Drumpfengeworfenheit: The condition of finding oneself “thrown” into Donald Trump’s America.
He cared about words – or better put, he cared for people through words: his students, colleagues and readers. That was why he labored so hard to find the right ones. That was why – with that memorable sidelong glance – he paused so often in conversation. That is why he spent hours and hours revising and re-editing his essays and books. In all the years I knew Roger I can honestly say I never remember him using words carelessly. He knew that careless words could hurt, maim and wound. In a culture deluged with half-thought out words, sloppy, hollowed-out language, he saw it as his calling to hone words full of care for others, full of the winsome generosity of God. And in the corridors of the academy, few things are needed more today. We academics revel in large words – to impress, to intimidate. He inspired us to use words with largesse. And that is a legacy beyond measure.
— Jeremy Begbie. I know it is a stone-dead cliché, but I still can’t in any way truly believe that Roger is gone.
There’s a very unfortunate moment in Jason Horowitz’s account of the conflict between Pope Francis and the Knights of Malta:
Now, suddenly, [Francis] is more politically isolated. The election of President Trump and the rise of far-right populists in Europe have ushered in an angrier era — and emboldened traditionalists inside the Vatican who sense that the once-impregnable pope could be vulnerable.
This is, quite simply, an utterly unwarranted slur on Catholic traditionalists. It’s not Francis’s opponents who resemble the “far-right populists in Europe” and the rather less politically consistent populist in the White House — it’s Francis himself.
Like Donald Trump, Francis makes dramatic and apparently extreme pronouncements which send the world into interpretative tizzies. When he says things like “Who am I to judge?” Catholics who support him effectively say that he should be taken “seriously but not literally” — just as Trump supporters say about their man. Both men generate massive, thick fogs of uncertainty.
Like Donald Trump, Francis cuts through political complications by issuing executive orders and blunt power grabs, as when he dismissed the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta and is seeking to replace him with a “papal delegate” under his own personal control, a move of questionable legality.
Like Donald Trump, Francis is an authoritarian populist: he bypasses institutional structures and governs by executive order, but believes that there can be nothing tyrannical about this because he is acting in the name of the people and is committed to “draining the swamp” of his institution’s internal corruption.
Francis and Trump may not agree about much else, but they agree about how to govern. A few years ago David Lebedoff wrote a book in which he argued that for all their political and religious differences, George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh were in effect “the same man.” This is equally, and far more troublingly, true of Pope Francis and Donald Trump.
I look at them and I see us, sitting in that strangely-lit room with the Immigration and Naturalization Service officers who processed us and to whom, I’m sure, we were an abstraction, and who didn’t tell us that the way we transliterated our last name was stupid and that people would forever after think it began with lower-case L and not an upper-case I. But I think about that room and the refugee cards they filled out, cards we still have to this day, and what would have happened if we too had been turned back.
Where would we have gone? We were people without a home, without a country. We had been stripped of our Soviet citizenship, we had sold everything to pay the four steep fines for having four citizenships stripped from us, and we certainly didn’t have enough money left over for four plane tickets back, back to a country we no longer belonged to and wouldn’t have us. After all that paperwork and waiting, where would we go?
It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice. Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government. Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.
Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse. Gold is your God. Which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth? …
Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. You were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance. Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God’s help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do.
I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place. Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.
In the name of God, go!
— Oliver Cromwell, speech dissolving Parliament, 20 April 1653
Not content to expose [Eric Zemmour’s] exaggerations and fabrications, their instinct — a deep one on the French left since the days of the Popular Front — is to denounce anything someone on the right says, so as not to give comfort to the enemy. Their thinking is: if it is four o’clock, and Éric Zemmour says it is four o’clock, it is our duty to say it is three o’clock. Which guarantees that twice a day he will be able to look at his sympathizers and say, “You see what I mean?”
Christians have a word to describe the worship of that which is not God: idolatry. Idolatry, of course, can be a quite impressive form of devotion. The only difficulty is idolaters usually end up killing someone for calling into question their “god.”
Trump’s inauguration address counts as a stunning example of idolatry. His statement — “At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and through our loyalty to our country we will recover loyalty to each other” — is clearly a theological claim that offers a kind of salvation.
Christians believe that only God demands “total allegiance.” Otherwise we run the risk, as Trump exemplifies, of making an idol out of some human enterprise.
Doomsday Clock Moves Closer to Midnight, Signaling Concern Among Scientists – The New York Times. It moves! All by itself! (I wrote about this little piece of ridiculousness last year.)
UPDATE: Here’s another example:
The Doomsday Clock now reads two and a half minutes to midnight https://t.co/OOcF2snLmr
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) January 27, 2017
The way journalists try to get us to take this ridiculous ongoing superannuated publicity stunt seriously is by attributing agency to a wholly metaphorical clock: It moves closer to midnight; it now reads 2.5 minutes to midnight. As though it is operating in complete independence of human judgment and merely bears witness to the horrible truth. As I wrote last year, “no actual science goes into the decision of where to place the hands of the clock. The scientists who make the decision have no particular expertise in geopolitical strategy, military and political risk assessment, or even climatology (relevant since they incorporate climate change into their assessment). They just read a bunch of stuff and take their own emotional temperature.”
The Rio Grande at Big Bend National Park
Frankly, I’m glad Richard Spencer got punched in the face, and I hope that happens to people like him every. single. day.
Seriously? You’re okay with Americans using violence against their political opponents?
Absolutely not! But Spencer isn’t just a “political opponent,” he’s a guy spreading a message of hatred and exclusion.
But don’t you believe that freedom of speech should be allowed even for people who hold repulsive opinions?
The Constitution doesn’t protect hate speech!
Actually, it does.
Okay, fine. But even if such speech is Constitutionally protected, that doesn’t mean that we have to accept it. If we have to practice civil disobedience, as protestors did during the Civil Rights era, then we’ll do that and pay the legal price.
Well, the protestors who followed Dr. King practiced passive resistance. It was the followers of Malcolm X who pursued the “by any means necessary” strategy.
We need to think pretty seriously about what Malcolm had to say.
You realize, I hope, that many people, especially on the alt-right, will see acts like the punching of Spencer as justification for their taking the same kind of actions against people you like?
I don’t care what those freaks do.
Maybe you ought to care.
They would be totally unjustified in using violence against those of us who are just standing up for the rights of the marginalized. That ought to be obvious.
Okay. On a different topic, what do you think about Trump’s trade war? His push for protectionist laws and policies, like tariffs on foreign imports?
It’s absurd! Doesn’t he realize that if he does that those other nations will retaliate against us?
A comment on “the problem of Susan” and more particularly this post by Adam Roberts:
My thesis: None of the Pevensies goes through puberty in Narnia. Remember, while we are told that they “grow and change,” we don’t learn the specifics of that change — or, more tellingly, the ways in which they don’t change. It is perhaps the environment of a planet alien to the one on which they were born that afflicts them all with a rare acquired variant of Kallmann Syndrome. This is why none of them ever marries: though “all princes in those parts desire [Lucy] to be their Queen,” she refuses them because she knows that her condition makes her infertile, and knows that it is best for each of those princes to marry a woman who can bear him heirs. My thesis also explains why the Pevensies so unhesitatingly leave Narnia rulerless: they know that some plan for the succession has to be devised, but also that no Narnian (unacquainted as that land is with modern Terran medicine) would understand their condition or accept that it cannot be cured or remediated. In these circumstances, the responsibility for self-rule is the best gift they could give to their people. Otherwise their abandonment of Narnia would be inexcusable. It is only when they return to our world that they enter puberty for the first time — and puberty is something, I think you’ll agree, that no number of years ruling a country or fighting frost giants could possibly prepare one for.
Here you go:
So most likely when Trump refers to “the media” as the most dishonest people on the planet, he refers only to professional journalists. This is a contradiction in terms, because modern journalism is a profession predicated on conveying truth. Journalists’ currency is credibility. To quibble with a particular journalist’s motives is to quibble with their identity: Are they journalists? Or entertainers, ideologues, or advocates?
The goal in journalism is to be the best at identifying and conveying said truth. The entire concept of the profession is antithetical to lying. So it’s difficult to imagine objecting to the idea of journalism, in principle: To have people whose job is to act as dispassionate arbiters who discern truth. People who are fair, who are trustworthy, who do not slander, who are not beholden to any particular interest but seek transparency, to highlight injustice, and to hold people in power accountable.
— James Hamblin. I’ve never seen such a laboratory-pure case. To the charge that journalists care more about pursuing political ends than telling the truth, Hamblin replies that that’s not possible because journalists are intrinsically and necessarily people who care about telling the truth more than political ends. Quod est demonstrandum.
The black bloc guy got a moment he’ll treasure for life. Richard Spencer got an aching jaw, but he also got some more Twitter followers, his name in the paper, the chance to pose as a martyr for his cause. Click farmers got clicks. Facebook got shares. Teens got memes. And everybody, everybody drew their tribe a little closer around them. None of these different groups agreed on what it all meant, mind you, but because they don’t interact, it didn’t matter. Maybe this is a vision of that national unity centrists are always calling for, so maybe even they win out, too. Everybody got served.
In an unrelated note, the Trump administration demonstrated the continuity of our foreign policy yesterday by launching a drone attack in Yemen. Three people died.
Among other pleasing errours of young minds, is the opinion of their own importance. He that has not yet remarked, how little attention his contemporaries can spare from their own affairs, conceives all eyes turned upon himself, and imagines every one that approaches him to be an enemy or a follower, an admirer or a spy. He therefore considers his fame as involved in the event of every action. Many of the virtues and vices of youth proceed from this quick sense of reputation. This it is that gives firmness and constancy, fidelity, and disinterestedness, and it is this that kindles resentment for slight injuries, and dictates all the principles of sanguinary honour.
But as time brings him forward into the world, he soon discovers that he only shares fame or reproach with innumerable partners; that he is left unmarked in the obscurity of the crowd; and that what he does, whether good or bad, soon gives way to new objects of regard. He then easily sets himself free from the anxieties of reputation, and considers praise or censure as a transient breath, which, while he hears it, is passing away, without any lasting mischief or advantage.
In youth, it is common to measure right and wrong by the opinion of the world, and, in age, to act without any measure but interest, and to lose shame without substituting virtue.
Such is the condition of life, that something is always wanting to happiness. In youth, we have warm hopes, which are soon blasted by rashness and negligence, and great designs, which are defeated by inexperience. In age, we have knowledge and prudence without spirit to exert, or motives to prompt them; we are able to plan schemes and regulate measures, but have not time remaining to bring them to completion.