke. Politicians back then were even known to enjoy ironic humor.

Once, as a casual guest at the Kennedy White House, Goldwater took a few photographs of his friend. He presented one to the President for his inscription. It became a prized Goldwater possession.

On the picture, Kennedy wrote:

For Barry Goldwater —
Whom I urge to follow the career for which he has shown such talent — photography! — from his friend – John Kennedy.

My friend, conservative T. Paine, writes for Saving Common Sense. I have never met him in person. But I will recognize him on any train platform once he begins speaking about politics. For one thing, he likes to overuse the word “Accordingly” as in it makes sense to me, and so I agree with it accordingly.

He has prayed for my close relative, a family member with a lifetime degenerative illness. He has counseled with me when our young Marine was out of communication in Afghanistan following an attack. He has shared his own experiences with us from time to time.

T. Paine has an appetite for irony. It is reflected in a recent post with several humorous photographs.

One is a truck with a large company motto: “We fit.” It is crashed trying to get under a low bridge. Another is a department store aisle sign labeled “fasteners” dangling precariously after a support cable breaks.

That sort of thing.

The humor is mostly ham handed, and therefore appeals to me accordingly.

His post does not entirely abandon politics. At the end, he includes a video of hypocritical Democrats.

In the video, Chuck Schumer explains why it is okay to intercept immigrants at the border and deport them. He was arguing at the time for a measure that would provide a pathway to citizenship for those who had been here for many years. It was a bipartisan measure and he was speaking in support of a section that would strengthen border security.

Hillary Clinton is also shown supporting the prohibition of non-refugee immigrants who are intercepted entering illegally. They should be sent back. One reason, she explains on video, is that we do not want to encourage a dangerous trek across desert wasteland. Children die on that journey and she suggests it is immoral to encourage it.

Barack Obama is shown explaining the law and why he cannot simply, by executive action, overturn immigration rules and put DACA into practice.

In technical terms, my friend is wrong. Hypocrisy is most often defined as unsupported self-contradiction for one’s own benefit.

DACA involves immigrants who were brought here as children. The average age was six years. In most cases they have no memory of any country other than the United States. They have grown up here, been educated here, work here. Many have started businesses here. In every meaningful sense they are Americans.

Conservatives, at least some conservatives, are eager to deport them. To countries they do not remember, with languages they do not speak, to new neighbors they have never met. For an illegality they did not themselves commit.

Chuck Schumer can support border security and still support these Americans.

Hillary Clinton can support tighter security to discourage the endangerment of little kids, and still support these Americans.

Barack Obama can believe he lacks authority to make a change he wants to make, then change his mind after being told by legal experts in the White House Counsel’s office that he is wrong. That is, after all, why the White House Counsel exists.

There is a larger point, one offering firmer ground on which my friend can stand.

Immigration law may, at times, present a dilemma for progressives. When blind obedience conflicts with standards of ordinary decency, what is a citizen to do? The law is often enforced with an enthusiasm that goes way past the point of reason. Agents stalk hospital hallways during community tragedies. Elementary schools are targeted so parents can be taken from panicked children. Factory workers are lined up en masse. Citizens are arrested and held until their citizenship is confirmed because they look Hispanic to law enforcement officials.

And those who were brought to this country as small children may yet be chased, captured, and deported.

If DACA expires, we will be faced with a lesser version of the quandary faced by liberals in 1850. Conservatives enthusiastically backed the Fugitive Slave Act, requiring northern officials, and even ordinary citizens, to assist in the capture and return of escaped slaves. The escaped slaves had, after all, broken the law by running away.

Those who supported runaway slaves were disparaged as hypocrites for advocating the rule of law when they thought the law prohibited secession, but violating it for standards of mere human decency when it came to slaves.

A writer I very much admire, Infidel753, expresses eloquent hostility toward the faith I embrace. I often am pained to admit that he makes a very good case. I took off work yesterday, and I stopped by the church where I worship. We talked about the reasoning contained in one recent piece. I hope I do not do violence to his views.

Infidel wrote about forgiveness. People of good will see wrongdoing as an infringement on the rights of, or the inflicting of injury on, an innocent person. They focus on victims. Christians see wrongdoing as a sin against a set of rules. Christian forgiveness focuses on God’s generosity toward those who break His rules. That sort of forgiveness pretty much leaves victims out in the cold.

I don’t completely accept that premise as a matter of theology.

I read scripture and see Jesus arguing with the literalists of that time. He defines those rules as an outgrowth of love for God, and by extension, love for mankind. The rules are subordinate to that love. He, at times, encourages the breaking of religious rules to meet the needs of people.

I see Jesus overturning tables in the temple because ordinary people are cheated in the name of God.

But as a matter of practice? Infidel makes a good case. It is an underlying Christian temptation to value rules over simple humanity. Then to undervalue victims of wrongdoing.

There does exist an issue of accountability separate from Christian forgiveness. I don’t see a contradiction in forgiving one person who has injured another, while acknowledging a need for accounts to be squared. Penalties for crime, recompense for injury, or, in some cases, apology for minor wrongdoing, do not strike me as contradictory to Christian forgiveness.

I see forgiveness as an expression of a religious truth. We must see the intrinsic value of human existence, unaffected by human actions. You are loved by God, and there is nothing you can do about it.

My argument with my conservative friend occurs on more than level. At their essence, all involve what I see as a conservative temptation to deny that intrinsic value.

T. Paine sees contradiction where there is none. In my friend’s video, Schumer expressed no hypocrisy. Nor did Clinton. Nope, not Obama either.

But my friend embraces contradiction that is pretty much in-your-face.

Opinions on deficits change with administrations: My friend was a deficit hawk until Obama left office. Offense by conservatives may be taken at the most innocent occurrences, but only on one side: One President rested his feet on a desk and he once wore a light suit on a workday, while the other utters racist opinions as a basis for immigration law. Standards for scandal oscillate as if on a child’s outdoor swing set: Bureaucratic screw up in one administration is denounced as deliberate crime, confessed obstruction of justice in the other is accepted passively.

My disagreement with my friend is more basic, regarding DACA. These were children brought in by parents, having committed no crime themselves. They have they grown up as Americans. They have known no other life. My friend acknowledges some theoretical reason to tweak the law, but until then, T. Paine experiences no personal dilemma regarding immigration. The rules as he interprets them must be followed. Rigidly. Viciously.

A tragic situation can be viewed by some partisans as no more than a rhetorical opportunity. My friend can attack those he thinks have surrendered to humanitarian instincts. They are hypocrites, if hypocrisy is no more than a cudgel in a verbal war.

I like my friend T. Paine.

I think he ought to continue the endeavor for which he has shown much talent:

Posting funny pictures.

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