Thursday, June 19, 2008

Find the Hidden Lessons Contest

The fullness of modern culture has surfaced in beautiful downtown Gloucester, Massachusetts...or at least at Gloucester High School. This story is so rich in metaphor, human nature, human experience, and just plain old natural consequences that it was too juicy to pass up.

It seems a bunch of young girls (students at Gloucester HS) made a peer-pact to get pregnant. So serious were they that one of the girls even allowed a 24 year old homeless man to father her child. The fun of this story for policy wonks and students of modern liberal/secular culture is to identify the many underlying lessons within it. Kind of like those old Highlights magazine games to find the "hidden" item on the page. Let me start you off and then see how many "hidden" lessons we can find in the Gloucester story:

1. Teen pregnancies aren't always due to a lack of proper contraception.

2. Contraceptives don't work when girls actually want to get pregnant. (Two Gloucester HS health officials quit their jobs to protest a lack of free contraceptives for students at the HS...all for sad.)

3. Modern equity feminism still can't deal with human nature -- girls just want to be mommies.

4. But feminists take heart...the girls still don't want daddies, just the babies.

5. Where is Massachusetts child welfare services when you need them? (Surely they will swoop in at any moment...a la FLDS in TX...and snatch ALL of the children from the in loco parentis authority of the HS? Clearly, ALL girls at the school are endangered.)

6. (And speaking of in loco parentis authority)...uh, government parents are no substitute for real ones.

7. What does Planned Parenthood have to say? (official response from Gloucester PP: "ummmm...ummmm...oh yeah, we just assume kids only want to have non-consequential sex. Whoda thunk???")

8. Gee, aren't we all a bit surprised this occured in enlightened Massachusetts (where everything but consequences are free)!

9. Lesson learned by Utah PP..."Let's see if we can pass a law requiring all boys to wear condoms 24 hours a day." (Nah, stupid idea...we all know they would just turn them into water balloons.) Follow up lesson learned by Utah PP..."But maybe water ballon fights might distract them. Eureka!!"

10. Lessons learned by liberal do-gooders...A) no need to blame anyone here, B) poor girls...they just need a public school lesson on self-esteem, C) we told you that selling high-fat junk food from vending machines would lead to no good, D) if only we had an international baccalaureate program...(liberal thoughts slowly devolving into)...T) damn conservatives, U) impeach Bush, V) get us out of the war, W) Obama would have kept those girls from getting pregnant, X) if only Barack and Oprah would make up, Y) Hillary should be our nominee, and Z) McCain is a wimp!!!

Okay, Amicus faithful. It's up to you. What are the hidden lessons in the mystery of the Gloucester teen moms?

Gloucester Teens Had Pact To Get Pregnant
Keller Blog: Kids Having Kids

GLOUCESTER, Mass. (WBZ) ― There's a stunning twist to the sudden rise in teen pregnancies at Gloucester High School. Seventeen students there are expecting and many of them became that way on purpose. Time Magazine first reported that nearly half of the girls confessed to making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. None of them is older than 16. Schools Superintendent Christopher Farmer told WBZ's Bill Shields Thursday the girls had "an agreement to get pregnant." Farmer said these are generally "girls who lack self-esteem and have a lack of love in their life." "The common threat is the lack of self-esteem and purpose in life, and a lack of a sense of direction," said Farmer. "Young women wanting and needing affection."Principal Joseph Sullivan has not returned calls from WBZ for comment. Sullivan told the magazine that the pact wasn't the only shocking incident. "We found out one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless guy," he told Time. Last month, two top officials at the high school's health center resigned in a fight over contraceptives distribution. Medical Director Dr. Brian Orr and chief nurse practitioner Kim Daly support confidentially giving contraceptives to students. They were outraged about resistance from Addison Gilbert Hospital, which administers the state public health grant that funds the school clinic. Normally, the school has about four pregnancies per school year. According to Time, school officials started looking into the spike in pregnancies after an unusual number of girls came to the school clinic for pregnancy tests. Some came by several times. "Some girls seemed more upset when they weren't pregnant than when they were," Sullivan told the magazine. The pregnant girls and their parents turned down requests to be interviewed. A recent graduate who had a baby during her freshman year told Time she knows why the girls wanted to get pregnant. "They're so excited to finally have someone to love them unconditionally," Amanda Ireland, 18, said. "I try to explain it's hard to feel loved when an infant is screaming to be fed at 3 a.m." Ireland also spoke with WBZ about her young pregnancy."I don't call it a mistake because the way I look at is everything happens for a reason," Ireland said. "But, no, she was not planned."WBZ has also tried to contact Mayor Carolyn Kirk and Public Health Director Jack Vondras. Both are said to be out of town this week.Beyond the social implications of the pregnancies, there are some legal questions being asked, including whether the men who fathered the babies will face charges of statutory rape.
(© MMVIII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)


LiveNLetLive said...

I found a hidden lesson in your post:

A social conservative will always find something in modern culture to gripe about even when teenage pregnancy, STDs, and abortions are at an all time low (partly due to increasingly effective sex education in public schools). This tends to be especially true when the social conservative makes his living off of such griping.

What these girls chose to do is really sad and stupid. They and the poor babies they brought into the world will suffer because of what these girls did. Will any of these consequences be alleviated by social conservatives taking advantage of their story to sell a political package? Not likely.

Jason The said...

Seems more of a poor parenting issue than anything else.

John Dewey said...

If anything, this shows that schools need to take a more pro-active approach to raising children.

Presumably, all of these girls have parents, but that didn't do any good, did it?

Most parents don't have formal training. OTOH, schools have professionally trained teachers, counselors, and administrators. We should let the experts to their job.

Parents are important, but they are no substitute for well-trained professionals.

Anonymous said...

Hidden lesson, Paul?

Teenagers can be stupid and irresponsible.

Me thinks you have read a bit more into this then there is.


Paul Mero said...

Thanks Jason. Each of the comments bears out what I thought in deciding to post this.

Livenletlive's response is that there is no problem, except for underhanded "social conservatives" like me exploiting a sad situation.

Then yours...the obvious answer which, by the way, is never the obvious solution for liberal-minded analysts.

John Dewey's response must be one of my conservative friends trying to be is stereotypical of what a public school zealot would say...I love the line, "Parents are important, but they are no substitute for well-trained professionals." LOL

And then, Anonymous, like our first commentator, that it's just a fluke...or worse, flukes are a natural occurrance and are no big deal. If you read the article, you will see that Time Magazine broke the story...typically a big deal when they get involved.

(Repeated head shaking)...okay, then, no big deal. Sounds a bit like the Tribune commenting on cell phone porn in junior high schools..."kids will be kids!!"


CraigJ said...

Abstinence before marriage, fidelity after marriage. That's what's taught in my home.

Hidden lesson = Morality isn't a conservative/liberal issue.

BTW Paul stay tuned...high noon approaches :-)

Paul Mero said...

High noon?

Anyway, morality, per se, is a universal human characteristic (agreed, if that is what you are implying), but what we choose to moralize about does seem to fit neatly into philosophical compartments.

You will certainly recall the voucher debate (ah, for the good old days)...your morality clearly fell on the side of the "common good" while mine fell on the side of parental choice and responsibility.

In this case, the girls of Gloucester, there is a morality that insinuates a stronger government role and one that insinuates a stronger parental role...and variations by degree of both.


Jeremy said...

If I recall correctly PTM's side of the voucher debate was firmly on the side of parental choice but was somewhat lacking when it came to responsibility.

I'm a little curious what the "morality that insinuates a stronger parental role" compels us to do to prevent such situations as the girls of Gloucester event. Do we just urge our friends and neighbors to do a better job teaching their kids or do we need to go further? Are you of the opinion that the liberals would be opposed to that? Is this whole event the fault of "the liberals"?

What is it you want Mr. Mero? If this case is indicitive of the state of modern America what do the "social conservatives" plan on doing to fix things?

Anonymous said...

High noon is the Left's crushing defeat of conservatives in this election cycle, or at least according to Craig.

So far, the Left has one victory: defeating Aaron Tilton at convention. They have a chance of picking up two more victories next week: defeating Neuenschwander and Donnelson. My guess is the Left will get one of these, but I don't know which one.

In the general election, the Left will pick up at least two seats in the House currently held by Republicans: Walker's open seat, Greg Curtis, Sylvia Andersen's open seat and maybe one other is in play. Sorry, Hughes will win with at least 55%.

Overall, the Left should pick up two to four seats this time around. Considering it will be a perfect storm for Democrats (voucher defeat, bad year for Repubicans nationally), a four-seat pick up in the House isn't much to crow about.

I guess you could say the Left already has two victories if you count Lavar Christensen's defeat of Sylvia Andersen. Christensen is a social conservative, but he is hardly a fiscal conservative. He's great at quoting the Founding Fathers and talking about "values", but he is not a fiscal conservative. Nor does he support any meaningful education reform.

CraigJ said...


High noon is a phrase with many meanings :-)

The Utah County dems are also doing some amazing things. They might surprise us all with some wins. The candidates down there are fantastic.



Weren't those the days :-)? I admit I sided with Utah families by standing up for public ed while you were supporting the interests of the business lobby.

Speaking of helping Utah schoolchildren, Lisa will be canvassing district 51 on her way to defeating Greg Hughes. Shall I sign up you and anon to walk with us? :-)


Anonymous said...

When did siding with the UEA monopoly equal siding with Utah families?

Your "victory" set Utah back twenty years.

Anonymous said...

Democrats will lose every race in Utah County. Nearlly all of them will get less than 40% of the vote.

Hope the Kool Aid tastes good.

Anonymous said...

Sorry. I meant "nearly" not "nearlly".

Anonymous said...

Good story -- Waaaaaay wrong conclusions.

We have failed out girls as a society. We've have made motherhood the most coveted state for a woman and then are surprised when teen girls act this way?

I see this as more the failure of the "full-quiver" crowd. Girls need to see that there are many ways that they can live their lives -- being a mother is one valid choice among many valid choices.

Anonymous said...

Way to jab a stick in the beehive, Paul!

I especially loved your consolation to the feminists (#4) LOL!

Looks like that "safe sex" talk did nothing but make these young ladies want to experiment.

In all seriousness, though, we should all be careful about drawing too many conclusions from a statistical outlier, or anomaly. It sure serves as good red meat, though! I've thoroughly enjoyed reading the reaction you've received!

CraigJ said...


"Looks like that "safe sex" talk did nothing but make these young ladies want to experiment."

Are you familiar with a "false cause" logical fallacy?

Paul Mero said...

Thanks conservatives (i.e. authentic conservatives) are very prescriptive in our problem-solving, not proscriptive as many progressives are.

Here is what we might say...this is a wake up call for the parents of Gloucester...demographically, your town is nearly 99% white...geographically, it is on the Cape (nice place!)...socio-economically, definitely upper-income...If we just look at the socio-economic variables, this sort of non-sense should not be happening (statistically). But what is the divorce rate in Gloucester, especially among the families of these girls? Are these families regular and dedicated church-goers?

Once we get this snapshot, conservatives would use societal pressure (i.e. local news editorials, public conversations in service organizations, churches and, no doubt, the country club)to reinforce not only community standards but acceptable personal behavior.

What we would not do...opposite of what our liberal brethren to invoke a government solution to the problem...nor would we invoke the holy name of psychiatry or psychoanalysis (paid for by tax dollars)to affect change.

We'd simply expect parents and school officials to sit down...and be responsible mitigate the fall out so that it does not spread. This is a case where a real PTA program (not the ususal Leftist garbage) could be of great help in reinforcing positive behaviors.


To Craig, my friend..."supporting the interests of the business lobby"? Wow, while Sutherland loves free markets and prosperity, it is a big stretch to say we support any special interests. But I guess that's what we must live with in such a politicized world...far be it from us to actually do something because we believe in it.

And, sorry, can't help Lisa. Greg Hughes is a political ally...more than that, I like him personally...I like his life's story...and he's a very thoughtful and effective legislator.

CraigJ said...


It would have been fun! Nothing like a walk in Draper in the fall :-)

Thoughtfulness is not really one of Greg's strengths (unless you think that bullying and arrogance require sophisticated thought). Ironically, Hughes represents the most powerful special interest in Utah - the ultra-right strain of authoritarian republican legislators. Everything is fine - as long as you agree with them. I think you know from personal experience exactly what I am talking about.

Have fun!


Anonymous said...

You can try to defend it as a logical fallacy, but it sure is interesting that all these girls who went through the same program came to the same conclusions. Maybe it was groupthink. Hitler exploited groupthink. But associating him to the war might be an error of "false cause" on my part....sorry.

CraigJ said...

While you're making these Superman-like logical leaps and bogus comparisons, you might find it enlightening to brush up on Godwin's law :-)

Anonymous said...

I hadn’t been aware that Mr. Mero was such a comedian. Thanks, Jeremy, for bringing the post to my attention. This farce is brilliant. Social conservatives not proscriptive, not invoking a government solution to social problems? Hilarious self mockery! What pray tell of constitutional amendments proscribing religions from performing marriages between same-sex couples? Or the sodomy bans so popular among social conservatives? Did not Mero’s own Sutherland Institute recently call upon the government to “strengthen marriage?”

Mero left out a key qualification to his statements. Conservatives do not invoke government solutions when it comes to material provisioning and social justice issues (which just happen to be a legitimate area for government involvement. Instead, they prefer to invoke government solutions to issues religious and personal morality, areas in which government is impotent and has no role.

Very cute of Mr. Mero to use this tragic mess to ridicule Massachusetts, second only to San Francisco as the whipping boy of conservatives. Interesting that this particular incident is seen as an example of the perils of liberalism. I wonder what it says about liberalism that Massachusetts also routinely ranks among the the lowest of the states in divorce rate, and among the highest in marriage rates. Strangely, the Bible belt ranks among the bottom, and Utah is at the low end of the middle of the pack. Oh so conservative Utah has also frequently lead the nation in personal bankruptcy, and doesn’t fare well when it comes to depression or teen suicide. Can we make some observations about conservativism based on those phenomena, which are much more wide-scale than this one shocking incident?

Perhaps Mr. Mero would have more success determining the appropriate lessons of a given situation if he were less inclined to bend all facts to fit his predetermined conclusions.

- Derek (

Anonymous said...

Yea, but here's the difference...Hitler did start the war. All of your feigned intellectualism doesn't change that fact, or the fact that these girls didn't use the protection "proscribed" them by conservatives and so advocated by liberals. They probably forgot as they were pondering the perils of the False Logical Godwin Fallacy!:)

Paul Mero said...

To Craig...I am not surprised you would see Greg Hughes in that light. Perhaps why I don't see him the same way as you do is because whatever disagreements he and I have, which are few (though can feel seismic because of our personalities), they're just disagreements, not points of character judgment.

To Derek, a liberal Mormon...whoa, whoa, whoa...while I can appreciate your clever spin to my comments I do think you fail to make your case. Authentic conservatives do tend to be prescriptive in their approach because we rely so much on civil society to solve communtiy problems, and shun government solutions. Progressives (I guess that includes liberal Mormons) move immediately, proscriptively, to call on government for redress and solutions.

The whole gay thing, far from your perfect point, falls apart on exactly the reason I have posited...we (authentic conservatives...btw, meaning philosophical, not political or Republican Party-type, conservatives) have relied on civil society to lay pressure to maintain a traditional culture. We have endorsed constituional provisions against gay marriage only AFTER the civil society solutions to influence culture have seemingly failed.

Admittedly, there does come that time, at least for me, when there are no proscriptions that are worth the fight...IOW, culture might be so far down a certain path that it would not be prudent (or even "cost" effective) to endure the fight...might do more harm to society to fight than to simply let the consequences of liberalism run their course.

This is why culture is so important to conservatives...more important than politics...because we rely on the civil institutions that create our culture (i.e. families, religion, charitable organizations, private philanthropy, the market place, etc.) to set our mores and values. Liberals choose government primarily to set social mores and values.

Which is why we most often tend to be prescriptive...until we feel the need to be proscriptive...until we feel the need to simply hunker down and ride out the counter-cultural storm.

That said, there are some social issues that we fight to the death over...abortion being one of, yes, in this case, we choose a proscriptive solution from the outset...a law that says don't kill innocent babies...but, for us, such a prosciption is simply a reflection of a humane value we hold about life proscriptions against murder or rape.

If this explanation is "bending the facts" so be it.

Lastly, while I do enjoy pointing out the consequences of liberalism, I (we at Sutherland) are not reluctant to focus even heavy fire (i.e. our time and resources) on "conservative" bastions such as Utah (which, uncoincidently, is our sole focus for actual time and resources) and work on the "ironies" that you obviously take so much glee over, such as higher than expected divorce rates in Mormondom. It is no secret that Sutherland wants to get rid of "no-fault" divorce in Utah.

Okay, let's what response I get to this!

Best, PTM

Anonymous said...

So when people aren’t willing to follow your religious principles of their own free will, you are then justified in using proscriptive methods? Well, that changes everything. “Yes, you’re free to make your own choices, as long as you choose to do what I say.” How big of you to allow them that “liberty.”

You contradict yourself again. It is not liberals who are asking government to define marriage (part of a system of social mores and values). Liberals are content to allow religion to determine what constitutes marriage. Marriage is, after all, a religious sacrament (or ordinance, to use the terminology of our faith). It is the conservatives who are seeking government proscription to set their definition in legal stone for everyone concerned. Much like the no-fault divorces: you just admitted you want more legal proscription for this social problem.

Culture is important to liberals as well. The difference is that we respect the right of others to have different cultures. We also recognize that the truly important part of culture and of our social values comes from the internal, personal beliefs, rather than the outward observances which conservatives like to compel, via government, upon others.

Yes, you are willing to be critical of Utah social problems. But while you “obviously take so much glee” in imputing a tragic incident in a blue state to liberalism, you are strangely unwilling to consider that the more pervasive social problems of our reddest of red states might very well due to conservativism.

I find no glee in the social problems I see around me in my state. They are certainly tragic circumstances, and ones for which I’d like to see effective (ie, liberal) solutions implemented. But I can’t help finding humor in the repeated hypocrisy in your post and comments.

- Derek (

Paul Mero said...

Derek...Let's take this step by step.

My "religious principles"...I don't know what in my previous comments you are referring it my mention of abortion? If so, last time I checked, killing innocent babies wasn't a partisan religious thing. If you are referring to my mention of mores and values, I believe those have roots in, but are different from, "religious principles."

Regarding your mention of "free will" and, sarcastically, how I must be the arbiter of moral agency...again, if encouraging a law prohibiting the killing of innocent babies is a violation of someone's moral agency, then I'm guilty of the deed. In reality, agency is not "free," it is moral. The word alone (agency) means we represent someone else or something beyond ourselves. I know liberals, even in the Church, believe it to mean do whatever the hell you want without fear of consequence or judgment, but I certainly don't see it that way.

It is true that conservatives believe in laws that create structure to society, but we try to stop at that point. Liberals, on the other hand, tend to pursue laws that delve into arbitrating the details of society. For instance, conservatives (because of their understanding of human nature and human experience) believe that a lasting society is built upon certain principles, ideals, and pillars of good human behavior...and so we encourage laws that support those sentiments. Liberals go one (to a million) step further by wanting to solve everyone's problems through government coercion (i.e. this is what "politically-correct" means). Sort of like, if you had the power, you might try to repeal the Fall of Adam.

We like laws that support marriage and family structure because we know what works...what creates freedom and prosperity...liberals like laws that tend to mediate the "quality" of life, like the marital relationships (i.e. mandatory marriage education before a couple could marry).

On the marriage issue, true conservatives believe in three "state interests": 1) get married, 2) have children, and 3) stay married. This explains what I said about "no-fault" divorce. Conservatives understand that some people don't marry, don't have children, and don't stay married. We think our marriage laws should support these clear state interests.

I would happy to spend another dozens pages arguing why this state interest does not apply to gay couples, but I would prefer that you read an upcoming dialogue between me and a gay SL attorney about such issues. The dialogue should be out later this coming week.

Regarding the importance of culture...and this is a great point of distinction...conservatives believe in pluralism while liberals generally believe in what they call diversity...two hugely different concepts.

Regarding Utah problems that might be due to "conservatism"...I don't know what they might be. I do know in the liberal catechism that "repressive religious beliefs" are thought to be the cause of poor self-esteem, depression, suicide, hairy palms, a bad sex life, war-like temperments, etc. But that's just liberal psychobabble to me. I am very interested to know from which among the conservative principles espoused by the Sutherland Institute lead people to bad or destructive choices and behaviors?

Lastly, I think much of the "hypocrisy" you ascribe to my positions are simply your prejudices and stereotyping of me, or of your idea of conservatism. I will continue to listen, and reply, if you can specifically point out the hypocrisy of my, Sutherland, or authentic conservative positions.


Anonymous said...

Paul, interesting that you would try to take the conversation off on a tangent about abortion, when abortion had nothing to do with the original discussion. Yes, because abortion has to do with innocent life, I believe in some level of moderate restriction on abortion. I do not believe that the sort of draconian abortion restriction which conservatives in Utah want is helpful. Notice that abortion in Europe is often lower in liberal Europe than in the more conservative U.S, and abortion is even higher in S. America, where Catholic influence has produced even more stringent abortion laws.

Now that we’ve moved past that tangent, back to the original topic. The religious principles to which I referred were, for example, marriage being between one man and one woman and extra-marital sex being inappropriate--principles I share. But unlike conservatives, I believe those principles, being about personal morality should be perpetuated via persuasion, not government coercion. Government coercion is appropriate to the realm of material justice/fairness, but not to personal morality.

Your supposed distinction about conservatives “structuring” society and liberals delving into “arbitrary details” is so much sophistry. The theocratic society of social conservatives is far more arbitrary than the egalitarian and religiously diverse society of liberals.

Of course you don’t know what the conservative causes of Utah’s social ills might be...because you dogmatically believe conservativism can do no wrong. Therefore you hypocritically take one instance of a tragic event in Massachusetts as a sign of the perils of liberalism, and the widespread social ills in Utah as a sign we aren’t conservative enough.

I already pointed out several instances of your hypocrisy, in addition to the one I repeated above: You accuse liberals of using government proscriptively despite the fact that conservatives want to use government to proscribe certain marriage types, marriage practices, and sexual practices. Talk about prejudices and stereotyping. Are you the pot or the kettle?

- Derek

Paul Mero said...

Derek, I certainly am not trying to be tangential...I said I did not understand your point about religious principles. Thanks for clarifying.

I am still not trying to be tangential...even as I first respond to your abortion position. Your position I describe as classically respect innocent life but call every practical attempt to limit it (and still allow reasonable exceptions..."reasonable" meaning weighted against equally significant moral concerns) "draconian." I am sure you would not follow suit if the issue were human wouldn't say, "I am against slavery, but Vermont's law to abolish it completely is draconian."

And to make your case worse, in my mind, you rationalize liberal abortion laws because you read somewhere that enlightened Europeans have fewer abortions. (BTW, they also have fewer pregnancies, babies, and marriages...they are bound to have "fewer" bad things when they risk doing none of the "good" things.)

So much for that.

Next, regardless of religious belief, the man/woman marriage policy is empirically sound as a state interest.

You mistake me for a liberal stereotype of a conservative: laws make people good. When an authentic conservative (which I claim to be) holds that good people make good laws and good laws reflect good people. I realize that is a foreign concept to call it "sophistry"...but it is nonetheless true about authentic conservatism.

You call a marriage law proscriptive. You can't point to a time in history where marriage laws were even a big deal until the break down of culture began to occur. This is what I was alluding to earlier...the liberal push for proscriptive counter-culture ideas (like gay marriage) is what gave rise to marriage amendments...conservatives weren't seriously talking about marriage amendments earlier than the 1990s...mostly around the time of Bill Clinton's administration.

Take another example, sodomy laws. You call them proscriptive; I would call them reflective of community standards and supported as a state interest (i.e. not pro-creative behavior, which the state has an interest in promoting to perpetuate itself). Only a Court that saw such laws in terms of personal "privacy," and not a state interest, could rationalize undoing them.

Your stated brand of liberalism seems to hold that because there is such a thing as "private morality" that there is no such thing as "public morality." Truth is, there's both that conservatives feel must be adhered to and that are equally important to a free society.

Next...only anarchy is more arbitrary than your egalitarian/diversity worldview. Authentic conservatism is based upon human nature and human experience. Liberalism is based on nothing except vague ideas of equality and "diversity" (finding value in everything, even that which lacks value). Something for something's sake is not a proven value. Conservatism is the political philosophy furthest from is well-grounded in what what makes humans beings happy in community.

I show no hypocrisy...both social ills in MA and UT are a sign of "not conservative enough." I simply used the liberalism of MA to make the point...I'm not bashing liberalism for the sake of bashing something; I'm bashing any philosophy that might encourage unintended consequences like what occured in MA...a philosophy such as Planned Parenthood (a sacred liberal icon).

So let me present an easy example of proscriptive and prescriptive...Proscriptive: a law requiring children to wear helmets when they ride their bikes...Prescriptive: "Hey, son, be careful when you ride your bike."

I know you want to high-center on marriage policy, when actually you should high-center, as a "private morality" guy, on gay marriage. Our Supreme Court has always held that the natural family is prior to the state (hence man/woman marriage as well). Gay marriage is a fabrication, a creation, of the state, not prior to it. So I ask, which is the proscriptive law: A law that simply reflects human nature and human experience, or a law that must use the state to create human value out of whole cloth?

Seriously, Derek, if you believed in a doctrine of "private morality" you would not favor gay marriage...they can marry in private ceremonies already. Why do liberals, then, insist on state sanction for something that is oh-so private?

But perhaps I read you wrong...that you do not support gay marriage. If so, my bad for mistaking you (aka "a liberal Mormon") for a modern liberal.

BTW, are you familiar with President Harold B. Lee's conference talk (1970 I believe, "The Iron Rod") where he said over the pulpit that "a liberal in the Church is one who reads by the lamp of his own conceit"?

Just wondering if you saw that.


CraigJ said...


Please exercise caution when interpreting such statements. To do otherwise would be completely unfair to your LDS brothers and sisters who hold strong in their faith and are also liberal in their perspectives.

I believe I understand President Lee's statements in the proper context. There are those which seek to steady the ark and attempt to alter or reclarify the core doctrines of the Church to suit their intellectual tastes. Such behavior speaks to a lack of conviction.

Under this definition, a "Church liberal" acts outside of their authority - indeed reading by the lamp of their own conceit.

President Lee's correct and appropriate concern for this behavior is shared by true liberal church members who embrace the concept in the Book of Mormon "to be learned is good if you hearken unto the councils of God."

Let's expand on that a bit. Elder John A. Widtsoe captured the essential elements of the true liberal mindset in the Church - one shared by many solidly LDS thinkers, scientists, political figures, and other successful Saints who embrace the command to "be anxiously engaged in a good cause":

"The word liberal, correctly used, has a noble meaning. The true liberal hates slavery of every kind. He battles for human freedom. He wants liberty in thought and action. He is tolerant, free from bigotry, and generous in all his deeds. He places truth above all else and hungers for full truth. He welcomes all new improvements and calls for more--the telegraph, electric light, telephone, printing press, typewriter, railroad, airship, radio. He insists that every new invention must be used for human welfare, with full respect to civil and moral law. In short the liberal seeks to make better the day in which he lives, and he becomes therefore a crusader for the betterment of the human race."

"Such a liberal, to accomplish his purpose, holds fast, with out the least concession, to the convictions of his soul. He is anchored to the rock of truth, as he may see it. He never wavers from the basic, underlying principles of the cause, whether of church or state, to which he is committed. All the world knows how and where he stands."

"Under the true definition of liberalism, the Church of Jesus Christ is preeminently liberal."

I wholeheartedly echo Elder Widtsoe's statement and I hope it helps you understand people like Derek, Rob, and myself just a little bit better.

Thanks Paul for hearing me out.


Jobu said...

A word of caution on divorce statistics (Derek's post). The most commonly cited divorce measure is divorces per capita. However, this is misleading since divorces per capita don't account for marriages per capita.

The single leading cause of divorce is marriage. Legally, you can't get divorced until you get married. States with low divorce rates per capita almost always have low marriage rates per capita, either due to age demographics or due to widespread acceptance of couples living together without being married.

A more accurate measure would be divorces per marriage which is easily calculated by dividing divorces per capita by marriages per capita. While this measure is not perfect since divorces in a given year are connected to marriages in previous years, this timing issue impacts all state relatively the same. Measuring divorces per marriage over several years will also mitigate this concern.

Utah's divorce per marriage rate is typically about 40% to 44% while the national average is usually about 50% (hence the commonly heard statement that one of every two marriages ends in divorce).

Paul Mero said...

Okay, Craig, point well-taken. :)

You guys gotta get a sense of humor.

But, seriously, if you think a 19th-turn-of-the-century mind like Elder Widtsoe has even 1/100th in common with modern liberalism, then you're smoking something I left behind 30 years ago!

I understand you guys...and you're just wrong...and I still like you!

What you're looking for isn't found in's found in authentic conservatism...principled and passionate, thoughtful and heartfelt, reasoned and emotive, smart and humble. The liberalism you seem to embrace is just soft any way you poke a stick at it. You want human...liberalism is's fake's a poor substitute for the fact, it politicizes the Gospel in all the ways I know you guys really don't like.

Leave it behind. Be Democrats or whatever you want, but it is conservatism that will complement the happiness, freedom, and prosperity I know you really seek in your hearts.'s that for a stump speech?!


CraigJ said...

It's a fine speech. Just one request - if you're going to send the AC missionaries to my home please don't send Sister Coulter or Brother Limbaugh - I'm trying to keep pornography and drugs out of my home (ok that was a cheap shot).

You have spoken about authentic conservatism and if you can guess I am speaking about authentic liberalism. The positive attributes you describe surely can be found in both.

How many beatings from the thugs in the righteouslature will it take to get through to you that they are not the friends you think they are? :-)


Paul Mero said...

Craig...maybe it's not that you don't understand what I'm saying as much as it is you underestimate what I know and realize?

Then again, maybe on one point, you don't get what I'm saying. There is a difference between political conservatism and philosophical conservatism.

And it's not just you, it's many of my friends at the legislature. It seems they must deal with politics and hope and pray that their philosophies (maybe even their good consciences) catch up to their politics.

I don't think that way. I think about political philosophy and hope and pray that our politics can catch up to it. While certainly a less efficient way to go about things, it does make for better public policy and civil dialogue.

As for Limbaugh and Co., they are entertainers. Their conservatism is political even as they invoke philosophy in their own minds.

A good test of political or philosophical conservatism from one of those guys (including Colter...she is pretty much a guy) is to know what they wrote/thought before they were stars.

And so I don't read books by them. I read books by conservatives that never had a "entertainment" platform.

And while I do agree there are similarities between your liberalism and my conservatism, it is primarily because our of common faith...otherwise there really are some big philosophical chasms between us (that would make for a great discussion some time).


Anonymous said...

Paul, my last words on abortion in this thread: even the faith to which you and I belong recognize that, unlike slavery, there are conditions under which abortion is legitimate. I believe the laws which conservatives in the U.S. have been seeking in the past few decades--here in Utah as much or more than anybody--go too far to restrict those legitimate options. And, as I’ve mentioned on my own blog, I would find the supposed reverence for life by the Right to be less disingenuous were they more concerned with aiding unwed mothers to be carry and raise their child rather than focusing on condemning them for their sins, and were they to show more concern for life after delivery.

I support the right of individuals and religions to follow freedom of conscience: Each given religion should have the right to confer the sacrament of marriage according to the dictates of their conscience. Gay marriage is not the invention of the state, but of individuals and religions in the community who feel, according to the dictates of their conscience, that they wish to permit homosexuals to enter into that institution. They may or may not be wrong to do so, but I believe it is a principle of our religion that we believe in allowing others to worship God as they feel appropriate. It is duplicitous to claim that religions can now do so when the state, based on laws you support, gives preferential treatment to those marriages you consider morally just. The state should have nothing to do with it.

I’d suggest that the evidence of countless civilizations which have used the sort of heavy-handed, negative prescription/proscription and legislation of religious practice/private morality throughout history--from the conservativism of Israel in Christ’s day, to the various Christian kingdoms following that period, to the early religious colonies of New England--shows that the conservative brand does more to turn religion and morality into a hollow shell, enforcing superficial observance but internally rotting. Sins of promiscuity, infidelity, and marital abuse are hardly modern innovations during the recent, supposedly “liberal” era.

Last time I’ll say this: You are being hypocritical when you assume that this incident is the result of liberalism because it happened in a liberal state, and yet will not even consider that certain unfavorable trends in a conservative state might be because of that conservativism. You are hypocritical to claim that liberals are proscriptive and conservatives are prescriptive when both use the government to proscribe action. You can ethically make the case that the proscription of conservatives is more legitimate than that of liberals. I would disagree, but you could make that case. But don’t lie to me and tell me that you don’t use government proscriptively. That is where you lose all moral standing in the argument.

Of course, you had little to begin with in this post. You very well could have made a rational, measured post to posit questions about the root of this tragedy and even rationally suggest that some liberal policies may bear some responsibility. But you did not chose that path; instead you “gleefully” chose to turn the tragedy into a political football, broadly slandering liberalism and condescendingly mocking your perception of liberal values. I responded in kind, which I admit was a mistake. I apologize. But if you weren’t simply trying to kick the hornets nest, and honestly thought you were going to begin a thoughtful debate with this hypocritical sneering piece, you are a fool.

Little reason to continue this back and forth. I see you as setting up wildly inaccurate depictions of liberalism (I don’t think you have any concept what authentic liberalism is), viewing the given situations with extreme myopia to suit your prejudices. You obviously see the same of me.

- Derek

Anonymous said...

As one who is from Gloucester I can tell you on whose shoulders this problem falls and who is directly responsible.

Environmentalists are fully to blame what has happened in Gloucester. The Sierra Club and others are to blame.

Why? For years the economic mainstay of Gloucester was fishing – with restrictions put on fishing by the federal government and lobbied for by environmental groups like the sierra club has struck at the economic heart of Gloucester and other fishing communities – stealing middle class jobs and a middle class way of life – causes the current economic state. Lack of economic stability hurts family stability – and look what happens.

This is just a microcosm of what will happen if the Bush tax cuts that have stimulated the economy are not renewed.

Regardless of your faith or politics – this is something we can learn from.

Jeremy said...

What a great debate between the "authentic" conservative who wants government's guns pointed at people with whom they disagree on morals and the "authentic" liberal who wants those same guns pointed at the rich who are unwilling to voluntarily share.

I say you're both violent thugs looking to take away my freedom one way or another. I'll pass on both "authentic" conservatism and "authentic" liberalism.

--the "semi-authentic" libertarian

Uh huh...I went there. Who has the sense of humor now?

Paul Mero said...

Jeremy, exactly which freedoms have I taken, or desire to take, away from you?


Paul Mero said...


You wrote, "You are being hypocritical when you assume that this incident is the result of liberalism because it happened in a liberal state, and yet will not even consider that certain unfavorable trends in a conservative state might be because of that conservativism."

I think you confuse hypocrisy with irony...I was being ironical.

Regarding conservatism as you're correct, I don't see how a philosophy that counsels against premarital sex could be indicted as the cause of premarital sex. Whereas, the liberal icon Planned Parenthood facilitates premarital sex and, hence, I find the irony delicious that the Gloucester situation would happen in an overwhlemingly PP-supportive state like MA.

While I am sorry for and saddened by that situation...I think it does make the point, quite well, that ideas have consequences.