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Friday, November 13, 2020

I Think (And Feel) This Will Be An Important Line Of Inquiry

 Confirmation Sponsor Guy has an essay in the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, entitled, "Thomistic Conception of Impairment and Disability". That'll be a fun one to read, when the time comes.

When I commented on this exciting news, I separated out my thoughts from my feelings. I remember Professor Cross saying something in class, about the young people today. When they want to say "I think," they usually actually say, "I feel…" Actual thinking, however, is not done with the heart primarily, but the mind. A certain thing could be true, independent of what we feel about it. And if we are to avoid deconstructing everything according to an uncharitable assumption about the motivations of others, we should be bold to say, "I think…" The truth is that the nobility of saying "I think…" is the freedom to potentially later say, "I thought wrongly about that."

There is a scene in a TV show that I have enjoyed, where a schoolteacher with several male roommates is trying to get them to open up about their true feelings. She has a "feelings stick," and whoever is holding the feelings stick may say whatever they choose, presumably without reprisal. The scene is a bit crass, but I remember several times that the characters say "I feel…" when they really mean, "I think…"

Anyway, as a person with a disability, who has at least indirectly been influenced by the thought of Thomas Aquinas, I want to have a thoroughly Thomistic view of impairment and disability. As you may have heard, I am thinking and writing a lot about impairment and disability. Knowing St. Thomas, I know at the very least he will attempt to keep all his readers focused on their true final end. This is the foundation for the dignity which sometimes lacks expression and realization in our present society.

I know that in general, the work of my life will be to assist people of goodwill in rebuilding the kind of intellectual space where the dignity of all people is honored, understood, and defended.

Happy Birthday, King Friday XIII: An Appreciation Of Fred Rogers (Again)

 My childhood was pretty rough and dramatic. I can just leave it there. If there was one person who is the opposite of rough and dramatic, it's Mister Rogers. You can find any clip that you want from the show; he consistently affirms and validates the feelings of the small children in his audience. Even when I was much older, I would check in sometimes, because I knew that I would feel valued. He didn't even know me, but honestly, he did. It's more than nostalgia, for so many of us. It is the memory of being loved, even from a distance.

He was a mainline Protestant, back when that still meant something. And I didn't know as a kid that in fact he was a minister, but I should have guessed. There is something about godly people that you can't fake or fabricate. There are church people, and there are godly people. Church people are a roll of the dice; godly people live by a power that is not their own. When they leave, their lives of genuine kindness and empathy leave marks on the world. These are the stories that other people tell long after they are gone. I used to watch such a person on my TV most afternoons as a kid. It's why the videos still fly around the Internet, of his testimony in 1969 before the Congress, of him asking money for public television. It's why movies are made about him, nearly 20 years after he is gone. I took a shot at Tom Hanks yesterday, but the truth is, there is no one more venerable in Hollywood right now than Tom Hanks. Hanks had to play Mister Rogers, because we don't have any movie star with anywhere near the empathy and goodwill he can generate. It's not the best casting, and I haven't even seen the movie, but again, who else could play Fred Rogers?

I've seen the clip of him accepting his Emmy award, and he used the moment to make all those high-powered actors and actresses uncomfortable, by making them meditate for a solid minute on those who had loved them, and sacrificed for them. It didn't surprise me, or even choke me up, because of course he did that. He did that all the time. It seems he lived a life of thankfulness, and the best compliment I can give is that he taught so many of us--including me--to do the same thing.

Thanks, Mister Rogers.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Godwin's Law Is Funny, Until It Isn't

 It's often said that if you invoke the Nazis, you lose any online argument. On the other hand, how close to a dangerous authoritarianism do you have to get, before those who are sanguine about it turn out to be the foolish ones?

On the one hand, a close examination of the physical ballots involved in the election will eventually be necessary. I have no objections in theory to any group exhausting all legal challenges and remedies. On the other hand, the president is not a person who can be trusted. If he could find his own version of the Reichstag fire, he would do it in a second.

That's why I don't buy the stuff from right-wing media, to the effect of, "just asking questions". You have tens of millions of people living in an alternate reality anyway, and a good number of them will not renounce violence, or in any manner accept the results.

We ought to keep our processes and timelines firm. Challenge whatever you like, but it's all over by December 14. And if you're in court, it's "put up or shut up" time. The common rabble can believe whatever it wants about stolen elections, but in a court of law, you prove what you are saying, or you go away.

On the other hand, I don't think anyone thinks it's a good thing that large numbers of people have mistrust in our electoral processes. Then again, an epistemic flaw is not the same thing as a democratic flaw. If you are the problem, you can't expect everyone else in the system to shape their beliefs to your own.

It was almost inevitable that it would end this way. We had never been governed by someone so pathologically narcissistic. Those people fall hard. And they try to take as many people down with them as they can. I don't need a doctorate in psychology to figure this one out. The real astonishing thing will be the number of people who can't acknowledge this basic reality. There is always a small group of people who claim to be above the emotional fray, but when the truth is revealed, they are revealed as the most hardened partisans that could be found.

I would say wake me up when it is over, but I'll be watching. I will continue to do what I have always done, which is attempt in my own way to put the world in order. Someone may not like the conclusions I reach, but I don't like Tom Hanks, and the world still seems to go on.