Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mood Music

I've been trying to get the image of Al Gore assaulting that masseuse in a hotel room out of my mind, but I just can't. In fact, the more I think about it the more credible the massuese's story seems. After all, not even the world's greatest satirist could concoct a detail like this:

The accuser said Gore maneuvered her into the bedroom. His iPod docking station was there, he told her, and he wanted her to listen to "Dear Mr. President," a lachrymose attack on George W. Bush by the singer Pink.

Only Al Gore would find listening to a song that bashes George Bush suitable for erotic mood-setting. No wonder Tipper couldn't take it anymore.


Blowin' in the Wind

Kyle Smith of the New York Post declares the culture war all but over and conservatives are the losers. He arrives at this melancholy conclusion because of evidence that young voters have rejected the traditionally conservative positions on many of the social issues that their elders have clashed over:

You know something is changing in American mores when the supposed leader of the culture wars from the right, Sarah Palin, declares that smoking pot is "a minimal problem" and that "if somebody's gonna smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody any harm, then perhaps there are other things our cops should be looking at to engage in."

Like many other pointless wars, the culture conflict has mainly resulted in exhaustion. Now the troops are laying down their arms and going home.

More and more Americans, particularly in the youngest generation of adults, are shrugging at drug use, gay relationships, pre-marital cohabitation, single motherhood, interracial marriage (which is now all but universally accepted) and gun ownership. More and more people aren't bothering to lug their church to the voting booth.

If only people between the ages of 18 to 29 voted, 38 states would support gay marriage, says a study by Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips of Columbia University. Will today's youngsters change their minds about gay marriage as they age? Don't count on it.

You may have heard a word or two about the Tea Party, which is fiscally focused. But the accompanying demise of Reagan-era groups like the Christian Coalition and the Moral Majority is just as important. The morality armies have failed to inspire their children to join the crusade.

I'm not saying that Smith isn't correct, he may be, and in my more saturnine moments I fear he is, but it must be said that the views of the young are notoriously volatile, and it's risky to base predictions of the future of our culture conflicts on such a mercurial demographic.

Young people are almost always more liberal than their parents, and they grow increasingly more conservative as they have their own families and experience more of life. Even people who count themselves as liberal today are probably less so now than they were in their late teens and twenties.

For example, the finding that if only the young voted 38 states would support gay marriage is doubtless true, but it probably would have been true forty years ago as well.

Neither does Smith's claim that Sarah Palin would support legalizing marijuana amount to much as an augur of the future because it's really nothing new. Conservative icon Bill Buckley came out for marijuana's legalization back in the 1970s. Nor has interracial marriage been an issue for conservatives for at least a generation. A number of prominent conservatives have mixed race families, either by marriage or adoption. No one is more revered among conservatives than Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, and, though he's black, Mrs. Thomas, also a popular conservative activist, is white.

In other words, the youthful attitudes Smith points to as storm clouds on the horizon for cultural conservatives have been around for a long time and yet the culture war still rages. Perhaps Smith is reading into the current shape of the clouds his own hopes for the future.

At any rate, Mr. Smith may be correct, but I think it's a little too early to be prognosticating what society will look like a few decades down the road. History takes strange twists, and it often doesn't take much to nudge it onto a completely different path.


Atheists Don't Have No Songs

Steve Martin joins the Steep Canyon Rangers at the New Orleans Jazz Festival to perform a little ditty that makes a pretty interesting point, actually:

Well, there was John Lennon's Imagine, but after that ....

Atheism simply doesn't inspire art, at least not sublime art. This is not to say that atheists as individual artists haven't produced great works of art, literature, or music, of course, but rather that the art that they have churned out has not, except in a relatively few instances been inspired by their atheistic worldview. Alexander Pope's Essay on Man comes to mind as an exception, perhaps, but little else does. If I remember correctly, Richard Dawkins laments the inability of the atheism to inspire great art in his book The God Delusion.

If it's true that atheism is such a dry well of inspiration we might take a moment or two to reflect on the reasons why that should be so. Perhaps it's because, followed to its logical conclusions, atheism offers no hope, no good, and no meaning to anything. It's a gateway to despair, and despair has never been an impetus for art that lifts the spirit and soars.

HT: First Thoughts


Enigma in the White House

Mark Steyn writes with a pungent wit that's at its keenest when Mr. Obama is his subject. In this column he reflects on the air of apathy and detachment that clings to our president:

Only the other day, Sen. George Lemieux of Florida attempted to rouse the president to jump-start America's overpaid, over-manned, and oversleeping federal bureaucracy and get it to do something on the oil debacle. There are 2,000 oil skimmers in the United States: Weeks after the spill, only 20 of them are off the coast of Florida. Seventeen friendly nations with great expertise in the field have offered their own skimmers; the Dutch volunteered their "super-skimmers": Obama turned them all down. Raising the problem, Senator Lemieux found the president unengaged and uninformed. "He doesn't seem to know the situation about foreign skimmers and domestic skimmers," reported the senator.

He doesn't seem to know, and he doesn't seem to care that he doesn't know, and he doesn't seem to care that he doesn't care. "It can seem that at the heart of Barack Obama's foreign policy is no heart at all," wrote Richard Cohen in the Washington Post last week. "For instance, it's not clear that Obama is appalled by China's appalling human rights record. He seems hardly stirred about continued repression in Russia. . . . The president seems to stand foursquare for nothing much.

"This, of course, is the Obama enigma: Who is this guy? What are his core beliefs?"

Gee, if only your newspaper had thought to ask those fascinating questions oh, say, a month before the Iowa caucuses.

It does appear that Mr. Obama's goals for America are such as would have guaranteed electoral defeat if the majority of voters had known what they were. He wanted to become president for one reason: to diminish American economic and military influence in the world and force the nation, Procrustus-like, into a kind of egalitarian Euro-socialism. Nothing else really seems to fire his imagination. Other matters, like the Gulf oil spill, are little more than irritating distractions from his major passion.

To return to Cohen's question: "Who is this guy? What are his core beliefs?" Well, he's a guy who was wafted ever upward from the Harvard Law Review to state legislator to United States senator without ever lingering long enough to accomplish anything. "Who is this guy?" Well, when a guy becomes a credible presidential candidate by his mid-forties with no accomplishments other than a couple of memoirs, he evidently has an extraordinary talent for self-promotion, if nothing else. "What are his core beliefs?" It would seem likely that his core belief is in himself. It's the "nothing else" that the likes of Cohen are belatedly noticing.

Mr. Obama really isn't all that enigmatic for anyone who bothered during the campaign to attend to what he was saying and what others were saying about him. You can learn much about a man by reading the books which bear his name, by looking at the people with whom he surrounds himself throughout his life, and by examining his voting record. You can also learn something of the man by observing what sorts of records about himself he shields from public view. All of these considered together strongly suggested that Mr. Obama was a far-left ideologue of modest academic achievements who did not identify with the history and traditions of the Anglo-Saxon West and was not particularly fond of them. As such the probable path that Mr. Obama would choose to follow as president was fairly clear.

A large segment of America may now be growing disenchanted with the direction Mr. Obama is taking the country. We may be increasingly disturbed by the feeling that no matter how shallow the waters he finds himself in, he's out of his depth. We may find the looming prospect of huge deficits and crushing taxes alarming, but we have no one to blame but ourselves. We had every reason to foresee all this coming and we, or at least a majority of us, voted for it anyway.