January 7, 2011 - December 31, 2010
. Sometimes, politics and religion
converge. That's what's happening with me now, and I'm not handling it well. Let's set the
scene. Here's a NYT essay by the new enfant terrible of the
conservative elitist class, Ross
Douthat. I apologize for pushing the 'fair usage' practice by
borrowing the whole thing, but my defense is that in this case 'the
whole thing' is nothing more than the posing of an incredibly important
I don't mean to demean Douthat. Putting the right question is a
spectacular feat if you can do it in a single op-ed column. Answering
that question is everyone's individual responsibility, not Douthat's.
His last four paragraphs frame an existential crisis for anyone who's
paying attention. For those of us who have significant parts of our
personal identities bound up with our citizenship as Americans, the
current political situation is also an existential crisis.
Have you wondered why your response to the Obama administration is so severe that it impinges on your personal life? This is why. For me, I must admit, it has amounted to panic. Because I know what is at stake.
Call it a perfect storm of assaults on faith. I cannot do the things, physically, I once did. When I shoveled snow the other day, I thought I was going to die. For real. I hid it from my wife but the dogs were concerned. They surged around me as I sat gasping for breath. I pushed them away. I push everyone away. Even my wife and closest friends. Especially my wife and closest friends.
Yes, I had the mid-life crisis the MSM convinced me I would experience. Back when I turned forty. But that pales in comparison to the end-of-life crisis you experience when you confront the fact that you are growing old and, worse than that, frail. It's easy to beat a mid-life crisis. You buy a Harley. It's not so easy to beat the end-of-life crisis. You look to philosophy, religion, family, country, humanity itself for a context that makes sense of your life and its inevitable approaching end.
For many, family is enough. Which is good. If you have it, embed yourself in it. It is its own kind of salvation. But some of us don't. Some of us have only the illusion of family, blood relations of spouses whom we love fiercely but know to a certainty regard us as bit players on the stage of births, baptisms, Thanksgivings and other holiday dramas. There will be attendees at our funerals, but only because they are honoring someone else they care about more.
Which is fine. The way of things. There are other relationships. I have had a life-long relationship with God, specifically Jesus Christ. I thought it was a unique relationship. I thought if I did His work, in my own particular way, He would wink at my manifold sins. But my sins are still sins. And I also thought, for way too many years, that my not quite believing in Him was somehow (roughly) analogous to Him not expressly condemning me. Talk about your hubris.
But I am still a Christian. If not blindly at least philosophically, historically, and ritually. And I'm an American. These two, however qualified, used to be more or less synonymous. I was also a rational being, convinced that being part of the Long March Toward a Better Life Through Science and Other Forms of Educated Thinking would count for something at the, uh, end. You see, I also knew that being a Christian meant that you were also a participant in the LMTBLTSOFET that bound me up with the brotherhood of American exceptionalism.
But here, toward the end of my life, I have become, suddenly, a pariah. Friends turned on me for things I said here. I needed my country to sustain me in my beliefs. I knew that the Christianity-based U.S. Constitution had been a force for good in the world, which was part of my faith, such as it was, in the gospels. Have I mentioned the word 'frail'? I needed my country to bolster my religious faith.
And then came Obama. Not his fault, I guess. Back in 1999 I heard my own dad tell me, in the full knowledge of his own imminent death from cancer, that the country he had fought for no longer existed. Those of you who have read this blog all these years know that I rejected his angry, dying dismissal. Still do. BUT...
Even he never anticipated that a president of the United States would take the position that human existence was somehow wrong in the scheme of things. Which, no matter how you boil it down, is the position -- nihilist in the extreme -- of the supposed savants of western civilization. Note that the Chinese exhibit no such enlightenment. That's why they'll own the 21st century. Problem is, I don't want China to own any century. Especially one I'm living or dying in. Which means it's time for me to die. And I'm having trouble with that idea. My wife saved me from dying. Now she can't understand why a mere Obama is undoing her good work. She blames me. All I can do is apologize. And try to explain that it's bigger than anything she or I can control.
The Split. Yeah. Have you ever had the feeling that people are arguing about matters YOU settled long ago? I do. Every day. (Book of Andrew, Book of ASSUMPTIONS.) What is with this idiotic notion that Nature is good and Mankind is bad? Fact is, Nature is cruel, even demonstrably vicious, and Mankind is, uh, more kind than not. That's why Mankind has prospered and proliferated. DUH. Consider this: Christianity is the biggest ever departure from Nature. Its central premise is that we all matter. Odd. Wrong? Perhaps. But absolutely right in human terms. It has led to the extension of human thought, lifespans, and a kind of beauty and accomplishment no other culture has ever dreamed of. No other kind of human philosophy has produced such sheer gorgeousness. Now we are being asked to regard ourselves as vile, a scientifically verifiable pollution on the face of the earth, something akin to the AIDS virus. The President of the United States subscribes to this view. Let me repeat that. The President of the United States subscribes to this view.
While I am struggling on matters of faith, patriotism, and survival. My response? Fuck him and the horse he rode in on. The Split does matter. Not just because I'm going to die, but because we all know we're going to die and we all still care about what happens after Human religion is by definition the Split with Nature, the proof that we are better than lions, hyenas, wolves, and black mambas. Most of us live every day with the proof -- the species that remade themselves just for the privilege of living with us and acquired a moral sense along the way -- dogs. Now we're on the "precipice" of taking better care of our dogs than ourselves. It's called ObamaCare.
Obama has made me a monster. I confess it. I thought I was part of a national tradition that would move from strength to strength regardless of my own personal failings. I was wrong. I thought Jesus Christ was strong enough to withstand both the dashboard totemism of the fundamentalists and the politically correct nonsense of the Catholics and Episcopalians. I was wrong. I thought I could soldier through my doubts and fears -- Obama's deliberate assault on my country and its freedoms -- without anyone knowing the depths of my despair. I was wrong.
But -- and here's where I appeal to my brethren -- how do you explain to loved ones that "mere" politics can be the driver of your distance from "Christmas spirit" and threaten everyone else's enjoyment of the season?
Let me be clear about what I'm not saying. I'm not blaming it on Obama. I'm talking about my own loss of family and lack of faith. I have failed in every way possible. The Obama adminstration found all those cracks and turned them into the personal disaster I now face.
I AM sorry. I am also, truly, in despair. I love my wife, I love my (her) family, I love my country, and I'm not serving any of them at the moment. That's the definition of my despair.
UPDATE. Thanks to Eduardo. Psalm 31:
Thanks to others, too. It does all matter...
I actually know this city. Had a car stolen there once.
(An SUV I didn't want but had to buy because I was a GM consultant and
they hated my MR2.) While I was working as a consultant to the -- wait
for it -- UAW. Who didn't want to hear
it. How to not kill the industry they were sucking the life out of,
that is. Things like not
beating the crap out of auto workers who took jobs with Japanese
companies in America. Or keying their cars in their driveways, at home.
Didn't. Want. To. Hear. It.
But. Here's your future under the Obama administration. Just imagine health care Detroit style. Lots of money flying around and death at every turn. HUH! (Does this git me a Peace Prize?)
I'm working on the Christmas spirit thing, though. My friend Chain Gang made it simple enough that even I can understand it. He pointed out that nobody ever believed all of Jeremiah's correct predictions. Am I as good as Jeremiah? No. So cut it out during the Christmas season, okay? Save the gloom and doom for the New Year, okay?
There is actually an
InstaPunk-certified movie reviewer. Since we don't always see movies
the moment they come out, where are you supposed to turn? Well, Kurt
Loder would be the guy.
Not that we always agree. He liked Watchmen, for example, which we didn't, not at all and by a whole lot. BUT. Here's what you get with Loder. He knows his movies, the whole history and all the references and antecedents. His reviews are literate but column length. He takes movies on their own terms, which is to say that he doesn't expect a Pixar movie to be an Ingemar Bergmann film, even though he knows Bergmann inside out. Nor can you wow him with sheer money, celebrity, or hype (He worked for MTV, don't forget.) He's also a good enough writer and reporter that he tells you why he liked, or didn't, a movie, in ways specific enough for you to decide whether his opinion is relevant to you or not.
Finally, I have found him to be the best of all reviewers at confirming my own viewing of a movie I've actually seen. He sees what's good about it, what's bad about it, and he almost never spoils it with his review.
Imagine my surprise to discover that he grew up less than fifty miles from me, is a libertarian, and employs his experience with saltwater as a source of philosophical wisdom:
I know exactly what he's talking about. But I didn't know it when I
discovered his reviews. I
thought he was the pseudo-intellectual of
MTV. I was wrong. Fortunately, I found I was wrong by reading his
writing, not his biography. Now I am happy to report I've located his review page on the
Internet, thanks to Big Hollywood. I commend you to do the same. Here's
a sample of his review of Avatar:
You see? He's not as political as I am. He doesn't get as pissed about
ideology as I do. But he still knows that a superficial crap script is
I know more than that. But in the interim, Kurt Loder will do. And when he likes a movie you probably wouldn't, he gives you enough information about his own viewpoint and arguments to let you decide for yourself. What more could you ask than that?