Brooks and Bruni

Oh, now it’s getting VERY tiresome.  Bobo suggests “Let’s Have a Better Culture War.”  He whines that instead of fighting endless losing battles over sexual identity, we need a new traditionalism, one fueled by love and contact with the transcendent.  Bobo, what party is “fighting endless losing battles over sexual identity?”  In the comments “James Landi” of Salisbury, MD had this to say:  “Sometimes I wonder about the alternate dimension Mr. Brooks inhabits. As post WW II America has grown in to the leadership position of the free world, we have had to face social challenges to our constitutional ideals about just how to protect the individual and the concept of “pluralism” in our free society from the ravages and crushing forces of majoritarian “mores and norms.” Does not Brooks recall how unthinkable that black people should be permitted use a white bathroom, attend a white school, join a white country club?… How can Brooks not see that the “Culture Wars” are simply an alignment of what remains of white supremacy– the last vestiges of angry white baby boomers who feel cheated and manipulated by a federal government that has a constitutional responsibility to protect the rights of the minority. This latest set of wedge issues/ culture wars are special ingredients and an “octane boost” that is helping to fuel a new American dictator and bigot in waiting. Mr. Brooks, wake up please.”  That I doubt will happen.  Mr. Bruni considers “An Obama Nominee’s Crushed Hopes” and says that she was ready. She was qualified. But she was forced to wait and wait — until it was too late.  Gee — I wonder why?  Maybe Bobo could explain it all to us…  Speaking of Bobo, here, FSM save us, he is:

The recent fight over transgender bathrooms represents the reductio ad absurdum of the culture war.

We argue about cultural and moral matters in the first place because we care about our characters and the characters of our children. We understand that a free society requires individuals who are capable of handling that freedom — people who can be counted on to play their social roles as caring parents, responsible workers and dependable neighbors.

Further, we know that this sort of character formation can’t be done just individually. It’s carried out in families, schools and communities. It depends on some common assumptions about what’s right and wrong, admired and not admired — a common moral ecosystem.

So we care intensely about the health of that ecosystem and we argue about how to improve it.

The laws commanding where transgender people go to the bathroom, on the other hand, show how the culture war has devolved into an overpoliticized set of gestures designed to push people’s emotional hot buttons.

These laws are in response to a problem that doesn’t seem to exist. They are in response to a threat of sexual predators that has no relation to the existence of transgender people. They are about legislating a group, not about what constitutes good behavior. They are an attempt to erect crude barriers when a little local consideration and accommodation could get the job done.

For some reason, some defenders of traditional values are addicted to sideshows that end with the whiff of intolerance. At the same time, the larger culture itself has become morally empty, and therefore marked by fragmentation, distrust and powermongering.

The larger culture itself needs to be revived in four distinct ways: We need to be more communal in an age that’s overly individualistic; we need to be more morally minded in an age that’s overly utilitarian; we need to be more spiritually literate in an age that’s overly materialistic; and we need to be more emotionally intelligent in an age that is overly cognitive.

Rather than fighting endless losing battles over sexual identity, we need a better culture war. We need a new traditionalism.

A tradition, whether it’s Thanksgiving dinner, an annual family reunion or a burial ceremony, takes a physical activity and infuses it with enchantment. There’s a warmth to our traditions and rituals that is fueled by love and contact with the transcendent.

That has to be the opening assertion of a new traditionalism — that we’re not primarily physical creatures. There’s a ghost in the machine. We have souls or consciousness or whatever you want to call it. The first step of a new traditionalism would be to put the spiritual and moral implications of everyday life front and center.

If public life were truly infused with the sense that people have souls, we would educate young people to have vocations and not just careers. We would comfortably tell them that sex is a fusion of loving souls and not just a physical act. We’d celebrate marriage as a covenantal bond. We’d understand that citizenship is a covenant, too, and we have a duty to feel connected to those who disagree with us.

We’d see cloning and the death penalty as reckless acts that tamper with something mysterious. When we talked about foreign policy we’d talk not just about our material interests but also about what purpose we’ve been called to play in history.

If we talked as if people had souls, then we’d have a thick view of what is at stake in everyday activities. The soul can be elevated and degraded at every second, even when you’re alone not hurting anybody. Each thought or act etches a new line into the core piece of oneself.

The awareness of that constant process of elevation and degradation adds urgency to a bunch of questions. For example, what are we doing to a prisoner’s soul when we throw him in solitary? Can we really tolerate having so many people falling out of the labor force and unable to realize the dignity that comes with steady work? In what ways do our phones lead to attachment or isolation? When is shopping fun and when is it degrading?

We’d also need a new political science. The old one was based on the model that we’re utility-maximizing individuals, seeking power. That’s true, but love is the elemental desire of the spirit. People are desperately motivated to love something well, and be loved. A core task of communities is to arouse and educate the loves, to widen and deepen the opportunities for love and to appraise people by how well and what they love.

Our culture is overpoliticized and undermoralized. This new traditionalism would shift the debate and involve a thicker way of seeing and talking about public life. The debates that would follow would not be divided along the conventional lines.

Bobo, if you believed 0.001% of that you’d flee the Republican party and declare yourself a Democrat.  Since you haven’t one must decide that you continue to be a pearl-clutching hypocrite.  Here’s Mr. Bruni:

In early 2014, after decades of government and nonprofit work that reflected a passion for public service, Cassandra Butts got a reward — or so she thought. She was nominated by President Obama to be the next United States ambassador to the Bahamas.

It wasn’t an especially high-profile gig at the crossroads of the day’s most urgent issues, but it was a longstanding diplomatic post that needed to be filled, and she had concrete ideas about how best to do the job.

“She was very excited,” her sister, Deidra Abbott, told me.

The Senate held a hearing about her nomination in May 2014, and then … nothing. Summer came and went. So did fall. A new year arrived. Then another new year after that.

When I met her last month, she’d been waiting more than 820 days to be confirmed. She died suddenly two weeks later, still waiting. She was 50 years old.

The delay had nothing to do with her qualifications, which were impeccable. It had everything to do with Washington. She was a pawn in its power games and partisanship.

At one point Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, had a “hold” on all political nominees for State Department positions, partly as a way of punishing President Obama for the Iran nuclear deal.

At another point Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, put a hold specifically on Butts and on nominees for the ambassadorships to Sweden and Norway. He had a legitimate gripe with the Obama administration over a Secret Service leak of private information about a fellow member of Congress, and he was trying to pressure Obama to take punitive action. But that issue was unrelated to Butts and the Bahamas.

Cotton eventually released the two other holds, but not the one on Butts. She told me that she once went to see him about it, and he explained that he knew that she was a close friend of Obama’s — the two first encountered each other on a line for financial-aid forms at Harvard Law School, where they were classmates — and that blocking her was a way to inflict special pain on the president.

Cotton’s spokeswoman did not dispute Butts’s characterization of that meeting, and stressed, in separate emails, that Cotton had enormous respect for her and her career.

That’s Washington for you. Deeply admiring someone is supposed to be a consolation for — and not a contradiction of — using him or her as a weapon.

Senators from both parties have long employed short holds on nominations for leverage with the White House. But right now the practice is extreme and egregious: a tactic that’s turned into a tantrum.

Because of such holds, Norway didn’t have an ambassador for more than 850 days, and confirmation of the new ambassador to Sweden took nearly 500 days.

When Butts died on May 25 — she had acute leukemia, but didn’t know it and hadn’t felt ill until just beforehand — the Bahamas had gone without an ambassador for 1,647 days.

“All Cassandra wanted to do was serve her country,” Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama, told me. “Looking back, it is devastating to think that through no fault of her own, she spent the last 835 days of her life waiting for confirmation.”

Maybe the Bahamas, Norway and Sweden aren’t pivotal to us. But we have relations with each. We have ambassadors — or mean to. How do we guarantee the country’s security and get its business effectively done when the Senate shows such disregard for that? How do we look on the world stage?

And how do we attract the best people to government if they’re subject to the crazy crosswinds that Butts found herself in?

With her Harvard degree and, later, her connection to Obama, she could have turned to the private sector and really cashed in. That wasn’t her way. She worked for various Democratic office holders on Capitol Hill, for the N.A.A.C.P.’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, for the Center for American Progress and for Obama, including as deputy White House counsel.

Butts knew that she wouldn’t be instantly confirmed as an ambassador, her sister told me, but never expected such an enduring limbo. Some friends advised her to give up. That wasn’t her way, either.

I learned the details of her situation when I found myself at a dinner with her in Chapel Hill, N.C., where we both attended college. As she told the story, I kept looking for signs of anger and disgust, but she’d clearly worked past any such emotions.

Instead she communicated something like bemused resignation. I was glad for her that she’d reached that point. I was sorry for the rest of us. We should never be resigned to this dysfunctional pettiness, and there’s nothing amusing about it.

Go have a talk with Bobo and see if he can explain why that had to happen.

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