The Authority of the Absolute, Part 1 :
If there's one thing that Republicans have taught us lately is the clarity of holding absolute positions. Of course, that's all a sham for the Bush administration, a well-documented hypocrisy. The Rude Pundit believes in absolutes. He believes clearly that some things are objectively right and objectively wrong. On these things, he doesn't make allowances for cultural relativity, moral codes, age, or interpretation. The Rude Pundit also believes one can state absolutely that some people are good and some people are bad. For instance, let's say there's a man who has beaten his wife. Beat the shit out of her. Can we not say, with certainty, that spousal abuse is wrong? Very few would argue with that.
Let's layer this motherfucker: let's say Hubby and Wifey are living in a country where beating a wife is not only allowed, it is seen as a necessity for keeping your wife in line. Some cultural relativists might give Hubby a pass, as long as he didn't kill her. But most everyone would say that, no, wife-beating is wrong and, slave of culture or not, Hubby should not be smackin' Wifey.
Let's try it another way: We're back here in the U.S.A. And let's say that Wifey's been fuckin' around - she's been fuckin' the neighbor, fuckin' the lawn boy, fuckin' like one of the stone-cold whores (or the whore-husbands) on Desperate Housewives. And the beating happens because Hubby walked in as lawn boy was zippin' up his jeans. There's a lot of fucking people out there who would say that Wifey just got what was comin' to her, that she deserved the beating, that they would do the same.
The law, applied correctly, wouldn't give Hubby a pass, and neither would the Rude Pundit. Because there are absolutes: spousal (or partner) abuse is wrong, in any circumstance, in any case. You know why? Because we're human fucking beings. And we have the capacity to act rationally. Sometimes we choose not to. Now, when we get to things like punishment for a crime, absolutism goes by the wayside. You want to consider mitigating factors, go for it. But that doesn't mean the acts of punching, slapping, and kicking are "right" or "good."
This post ain't about spousal abuse. It's about absolutes. Like this:
Here's what we know about Alberto Gonzales - what we know, not what we suspect, not what we infer: We know that George W. Bush was arrested for drunk driving in September 1976. We know that he lost his Maine driving privileges for nearly two years, restored in July 1978. We know that in 1978, with a suspended driver's license, he began his run for the House of Representatives (and lost). We know that in 1996 Bush, when he was Governor of Texas, was called for jury duty in a drunken driving case (involving a stripper, which just makes it extra fun). We know that the judge, the prosecutor, and the stripper's attorney have made written statements that Alberto Gonzales asked the judge, in private, to "consider" striking Bush from the jury pool, despite Bush's public statements that he was willing to serve. We know that Gonzales was asked about this in his Senate confirmation hearing and that Gonzales stated he did not recall a private meeting with the judge, but that he did not "request" that Bush be taken out of consideration. In other words, we know that either Gonzales is lying or three other men, in separate statements, are lying. Who would a jury believe?
There are other things we know about Gonzales. Definite things. We know that Gonzales, as the White House counsel, sought to justify various specific methods of "interrogation" which had previously been thought of as torture, like causing physical pain and the now-famous waterboarding, and re-defining torture to exclude such methods. We know he commissioned the memo that explained this position. We know that Gonzales, before the Senate, had a chance to clearly repudiate these "ideas," and declined to do so, and also offered the well-worn "do not recall" to many questions. We know that Gonzales sought to justify indefinite imprisonment without charge or rights of "detainees" at Guantanamo and elsewhere. We know that from 1995-1997 Gonzales gave then-Governor Bush at the very least less than complete information on prisoners facing execution in Texas.
These are all things we know: that Gonzales sought to get Bush out of jury duty, that Gonzales actively shifted U.S. policy to include methods that used to be called "torture" and to include indefinite detention, that Gonzales eliminated factors that might lead to clemency for death row inmates. We know that in each of these cases, Gonzales was given the opportunity to make the case for humane, responsible action, but in each he declined, instead seeking to comfort the powerful and justify their ways.
Fuck Gonzales's story of being born to poor children of migrants. Fuck his working himself up from poverty to make his Mexican family proud. That doesn't mean that Gonzales is incapable of enabling evil. That doesn't make Gonzales automatically a good person. And it certainly doesn't mean Alberto Gonzales is predestined to be Attorney General.
The Rude Pundit is not a fool: he knows that in this wonderful postmodern world of doubt and flux, even objectivity is subjective. But sometimes you gotta stop actin' like a pomo liberal pussy and stand firm.
Later this week: More absolutes on Condi and on torture itself.