Friday, October 19

Here are some astonishing, tragic pictures. Space Imaging is a private satellite company that takes photographs of the most amazing quality and resolution. I'd seen some satellite photos of the WTC devastation, but these are unique. Click here to see before and after photographs.
One of the new movies coming out today is Riding in Cars With Boys. It's received mixed reviews, mostly because, it seems, the tone of the book has been lost through a reworked screenplay and Penny Marshall's anvil-wielding direction. I won't be seeing it, but I thought I'd tell you that the book on which the movie's based was written by Beverly Donofrio, the author of a book I reviewed last year called Looking for Mary. You can find the review here.
Okay. Here's a better expression of what I was trying to say below.

Leftist like Katha Pollitt live in the Land of Discourse. (That's the Postmodern deconstructionism for you) They see what happened on September 11, not as an act that killed thousands, but as a statement in an ongoing discourse. Therefore, the only level at which can evaluate whether or not a response is appropriate is on that same level. What does it mean? How are we responding to their statement?

What is missing from this, besides reality, is the truth that the terrorists were not simply "making a statement" here (although their choice of targets contains that element). They were trying to do something - they were trying to kill lots of people, disrupt American life, and continue working towards their objective of destroying our country on a variety of levels. Pollitt and her ilk just can't - or won't - see this. They think that bin Laden wants to make a point, and that the most we should do is make points in return.

This morning, I listened to a "discussion" between Andrew Sullivan and Katha Pollitt, the editor of The Nation. Sullivan had described the encounter on his website, and has said that several readers have taken him to task for being "uncivil" to Pollitt. Here's a link to the program.

Give me a break. Sullivan was doing nothing but being forceful in his convictions: utterly serious, his words and tone rich with his awareness of the crucial moment in which we find ourselves. On the other hand, Pollitt was like a twittery, giggly schoolgirl who had nothing but platitudes to offer. She clearly has no sense of what's really going on, and is content to work out of nothing but cliches.

Her chatty tone was particularly shocking considering that she lives in New York. Her daughter's school is 4 blocks from the WTC site (her daughter made famous, incidentally, by her mother's column about their conflict over hanging a flag in the wake of the attack. She wanted to, mom wouldn't have it. Proof that nurture isn't everything.)

Doesn't Pollitt live in the shadow of this? Doesn't she know the smell of it? Doesn't she walk and work on an island of which one corner has become a mass grave for 5,000 bodies? How can she maintain that chirpy tone in the face of such horror?



She kept saying that the present American action is essentially "bombing Afghanistan" and that this action was being done as some sort of quick fix, ultimately hopeless. She obviously hasn't been listening to Bush, et.al, who have been constantly reminding us that this is, indeed, a complex situation, and breaking the fundamentalist Islamic terrorists could very well take a long time and involve much more than Afghanistan.

The host had his own snide contribution to make, introducing the program (this is a public radio station in Boston, remember) with a call to all "minds with shade" to continue their profound reflection on the issues at hand. Sullivan didn't fail to notice the implication - that if you feel strongly about the matter, especially in support of a forceful response - that's somehow crude and intellectually unsophisticated.

It's distressing, but I suppose not surprising that some feel that Sullivan was somehow (to put it bluntly) mean to little Katha. But that's been the case for a while now. Stating a strong case, particularly from a "conservative" perspective (whatever that means) is routinely described as "divisive" and "uncivil." It's nothing but an attempt to discredit and even stifle certain viewpoints.

Most striking, of course, was Pollitt's inability to present any alternative course of action, which is rooted in her devotion to relativism, but at a deeper level, the implicit assumption, which she may not even see in herself, that all, in the end, is essentially symbolic. We shouldn't "do" anything, apparently, except write articles, have commission meetings and show solidarity. With someone.

It's all about symbolic gestures, which is the ultimate province of the privileged who are used to having freedom at other people's expense, whether it be the hired help or the despised military and intelligence forces who, in case she doesn't know it, are all that are standing between Katha Pollitt and a burqa (or perhaps a nice case of smallpox or just simple nuclear-induced vaporization) right now.

Feast of the North American Martyrs

Today is the feastday of several French Jesuits who came to the New World in the 17th century. Dare we still celebrate them, or any missionary, in these multi-cultural days? We wouldn't have a problem if they'd just wanted to bring material comfort to the native peoples. We like the Red Cross. We like social workers. But these men had something else they were bringing: the Gospel.

Perhaps the best way to put their efforts into perspective for the doubtful is this: These men were brutally tortured and murdered. What better evidence is there for the need for Christ among those they tried to serve than that?

Here's a link to the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, New York.

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