Friday, May 02, 2008

The Right Standard

Worthy of considering in a full essay is this thought: What is the right standard for Americans to use in all kinds of daily judgments, from deciding how much to trust someone selling a used car to choosing the next U.S. President? Here I begin considering this question, but only as preliminary notes toward a draft of such an essay.

The force of political correctness pushes us to apply the standard of proof required to convict a felon in court: proof beyond reasonable doubt. So if I don't trust Sen. Obama or Sen. Clinton to be our next President -- but especially if I don't trust Obama (an anti-Clinton feeling is not politically incorrect for all kinds of reasons) -- I have not been righteous in that secular sort of righteousness that the PC crowd demands of us. I, as a white guy, must support Obama in order to prove, apparently, that I'm not racist. To be truly righteous is to be truly tolerant, open-minded, willing to ride roughshod over all kinds of yellow and red caution flags popping up inside my head (even, as pertains to approving homosex in our society, over conscience itself) to show that I've been washed in the . . . well, I'm not sure what, since the blood of Jesus is anathema to secularists . . . but to show that I've been, I suppose, truly enlightened.

And if I choose not to vote for Obama, the only way to justify it is to establish it "beyond reasonable doubt." No, his association with Rev. Wright and aging Weathermen, etc., don't rise to that rigorous standard. All these can be explained, and I should accept the explanations and ignore the enduring lack of trust I feel toward this man as President.

But this standard is wrong for everyday life and a whole range of decisions, including choosing a President. It is the right standard for criminal conviction because what's at stake is the depriving of the convict's liberty, property, and perhaps even life. And our religiously-rooted conviction about the inherent dignity of each person requires us to prove that he is guilty in order to justify taking any of these inalienable rights from him.

But not so for the used car purchase or the election of a representative at any level, from local school board to US President. For these, all our resources of judgment, including and especially those pre-philosophical sensors of knowledge -- those feelings that point toward trust or mistrust -- are part of our God-given apparatus for living well in His world. We should use them. Refine and improve them, of course. But not squelch them by insisting on using only the most rigorous standard we know. We are foolish to squelch them under pressure from culturally suicidal PC, unless we want to join the suicide.