Here at The Feral Yawp we are beginning a new series in which one member kicks a topic off, and the other members join the yawping. Let’s call it “Feral Talk”. The conversation will be started by one member and then others will contribute (note the color coding). If you comment, we will respond in subsequent updates to the post.
So the opening yawp:
(Picture: Giovanni Battista Bugatti: chief executioner for the Papal States during the 19th century).
Fr. Dwight Longnecker is one of those fellows who started out evangelical, jumped ship for Anglicanism, and then swam the Tiber. He regularly spouts off Roman propaganda that flies in the face of historic fact and whitewashes the messiness of his own church and gives a false impression of the piety and holiness of his revered institution. Not surprisingly, Longnecker defends his pope’s politics against left and right because, you know, Francis just sat down in the middle of the road and we know the only thing you find there is roadkill (fellow wardog Clearly Mad pointed out yesterday). But the pope is Christ on earth for over a billion Catholics (no small amount of influence there), so when his holiness spouts off silly things, of course Longnecker must follow him into the breach of sophomoric claims about history, politics, and justice.
So it’s of little surprise that Longnecker stuck his neck out too far at Patheos the other day.
Toot the horn, bang the drum – Pope Francis is in town, and he’s got something to say. Because, like any self-styled intellectual you meet at your friend’s weekend party, Papa Frank has an opinion about everything. It seems like he even has opinions about his opinions – and everyone else loves to dissect his opinions. All of this, to him, seems like it’s worth a chuckle and a shrug. But to his critics, he’s an arbiter of destruction, a loose cannon, an anti-pope. He’s a socialist, a Marxist, a liberal. Or, from his followers and admirers, Frankie is a model of charity, a friend of the down-trodden, a breath of fresh air after almost eight years of stuffiness and Emperor Palpatine-esque brows under Benedict XVI. For some, Pope Francis’ ascent to the Seat of Peter wasn’t just announced with white smoke and a hearty “Habemus Papam!” but with Flyin’ Padre Pio and the Blue Angels sonic-booming over the Vatican, sprinkling the ecstatic throng with confetti and free Fit-Bits.
Season of the Wolf
When you see the wolf in the periphery there arrives an overwhelming surge of panic, a sudden re-framing of reality in which one does not have control. This is often accompanied by heart palpitations, trembling, dry mouth, deep-seated dread to the point of nausea, and even sweating and sudden sensations of stifling heat or numbing cold. Fawn response steeps the brain in norepinephrine, leaves the neural pathways soaking in it as an amalgam formation of pinpoint lightning bolts coalesce into a final reaction. Sometimes this reaction manifests in fight and sometimes it is flight. This is how the brain reacts when there is a wolf in the room. This is acute anxiety, the overbearing sense that one is in danger.
There is a bad moon rising. According to a Nuffield Foundation study of young people, anxiety symptoms have doubled in the last 30 years. One in fifteen for young men and one in five for young women are the new statistics. A number of data points have been used to explain this rise into our present panicked fever dream. The youth labor market has collapsed: youth full time employment has dropped by half down to 20%. The study also points to the increase of vocational and non-structured education and makes the startling claim that 25-35% of young people are engaged in educational courses which provide little to no perceptible value to their station in life. [Why am I doing this? Where will this lead? Are they wasting my time? Why don’t I care about this? Should I care about this? What is wrong with me?] The wolf looms large.
Jeb Bush has distanced himself from his brother’s decision to invade Iraq, and the Republican presidential candidates have joined him in this. Nevertheless, the Republican field still excoriates Obama for “not finishing the job” and pulling the troops out. Now there is talk of sending troops back in, of getting tougher on Assad, on re-instituting sanctions on Iran, and sending weapons to Ukraine. As much as this is “not the party of GWB” the bluster about existential threats emanating from different corners of the world and charges of human rights abuses are strikingly similar to the tone preceding our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. After a decade of grave misadventures abroad, you would think that the Republican Party would take a step back to reevaluate but not much seems to have changed. The party can’t seem to buck their George W cowboy.
There was a particularly nasty piece of drivel published on Salon yesterday, all about the myth of “meritocracy.” According to Ms. Cooper (AKA, “professorcrunk”), the entire construct of society as we know it is pejorative towards black people, tearing down any semblance of objectivity, and building its entire assumption about the world, emotion, feeling, and success around whiteness — in particular, MALE whiteness. Crunky gives no solution to the perceived slight from society, which means that, had she been born in Athens and run around in a white toga, she’d probably have been forced to take the hemlock.
I’m most fascinated by Crunky’s assertion that “The United States was not built on a system of meritocracy. It was built on a system of denied access.” The reality is that Crunky’s argument is old and gutless. She wouldn’t be happy unless Matt Damon had his money, cinema contracts, and good looks stripped and given to Tyrell Damon. But Crunky doesn’t need to pick on Matt Damon if she wants to point out celebrities who are steeping society in a furtherance of WHITENESS. Shaq recently admitted that he turned down a major business opportunity with Starbucks because he believed “black people don’t drink coffee.” This should actually make Crunky HAPPY, since Shaq is admitting that the “universal” – AKA, WHITE – assumption that everyone (again, WHITE PEOPLE) likes coffee actually destroys the individuality of demographics that prefer sweet tea, or Ovaltine.
At the beginning of summer I picked up David Halberstam’s The Fifties. Halberstam, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for his journalism in Vietnam, put his research skills to work during the next four decades of his life writing books on history. The Fifties puts his talents on display as he effortlessly and colorfully takes us on a fantastic trip through one of America’s most storied decades. It’s a joy to read a work that is not only well-researched but well-written.
One thing about good history is that it has a tendency to surprise you. When a writer inhabits the past fully, leaving behind his 21st century prejudices, unique and unexpected things begin to pop out of the woodwork. One particular historical nugget caught my eye in Halberstam’s work: his account of Earl Warren. And then I thought of my whipping boy, Howard Zinn, and couldn’t resist taking him to task yet again.