Mélange 7/8/17

  1. Ten years and a day
  2. The State Street mess
  3. Trump off-script
  4. Peter Beinart unmasked

1

Ten years ago Friday, Pope Benedict XVI “issued a document that vindicated the arguments … repeated in safe company for years: that the Latin Mass that was common to almost all of Western Catholicism for centuries was never abrogated.”

It is so difficult to explain to young Catholics the fugitive feeling of attending a Traditional Latin Mass before the seventh day of the seventh month of the seventh year in this millennium. I had been doing so for just five years. Latin Mass communities were detested by bishops and cardinals, most of whom believed it was their life’s mission to modernize a defective Church. It also marked one out for scorn from most who considered themselves conservative Catholics. They called us disobedient schismatics. We often deplored them in return for the personality cult they built around the papacy of John Paul II. (In truth, our side of this dispute did and still does have cranks in its ranks.)

These years shaped in me a deep distrust of ecclesiastical persons in the Church. I made a study of periods of apostasy in the Church and kept reminding myself of the words of St. John Chrysostom that “the road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.” The child-abuse scandal didn’t surprise traditionalists. In some ways, we thought it proved our point about the depth of corruption in the Church. It was obvious to Traditionalists that, in many dioceses, it was better for a priest to rape children or carry on an active sex life with other adults than to say the Latin Mass for people like us, “the crazies.” …

The new rite of the Mass was almost instinctively detested by real literary giants, who saw it as a banal substitute for a ritual whose words and forms had been shaped by the great ages of faith.

Simon Tolkien recalled his grandfather’s displeasure with modern “worship” in the Catholic Church: “I vividly remember going to church with him [J.R.R.] in Bournemouth. He was a devout Roman Catholic and it was soon after the Church had changed the liturgy from Latin to English. My grandfather obviously didn’t agree with this and made all the responses very loudly in Latin while the rest of the congregation answered in English. I found the whole experience quite excruciating, but my grandfather was oblivious.”

(Michael Brendan Dougherty)

2

In my fair city, the shortest distance between two points is under construction. The most radical discontinuity is State Street near the Purdue campus.

Radio station WBAA gave the best — and most sympatico — explanation I can recall of what they’re trying to accomplish.

“One-way streets make cities pass-throughs when they really should be destinations,” he says.

Standing on the corner of State Street – or what’s left of it – and Grant Street, which recently became two-way as part of the project, Carlson explains that the one-way pattern is a relic of suburbanization.

These days, he says, streets are about more than just moving cars quickly – they’re about bikes, people and commerce.

Carlson says West Lafayette’s narrower, two-way State Street will also have a lower speed limit.

“You want to stay there, you want to do business there – go buy something from a shop, have a drink on the sidewalk, enjoy your surroundings,” he says. “One-way streets don’t allow you to do that, by and large.”

I’m largely unmoved by grand generalities like “beautiful gateway to the city.” But converting one-way to two-way, narrowing and slowing the traffic to make businesses along the street more attractive to patronize — now that’s the sort of rationale a Strong Town fan understands and can heartily respect.

3

I reserve my right to criticize both Donald Trump and his unhinged critics.

It is not merely an “occasional ad hominem” for a president to employ the tremendous power of his office to target individual American citizens who oppose him. It is an abuse of power.

It is not merely “uncouth” for a president to tolerate, even to hint support for, violence against political opponents (“I’d like to punch him in the face”). It creates an atmosphere of intimidation.

It is not merely “exaggeration” for a president to issue a series of eye-stretching lies, including that his predecessor spied on him and that a popular-vote victory was denied to him by widespread electoral fraud. It indicates either a deep cynicism or a tenuous connection to reality.

It is not being “coarse” for a president to engage in consistent misogyny. It is a sign of a disturbing and deep-seated dehumanization of women.

Many conservatives would respond to this critique by saying, “At least he fights!” The question is: For what? Trump evinces no strong or consistent policy views. He fights for himself — for admiration and adulation — which is the only cause his extreme narcissism allows.

[R]esponsible officials in the executive branch — particularly at the State, Defense and Justice departments and in the various intelligence services — may also need to provide an internal check on foolish, precipitous orders. The option here is to refuse, to defy, to resign (or be fired) and then to publicly provide the reasons.

No one really knows how to deal with this situation, which still feels more like an unnerving political novel than our political reality.

(Michael Gerson)

4

Noah Millman reads between Peter Beinart’s lines (see here, too):

[H]e wants to let the alt-right define Western Civilization:

The West is not a geographic term. Poland is further east than Morocco. France is further east than Haiti. Australia is further east than Egypt. Yet Poland, France, and Australia are all considered part of “The West.” Morocco, Haiti, and Egypt are not.

The West is not an ideological or economic term either. India is the world’s largest democracy. Japan is among its most economically advanced nations. No one considers them part of the West.

The West is a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white. Where there is ambiguity about a country’s “Westernness,” it’s because there is ambiguity about, or tension between, these two characteristics. Is Latin America Western? Maybe. Most of its people are Christian, but by U.S. standards, they’re not clearly white. Are Albania and Bosnia Western? Maybe. By American standards, their people are white. But they are also mostly Muslim.

Ok, then! So, India has a civilization. Japan has a civilization. China has a civilization. And inasmuch as the West has a civilization, it can only be defined in racial and religious terms.

There are really only three ways to take this that I can think of:

  • Either the folks on the alt-right are correct, and our civilization can only be preserved if we preserve white Christian dominance. I am pretty sure that Beinart doesn’t mean this, but if I agreed with them myself it would be pretty easy to point to Beinart’s piece and say: see? Even Peter Beinart thinks we are right.
  • Or having a distinct “civilization” is something that the West has transcended, unlike the lesser breeds in China and Egypt who still cling to their particularism, though hopefully one day they will join us in the sunny progressive uplands in their own good time. I rather suspect Beinart does believe something like this, though I am using deliberately inflammatory language to characterize what those beliefs imply.
  • Or the West has a uniquely odious civilization that must be repudiated to avoid the taint of racism. I don’t actually think Beinart thinks this at all, but I understand why someone like Rod Dreher might take his language to mean he does.

Really, can you think of another alternative?

* * * * *

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

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