Let’s start with something nice.
Peter Wehner recounts an anecdote from a 1985 gathering of the South African National Initiative for Reconciliation, where the Dutch Reformed were guardedly present:
Bishop [Desmond] Tutu was one of the last people to speak; as he was preparing to do so, the leaders of the Dutch Reformed Church were uneasy, visibly stiffening. Tutu addressed his remarks directly to them.
“I just want to thank God that he brought you, my white brothers, here to South Africa,” the Anglican bishop told the Dutch Reformed Church leaders, as best Haugen recalls his words decades later. “I thank God that you came because you brought the mission hospitals, and I was born in a mission hospital. I thank God you brought the mission schools, and I went to a mission school. But most of all, my brothers, I thank God that he brought you because you brought the word of God. But now I’m going to have to open up that word of God and show you why your apartheid system is a sin.”
Tutu proceeded to do just that.
Causation isn’t always obvious in human affairs, but according to Wehner “The following year, the Dutch Reformed Church declared that South Africa’s system of racial separation and minority white rule was morally wrong and had done the country and its people grievous harm.”
My recollection is that they declared it a heresy, which meant a lot to me since I was then a member of the Christian Reformed Church, historically Dutch and quite thoroughly “adjacent” to South Africa’s Dutch Reformed in many ways, and its defense of apartheid was an embarrassment — embarrassing like the Russian Orthodox Patriarch blessing the invasion of Ukraine.
What pluralism is and isn’t
Pluralism is an irreducible, sociological fact of American life. It is not a set of norms that requires perfect neutrality in public spaces; instead, it creates parameters around what’s politically possible amid profoundly diverse views about first principles.
Elayne Allen, Sensible Politics Can’t Ignore Religion.
That may be a sleeper. You might want to read it again.
Harder questions for The Man Who Would Be King
What the TV professionals should learn is that they have two choices in dealing with another Trump primary campaign. They can take the kind of this-is-an-emergency path urged on them by some press critics and anti-Trump writers: Don’t platform him or normalize his campaign in any way, don’t let him speak on live TV, cover him only within a set framework that constantly emphasizes his authoritarian tendencies and attempts to overturn the last election. I don’t believe this path is wise or workable, but it at least has a moral consistency lacking in the “democracy is in danger and tune in tonight for an hour with the demagogue!” approach that we already watched play out in 2016.
Alternatively, if the press intends to conduct interviews and run debates as normal, then in preparing for them they need to try to think a little bit more like Republican voters as opposed to center-left journalists. Not in the sense of behaving slavishly toward the former president, but in the sense of writing the kinds of questions that a right-leaning American primed to dislike the media might actually find illuminating.
In part, as Ramesh Ponnuru suggests, that means drilling into Trump’s presidential record on conservative terms rather than liberal ones — asking about, for instance, the failure to complete the border wall or the surge in crime in the last year of his administration. In part, as Erick Erickson writes, it means asking obvious questions that follow from his stolen-election narrative rather than just attacking it head-on — as in, if the Democrats really stole the election, why did your administration, your chosen attorney general and your appointed judges basically just let them do it?
Ross Douthat, Trump’s Lesson for the Media and Ron DeSantis
Sounds about right
Special Counsel John Durham—appointed during former President Donald Trump’s administration—issued a 306-page report criticizing the FBI’s investigation into allegations linking the Trump campaign and Russia ahead of the 2016 election. Durham found the collusion probe was opened based on “raw, unanalyzed, and uncorroborated intelligence” and that investigators placed too much stock in supposed evidence provided by Trump’s political rivals. The report also alleges the FBI was far more hesitant to investigate claims Hillary Clinton’s campaign had similar foreign ties. GOP Rep. Jim Jordan—chair of the House Judiciary Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government—said yesterday he’d invited Durham to testify next week.
Via The Morning Dispatch for 5/16/23
Once again, I’m in the position of holding two truths in tension:
- The Media, the FBI, and who knows who all else, will do just about anything, including dirty, sleazy tricks, to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.
- Donald Trump nevertheless is deeply unqualified for the Presidency of this troubled nation-state I live in.
The Biden Family Grift
“I don’t see any direct evidence of misconduct in the memo or reports about it,” Ken White, a criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor who worked on government fraud and public corruption, told TMD. “When it rises to the level of an official doing things because of payments to a family member, or paying money with the specific intent to change an official’s decision, that’s illegal. But hiring a public official’s idiot brother-in-law for your board of directors generally isn’t.”
“There’s a vast amount of activity that’s sleazy but legal in American politics,” White told TMD. “It’s reasonable to make inquiries about why a vice president’s relatives are getting big payments from foreign countries. But so far it’s smoke, not fire.”
The House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees released a joint staff report last week claiming a letter signed by former intelligence officials during the 2020 election discounting the legitimacy of the infamous Hunter Biden laptop was coordinated with the Biden campaign and exploited the national security credentials of former officials.
Via The Morning Dispatch for 5/16/23
Point Well Made
President Biden says he will not negotiate with congressional Republicans over a bill to increase the debt ceiling. This is preposterous and indefensible, for several reasons: For one thing, taxing, spending, and borrowing are inherently congressional powers, not presidential powers. For another thing, Joe Biden is president—not king. The idea that a president would refuse to negotiate with Congress over congressional action is nonsensical from a constitutional point of view and autocratic from a political point of view. Congress is not there to do the president’s bidding—if anything, it is the other way around: The president is charged with the faithful execution of the laws Congress passes, not with barking orders at the branch of government that is actually charged by the Constitution with responsibility for this issue.
Kevin D. Williamson, Emperor Malarkey I.
I’m pleased to report that Biden was lying/bluffing/bloviating and is indeed talking with congressional Republicans — talks that cynics might even call “negotiations.”
Michelle Goldberg, who I don’t usually read, caught my attention with this one:
A major question for Republicans in 2024 is whether this militant version of Christian nationalism — one often rooted in Pentecostalism, with its emphasis on prophecy and revelation — can overcome the qualms of more mainstream evangelicals. The issue isn’t whether the next Republican presidential candidate is going to be a Christian nationalist, meaning someone who rejects the separation of church and state and treats Christianity as the foundation of American identity and law. That’s a foregone conclusion in a party whose state lawmakers are falling over themselves to pass book bans, abortion prohibitions, anti-trans laws, and, in Texas, bills authorizing school prayer and the posting of the Ten Commandments in classrooms.
What’s not yet clear, though, is what sort of Christian nationalism will prevail: the elite, doctrinaire variety of candidates like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, or the violently messianic version embodied by Flynn and Trump.
If DeSantis treats Christianity as a moral code he’d like to impose on the rest of us, Trump treats it as an elevated status that should come with special perks. That’s how he can slam DeSantis for being “sanctimonious” even as he wraps his own campaign in biblical raiment. If a Republican wins in 2024, the victor will preside over a Christian nationalist administration. The question is whether that person will champion an orthodoxy or a cult.
What a hell of a state we’re in when Donald Trump, with zero Christian bona fides, is considered the avatar of one variety of “Christian Nationalism.” And while I question the use of “Christian Nationalism” to describe MAGAworld, he’s definitely the avatar of something that thinks it’s Christian. So too may be DeSantis, this time with some bona fides.
It’s shaping up once again that I’ll be unable to vote in good conscience for either major party candidate next fall.
How much menace can we be required to tolerate?
Today, Kat Rosenfeld of UnHerd gained the coveted status of “Writers the Tipsy Teetotaler intends henceforth to pay closer attention to.”
Her topic is the subway death of Jordan Neely at the hands of Daniel Penny with the approbation of some other passengers. It’s so rich that I commend the whole essay to you at UnHerd though it was reprinted at Bari Weiss’s Free Press behind a paywall:
During the 2017 peak of the #MeToo movement, the conversation about sexual harassment came down to two related but ultimately separate questions. On the one hand, there was the question of what men shouldn’t do; on the other, there was the question of what women could be expected to tolerate.
For [Jordan Neeliy] to die on the dirty floor of a subway car, screaming and defecating on himself while three strangers held him by the arms, legs, and neck, he had to be first failed at every turn by a system that was supposed to shelter and protect him — not just from doing harm, but from being harmed by others when his mental illness manifested in frightening ways.
Here, one might have expected that many of the same voices who argued so vehemently against the notion of resilience in the midst of MeToo … would now demand zero tolerance for male aggression on public transit …
But, no: instead, many of the people who once insisted that men who slid into DMs deserved the complete destruction of their professional reputations became passionate advocates for toughening up when it came to dealing with volatile people on public transit.
To sum up: a man who reposts an off-colour joke is advertising his innate misogyny, to the point where women should feel uncomfortable sharing a workplace with him. But an agitated and clearly unstable man announcing to a crowded subway car — as Neely reportedly did — that he’s been pushed to the brink and is ready to die, or go to prison for life: why in the world would you find that menacing?
Of course, today’s 180-degree pivot to brash fearlessness is identitarian horse-trading: MeToo is out, BLM is in. The dynamics of any conflict must be considered along these lines, and the narrative must be massaged accordingly. This was true in 2020 when a white woman called the police on a black man who threatened her in a public park; it is true now, as piety demands that the behaviour of the black, homeless victim of this terrible tragedy must not be scrutinised in any way. On the Left, that is; the Right has spent the past few days waving Neely’s criminal history in the air, singing “He Had It Coming”, in an absolute spectacle of ghoulishness.
That mindset, so ubiquitous in the wake of MeToo, so popular among progressives in general, says that no breach of decorum or moment of discomfort is too insignificant to ignore. It must be registered. It must be punished. It’s nothing more or less than a call for constant vigilance. The thing about that: when you demand vigilance, you get vigilantes.
One cavil: Maybe Rosenfeld has been frequenting further-Right sites than I do, but “singing ‘He Had It Coming’, in an absolute spectacle of ghoulishness” strikes me, for once, as hyperbolic bothsiderism.
There definitely is a reflex to defend Daniel Penny, but the Right-coded commentary I’ve seen appreciates that Jordan Neely was non compos mentos and didn’t “deserve” to die. Were it clear that Daniel Penny intended his death, a lot of his support would disappear.
Meanwhile, I’m at least glad that there’s a generous legal defense fund for Penny — some of it probably ill-motivated, but the shade of green is the same regardless of motive — so he can mount a proper fight against dubious criminal charges.
North Carolina state lawmakers voted Tuesday to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a bill that prohibits most abortions after 12 weeks of gestation, with exceptions for rape and incest (up to 20 weeks of gestation), “life-limiting anomalies” (up to 24 weeks), and life of the mother (no limit). The bill also appropriates money for child and foster care programs, contraception, and paid parental leave for teachers and government employees. North Carolina’s Republican lawmakers have pitched the legislation as a model for states around the country.
I said previously that Governor Cooper’s veto should brand him as an absolutist and his party’s position on abortion as extreme.
I know I am well out of the mainstream, but this Bill strikes me as being about where the country is likely to end up on average, for the foreseeable future, with a few solid blue states echoing Gov. Cooper’s absolutism in favor of any and all abortions.
And if accepting that reality offends you, I commend The Truth of Sensible Politics at The Public Discourse.
A Cold Splash of Reality
A few years before his death in 1972, [C.] Day Lewis was made Poet Laureate of the UK—which is generally a mixed blessing of an honor, tending to mean that the poet in question has their best work behind them and now must try to summon the muses to celebrate the wedding of someone sixth in line to the throne.
Things Worth Remembering: A Poem for Parents | The Free Press
Fun fact 1: C. Day Lewis was father of Daniel Day Lewis.
Fun fact 2: Although I recognize the name as that of an actor, I probably could not pick Daniel Day Lewis out of a police lineup of famous middle-age, caucasian (whatever that means), dark-haired actors. I’m just not a movie groupie.
Embrace of Vigilantism
Jamelle Bouie, who I probably should watch more closely, echoes my distress over the Right-wing valorization of white males who arguably acted as vigilantes. (The Republican Embrace of Vigilantism Is No Accident).
He might have mentioned Left-wing valorization of the victims, who generally were not without fault in the lethal incidents, but if I’m going to complain about bothsiderism, I shouldn’t fault writers who don’t practice it — even if it’s because they see no enemies or toxic extremists on their side of the spectrum.
Companion Piece: Recommended: Firearms Classes Taught Me, and America, a Very Dangerous Lesson
Companion Piece to the Companion Piece: B. D. McClay, Phenomenology of the Gun (Recommended by an acquaintance on micro.blog)
The Good Life
Despite sociological evidence to the contrary, it remains to all appearances virtually axiomatic that the acquisition of consumer goods is the presumptive means to human happiness-and the more and better the goods, the better one’s life and the happier one will be.
Brad Gregory, The Unintended Reformation
More, from elsewhere:
Let’s just say you’d better have great discipline and a very rich interior life if you expect to be happy amid great affluence.
If this is true of individuals, that money doesn’t buy happiness, why can’t it be true of a whole society? Perhaps we can sum it up thusly: What does it profit a man to gain the world yet lose his soul? If America has gained the world but lost its soul, we should be anxious indeed.
Jon D. Schaff, Are Americans Better Off?
Ultimately, the education system should commit to spending at least as much on a fifteen-year-old whose next seven years will be spent in a combination of school, apprenticeship, and employment as it spends on one headed to a four-year public university.
Oren Cass, The Once and Future Worker
In the footer of each blog post, I mention my presence on micro.blog and blot.im for shorter items or outbursts, respectively. Now Alan Jacobs has written a neat summary of micro.blog, the three paths of micro.blog.
For all its piety and fervor, today’s United States needs to be recognized for what it really is: not a Christian country, but a nation of heretics.
Ross Douthat, Bad Religion
We are in the grip of a grim, despairing rebellion against reality that imagines itself to be the engine of moral progress.
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.