Wednesday 12/28/16

  1. Conformity
  2. The Temptation of Every Civilization
  3. Them wicked crackers are at it again
  4. Christmas Scandals now and then

Secondary Things


I think it’s fair to say that the West has lost its place in the national imagination because, by some sad evolution, the idea of human nature has become the opposite of what it was when the myth of the West began, and now people who are less shaped and constrained by society are assumed to be disabled and dangerous. This is bad news for the American psyche, a fearful and antidemocratic idea, which threatens to close down change. I think it would be a positively good thing for the West to assert itself in the most interesting terms, so that the whole country must hear and be reanimated by dreams and passions it has too casually put aside and too readily forgotten.

(Marilynne Robinson, When I Was a Child I Read Books, the title essay of a book of her essays) Robinson is referring to the American West, as in Idaho, where she grew up.

Tertiary Things


It is the temptation of every civilization to take what nature has spent a thousand years creating and turn it into cash.

(Sir Albert Howard, An Agricultural Testament (1943), quoted by Joel Salatin in the Optimal Performance podcast)


Did you see the big non-news? That Muslims in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, are holding their breath because they’ve been told, by folk like the New York Times and Washington Post, to “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” about a Trump Presidency?

I cannot surpass the send-up GetReligion gave this feature story parading as news, so I won’t try.

So it’s not just our local TV station that blows trifles or contrivances out of proportion on slow news days!


There was a kerfuffle over the weekend as Reince Preibus, GOP Chief (or whatever they call that role) sent out a party Christmas greeting, including this:

Over two millennia ago, a new hope was born into the world, a Savior who would offer the promise of salvation to all mankind. Just as the three wise men did on that night, this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King.

I don’t really think that Preibus, an Orthodox Christian and political sophisticate, was anointing Donald Trump as King of America, but some took it that way. I thought the conservatives who took offense were probably offended at the audacity of the parallel, had Preibus intended a parallel, while liberals were trying to use a conservative value against any actual conservatives who might be supporting Trump.

Some of the reactions, gleaned from Rod Dreher:


— Daniel W. Drezner (@dandrezner) December 25, 2016

The distinction between a president and a king is not trivial

— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) December 25, 2016

But it wasn’t only liberals. Here’s a top Republican Party strategist:

Dear RNC: We don’t have a “new King.” What the hell is wrong with you people? #TwoPaths#Vigilance

— John Weaver (@JWGOP) December 25, 2016

Liberal writer James Fallows tries to save people from making fools of themselves:

@dandrezner The msg is tone-deaf but can be reconciled w std Christian theme. “Noel, noel, noel, noel: born is the King of Israel.”

— James Fallows (@JamesFallows) December 25, 2016

To no avail:

@SaukFish@JamesFallows@dandrezner Is there really any question that it (ambiguity) was intentional? See: dogwhistle. Also: subliminal.

— Jeff Young (@jientho) December 25, 2016

A reader of Rod Dreher supplies some interesting precedent from 8 years ago, right around this time of year, when Renee Fleming appeared on Prairie Home Companion and crooned to the tune of In the Deep Mid-Winter:

In the bleak midwinter
at the Christmas feast,
a family leaves Chicago
and travels to the East,
for a public mansion
in Washington, D.C.
in a time of trouble
and festivity.

All across the nation
sea to shining sea,
people watch the passage
of this family.
And the loving wishes
go out to them there,
all the nation breathes
a silent, hopeful prayer.

Guess it make all the difference in the world whose ox is getting gored which Christ figure is in the manger before which ox and ass bow.

* * * * *

“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.