Motherly Love

My niece Clio, in the midst of a story about kids who were mean: "But my mom always says, if somebody does something mean to you, do it back."

Me: "Wait, what does your mother say?"

Clio: "Do it back to them."

Me: "Your momma taught you 'Get revenge'?"

Clio: "Yes."

"Are we the baddies?"

Periodically I watch this classic skit.

David Brooks is channeling the skit today in "What If We're the Bad Guys Here?" He gently chides his posh NYT readership with lots of chummy assumptions about "our" elite status, but points out that those smelly Trump supporters do have just a bit of a point about how the smug illuminati are making out like bandits at the expense of their pathetic protegees.

Not that he doesn't pull himself back from the brink; he knows he can't completely lose his audience. "Are Trump supporters right that the indictments are just a political witch hunt? Of course not." Heavens to Betsy, no, we're not that wrong.

To give him credit, though, he closes on a good thought:
“History is a graveyard of classes which have preferred caste privileges to leadership.”
Unearned caste privileges are a good way to get the guillotines to be rolled out.

That stuff that never happened was OK and we knew all about it anyway

Every day I have to ask myself whether there's a limit to how low this process can go. The new establishment spin on Hunter Biden is that he was a con man selling what only "appeared" to be access to his powerful father. I hope he vetted that approach with the shady guys who paid him, or they might be wondering about a refund. On the other hand, if they got their expected merchandise long ago, maybe they're fine with the new story.

Meanwhile, it's nice to know that Biden Sr. didn't mind helping create this harmless illusion of access. It's just a service that powerful men in public service naturally perform for the smart beloved sons they trust implicitly. Nothing to see here, certainly nothing to consider when casting a ballot in 2024.

Dreaming and thinking

From Maggie's Farm today:
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
Rabindranath Tagore
Another way to say "dreaming and waking" is "gut and head," or feeling and discerning: the wise heart. Add action, and you have the will, or soul.

Way Out West

For the next three weeks I will be visiting my mother, sister, and niece on the border of Wyoming and Idaho. It’s a very different land than the one I usually frequent, with bigger skies and Rocky Mountains— indeed, the Grand Tetons— different weather, and different flora and fauna. 

Tonight, for example, I am making beer-braised moose for supper. It’s just like the venison braise I described on the sidebar, but with a different beast in the pot. 


I haven't saved anyone from physical peril lately, unlike our host. What I have been, is involved in a local crisis with the animal shelter. To make a long story short, I was afraid we'd turned some kind of awful corner and would have to abandon our long-standing program that more or less prevented any need to kill animals to make space. I'm now thinking we hit more of a temporary blip and just need to scramble to take some emergency Dunkirk-like action to get the sudden population pressure off the shelter, and that we'll be able to get back on an even keel and still avoid killing animals for space.

More about that later. What I want to say today is that I come unspooled in the face of dogs under threat. Our new County Judge named a committee to step in and made me the chair. I'm scrambling and finding some useful concrete immediate things to do to get a grip on the problem. My committee has excellent members. There's all kinds of good news.

In the middle of all this, I had a shattering experience at my church on Sunday, making an impassioned plea for help that I felt fell on deaf ears. I was in tears in front of the lot of them, and I felt they ghosted me. Again, long story, there's more to it, I get that it wasn't all it seemed, and we'll deal with it.

No, here's the real point. I have a friend at church between whom and myself a terrible rift opened up years ago over how she had put her dogs in danger. I’ve been icy ever since, with my conscience upbraiding me. Yesterday, alone among all my co-parishioners, she showed up in Commissioners Court to support me and the dogs. I realized I had to make this right by finding her and confessing my fault in my part of the rift. Today she asked my forgiveness before I could even speak first. We buried the hatchet. It’s moments like that that make life worth living. (And on top of that, we've savings some dogs.)

I think God sees that there are things in me that can't be helped until other things are broken down. He puts me in a crisis where I have to crack open and become fully human, because I can't coast by in a state of cool control. If it takes dogs in peril, He'll put me in charge of saving some dogs in peril. Because it's not only dogs to whom I owe a duty of love, it's also my fellow human beings, especially the ones I haven't managed to forgive. I'm so solitary; I'm barely in contact with human beings at all most of the time. But that's not what I was put on Earth for.

Bad Christians

The lead story for two weeks running in The Smoky Mountain News has been about a dude* in a bikini. Nobody knows who this dude is, or what sex/gender the person is, or what pronouns are preferred (SMN is at pains to point that out, but then assumes 'she' is correct in their coverage). These were accompanied by an editorial against the "dangerous vigilante fantasies" of country music, which must "end."

Coverage by the local paper has been painfully sanctimonious. Now SMN is a good paper in spite of its clear liberal editorial bias; they produce well-researched journalism on the drug trafficking situation in the region, on local politics, on internal Cherokee Nation affairs, and also on arts and literature in the area (the latter being why I read it; I often find out about good bands and live shows through them). I've been genuinely impressed by their straight journalism work. Even here, they went to some trouble to get the facts straight and to file appropriate public records requests, etc. That's not the issue.

I'm also willing to give an argument against interest in opposing the sanctimony. The coverage demonstrates that people were passing rumors that are not supported by the video of the incident. That's dangerous, as they say; and we can reasonably agree that a hundred years ago a similar kind of rumor about possible sexual predation by a hated minority might have led to a lynching. The absence of lynchings marks real progress, and I am prepared to acknowledge that these sort of irritating liberal responses are presumably partly to be credited for that progress. (Certainly not wholly to be credited for it, but I can see the argument that they are assisting in providing a helpful social immunity to such mob violence).

All the same, I have a problem with the preaching. I do mean preaching literally:  two of the section headers in their first piece are unelaborated Biblical references, whose clear intention is to suggest that their social opponents are bad Christians as well as bad people (as well as wrong on the facts). 

This is not necessary, and in fact is very risky, for their preferred arrangement. Their basic argument is captured in their headline: "The mere existence of trans people is not a crime." (Again, whether or not the wholly anonymous dude in the bikini is in fact trans, or just a David Lee Roth impersonator, is not clear from the facts.) Now that's true as a matter of fact, but it's accidentally true: and if you put it to a clean vote, democratically speaking, I don't know that it would continue to be true. Still, the best argument is that there is official toleration of this violation of local mores that the population is legally bound to accept regardless of whatever they or their church think about it.

Shifting it to a religious ground opens the question of whether this kind of behavior is in fact something that ought to be tolerated as a matter of ethics and morals, and it turns out religion has a lot to say about that. St. Augustine and Aquinas have a lot to say, as does the official doctrine of many churches, as do many preachers and priests who might rise of a Sunday morning to speak to the matter if asked to do so.

The liberal project to a large degree depends on disallowing that entire line of argument. The liberal project no longer attempts -- as it did in the era of Immanuel Kant** -- to universalize religious philosophy as an exercise of practical reason. It has long since simply declared that religion belongs in the private sphere. Because freedom of religion is a basic right, anyone may accept or refuse to accept any religious doctrine. Thus, positive laws cannot enshrine religious doctrines without violating the right of people to reject the doctrines those rules are based upon. 

If you want to argue religion, you have to admit religion to the debate. If you want to exclude religion from public life, you don't get to preach either. 

As for country music, I haven't ever heard the song and thus don't know if I consider it actual country, which is a more vicious debate even than these already described.  The tradition of vigilante fantasies in music is very old and broad, though; it's not just Merle Haggard and Charlie Daniels but traditional Irish and Scottish music, and English, and, well, all such music. You're just going to have to learn to live with that one, SMN. Freedom of artistic expression is a basic right on the liberal model too. 

* Dude is a gender-neutral term, they say.
** Kant's universalized philosophy of practical reason was hotly against alternative sexualities, by the way.

A Less Glorious Outing

We had a call overnight that lasted 14 hours. A big storm left us pulling security for the electrical workers who were repairing the damage so two districts could get power back. It was necessary to completely close the only artery through this area for more than twelve hours, and that on a Saturday night when many people were traveling up or down the mountain while a little tipsy. 

On the upside, power has been restored and no electrical workers were hurt by crazy drivers crashing through their work zones after midnight. I had a chance to get to know one of the elders in the community, who had many interesting stories about his decades with the department of transportation, mountain foods he'd grown up with and recommended, and which creeks were good fishing. He kept coming back on foot all night because his family was trapped on the other side of the barricade, and he was worried about them. We had eyes on them, we just couldn't let anybody through all night.

I can't remember the last time I actually stayed up all night until dawn, which is an experience I remember more fondly from my youth. I think I might forgo it, as fate allows, for the future.