Monday 10/24/16

  1. Frenzy, knavery
  2. Not the better place we hoped for
  3. Putting lipstick on bloodlust
  4. The perils of the election
  5. Not as clever as we think
  6. NYT 2000, 2016
  7. An argument for Trump


First Things

1

An angry man and a sarcastic man met one another, and it was impossible to find a true word in their conversation. Unveiling the heart of the former, you find frenzy; looking into the soul of the other, you see knavery.

(St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 24)

2

Bob Dylan, so we thought, ushered in an age of innocence, but now this innocence is innocence lost. This world is NOT the better place we’d hoped for …

Many pilgrims to the monastery have been sharing their fears, wondering how they will stand up to the possible hardships and deprivations, and ask me what I think they should do to prepare for the apparent bleak times ahead.  I tell them that we, as a species, have gone through many a “bleak” time. Yet, when one looks closely at human history, and especially in relation to mans quest for God, we can see the spiritual benefits of struggle. Running in fear takes us nowhere but down; whereas, staying the course, and uniting our struggles and pain to Christ will bring an eternal treasure and a lasting heritage. Who among us can not remember a terribly painful period of struggle in our life, one which ultimately brought about an abundance of spiritual growth , and where we felt a sense of peace abound, as a result?

I like the prayer, “Glory to God for all things”, because in this prayer we give thanks to God for EVERYTHING that comes our way. We don’t cheapen the gift that is salvation with a theology of abundance and prosperity, where many will loose their faith, concluding God powerless, or absent, because their reward wasn’t there now, as they’d been lead to believe. Ultimately, all the hardships, pain, suffering, deprivation, and hunger, do more for eternity, than all the prosperity and toys we might enjoy now.

When joy enters the soul, and one is confounded by grace, nothing else ultimately matters. Only that which is eternal is of value, and all else is just a distraction. From the vantage point of our life in Christ, regardless of what happens, the true Age of Innocence will emerge, for the Age of Innocence is found within, and it is the Kingdom of God.

(Abbot Tryphon)

Secondary Things

3

After the arrest of an African-American suspect in the murder of a popular local school teacher, our newspaper on Sunday was stirring the pot on whether the suspect could get the death penalty. The information available is that the murder involved mistaken identity: the suspect had been burned in a drug deal, went to the wrong house, and shot the teacher when she opened the door.

The newspaper seemed to be lamenting the absence of an aggravating factor to make this a capital murder case.

My reaction was that they thought someone should fry because the victim was popular and law-abiding. An acquaintance thought they thought the suspect should fry because he was a young black male.

Either way, I don’t like it. Racial disparity in capital punishment is controversial: nobody will defend a real disparity, but many try to make an apparent disparity disappear by “digging deeper.” My pet peeve is how victim impact statements can skew sentencing depending on how sympathetic the victims are (or can pretend to be).

Tertiary Things

4

The perils of a Trump presidency are as distinctive as the candidate himself, and a vote for Trump makes a long list of worst cases — the Western alliance system’s unraveling, a cycle of domestic radicalization, an accidental economic meltdown, a civilian-military crisis — more likely than with any normal administration.

Indeed, Trump and his supporters almost admit as much. “We’ve tried sane, now let’s try crazy,” is basically his campaign’s working motto. The promise to be a bull in a china shop is part of his demagogue’s appeal. Some of his more eloquent supporters have analogized a vote for Trump to storming the cockpit of a hijacked plane, with the likelihood of a plane crash entirely factored in.

(Ross Douthat) Douthat then turns to the risks of a Clinton Presidency, which he understates in the particulars but nails in general:

They’re the dangers of elite groupthink, of Beltway power worship, of a cult of presidential action in the service of dubious ideals. They’re the dangers of a recklessness and radicalism that doesn’t recognize itself as either, because it’s convinced that if an idea is mainstream and commonplace among the great and good then it cannot possibly be folly.

She was a Russia dove when the media mocked Mitt Romney for being a Russia hawk; now she’s a Russia hawk along with everyone else in Washington in a moment that might require de-escalation.

5

The candidates agreed that the U.S. economy needs to grow more rapidly. What they argued over is whose economic plan will make it grow faster.

The push for economic growth has become sacrosanct in modern political discourse. Growth is the elixir that heals all social and economic divisions and makes possible the solidarity that comes from the feeling that the path to wealth is open to everyone.

For the vast majority of people on the planet that path was never really open. And, since the so-called Great Recession, it has been closed off completely for all but those at the top of the income scale.

There are many explanations. But most of them are financial and political. The world’s economists and political leaders are ready with both diagnoses and prescriptions for lackluster growth throughout the world. However, the laws of physics, chemistry and biology never enter their heads.

Growth is supposedly something that comes from the “minds of men.” (Pardon me, women, for it is men who mostly say this.) While there is truth to the idea that the cleverness of humans has accounted in part for the astonishing growth of the world economy in the last three centuries, it is more true that humans have leveraged increasingly available fossil fuel energy to achieve that growth.

Without fossil fuels, we as a species would not appear so clever. And we must keep in mind that we did not invent coal, natural gas or oil. In fact, our extraction and use of them more closely resembles the pattern of a hunter-gatherer society than of a modern agricultural one.

We know that on our current growth trajectory we will cause irreparable damage to the climate and the biosphere upon which we depend. The hope is that somehow we can prevent this damage with technology that won’t require giving up on economic growth. While anything is possible, the odds are stacked gravely against such an outcome ….

(Resilience, Campaign melodrama: As the World Burns) The article features the best caricature I’ve seen of the two major party candidates.

6

On some issues, establishment liberal opinion had moved so far to the left as to be unrecognizable. As blogger Steve Sailer noted, in 2000 the New York Times editorial page opposed amnesty for illegal aliens both because it would encourage more illegal immigration and because it would have deleterious effects on the employment and wages of lower-income native-born Americans. Sixteen years later, when Trump suggested that the core of immigration policy should be concern for its impact on the well-being of Americans, he was denounced as a raving bigot by the same New York Times.

(The American Conservative, November 1, 2016)

7

From one of the better arguments for Trump I’ve heard, excising parts that distracted even me:

The wrong choice will … turn the associations that are the only places in which we can lead decent lives into wholly owned subsidiaries of the federal government. All of us will be forced to toe the line of political correctness throughout the public square, fully enter into the culture of death in our public and commercial life, and consign our religious lives to a purely private sphere in which we may quietly pray, provided we do not allow our faith to “infect” our public conduct.

I will be voting for [Trump] without hesitation; perhaps not with great enthusiasm, but without hesitation … [M]y decision has to do with the relationship between politics and culture, and how (it seems quite clear to me) the candidates would govern.

Politics should be far less important than faith, family, and everyday life. For most of American history, politics was a limited pursuit aimed at protecting families, churches, and local self-governing associations. Moreover, until recent decades most Americans understood that good politics are dependent on decent culture, not the other way around. Unfortunately, it is this understanding that is being twisted and used, especially against people of faith in this election.

… We must not allow great distaste at one man’s flaws to blind us to different flaws which, while on the surface perhaps less distasteful, go to the heart of how the other candidate would actually govern. Everyone knows that both candidates have deep moral flaws. One of them has been accused of moral failings he promises to avoid in future, and which our political system can guard against. The other has repeatedly been shown to have martialed the mainstream media, foreign governments, and even our own FBI, to engage in a whole range of corrupt practices intentionally undermining that political system and shows no inclination to decrease such activities.

(Bruce Frohnen, emphasis added) I’m still more disturbed, as a matter of his fitness for the Presidency, by Trump’s deep narcissism and sociopathy than I am by various behavioral eruptions (e.g., sexual assaults, shameless contract breaches, lawsuit abuse).

But the “cultural issues” (f/k/a “culture war issues”) weigh heavily on me, and Frohnen is not exaggerating, on the cultural issues, Clinton’s “recklessness and radicalism that doesn’t recognize itself as either, because it’s convinced that if an idea is mainstream and commonplace among the great and good then it cannot possibly be folly.” Were I to vote for Trump, it would not be “We’ve tried sane, now let’s try crazy,” but what other have called (I work here from memory) “Vote for Trump because he doesn’t care about us” (and thus, unlike Clinton, will leave us alone).

This — and that he’s not as unstable as I think — will be my fervent hope should I awaken November 9 to learn that he has been elected.

* * * * *

“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)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.