- UPDATE: The coin dropped
- Our dangerously insular leaders
- Our paralyzed leaders
- Orwell on Onanism
- All sexes are created equal, but some are more equal than others
- Did you notice the Rapture?
- Zen atheism
Few of the privileged support Trump, though a few like Christie and Carson (!) have endorsed him for some incomprehensible reason (jockying for position in the new American order?).
(Moi) UPDATE: I am reminded that “the Republican party made every candidate sign a ‘loyalty pledge’ to support the eventual nominee, no matter who it is.” Christie and Carson supporting Trump now is comprehensible, almost honorable, because of that foolish pledge (if they have concluded that Trump is inevitable).
While I probably qualify as white trash, albeit moneyed white trash, I guess I don’t live in Trump’s America. My community has weathered the 2008 recession reasonably well and new real estate developments (not just with government dollars) continue to be announced, with a fairly major new “local” restaurant and a new private mixed-use development announced in yesterday’s newspaper. (I do wish, though, that someone would go to Asheville, sign the requisite covenants not to compete, and clone this awesome veg/vegan place in My Fair Town. Lent is already starting to hurt when lunch out is obligatory.)
But the newspaper and local TV station remind of another local reality: meth, heroin, cocaine, synthetic drugs like spice, and drug-related shootings multiple times already this year (murders in this town in my childhood ran around one per seven years). I’m mostly insulated from that (apart from walking past the Courthouse early morning or passing by the mental health outpatient clinic on the way to lunch). I got a forceful reminder when a clan came to my law office recently, needy largely as a result of poor education and the kinds of ailments that befall those with the bad habit that increasingly serves as low-status-marker: obviously very heavy cigarette smoking, judging just from the overwhelming ash-tray smell.
David Brooks was insulated, too, and like me couldn’t believe the Trump phenomenon. Unlike me, his job requires him to write, and he wrote again and again in a “Trump will collapse soon” vein. No more:
Trump voters are a coalition of the dispossessed. They have suffered lost jobs, lost wages, lost dreams. The American system is not working for them, so naturally they are looking for something else.
Moreover, many in the media, especially me, did not understand how they would express their alienation. We expected Trump to fizzle because we were not socially intermingled with his supporters and did not listen carefully enough. For me, it’s a lesson that I have to change the way I do my job if I’m going to report accurately on this country.
And yet reality is reality.
Now get this: The GOP establishment has no more idea than David Brooks or me on how to stop Trump. No, make that less idea, since they seem to think that tax cuts favoring the rich will pass muster, and that neutral tax cuts are “static” and “ridiculous.”
When an old order is in crisis, something distinctive happens to the men who lead it.
A strange paralysis sets in, a curious mix of denial and resignation. W. B. Yeats’ famous line about the best lacking all conviction captures part of this, but only part. What really goes missing isn’t conviction itself but the capacity to act on it — to adapt swiftly, resist effectively, or both. Instead the tendency is to freeze, like mice under a hawk’s shadow, and hope that stillness alone can save you from the talons.
For an unfortunate case study, in this year of Donald Trump’s rebellion against the Republican Party as we’ve known it, look no further than the speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan ….
As Orwell remarked, in the 1920s “contraception and enlightenment were held to be almost synonymous.” Orwell turned that on its head. The most hopeful page in all his fiction comes two-thirds of the way through Nineteen Eighty-Four. Outside the window of his rented room, a hiding place from the authorities, Winston Smith has sometimes heard a woman singing. She is “a monstrous woman, solid as a Norman pillar,” doing the laundry for (Winston supposes) a vast number of children and grandchildren. Just before the Thought Police burst in and the novel descends into horror, Winston looks at her again as she hangs up diapers on the washing line:
It struck him for the first time that she was beautiful. It had never before occurred to him that the body of a woman of fifty, blown up to monstrous dimensions by childbearing, then hardened, roughened by work till it was coarse in the grain like an over-ripe turnip, could be beautiful, but it was so.
After thirty years of pregnancy and drudgery, “at the end of it she was still singing.” And so she becomes an icon of resistance against the Party—whose members never sing spontaneously. Winston feels a “mystical reverence” for the woman: She symbolizes all the unknown people who, one day, will overthrow the Party. “If there was hope, it lay in the proles!” This remarkable moment throws the eugenicists’ worst nightmare back at them. An impoverished woman who has a large number of children becomes the final, ineradicable sign that there is something in the world that is bigger than Big Brother.
Orwell thought the bourgeoisie, unlike the poor, had allowed the money-god to dictate the terms. InComing Up for Air, the middle-class George Bowling complains that when his wife makes a cake “she’s not thinking about the cake, only about how to save butter and eggs. When I’m in bed with her all she thinks about is how not to have a baby.” Conversely, Gordon Comstock announces: “Hats off to the factory lad who with fourpence in the world puts his girl in the family way! At least he’s got blood and not money in his veins.”
(Dan Hitchens, paywall for a while)
Speaking of Orwell, herewith some Orwellian nonsense:
♦ …The International Olympic Committee announced that “transgender athletes” can compete as their sex of choice. That means men can compete as women, and women as men, even if they haven’t undergone sex reassignment surgery.However, there’s an interesting wrinkle that gives away the idea that a man can be a woman and a women a man as an illusion. Female-to-male transgender athletes can take part in men’s competitions “without restriction.” By contrast, male-to-female athletes have to show that their testosterone levels are below a certain threshold for at least one year prior to competition (something that requires hormone therapy). Hum. Why this difference? Could it be because there are pronounced biological differences between the sexes, and simply thinking you are male or female doesn’t make those differences any less real?
♦ The IOC decision brought to mind a Swiftian intervention Carl Trueman made on our website last summer:
It is time to abolish the anachronistic distinction in sport between men’s (sic) and women’s (sic) competitions. Given that this rests upon outdated cisgender and heteropatriarchal categories, the very existence of such would seem to go well beyond a mere microaggression and to be a rather hate-filled and oppressive phenomenon. Indeed, to coin a term, they are surely examples of hatesports, perpetuating stereotypes and the evils of institutional cissexism.
Are the panjandrums of sport unable to resist self-satire?
(R.R. Reno, paywall for a while)
Evangelicals have finally convinced me about the Rapture.*
Except it’s nominal Christians disappearing.
And they’re disappearing from the pews, not from the world.
And it’s the serious Christians left behind.
And the Great Tribulation isn’t here, and there weren’t any trumpets or plane crashes.
Other than that, they were exactly right.
* [Southern Baptist Russell Moore] reports that Evangelical churches are undergoing “a mirror image of the Rapture.” Nominal Christians are vanishing from the pews, and those who choose to be defined by the Christian Gospel rather than “Christian America” are “left behind.” This clarification will not weaken Christian engagement and influence in American public life; it will strengthen it. A post-Christian context is a forcing ground: “Once Christianity is no longer seen as part and parcel of patriotism, the church must offer more than ‘What would Jesus do?’ moralism and ‘I vote values’ populism to which we’ve grown accustomed. Good.”
(R.R. Reno, paywall for a while)
I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him.
(Julian Barnes) Far be it from me to try to exegete this.
* * * * *
“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)