July 09, 2008

Linkin' Around...

One of George Bush's problems was he never felt the need to defend himself or his positions. Michael Novak never makes the same mistake with respect to his country. He examines American giving in First Things:
Anyone traveling to Europe this summer will surely marvel at how different it is from the United States—and how Europeans have trouble understanding the difference. “Individualists,” they call Americans, but the facts show far more personal social concern in the United States.

Here’s an example: In Europe, many leave philanthropy to the state. For Americans, the personal element—in giving, volunteering, and philanthropy—form an indispensable principle of democracy. According to this principle, people who do not want to depend on the state for all of their needs and wants must seek another source of funds. The best source—the most reliable source—derives from the tradition of reasoned giving.
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Eric Scheske helpfully tutors those lacking in online civility (oxymoron alert!). Indeed, the Byzantine Catholic forum had to close its doors.

Sad, but not too surprising. In our fallen nature we become more vicious to the extent an activity is untrackable (or trackable only by God or computer nerds).

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Phil Albinus has an interesting photo and caption:

The Surge Obama Didn’t Vote For — Part 1. Roughly 1200 soldiers re-enlist in Baghdad at a ceremony yesterday. They must not be reading the Huffington Post.

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About five or six years ago I titled some reveries "Lamentations and Exaggerations". Dylan picks up the theme. I never read it, but didn't Gail Sheey's Passages predicate we'd be grumpy in middle-age? I so hate predictability that I think I'll be cheerful. A good meal would help.

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As Bill Luse said, with friends like Commonweal who needs enemies? A recent article was titled "Why Catholics Don't Have to Vote Republican", which I agree with, only the article wasn't defending write-ins but Obama. Truth in advertising would've been to call it "Why Catholics Can Vote Democrat". I'm always pleasantly surprised when I see them defending the faith, such as a recent article contra Chris Hitchens' book "God is Not Great". I suppose the new atheism might actually bring us all together for awhile.

Mr. Luse pointed me to Dale Ahlquist's strong rejoinder to reports of Chesterton anti-Semitism:
I read the article in the New Yorker. For the record, I sent the following response to the magazine. I don’t know if it will get printed, but here's an excerpt:
For those of us who love Chesterton, we are always distressed to see him subjected to any vile charge. But we’ve gotten a little tired of the charge of anti-Semitism. He’s been absolved of that one too many times for us to count – from the tribute by Rabbi Stephen Wise to the official statements of the Weiner Library (the archives of anti-Semitism and holocaust history in London). Mr. Gopnik has added a new technique to making the charge stick – declaring that Chesterton’s admirers should not defend Chesterton against the horrible accusation. Hm. That is certainly one way to end the debate. I would meekly suggest that a better way would be for people to stop repeating charges that have already been dropped.

But we are still going to take Mr. Gopnik’s article as a sign of hope. Fifteen or twenty years ago, Chesterton was simply dismissed by the literary establishment as an anti-Semite and not taken seriously. Now he is at least being taken seriously before being dismissed as an anti-Semite. As the Chesterton revival kicks into high gear, we expect the trend to continue to the point where Chesterton is simply taken seriously without the obligation to mention anything about how Chesterton judges the Jews or how the Jews judge Chesterton.

In the meantime, we regret the unfortunate turn in Mr. Gopnik’s otherwise brilliant essay. There is something a little too desperate, too anxious in his attempt to prove that Chesterton is anti-Semitic. He is dancing as fast as he can to explain away Chesterton’s Zionism and his outspoken stance against Hitler for oppressing the Jews. (“I will die defending the last Jew in Europe.” What does it take to convince some people?)

Among the worn out arguments Mr. Gopnik uses is: Chesterton should not treat the Jews as if they are different because…well…they’re different. But far more troubling is his argument that Chesterton, the Catholic convert, has this pervasive nastiness woven into the very fabric of his philosophy. Whether consciously or not, Mr. Gopnik has broadened his implication to include the whole Catholic Church. Perhaps some future literary critic will be discussing Mr. Gopnik’s anti-Catholicism rather than Chesterton’s anti-Semitism. He can only hope that he will one day be considered so noteworthy a controversialist.

For now, however, the most important consideration should be of the following passage from Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man:

“…the world owes God to the Jews… [T]hrough all their wanderings… they did indeed carry the fate of the world in that wooden tabernacle…The more we really understand of the ancient conditions that contributed to the final culture of the Faith, the more we shall have a real and even a realistic reverence for the greatness of the Prophets of Israel. [W]hile the whole world melted into this mass of confused mythology, this Deity who is called tribal and narrow, precisely because he was what is called tribal and narrow, preserved the primary religion of all mankind. He was tribal enough to be universal. He was as narrow as the universe…”

Doesn’t exactly sound like the writings of an anti-Semite. Sounds more like someone who has a deep respect for the Jews. Also sounds like a pretty good argument for localism. Chesterton has thrown Mr. Gopnik’s main point into serious jeopardy. Either Chesterton is right to defend localism, which is what preserved the Jews, or localism is a menace and the Jews should have melted into their surroundings three thousand years ago. Mr. Gopnik cannot have it both ways.
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Often this blog feels far too bourgeois, especially after reading this and this. With writing, gotta crack an egg if you want an omelette.

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