Livin' in the USA Feed

An Odd Little Incident in the Culture War

As I've surely mentioned before, the little town where I live has grown fashionable and affluent. And of course where there is fashion and affluence there progressives will be also. Which is ok, but as Justice Ginsburg said, there are certain populations that you don't want to have too many of. (I can't bring myself to use a smiley-face in a piece of writing meant to be at least somewhat serious, but yes, I do mean that in a mildly humorous way, and no, I do not wish to exterminate progressives. I just don't want them to rule the town in which I live.)

There is a Facebook group devoted to local news and general conversation. Happily, it mostly stays clear of controversy, though there are sometimes a few people who will insist on riding their particular hobby horse into any possible opening. The phenomenon of "Pride" Month, which weirdly groups advocacy for certain sins which don't appeal to most people beneath the umbrella of one to which we are all more or less deeply attached, produced a bit of that. There were one or two posts saying, more or less, "Yay Pride Month!" As far as I saw the only reactions they got was along the lines of "Yes! Yay Pride Month!" And I noticed with interest, but not surprise, that nearly all of these were from women, mostly young women. (I'm going by the profile photo thumbnails, and the names.) This is a feature of current aggressive progressivism that as far as I know has not been sufficiently remarked upon--sufficiently in relation to its significance, I mean, because it strikes me as quite significant, though I'm not sure exactly what it signifies.

Then a couple of weeks ago a "Yay Pride" post with a different slant appeared. This one, also from a young woman, was something like "Name the local businesses that you would like to see supporting Pride Month!", and was decorated, inevitably, with smiley-faces, rainbows, and such.

There were not many comments at that point: half a dozen or so comments in agreement, but this time there were some objectors, including the accurate but probably unhelpful "You need Jesus!" Apparently there were some people who agreed with me that this was a step too far: it's one thing to cheer for your team, another to demand that everyone cheer for it. I thought something along the lines of "More proof that woke progressivism is a religion." I considered saying something like that, and even clicked on the reply button and sat there for a minute or two trying to decide whether I wanted to wade in. Then I reloaded the page to see what new comments might have been added, and got a message saying "This content is no longer available." In other words, the post had been deleted. I have no way of knowing whether the author of the post deleted it, or the administrator of the group did. Either way, I was glad, because I thought it was a good sign that one or the other of them decided that it was inappropriate, and likely to start trouble. 

It's a small incident, but a couple of things about it struck me as significant. First, the moral confidence, or perhaps aggressiveness, exhibited by the original poster: she either saw her view as being so obviously right that it didn't occur to her that there was anything objectionable about urging people to join her campaign, or she knew many people would disagree and was deliberately challenging them. Either way, this was an example of the evangelizing zeal of the LG* movement. It was reminiscent of the story Rod Dreher got from Vaclav Havel and often refers to: the greengrocer in a Communist country who puts a "Workers of the world, unite!" sign in the window of his store, not because he believes it but to avoid hostile scrutiny.

Second, the reaction suggests a way for the evangelists and those who decline to join them to coexist. Consider the reception a Christian would get for posting "Christ is risen!" in a public group on Easter Sunday. Most likely only curmudgeons would object. (Actually I think this did happen, without controversy.) But it would be a different story if the Christian posted "Name the local businesses that you would like to see praising Jesus!" There's a hint of threat in that, even if unintended. It would make a non-Christian business owner feel uneasy, at minimum: are people going to avoid my business if I don't go along? 

In the current social climate, to perceive a threat from progressive activists requires no imagination, as the news is full of their attempts to punish people who disagree with them. This incident suggests to me that places like my town might be able to preserve the live-and-let-live attitude which is in fact the attitude of most Americans, left-wing rhetoric to the contrary. 


Is "Little Pink Houses" a Patriotic Anthem?

Kyle Smith of National Review thinks so. I half-agree. I don't think I've heard it more than half a dozen times, and always on a car radio. But I do remember the first time, because "Ain't that America" jumped out at me as a perfect expression of amused and unillusioned affection: "Yeah, it's a crazy country, but we love it anyway." I've used the phrase at least a few times here, apropos some bit of very American extravagant eccentricity. Here, make up your own mind:

And I love the old man saying to his old wife: "Hey darlin', I remember when you could stop a clock." I was just saying that to my gray-haired wife the other day. 

One of the category tags on this post comes from this song, which is not that great in itself but which I've always remembered for the title phrase and for "Somebody give me a cheeseburger":

And that's my Fourth of July post. Shine, perishing republic--and recall that that poem was written in the 1920s.


"Our civilization comprehends great variety and complexity..."

...and this variety and complexity, playing upon a refined sensibility, must produce various and complex results. The poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into his meaning.

—T.S. Eliot

It dawned on me sometime fairly late in life that although the opening statement is obviously true, the rest of it is jive. It's Eliot justifying his own poetics as a universal principle. It's by no means necessarily false, but not necessarily true, either. One could just as well argue that the essential task of the poet in such a time is to penetrate the complexity and get at the unchanging truths which the complexity often muddles. "A time of complexity and confusion requires a poetry of directness and clarity...."

But I thought about Eliot's statement when I took a tour boat around Mobile's seaport a few weeks ago. Container shipping is apparently the way things are done now, and I think has been for some time. (Here's a recent piece in National Review with some more information about that.)

Each of those shoe-boxy containers is somewhere close to the size of the trailer of an eighteen-wheeler. What's in them? How do they (the vague "they" which we all--or at least I--see as somehow making the world work) keep track of it all, from source to destination? Those cranes are...I don't know, a couple of hundred feet tall maybe? There's a little cab that hangs underneath the horizontal part and has a driver, who runs it out over the ship and with some sort of dangling gripping apparatus picks up a container and puts it down somewhere behind the crane, where there are acres and acres of them. 

ShipWithContainers

Whatever bad things one may have to say about the modern world, and I have plenty, it is an amazing accomplishment.

A year ago I probably wouldn't have specified that the Eliot in question is Thomas Stearns. But as of this past February it could in my mind as likely be George.


Silly Things I Sometimes Wonder About

Do they starve the dogs and cats before filming them for pet food commercials? Or do they lace the food with essence of hamburger or something of that sort? 

Addendum: I'm always telling people that when you're discussing this country you have to start with the understanding that we're crazy. (That's one thing I like about Kevin Williamson's writing in National Review--he emphasizes that, and never forgets it.) Often that becomes clearer with a little distance in time.

P.S. This post was prompted by watching my cats sniff and turn away from one kind of food after another.


Time For Me to Read The Moviegoer Again

Rod Dreher quoted this, in a post about celebrity:

Nowadays when a person lives somewhere, in a neighborhood, the place is not certified for him. More than likely he will live there sadly and the emptiness which is inside him will expand until it evacuates the entire neighborhood. But if he sees a movie which shows his very neighborhood, it becomes possible for him to live, for a time at least, as a person who is Somewhere and not Anywhere.

A few days ago I was watching the movie Alabama Moon with my wife. I don't especially recommend it, at least not for grownups. Some children may like it, and in fact that's why we were watching it--the DVD was part of a big gift basket my wife had bought at our parish's Christmas bazaar, and we wondered if our grandchildren might like it. (Verdict: very doubtful, as there are no spacecraft, superheroes, or battles in it.)

I had a vague notion that some parts of the movie might have been filmed where I live. Several locations did look familiar. Then came a scene set in a hospital, and I was almost sure that it must have been filmed in the local hospital (labeled, for purposes of the story, Tuscaloosa General, which I think does not exist, as if you care). This gave me a completely absurd moment of elation. And later, when I looked for information online and found out that it was mostly filmed in Louisiana and so the hospital was probably not ours, I felt an equally absurd moment of letdown. 

It's still possible that the hospital scene was filmed here. The film credits thank Fairhope along with Covington, Louisiana. And it really looked like Thomas Hospital. But of course I don't really care. 


An Advent Gripe

Not about, but on the occasion of: the complaint I made last year about the thing called "Holiday":

The American Christmas has always, or at least since the middle of the last century or so, had its secularized aspect. That was fine: we were a predominantly Christian country, but plenty of people who did not celebrate the religious holiday as such found much to enjoy in the cultural paraphernalia. Irving Berlin gave us "White Christmas," which no decent person could dislike or resent, and he was Jewish. Notice, though, that he didn't shy away from using the word "Christmas." From an early age I had a sense that something was missing when the decorations and greetings and such of the season left out any mention whatsoever of Christmas itself. And at a not so early, but not very late, age it occurred to me that "the holiday season" would lose the essence of its charm if the religious core of it were removed.

Well, that has pretty much happened now as far as public speech is concerned.

"Middle of the last century"? I must have meant to say the 19th. It certainly predated the middle of the 20th. But anyway:

The good part of this is that as I lose interest in Holiday I take more notice of Advent.

Which I'm currently doing. 

 


Election Comment (2)

Andrew McCarthy is an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer, and also a Trump supporter. He was the "yes" in that "yes-no-maybe" note about voting for Trump that I posted a few weeks ago. Like a lot of reasonable people, he thinks there are good grounds for believing that there was some cheating by the Democrats in this election. He thinks, for instance, that there could be as many as 10,000 questionable votes in Pennsylvania. But yet:

See, the president trails by 55,000 in Pennsylvania. It is anything but clear that all 10,000 late-arriving ballots are Biden votes — a goodly chunk of them could be Trump votes that the president would be knocking out. But even if we suspend disbelief and assume that they’re all Biden votes, the president would still be 45,000 short of flipping the state into his win column.

This is the president’s fatal problem. No matter which battleground state we analyze, there is always a mismatch between the impropriety alleged and the remedy that it could yield. Where Trump is strongest, as in the Supreme Court case, the yield in votes is a relative pittance. Where Trump’s claims are weaker and hotly disputed, the president is asking for mass disfranchisement, which no court is ever going to order.

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You're Gonna Miss Your Constitutional Liberalism When It's Gone

Somewhere or other, sometime or other, I read that G.K. Chesterton, asked whether he was a liberal, answered that he was "the only liberal." I sometimes feel that way. I long ago acquiesced to the fact that in the American political context I'm more or less correctly classified as a conservative. But as the so-common-as-to-be-hackneyed followup to any such statement goes, what American conservatism seeks to conserve is in large part classical liberalism.

It probably doesn't need saying to people who read this blog, but in case it does: "classical liberalism" refers not to what we currently refer to as the liberal faction in contemporary politics, but to a political philosophy which is, in a nutshell, that of the United States of America. Most discussions of it emphasize its economic aspects, which I'm sure is accurate, but I'm not a political philosopher or economist and am not very interested in wrangling over the definition. For my purposes it's the political system described by the Constitution, and a corresponding culture which values self-government, liberty, the rule of law, reason, the free exchange of ideas, religious tolerance, and so on--the whole list of things which until recently were generally agreed upon, all based on what were considered in the 18th century self-evident truths about human nature. The American constitution puts that basic worldview into a system of government, and so I prefer the term "constitutional liberalism." (Also "classical liberalism" has other associations, with capitalism for instance, which I want to avoid--but that's another topic.)

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