NOT THE ONION

But it might just as well be. Money quote:

Paramedics called to the store found VanLester unconscious on top of a DVD player, surrounded by shoppers seemingly oblivious to her, said Mark O’Keefe, a spokesman for EVAC Ambulance.

I’m sorry but these people are out of their minds. Suddenly, the German term Konsumterrorismus makes a certain amount of sense.

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CONTRA GEORGE

Robert George, a political philosopher at Princeton and chief intellectual guru of the Catholic right, laid out the case for banning all civil recognition of gay relationships in the federal Constitution last Friday. It’s such a tenuous case – and requires unbounded paranoia with respect to courts and a disingenuous attempt to argue that the Full Faith and Credit Clause applies to civil marriages (it never has). But he does offer a challenge:

No advocate [for equal marriage rights] has been able to identify a principled moral basis for the requirements of fidelity and exclusivity in marriage as they wish to redefine the institution.

First off, we do not wish to ‘redefine’ the institution. We simply want it to stop discriminating against a small minority of citizens. Currently, civil marriage exists. I don’t want to abolish it. But if it exists, it cannot arbitrarily exclude some citizens, while including others. On the second point, civil marriage licenses currently require no promises from the couple that they be faithful or exclusive. Some heterosexuals, as we well know, do not maintain complete fidelity in their civil marriages. In fact, fifty percent or more break their marriage vows by divorcing and often re-marrying others. Has George heard of Ronald Reagan? Or Bob Barr? Or Newt Gingrich? Or Bill Clinton? If he wants to make adultery or re-marriage illegal, he can propose an amendment on precisely those lines. He certainly believes that re-marriage is a grave moral sin; and adultery (unlike homosexuality) is even prohibited in the Ten Commandments. In other words, George’s standards for civil marriage may be admirable; but they are not enforced; and they are not abided by. They remain the ideal; and gay advocates do not intend to redefine that ideal. But neither should they be held to any higher standards than straight couples.

FIDELITY IN FRIENDSHIP: But George also makes what seems to me to be a point typical of some on the Catholic right. He thinks of sex as the crux of marriage. Senator Santorum even candidly declared that, in his view, marriage had nothing to do with love. And sex is certainly important. But any married couple will tell you that, after a few years, sex is not the sine qua non of the institution. What endures is shared commitment, sacrifice, daily devotion, familiarity, love, friendship. This experience between two people is, to my mind, the central feature of married life and it makes no distinction between straights and gays. I recommend David Hume’s sane little essay on marriage which, of course, doesn’t endorse same-sex marriage, but does argue against polygamy and divorce on grounds not related to sex or what George calls, in the most recent Ratzingerism, “sexual complementarity.” Hume sees that the essence of a good marriage is not breeding or even the romantic love that can blind while it overwhelms us – but a unique and profound friendship that is indeed to the exclusion of all others:

Love is a restless and impatient passion, full of caprices and variations: arising in a moment from a feature, from an air, from nothing, and suddenly extinguishing after the same manner. Such a passion requires liberty above all things; and therefore ELOISA had reason, when, in order to preserve this passion, she refused to marry her beloved ABELARD.

“How oft, when prest to marriage, have I said,
Curse on all laws but those which love has made:
Love, free as air, at sight of human ties,
Spreads his light wings, and in a moment flies.”

But friendship is a calm and sedate affection, conducted by reason and cemented by habit; springing from long acquaintance and mutual obligations; without jealousies or fears, and without those feverish fits of heat and cold, which cause such an agreeable torment in the amorous passion. So sober an affection, therefore, as friendship, rather thrives under constraint, and never rises to such a height, as when any strong interest or necessity binds two persons together, and gives them some common object of pursuit. We need not, therefore, be afraid of drawing the marriage-knot, which chiefly subsists by friendship, the closest possible. The amity between the persons, where it is solid and sincere, will rather gain by it: And where it is wavering and uncertain, this is the best expedient for fixing it.

I couldn’t agree more. Fidelity and exclusivity are the outward signs of an inward bond. As long as the Catholic right keeps marshalling arguments obsessed by sex – George even wants to put the word “sexual” into the Constitution for the first time – they will fail to gain a real audience outside the world of celibates or Santori. In time the sexual expression of love in a long and rewarding marriage is a minor, not major, theme. Friendship, husbanding, the sharing of common duties and responsibilities – these are the civilizing human activities that marriage brings. Nothing suggests that they are the exclusive preserve of heterosexuals. So why should marriage be?

THE NIHILIST LEFT: A British liberal criticizes her own side in their assault on Tony Blair:

Bremner says his programme is a contribution to this Big Conversation. Historians should examine it as an encapsulation of the dinner party conversations of a metropolitan bien-pensant left. Blair is awful, the government is a failure, nothing works, everything’s worse, time for a change, we’re bored. Why the vehemence? The Iraq war and all its foreign policy disasters are reasons to censure Blair. But this nihilism set in long before the war.

Toynbee is one of the most irritatingly self-righteous pontificators in Britain. She’s wrong about the war. But every now and again, even she stumbles onto the truth.

A SOLDIER RESPONDS

A slightly different take than Cheryl Merrill and Dana Milbank:

Mr. Sullivan, I was present for the surprise visit by the President. It was truly wonderful to be there, and my buddies and I really are grateful that President Bush would take a real risk to come see u. He flew about 12 hours to spend 2 hours with us, he served food to the troops, but he never got a chance to eat himself, at least not until he got on the plane, I’d imagine. For 2 hours, the President walked amongst us, not a receiving line where we came to him, stiff and formal, but coming to us, reading our names on our uniforms and greeting us by name. He looked me in the eye when he shook my hand, he joked with some, whispered to others, spoke a little Spanish to my friend. 2 hours of almost non-stop motion, how exhausting after a 12 hour flight! He did it to be with us, and we appreciate it.

Thanks for the email – and thanks for all you’re doing.

MILBANK RESPONDS

It seems as if Dana Milbank, one of the most ferociously anti-Bush White House reporters, is mighty steamed by the president’s visit to Iraq. He did get Rich Bond to give him his nut graf, but when a reporter is quoting Sid Blumenthal on president Bush, you know he’s scraping the barrel. The message to the Iraqis? Not that Bush is intent on victory. But rather that “Bush doesn’t think their country is secure. It underscores the insecurity, and it conveys insularity.” A president occupying a country thousands of miles away conveys “insularity.” Ohhh-kay. And the strong commitment to the task at hand would merely one day come back to haunt the president, as the “chaotic and dangerous situation” in Iraq eventually proves, er, Dana Milbank right. Memo to Dana: I know it was Thanksgiving yesterday, but you can sure make your anti-Bush screeds a little subtler than this one. Ask Pincus. He’ll help.

CHERYL RESPONDS

A classic deranged response from the anti-war left to the president’s Iraq trip. It’s a letter to the editor in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Editor — President Bush visiting Iraq for Thanksgiving? His arrogance and overblown self-importance really exposes him. Bush doesn’t do his job by bringing the troops home. Instead he flies for a photo-op with them to use in his re-election campaign. He was there a total of two hours.
These men and women in the military are not protecting me, and I do not want or need their protection. Bush should get off the big lie that they are there to protect me as an American. I would rather die than be protected in that way.
I am ashamed to be an American as long as Bush is in office.
CHERYL MERRILL
San Francisco

I’d love to see Cheryl go hand to hand with al Qaeda on her own, wouldn’t you?

EMAIL OF THE DAY

“Concerning his ‘flight from Waco’ before heading to D.C./Baghdad, Bush mentioned that he and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice sat in the Secret Service car, dressed causually with baseball caps. What really impressed me is his accompanying statement that ‘we looked a normal couple.’
Even as a proud American, I freely admit that we have serious work left to us regarding race relations. That an American President (white) blithely compared his sitting in an official vehicle, while on a secret government mission, with his black female National Security Adviser, and compare the two of them with ‘a normal couple’ I think is a positive step for our society as a whole.
Granted, it is not monumental, it is not pushing aside Wallace to get black kids into the school house and get an equal education, but it is important.
I don’t even remember Bill Clinton ever feeling his way to say/do anything like that as President!”

ONE OF HIS FINEST MOMENTS

We know the Bush family likes to keep secrets, to spring surprises on unsuspecting outsiders, to hold decisions close and unveil maneuvers and initiatives with some aplomb. But the visit to Baghdad was spectacular even by those standards. The president said what almost all of us feel: that those troops out there are doing enormously difficult work and they deserve immeasurable thanks. By also serving them dinner, he demonstrated something important: that even the president is essentially indebted to these men and women. He is their servant, not they his. It was a perfect visual sign. The president’s message to Iraqis was also important: we have to convince the Baathists that we will not falter an iota in accomplishing a peaceful transition to democracy. Some have interpreted the plans for some troop reductions next year as a sign that the president is micro-managing the war to time with his election prospects; or that we are about to pull a Clinton and wriggle out of a commitment. This trip is the best response to both doubts. It reaffirms resolve, raises morale, and asserts our intention to get this done right. It’s called leadership. And we just saw some.