Long Time Gone

So it’s been 2 years, 4 months and 17 days since I last posted on this blog. Let’s just round that up to two and a half years. Feels like a long time ago, although in the grand scheme of things it really isn’t.

Obamacare still exists, unfortunately. It’s performing about as well as had been predicted, but the inertia of government seems to have set in and who knows when we’ll be able to get out of that mess. Religious liberty is on the ropes, with the triumph of the marriage-redefinition crowd in the Supreme Court. The 2016 presidential race seems to be coming down to a contest between a Democrat nominee who is most qualified to be in prison and a Republican nominee who may qualify for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

So that’s that.

Perhaps I’ll blog again, just for fun. Perhaps not. But it’s been sort of fun to log in and kick the tires.

Ethics and Economics

Kevin Williamson at NRO points out the connection between the economic and moral imperatives to get the public sector under control:

The city fathers of Detroit inherited one of the richest and most productive cities in the world, and they ruined it in a generation. The gentlemen in Washington have been entrusted with the richest and most productive nation in the history of the world, and the trendline does not look good. Those of us seeking to radically reduce the footprint of government must remind ourselves from time to time that our case is as much ethical as economic, that the ethical and the economic are indeed closely intertwined.

Reactionaries

President Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge:

It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

More:

Under a system of popular government there will always be those who will seek for political preferment by clamoring for reform. While there is very little of this which is not sincere, there is a large portion that is not well informed. In my opinion very little of just criticism can attach to the theories and principles of our institutions. There is far more danger of harm than there is hope of good in any radical changes. We do need a better understanding and comprehension of them and a better knowledge of the foundations of government in general. Our forefathers came to certain conclusions and decided upon certain courses of action which have been a great blessing to the world. Before we can understand their conclusions we must go back and review the course which they followed. We must think the thoughts which they thought. Their intellectual life centered around the meeting-house. They were intent upon religious worship. While there were always among them men of deep learning, and later those who had comparatively large possessions, the mind of the people was not so much engrossed in how much they knew, or how much they had, as in how they were going to live. While scantily provided with other literature, there was a wide acquaintance with the Scriptures. Over a period as great as that which measures the existence of our independence they were subject to this discipline not only in their religious life and educational training, but also in their political thought. They were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power.

No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.

There was a time when American political leaders knew how to speak and did so fearlessly. Oh, for a rebirth of these traits…

Welcome to Portland

Ed Morrisey notes this photo of a protest outside a Sarah Palin speech in Eugene, Oregon:

Palin Protesters
Nice.

Yes, that’s right: Eugene is a hate-free zone, except for the person who hopes that Sarah Palin chokes.  Nice touch with the Obama logo there, chum.  Don Surber adds:

Yes, that’s pretty liberal — harassing people who went to see someone speak.

From the Oregonian:

Rebecca McKenzie, 29, of Eugene left work at a nearby barbershop and grabbed a perch on an outdoor patio at Rockn Rodeo, a cowboy-themed bar across the street from the hotel. She watched the protests with a mix of fascination and chagrin.

“I think it’s pretty pathetic,” she said of the name-calling.

But c’mon. Palin? Eugene?

“I understand the oil and water thing,” McKenzie said. “But if you don’t approve, go home. Don’t come.”

Again, Don Surber:

That’s the actual do-your-own-thing attitude that liberals once pretended to embrace.

Well, it ain’t about that anymore, that’s for sure.

Dubya And Human Freedom

For all his failings on the domestic side of the ledger, I always respected George W. Bush for his commitment to the idea that human beings have intrinsic dignity and therefore deserve liberty.  That’s probably the best thing he could use his post-presidency to promote, and he’s doing just that:

James K. Glassman, Executive Director of the George W. Bush Institute, issued a statement today prior to start of the Institute’s Conference on Cyber Dissidents: Global Successes and Challenges. The conference is being held in conjunction with the human rights organization Freedom House, on the campus of Southern Methodist University.

“Today’s conference launches the George W. Bush Institute’s initiatives in human freedom. It features several dissidents from around the world who are using tools made possible by Internet technology in their important work of advancing democracy and freedom. Dissidents are participating from such nations as Venezuela and China, and dissidents in exile elsewhere in the world from such nations as Cuba, Syria, and Iran. This is a historic event. We believe it is unprecedented for freedom advocates of such talent and courage, from so many nations, to gather in one place to discuss the use of new technology. At few times in history, has work like theirs been more important. But is it being fully appreciated? It is here in Dallas.”

Q: Why Do They Hate Us? A: Lady Gaga

One reality that Americans need to come to grips with when thinking about the danger of radical Islam is that the reason that Islamists hate us has very little to do with our current foreign policy or our alliance with Israel (or what’s left of it now that Obama has been put in charge); rather, the core of the issue between America and the Islamists goes to the fundamental question of who we are, and the fact that our lives and society aren’t dictated by the principles of Islam:

Lady Gaga
I always knew that she was an existential threat to the United States...

Now consider Lady Gaga—or, if you prefer, Madonna, Farrah Fawcett, Marilyn Monroe, Josephine Baker or any other American woman who has, at one time or another, personified what the Egyptian Islamist writer Sayyid Qutb once called “the American Temptress.”

Qutb, for those unfamiliar with the name, is widely considered the intellectual godfather of al Qaeda; his 30-volume exegesis “In the Shade of the Quran” is canonical in jihadist circles. But Qutb, who spent time as a student in Colorado in the late 1940s, also decisively shaped jihadist views about the U.S.

In his 1951 essay “The America I Have Seen,” Qutb gave his account of the U.S. “in the scale of human values.” “I fear,” he wrote, “that a balance may not exist between America’s material greatness and the quality of her people.” Qutb was particularly exercised by what he saw as the “primitiveness” of American values, not least in matters of sex.

“The American girl,” he noted, “knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs and she shows all this and does not hide it.” Nor did he approve of Jazz—”this music the savage bushmen created to satisfy their primitive desires”—or of American films, or clothes, or haircuts, or food. It was all, in his eyes, equally wretched.

Qutb’s disdain for America’s supposedly libertine culture would not matter much were it not wedded to a kind of theological Leninism that emphasized the necessity of violently overthrowing any political arrangement not based on Shariah law.

Remember – it’s not so much about what we do, it’s about who we are. Of course, none of this is to defend the cultural or social value of Lady Gaga; goodness knows she has very little if any of that.  But we must remember that they hate us primarily because we possess the freedom that can allow a Lady Gaga-type to appear and thrive.  That’s the core of the issue.

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

WB Yeats – 1919

“You Will Long For The Creature Your Hands Have Made”

It is rare for me to run across an interview that is powerful enough to raise a lump in my throat, but today I’ve found one.  William Stuntz is a Professor at Harvard Law School and a Christian who has lived for the last decade with excruciating pain, and was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and is not expected to live through 2010.  Timothy Dalrymple interviewed him in order to get his reflections on suffering and death, and the result is very powerful, especially to those who have lost a loved one to cancer.

William Stuntz
William Stuntz

Here, Dalrymple asks Stuntz if he has any favorite quotations or scriptures when it comes to death.  Stuntz’s response:

Yes, a passage in the fourteenth chapter of Job.  The passage as a whole is not hopeful.  Job is uncertain what will happen to him when he dies.  In the end, he says that he will return to dust and there will be nothing after death.

In the midst of the passage, however, before he turns to despair, he has a moment of hope.  It’s a brief moment, just a couple of verses in the midst of an extended passage.  Yet he says, “You will call and I will answer.  You will long for the creature your hands have made” (Job 14:15).

I find those lines very powerful.  The concept that God longs for the likes of me is so unspeakably sweet.  I almost cannot bear to say them aloud.  They are achingly sweet for me to hear.

There are many passages I love, but that one in particular has grabbed hold of me.  Job’s hope, it turns out, is more realistic than his despair.

I have wondered, from time to time, what it must be like to face death.  If I live long enough to die a natural death and know that it is coming, how will I cope?  I like to think that I will be courageous in the face of death, much like my grandmother and my father, but death is so foreign to all that I know and understand.  I have faith in God and believe that He did not create me to simply be annihilated after death, and yet there are times when the idea of life after death seems too strange to contemplate.  Will I overcome those doubts?  Will those doubts even appear?  Will I be able to let go, or will I cling to life desperately?  I don’t know, to be honest.  I just don’t know.  I pray that I will have years yet to build the maturity that I feel I need to face the end in a way that brings comfort to my family, which is really what I want.  At the very least, Mr. Stuntz has given us a wonderful insight into a time of life that we all will face, and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to absorb it.