Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Crisis Magazine polemicist compares Kim Davis to Daniel Berrigan

Paul Kengor
Paul Kengor
Paul Kengor, a professor at Grove City College, has written “When the Left Liked Conscientious Objection” at the orthodox Catholic Crisis Magazine. Readers may know that Father Daniel Berrigan died on April 30. He and his brother Philip (also a Jesuit priest) were leaders of the anti-war movement protesting our involvement in Vietnam. Berrigan did time in prison for breaking into a draft board and destroying 378 Selective Service files.

Kengor writes:
For the record, I am (as many readers know) a staunch anti-communist and Cold Warrior, and yet, I have my share of sympathies and respect as well as criticisms of Daniel Berrigan. That is not my focus today. My focus here is how liberals lined up to applaud Berrigan at the time and at his death for work on behalf of conscientious objection. His death brought encomiums in leading left-wing sources from the New York Times to the Huffington Post to The New Yorker to even People’s World, successor to the longtime Soviet-directed Daily Worker. …
Daniel Berrigan circa 1969
I do not want to litigate the Vietnam War. We entered the conflict with what was probably a sincere belief that we were stopping the expansion of communism. We propped up an authoritarian government, assisted in the military coupe that deposed him and then supported several loci of corruption. For most of the war it seems that we faught a war solely in order to prevent losing a war (peace with honor).

This was not Iraq. Nearly 3.4 million Americans served in the theater (about 2.6 million in-country). About 25% of those people were conscripts who were killed at a higher rate (over 30% of KIA were draftees). Then there was the carnage. 61% of those killed were 21 or younger. 58,202 personnel were killed in action, 303,704 injured. About 75,000 of those wounded were severely disabled. Many more continue to struggle with PTSD. So 133,000 young men, mostly kids, returned to their homes and neighborhoods in a box or in a wheel chair.

This paled in comparison to what the Vietnamese experienced. About 900,000 South Vietnamese non-combatants were killed in the war. Overall, two million people were killed in a country (North and South combined) with a population of 40 million. It would be the equivalent of 16 million Americans killed.

Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali
That is what Father Berrigan was protesting. The most famous conscientious objector of the time was Muhammad Ali. He willingly surrendered his livelihood and, potentially, his freedom to object to what he believed was an immoral war. Ali was vilified. Indeed, while about 80% of Americans now believe that the war was a mistake (although only 60% seem to know that we were allied with South Vietnam), when Nixon took office about 80% of Americans opposed withdrawal.

Were the 20% who were proponents of withdrawal in 1969 “The Left?” Who knows? They were certainly the critical thinkers.

Behold the martyrdom of Kim Davis

According to Dr. Kengor:
… with a thoughtful mind, liberals would realize that Kim Davis, like Daniel Berrigan, is acting on behalf of conscientious objection. She is violating certain laws of the state that she believes are unjust and in conflict with her faith and conscience, regardless of whether they agree with her. Enlightened “progressives” can sniff and sneer at that all they want, but the truth is the truth.
Truth? The truth is that Kim Davis is a self-absorbed narcissist who wanted to display her disapproval of same-sex marriage. While Ali gave up nearly four years of his livelihood at the height of his career and Berrigan went to federal prison to protest an immoral war, Davis insisted on keeping her job and preventing deputies who had no objection from licensing same-sex marriages. Davis' excuse changed but landed on the frivolity of her name being printed on the marriage license. Her stated goal was to prevent any gay couple from ever receiving a marriage license from the Rowan County Clerk's office. The difference between Berrigan and Davis is the difference between acting out of humanity and acting out of bigotry. But the bigotry might be supported by scripture. So was slavery and then segregation. So was our ethnic cleansing of Native Americans.
Kim Davis is just one of those that the modern left steamrolls as it “progresses” forward. For modern secular progressives, the enemies list to extort and extinguish is increasingly endless. When it comes to sacred cows like “gay marriage” and “abortion rights,” they allow for no conscientious objection whatsoever. Measured against these causes, the conscientious objector is a pariah, not a moral objector but a moral reprobate. To hell with conscience and objection. All that lofty rhetoric from liberals about conscientious objection during the Vietnam War is today lit up like an American flag on the corner of Haight-Ashbury. It is relegated to ashes.
Davis manufactured her own problem by design. She was (is) desperate for attention and she sure got it. Just look at her glow when she is at the center of attention. More importantly, elected officials don't get to object. They cannot decide not to serve a portion of the population that pays their salary. She should have resigned if she had a legitimate objection. As a compromise she could have ensured that all of her constituents were served by empowering her deputies (which the courts eventually did).

Father Daniel Berrigan (and Muhammad Ali) opposed what they believed was an immoral war. The Vietnam War negatively affected hundreds of thousands of American families and millions of Vietnamese families. Both men were willing to pay any price, including their freedom. Their objective was to alter public opinion and policy with respect to the war.

Davis opposes the union of gay couples. Through the many years of litigating gay marriage no one has made a coherent argument that it affects anyone other than the betrothed and their children, if they have any. In other words, same-sex marriage affected, in this case, nobody except Kim Davis. Davis was unwilling to pay any price for her advocacy. She spent a few days in jail because she wanted to go to jail. Doing so increased the attention that she was getting and she knew that it was just for a few days.

Comparing Kim Davis to Daniel Berrigan is not only intellectually dishonest. It is offensive. Starting with Massachusetts we have about twelve years of experience with same-sex marriage. No one has been harmed. To essentially compare that to an immoral and unnecessary war is obscene.

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