Friday, February 03, 2017

I Agree With Everything, Except Your Whole Approach

"Imagine a lawyer returning his fee when he loses a case; imagine a television pundit suddenly admitting that he doesn't know what he is talking about; imagine a Hollywood starlet speaking English; imagine the Cubs winning the World Series; imagine anything most absurd, and you have not yet approached the absurdity of those who claim that Catholic Social Teaching implies the existence of a vast welfare state, bureaucratically organized, unanswerable to the people, undermining families, rewarding lust and sloth and envy, acknowledging no virtue, providing no personal care, punishing women who take care of their children at home, whisking the same children away from parental supervision and into schools designed to separate them from their parents' views of the world, and, for all that, keeping whole segments of the population mired in a cycle of dysfunction, moral squalor, and poverty, while purchasing their votes with money squeezed by force from their neighbors."
--Anthony Esolen (Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching, 2014)

If this could be considered a theme paragraph, then I have some quibbles. And I should say this first: I am not native to the Left; the Right is my home. (Presuming the categories still have some meaning in some context.) 

If this quoted paragraph represents the book in any way, the book has a grave flaw: It assumes primarily that the distortion of Catholic social doctrine comes from the Left. I can't make that assumption. And I don't think you should, either. 

We don't have to accept a false choice between vice, or economic liberalism. Nor ought we accept that all the critiques of the present system are motivated by those contemptuous of virtue. One of my fears about this book is that it would provide intellectual cover for a peculiar, selective, Rightist reading of our social doctrine. I hope I am wrong.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Re-Thinking Rachel Carson

Now, I haven't read "Silent Spring" yet, but that's the person we're talking about. I saw a PBS show about her. [PBS? Just fill out your Democratic Party membership card now.--ed.] It was fascinating. In broad strokes, the debate surrounding DDT pitted progress and economic development against long-term sustainability.

The aspect of her viewpoint that struck me the most was her argument that we are part of our environment. We are its masters, perhaps, but if we damage the biosphere, we damage ourselves.

How much of the inability to hear environmental advocates' concerns is because of abortion? Those hippies care more about birds than defenseless children. 

Why choose?

And Dr. Naomi Oreskes was on the special, discussing and defending Carson's major themes. Carson may have gotten more strident as powerful interests came after her,--and as her fatal illness progressed--but I was struck by her utter lack of theatrics or sensationalism. I need to read Carson's book. And I would be happy to read Dr. Oreskes on geology or climate change.

And I want to talk to Dr. Cross about this.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

My Friend, Luis

He said something today on social media, and I reproduce it here, for your consideration:

"One may disagree on the seriousness of Trump's executive order, its necessity, its effectiveness or its moral character. But I've seen some pretty appalling stuff being said here on FB, not just about the EO but about immigrants in general.

So let me say this, in case it's not evident: I'm an immigrant. Like many before me, I came to the U.S. seeking a better life. I happen to be from Portugal. It doesn't matter. I could have been Chinese, Mexican or Iranian - the basic motivation to come here would have been the same. I feel a deep kinship with all immigrants who left their language, their families, their identity, because their country simply did not offer conditions for them to thrive, because there are no jobs there that pay enough to pay rent or put food on the table, let alone raise a family. I don't mean unskilled jobs. I mean engineers, nurses and medical doctors. And this of course to say nothing of those immigrants whose countries don't offer them conditions to survive, let alone thrive. I can't imagine how desperate they must be.

In many ways I feel closer to all immigrants, whether they are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or whatever, than I feel to people here who complain about 5% unemployment and wages that enable them to have a car, pay the rent and food and still have some surplus. I'm sorry, I know you were used to even better conditions a few decades ago. But you must understand that I can't take your complaints very seriously given the opportunities this country still offers. I just can't.

So when you say barbaric things about immigrants, you must realize that I take them personally. I take them as applying to me, since I'm no different than some of the people you attack. I therefore conclude that you are not my friend and that in fact you wish me ill. I have already unfriended people here over this. More importantly, I have "unfriended" them in real life. Some people I can no longer bring myself to greet on the street.

Do with that information what you will."

[Me talking] I think one thing about the general tenor of our last political season was how un-American it was, and I don't mean that anyone wished America ill. As has been said many times, we are a nation of immigrants. The greatness of America is in the fact that it doesn't matter where you're from, or even where you've been. Nothing says "fresh start" more emphatically than America. It's an entire nation built at least ostensibly on an idea or ideas: self-determination, and meritocracy.

And, by contrast, we have a president who behaved as though the pie is only so big, that between the Mexicans and the Muslims, there'd be nothing left for the "real Americans." I can think of no sentiment more cowardly, more un-American than that. Please pardon the sentiment here, but I thought we were the people with open doors, and open hearts. The woman who made Rwandans fleeing the genocide American citizens on the fly, that's America. Remember when we fought back the fascists in the second world war? It probably wouldn't have hurt us to mind our own business, but we didn't. We believed that anyone who had the gall to believe that only those who have the right skin color (or whatever else) were people--and would kill for that belief--had to be stopped.

Who are we now? Seems like some people think we're the Chosen Ones, by accident of birth. Like Ann Coulter. I swear, she used to be funny. Now, she just parrots ethnocentric garbage from people smarter, and more dangerous. The nation of immigrants is afraid of outsiders? When did this happen?

I can't imagine my day-to-day life without immigrants. I love them, and am loved by them. Every story is like a Hollywood movie, but it's real. Somewhere, we have forgotten that we are owed nothing. We are owed nothing, but a future is possible. Why do we deny a future to others, when it was permitted us?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Overturn Gay Marriage Ruling? Absolutely, Yes.

Nothing harmful to the common good or to the dignity of human beings created in the image of God can be condoned by the State. To punish evil or not, and to what extent is a prudential decision, and one we could discuss for ages. But the key point is this: The State has no authority to command what is evil.

We may not think we are dealing with evil, but indeed we are. Perhaps we have become accustomed to thinking of "individual rights" and nothing else. But this is a mistake.

We could even come to agree in principle that a government could do something immoral as such, but folks forget this when they have sexual sins themselves, or they have come from broken (divorced) homes, and it's cool and popular to be "open-minded."

Even if you hear a Bishop of the Church say other than what I'm telling you,--I tremble even to say it--he's dead wrong.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Federer Wins Eighteenth Major Title, And Fifth Australian Open

I do not believe Roger Federer's record for the most Grand Slam men's singles titles will be under threat any time soon. But just in case, he added another. The pieces fell just right in the draw: Djokovic had a shocking early loss, as did Murray. Roger is still so great that no one else really scared the Fed fans. Then again, he had to beat none other than #4 Stan Wawrinka, and Rafael Nadal, of all people, to finish it off. As it happened, he ended up beating 4 top 10 players en route to the title, which no man has done since Mats Wilander did it at the French Open in 1982. Of course he did.

It's as close to an encyclopedia entry for Roger Federer as you get, to say: "He's the greatest player in the history of our sport," as John McEnroe does on every occasion of a major. But if you think about it, does it lurk in the mind of a legend that the glory days are in the past, that while he still contends on the biggest stage, he's a museum piece of sorts? If you hadn't won a major championship in more than four years and nearly five, you might be wondering. If you had a badly injured knee, and the wiser course is to sit out the balance of 2016, the voices of doubt might be getting louder. After all, no one sits out six months, and then wins a major, do they?

Roger Federer does.

When Federer won Wimbledon back in 2012, I compared it to Ali knocking out George Foreman in Zaire in 1974, at the age of 32. What do we say now? How many icons of sport are left, to which we may compare? We're almost 5 years on, and he may win more. That Wimbledon win was unlikely, unexpected, and all the rest. And here we are, in 2017, and all we can do is shake our heads in wonderment.

I saw the narrow losses to Djokovic in championship finals in 2015. Both times, I must confess, he choked it away. The 18th major should have been won nearly 2 years ago. (Maybe even 19th.) But this latest victory re-casts his promise to return not as the delusional dreams of a fading legend, but as  a promise and threat: I'm still Roger Federer, remember?

He's too kind and noble for undignified displays of dominance, but his racquet does plenty of talking. Beating Roger Federer is still a feather in the cap, and that says more than all the statistics ever could. But I'll bet he's enjoying being the king of the mountain again. I'm certainly enjoying watching him.