The Free Exchange (15-009)

The Free Exchange is a series dedicated solely to answering comments from you. I appreciate your reading and always enjoy hearing from you, even when you disagree. Thank you for your participation.


A Constructivist Approach to Iran Spells Certain Disaster

Black and Red Fan writes:

It’s great to read more about political theory. I think if more people understood the political theory and the root of liberalism/progressivism, the more people will realize how naive and dangerous it is.

The constructionist foreign policy theory as you explained it, falls perfectly within liberalism and their post-modern approach of placing us as God. Instead of recognizing that there is something beyond us that forms the world, liberalism places the liberal and his child-like point of view as king and himself as God; whatever he perceives and dreams up, it must be real and he treats it as such. That is such a dangerous approach to the world, especially when it comes to foreign policy that it is scary to see it, as you explained so well in this article.

I believe we will pay a dear price for this awful deal in the future. But when the consequences of this deal occur, it will be up to us to explain it clearly since the mass media will engage in damage control and a rationalization & defense of this deal since it was done by Obama. That’s always been the most frustrating part; truth gets twisted and distorted just like the consequences of Obama pulling out of Iraq not being blamed on him but on Bush. The non-truth drives me crazy. I think God hard-wired people like us to point out their untruth and clarify the world with truth.

J Hunter:

Thank you. I’m glad you liked this piece. I love political philosophy and theory.

To that end, I’m not sure if postmodernists believe that we’re God or gods. You’re right to point out that postmodernism fits snugly into Leftist thought–it’s just that there has been a change in liberal thought–and in American philosophy altogether.

America, as a country, was founded by modernists–people who believed that truth existed, but that it had to be determined via scientific means and less through supernatural means. Modernists, those responsible for the ugly chapters of the 20th century (fascism, Nazism, and communism), are much more likely to consider enlightened humans as God or gods than the postmodernists.

Postmodernists challenge the idea that a God or gods exist. They challenge whether or not truth exists, and they definitely challenge the idea that truth can be objective. This ideology is a cancer when it comes to policymaking–especially in the realm of foreign policy. It undermines authority and sovereignty–the very things necessary for a foreign policy to exist. It leads to isolationism and caprice. Constructivism is its feeble brainchild.

Your calling this worldview “childlike” is spot on. What comes immediately to my mind is a 2006 Katie Couric interview with then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. The two women were discussing the Iraq War, and Couric challenged Rice’s claim; that we are right to fight for the freedoms of the Iraqi people that we, westerners, enjoy; with a question echoing a liberal and libertarian talking point that drips with postmodernist slime: “To quote my daughter, ‘Who made us the boss of them?’”

The question supports postmodernist thinking because to the postmodernist, there can be no answer. Rice couldn’t have answered “God,” because postmodernists don’t believe in a uniform reality, let alone, one in which a God can exist and make demands. Had Rice answered, “the Iraqi people,” the postmodernist would “deconstruct” that answer to the point of questioning whether “the Iraqi people,” or any people, could express a unified, intelligible will (How did they make us the boss of them? Did they write a letter that they all signed? If there was a poll, was the question biased? To what degree did they want us to be ‘their boss?’ etc.).

Similarly, postmodernists not only argue that truth cannot be ascertained, but they argue that truth is subjective, so it cannot exist for anyone except whoever accepts a certain version of a truth. Therefore, Couric’s question is rhetorical. No answer could please her (or other postmodernists).

Apply that to foreign policy and postmodernists ask constructivist questions: “What makes us a superpower? What makes Iran a rogue state? Isn’t one man’s terrorist, another’s freedom-fighter? Who’s to say?

Not us.

Constructivism has its place, and that’s in the interpersonal realm. Rightly applied, it goes a long way to explain the effects of stereotyping and prejudice. Elevated to the realm of foreign relations, it is a nightmare–a postmodernist nightmare.


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Men and Women Seek Truth

Postmodernism, a prevailing philosophy in the United States, argues that Truth cannot be objectively known. Truth consists of narratives constructed by people biased by their own ascribed statuses. Therefore, what may be true for one may not necessarily be true for another, but both people’s truths, even when mutually exclusive, hold equal validity.

If this makes no sense to you, much of the world around you might not make much sense to you either. As it happens, this young philosophy fuels the madness of transgender identity and the movement to affirm it as a valid lifestyle.

After Bradley Manning, Bruce Jenner becomes the latest high-profile person receiving gender reassignment surgery. Jenner, a track and field Olympian, born a man, dominated headlines recently because he mentally identifies as a woman. With the help of modern medicine, Jenner plans to live the rest of his life pretending to be a woman. Postmodernism argues that because Jenner believes himself a woman, he is so. My argument that Jenner can never be a woman, but can only be a mutilated man, offends the postmodern sensibility. On the political left, where postmodernism thrives, activist groups pressure lawmakers and society to recognize gender dysphoria as a legitimate lifestyle, instead of a mental disorder fed by postmodernist tenets. Their work, aimed at helping the gender-confused by convincing society to be complicit in a lie, may do more harm than good.

Dr. Paul McHugh, a retired psychiatrist in chief from Johns Hopkins Hospital, wrote a bold piece for the Wall Street Journal describing gender dysphoria as a mental disorder that leads to dire consequences when treated with gender reassignment surgery. To this end, McHugh quotes a 30-year study from the Swedish Karolinska Institute.

“The study revealed that beginning about 10 years after having the surgery, the transgendered began to experience increasing mental difficulties. Most shockingly, their suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable nontransgender population…The high suicide rate certainly challenges the surgery prescription.”

A prescription that Johns Hopkins, America’s premier medical institution, refuses to condone.

Other studies, too, highlight the same phenomenon. The Williams Institute, an LGBT research group at UCLA, finds that the transgendered attempt suicide at twice the rate of lesbians and gays combined. Transgendered men, like Jenner, lead the pack. Transgender rights activists pounced on McHugh, making mostly ad hominem attacks. The statistics, though, speak for themselves.

The reach of this aspect of postmodern thinking even affects young children. 5-year-old Mia Lemay insisted, since she was 2, that she identified as a boy. Her parents, Mimi and Joe–who presumably would not allow Mia to eat ice cream for breakfast as she willed–decided to rename their daughter Jacob, cut her hair, and insist that her preschool treat her as a boy.

“Ultimately, Jacob made that decision in his mind and his heart,” Mimi says. “If we don’t come out now and talk to people and… show people that transgender children are normal and wonderful…then I’m afraid that he will go into the world and meet with hostility.”

Mia/Jacob did not receive gender reassignment medication or surgery, but some parents pursue this course for their children. McHugh explains:

“…[T]here is the subgroup of very young, often prepubescent children who notice distinct sex roles in the culture and…begin imitating the opposite sex. Misguided doctors at medical centers including Boston’s Children’s Hospital have begun trying to treat this behavior by administering puberty-delaying hormones to render later sex-change surgeries less onerous—even though the drugs stunt the children’s growth and risk causing sterility. Given that close to 80% of such children would abandon their confusion and grow naturally into adult life if untreated, these medical interventions come close to child abuse.”

Parents convinced to submit to the will of a toddler, a grown man’s decision to mutilate himself so that he can better pretend to be a woman, and the many people working ardently to change society’s view of the transgendered, do so under the powerful sway of an utterly silly ideology–postmodernism. A 5-year-old girl is not a boy because she says so anymore than Bruce Jenner is a woman, or than I was Luke Skywalker as I proclaimed as a little boy. Truth exists, despite what postmodernists say. Understanding postmodernism for the sham that it is will reintroduce us to clarity and sanity. Or maybe that’s just my own, personal truth.

America Untethered

“For the first time in my 72 years, I have no idea what’s going on,” writes Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Henry Allen, in the Wall Street Journal. “We are all outsiders with no inside to be outside of…What a strange time it is to be alive in America.”

What a strange time indeed.

Since President Barack Obama and the Democrats committed to “fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” Americans find themselves increasingly perplexed by events–untethered to the immutable, reliable reality of life in an ordered society. Police are the enemy. Marijuana is legal. Marriage is redefined. Iran is a negotiating partner.

What’s happened?

The American Left increasingly exchanges its championship of liberal virtues for support of the avant garde. Ronald Brownstein and Libby Isenstein of National Journal provide a series of charts showing how the Democrat Party has realigned politically while the Republican Party changed much more modestly. These charts, sourced with data gathered in Pew Research Center surveys, show that the percentage of Democrats self identifying as “very liberal” has dramatically increased since 1996. On some issues, too, Democrats have “evolved” more substantially than the general public.

Judging by Obama’s drive to normalize relations with Cuba and to broker a nuclear deal with Iran, there appears no slowing of the Democrats’ trend.

This helps make the 2016 election so crucial.

Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, makes this very case.

“The importance of a presidential election depends on what’s at stake…Now…the stakes are even higher than 36 years ago. Not only is the economy unsteady but threats to American power and influence around the world are more pronounced and widespread.”

Barnes’ assertion rings true. But how does it connect to Democrats’ unmooring America from once accepted social norms and order? The answer rests in the courts–specifically, the Supreme Court.

“Four justices are 76 or older. Two…are liberals. Antonin Scalia (79) is a conservative. And Anthony Kennedy (78) is a swing vote.”

Control of the Supreme Court affects lower court rulings and much of America’s character for generations. Liberals understand this and cheer whenever their agenda is codified by courts. The implications of these decisions will outlast us–and likely our offspring as well.

Unfortunately, pundits deem every election “The Most Important Election in the Entire History of Civilization.” Americans, myself included, tire of the superlative and consider it nothing more than talking heads crying wolf. Considering the Democrat Party’s sharp leftward turn, though, there is something to be said about using the 2016 election to take stock of where we are, where we came from, and where we want to go, before these changes are cast in stone by a liberal Supreme Court.

A Republican president elected in 2016 will likely preside over the retirements of justices Ginsburg, Scalia, Kennedy, and Breyer. With a friendly Congress, these judges could be replaced with strong conservatives. At the end of one term, Justice Thomas will reach 70 years old and Alito will be 69, granting the next president the opportunity to replace six Supreme Court justices.

On the other hand, a Democratic president could do the same, if he/she enters the White House in 2016, leaving us to collectively ponder the rest Allen’s quote:

“I worry that reality itself is fading like the Cheshire cat, leaving behind only a smile that grows ever more alarming.”