Alabama Republican Roy Moore is the latest poster boy for political evil and hypocrisy. I agree that he’s evil. I agree that he’s a hypocrite. But at the core, he’s no different from any other politician who seeks the power to control other people.
I wasn’t really surprised when news came out Thursday that Moore is being accused of sexually pursuing teen girls when he was a county attorney in his early 30s. The youngest of the women to come forward so far says she was 14 and he was 32 when he took her to his home for clandestine meetings — where he gave her wine and undressed her until she asked him to take her home.
The mental and moral gyrations of the Republicans still defending Moore today are far more disturbing than the actual charges from the past. Some say it’s not that bad since only one of the girls was younger than the state age of consent, which is 16. One Republican elected official compared the situation to Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus, because Mary was a teen and Joseph was an older adult. There are plenty of other excuses from Moore’s supporters. (For the record, I find the women’s account of their interaction with Moore credible and troubling.)
So why was I not surprised at the charges?
My experience is that the things a person is most eager to control in others is frequently related to something he struggles with himself. How many times have we seen a conservative activist or politician work tirelessly against gay people but turn out to engage in gay sex himself? That doesn’t mean that everybody who believes homosexuality is wrong turns out to be a closeted gay man, but it does mean that those who turn it into an emotional crusade of hate are often hiding something they’ve struggled with.
Moore has seemed obsessed with sexual sin and with a strict adherence to Old Testament moral law. He claims he made a copy of the Ten Commandments for his courtroom when he was a local judge because he came to believe that many of the criminals coming before him wouldn’t have turned to crime if they had been exposed to those 10 Jewish commands.
Based on my observations of people such as Moore, I think it’s far more likely that he struggled with sexual sin — and possibly other moral issues — and he dealt with that by transferring the struggle to the accused men and women before him. That’s long been my gut feeling, which is why the behavior that’s been described doesn’t surprise me. It fits with the pattern I would have expected.
It’s really easy to point fingers at Moore, partly because he’s a buffoon and partly because he’s clearly a hypocrite. But I’m less inclined to make him a special case, simply because I see his core issue as no different from that of the rest of us.
To one degree or another, every single human being wants to control others. We don’t see ourselves as evil or controlling, though. We just honestly think we know better.
Moore and people like him are eager to dictate private moral behavior to others and they’re eager to use the power of the state to teach others to behave as they prefer. Many Republicans and most social conservatives love this sort of controlling person. It’s easy for Democrats and those of the progressive left to hate such a controlling person.
But politicians on the other side are no different. They want to dictate how people spend their money and how they behave in various other parts of their lives. Since people refuse to spend money for certain things voluntarily, these politicians want to force the money from their pockets and spend it for them. These politicians want to force people to hire who they want hired and to conduct business as they prefer. Most Democrats and progressives cheer for this sort of control. It’s easy, though, for Republicans and conservatives to rail against such attempts at control.
Neither side of this debate likes to admit that control is the core issue. Each says it’s simply that its way is the right one. They’re united in the belief that people can’t be left alone to make their own decisions. They differ merely on what “the people” should be forced to do. Despite their rhetoric, they don’t believe in individual freedom.
The core political question is never, “Will this work?” The right question is always, “Who has the right to decide this?” Your answer to that will tell me whether you believe in individual freedom or if you think you have the right to rule instead.
When it comes to civil freedom, the world can be divided into two groups. One group believes that individuals have the moral right to control their own lives. The other group believes that they have the right and responsibility to control everyone else.
Those among the second group believe they have the answers. They’re not tyrants, at least in their own minds. They’re just right. And since they’ve been taught that the majority have a right to control everyone — it’s “the will of the people” expressed through democracy — they go to great lengths to find enough people to vote for their “enlightened” proposals — so the world can finally be remade in their own image.
Roy Moore is one of those people. So is Donald Trump. But so is Hillary Clinton. So is Barrack Obama. So is every tinhorn would-be dictator who gets himself elected as a president, governor, congressman, legislator, mayor or city councilman.
They all pat themselves on the back. They all think they’re controlling others for “the right reasons.” But they’re all bullies who are willing to use the power of men with guns to dictate to their neighbors — and to throw those neighbors into jail or take their property if they refuse to obey.
Roy Moore is a tyrant. He’s a controlling bully. That’s true.
But your favorite politician is a controlling bully, too. They all are, even if they haven’t accepted the truth of what they’re doing.
I can understand this very well because I started out in life wanting to be president. I was convinced I would be a great leader. I was convinced I was smart enough to make the right decisions and lead people to becoming what they needed to be.
I didn’t have bad intentions. I just thought I knew better.
I now realize that we all feel this way on some level. Some people become conscious that they don’t know better — or at least that they have no right to force others to obey them — but most never get that far. Most believe they’re so right that their opinions should be made law — and that everyone else should be forced to obey those opinions.
So criticize Moore all you want. I do. (And I’ve written about him in the past.) But examine your own beliefs. Do you want to use the power of government to control people? To force them to behave morally as you prefer? To force them to spend money on things you think the money should be spent on? To force them to structure the world around them as you think it should be?
If you’ve been raised to worship the secular state and to worship its sacramental symbols, you probably do want to do those things — and you think it’s the responsible and moral thing to do.
You are wrong. You have no right to control others. Neither do I.
Roy Moore is a controlling monster, but if you want to elect people who agree with your particular views to rule instead, you’re just substituting your own monsters for the ones you don’t like. The moral thing is to reject all coercion, not to replace one monster with another.
Don’t just reject Roy Moore. Reject the controlling system that makes people like him possible.