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May 2016

Nicholas Kristoff on the Liberal Blind Spot

I'm really glad to hear this from a liberal. I've been saying for years (as you know if you read this blog regularly), that liberals in general are now engaged in the grossest sort of bigotry toward conservatives, and I often think I ought to Just Get Over It, since it doesn't seem likely to change. But it still drives me crazy, because they still congratulate themselves on their open-mindedness, and just don't see the contradiction. Kristof says:

As I see it, we are hypocritical: We welcome people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.

It’s rare for a column to inspire widespread agreement, but that one led to a consensus: Almost every liberal agreed that I was dead wrong.

And that reminds me: one old-time liberal for whom I have great regard is Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone. Somehow or other a few days ago I ran across this very interesting commentary on his life and work in The New Atlantis. Yes, The Twilight Zone was preachy, but in a more healthy and thoughtful way than most current liberal preaching.

Oh, and speaking of that: last night I watched a sci-fi film called Elysium, which is about as heavy-handed in its political preaching as you can get. The premise is that in the year 2154 rich evil white people have abandoned the earth that they've plundered and almost destroyed, moving to an enormous space station where they live in comfort and pleasure. The earth is left to noble brown people who live in desperate poverty and are trying to get to the space station, Elysium.

To say that it's an anti-anti-illegal-immigration message film doesn't really do justice to its heavy-handedness. Apart from that, it's a fairly dumb action movie. Usually I can get interested in that sort of thing at least to the extent of wanting to find out what happens, but either I've become jaded or this one was especially dumb. Looking online for reviews afterward, I was surprised to find that it got positive notices from respectable reviewers like Roger Ebert. Anyway, I dis-recommend it. Maybe the only very remarkable thing about it is its stereotyping of white people as evil, really really evil. As I was saying....


Evil White Person played by Jodie Foster plans evil deed.

Amusingly, though, the hero is still a white guy, maybe only because Matt Damon's presence probably guarantees a certain level of ticket sales.

"Dogmas" or "dogmata"?

Which would you use as the plural of "dogma" when writing in a fairly formal context? The first strikes my ear as slightly off, the second as a little pedantic and even maybe pompous to some ears. By "fairly formal context" I mean something meant for the literate general reader, less formal than the academic but more so than correspondence or a blog post.

Corpus Christi

Many years ago I read a statement by Padre Pio that said something along the lines of "It would be easier for the world to exist without the sun and the moon than without the Holy Eucharist." I thought that was hyperbole in the service of a point. But in the past year or two I've begun to think it may be true, not about the physical planet on which we live, but about the human world. This is a variation on the oft-made observation that a post-Christian society is a much sicker thing than a pre-Christian one. The entry of Christ into the world has changed it forever, re-oriented the world around him, even the world that is indifferent to him, and extending by spiritual influence to those parts of it that have never known him. The withdrawal of that presence now might have the effect of destroying essential supports in a large and complex structure.

52 Movies: Week 21 - Molokai


This 1999 Belgian movie about St. Damien of Molokai has some big names in the cast: Peter O'Toole, Leo McKern, Derek Jacobi, Kate Ceberano, Kris Kristofferson, Sam Neill and of course, Faramir (aka David Wenham).


I haven't seen the movie in a while, so I just looked at the trailer.


That alone has the power to bring me to tears, although maybe it wouldn't if I hadn't already seen the movie.

The music by Wim Mertens is lovely. The director was Paul Cox and I think his work on this was very good. This movie is a truly great story and a wonderful piece of art, I think.

A brief interview of David Wenham gives a few interesting details.

I first saw this with a group of friends in Canberra, in 1999 or maybe 2000. It's one of my favourite movies. I love the relationship that is portrayed between Bishop Maigret (McKern) and St. Damien. The conflict between Father Leonor Fouesnel (Jacobi) and St. Damien is all too plausible. No good thing in this life can be done, it seems, without a great deal of conflict and strife!

It would take a fool to come here at all.
—Rudolph Meyer (Kristofferson)

After his first night on the Island, St. Damien is shown giving the old run-down Church a quick cleanup and he begins Mass, with a few of the lepers in attendance.

He then rescues a couple of young women from “the Madhouse” where the people get drunk and so on, saying to them that the building will be turned into a dormitory for the sick and elderly. One of the women says, “Let us live while we can! Nobody cares.” St. Damien replies, “Yes, well I care. And God cares. And this is not the way to live.”


There were so many very moving scenes in this, not least of which was the scene of St. Damien making his confession across the water to the bishop. Wenham did such a great job in this movie, it always felt to me as though I were really seeing St. Damien himself, and that's why I think it's so powerful. But really, everything about it is wonderful, including the writing. There is so much suffering portrayed and yet so much love and beauty.

Quotable quotes:

Rudolph Meyer: From now on, only God can help you.
Father Damien: Yes, I often count on him.

Rudolph Meyer: Oh, Damien, look at all this I've brought you. More than I ever got out of the government.
Father Damien: I have a bishop with a conscience.

Rudolph Meyer: I'm a good Lutheran, I've got no faith in bishops. What are you doing?
Father Damien: I am making a windbreak. We have winds in Belgium too.

Rudolph Meyer: They picked the worst hole in Hawaii. Because of that valley you never see the sun rise and you never see it set. If they were putting away murderers they couldn't have thought of a better place.

Rudolph Meyer: You're a good man, Damien. But you had better learn to bend. Like those trees. The ones that don't bend break. 


Father Damien: [fixing William's hut] There. That should be more comfortable.
William Williamson: All this work for a Protestant? You might go to hell.
Father Damien: I would rather that you took the sacraments, but I don't like you sleeping like this within my sight.
William Williamson: I suppose it would be easier for you if I just died?
Father Damien: Oh, you can't die until I convert you.
William Williamson: Do you honestly believe only Catholics go to heaven?
Father Damien: I'm not absolutely certain, but I know that Catholics *can* go to heaven.


If only there were more works of art like this, and more people like St. Damien! 


I don't really know what else to say, except to borrow from Peter Hitchens, watching this movie will almost certainly make us better people.

—Louise is an Australian homeschooling mother of six, currently living in Texas.

Can't Wait To Watch This One

I'm trying to watch all the Bergman films that I haven't previously seen and that are available on Netflix. Since I've seen most of the well-known ones, this includes some early and obscure ones. Here's the description of Thirst from the Netflix envelope:

Unhappily married couple Rut and Bertil take a train trip across war-torn Germany--a landscape reminiscent of their disintegrating relationship.... Between bouts of bickering, each reminisces about past lovers: Viola, whose affairs with a psychologist and a lesbian dancer lead to tragedy, and Raoul, whose liaison with Rut ends with an abortion.


What Is Actually Happening, May 23, 2016

The bizarre frenzy to grant access to women's bathrooms to men who say they are really women continues. These two graphics, posted by liberals on Facebook, demonstrate the two-pronged attack. First there is the insistence that the whole matter is really not very significant, and is only made to seem so by hysterical conservative "transphobic" blah blah bigoted blah blah intolerant etc etc.


Of course that has nothing to do with the present controversy; no one is raising an outcry against the possibility of passing a transvestite on the street. But no doubt any rhetorical tactic that will make your enemies seem ridiculous is helpful.

On the other hand, there's the assertion that this is a moral crusade not just similar but identical to the struggles against slavery and racial segregation, resistance to which must be crushed.


That is the chief law enforcement officer of a government which possesses an almost inconceivable amount of armed might and an effectively unlimited budget for lawyers, not to mention a certain amount of power to decide what the law is. She promises to put all that power to work making sure that people like Yvette Cormier, who was expelled from a Planet Fitness gym for complaining about a man using the women's locker room, are shunted to the powerless margins of society. Presumably there's nothing Lynch can do in that particular case, but she will certainly  use her power where she can, as indicated by the promulgation of an Obama administration demand, described as a "guideline," that all schools that receive federal money fall in with the bathroom crusade. (I haven't attempted to track down the source of the Lynch quote, by the way. I'm assuming it's accurate. It's certainly plausible.)

This has the potential to become a very serious confrontation, because the federal government now has its hooks deeply into education at every level. It has, for instance, the potential to shut down any Catholic colleges that might offer resistance (probably not many), when and if the "guideline" becomes an actual regulation, because most of those schools could not function without federal loans and other financial aid available to their students.

In one sense those who say the whole matter is trivial are right. As with the insistence that the Little Sisters of the Poor provide contraception for their employees, such problems as in fact exist could reasonably be handled without federal intervention. But there is a principle at stake, and it's very clear that Obama and Co. intend that it should prevail. The principle is that the state is the ultimate moral authority. 

As a commenter at Neo-neocon said, "If they–the Obama Admin–can prevail on this issue, which is widely opposed, and has no perceivable merit, where can they be stopped?"