Some excellent entries for the week of May 19th.
Callimachus struck a nerve with this post on Public Virtue. I like it when one member wins decisively; it means that what he or she has to say is, in some way, essential or else it is a novel synthesis. Being historically illiterate on many levels (as all-too-many Americans are), I was riveted by his words:
As Americans set up their infant republic, one of the images foremost in their minds was how republics die. All the classical republics, they knew, had come to an end in anarchy and then tyranny. Classical and modern writers had taken up the theme of the death of a republic so often and so minutely that by the 18th century the process could be described in almost clinical medical terms. The learned men knew it from their classical educations, and the common people knew it from the popular plays of the day, such as “Julius Caesar” and Addison’s “Cato” (which Washington had performed for the troops at Valley Forge, notwithstanding a Congressional ban on theaters).
[The influence of theater on Revolutionary-era politics probably was enormous, and I don’t know if anyone has studied it properly. Otway’s “Venice Preserved,” for example, was one reason Venice was not brought up among the model republics when America’s Founders were doing their work. How different the country might have been without that now-forgotten play.]
The vital principle in keeping a republic alive was public virtue. This was virtue in the classical, not the Christian, definition. The Christian, seeking to be not of this world in Roman times, turned pagan virtue on its head.
Classical virtue was not in the least bit meek, but it strove to be first in doing good for one’s country and coveted the glory that comes with unrelenting devotion to the good of the people. It expressed itself in endurance, industry, frugality, and probity — many of which were consistent with Christianity. Gertrude Himmelfarb has ably condensed the classical idea of virtue as “the will and capacity to put the public interest over the private.”
In these brief remarks (and I left out some vital introduction to the text) Callimachus explains why our civic culture looks Christian, but in reality its virtues predate the coming of Christianity. In my opinion the latter simply took up those qualities and gave them a Christian gloss, as Augustine did so brilliantly in his “City of God.” Without the Platonists, Augustine would not have been possible. Neither would our Constitution.
If you would learn something new (which some famous book character or other claimed was “the only solace” against the griefs of life), then bookmark Callimachus’ Done With Mirrors. Even I, who do not approve of blogs which don’t allow comments, go there often, humbly with hat in hand…
Second place was earned for “Conservative Fatigue Syndrome” by Shrinkwrapped. It is a rich post, containing many more comparisons and explanations by others than I can give you here. But this is the main Shrinkwrapped Summation for Conservative Fatigue Syndrome:
All of the explanations for CFS have some explanatory power, but symptom complexes are always multiply determined. I would propose that in the background of all our discontent there lurks the sense that the worst is yet to come.
The elephant in the room, which too much of our political and media culture seem to have conspired to overlook, is that the war is still in its early stages and we are finishing the easy parts, al Qaeda and Iraq. If we have had so much trouble mobilizing the support for the easy work, how can anyone be confident that we can address the more difficult problems that are facing us? Unless our enemies make the foolish mistake of attacking us again before they are ready to destroy our ability to carry on the fight, I think there is almost no chance that we can preemptively and adequately wage the next phase of this war.
The idea that we will have to struggle to protect ourselves and maintain support for the Military and the Intelligence services to do their job, and ultimately will almost certainly be attacked again, is enough to make anyone disconsolate.
I’ll say! No wonder we all grow weary. No wonder Bush seems battle-fatigued.
Of the non-Council posts, You Dissin My God placed first with his —
simple, non-denominational, test to determine if your religion is worthy of respect. All you have to do is answer the questions YES or NO.
The “questions” are a hoot, and a few of them could have been applied to, oh, let’s say the Puritans, whose God definitely didn’t consider laughter very godly. On the other hand, my favorite question, Is decapitation considered a valid form of religious expression?, continues to haunt moderate Muslims, and also accounts for any number of apostates –- who, of course, would also face beheading for thinking they had permission to think outside the very small box of radical Islam. Radical, resentful, bent-on-revenge for phantasied humiliation.
Let’s face it: attempted dialogue with a terrorist is a waste of…umm, life.
A comparison between the treatment doled out to Senator Kennedy, Jr. for his drugged-out life, and Rush Limbaugh for his opiated fall from grace won second place. Calling his essay Kennedy’s Stigma is Limbaugh’s Crime, Don Surber says:
Pat Kennedy is not getting the Rush Limbaugh treatment. There is no prosecutor seeking Kennedy’s medical records to find out who prescribed him painkillers. No, he is a congressman who suffers not just bipolar disorder but — according to the New York Times — a “stigma” of depression.
Because that is what the story is about — stigma. Actually, the story is not about the stigma. It is NYT shorthand for “you people are too ignorant, prejudiced and close-minded to appreciate the greatness of Patrick Kennedy and what he suffers.”
Why he had asthma as a child. And “his mother struggled with alcohol dependence.” No mention is made of his father being a drunk. The New York Times does not use words like drunk. In fact, I am pretty sure had he gotten arrested for DWI, the NYT would have called it “Driving While Struggling With Alcohol Dependence.”
…people can complain all they want about the NSA. The real threat to our liberties is that a critic of Congress has just been given the shaft — has just had his medical records seized by a prosecutor — while a member of that same Congress — a legacy member, I might add — is protected by the law.
That is your America, where the same thing that lands a critic in court fighting to remain out of jail, gets sympathy for a congressman. Stigma, eh? Poor little rich boy.
I’m no fan of the Kennedys. I lived too long in Massachusetts for that. But even with all the persecution of Limbaugh, he leads a charmed life compared to anyone from the K clan.
Patrick Kennedy is a sad case. Born to a hopelessly alcoholic mother long since declared incapable of handling her own affairs, a lying (remember his Harvard scholastic record?), libertine and cowardly father who left a woman to die while he tried to cover his nether parts, and his own battle with bone cancer as a child – this guy lives the life of the damned already. No wonder he’s a drug addict. I would be, too.
All those Kennedys are living examples of the sins of the fathers visited on the children. I agree with Mr. Surber that he is a “poor little rich boy.” Lord, is he ever. It’s amazing he finds the will to get up in the morning. All the drugs in the world can’t cure his pain of having been born into such a family.
The rest of the posts, always worth your while, are still up at The Watcher’s place.
CORRECTION: A reader sent in a reminder regarding the Kennedy saga. It was not Patrick who had bone cancer, it was Teddy, Jr. She’s right; I’d forgotten there were other children in that sad alliance. The oldest child, Kara, also developed cancer as a child but both survived. Teddy has a law degree from the University of Connecticut. Unusual for a wealthy person to attend law school at night, but that’s what he did. He’s considered a potential opponent for Joe Not-Liberal-Enough Lieberman for this year’s run.
The children have legal custody of their mother. She was — is — a valiant woman and worked hard to overcome her addiction, without success. She is also recovering from breast cancer.
From a public vantage point, it seems that Patrick, who escaped the cancer sword ( so far), has had a harder road to hoe. As a commenter remarked, being in that family is like being born into your own Eugene O’Neill play.
And another thing: Callimachus does have comments enabled. My bad.
Thanks for the kind words! Actually, the blod does allow comments and always has, but for some reason they never showed up on individual posts, only on the entire blog. I couldn’t figure out how to repair that, so I re-ran all the Haloscan coding, and now it seems to work — that is, you can see comments in either format.
You’re right about that family, of course; it can’t be fun being born into your very own personal Eugene O’Neill play.
Just a quick correction — I don’t believe that Patrick Kennedy had bone cancer as a child. If I recall correctly, I believe that was his older brother Teddy Jr. whose leg was amputated below the knee due to bone cancer.