Sunday, April 24, 2005

Jerry Brown on the "moral values" meme

Jerry Brown has never had a problem speaking in public about faith and values and how they relate to his positions on political issues.  I remember once back when he was governor of California, he did a broadcast to oppose some lunatic tax-cut initiative that would have slashed about a third of state government services at one swoop, or something like that.

He explained in a very straightforward way that if the initiative passed, the state government would have to adjust and would.  But there were some practical realities, and there would be state services drastically cut back or shut down altogether.  He mentioned in particular Agnew State Hospital, a psychiatric facility which held a lot of inpatients with severe psychiatric problems as one that likely would notably be cut back.

And at the end of the speech (quoting from memory here), he said, "Now I'd like to close by reading a passage from the Bible."  And he picked up a Bible and read a Gospel passage with no sense of awkwardness.  He studied in a Jesuit monastery for four years, so he had some experience at that sort of thing.

Check out this photo from last week.  It shows Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria Shriver with Jerry Brown and his fiancee Anne Gust.  Reporters who are still stuck on their script about Brown as the ever-exotic Governor Moonbeam are perplexed at what to make of his decision to marry for the first time at 67.

What's wrong with true love as a reason?  I mean, has romance totally gone out of the world?

Anyway, the photo shows them at a new exhibition honoring Jerry's father, the late Pat Brown, who also served two terms as California governor.  (Yes, there is a Brown dynasty, too.)  But the camera captured them at a moment that is probably very characteristic of their different approaches.  Schwarzenegger is mugging for the camera.  Brown is looking at one of the displays with apparent concentration and gives every appearance of actually reading the text.  Imagine that!  Gosh, that Jerry is a real eccentric, isn't he?

Brown has been at work on his blog again lately.  He was at the California Democratic State Convention week before last.  On the second day of the convention, he mentions that Howard Dean had given a successful speech emphasizing moral values.  He also noted with satisfaction that Schwarzenegger "has managed to unite the far-flung tribes of the California Democratic Party."

But displaying his Jesuit habits of mind, Brown had some skeptical reflections on the current values fad in the Democratic Party (California Democratic Convention: Day Two 04/16/05):

There is something strange, though, in this rush to “morals.”

Morals represent tradition and custom. In this brave new century, tradition and custom are replaced by fashion and hype. The past is for reactionaries, we are told. Science, technology and the ever-expanding GDP will solve our problems. Yet, no society can hang together without a proper balance between stability, respect for the old ways and openness to the new. In our time—2005—we are way out of balance. Question: who gets it?

I learned long ago with Jerry Brown that I don't always agree with him.  But even when what he says sounds really strange, he's normally seeing some aspect of the situation that's important that other politicians haven't really noticed yet.  And since the quality of the mainstream news media has deteriorated the last 15 years into, well, "fashion and hype," Jerry's habit of actually expressing real thoughts probably seems even more out of step with the buzzwords with which the reporters are familiar.

1 comment:

purcellneil said...

I don't have a problem with politicians talking about values.  In fact, we need a lot more discussion.  Right now we are headed in a direction that makes no sense and the only way we can hope to change course is to discuss the values that are implicit in that course.  So far, the discussion has been lame and one-sided -- little more than a cover-story for whatever the Bush machine wants.

Bill Clinton has been on this one for a while.  I think Barack Obama and John Edwards can carry this argument too.  

Looking forward to that discussion.

Neil