Potpourri, 8/21/18

 

1

“Scared stiff,” “weak,” not a “real attorney general”? He has been called worse in his time. It would seem to be the case that he has intuited something that most of his colleagues — to say nothing of the American people — have not: namely, that it is sometimes, indeed frequently, a good idea not to take the president seriously.

Sessions is the most devoted of our emperor’s servants precisely because he has nothing in common with the rest of them. He is neither a scheming amoral hanger-on like so many members of this administration, current and former, or a stolidly disinterested public servant like James Mattis, the defense secretary whom one could imagine resigning in the face of serious policy disagreements — to say nothing of insults to his personal honor along the lines of those to which Sessions has been repeatedly subjected. The attorney general is a true believer.

As long as he is at liberty to wage a renewed drug war and implement the schemes for restricting immigration of which he and his former deputy Stephen Miller have so long dreamed, Sessions will remain in this White House, brushing the dirt from his shoulders without so much as a smirk.

Matthew Walther on Jeff Sessions.

I’m reflexively suspicious of Sessions because, unlike with Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, Harrison Scott Key and other southern writers, I can actually hear his drawl, and it triggers my own micro-version of PTSD from my discordant sojourn of three semesters in a third-tier southern Christianish educational institution (which I was invited to leave for the sin of being an “out” conscientious objector in the Vietnam era — an invitation that made too much sense to refuse).

But there is something about stoic Sessions, starting with his trail-blazingly early support of Trump, that sets him apart from both (a) the cynical climbers and (b) the kenotic, clenched-teeth-reluctant patriots in the Trump White House.

2

Before I talk about the ways in which the closet may have contributed to a culture of cover-up and abuse, let me say that most talk of “root causes” is premature and comes across as using other people’s rape as a weapon in a culture war.

This is the only part of Eve Tushet’s column, A Closeted Subculture, with which I’m pretty sure I disagree, almost vehemently. There have been plenty of people thinking about this abuse scandal for at least 16 years, since the “long lent,” and complaining that the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church refused to identify the pervasive (not universal) homosexual nexus in abuse cases.

“Please, God! Not another study!”, I can hear faithful Catholics saying if they’ve not had blinders on since 2002 — but yet another study (or other stalling tactic) is the eventuality of the position that it’s premature to identify “root causes.”

More from Tushnet::

There are three basic roles I suspect the closet plays in parts of our Church. First, where people greatly fear being considered gay, it will be especially hard for boys or men to report sexual assault and coercion. Regardless of whether or not they’re gay themselves, they will fear that they’ll be told they were responsible for their abuse or welcomed it, and they will fear (for example) being made to leave the seminary or being outed to their family. Similarly, even if you weren’t assaulted yourself, if an abuser knows you’re gay then he has a secret to hold over your head, which you may fear that he’ll reveal if you report his abuse (or your suspicions of him).

Second, young people struggling with their sexuality are especially vulnerable where being gay is especially stigmatized. They may confide in an older man, perhaps someone who has cultivated their trust because he senses their vulnerability. He may even have shared his own secret homosexuality with them, precisely in order to win their trust; which he will then go on to abuse. His secret creates a powerful bond between them, even a sense that the victim has a responsibility to protect the abuser. Secrets can create a false intimacy, an environment in which manipulation is especially easy.

And third, the fear and secrecy of the closet distort people’s self-understandings, their ability to surrender their lives to Christ, and therefore their ability to regulate their behavior. What you can’t even admit to yourself, you can’t surrender to God: This may be part of what’s going on with men who rail against gay people, while they themselves were abusing men for sex ….

There’s quite a lot more there. Tushnet’s bottom line is that celibate gay men who are healthy enough to come out of the closet, and who will affirm and teach all that the Church itself teaches, should be ordained, and that gay priest bans will fail spectacularly. It’s an argument I had intuited but hesitated to spell out because (obligatory caveat) it’s not my Church; I’m just affected by its woes as are all Christians in the West.

Overall, I think Tushnet — a lesbian convert to Catholicism from atheism, a celibate, and a recovering alcoholic — can see more clearly than Andrew Sullivan, a gay Catholic in a same-sex marriage, whose disobedience of the Church regarding chastity seems to have clouded his vision.

I especially appreciate Tushnet articulating those three ill-effects of the closet, which merit a bit more reflection, really, than I’ve given so far.

3

Jasmyn Fleik, 27, of the Madison LGBTQ Dogma Defense Alliance, rejected the bishop’s claim that homosexual priests were the problem.

“Just because 80 percent of the victims of clerical sex abuse are boys, and just because most of the abusing priests were known to be sexually active gay men, that doesn’t at all mean homosexuality has anything to do with this crisis!” Fleik insisted, to coughs and rolling of eyes from bystanders.

“I mean, like, use your brain for once,” she added.

Eric Mader at Clay Testament, mixing fact with fact (mainstream media’s disinterest, presumably because of people like the presumably fictitious Ms. Fleik).

4

Jerry Falwell Jr. is becoming a self-parody again. See Jay Cost, a little vignette about him from Matthew Walther in the middle of a piece about Jeff Sessions, and World magazine’s story about his university’s journalism department and school newspaper.

There ought to be a parable about the perils of sycophancy over Trump.

Oh, wait! There is: “Lie down with dogs, rise up with fleas.”

(The Jerry Fallwells, too, trigger my micro-PTSD.)

5

[Dear Tipsy],

Across North America, cities and towns are betting big on megaprojects like stadiums and shopping malls, in hopes that just one more big win will put their city back in the black.

It’s pretty tempting, right? One last gamble, then you’re out. One more risk, and you’ll be set for life (or at least until the next election cycle).

The only problem with this thinking? Cities who do it haven’t asked themselves what it really means for a city to win.

Today, my colleague Chuck Marohn is proposing something that shouldn’t be radical, but very much is: the only way that cities can “win” for their citizens is to stop putting them at enormous risk of losing it all.

That doesn’t mean risking nothing, of course. It doesn’t even mean we can’t be brave.

It means the opposite: having the courage to stand up to a dominant culture that’s bankrupting our towns and making our communities worse places to live. And having the courage to stand up for something so much better.

How will you help?

-Kea and the rest of the Strong Towns Team

Email August 20 from the estimable Small Towns, referring to this article.

Not all corporate welfare comes from the Feds. Cities, Counties and States give away billions annually, bidding for the attention of corporations that will bully them further (“you need to pass this kind of law; you need to repeal that kind of law”) in the process.

“How will you help?” Well, I scanned my check register and found that I have not given commensurate to Small Towns’ growth and influenceit has been three years since I gave even a pittance.

Time flies. Secure websites can cure such an oversight almost instantly.

6

The Agenda That Dare Not Speak Its Name

MATTHEW CONTINETTI

The reason Democrats seek power in 2018 is to obstruct President Trump wholly and without exception, to tie down his administration using the subpoena powers of a dozen committees, and ultimately to lay the groundwork for his impeachment.

It’s tempting to say “Yeah? You got a problem with that?”

* * * * *

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.