Monday, November 2, 2020

Perfect love casts out fear


Months of lawlessness have left people on edge and anxious, and their anxiety is unlikely to be much abated by the outcome of the election.  For either the party of lawlessness will win, or it will lose and manifest its fury in further rioting, looting, burning, hounding of political enemies, and attempted subversion of lawful authorities.  There remains much to be anxious about either way, and there likely will be for some time. 

But there is nothing to fear.  Fear results from the prospect of losing what we love.  Now, love is more perfect the more perfect its object and the more perfect the will’s fixity on that object.  But the most perfect object of love is God, and the most perfect love for God is that which wills him above all else, to the point of forsaking all else if need be.  And if we have this perfect love, we love that which cannot be taken from us.  Hence we can be free from fear.  “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

But not only can we be free of it, we must strive to be free of it.  For as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches:

Our Lord said (Matthew 10:28): “Fear ye not them that kill the body,” thus forbidding worldly fear… Worldly love is, properly speaking, the love whereby a man trusts in the world as his end, so that worldly love is always evil.  Now fear is born of love, since man fears the loss of what he loves, as Augustine states.  Now worldly fear is that which arises from worldly love as from an evil root, for which reason worldly fear is always evil. (Summa Theologiae II-II.19.3)

Yet the flesh is weak and our nerves are understandably frayed, so that cold logic and bracing reproof oughtn’t to have the last word.  Let us give that to Him who is the object of our love:

So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you… I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:22, 33)

87 comments:

  1. Amen! Thank you, Dr. Feser, for this wise reminder.

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  2. Thank you for these sane and beautiful words dr feser

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  3. For either the party of lawlessness will win, or it will lose and manifest its fury in further rioting, looting, burning, hounding of political enemies, and attempted subversion of lawful authorities.

    We are all hoping that the party of lawlessness will lose.

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  4. it's sad there are so many people who oppose democracy. Instead of making your voice heard by voting, they make their voice heard by rioting.

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    1. Lots of people would be disgusted if we voted as a unified bloc.

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  5. We are all hoping that the party of lawlessness will lose.

    How do you tell them apart by that criteria?

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    1. On a General Election (Hilaire Belloc)

      The accursed power which stands on privilege
      (And goes with women, and champagne, and bridge)
      Broke - and democracy resumed her reign
      (Which goes with bridge, and women, and champagne).

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  6. Thank you for this Professor Feser.

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  7. Oh dear, what a lot of twaddle, but then what would you expect from someone who thinks that the way to achieve profound ethical, political and metaphysical understanding is to study the works of a long dead non-entity. Of course, only a vanishingly tiny rump of philiosphers would think that Feser was onto anything there.

    Here's to hoping for a Trump defeat, and a resounding one at that, and to a restoration of hope and political sanity.

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    1. Ah, of course, what could the dead have to teach us? WE are all so very cultured and wise that we can safely ignore what anyone before us thought. We do know everything, after all. /s

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    2. Would love to respond to your post, but unfortunately, it doesn't amount to much more than an empty ad hominem attack - which is, as most know, the least effective or intelligent forms of argument. Just look at our current political mess.

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    3. "study the works of a long dead non-entity"

      Who do you suggest we study in place of Aquinas? Foucault and Derrida perhaps?

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    4. Ignorant people ask questions the wise answered a thousand years ago.

      Feser has probably done more to thoroughly refute scientism than anyone since the fall of positivism.

      "Whence the need for abstraction in science in the first place?" is one of the most brilliant and auto-destroying questions ever asked.

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    5. Anon

      Sod off. Yer even more tedious than Stardusty.

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    6. Ha, ha. You make me chuckle.

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    7. @Anonymous 10:25 Lurking on a forum, not to dialogue, but to make snarky, intellectually insubstantial comments? How pathetic.

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    8. You are a disgrace to this forum. And obviously, you would be the expert in non-entities.

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  8. "Now fear is born of love, since man fears the loss of what he loves, as Augustine states."

    So, if you love God (Him that you could never lose) then you would have no fear. Or at least fearless in relation to the perfection of your love for God.

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    1. I don't think that's quite right. St Thomas says elsewhere that it's reasonable to fear the loss of natural goods. A man who loves God rightly will probably still experience humdrum fears, but will not be dominated by them and will not do evil to escape what he fears.

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    2. Interesting point, Ben.

      That's part of the reason why I included the phrase "in relation to the perfection of your love for God."
      Since some can love God to a greater degree than others.

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  9. Praised be Christ! Thank you, Dr. Feser.

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  10. I hope you know Jesus wasn't white right?

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    1. And? Portraying Our Lord in the ethnicity of the local people being proselytised is a normal and ancient practice. Jesus is the Lord of all people, and there's nothing wrong with portraying him in any ethnicity. I have no problem at all with Chinese artists portraying Jesus as Chinese, or Indians portraying him as Indian and in traditional indian-guru style clothing, because that's symbolism that makes sense to them. We're aware that Jesus was born a Middle Eastern Jew, and that doesn't bother me at all.

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    2. What about portraying him in the gender of the local women?

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    3. Excellent idea!

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    4. Don,

      Well, I'm of the opinion that the difference between men and women is far more important than the differences between human ethnicities. Portraying our Lord as a woman might run the risk of confusing or obscuring important truths, which are not imperilled by a different-race portrayal. And whichever way you look at it, no Church, no tradition, no ancient community ever thought it appropriate to do so, while they didn't have a problem with differing-race portrayals. That alone should weigh considerably.

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    5. It should not carry any weight at all. The fact that no church or ancient commumity ever thought a particular thing appropriate could just reflect their prejudices, limited understanding, ideological notions flowing from the socioeconomic or power structures of these societies etc etc. Sometines past idiocies have to be rejected and swept away.

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    6. Or, alternatively, Mr. Anonymous, we could refrain from presuming that we are more wise, more just, more virtuous, and more in tune with the will of Christ than the people who knew him on this Earth and whom received the testimony about him from the first eyewitnesses. Seems to me that, absent a strong bias against the tradition, one would have to accept it.

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    7. I was not aware that Jesus is recorded as expressing any oppinion regarding how he should be depicted by subsequent generations, or indeed about the role of women in any church that might eventually develop in his name.

      I do not for a second think that we are necessarily wiser or more virtuous than long past generations, but we are much better informed about the world, and have much greater power and control over it, and so have hugely more options about how to develop it than they did. The default option has to be that their musings about anything in particular are likely to be of limited use to us ( or of no use at all ). Certainly, to make a cult of the past and the thoughts and scribblings of long dead non-entities, as if they will axiomatically provide ethical, political or philosophical enlightenment, is insane.

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    8. Cantus,
      You offer two arguments. One is from Catholic tradition, which is fine but which non-Catholics don't seem obligated to adhere to. Your other argument is something like an argument from prudence or fittingness. It seems to be something like what the Catholic Church would say against female priests. As many non-Catholic demonimations don't adhere to this, we have another argument that holds more weight for Catholics than non-Catholics. I am saying nothing against the validity of these arguments. Just making a note that may explain some push back.

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    9. I disagree completely. I would like to answer you in two respects, firstly as regards tradition more generally and secondly as regards Christianity in particular (this will be in its own post).

      Firstly, perhaps our society in the aggregate has greater knowledge of nature, but most of us are woefully ignorant of almost all of it, and beholden to foolish and false ideas (I count both sides of the political aisle in this regard). And I disagree also that we ought to have an assumption of hostility toward tradition in general, as if it were the obligation of the tradition to prove that it is good, rather than on the innovator to prove that it is bad. See Chesterton's Fence. Our greater ability to manipulate nature means, at most, that we shouldn't presume their scientific speculations are correct. On other topics, such as, say, the right attitude to have towards God, towards parents, the right ordering of society, etc, why on Earth would our greater scientific knowledge give us any edge? In fact, the hubris that this has produced gives us a disadvantage; and we are now in the grip of strong delusions. Scarcely any generation before ours would seriously entertain the notion that, say, there was no reality to being either a man or woman.

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    10. Secondly, as regards Christianity in particular, the Faith is an inheritance, a testimony passed down to us from witnesses recounting what they saw. No amount of scientific development is ever going to improve upon their testimony - after all, would you suggest that new breakthrough in cancer treatment are likely to affect our assessment of the life of Napoleon Bonaparte? No, because learning more about cancer doesn't teach you anything about him. Similarly, knowing more about science in no way entitles us to greater knowledge of Christ than the people who first saw Him and gave witness to Him. In addition, the notion that Jesus needs to explicitly approve or condemn some particular thing in Scripture before we can say that it is or isn't in harmony with God's will is silly. Christ does not explicitly condemn incest or nuclear war. But it would be ludicrous to claim that this means Jesus is OK with either or even that we can't know his opinion on the matter.

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    11. Oh, in case the context didn't make it clear, both my above comments were addressed to Anonymous, not to Don.

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    12. Also, Don, you are mostly correct, but I'd offer a small correction - the argument about the tradition not featuring images of Christ as a woman is about the tradition from the Early Church, which all Christian claim descent from, so it's not purely a claim from *Catholic* tradition. But your point's basically right, it's a claim about Christian tradition.

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    13. no church or ancient commumity ever thought a particular thing appropriate could just reflect their prejudices, limited understanding, ideological notions flowing from the socioeconomic or power structures of these societies etc etc.

      The church fathers had poorly-aligned chakras got it.

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    14. What about portraying him in the gender of the local women?

      IIRC there is nothing in the Gospels about the skin colour, hair colour etc. of Jesus and not that many details about the clothing he wore. On the other hand the fact that he is a man and is male is referred to on numerous occasions. Could this by why he is not often depicted as a woman?

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    15. What about portraying him in the gender of the local women?

      If we ever come across a whole, complete, stable society made up only of women (so that the entirety of "the locals" constitutes women), I will consider it. Until then, since there has never been such a society, I don't see the point. In a society in which there are both men and women, the fact that Christ chose to come as a man cannot fail to be significant in portraying him.

      How about making a movie of Martin Luther King Jr., and have him portrayed by a Vietnamese woman? How about making a movie of Queen Elizabeth I of England' early years, and having her portrayed by an octogenarian man? How about making a movie of Nelson Mandela in his prison years, and have him portrayed by a Swedish girl of 8?

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  11. I remember as a teenager/young adult discussing with friends the idea of "the one" -- a one, true love. I didn't think it was true. This post made me realise I was wrong.

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    1. Wow, if this post decided the issue for you, your evidential standards must be non-existant.

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    2. The issue was decided by independent reasons; sometimes I don't fully appreciate the consequences of what conclusions entail and this post shed light one of those consequences.

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  12. Beautiful post, Dr. Feser. Thank you.

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  13. Leo Strauss thought everyone except the philosopher is insane. The way the stars are aligned, to embrace the myths of place and time is to delude oneself. Only the philosopher can float above the insanity and exit the Platonic cave.

    The German idealist Schelling saw that no answer is possible to the ultimate question, "Why is there anything at all?" I have seen many point-missing attempts to answer it. E.g. Bill Vallicella says that even if nothing existed, the proposition that nothing exists would still exist. Which part of 'nothing' doesn't he get? It's as if the people who rightly accuse the New Atheists of not getting the meaning of 'nothing' then turn around and smuggle in the same nonsense themselves.

    Inevitably, this means that the ground of reality is inherently inexplicable, irrational. And it follows that, whatever else we may say about its structure, it must fundamentally be a kind of Irrational Will.

    After one understands this, it soon becomes obvious that even the religion with the (relatively) strongest historical-evidential support for it - the Resurrection - Christianity is false. This is a hard pill to swallow and almost unbearably alienating, but we should follow the truth, no matter where it leads.

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    1. Except by yer own standards I can dismiss everything here you say.

      Opps!

      Now Sod off.

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    2. Is that your catch phrase Mr Yakov?

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    3. Ask me in five minutes. I bore much too eas....

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    4. You are the one missing points here. The point is that nothingness is absurd.

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    5. Wow, this was some colossal stupidity.

      "No answer is possible to the ultimate question why is there something rather than nothing"

      No argument was presented for why no answer would be possible.

      "Which part of nothing doesn't he get?"

      Which part of necessity don't you get? The point is precisely that there couldn't have been nothing. Something necessarily exists and couldn't even possibly have failed to exist. There's the answer - "why is there something rather than nothing?" there is no "rather than nothing", nothingness is a strict impossibility and we never needed anything to "keep it away" or answer "the question", because nothingness was never a possibility. The very possibility of Necessity entails Necessity, by S5.

      "A kind of Irrational Will"

      On the contrary, it must be that which satisfies PSR (against which you have provided an impressive number of ZERO arguments) and is the source of rationality, intellect and will. It must be a Rational Will. And without PSR you couldn't even truly understand what you're talking about (I won't say "follow your reasoning" because there's no reasoning, you gave no arguments or reasons, only baseless 5th grade assertions), so your position would be self-defeating.

      Trash. Not even worthy of further discussion.

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    6. Atno,

      Which part of necessity don't you get? The point is precisely that there couldn't have been nothing. Something necessarily exists and couldn't even possibly have failed to exist.

      Could you point to an argument for that, one that doesn't assume propositions can exist without a mind to exist within?

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    7. Since Atno explicitly defends that the Necessary Being has a mind and a will, i don't think his argument assumes the platonic view of propositions.

      He already has a necessary mind, why assume that propositions can exist alone if you have a place for them?

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    8. Talmid,

      All of the arguments (that I have seen) regarding the existence of some putative necessary being have begun the assumption of something that exists. Above, Atno was responding to an argument that nothing can't exist. Vallicella's reply was that a proposition about nothing had to exist, therefore something existed. I don't know if Vallicella would endorse that specific notion or if there was a misunderstanding, but that reply certainly relies on the existence of mind-independent propositions.

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    9. Atno and Vallicena arguments seems very diferent, though. The Vallicena one does needs platonic propositions, which is a idea i also find weird, btw.

      Atno views seems that nothing can't be "actual" because we have a Being that is necessary, is just impossible to Him to fail to exist, so in any possible world at least this Being would be existing. This argument does not rely on platonic propositions, it is more of a modality thing.

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    10. Talmid,

      Thank you, I missed the reference to S5. While I have my own disagreements with S5, it is certainly different from the thought from Vallicella.

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  14. The reading of the day reminds us to always be thankful, so thanks Dr. Feser. Here is a Psalm of the day:

    O God, make haste to my rescue,
    Lord, come to my aid!
    Let there be shame and confusion
    on those who seek my life.

    O let them turn back in confusion,
    who delight in my harm,
    let them retreat, covered with shame,
    who jeer at my lot.

    Let there be rejoicing and gladness
    for all who seek you.
    Let them say for ever: ‘God is great,’
    who love your saving help.

    As for me, wretched and poor,
    come to me, O God.
    You are my rescuer, my help,
    O Lord, do not delay.

    Glory be to the Father and to the Son
    and to the Holy Spirit,
    as it was in the beginning,
    is now, and ever shall be,
    world without end.
    Amen.


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    1. My goodness: "the party of lawlessness will win, or it will lose and manifest its fury in further rioting, looting, burning, hounding of political enemies, and attempted subversion of lawful authorities"! This is the writing of a philosopher? "Further rioting, looting, burning"? Accusing the Democratic Party, I take it, of, not just rioting, looting, and burning, but further rioting, looting, and burning. A note: I have seen no video of any operative of the Democratic Party throwing anything through a storefront window. The "hounding of political enemies, and attempted subversion of lawful authorities": Now, which party are you talking about?

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    2. Feser may be academically qualified as a philosopher, and hold a teaching position at a minor university, but we all know that he is primarily an apologist and propagandist for a crazy supernaturalistic, right wing, anti-science world view. Instead of guiding PhD students and conducting research to be published in peer reviewed journals, he primerily spends his time making speeches, writing blog posts and magazine articles and churning out pot boilers, all promoting his bizarre world view. You should not expect any more from him than what you criticise in your post above.

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    3. @Anonymous

      Dr. Feser's political views are bad, but that has been a long-standing tradition of almost every great philosopher (Heidegger, Plato, Aquinas, etc... all had absolutely abhorrent political ideologies). When he writes pro-metaphysics, he is good.

      For the scientism proponents, it's exactly the opposite: Neil DeGrasse Tyson has great political views, but is an abhorrent critical thinker.

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    4. An interesting suggestion, but I would have to disagree about the metaphysical part.

      Feser has an integrated world view, in which ultimately the psychology, ethics and politics derive from the metaphysics ( with a splash of revelation thrown in occasionally ). I do not think therefore that one aspect of his thinking can be hermetically sealed off from the rest. For example, his essentialism leads to some very reactionary conclusions.

      As regards Fesers metaphysics, it must be emphasised that his perspective and analysis is less than a rump one among leading research philosophers ( in oppose to philosophy writers ) working in the relevant fields, and while this arguament from authority is hardly conclusive, it should make his accolytes pause for a second and wonder why that should be.

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    5. Hey, Anonymous, why don't you finally pick a darn name so that we can easily identify which posts to ignore?

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    6. And speaking to Richard: no, there were probably no Democratic Party officials at the rioting, but Democrat party politicians and their aligned media turned a blind eye to it for as long as possible, and played the "mostly peaceful, mostly peaceful" card so much that they are culpable for covering for them. CNN's "Fiery But Mostly Peaceful Protests After Police Shooting" chevron, which featured a reporter standing in front of burning cars, is only the most notorious example of this. That's not even getting into both Michael Bloomberg as well as Joe Biden's campaign providing financial support to pay bail for those arrested for rioting, or the case of Portland, where a Democrat governor permitted the CHAZ lawlessness, as well as the change of policy performed by the DA for Multnomah County, which ensured that, unless there were a concrete charge of violence or property damage, nobody would be prosecuted for "interfering with a peace officer or parole and probation officer, disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, escape, harassment and riot". These accusations are far from baseless, as you seem to think.

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    7. Ah Cantus, finally dropping the facade and revealing your unpleasant side. At least your comrade Yakov does not attempt to hide his!

      There are many individuals who post on this site using the monica 'anonymous', and they frequently get confused with each other ( posts are often ascribed to me which I do not even agree with ). This has the advantage of individuals not being singled out for open discrimination and bullying as you advocate ( the most egregious example of this happening is with Stardusty of course ).

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    8. Come on, Anonymous. We are generally polite people here, but we respond to you like that because you spout uncharitable nonsense. If you came here merely disagreeing, rather than calling our host an evil stupid crazy delusional propagandist, you would get the same response. It's like going to a party - if you go up to someone and call him names and call his wife a whore, don't be surprised if you get a punch in the face, and rightly so.

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    9. It's ok Cantus, no need to try and salve your conscience I have a very thick hide indeed.

      I presume that the word 'not' has been inadvertantly omitted from your third sentence. If I was a psychoanalyst I might suspect that this was a Freudian slip by omission!

      As to out host, I would not use all the adjectives you list to describe him, but yes, you have managed to convey something of my disdain for what he represents.

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    10. I pointed out that your own noxious, smarmy behaviour is the cause of the hostility you receive here, and your response is to nitpick my grammar and make sly insinuations? Come on. You are obviously arguing in bad faith, which you practically admit in the next sentence, where you show that you are motivated by an animus against Prof. Feser. Well, don't expect to receive warm welcomes and politeness from those whom you have made a policy of antagonising. Don't play the victim, you hypocrite.

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    11. Oh dear, prickly fellow arn't you? And one lacking a sense of humour too.

      I was hardly nitpicking your grammar to point out that you had apparantly inadvertantly omitted an entire word, which completely changed the sense of what you said. Or at least I hope that is what happened, otherwise you really meant to say that if I came to this site merely disagreeing, I would still get a punch in the face, and deservedly so. This made me chuckle, you misery guts.

      I do not argue in bad faith either, and the fact that I have a low oppinion about Feser and his world view ( 'animus' you say, but why so? )
      is hardly evidence of that.





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    12. I say you are arguing in bad faith because it should have been obvious from the context of my remarks that that was merely a mistake, since that would be entirely incongruent with the point I was trying to make. Instead, you chose to use this as an opportunity to slyly insinuate that I had subconsciously revealed something embarrassing about myself. This sort of sneering insinuation game is the field of schoolgirl gossips, not honest people looking for a fair argument. Further bolstering my judgment is the fact that you chose to completely ignore the point I was making (namely, that the precise sort of smug, sneering behaviour you are engaging in now is just cause for people to be hostile to you). This makes me think that you do not have any interest in actually having an honest debate about anything, but merely want to get a rise out of me, which is a classic example of bad-faith argumentation.

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    13. Well, if that was my motivation Cantus - which it was not - I certainly succeeded.

      I do not take myself anywhere near as seriously you do fortunately, so I frequently engage in humour of various kinds, including occasionally of the puerile variety. I was actually attempting to be humourous in the comment that you liken to schoolgirl gossip, but you are clearly too po-faced to see it.

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    14. So was there a point to all this, then? Or did you just want to express your feelings?

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    15. I made a post at 3.26am in response to BalancedTryteOperators, to which you rudely responded that I should adopt a particular name so that you could all easily identify which posts to ignore. That is what initiated our exchange. In the absence of your rude and noxious comment, designed no doubt to injure and wound, 'all this' would not have occurred.

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    16. I responded rudely to a rude post. I suggest that if you can't take it, don't give it out, especially in the house of the person being insulted. Either way, it's clear to me that you're only here to disparage Feser, so it seems pointless to continue talking to you.

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  15. Hi Professor Feser and everyone,

    In times of so much anxiety, negativity, and mainstream media opinion peddling, I want to thank you for being a thoughtful alternative to the incessant conservative and conservative-value bashing.

    I feel frustrated that I cannot find much in the way of critical, reasoned, honest reporting and perspective on current issues, so I turn to your blog frequently. I used to be your student at PCC, now I follow your blog.

    Today you have provided me once again with perspective and also with peace, something that is hard to come by these days. Thank you very much!

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  16. It's hard to think of anything that could create more lawlessness, anxiety and fear than Donald Trump's "victory" speech at the White House. Since then there's been time to produce evidence for his claims of massive fraud, yet - nothing. He has struck an enormous blow for making America small again. Whether it returns to 1800 or 1776 dimensions is a matter for debate.

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  17. Agreed. I'm sincerely curious how unhinged and dangerous Trump and his enablers would have to act before Ed would throw *any* shade their way, and move off his 'evil party / stupid party' shtick. Maybe he really would have to shoot someone on 5th Ave. to move the needle.

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  18. OP,
    "the party of lawlessness will (or might not) win"
    Fortunately the party of lawlessness did not win.

    The AP has Biden at 290 and he has a lead in GA that is almost certainly recount-proof, which will put Biden at 306.

    4 million more American voted for Biden than Voted for Trump this year, and that number will certainly grow to over 5 million as counting continues, and likely top 6 million when counting is complete.

    Former president Bush has messaged to wish president-elect Biden well.

    The lawbreaker in chief is done. He has about 70 days to issue pardons for himself, his children, his convicted henchmen, and whoever else in the Trump crime family he wishes to escape justice.

    Those pardons might be invalidated if they are ruled to be in a case of impeachment.

    He and the rest of his crime family will still be subject to state and local prosecution, which is presently awaiting his firing by the American people to take effect.

    So, no worries Dr. Feser, the party of lawlessness lost the presidency.

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  19. Perhaps in the light of Trump's outrageous behaviour in recent days, lying flagrantly about Biden and the election results and firing up his gun touting supporters ( in contrast to the very measured, calming and presidential behaviour of Biden ), Feser would like to rewrite his idiotic oppinion piece and correct his obviously faulty analysis.

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    1. Biden may look more presidential, but he represents the same awful Enlightenment values as Trump. One side may be better on some points while the other side is better on others, but there isn't much hope from either in this game unfortunately.

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    2. Ideologues believe that one party or the other is good, that being the party they happen to agree with. The other party is, thus, bad, because they dare to disagree with the ideologue.

      Meanwhile, rational people recognize both parties as garbage, if not outright enemies of the country at times. It's one thing to vote for one of the parties while holding your nose because you have no other real choice to express your beliefs with your vote, but it's irrational nonsense to actually stand behind either party as being good and honorable.

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  20. How about if you recognise that apart from parties, one candidate is basically independent, and the other is a bought-and-paid-for shill for the global capitalist class, the WEF et al?

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    1. Unfortunately, it was impossible to recognise any candidate showing signs of independence from ideas and forces (globalist, elitist or otherwise) that have been ruining the West for a very long time.

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    2. Aquinian, I don't see either Trump or Biden as independent from the global capitalist class.

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