Sunday 10/13/13

    1. Thoughts before voting
    2. Sentimentality and Obscenity
    3. Justice Kennedy goes expansive
    4. Silver linings

1

I have a memory of a time when the Republican Party was the more sensible party, the party of reasonable reform, not the party of temper tantrums and ideological crusades that destroy things. Millennials only know the Bush Administration, and the Tea Party. The thing is, I’m someone who is open to the populism of the Tea Party, in the sense that I cheer on Sen. Rand Paul’s foreign policy views, and Rep. Justin Amash’s views on the national security state. But the Tea Party people are showing themselves to be far too ideological, which is to say, imprudent and temperamentally unconservative. I’m tired of these manufactured crises. They’ve pushed the government to the brink over Obamacare and the debt ceiling — and for what? They don’t know. They only know what they want, and they don’t care how they get it. They’re willing to cut down every law in England, so to speak, to get to the devil Obama.
In a few minutes, I’m going to walk over to the courthouse and vote either Democrat or Libertarian as a protest, which is to say, I’m throwing my vote away to object to the Tea Party. The current crisis in Washington is the last straw.

(Rod Dreher, Thoughts Before I Vote Today. Saturday was primary day in Louisiana. The 5th Congressional District is open, but it’s a safe Republican seat. The primary features three empty suit Republicans a Democrat who can’t afford a functioning website (just like Obamacare’s insurance exchanges) and 10 others, including Libertarians. Read Rod, and if you don’t know what “cutting down every law in England” is about, follow that link.)

2

I would suggest that there are two particular strains of the diabolic imagination in modern society: sentimentality and obscenity, as defined by Flannery O’Connor in her excellent book Mystery and Manners. Both sentimentality and obscenity result from the separation of aesthetic and virtue.

Sentimentality is “an excess, a distortion of sentiment,” according to O’Connor. Such art centers on one’s emotive response to material beauty. Sentimentality seeks physical and circumstantial perfection, and vainly searches for its idyllic embodiment. It refuses to accept human flaws, and denies any limiting or overarching norms of human action: emotion is all that matters. Sentimentality sees goodness as derived in the culmination of desire. Beauty and love are thus limited to physical and emotional fulfillment—without any overarching meaning.

The [romantic comedy] embodies many of sentimentality’s vices.

(Gracy Olmstead, Pornography and Sentimentality: The Ruins of Beauty)

3

I don’t think Madison and Wilson and the members of the drafting committee spent a lot of time with the dictionary. I think they wrote in expansive terms: Life, liberty, property.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, illustrating why a written constitution is useless once you get guys like him who “grow” in office.

That good ole “liberty” can be fun to free associate with. As for “life”? Just feign ignorance about whether the life in question is “human,” or “fully human,” or has a good “quality.”

4

I’ve spent two days in continuing education with a few hundred Elder Law attorneys. I’m reminded of how much I like these folks as people.

I also thought, as dementia remains a sort of dominant issue in our clients’ lives, of what a diagnosis of dementia would mean personally. And as a guy who seems to straddle the optimism/pessimism divide (I think things are getting worse in the ways that matter most to me, but I think there will be silver linings in almost every cloud, and I know my ancestors have seen as bad or worse), it occurred to me that with dementia, as I lost the ability to go online and explore, I at least might once again enjoy the free entertainment of television.

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.