Tuesday 8/12/14

  1. Is Putin another Hitler?
  2. If you don’t love US, you must be unhinged
  3. Icarus soared
  4. Desire of the Everlasting Hills
  5. Dr. Tipsy’s Tough Love Potion
  6. Pat Buchanan, Prophet

1

I come not to scoff, but to praise, yet another Putin/Hitler analogy, and in more than 140 characters.

Since I’ve never seen this blog before (H/T The Browser, by the way) and don’t know who’s behind it, I’ll refer to the author as a “self-styled historian.” He (she?) may be amateur or highly-credentialed or an imposter for all I know.

But s/he makes the most detailed and plausible Putin/Hitler analogy I’ve seen. That’s not saying much since most of them are really crude drive-by shootings, but his (hers?) strikes me as pretty good. S/he goes on to draw an analogy between appeasers then and now.

Remember: history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. I don’t think Putin is insane or obsessed with genocidal fantasies. His ambition probably has limits.

If Moscow invades Ukraine yet confines its aggression to the country’s Southeast, where its ailing proxies are, the war may be contained and wrapped up rather quickly by the Kremlin. However, if Putin pushes his forces beyond that and attempts to create “Novorossiya” by force across southern Ukraine, a full-scale war will result that will take years, not months, to resolve; casualties will mount and passions will rise among militaries and civilians alike. Containing an all-out war for Ukraine might prove impossible. In that scenario, Putin may get a European war whether he actively is seeking one or not.

What will happen in Ukraine will become clear soon. In the meantime, it is wise to choose proper historical analogies that add to understanding of complex problems, rather than confusing issues further. Above all, it is imperative that educated Westerners, particularly the postmodern denizens of the WEIRD contingent, understand that things they cannot contemplate because they find them unpalatable or even ridiculous may seem quite plausible to others. What you find utterly unthinkable may prove quite thinkable, even reasonable, to your enemies.

2

Charles Gatti at The American Interest, in Putin’s Mini Me: The Mask Is Off, attacks Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, who is insufficiently enamored of all things liberal and western. But then he told a whopper that undermines the whole thing for me:

The analysis Orbán used to reach these conclusions was quite poor and confused, to say the least. One part of the presentation did not lead to or follow another. Some of the information he cited was inaccurate. And it was not a question of the quality of translation; the original Hungarian text was as unstructured and as rambling as the English version. If an American undergraduate had submitted such a long-winded and pretentious paper for an introductory course on international relations, his grade would have been an “F.”

Did you catch the whopper? Nobody gives anybody an “F” any more. Harumph!

[Question of the day: Should I adopt a color code for tongue-in-cheek items?]

Seriously, the U.S. is WEIRDly infuriating to much of the world. One might expect better than frenzy from a Hungarian Prime Minister, but even apart from the snarky “his grade would have been an ‘F’,” I don’t know whether Gatti’s characterization is accurate or propagandistic. My impression of The American Interest has not been that it’s frivolous, but who knows?

3

Failing and Flying, like item 1, inspires more than 140 characters.

The poem is a lovely reflection on a marriage that, conventionally speaking, failed. The poet, Jack Gilbert, quibbles with the idea that it failed, and relives soaring moments of aching love and desire as counter-evidence. The opening and closing mythological allusions are nice – even I know Icarus, and I’m mythologically impaired.

I have one major failed romance in my past, which mercifully ended before marriage, so I’m not speaking personally here. And I appreciate the danger of over-analyzing a poem (or, for that matter, something so simple as a cartoon or a joke).

That said, I’d find the poem more true to the meaning of marriage if it cited not only starry nights, languorous mornings, backlit ambles from the beach and lunch conversations, but some deeply loved children as proof of triumph.

But I’ll still take it, gratefully, as an evocation of failed romance.

4

Now might be a good time to mention that my failed romance was not with another guy.

At that level, my story is entirely unlike any of the three people profiled in Desire of the Everlasting Hills, a 63-minute documentary that has been praised by all the people I trust who have watched it (including one serious movie reviewer, Eve Tushnet) and vilified by – Wait! I haven’t read anyone vilifying it yet!

No vilification may be the result of these three – Rilene, Dan and Paul– not being caricatures, and of their stories not being “weaponized” (an excellent term a female couple of my acquaintance introduced me to). Two of the three pretty explicitly say they can’t imagine having had a different personal history. None villifies or demonizes his or her history. They acknowledge either the grace-filled moments (Dan’s lover releasing him to pursue a woman who, to his surprise, he was drawn to, for instance) or sheer ego gratification of how they lived. They don’t go through the exhibitionist “I was the biggest sinner on the block” schtick so dear to Evangelicals, nor do they pretend that there was a still small voice bugging them all along, or that they were laughing on the outside, crying on the inside (think “Robin Williams suicide”). There are no conventional “happily ever afters,” though all have found a contentment.

All three are now Roman Catholic, as at least Rilene was raised and I’m pretty sure Dan wasn’t. None is newly “straight.” It seems to require some serious catholicity (Roman or Greek) to both take people as they are without trying to make them over into plaster saints and to maintain robust and roughly historic Christian faith. But I digress. The movie doesn’t preach like that.

Paul, a very promiscuous male model with a star-studded, Studio 54 lifestyle, once was very like a gay male caricature, but that’s not how he ended. His former life was the most alien to me. Let’s face it: I was never gorgeous enough to be either a chick or a guy magnet. But his turning point touched me deepest of all. His clumsy blurt-it-all out visit to the Confessional cut to the heart of things: the completely self-centered life of a “user,” where the thousands of promiscuous sexual encounters were pretty much peripheral to that core problem.

Dan wasn’t at all effeminate. He came across as kind of Brooklyn tough. In today’s pop terms, I guess he is bisexual. I know the Basilica in Grand Rapids, visible from the interstate, he took to flipping off in his conscious rejection of God. I get the impression he was Protestant then, and the movie reveals nothing of how he became Catholic (I had to read the web synopsis to find that he is now Roman Catholic). I related most to him initially, least in the end, though not because anything seemed terribly inauthentic about his story.

There were many photos of Rilene and her long-term partner, Margot. Their quarter century together was the kind of relationship that tends to overwhelm the emotions with questions like “how is this less of a marriage than the guy who’s slept with dozens of women and been divorced three times before he’s 40?” It’s hard for me to relate to a lesbian’s story in some ways despite that, but she busted me up with her candor about how unnatural it seemed to be all dress-up and made up and on camera, and most of all with her answer to “What would young Rilene think of Church Lady Rilene?” I won’t spoil it for you, but I’ll say I was rooting for her to give the answer she ended up giving after a well-timed build-up.

This movie probably isn’t for any of your kids short of late teens, and not because of any explicit sexuality that might arouse them. My sense is that the requisite ability to empathize with internal struggles, and the ability to accept the messiness of life and of grace, just doesn’t develop much earlier than that.

For adults, especially adults who have never “met” a non-caricature celibate Christian “out” homosexual, I don’t think I could recommend this too highly as a starting point.

5

Confessionals are dangerous, so I’ll just say that at times in my life I’ve been better acquainted with porn than any professing Christian man should have been. But a little light went on some years back, and I quit cold-turkey.

I’ll leave it to others to argue about endorphins and addiction. That wasn’t my experience. It was just a really vile habit, or so it seems to me. My only “withdrawal symptom” was stupefied thanksgiving to God. Maybe my deliverance without heroin-like withdrawal symptoms was miraculous.

It seems to me that news stands by and large look “cleaner” of harcore men’s porn than in the past, although soft-core stuff is almost utterly unavoidable today outside a Monastery. (Yes, my porn scale from soft to hard is very rigorous. I’m like a militant ex-smoker that way.)

So it comes as a fresh surprise even time I see serious people calling porn “the single biggest pastoral problem in the church” or the like. I guess it’s all done by internet now, that seductive source that whispers “nobody needs to know” and “what’s the harm?”

Let Dr. Tipsy give a little Tough Love Potion here: “Listen up, pal! Read C.S. Lewis The Great Divorce. The harm, pal, is you’re turning yourself into a creep. The harm is the scars you’re putting on your soul, making you the kind of man who’d get to the Pearly Gates and turn back upon learning that the stupid joint isn’t All About You and that there aren’t 10,000 virgins waiting for you to deflower them. You’re stuffing your head full of shit that tells you there are 10,000 – maybe more – and that they’re really eager for your arrival. That’s the harm.”

That was the little light that went on for me. You’re welcome.

Oh: not to mention that it makes you complicit in a form of white slavery and thereby violates the hell out of the Golden Rule.

Got that?

UPDATE: Like I say. Soft core is everywhere and mainstream.

6

I nominate Pat Buchanan for a Prophet’s Mantle:

Pat Buchanan, from TAC, October 7, 2002:

But what comes after the celebratory gunfire when wicked Saddam is dead? Initially, the President and War Party will be seen as vindicated by victory and exhilarated by their new opportunity. For Iraq is key to the Middle East. With Iraq occupied, Syria will be hemmed in by Israeli, American, and Turkish power. Assad will have to pull his army out of Lebanon, so Sharon can go back in and settle scores with Hezbollah. Iran will be surrounded by U.S. power in Turkey, Iraq, the Gulf, Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Arabian Sea.

This is the vision that intoxicates the neoconservatives who pine for a “World War IV” – a cakewalk conquest of Iraq followed by short sharp wars on Syria and Iran. Already Israel is tugging at our sleeve, reminding us not to forget Libya.

What is wrong with this vision? Only this. Just as Israel’s invasion of Lebanon ignited a guerrilla war that drove her bloodied army out after 18 years, a U.S. army in Baghdad will ignite calls for jihad from Morocco to Malaysia.

(H/T Rod Dreher, emphasis added) Got that? 2002. 142 months ago.

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“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.