The Gospel Truth

Is Liberalism A Mental Illness? Part I

February 11, 2010
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The above title is a staple attention-getter I often use more in jest than anything serious.  My quick draw addition to a recent blog response to the Erstwhile Conservative prompted a hit a serious nerve, an end-of-debate kind of response that made me consider the gravity of such a charge.

Now I am not a doctor, let alone a psychiatrist. I haven’t stayed at a Holiday Inn in over 35 years, so I do not pretend to know or understand anything much about mental illness.

I seem to get in trouble every time I try to use such terminology in my writings.  For example in an article for the St. Louis Review a year or two ago, I used the term spilt personality with regards to the Catholic Church and Vatican II in the early 1960s.  I got a few hostile comments as to my equating it with schizophrenia.

I do have three History degrees and have taken a couple courses on philosophy and psychology.  I do know that mental illness is intimately tied to reality and the perception of reality.

In my opinion those perennially optimistic or pessimistic people are borderline people who are susceptible to going over the edge when it comes to reality.

My glass is neither half full or half empty.  The reality is that it is at 50% of its capacity.  If I am thirsty than it is half empty.  If I am near the satiation point–well you get my drift.  It is a subjective decision that should be made where all such choices present themselves.

Insanity has been described as trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  This is a sign of a mind that has a very weak perception of reality and could lead to a complete divorce from the real world.

Now as for liberalism as a way of thinking or even as a way of life let me first add that in real terms both liberal and conservative are basically meaningless terms.

I use them only because it takes too long to explain the changes that history and current events has enacted on their original meanings.

Liberalism has had a number of different meanings since the 19th century when it was mostly used in reference to economics.  My astute late roommate at Holy Cross told me that Barry Goldwater, the avatar of 20th century conservativism was a 19th century economic liberal.

Based on the word for “free” it heralded the virtues of laissez faire or government “hands off.”  That is a very good description of what the Ron Paul kind of conservatives want and maybe even Sarah Palin.

Political liberals today with the sole exception of abortion, want as much control as they can get by hook or by crook.  Big Government is their means to affect a social and economic revolution that wishes to concentrate power in their hands in perpetuity.

Members of the court have been citing it for years now as precedent, implying that its tenets can never be changed.  I think that makes them conservative in that regard.

People, who oppose this blight on the nation’s conscience that has far surpassed the Dred Scott decision in its entrenchment of man’s inhumanity to members of the human species, cannot be called conservative—perhaps moral traditionalists is a better nomenclature.

Those who want to conserve this alleged right do so in the name of progress, not tradition.  They want their reforms to be the orthodoxy of the present and future.

When I was in college, I visited a friend in Virginia.  He gave me a great tour of the nation’s Capitol.  On the way out of the Senate building, I bumped into a Catholic priest.  I don’t even remember how that happened or where he was from but in the course of our brief conversation, he gave me a motto, which I carried around proudly for several years.

My attendance at the Cross worked itself in the conversation somehow…it always does even this day…and I told him how I have heard lectures by Barry Goldwater and Father Hans Kung, the erstwhile German theology professor.

My enthusiasm for both speakers prompted him to say, “Oh you must be conservative in politics and liberal in religion.”

I thought for a second and then nodded in polite assent.  That’s what I was and tried to be until I started to understand the painful realities of Vatican II and Kung’s heterodox positions on a number of issues.

Conservatives are very good on precedents when it comes to law.  Roe v. Wade has been regrettably the law of the land since 1973.

As the abortion debate heated up for me in the mid 1980s I realized that it was impossible to have a bifurcated approach to issues from both perspectives.  That’s where the schizophrenia I mentioned early started to breed its toxic cells.

There had to be a consistent strain of thought that saw things through the prism of reality based on reason. With that I will leave yet begging for an answer to my original question:

Is Liberalism a Mental Illness?

Blogger’s Note: On Saturday evening March 6th between 7-9 PM, First Run Theater will present Bill Borst’s new one-act play, A MOMENT OF GRACE as part of its annual audition readings at DeSmet High School’s Thomas Hunter Theater.

It is a prolife play that centers on a random meeting in a faulty elevator where the issues of life, death and suicide are exhaustively explored.

Local professional actors Kevin Beyer and Michelle (Borst) Hand will read the parts    Admission is free.

About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at