Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Nod Your Head -- Then Shake

Some days I can't figure out whether to nod my head in agreement or shake it in disbelief. When we get to talking about Camille Paglia, a dissident-liberal-gay-feminist, I get to do both at the same time.

It is possible to admire someone for their intellectual honesty and analysis and still disagree with their conclusions and basic principles. I have not made a regular habit of reading Paglia, but on those occasions that I have visited her prose, I had to admit to certain things with which I agreed with her. That's me being intellectually honest -- and I admit she has an entertaining flair.

So I ask you: how can the most liberal of liberals write this about her party and President?

First it was that chaotic pig rut of a stimulus package, which let House Democrats throw a thousand crazy kitchen sinks into what should have been a focused blueprint for economic recovery.

Then it was the stunt of unnerving Wall Street by sending out a shrill duo of slick geeks (Timothy Geithner and Peter Orszag) as the administration's weirdly adolescent spokesmen on economics. Who could ever have confidence in that sorry pair?

And then there was the fiasco of the ham-handed White House reception for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, which was evidently lacking the most basic elements of ceremony and protocol.

... But I continue to believe in citizen presidents, who must learn by doing, even in a perilous age of terrorism. Though every novice administration makes blunders and bloopers, its modus operandi should not be a conspiratorial reflex cynicism.

Case in point: The orchestrated attack on radio host Rush Limbaugh, which has made the White House look like an oafish bunch of drunken frat boys ... Has the administration gone mad? This entire fracas was set off by the president himself, who lowered his office by targeting a private citizen by name. Limbaugh had every right to counterattack, which he did with gusto. Why have so many Democrats abandoned the hallowed principle of free speech?
You read that screed and you automatically think: right-wing nut job, right? Not so. The bedrock of our public education system is supposed to be critical thinking and analysis skills. Paglia is using those skills. (Again, not that I'll agree with her eventual conclusions.) Why do so many fall into the trap of groupthink and blithe rationalizations? A friend of mine is fond of saying
"Rationalization is the process of lying to yourself."

Now, I'm no intellectual giant but I do try to be honest about what I believe. I believe what the Catholic Church teaches because I have read, thought, and prayed about it, and chosen that worldview as the one that makes the most rational sense out of body, mind, spirit and the world. Paglia clearly has a markedly different worldview, but it is amazing to see that some things are clear from any vantage point.

As the saying goes, it is what it is.

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