Today, I have deliberately avoided politics or focused commentary on particular current events — and that involved cutting maybe 60% of what I’d clipped. I may be old, but I haven’t given up doing better.
Wisdom from the Vietnam era:
For the Student Strikers
By Richard Wilbur
Go talk with those who are rumored to be unlike you,
And whom, it is said, you are so unlike.
Stand on the stoops of their houses and tell them why
You are out on strike.
It is not yet time for the rock, the bullet, the blunt
Slogan that fuddles the mind toward force.
Let the new sound in our streets be the patient sound
Of your discourse.
Doors will be shut in your faces, I do not doubt.
Yet here or there, it may be, there will start,
Much as the lights blink on in a block at evening,
Changes of heart.
They are your houses; the people are not unlike you;
Talk with them, then, and let it be done
Even for the grey wife of your nightmare sheriff
And the guardsman’s son.
Recommended by A.M. Juster, the pen name of Michael J. Astrue, a conservative who has served in high government roles in Washington, in a PBS interview. This poem, which I hadn’t read before, is a keeper.
That about sums it up, doesn’t it?
21st-century American political culture has become an ever-widening suckhole of cringe.
Asking the right question
Alan Jacobs suggests an introspective question for Christians who aspire to political power:
How must I be formed as a Christian in such a way that I can be worthy of the power and influence I desire?
The question comes in a context that makes the next sentence apt:
That the integralists and Christian nationalists I read don’t seem to be asking that question is, I think, cause for concern.
It should concern us all.
Part of Dubya’s charm in the 2000 election was (a) he seemed to have a real (if fairly shallow) love of Christ and (b) his demeanor conveyed that he could take or leave political power. They don’t make many like that.
You see, the thing about movies is that they’re usually ninety minutes or so long.
I misread the quoted portion as “You see, the thing about movies is that they’re usually ninety minutes too long” and agreed heartily. I’m also noticing all the padding in even very good nonfiction books, like 4000 Weeks. It’s hard enough to identify key parts when skimming that I have little choice but to go ahead and read the padding, resenting it even while understanding that what I’m reading might fail as “a book” if 75% of the pages were edited out.
What we can do
[W]e cannot literally believe or disbelieve things at will, but for better or for worse, we can willfully place ourselves in situations or courses of action that may produce change in our beliefs …
[I]t’s true that we can’t shut off unwanted feelings like a switch. It’s also true that the very effort of trying to suppress them can stir them up. Even so, our control over our inward life is much greater than we like to admit, just like our control over our beliefs.
J. Budziszewskizi, Can We Believe and Feel Things at Will?
I have taken this to heart yet again. The things I obsess about, the things I wallow in, require careful consideration.
This commentary was encountered as I was reading about current events, but it has a long, or nonexistent, sell-by date:
Fox News boosters, inside and outside of the network’s offices, like to describe this business model as “respecting the audience.” Defenders of Rush Limbaugh’s talk radio program used to say much the same about it — that all it was doing was tapping into an underserved audience and taking its concerns seriously. But that account is almost comically one-sided. Just as the capitalist economy doesn’t simply give people what they already wanted but actively creates new desires and shapes consumer tastes, so right-wing media doesn’t just respect the pre-existing views of its audience. It also actively intensifies and radicalizes those views by flattering the prejudices that underlie them and providing an endless stream of provocations designed to confirm their validity.
That’s how the model works: Ratings rise and profits increase by giving viewers more red meat than they knew they wanted — a process that, over time, moves the Overton Window among American conservatives ever further to the right. Fox News is a machine for generating ideological extremism, in other words ….