Friday, March 13, 2020

A Few Comments On The President's Address

First, I decided to read it. As everyone probably knows, I'm not inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. I thought that reading the words would lessen the possible impact of my active dislike of the man, and any mistakes in delivery.

OK, let's talk about "foreign virus". I had a feeling that this would stick in the craw of everyone who already believed he's a xenophobic bigot. (I certainly do think he's a xenophobic bigot.) That said, I decided to look up "foreign" in the dictionary. Do you see the definitions there? Especially the third usage seems apt. The president is simply saying that the virus did not originate in the United States. I personally have no problem with the wording here.

Second, the travel ban. I think he's taking extra heat, because of the earlier--and much more infamous, in my view--travel ban that applied to Muslim countries, and Venezuela. A reasonable critique is to say that since the United States already has confirmed cases of the disease, the time for such bans has passed. That's fair, I suppose. Still, I don't think such a restriction is necessarily without foundation. If administration officials want to claim that China was perhaps not honest about the severity of the disease, that would not be an outrageous claim. I do think it's perhaps not helpful to criticize EU officials for their possible oversights when we'll need them. Even so, he's trying to say that infected Chinese nationals came to the EU, and the virus came here as a result. I will say that it could be difficult to acquire the German testing kits, if no EU citizen may travel to the US. Banning Europeans but not travel to and from the UK is utterly incomprehensible. They're right next to each other.

It is a fair critique to wonder why he is boasting about the talent and wisdom of American health officials, when he was ignoring the advice of these same officials for months. Even days ago, the administration was attempting to claim that the media coverage and warnings about the disease were hysterical. It's much worse than the flu, though of course the flu kills tens of thousands each year.

I think the president's advice to us the citizens is of course sound, and fine, as far as it goes. I think it's good to declare a state of emergency, and to authorize as much help for the poor--and some limited aid for businesses--as our leadership deems appropriate.

I would say that the boasting throughout is odd, but this is how our president talks. The substance of American exceptionalism is an almost irrational confidence. This isn't new for us. Indeed, citizens and voters crucified poor President Carter for being honest and realistic.

My overall reaction to the speech itself is that it wasn't a disaster, by any stretch. Much of the problem-solving could be said to be too little, too late, but another saying is, "Better late than never."

5 Incorrect Definitions Of The Coronavirus

5. The incurable urge to wander around the California desert going, "It's so rad, being out in nature, you know? I'm so stoked."

4. The incurable urge to dance to Justin Timberlake's, "Can't Stop The Feelin.'" [Although, whatever that is, it's absolutely a pandemic.--ed.]

3. The powerful urge to steal treasured artifacts of the Spanish monarchy. Although, you may want to keep an eye out for Carmen Sandiego and company.

2. The insatiable urge to drink Mexican beer on a beach. [I wanna catch that one!--ed.]

1. The apparently incurable affliction to sing "Crown Him With Many Crowns" 3 times, before anyone is allowed to leave church. This virulent disease most strongly impacts Baptists, and other fellow travelers.

AOC, Continued: An Appreciation

It is not for me to decide which parts of the Green New Deal won’t work, or would be disastrous to implement—or the reverse, mind you—but one extremely savvy thing about how it was named communicates something important about the importance of climate change.

The New Deal was a concerted effort across all sectors of society to soften the blow of the Great Depression. Aside from ideologues, academics, and cranks,—but I repeat myself—most Americans appreciated the effort. You’ll note of course that FDR remains regarded as one of America’s greatest presidents.

Here’s what AOC is trying to say, at its most basic: This crisis is so grave that it’ll take a coordinated effort from everyone in every sector of society to get us through it. If nothing else, she communicated her intent and judgment about the gravity of the situation in just 3 words. That's why she'll be a player on this stage for a long time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Prayer Does "Work" (It's Just Not Totally Up To Us)

I saw this just now, in reference to COVID-19: "Prayer doesn't work. Washing your hands does." I know secularists are fond of this dichotomy, but in the words of a popular meme, "Why not both?"

Consider this argument:
God exists;
God is omnipotent;
We are not omnipotent, that is, we are highly vulnerable to misfortunes beyond our control, including death itself;
Therefore, it would be foolish not to seek the aid of God, who is omnipotent.

I cannot answer for you why God seems to act and answer on some occasions, and not others. I don't know why sometimes we have to face death with no relief or reprieve. I do know that you can suffer with hope, or suffer without it.

And because grace builds upon nature, but does not destroy it...please do wash your hands.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

I've got a positive take on her. It's hard not to appreciate what she did: she knocked off a veteran Democrat, Joe Crowley, in the primary and won her seat in the general election from a reliably Democratic district in New York. She's the youngest member of Congress. She didn't have a reliable place to live when she was elected. She's worked as a server in a bar. (We used to call those "waitresses.") You can get to know her a bit by watching the Netflix documentary, "Knocking Down the House." It follows four progressive women as they challenge Democrats in primaries. Alexandria was the only one who won.

I guess I'm supposed to fear her, if Fox News is any guide. But neither Fox, nor the whole GOP, represents me. And I'll decide what and whom to fear, thank you. I have always appreciated an honest, earnest radical. Politics is about heart, more than anything. So we'd disagree. What else is new? Some of these young progressive types have recovered a basic moral sense that is missing from politics and politicians these days.

I know I'm supposed to scream, "But abortion!" and treat every elected Democrat as a leper and a non-person, but you know, I've never been good at falling in line. Frankly, at a visceral level, I'm not terribly inclined to follow behind Donald Trump, and Mitch The Obstructionist Turtle. If we are overrun by Maoist collegians in the next five years, I stand corrected. But I think that much of the Right has stopped thinking, stopped caring, and stopped trying to persuade their fellows.

"AOC," as some call her, may well lose the next election. In the end, I know Rep. Crowley is much closer to me ideologically than she is. And so it goes. But I'll tell you this: if we stop trying to be better in any sphere, we're finished.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Early Morning

I woke up at 6 AM, which is silly, because there's no reason for me to get up at 6 AM. There's no ability to get up then, either. When I know I'll be waiting, I try to pray. Nothing overly involved, just usually talking to the Blessed Mother and Our Lord.

I got totally lost in it this morning. A friend was on my mind, and I kept thinking of his whole journey. As I sorted through the images in my mind, I realized: this is what prayer is for. God is already in the moments of our lives. All of them. If we just try to get closer to God, we fail. If we invite God to enlarge our hearts to see Him in our moments, then we'll actually achieve what we seek.

Pain won't decrease; far from it. It's never worked like that. But what do I actually believe about God? If God is good, then he's with me when I experience bad things. I don't have to find God somewhere; I just need to realize that I'm the dense one. I'm the one who wants to run and hide.

Why? Why would I run and hide? Well, why'd Adam and Eve run? They ran because they knew they were broken. A wounded animal runs; a person made alive by Jesus takes the light of faith back to the Sacred Heart. Even if we have moments of flight--and we all do--our destiny is the Beloved. We are the Beloved, and we can be in the Beloved, if we want to be.

I recognize my "animal" self--my lesser self--as the one who forgets what he knows, for the sake of some mindless distraction. If I'm filled with worldly goods and the pleasures of the senses, maybe I won't have to bear that gnawing emptiness, that fear of not being lovable.

He's overcome my fear with His tenderness, of a million touches and kisses, the embrace of family, of Home. And now I see the truth of it by the powerful light of faith. Where will we go now? Who knows? Who cares? If He's with me, everywhere and anywhere is Home.