Politics, Culture, the Public Square
“. . . And beer was drunk with reverence, as it ought to be.” — G. K. Chesterton
Monday, September 27, 2004 Writing in First Things, Daniel J. Mahoney delivers a ringing defense of the great Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The essay is carried in the tones suggestive of a gauntlet thrown down.
Mr. Mahoney is particularly harsh in his criticisms of the historian Richard Pipes: “Thus Pipes fabricates a moral equivalence between the author of The Gulag Archipelago and the inhuman regime he did so much to bring to its knees. This shameful comparison dishonors Pipes, who here lends his considerable authority to the vituperative campaign against Solzhenitsyn.”
In Mahoney’s telling, for his detractors among mainstream American Conservatives Solzhenitsyn’s problem is that he is not a mainstream American Conservative. “How,” Mahoney asks, “does one begin to break out of this interminable recycling of distortions and misrepresentations?” The answer is a cogent rebuke: “To begin with, it is necessary to recognize that the defense of human liberty and dignity is not exhausted by the categories or assumptions of late modernity.”
The lure of conformity is a powerful thing among those near the sources of political power. Some day a great (but probably unappreciated) historian will tell the dramatic, even tragic, story of American Conservatism: its rise from inchoateness out of the ruins of Liberalism’s grand illusions; its struggles for coherence; its triumphs and failures; and finally its corruption by power. This last chapter will not be complete without prominent mention of the coldness which developed toward Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.posted by Paul Cella | 9:14 PM |
Sunday, September 26, 2004 Mr. Mark Butterworth has penned an interesting essay on the importance of the Bible to our sense of beauty; and the corresponding decline that attends to our loss of the biblical imagination. posted by Paul Cella | 1:33 PM |
Friday, September 24, 2004 George Will current column is Newsweek is stern stuff indeed.
He goes on to explain “why neoconservatives alarm almost everyone who isn’t one — and especially dismay real conservatives.” There is talk of “neoconservative monomania” which manifests itself in “the idea behind foreign-policy overreaching — the anticonservative delusion that political will can control the world.”
Mr. Will is at pains to establish that John Kerry has so far proven utterly incapable of exploiting the weaknesses of President Bush which derive from the latter’s assent to, and encouragement of this monomania. He is quite right. The sad fact is that there is no effective patriotic opposition in this country; and this is corrupted the party in power profoundly.posted by Paul Cella | 8:31 PM |
Tuesday, September 21, 2004 The fine magazine Touchstone has put some of its more recent archives online, a very generous thing to do. Take a look, for example, at their special J. R. R. Tolkien issue. David Mills writes perspicaciously on Tolkien and Divine Providence. Excellent stuff. posted by Paul Cella | 5:37 PM |
Monday, September 20, 2004 SUB SPECIE AETERNATIS: “The problem of foolishness as one human potentiality is, I believe, an insufficiently-discussed problem because with Plato and Aristotle the non-fool, the philosopher, carried the day. Therefore we speak of philosophy and include in it all the positive doctrinal propositions which are not meant to be philosophy; they are the opposition to the fool. We don't recognize that the problem of the fool is what you might call the positive problem in the whole; because there are fools we negate their negations and get positive doctrines which otherwise would not be necessary — if we were not living in a society in which a lot of people can be fools. The term ‘fool’ is not used, in the critical sense, as name-calling but as naming a human potentiality: men can be fools.” — Eric Voegelin, Conversations IV. posted by Paul Cella | 9:46 PM |
Tuesday, September 14, 2004 It is unfortunate that political conditions* have emasculated much of the right-wing critique of the Bush Administration’s conduct of the war; because the plain fact is that there is ample room for the constructive criticism from patriots.
I use that last word advisedly, for is a sad fact to face for all of us who love this country (as she is, not as she might be) that some sizeable portion of our fellow citizens possess no feeling of patriotism, properly understood, at all. Nothing is so solidly entrenched in their minds as that their country’s motives ought to be distrusted. Suspicion, not love, is what they feel toward the nation in which they live. It is an open question for them whether America as she is, is a thing worth preserving. And this antipathy, deep and sincere, has worked itself into the very heart of one of our great political parties.
It is profoundly unhealthy for the politics of a nation to be so warped. Indeed, it is crippling. It becomes difficult to trust an opposition which views patriotism with suspicion; and it becomes difficult to mount any patriotic opposition for fear of lending aid and comfort to an opposition possessed by a resolute dislike of the country.
What might a serious patriotic opposition present to the people of this country? It might point out that it is impossible to build a democracy before one builds a viable state, which means a government with a monopoly on force. It might point out, as Mark Helprin does in the current Claremont Review of Books, that it is precisely backward to attempt to defeat our enemies by transforming them; enemies must be defeated before they can be transformed. It might point out that every sovereign nation reserves the right to control its border; and deport forthwith any illegal alien sympathetic to our bloodthirsty enemies. It might point out that no nation is obligated to extend “rights,” civil or otherwise, to those who openly call for its violent overthrow.
A patriotic opposition might even go as far as to seek a public debate on the terrible but pressing question, Is Islam compatible with America? When the initial horror at the opening of this question — a horror which will be ubiquitous and palpable among our elites — has passed, this patriotic opposition might point out the unutterable, craven stupidity of closing this explosive question before it has even been considered. It might point out that while the United States Government is not obligated to extend ecumenical courtesy and perfect sensitivity to all, it is obligated to protect American citizens.
Adopting a more poetic or literary cast of mind, this patriotic opposition might illuminate a rather astonishing numerical coincidence by quoting the historian Helaire Belloc:
That other September 11 is just the kind of thing we might see popping up regularly in public debate, were there an effective patriotic opposition.
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Wednesday, September 08, 2004 Regular readers know I have been hard on Mr. David Brooks, columnist at The New York Times, in the past, but I will say without hesitation that his September 7th column was a powerful piece of writing. Rare indeed is the day when the solemn and settled readers of The New York Times are confronted with such strong, and true, words.
They will not learn, Mr. Brooks.posted by Paul Cella | 9:05 PM |
Wednesday, September 01, 2004 Writing in The Claremont Review of Books, Glen Thurow discusses a new book on Lincoln’s religious faith, a suspect of much speculation and even mystery. Thurow’s review is engaging, cogent, and commanding. He begins with some brief remarks about the Pledge of Allegiance, made recently controversial by an intolerant atheist and an activist court:
It has often been intimated that Lincoln’s biblical language was tinged with the consummate cynicism of the politician: his genius at invoking Christian sentiment and cadence* was insincere, designed for public consumption. Thurow assures us that Fornieri dispenses with this conjecture.
I have an essay running today on TCS. It consists of an analysis of Kerry’s Vietnam Problem. Unfortunately, my footnote got cut off. The sixth paragraph’s final sentence includes an asterisk which should have linked to this text: “We might reflect, in this context, on the fortuity of the fact that the Vietnam division included no real regional element.” posted by Paul Cella | 11:17 AM |