— 1 —
For several months now I’ve been getting up early on Saturday mornings to watch an hour’s worth of Have Gun – Will Travel episodes. I remember watching the show as a young boy, but the fact that Paladin was such a learned and literate philosopher/hired gun was lost on me. A recently aired episode called The Education of Sara Jane involved a graveside back-and-forth that would not likely survive the editing room of today’s television studio.
In the mountains, Paladin comes upon a riderless horse with blood on the saddle. He follows the horse to the dead body of a middle-aged man. When the man’s daughter arrives, Paladin learns that her father is the latest homicide victim in a blood feud between two families. Over the father’s grave, Paladin recites John Donne and a back and forth follows between he and Sara Jane who interrupts with a string of vengeful Old Testament selections. Paladin counters with biblical quotations emphasizing love and forgiveness.
Heady stuff for a Saturday morning that could easily by missed as the exchange lasted under one minute.
“Any man’s death diminishes me for I am involved with mankind.”
“You get those words from the book?”
“Well they’re words from a book. It was written by a man named John Donne.”
“Words spoken over the dead should be from the book. ‘The Lord my God is a jealous God.’”
“God is love.”
“Honor thy father and thy mother.”
“Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
“Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.”
The scene begins at the 5 minute mark.
— 2 —
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Anthony Esolen’s new book Out of the Ashes. Occasionally I have made an effort to highlight passages in the book as particularly relevant. I read this particular one about the time I read about Teen Vogue’s promotion of abortion to young girls.
The question remains. What does it mean to be a woman?
I hear the answer, mainly from a certain kind of woman, “It means whatever you want it to mean.” Sorry, but that is equivalent to saying that it means nothing. Women, in my experience, prefer their nihilism to be dressed up in perky relativist clothing. Relativism is nihilism for girls.
If we are to believe the women’s magazines on sale at groceries and drug stores, a woman is obsessed with her body, eager to learn new sex tricks, always on the watch for dirty revelations about pop-culture celebrities, prone to consulting horoscopes, ready to shell out a lot of money for new fashions, all-in for “safe” gay men who destroy one another’s lives rather than women’s lives, and firmly committed to “women’s health,” which depends on contraceptives and abortions and everything else that is meant not to restore healthy function to a diseased organ but to thwart the natural action of a healthy one.
If we are to take as evidence women’s political shows, a woman is loud, vulgar, screeching, ignorant of history, morbidly touchy, vindictive, smug, voluble in slogans, impervious to the principles of any coherent political philosophy, and ready to see the world as the she-bear sees it when her cubs are restless and the food is scarce. Men, for their part, would be boorish, violent, indolent, reckless, cruel, proud, and ready to soak the world in blood for the sake of a principle.
That is not what women are. That is what bad women are. It is what happens when you fail to cultivate the difficult virtue of womanliness, just as the thug and the lout are what you get when you fail to cultivate the companion virtue, manliness.
Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture by Anthony Esolen. Page 118.
— 3 —
Tracy Ullman has made me laugh since I first saw her video They Don’t Know in 1983.
— 4 —
Love is Not Tolerance
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen
Christian love bears evil, but it does not tolerate it.
It does penance for the sins of others, but it is not broadminded about sin.
The cry for tolerance never induces it to quench its hatred of the evil philosophies
that have entered into contest with the Truth.
It forgives the sinner, and it hates the sin; it is unmerciful to the error in his mind.
The sinner it will always take back into the bosom of the Mystical Body;
but his lie will never be taken into the treasury of His Wisdom.
Real love involves real hatred:
whoever has lost the power of moral indignation and the urge to drive the buyers and sellers from the temples
has also lost a living, fervent love of Truth.
Charity, then, is not a mild philosophy of “live and let live”;
it is not a species of sloppy sentiment.
Charity is the infusion of the Spirit of God,
which makes us love the beautiful and hate the morally ugly.
— 5 —
In January there was a debate about what word would be selected as the “Word of the Year” for 2016. At the time the Left was pushing for that word to be “fascism”. I maintained then, and still do today, that the word of 2016 (if not the last decade or more) should be “hypocrisy.” If you pay any attention at all in a non-partisan manner to the political events in America it practically leaps off the page or out of your television screen and punches you in the nose. Statements said by a Republican are abhorrent, until it’s revealed that a Democrat said the same thing and was cheered for it. A Democrat bill or legislation is reviled until or unless it is now a position of the Republican majority in Congress. It never ends.
Being a hypocrite in this manner demonstrates all too easily how critical thinking has been set aside. Instead of having to research and think about something, one can merely look to see which political party favors the issue and that alone will firm up the stance one takes on said issue. This shallowness also leads to each side attempting to co-opt a popular book, movie or character in order to, through relativism, paint their political opponents as evil or reaffirm their position as virtuous and good. For example, Orwell’s 1984 is popular with Democrats during the George W. Bush presidency, with Republicans during the Obama era, and now once more required reading for the Left in the Trump term.
The problem with this shallowness is that the truth is always deeper and more profound than this partisan preening. Thus it’s easy to point out that Republicans are not Nazis and Trump is not Lord Voldemort. The lazy way around an argument is to seize upon such comparisons. I get that. But I can’t help but laugh at the moral smugness and superior position assumed by those who are this lazy. It employs the same ploy used to shut down those we disagree with by calling them a racist/homophobe/xenophobe/Islamophobe/etc. By doing so we “otherize” those we deem offensive.
I could point out flawed logic from the Right as well but these are the two most prevalent themes I’ve been reading of late. (A quick Google search of “Trump is Voldemort meme” will show you quite a few, some of which did make me laugh at their creativity.) Thus, as Bart Gingerich points out on the Mere Orthodoxy blog, it’s quite a stretch for the Left to make such a claim regarding the Harry Potter world:
Why do progressives like Harry Potter? Ever since the election of Donald Trump, the left has been regularly referencing to JK Rowling’s popular books in order to rally the opposition to the new president. When you read the books closely, however, it’s a strange move. The contradictions of Millennials’ self-perception and insertion of themselves in the Harry Potter narrative can be quite drastic:
- Opposing the Death Eaters in fiction while supporting abortion, euthanasia, and transhumanism in real life
- Loving the boisterously warm-yet-poor Weaselys while visibly troubled by large families (and the sacrifices necessary to keep them)
- Fascination with the authoritative traditions that order life in the Wizarding World while doing everything they can to destroy and dilute the same in the actual world
- Reveling in the concept of godparents like Sirius Black while not actually participating in the baptismal liturgies and vows of the Church that create such relationships in real life
- Longing for the committed, sacrificial love of the Potter parents while hesitating to enter marriage themselves and blowing up said institution by co-habitation and legal redefinition
Most recently, progressives have leaned on the series to oppose Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, identifying the newly minted secretary with Dolores Umbridge. How an advocate for less government oversight, more freedom of school choice, and the potential for increased moral formation in education could be conflated with a bureaucrat enamored with state oversight and questionable curricular hegemony is almost beyond me. Almost. But that is precisely the point.
It’s time to make critical thinking, and honesty, great again.