Friday, November 30, 2007

The U.S. and Latin America: At a Critical Juncture

A few weeks back, a fairly well-known and well-respected scholar of U.S.-Latin American Relations, Riordan Roett, came to Tulane as part of the inaugural events of the new Center for Interamerican Policy and Research (CIPR) which is affiliated with my office, the Stone Center for Latin American Studies.

Professor Roett participated in a series of meetings, and I attended a luncheon meeting at which the small group discussed informally the nature of contemporary U.S.-Latin American Relations. One of the points that came up during this discussion which Professor Roett made was that U.S. policy makers these days, as most clearly reflected by the frontrunner candidates of each major party in the upcoming U.S. Presidential contest, have almost no substantive interest to speak of in Latin America as a world region. Of course, the one exception to this could be Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, but even then our interest in Chavez is mostly reactive to his outrageous behavior and is still only sporadically on the radar screen. And when US policymakers are engaged with Latin America, it is almost always in the context of domestic issues: immigration, trade, jobs, etc. As a student of Interamerican relations, I have myself noticed this trend and basically agree with this assessment. What is interesting about this trend is that it is somewhat counterintuitive to the trend of the increasing "Latin Americanization" of the U.S., which generally everyone admits is occurring, for better or for worse, to some degree or another. One would think that as we in the U.S. become more intertwined with Latin America, the greater our interest in the region would be.

This discussion prompted me to explore more fully a hypothesis that has been brewing in my mind as of late which seeks to explain more systematically why this may be. I am now in the process of a more formal investigation of the subject which I will hopefully write up in a paper that I will present to my peers for their reactions at any one of a number of upcoming conferences.

My basic hypothesis is that the disconnect between the growing integration of the U.S. and Latin America and the relative disinterest among our policymakers in the region is nothing more than a reflection of the product of a deep-seated psychological discomfort and anxiety that Anglo-America is experiencing as it feels the waning of its cultural hegemony in the context of this inexorable integration and as it thus relinquishes its position of privilege and dominance, especially in the realm of culture, to what Nestor Garcia-Canclini might call a culture of hybridity.

In essence, what I think is happening is that the people of the United States are sensing that we are at a cultural critical juncture in our history, and that this juncture bodes a change that will radically reorient what it means to be "American" - at least how they have come to understand the meaning of an American identity. Thus, I think what we are witnessing in reaction is a kind of policy and attitudinal schizophrenia. We see policy makers ignoring the region at one level, yet obssessing over the region's impact on the domestic reality of the United States at another level. We witness no coherent foreign policy that seeks to engage the leaders and the people of Latin America all the while we see a kind of psychotic obsession with the dangers of the Latin Americanization of our culture and our society, all of which is manifested in a resurgent isolationism (withdrawal from engaged diplomacy in the region, a resurgent economic protectionism, etc.), a reactionary cultural nativism (English as the official language), and strong traces of an ugly xenophobia in the anti-illegal immigration movement the likes of which I have not witnessed in my lifetime.

In essense, we are disengaging ourselves formally from the region precisely because we are becoming ever more integrated with the region. And the more we realize that we cannot escape this process of cultural hybridization, the more we try to bury our heads in the sand in the face of it.

This is a very preliminary and rough outline of my hypothesis. I think, though, that there is clear evidence in support of it and I'll be developing it more thorougly over the next few months. But I wanted to share it here now, and will welcome your thoughts on the subject.

Some Great NOLA Music

Because I had the pleasure of hearing some of this live yesterday ...

And because it's Friday ...

Thought you might enjoy some Washboard Chaz Trio blues.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Confidential to President_Friedman

P_F: In John Hawkins' "Liveblogging the YouTube Debate" posting from yesterday at RWN, you wrote in one of your comments:

I thought McCain won easily with Thompson, Huck, and Rudy tied for third. One thing about Huck, he got some easy questions.
Heh. I'll take a roundabout mention on RWN -- even one intended for someone else ;) -- whenever I can get one.

Indulge me a couple of comments. First, I'd never be found on stage participating as a candidate in a GOP primary debate. Second, I'd never finish anyplace but first. Third, I never get softball questions, I always just make them look softball by my magnificent answers!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Damn right, it's you."

"Damn right, it's you." -- That's what Jarvis DeBerry opines New Orleans would tell the Presidential Debate Commission should the Commission admit that its decision to shun New Orleans had nothing to do with the City and everything to do with its own dysfunctions and incompetency. Here's the relevant section in the DeBerry column:

We've heard that the city isn't ready to stage a large event. Then we've heard that the rejection has nothing to do with the city's ability to stage a large event.

We've heard that the city's ability to provide security is a concern. We've heard the security complaint despite multiple visits made by President Bush and his wife Laura in the past two years.

We've heard that too many people were involved in the application. (Four local universities jointly applied to stage the event at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.) We've heard that only Anne Milling of Women of the Storm actually signed any paperwork, and her signature alone was problematic.

We've heard that, in sympathy for our plight, the commission thought it wrong to ask New Orleans to shoulder the costs of hosting a debate.

We've heard the commission say everything to New Orleans except, "It's not you. It's me." If somebody with the commission slips up and says that, however, expect New Orleans to answer, "Damn right, it's you."
Damn right. Mad props to Jarvis for telling it like it needs to be told. Read the whole column. It's one of Jarvis's better efforts.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thank God for This Illegal Immigrant

Anti-illegal immigrant conservatives love to point out those stories where illegal immigrants do harm to some legal citizen of the U.S. They love to point out that if only our immigration laws were enforced and we put up a stinking wall, some innocent and unsuspecting victim of a crime committed by an illegal immigrant might still be alive. Fine. No one ever said that illegal immigrants are not like other human beings, capable of doing bad and criminal things. But what these anti-illegal immigrant conservatives NEVER point out is the other reality that many lives are saved and many good deeds are done by illegal immigrants.

Here's one recent story of an illegal immigrant who made the choice to stay and help a 9-yr-old boy who was involved in a tragic automobile accident in the Arizona desert, an accident which claimed the life of his mother. Facing the certainty of deportation, this immigrant chose to do the right thing and stayed with this boy, likely saving his life, until help could arrive. I could very well argue that had a wall been built and this illegal immigrant kept out of the United States, it could have very well cost the life of a traumatized 9-yr-old U.S. citizen. Here's the pertinent part of the story:

As temperatures dropped, he gave him a jacket, built a bonfire and stayed with him until about 8 a.m. Friday, when hunters passed by and called authorities, Estrada said. The boy was flown to University Medical Center in Tucson as a precaution but appeared unhurt.

"We suspect that they communicated somehow, but we don't know if he knows Spanish or if the gentleman knew English," Estrada said of the boy.

"For a 9-year-old it has to be completely traumatic, being out there alone with his mother dead," Estrada said. "Fortunately for the kid, (Cordova) was there. That was his angel."

Cordova was taken into custody by Border Patrol agents, who were the first to respond to the call for help. He had been trying to walk into the U.S. when he came across the boy.

The boy and his mother were in the area camping, Estrada said. The woman's husband, the boy's father, had died only two months ago. The names of the woman and her son were not being released until relatives were notified.

Cordova likely saved the boy, Estrada said, and his actions should remind people not to quickly characterize illegal immigrants as criminals.

"They do get demonized for a lot of reasons, and they do a lot of good. Obviously this is one example of what an individual can do," he said.
What a story of heroism and goodness! But don't hold your breath waiting for Lou Dobbs to tell it, though.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Homenaje a Chalino Sanchez

The King of the Narco-Corridos.

His voice kinda grates, but he is, for lack of a better comparison, the Bob Dylan of the modern corrido. The thing to know about Chalino is that he took the traditional corrido of the Mexican Revolution, which was at the time of the Revolution a rather subversive music form but which later became institutionalized and fused with the modern Mexican national identity, and reclaimed it and recast it again as a subversive music form - a music of the marginalized and of the modern lawlessness of the Mexican narco subculture. His corridos glorify not the traditional folk anti-heroes of the Mexican Revolution, but the new folk anti-heroes of the modern narco-trafficking world.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Fred Thompson in Kenner??

Did anyone even know he was here?

Thompson defended his record on abortion following a speech to several dozen supporters at a hotel next to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
Several dozen supporters?!?!? And this is the GOP rightwing's best hope? In a right-leaning Southern state? Methinks (as I knock on wood) the only way the Democrats can lose the presidential election a year from now is if they wrap it up, put on a shiny bow, and hand it to the GOP as an early Christmas present.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Huck Upchuck's Election Recommendations

District 95 State Representative:


Let me tell you something about Walker Hines, Una Anderson's rival, that completely turned me off to him forever. I'll never vote for him. I came home today from work to TWO (not ONE, but TWO) robocall phone messages trashing Una Anderson by referring to the Times-Picayune's story about Stan Barre's accusations against her. These messages were anonymous. But who else other than the Walker Hines campaign would have made them? He didn't have the damn balls to own up to his negative smear campaigning. It's the worst kind of campaign politics and it is something I utterly deplore. These calls were anonymous, they were negative, and they were based on a completely unsubstantiated allegation that Una Anderson strongly denied. Any decent person with any integrity would have stayed away from this kind of thing. It's revealing that Walker Hines didn't.

Now, Ray over at Ray in New Orleans blog received an email letter from Walker Hines that Ray supposedly thinks "displays a lot of character" on the part of Walker Hines. Read the letter. I don't see much "character" in it. All it tells me is that Walker Hines can't write worth a damn. His grammar sucks. It's not that his email to Ray has the forgivable one or two mistakes due to an oversight, it's that the mistakes are plentiful and indicative of a larger problem of intelligence and carelessness.

I just can't and won't vote for the kid.


District 5 State Senator:


Oyster, along with his reaffirmed endorsement of Gray, has the latest run-down on the seedy attacks against Gray that should tip the balance for Gray for any fence-sitters.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thanksgiving in a Public School

OK. My daughters attend a New Orleans Public School. So, one would expect there to be a lot of PC-ness surrounding how the school operates. But, I've never found this to be the case. Sure, people are sensitive and respectful of diversity and difference; but in a very human and commonsensical way. No one goes out of his way to offend anyone, but no one also makes a big deal about the little things. People are just pleasant and friendly. For instance, at my daughters' school's outdoor morning assembly, which parents are welcome to attend, the day always starts with the Pledge of Allegiance that includes the words "under God." Nobody ever complains and everyone participates. It's just not an issue.

And just today, my youngest daughter, who is in Kindergarten, had her little Thanksgiving celebration where her class put on some cute little acts which was followed by a lunch "feast." Now, unfortunately, I couldn't make the actual event because of a work obligation, but my daughter did give me a preview of her class's performance. One of the things her class all did together was to recite some Thanksgiving poetry. My favorite was the following:

Our Turkey Gobbler

Our Turkey Gobbler feels so sad,
He stands around and moans.
Tomorrow there will be nothing left
But just his poor, old bones!
Imagine a bunch of kindergartners reciting this poem with the requisite hand gestures and bodily demonstrations of the poem's imagery. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when my 5-yr-old daughter "performed" this poem for me.

Whoever says that Public Schools are nothing but groupthink liberal PC brainwashing doesn't know what he's talking about.

As far as I can tell, at least at this particular public school, kids are having as much good ol' fun at public elementary school as I ever had at my parochial Catholic elementary school.

Monday, November 12, 2007

From The Archives

[NOTE: Thought I'd reprint something I wrote a while ago]

Just a quick point to ponder about the School Voucher debate: It's a very nice thought that School Vouchers equals School Choice - but does it, really, provide for such a choice - or at least a meaningful choice? Would highly-regarded suburban public schools and urban private/parochial schools (or should I say the students and the parents of the students in these schools) welcome inner-city voucher students to their learning communities? Putting a voucher in someone's hand doesn't neatly translate into supporting REAL school choice. In order for school choice to mean anything, voucher students must have the option to REALIZE their choice, which is something most voucher advocates haven't really thought much about. To use a common metaphor, it's as if someone were to hand me a fishing pole, some bait, a boat, and even give me fishing lessons; but then tell me that the lake with all the good fish in it that he fishes in was, ahem, off limits.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Momentum Killer

You know, I was feeling pretty much pumped about the recent flurry of activity around the New Orleans District Attorney's office. Eddie Jordan, the hapless DA, finally cashed it in. We got a temporary DA in Keva Landrum-Johnson who seems to be hopeful and competent. Heck, Eddie Jordan had even authorized a good-faith payout of about 8-9% of a court settlement of $3.7 million levied against the Jordan's DA office for racial discrimination

And then this comes along and turns sweet into sour. At least for me. In a city desperate to get its law enforcement agencies out of the muck and back into the business of protecting its citizens, it gets slammed with the abrupt and imminent closure of the DA office by the plaintiff's attorneys in the discrimination case in question:

The Orleans Parish district attorney's office watched helplessly Thursday as about six of its bank accounts, including payroll, were frozen by a federal judge, the first step in seizing assets to collect on a $3.4 million job discrimination verdict brought on by former District Attorney Eddie Jordan's firing of 43 white workers in 2003.

"The mayor ignored us in his budget proposal," said Clement Donelon, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. "I'm not sure how the city is going to ensure public safety by shutting down its DA's office."

No money has left the bank accounts yet, Donelon said.

Instead, the plaintiffs have embarked on a fact-finding mission to determine exactly how much the district attorney's office has socked away, asking Liberty Bank President Alden McDonald to disclose how much money is in accounts labeled "payroll," "FEMA" and "Crime Victims Assistant," as well as others.

But for now, the district attorney's office cannot touch the money, with payday approaching Nov. 15.

Keva Landrum-Johnson, acting district attorney since Jordan resigned Oct. 31, called the move "appalling" and lawyers for the office said it will only complicate talks to resolve payment of the judgment.
Yeah, that's right. Take a legitmate grudge against Jordan's incompetence and force the rest of us to continue to suffer for it. Can you believe the gall of Plaintiff Attorney Clement Donelon who defends his decision to ask the judge to freeze ALL the DA Offices assets by wondering how the City will ensure public safety now? Hey, Buddy, you are the one who shut the now purged DA's office down. All of Eddie Jordan's incompetence aside, he is no longer to blame for this latest assault against my safety. Yeah, yeah. You have a point to make. And it's a point I agree with. But, dag-nabbit, please don't cut of your fellow citizens' noses (and threaten their safety) in the process of making the point.

I have to say that this was a dumb, dumb, dumb move by the Plaintiffs in this case. They're telling the rest of us in the City, many who supported their cause, that we can just fend for ourselves while they wait at the bank salivating with their gold-grubbing hands over their judgment loot. Punish us? Because Jordan is a fool and because Nagin and the City Council don't want to set what could be a bad precedent for taxpayer bailouts of such kinds of judgments?

Dude! I wasn't the problem here. Don't punish me and my family by keeping the DA from keeping the crooks at bay.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Cal Thomas, a Professed Catholic, on Torture

Here is a brief little blurb from conservative Catholic columnist, Cal Thomas, on the subject of torture:

Torturing Ourselves to Death

By that I assume it is meant torture by the West, since terrorists are famous for using all sorts of torture, including physical, mental and religious torture, such as forced conversion.

There is a double standard when it comes to this subject. We in the West are supposed to adhere to certain rules so we "won't be like them." But if the other side adheres to no rules and sees our standards as a form of weakness, such things are counter-productive to our objectives. It is not coincidental that the trailer for the new season of the TV series "24" features Jack Bauer testifying before a congressional committee on the subject of torture. Bauer is asked if he defends torture and responds that if it is needed to save lives, he will use it.

That seems to me to be the proper balance if it is reasonably certain the person being tortured (and how do we define torture?) has information that will save innocent lives. To do otherwise might satisfy certain civil libertarians, but they should know that terrorists do not discriminate between those who favor torture and those who oppose it.
First, Pope Benedict and the Vatican authorities have had this to say on the subject:
At a news conference about the peace message, Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican's pontifical council on peace and justice, was asked if torture could be a legitimate tool to gain information that might prevent terror attacks.

The prelate replied that there was no justification for using torture, which is the "humiliation of the human person, whoever he is."

"The church does not allow torture as a means to extract the truth," Martino said. Terror suspects "sometimes say what the torturers want to hear. ... There are other ways to obtain the truth."
Notice that the Vatican's guidance is that torture isn't acceptable even if it extracts information that prevents a terrorist attack. According to our Catholic Church's leaders, there is NO justification for using torture. I wonder how Cal Thomas squares his Catholic faith with his defense of torture.

Second, I would add in my criticism of Cal Thomas that our motivation for behavior should not ever be relative to what terrorists will or will not do. Yes, there is a double standard. But for good reason. We shouldn't be like the terrorists. We should hold to a standard that doesn't embrace what Cal Thomas supposedly finds reprehensible in the standards (or lack of such) among terrorists in their practice of torture. Cal Thomas should know that there are many examples of martyrs in the Catholic faith (not to mention Jesus, himself), who withstood the indignity of torture and death, in the practice of a higher standard of speaking truth to power. Why should we accept a common standard with our enemies that tends towards the least common denominator of accepting torture, however defined, as opposed to demanding that our enemies abandon torture themselves, and of holding that even if our enemies don't abandon torture, that we will unilaterally do so nonetheless, even if it costs us our lives.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Vitter, Thomas, Anderson Compared

Compare this press conference transcript relative to U.S. Senator David Vitter's "sin" with this statement from New Orleans City Councilman Oliver Thomas relative to his corruption admission to this reaction from Una Anderson (watch the video) defending herself against charges of accepting a bribe. And when you compare them all, you tell me who ends up with your respect and with her honor and integrity in tact.

In my mind, there is absolutely no question that Una Anderson is the subject of a malicious and untrue attack. In my gut, I can just tell by the way she is reacting that she's been greivously wronged. And I admire her tenacity in fighting back. And she's got my vote in the upcoming run-off election for State Representative. If you are a voter in Louisiana State House District 95, you should vote for Una Anderson, too. I don't know much about Walker Hines, her opponent, and I don't really have anything against the guy, other than that I cannot find anywhere on his website what his party affiliation is, which kinda bugs me. But he's young, wealthy, and riding on the privileged coattails of his connected lawyer-father. I'd rather have a tough, seasoned, and experienced Anderson than an untested unknown. Unlike others, I thought Una Anderson performed admirably and with integrity on the School Board at a moment when it was politically inconvenient to do so. She's done nothing to lose the respect she earned from me during that time. In fact, her facing down the adversity of this latest smear has only augmented the respect I have for her.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Vitter Facing Subpoena to Testify in DC Madam Trial

Finally, it appears that Vitter will no longer be able to hide behind the veil of "no comment" when it comes to his whore-mongering. Looks like Vitter will be required to testify at the trial of DC Madam Jeanne Palfrey about his use of the Escort Service she ran.

It's rather poetic justice that no matter how Vitter responds to such a subpoena, it will reflect poorly on him and once again jeopardize his standing in the Senate and in the GOP. Even his continued silence in the face of a subpoena by pleading the 5th won't come across well. The Times-Picayune article explains:

Legal experts say Vitter has little grounds to avoid testifying, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court said former President Bill Clinton had to provide testimony in Paula Jones' civil lawsuit.

"He may also make some argument based on his being a member of Congress, but I doubt it will work," said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond (Va.)

Sibley said he expects Vitter will try to quash the subpoena on the grounds that his testimony would not add much to the legal issues at the hearing. But, he said, Vitter's public admission that he was a client, along with the phone records, could undercut that strategy.

"He has a problem because he went on TV and apologized," Sibley said.


Legal experts say it is possible Vitter will attempt to avoid discussing the details of his dealings with Palfrey's escorts by asserting his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. But that, too, carries a political risk.

"The thing can hardly be viewed as a joyful experience," said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. "If he pleads the Fifth, he'll put himself in the same category as mobsters and madams. If he testifies, he will create his own detailed record that can be used in his next campaign. Either way he is facing a serious problem."
They say the truth will set you free. That may be true with regard to Vitter's soul, but the truth would certainly probably sink his career. I'm sure Vitter is probably thinking: "If only the truth were such that I could call a press conference and do what Una Anderson did when faced with a potentially damaging accusation."

But, alas, the truth is that David Vitter is a marriage-defiling john; and I'm fairly sure he wouldn't want to perjure himself over the matter, too. Time is almost up, David Vitter. The chick-a-dees have apparently finally come home to roost.

Fisking Conservative Blogger John Hawkins' Take on Religion and Politics

Conservative blogger and columnist John Hawkins has a piece up on arguing in defense of "keeping religion in politics." Given the fact that the vast majority of our public officials adhere openly to some religious faith, I can only interpret his exhortation to keep religion in politics not as a call for people of faith to govern ethically and morally according to how their faith informs their sense of ethics and morality, but rather as a call for people of faith, specifically Christians, to approach civic life theocratically -- that is to impose the specific tenets of a particular faith (i.e. Christianity) onto American society via its governing system. In any case, his article deserves a good section-by-section fisking, which will hopefully expose his essentially theocratic agenda. So, here we go ...

In recent years, there has been a concerted effort to drive God from the public square and his followers from the political process.
Really? I'm a practicing Catholic Christian, and I haven't noticed this. And last I checked, I can still vote my conscience in the political process, however my conscience is informed. Also, I can walk across the street to my Church to pray or attend mass whenever I so choose. And when I walk down streets in the French Quarter, there is never a shortage of Christians peddling their brand of fire and brimstone on us sinners. I haven't ever seen a police officer, or any pedestrian tourist, for that matter, drive anyone from proclaiming their theology in public spaces. Perhaps Hawkins should be a little clearer what he means here. By "public space," Hawkins should declare that he means government property, such as courthouses or City Halls. He certainly can't mean streets and sidewalks, or public parks, because I've gathered in these "public spaces" on any number of occasions to celebrate my faith. Besides, if he really were a believer, he'd know that God can't be "driven" from anywhere.
Oh, don't get me wrong, Christians are still welcome to mouth politically correct platitudes and vote for whoever says a few nice words about Jesus, but if we actually support policies and candidates based on our religious beliefs, the anti-Christian secularists start tut-tutting and slinging cliches.
Well, isn't Hawkins admitting that religion is still very much alive in the "public space" as long as people of faith can mouth platitudes of whatever theological or Jesus-friendly stripe they choose? I mean, our democracy pretty much guarantees that the "public space" isn't owned by anyone and that it is precisely a place where views and ideas can be "mouthed" and even contested. Hawkins seems to be saying that being able to proclaim faith in public spaces isn't enough to satisfy him. Indeed, it seems that he wants faith to own the public space and, furthermore, to be exempt from the "tut-tuttings" of any other group, whether they be anti-Christian secularists or not. Notice that he's not denying that expressions of faith in the public space are permitted, he's saying that when such expressions of faith get challenged, then that somehow means that it is being driven from the public space. My suggestion to Hawkins is that he "tut-tut" and "sling cliches" right back. I think he'd find that his right to do so is very much protected and guaranteed. But, let's be frank and honest here, he's not really talking about freedom of religious expression in public here. He's really talking about the ability to force religion down the throats of others via the strong arm of the government. He wants the City Courthouse or the Mayor's Office to be able to put up the nativity scene in the entrance to their buildings at Christmas. He wants the state to sanction an expression of Christianity, not to protect his right to express his Christian faith publicly. I could go on, but let's move on with the fisking ...
We're told that you can't legislate morality. Newsflash: almost all of our laws are based on morality. Better that it be Christian morality than secular morality.
First, what the heck is "secular" morality? Is it some general notion of right or wrong? And, if so, how is "secular" morality different in terms of notions of right and wrong that come out of "Christian" morality? By making such a distinction, by implying that Christian theology should inform legislation, it seems to me that Hawkins is suggesting a version of right and wrong as codified in law as coming out of a strictly theological interpretation. If, after all, we are a society subject to the rule of law, and if this law is not determined according to a basic human interpretation of right and wrong, but rather to a particular theological, Christian interpretation of right and wrong, then we don't have democracy, we have theocracy.
We're told that we have "separation of church and state." However, that phrase, which was torn out of the context in which it was used by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptists, has been regularly used as a slight-of-hand to deny Christians the religious freedoms we are guaranteed under the First Amendment.
Hawkins might not like it, but our Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment of the Constitution in a particular way. And this particular way interprets the Establishment Clause in a way that operationalizes the notion of a separation of church and state. When Hawkins can demonstrate to me that he doesn't have the religious freedoms he is guaranteed, then he might have a point. But I know for a fact that Hawkins can practice his faith any way he chooses, even to the point of standing in front of a Court House with a Cross and a Bible and proclaiming the Good News at the top of his lungs for as long as he can sustain it. Again, when Hawkins talks about constitutionally guaranteed religious freedoms here, he is not talking about his right to proclaim and practice his faith, but rather his demand that the state promote his faith. They are not the same thing.
We are told that we need to keep God out of politics.
Really? Where and when? As long as there are believers who participate in politics, there also is God. No, again, what Hawkins really means here is that we are told that the state should not be in the business of serving as the arm of God in politics.
Unfortunately, whether Christians are interested in politics or not, politicians are interested in us. They're interested in denying Christians our First Amendment rights, preventing Christmas songs from being sung in school, and they're interested in codifying practices no Christian should support, like abortion, gay marriage, and using public schools to promote deviant sexual and moral practices to our children.
What bunk! Christians are not denied their First Amendment rights. There are many Christian schools where kids sing Christmas carols every Christmas season. You don't see the state attempting to prevent this. And the state adopts policies that are constantly at odds with my Christian beliefs, but that doesn't mean that I have to support them or live by them. And I at least recognize that I, as a Christian, share this country with citizens who might support policies that I disagree with. What should I tell them? Your voice doesn't matter in this country because I think you're wrong? The fact is that Christian politicians have the opportunity, just like any other politician of another faith, to promote their points of view, to lobby for changes in laws, and to proclaim their faith in the public space where it can be challenged and contested by any other citizen who might not share the same beliefs or points of view.
Put another way, Christians may want to stay out of politics, but politics isn't going to stay out of the domain of the church.
I don't know about Hawkins' church, but in my church, the Catholic church, politics has never interfered with how my church operates and what my church leaders proclaim. The state, or "politics," has never once dicatated or mandated what the Catholic Catechism needs to be, or what the Catholic position on any social issue should be. I challenge Hawkins to point me to any instance where "politics" has dictated the tenets of any particular faith in this country.
Since that's the case, we need more Christians involved in politics, not less.
I'd venture to say that the number of Christians already involved in politics is by far the vast majority. A vast majority of our state, local, and federal legislators, executives, and judges proclaim adherence to a particular religious faith. Hawkins can advocate for more participation by Christians, but I think he misses the obvious point that Christians clearly dominate the political landscape in this country.
Of course, that doesn't mean we're all going to agree. In fact, even amongst conservative Christians, it sometimes seems as if the only thing that two Christians can agree on is that the third Christian is wrong about something.

Then, when you start putting liberal Christians into the mix with conservative Christians -- well, don't even get me started. It's hard to believe that people who share the same faith can have so many wide-ranging political differences on even the most basic of issues.
And what does the ability of Christians to differ so widely and publicly over social and public policy matters tell us? What Hawkins refuses to admit: people of faith are free to proclaim, debate, differ, and discuss -- all without the oppression of the state. Imagine that if Christians didn't have their First Amendment rights protected, where would this vibrancy among Christianity in this country be?
Yet and still, both political parties and the country as a whole are better off to have Christians, particularly Christians who take their faith seriously, participating in the process and letting their faith help guide their decisions.

Granted, social conservatives can come across as a little too preachy and the whole "we're going to form a third party if we don't get the candidate we want” approach that some advocate is completely counter productive, but there would have never been a Reagan Revolution without the Christian Right. Furthermore, given all the complaints we hear about our culture as is, imagine what a moral sewer this country would have degenerated into without conservative Christendom rising up to stand for what's right.
Wait. I thought "Christendom" referred to all Christian believers, not just the conservative ones. Isn't it an oxymoron to divide Christendom into ideological divisions? But look what Hawkins does with this division ... he politicizes Christianity. He makes belief in Christ secondary to political ideology. What's worse is that he implies that conservative Christians are the only kinds of Christians that can stand for what's right, and absent conservative Christians (i.e. if Christianity were the exclusive domain of liberals), we'd have a "moral sewer" for this country. Hawkins reveals his contempt for Christians who happen to be politically liberal here. He presumes that Christians who happen to be liberal aren't really moral people at all. No, we're degenerates. What Hawkins is doing to Christianity is precisely the opposite of the Christian message. No matter what he might say to the contrary, he is attempting to appropriate Christianity for ideological conservatism. And he exposes the fact that his version of Christianity is secondary to political ideology.
In the Democratic Party, Christians have much less sway, but their civilizing influence has helped keep the radical atheists from running the party and staging an even larger attack on Christianity, tradition, and the moral foundation of our country. That being said, it would be great if more liberal Christians had the moral courage to stand up to their fellow travelers on the Left on the frequent occasions when they mock people who are serious about Christianity.
All of my liberal Christian friends, every single one, from ministers, to priests, to nuns, to lay missionaries, to parish council presidents, defend the Christian faith from any and all attacks. I have never, ever heard a liberal politician who is part of the Christian faith not defend his or her faith. I challenge Hawkins to point out anywhere this has happened. Furthermore, I wish Hawkins would call on his conservative Christian friends to stop mocking liberal Christians as degenerates and fakers and moral reprobates because we disagree politically. Heck, even Hawkins implied as much about the moral degeneracy of liberal Christians in his comment above. And how many times have I had to defend my professed Christianity on Hawkins' own blog from those who mocked me and dismissed my faith as unserious, if not heretical. The road goes two ways, Hawkins.
Naturally, not everyone would be pleased to see a larger, more forceful Christian contingent entering politics. But, those who argue that Christians have a negative impact on our political process because they tend to be "overly concerned" with morals or family values are engaging in an act of hypocrisy.

Just as the people who attack our troops as being thugs and mercenaries are only capable of doing so because of the blanket of protection provided by the very soldiers they attack, people who sneer at Christians are only capable of doing so because of the Christian ethics and morality that have permeated American culture since the time of the Founders.
Hawkins, I hate to break it to you, but Western Democracy is rooted in the classical traditions of societies that believed in Zeus and Hera, not in Jesus Christ. The political philosophy of our founding fathers was more rooted in these traditions that in religious Christian traditions. Now I'm not saying that the contributions to Western Democracy haven't been enhanced by the writings of Augustine or Thomas Aquinas; but you must remember that liberal democracy is not, at root, a fundamentally Christian tradition. We are not free because of the Christian ethics and morality of our founding fathers, but because of their embracing of popular sovereignty and human rights coming out of secular Enlightenment tradition, rooted in the ethics of Plato and Aristotle, that even challenged Christian authority at a time when such authority was resistent to the ideas of democracy and freedoms.
America has been and continues to be a great nation because we are a good nation that is populated in large part by a fundamentally decent, Christian people. If Christians step back and allow the bastion of freedom, decency, and opportunity that this nation represents to be squandered, God may forgive us, because that's what He does -- but something precious, a birthright that should belong to future generations of Americans, will be lost from the world.

Last, but not least, if you take one thing away from this column it should be this: if those of us who believe in the Lord simply shrug our shoulders and abandon politics to the secularists, then we should not be surprised when our government pursues secularist policies and imposes upon us laws that contradict our most cherished beliefs.
If we believe in our democracy, we must believe that our government has never "imposed" anything on us that our democratic system didn't legitimately produce. I'm all for advocating that Christians engage politics in a way that is informed by their faith. I do that as a matter of course. In this sense, I agree with Hawkins. I'd argue, though, that Christians have always done this and continue to do this. Hawkins is ringing the alarmist bell when all he needs to do is to look around and he'll see that his fears are unfounded.