Saturday, 9/10/22

Elizabeth Regina

There is not much use for me to try to explain my sense of loss at the death of Queen Elizabeth. Others have described reasons for such a sense better than I could.

I’ve been something of an Anglophile (is Britophile a word?) since discovering Lewis, and Tolkien, and the mystique of OxBridge. That was intensified when I arrived in London, for three weeks in the British Isles, in June 1968, after 3 weeks on the continent with languages I didn’t really speak (despite formal study of French and Spanish). It just felt like home to be among English-speakers again.

So these items probably won’t be my last on the topic.

Also: long live the King, two days my Junior, who nobody thought would wait 74 years for his coronation.

Sully plays my trump card, C.S. Lewis

You can make all sorts of solid arguments against a constitutional monarchy — but the point of monarchy is precisely that it is not the fruit of an argument. It is emphatically not an Enlightenment institution. It’s a primordial institution smuggled into a democratic system. It has nothing to do with merit and logic and everything to do with authority and mystery — two deeply human needs our modern world has trouble satisfying without danger.

The Crown satisfies those needs, which keeps other more malign alternatives at bay. No one has expressed this better than C.S. Lewis:

Where men are forbidden to honor a king, they honor millionaires, athletes, or film stars instead; even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.

The Crown represents something from the ancient past, a logically indefensible but emotionally salient symbol of something called a nation, something that gives its members meaning and happiness. However shitty the economy, or awful the prime minister, or ugly the discourse, the monarch is able to represent the nation all the time. In a living, breathing, mortal person.

The importance of this in a deeply polarized and ideological world, where fellow citizens have come to despise their opponents as enemies, is hard to measure.

Andrew Sullivan, An Icon, Not An Idol. The whole eulogistic first part of his blog this week is worth reading if it’s not paywalled. I’d rank it as the best I’ve seen so far.

Yet another perspective on Elizabeth Regina’s longevity

Born in 1926—the year A.A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh” was published, and two years before the invention of sliced bread—Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952 at age 25. Winston Churchill was then Prime Minister, and Britain controlled over 70 territories around the globe from Tonga to Uganda, the Bahamas to Brunei. But as early as 1953, the Queen foresaw a changing world. “The Commonwealth bears no resemblance to the empires of the past,” she said. Her successor, King Charles III, will control only 14 realms plus the U.K. The Queen oversaw historic transformation, even as she was the embodiment of tradition.

Noah Blum

A proper old growth sovereign

I was just preparing for [an] interview … when I got the news. I’m not expecting you to be a monarchist or even interested in the English royals, but you will understand the tremors when a proper old growth sovereign dies. In an already hugely uncertain moment, England shakes yet again.

Martin Shaw

Culture

How bad was the pandemic?

The coronavirus pandemic killed so many people that U.S. life expectancy fell from roughly 79 in 2019 to 76 in 2021—the largest two-year decline in nearly a century.

America Is a Rich Death Trap – The Atlantic

Where is the grass really greener?

Whatever the shortcomings are of a liberal democracy, you have to live with the shortcomings and not use them as a reason to grab the steering wheel and just go somewhere else. Because there is nowhere else which is as good. Nowhere else which is as humane ….

Tom Stoppard via Andrew Sullivan.

These are the kinds of words I need to hear sometimes, but it’s generally enough that I would not trust any of the postliberal/illiberal figures I know to hold the reins of power. And when schismatics or heretics propose a “Christian America,” I throw up in my mouth a little.

But we still have a lot of people who’ve been given a very bad deal in this globalized world, and we need to heed their complaints even if they propose intolerable solutions.

When they call you “racist,” they may just mean they’re clearly better than you

Oberlin College’s character assassination of a local bakery is a perfect analogy for how the new upper middle class language of social justice is deployed as class warfare.

Leighton Woodhouse via Noah Blum.

I literally heard a progressive clergyperson, a mere hours ago, say that a scheduled November 5 program celebrating (now posthumously) Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee would be offensive “to BIPOC people” because … empire, colonialism, whatever.

I got the message: she’s better than the rest of us for noting that.

Politics

Writing as politics

Nearly everyone today writes from a distinct partisan position. Some commentators write as allies of the Democratic Party, others as allies of the Republicans. Still others outflank the Democrats on the left or the Republicans on the right with an eye to dragging the parties further in those respective directions.

As a consequence, what we end up with is less writing about politics than writing as politics. Many pundits and columnists seem to be primarily concerned with advancing the prospects of one party, set of policies, or ideological agenda. Or put in properly contrary terms for our era of negative partisanship: They are primarily concerned with thwarting one party, set of policies, or ideological agenda.

Whichever way you put it, this makes these writers pro bono PR flacks for one or the other of the country’s primary political factions and its ancillary branches throughout the culture.

Damon Linker, who is not a PR flack.

Pat Buchanan as proto-Trump

Buchananism was never truly popular. Neither was Trumpism: With Trump, Republicans won power but not popularity — at least not a popularity they could translate into clear electoral majorities. The simple solution would be to return to Reaganism, to reconstruct that big, if still exclusionary, tent and win huge majorities. But recent efforts to recreate Reaganism and establish a more inclusive Republican Party, like George W. Bush’s appeals to compassionate conservatism and Mr. McCain’s insistence on immigration reform, met fierce opposition from the party’s base.

Nicole Hemmer, The Man Who Won the Republican Party Before Trump Did, an argument that the swing of the GOP to populism (which Hemmer considers as being to the right of Reaganism) can be traced to Patrick J. Buchanan. It’s pretty good, if occasionally off-key.

So much venom and no fangs

The Former, who has been trying for years to master the Churchillian scowl, is seriously humor-impaired. There are unemployed joke writers around but he never thought to hire one. He was a name-caller on a fourth-grade level (Lyin’ Ted, Crooked Hillary) or he slapped a LOSER sticker on someone’s back and let it go at that. So much venom and no fangs to make it work for him.

The Brits do insult so much better. So we should steal from them. “A shiver looking for a spine to run up” could be applied to Mitch McConnell just as well as to Edward Heath, the original target. “A sheep in sheep’s clothing” fits any number of people. “He eats used toilet tissue in the hope that he will someday get used to the taste” fits Kevin McCarthy perfectly. And “He is the only man I know who immatures as he ages” is the Former in twelve words. It’s a poke in the snoot that disarms even as it raises a welt.

Never been such times as these before, I swear | Garrison Keillor


[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

The Orthodox “phronema” [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced into shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

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