Monday, 2/24/14

    1. Still looking for a traditionalist leader
    2. Sexist political journalism
    3. “After-Birth Abortion”
    4. Thou shalt walk in my shoes
    5. Stereotype Breaker

1

So far, events in Kiev have been a lesson in the limits of Russian influence, and the implausibility of Putin’s claim to offer a rival civilizational model to the liberal democratic West.

I thought I was going to disagree with Ross Douthat about Putin, but I misunderstood where he was going.

The czars sought a “Holy Alliance” to defend a still-extant ancien régime — a rooted, hierarchical system that still governed many 19th-century European societies. But today’s Russia, brutalized by Communism and then taken over by oligarchs and grifters, is not a traditional society in any meaningful sense of the term, and the only thing it has in common with many of its potential developing-world allies is a contempt for democratic norms. 

(Emphasis added) Now that is a really plausible viewpoint.

2

Okay, okay, okay. You can dice it and slice it, but why do journalists lapse into “sexist” analysis of prominent or emerging female politicians?

In The New Republic last week, Rebecca Traister was incisive, writing: “There is no accounting of female professional achievement that does not also add up the raw data on personal, familial effort; there is no admiration that is not instantly accompanied by interrogation: How does she do it? No. Really. How does she do it?”

Times readers, too, were critical. Jeanne Pitz of Leola, Pa., wrote: “Excuse me, but your cover of Hillary Clinton as a planet was bad enough, but this time, you are using a huge, unflattering photo of Wendy Davis of Texas, with the stupid comment: Can she have it all? Women are offended because you would NEVER ask that of a male candidate.”

The criticism makes me wonder why the treatment of a woman politician often seems so hard to get right, especially when the article’s presentation — illustration, photographs, headlines — is added in.

Margaret Sullivan in the New York Times continues there to analyze why she thinks it happens.

We know one thing, thought, don’t we? It sells. It’s the kind of analysis people buy, literally and figuratively.

Any thorough explanation must account for that, even if only to say that we’re “mired in patriarchalism” or some such grand generality.

3

In the all-to-real game of sane people playing Whack-a-Mole with crazy ideas, it’s hard to stay even with the insanity du jour. No sooner had Gracy Olmstead whacked Euthanasia, and the False Omniscience of Compassion than even the pretext of compassion in the killing of newborns is abandoned:

“[T]he best interest of the one who dies is not necessarily the primary criterion for the choice.”

“Actual people’s well-being could be threatened by the new (even if healthy) child requiring energy, money and care which the family might happen to be in short supply of,” they observe. Accordingly, “if economical, social or psychological circumstances change such that taking care of the offspring becomes an unbearable burden on someone, then people should be given the chance of not being forced to do something they cannot afford.” An after-birth abortion might be warranted by any “interests of actual people (parents, family, society) to pursue their own well-being”—including “the interests of the mother who might suffer psychological distress from giving her child up for adoption.”

(William Saletin at Slate. H/T Rod Dreher) [UPDATE 2/25/14: I have learned that the Saletin article was two years old.] I’ve become so tone-deaf to the Zeitgeist (that’s a boast, not a lament, by the way) that I’m not sure this idea won’t catch on – though Saletin thinks it’s his side that should be afraid because:

The case for “after-birth abortion” draws a logical path from common pro-choice assumptions to infanticide. It challenges us, implicitly and explicitly, to explain why, if abortion is permissible, infanticide isn’t.

It sure does. The question is whether anybody still cares? The Will wants what it wants. And there’s always a whore “forensic expert” to rationalize what the Will wants.

Maybe they can just pretend that the case for after-birth abortion is imaginary, like NAMBLA.

4

But I digressed, interrupted by “breaking news,” from Gracy Olmstead’s now-quaint Euthanasia, and the False Omniscience of Compassion:

Mary Jo Anderson writes about the false compassion of euthanasia in Crisis Magazine:

The truth that lies underneath the “rights” rhetoric is who will decide what constitutes a quality of life and at what cost. Theodore Dalrymple is an English doctor, psychiatrist and author of OurCulture—What’s Left of It. Dalrymple wrote, “Euthanasia has a tendency to slide from the voluntary to the compulsory, as people increasingly make judgments on behalf of others as to what is a human life worth living.”

This is a temptation that many human rights advocates can be susceptible to: in desiring to help others, we often choose to reform them into our own image …

Of course, making such a decision necessitates we assume a sort of omniscient posture: if we decide whether life is still worth living, we must have a very specific and (we hope) accurate understanding of what life is about, what it’s worth, and how much pain we can handle.

Yeah, Gracy! Give ’em heck! Oh. Wait.

This is how much of the right handles non-life matters. Of course, conservatives may gasp in horror at the thought of aborting or euthanizing babies. But conservatives may also look at homeless people on the street, and tell them, “You should go get a job.” Isn’t this also a case of gross assumption—of putting someone else in your shoes, and commanding them to walk according to your path, willpower, and context? When we decide one country “deserves” democracy, or another should be “liberated” from its oppressors—often such words contain grains of truth. But what we really mean is, “Let us (our military, more often than not) come over and fix your problems, so that you can be just like us.

Now she done stopped preachin’ and gone to meddlin’. Right? … Right?

5

I’ve made an interesting new acquaintance recently. I don’t know him well yet, but as I understand it, he’s from the green left, at or approaching middle age. His preferred transportation is bicycle in a community that’s not yet notably bike-friendly. He’s single and professes no religious faith (having been soured on the tradition of his upbringing by the way his parents indoctrinated him). His daily ambience is the academy.

But he accurately perceived who the new Jackboots are, and it’s not the Religious Right. So he’s now aligned with the Religious Right and many conservative Christians (the two are not the same) in fighting to maintain the traditional gendered character of marriage because of his understanding of the function of marriage civilly and the state’s interest in it. He is a fierce opponent of the intolerance of so many advocates of same-sex marriage toward their opponents.

It’s noteworthy because it’s a sort of man-bites-dog story. Pro-lifers made a big deal out of Nat Hentoff and Bernard Nathanson, too (though Nathanson converted to Roman Catholic some years after he “converted” to pro-life).

And it’s the sort of thing that keeps me going, thinking that reason really can prevail — some day, anyway, and though it may come to prevail by example more than by precept.

* * * * *

“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.