Friday, November 17, 2017

Elizabeth Smart's Resilience

When someone has been traumatized a competent psycho professional will want the person to get over the experience, to put it behind him. Incompetent psycho professionals will want him to integrate the experience into his life narrative.

If they are Freudians they believe that when people have difficulty getting over a trauma, the reason must be that they had unconsciously wanted it to happen. Their problems derive from their inability accept that they wanted to be molested, harassed, abused or raped.

Most Freudians will never accept that their grand master believed such things. If so they have failed the most elementary lesson in close reading of the Freudian text.

On various occasions, as our media are filled with stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault, I have remarked that many of the victims have said that they have never gotten over what happened to them. To which I have offered the example of Elizabeth Smart. When Smart was a teenager in Utah she was kidnapped and raped repeatedly for months on end. And she has, as well as we can tell, gotten over the experience and lived her life.

Thus, she shows how someone can overcome trauma and move on with her life. It is a constructive message, one that needs more attention.

Yesterday, Bethany Mandel gave the Smart story more of the attention it deserves. She argued that Smart overcame her experience by showing uncommon resilience. More than that, Mandel explains that Smart chose “joy” over anguish.

We note that Smart did not have the option of keeping her trauma secret. The couple that kidnapped her was put on trial for their crimes. They are currently serving long prison sentences. Once an experience becomes common knowledge, it is that much harder to put behind one, to act as though it never happened. Smart's ability to overcome a trauma that everyone knows about counts as exceptional.

When everyone knows what happens to you they look at you differently. In time this will come to define who you are… as a victim, as someone deserving of pity and sympathy.

I am all for choosing joy and admire Smart’s resilience, but, if we dig a little deeper we note that she was not in it alone. She was surrounded by a strong and moral community, a community that insisted on treating her as though nothing  had happened. It takes a significant effort for a community to rally behind a victim and to act as though nothing happened. Smart also had a strong intact family that acted as though it had not happened.

Surely, strength of character counts, but, family and community attitudes are often decisive in producing such strength of character. Especially when the victim is a child. In another community with a different family Elizabeth Smart might not have believed that she could choose joy.

As for the question of what defines your character, Smart herself stated it well and clearly in a motivational speech:

Every single one of us has had something happen to us in our life… I mean, hopefully it’s not all kidnapping (laughs). It’s not what happens to us that defines who we are. It’s what we decide to do. It’s our choices who define who we are. Whatever it is you’re going through, don’t give up.

Who you are is not everything that happened to you. Who you are is what you chose to do. I will accept that this is not entirely accurate, but, Smart is correct to see that if you did not choose to be traumatized, the trauma did not happen to you.

Stephen Cohen on Trump and Putin

Discussions of Trump administration Russia policy have been so completely clouded over that it is nearly impossible to make any sense of what is going on. Those who hate Trump hate Trump. They see nothing but their hatred. Everyone else is so defensive that they feel a need to balance their judgments, so as not to appear to be pro-Trump.

As I have sometimes noted on this blog, the most sane and sensible voice on the Trump administration Russia policy has been Stephen Cohen, writing in The Nation. Cohen is an expert on Russian history and politics. He has on occasion presented his views on Tucker Carlson’s show. He is well informed, intelligent and reasonable.

We ought to pay him more attention. In a recent Nation column John Bachelor summarizes the central points that Cohen made in an extended conversation, not only on Russian policy but on Trump’s recent encounter with Vladimir Putin in Vietnam.

Bachelor reports:

Cohen argues that America is now in unprecedented danger due to two related crises. A new and more dangerous Cold War with Russia that is fraught with the real possibility of hot war between the two nuclear superpowers on several fronts, including Syria. And the worst crisis of the American presidency in modern times, which threatens to paralyze the president’s ability to deal diplomatically with Moscow. (To those who recall Watergate, Cohen points out that unlike Trump, President Nixon was never accused of “collusion with the Kremlin” or faced reckless, and preposterous, allegations that the Kremlin had abetted his election by an “attack on American democracy.”)

While in Vietnam Trump met with Putin. Cohen’s analysis deviates sharply from that of most other commentators:

Trump met several times, informally and briefly, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Presumably dissuaded or prevented by some of his own top advisers from having a formal, lengthy meeting, Trump was nonetheless prepared. He and Putin issued a joint statement for cooperation in Syria, where the prospects of a US-Russian war had been mounting. And, both leaders later said, they had serious talks about cooperating on the crises in North Korea and Ukraine.

Cohen believes that Trump’s statements were positive and constructive. He agrees that the former national security officials who denounced Trump are “political hacks”:

He reiterated his longstanding position that “having a relationship with Russia would be a great thing—not a good thing—it would be a great thing.” To this Cohen adds, it would be an essential thing for the sake of US national security on many vital issues and in many areas of the world, and should be the first foreign policy principle of both political parties. Trump then turned to “Russiagate,”saying that Putin had again denied any personal involvement and that in this Putin seemed sincere. Trump quickly added that three of President Obama’s top intelligence directors—the CIA’s John Brennan, Office of National Intelligence’s James Clapper, and the FBI’s James Comey—were “political hacks,” clearly implying that their declared role in “Russiagate” had been and remains less than sincere. He also suggested that Russia had been too “heavily sanctioned” to be the national security partner America needs, a point Cohen reminded listeners he himself had made many times.

And Cohen adds Sen. John McCain to the list. In his eyes they have misunderstood the geopolitical stakes and are willing to undermine the relationship between America and Russia if they can use Russiagate to destroy the Trump administration:

The immediate reaction of liberal and progressive “Russiagate” adherents was, Cohen continued, lamentably predictable, as was that of their Cold War allies Brennan, Clapper, and Senator John McCain, who never saw a prospect of war with Russia he didn’t want to fight. Racing to their eager media outlets, they denounced Trump’s necessary diplomacy with Putin as “unconscionable.” New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow accused the president of “a betrayal of American trust and interests that is almost treasonous.” He quickly deleted “almost,” declaring Trump’s presidency to be “a Russian project” and Trump himself “Putin’s dupe.” (In full retro Cold War mode, Blow also characterized the US president as Putin’s “new comrade,” apparently unaware that both leaders are known to be anti-Communists.) Blow may be among the least informed and most hyperbolic of national columnists on these matters, but from his regular perch at the Times and on CNN, he speaks to and for many influential Democrats, including self-professed progressives.

Cohen concludes that the promoters of the Russiagate narrative are compromising national security. It’s an extremely serious charge, made more surprising by the fact that it is coming from someone who is on the political left:

The promoters of “Russiagate” seem to have no concern for America’s actual national security interests and indeed, in this regard, are actively undermining those interests. To the extent that “Russiagate” and the crippling of Trump as a foreign policy president is becoming a major part of the Democratic Party’s national electoral platform, can the party really be trusted to lead the nation?... 

Putin’s Russia is not America’s enemy but a national security partner our nation vitally needs. The president made this clear again following the scurrilous attacks on his negotiations with Putin: “When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.” ... 

We are, Cohen concludes, clearly at a fateful crossroads in US-Russian relations and in the history of the American presidency as an institution. The crux should be American national security in the fullest domestic and international respects, not whether we are Trump supporters or members of the “Resistance.” Reckless denunciations make the two crises worse. The only way out is non-partisan respect for verified facts, logic, and rational civil discourse, which “Russiagate” seems to have all but vaporized, even in once exalted places.

Here a progressive thinker declares that the proponents of the Russiagate narrative have ignored facts, logic, and rational discourse. Credit to Stephen Cohen for intellectual integrity.

News from the Saudi-Israeli Entente

News out of Riyadh tells us that Saudi King Salman will resign next week, to be replaced by his son the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Meanwhile, American commentators are horrified by what is happening in Saudi Arabia. As that nation works toward economic modernization and more liberal social policies, the commentariat insists that things can only get worse. Dare we say that their crystal balls are fogged over by their antipathy for the American president.

Two stories caught my attention recently, and I report them without any excessive commentary.

The first, from RT. Since the report quotes a high Israeli military official, in an on the record interview with a Saudi source, we may take that fact, in and of itself, as significant. Since Israel and Saudi Arabia have been getting closer lately, making a gesture toward the Saudis, in a Saudi newspaper, must count as significant outreach. I suspect that it would not have been offered if the Israelis did not have a reason to believe that it would be well received:

The chief of staff of Israel's military (IDF) told Saudi Arabia's Alaf newspaper in an unprecedented interview that his country is ready to share intelligence on Iran with Riyadh.

"With [US] President Donald Trump, there is an opportunity for a new international alliance in the region and a major strategic plan to stop the Iranian threat," Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), told the paper. "We are ready to exchange experiences with moderate Arab countries and exchange intelligence to confront Iran." 

When asked whether Israel had recently shared intelligence with the Saudis, Eisenkot said: "We are ready to share information if necessary. There are many common interests between us..."

The military official added that Iran was the "biggest threat to the region," Haaretz reported, also saying that Tel Aviv and Riyadh were in full agreement about Iran's intentions, and noting that Israel and Saudi Arabia had never fought each other.

Eisenkot went on to say that Israel's security situation had never been as good as it is at present, claiming that was why "we are highly regarded by the moderate countries in the region." He then accused Tehran of trying to destabilize the region by building weapons factories and supplying advanced arms to terrorist groups throughout the Middle East.

"Iran seeks to take control of the Middle East, creating a Shiite crescent from Lebanon to Iran, and then from the Gulf to the Red Sea," Eisenkot said, when asked about Iran's intended goal. "We must prevent this from happening."

Keep in mind, American commentators are gnashing their teeth over the absence of a strategy for dealing with increasing Iranian influence, especially in Syria and Lebanon. Apparently, such a strategy is being developed between Israel and Saudi Arabia... and maybe others. One must applaud the new level of cooperation—often remarked on this blog—between Israel and its Arab neighbors. And we note that the Israeli general even praised President Trump for the work he has done on the problem.

Second, we have this report, which may or may not be true, but which is consistent with the above, from the Jewish Chronicle, through the Small Dead Animals blog, via Maggie's Farm:

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has reportedly ordered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to accept the Middle East peace plan due to be announced by Donald Trump in the coming weeks.

Mr Abbas was summoned to a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh last week and was instructed to accept the Trump vision for peace with Israel or resign, Israel’s Channel 10 reported.

Jared Kushner, the US leader’s son-in-law, is preparing a new effort to secure a deal between Israel and Palestine.

Mr Kushner visited Riyadh two weeks ago where he is said to have discussed several issues with the crown prince, who has forged a close link with Mr Trump’s regime.

The Saudi crown prince and leading figures in the neighbouring United Arab Emirates are understood to be eager for progress to allow for more coordination with Israel over Iran.

There are also concerns in Saudi Arabia over potential collaboration between Hamas and Hezbollah over Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

The Palestinians leadership is known to be keen to improve relations with the Saudi crown prince, but Israel’s settlements in the occupied territories remain a major stumbling block to any White House peace initiative.

About this we shall see. We note the important role played by Jared Kushner in these important negotiations. Today, the United States Senate is in an uproar today about Kushner’s disclosure forms. Have you ever gotten the impression that our august legislative bodies are mired in gossip and bickering because they are afraid to deal with the real business at hand?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Uneasy about #MeToo

Fair and balanced still works for me.

In my previous post I took Vanessa Grigoriadis to task for sloppy thinking about the wave of reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I owe it to you to present a writer who grasps the complexity of these issues. But, who masks her identity behind a pseudonym, Lexa Frankl.

Writing on Quillette Frankl recounts the time when she, an eighteen-year old college freshman got very drunk, invited a boy up to her room, had consensual sex with him and woke up in the morning wondering what she had done. Through this encounter she also contracted herpes.

Was she raped? Or not?

And who was I to accuse someone of a crime when I knew perfectly well that it was partly my own recklessness that had placed me in jeopardy? I had willingly embraced a degree of risk in my pursuit of pleasure. I had drunk to excess, I had invited a man I had just met back to my home, and I had willingly engaged in unprotected sex. 8 or 9 times out of 10, the only consequences would have been fleeting regrets and a headache. But I was old enough to know that I might be unlucky. And so I was.

When she looked at feminist sites, she discovered that, to their mind, she had been assaulted. She felt that she had made a mistake. They told her that she had been a victim:

Feminist and activist sites set up to counsel and advise victims of sexual assault seemed perversely determined to convince me that I had in fact been assaulted, and sternly warned against any assumption of personal responsibility which they invariably describe as “victim-blaming.” Instead, they offered trite slogans such as “Drinking is not a crime – rape is” and “Don’t tell your daughter not to go out, tell your son to behave properly” and “Teach men to respect women.”

One can ask where a female freshperson got the idea that it was good to get blind drunk and then to have sex with a stranger. One suspects that the counsel did not come from the patriarchy, or even the girl’s mother.

Frankl then addresses the issue of personal responsibility:

Even an abnormally unreflective person will be able to come up with examples of occasions when their own foolish decisions have contributed to their misfortune. In a liberal society, we are free to make our own choices. But when those choices predictably increase personal vulnerability or risk, we are usually expected to take moral responsibility for shouldering the possible consequences of that risk.

Feminists insist that a woman should be able to behave as she pleases. If she suffers an assault, it is not her fault. Of course, no one ever thought it was, so we happily concur. And yet, Frankl reasons, if you fail to wear a seat belt and get into an accident where the other car was clearly at fault, does it provide you with any consolation to know that it was not your fault?

I might refuse to wear a seatbelt on the basis that I am particularly fastidious about road safety. But if another less cautious driver were to drive his vehicle into mine, most reasonable people would accept that I bear responsibility for any injuries I would not have sustained had I taken the sensible precaution of wearing a safety belt.

She continues:

In the modern day West, we rightly accept that men and women ought to be able to dress as they please without being subject to moral opprobrium. But that doesn’t alter the fact that revealing attire will attract the attention of the opposite sex, and that it is designed and (usually) worn for precisely this purpose. Because this effect is indiscriminate, a foreseeable consequence is that it will attract both wanted and unwanted attention.

The issue has become so fraught that it is worthwhile to read Frankl’s sensible approach. There is no such thing as a human being who is ever able to do exactly what he or she pleases, without being responsible for some of the consequences.

After all, if nearly five decades of feminism have produced a war between men and women, the chance are good that someone is going to get hurt. If you want fewer people to get hurt, call off the war and return to proper decorum and even dating.

In Frankl’s words:

To notice that certain behaviors predictably increase a person’s vulnerability is so obvious as to be banal. But any attempt to ask women to acknowledge the associated risks is routinely described as ‘rape apologism.’ If identifying and acknowledging such behaviors is to become taboo, then how are people supposed to mitigate the risks associated them, or to make informed judgments about whether a particular risk is worth the benefits it affords?

It’s all about infantilizing women… relieving them of all personal responsibility and moral agency. Who knew?

But by demanding that women renounce personal responsibility, contemporary feminists and sexual assault activists reduce adults capable of agency and choice to children capable of neither. This is a disempowerment trap, and it was only once I was able to accept responsibility for my own actions that I was able to reclaim my sense of autonomy, repair my shattered self-esteem, and move forward with my life. Instead of embracing a distorted view of the opposite sex, or blaming my upbringing, or surrendering to the passivity of inert victimhood, I emerged from the experience stronger and freer, with a greater sense of self-worth, and a more realistic understanding of the world.

Is Feminism the Solution or the Problem?

Nearly five decades of intense feminism and we get: Harvey Weinstein.

After nearly five decades of intense feminist consciousness raising about sexual harassment and we discover that, if anything, the problem has gotten worse.

Feminists happily revolutionized the culture. They threw out dating and courtship rituals. They rejected the role of housewife. They refused to play along with the sexual division of labor. They discarded feminine modesty and asserted their independence and autonomy.

Feminists declared that strong, empowered women did not need to be protected by men. They did not need to receive overt gestures that signified relative weakness. They threw out the rules and accepted only one kind of protection: a condom.

Women have learned to lean in against men, to fight against the patriarchy, to rebel against white male privilege. How did it happen that the war on men has not made things any better. Are relationships better? Have marriages improved? Do men and women get along any better now than they did in the past?

If you read through the anguished accounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault, you will conclude that men and women are now in a state of semi-permanent conflict.

You’ve come a long way, baby!

In the absence of rules and customs for male/female interaction, men and women sometimes go bump in the night but their sex lives often resemble an alcohol fueled free-for-all. The notion of having sex with someone you know seems to have been discarded with the rest of patriarchal customs.

Naturally, feminists think that feminism will solve all of these problems. But, perhaps feminism is the problem, perhaps the feminist attacks on men are producing a hostile environment. 

The therapy culture thrills to the fact that so many women have now overcome their sense of shame and have come forth to denounce male sexual predators. But, haven’t we been fighting against shame for decades now. Don’t we all believe that we should just let it all hang out? What if the absence of a sense of shame has produced the problem, not solved it. Not to be excessively vulgar, but the men who are harassing and assaulting and exposing themselves to unwilling women have also overcome their sense of shame. Is anything more shameless than whipping it out in front of an unwilling woman? 

And besides, feminists want women to enlist in the feminist cause. They want every incident of apparent harassment and impropriety to be treated as a crime. They do not understand that women might have good reason not to come forth. They do not understand that the moral issue is ambiguous at least, because women also know that, in coming forth, they will be inviting people to imagine them in undignified postures. In some cases the sacrifice is worth making. In other cases women think long and hard before they want to engage in such a public display. The world would be a better place if we accepted that women are free to come forth or not.

Author Vanessa Grigoriadis offers her views of the problem of sexual assault on college campuses. Naturally, she believes that the problem can be solved by instituting a police state through Obama administration policies that allow colleges to deprive those accused of assault of due process of law. She does not understand that this level of unchecked empowerment will produce a hostile response.

Grigoriadis was unhappy when the Trump administration suspended the requirement:

But in September, pundits across the political spectrum approved when the Education Department rolled back some Obama-era rules that had broadened protections for college sexual assault victims, ostensibly because they robbed accused students of their right to due process in campus courts. Obama’s rules were already pro forma at some colleges before his 2011 federal guidance, so I believe the backlash isn’t truly about government policy, but discomfort about the change in how students approach the problem of sexual assault today.

Note the word “ostensibly.” Many law professors and lawyers rejected the policy because it did deprive the accused of the right to confront his accuser, the right to cross examine, the right to be judged by a jury of his peers in a court of law, the right to an attorney.

Of course, Grigoriadis cheers the women who have overcome their shame and have told their stories:

It reflects a much more positive trend: Like today’s actresses, college students are casting off the shame of victimhood to tell their stories.

Does anyone dare say that we live in a culture that reeks of shamelessness, of exhibitionist behaviors where women where enticing and alluring outfits, where they send pictures of their genitals to boys and men, where far too many women participate in hookups with random men and where we spend an inordinate amount of time discussing sexual matters.

She continues that women are becoming more comfortable asserting their bodily autonomy. She does not understand that being autonomous means being unprotected, thus more vulnerable. And yet, where has Grigoriadis been: the insistence that women have bodily autonomy has been accepted dogma for decades now:

Young women are becoming more comfortable with asserting their bodily autonomy. Their growing refusal to submit to nonconsensual encounters should count as progress. How this plays out on campus is different from the Weinstein effect in key ways, but the point is, students have been at the forefront of what it means to be more outspoken about misconduct. They also offer us a preview of where the country might be going next.

True progress would be: having sex with someone you know. True progress would be a return to dating and courtship. The better you know the person the less likely you are to miscommunicate.

Since America has been flooded with conversations about sex for decades now, one is surprised that Grigoriadis thinks that it’s a good thing to talk more about sex. In fact, flooding the culture with explicit descriptions of sexual harassment puts ideas in peoples’ minds. It’s not as though we have not tried. We recall the Anita Hill testimony about Clarence Thomas. We recall the endless discussion of Bill Clinton and the cigar and the semen stained dress. Did these tamp down the incidence of sexual harassment in the workplace? By all accounts the enhanced consciousness made things worse:

In the meantime, we should be reassured that there is very much a positive side to this cultural upheaval: Kids in college are starting to talk about sex in a more personal and open way than ever before, and not just as a matter of politics but as a matter of pleasure. They’ve learned, as one female student put it, that “sex is about me too. I’m supposed to be enjoying this. It’s not all about you.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Fixing the Middle East

You have probably noticed that Obama foreign policy experts have been flooding the zone… that is, the media… with analysis of how badly President Trump is conducting foreign policy. They are especially avid to cover up their own errors and mistakes. 

They want to influence the way history is written and they are writing a new version that makes them look good, even at the expense of an American president. Yesterday, congenital liar Susan Rice took to the media to explain that Donald Trump had been played like a fiddle in China.

She is entitled to her opinion. She was entitled to her opinion about Benghazi, but her opinion on that occasion was a blatant lie, a way for her administration to wash its hands of responsibility for the deaths of four Americans… deaths caused by Obama administration incompetence.

And yet, as noted in these pages before, President Trump was treated with great respect, like a world leader, in China. Barack Obama was not. The same was true in Saudi Arabia. Whatever we all think of Donald Trump’s foreign policy credentials—so to speak—his ability to develop good relations with foreign leaders matters.

Our foreign policy elites, especially the Obamaphile left, believe that making empty declamations about human rights, leaning in to threaten foreign leaders in their own countries, is the way that great nations conduct their affairs. It is not. Obama did not understand this. Susan Rice did not understand this. Apparently, a rank amateur like Donald Trump does. One understands that those who live in the world of ideas do not believe that people matter or that personal relationships matter. They do. To ignore them is reckless and dangerous.

If an American president does not treat a foreign dignitary with respect, nothing will happen. If he threatens the leaders face, nothing will happen.

After all, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger did not travel to China in order to denounce the Cultural Revolution or the Great Leap Forward. And yet, all of the foreign policy hands believe that Nixon’s opening to China was of monumental importance.

Now, as you might have been noticing, the Obama foreign policy team is out in force to denounce the Trump administration handling of the Middle East, in particular, the recent actions of the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

Caroline Glick calls them out by name. They are, for now, Aaron David Miller, Richard Sokolsky and Robert Malley. They were the architects of the Obama administration’s submission to Iran and to the Muslim Brotherhood. Timorous souls that they are they quiver in fear at the possibility of political and social disruption in the region. They want things to return to the way they were when Obama was in charge.

Glick puts it in context. And she argues effectively that the situation produced by the appalling Obama approach to the conflict paved the way for today's upheaval:

For eight years, the Obama administration deliberately alienated and willingly endangered Saudi Arabia and Israel by implementing a policy of appeasing Iran. Despite repeated warnings, the US refused to recognize that as far as Iran is concerned, it cannot have its cake and eat it too.

Iran is at war with Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies and with Israel.

Consequently, Miller and Sokolsky’s claim that there can be an “equilibrium to America’s relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran” which doesn’t involve the US siding with one side against the other is an illusion. On the ground in the Middle East, as events in Syria, Lebanon, Qatar, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Gaza and Egypt have made clear, Obama’s strategy of appeasing Iran weakened America’s traditional regional allies and strengthened Iran and its proxies.

The change in the balance of forces that the Obama administration’s policy caused forced the US’s spurned allies to reassess their strategic dependence on the US. Contrary to Miller and Sokolsky’s claims, the Saudis didn’t abandon their past passivity because Mohammed is brash, young and inexperienced.

Mohammed was appointed because Salman needed a successor willing and able to fight for the survival of the kingdom after Obama placed it in jeopardy through his appeasement of Iran. Mohammed is the flipside of the nuclear deal.

Malley noted blandly that like the Saudis, Israel has also been sounding alarms at an ever escalating rate.

The situation in the Middle East is as it is became President Obama spent eight years appeasing Iran, sucking up to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. His nuclear deal with Iran-- circumventing constitutional authority to ratify treaties-- coupled with his willingness to finance Iranian terrorism created a greater danger to everyone in the region. 

Correcting such a grievous error is not going to be easy. It will not occur without any breakage. It will not happen without errors. And yet, forming an anti-terrorism alliance with Sunni Arab nations is surely in the best interest of the world entire.

Fortunately, the people in charge are not repeating Obama’s mistakes:

It makes sense that Obama partisans are unhappy with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed. It makes sense that they are unhappy with Netanyahu and with Trump. All four of these leaders are impudently insisting on basing their policies on recognizing the reality Obama spent his two terms ignoring: Iran is not appeasable.

The What Ifs of History

Economic historian Niall Ferguson opens a recent column with a question: could the world have stopped the Bolsheviks before they took over Russia and launched a catastrophe that ended up killing more than 100 million people? What would have happened if our leaders were more capable, had seen the pending danger and had acted accordingly.

The opportunities were there. Those who had power missed them. Politicians did not take the threat seriously. Intellectual elites did not much care. After all, Bolsheviks and Communists were intellectuals. They belonged to the thinking class. As long as that class functions like a cult, it excuses the sins and crimes of its members.

Ferguson explains how Communism could have been stopped:

Could more have been done to halt the Communist pandemic after it broke out in Russia in 1917? Yes. After all, the only reason Lenin was able to get from Zurich to Petrograd in 1917 was that the imperial German government paid for his ticket — and more. An estimated $12 million was channeled from the Kaiser’s coffers to Lenin and his associates.

The provisional government thus had every right to arrest Lenin and his 19 associates on arrival. They were German agents. And Alexander Kerensky, who took control of the provisional government in July 1917, had even better grounds to round the Bolsheviks up: By then, they had attempted a coup and failed.

The problem was that people underestimated Lenin & Co. They seemed an unruly bunch of intellectuals. No contemporary Western observer thought for a moment that their crackpot coup would last. Naive American bankers completely failed to appreciate that the Bolsheviks meant exactly what they said about defaulting on the entire czarist debt. No one foresaw that hereditary nobleman Ulyanov (to give Lenin his original name) was equally capable of ordering mass murder.

Foreign intervention, incompetent liberals, clueless bankers: That makes three reasons the Bolsheviks weren’t stopped. Let me not forget the fellow travellers. John Reed, with his risible glamorizing of the revolution, would have many, many heirs.

Not many went quite as far as the Cambridge spies, who shamefully betrayed their own country to Stalin. But how many intellectuals between 1917 and 1991 turned a blind eye to the crimes of Communism? Too many to count.

Applying the same reasoning to our current war against Islamic terrorism, Ferguson suggests that we are making similar mistakes:

Ask yourself how effectively we in the West have responded to the rise of militant Islam since the Iranian Revolution unleashed its Shia variant and since 9/11 revealed the even more aggressive character of Sunni Islamism. I fear we have done no better than our grandfathers did when the virus spreading around the world was Bolshevism. It is, indeed, the same old story.

Foreign intervention — the millions of dollars that have found their way from the Gulf to radical mosques and Islamic centres in the West. Incompetent liberals — the proponents of multiculturalism who brand any opponent of jihad an “Islamophobe.” Clueless bankers — the sort who fall over themselves to offer “sharia-compliant” loans and bonds. Fellow travelers — the leftists who line up with the Muslim Brotherhood to castigate the state of Israel at every opportunity. And the faint-hearted — those who were so quick to pull out of Iraq in 2009 that they allowed the rump of al Qaeda to morph into ISIS.

A century ago it was the West’s great blunder to think it would not matter if Lenin and his confederates took over the Russian Empire. Incredible as it may seem, I believe we are capable of repeating that catastrophic error. I fear that, one day, we shall wake with a start to discover that the Islamists have repeated the Bolshevik achievement, which was to acquire the resources and capability to threaten our very existence.

Of course, Ferguson is practicing counterfactual history. It’s less about what happened and more about what might have happened. I have occasionally opined along these lines, asking this question: what would the twentieth century have looked like if Theodore Roosevelt had been elected president in 1912?

Compared to the cowardly Mr. Wilson, TR would have intervened far more quickly and decisively in the Great War. He might have ended it before it became what it became. He wrote countless op-ed columns explaining his plan. If such had been the case, we might not have had Bolshevism or even World War II—the latter having been incited by Wilsonian diplomacy. 

Ferguson is striking a blow against theories of historical inevitability, namely we could have done nothing to stop what was going to happen from happening. The latter theory neatly absolves many people from responsibility for their role in guiding history. It's a good reason to be skeptical about it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Feminist Enablers

Many of us have made the point on many occasions. Yesterday, Caitlyn Flanagan made it clearly and forcefully in The Atlantic.

Her point: that the liberal Democratic establishment and what she calls “machine feminism” bears responsibility for the epidemic of sexual harassment by progressive feminist men. Led by the enabler in chief herself, these leftist feminists rushed out to defend Bill Clinton against credible charges of sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape.

Flanagan describes Clinton’s crimes:

Yet let us not forget the sex crimes of which the younger, stronger Bill Clinton was very credibly accused in the 1990s. Juanita Broaddrick reported that when she was a volunteer on one of his gubernatorial campaigns, she had arranged to meet him in a hotel coffee shop. At the last minute, he had changed the location to her room in the hotel, where she says he very violently raped her. She said she fought against Clinton throughout a rape that left her bloodied. At a different Arkansas hotel, he caught sight of a minor state employee named Paula Jones, and, Jones says, he sent a couple of state troopers to invite her to his suite, where he exposed his penis to her and told her to kiss it. Kathleen Willey said that she met him in the Oval Office for personal and professional advice and that he groped her, rubbed his erect penis on her, and pushed her hand to his crotch.

It was a pattern of behavior; it included an alleged violent assault; the women involved had far more credible evidence than many of the most notorious accusations that have come to light in the past five weeks. But Clinton was not left to the swift and pitiless justice that today’s accused men have experienced. Rather, he was rescued by a surprising force: machine feminism. The movement had by then ossified into a partisan operation and it was willing—eager—to let this friend of the sisterhood enjoy a little droit de seigneur.

While Hillary Clinton was out front attacking the women who had dared accuse her husband, and whose charges, if true, would have seriously compromised her own quest for the presidency, Gloria Steinem stepped forth to defend Bubba:

The notorious 1998 New York Times op-ed by Gloria Steinem must surely stand as one of the most regretted public actions of her life. It slut-shamed, victim-blamed, and age-shamed; it urged compassion for and gratitude to the man the women accused. Moreover (never write an op-ed in a hurry; you’ll accidentally say what you really believe), it characterized contemporary feminism as a weaponized auxiliary of the Democratic Party….

And then she wrote the fatal sentences that invalidated the new understanding of workplace sexual harassment as a moral and legal wrong: “Even if the allegations are true, the President is not guilty of sexual harassment. He is accused of having made a gross, dumb, and reckless pass at a supporter during a low point in her life. She pushed him away, she said, and it never happened again. In other words, President Clinton took ‘no’ for an answer.”

As I have often noted, the liberal response to Clinton’s behavior paved the way for Harvey Weinstein:

The widespread liberal response to the sex crime accusations against Bill Clinton found their natural consequence 20 years later in the behavior of Harvey Weinstein: Stay loudly and publicly and extravagantly on the side of signal leftist causes and you can do what you want in the privacy of your offices and hotel rooms. 

It’s time, Flanagan concludes, for the Democratic Party to have its own reckoning, for it to measure how much its willingness to excuse Bill Clinton gave a green light to other progressive men:

The Democratic Party needs to make its own reckoning of the way it protected Bill Clinton. The party needs to come to terms with the fact that it was so enraptured by their brilliant, Big Dog president and his stunning string of progressive accomplishments that it abandoned some of its central principles. The party was on the wrong side of history and there are consequences for that. Yet expedience is not the only reason to make this public accounting. If it is possible for politics and moral behavior to coexist, then this grave wrong needs to be acknowledged. If Weinstein and Mark Halperin and Louis C.K. and all the rest can be held accountable, so can our former president and so can his party, which so many Americans so desperately need to rise again.

Life is not looking very good for the Clintons these days. It couldn't happen to nicer people!

The Downside of Diversity

The letter dates to June 9, 1969… to the time when Yale Law School first decided to enact diversity quotas. Written by California appellate judge Macklin Fleming to Yale Law Dean Louis Pollak, it counts as eerily prescient. John Hinderaker calls Fleming a prophet.

Here are some of the salient points. You decide whether Fleming showed foresight. And if the outcome of the experiment was foreseeable, why have so many schools signed on.

Anyway, Fleming wrote:

From your remarks and those of Dean Poor, I understand that 43 black students have been admitted to next fall’s class, of whom 5 qualified under the regular standards and 38 did not. … You also said that the future policy of the Law School will be to admit 10 per cent of each entering class without regard to qualification under regular standards.

He continued, that Yale had now established two separate law schools:

With the adoption of its new admission policy the Law School has taken a long step toward the practice of apartheid and the maintenance of two law schools under one roof. Already there has been established in the Law School building a Black Law Students Union lounge with furniture and law books provided by the school. And I learned from Dean Poor that the 12 black students in the present first year class who were admitted under relaxed standards have not done well academically. Dean Poor attributed this deficiency to the pre-occupation of these students with racial activities. I think it equally logical to attribute their preoccupation with racial activities to their lack of qualification to compete on even terms in the study of law.

Since black students admitted to fulfill a diversity quota were more likely to be at the bottom of their class, they would start feeling intellectually inferior:

If in a given class the great majority of the black students are at the bottom of the class, this factor is bound to instill, unconsciously at least, some sense of intellectual superiority among the white students and some sense of intellectual inferiority among the black students.

Next, Fleming explained what might happen when a group of students was consigned an inferior status:

No one can be expected to accept an inferior status willingly. The black students, unable to compete on even terms in the study of law, inevitably will seek other means to achieve recognition and self-expression. This is likely to take two forms. First, agitation to change the environment from one in which they are unable to compete to one in which they can. Demands will be made for elimination of competition, reduction in standards of performance, adoption of courses of study which do not require intensive legal analysis, and recognition for academic credit of sociological activities which have only an indirect relationship to legal training.

Given that America’s universities have adopted the same policies, we should perhaps not be surprised that they have tried to downplay competition and practice rampant grade inflation.

And, of course, the students who cannot compete in the classroom will take their struggle outside of the classroom, to protest on the street.

Fleming explained:

Second, it seems probable that this group will seek personal satisfaction and public recognition by aggressive conduct, which, although ostensibly directed at external injustices and problems, will in fact be primarily motivated by the psychological needs of the members of the group to overcome feelings of inferiority caused by lack of success in their studies. Since the common denominator of the group of students with lower qualifications is one of race this aggressive expression will undoubtedly take the form of racial demands–the employment of faculty on the basis of race, a marking system based on race, the establishment of a black curriculum and a black law journal, an increase in black financial aid, and a rule against expulsion of black students who fail to satisfy minimum academic standards.

And, of course, a diversity program that favors some groups will necessarily disfavor applicants from other groups. At the time Fleming wrote Ivy League schools were working to overcome their discriminatory policies against Jewish students. A quota system that admitted unqualified black applicants would necessarily exclude more qualified Jewish applicants:

A quota policy particularly discriminates against minority groups which have achieved disproportionate representation in a particular field. Such a policy discriminated severely against Jewish applicants for admission to medical schools in the 1930’s. That policy was undoubtedly justified by its supporters as one designed to preserve a proportion of gentile students in medical schools equivalent to their proportion in the general population. Currently, the orientals in California, roughly 1 per cent of the population, comprise in some instances 30 per cent of the enrollment in certain engineering and technical schools. Were a quota system to be introduced in those schools in order to favor black and Mexican-American applicants, the first losers would be applicants from the presently disproportionately represented oriental group.

Amazingly the more the diversity policy fails the more America's universities adopt it and continue to try to adapt to it.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sexual Predator Central

To brighten your day, via Maggie's Farm:

Are You Ready to Be Brainwashed?

There, he said it. He said what most of them are thinking. He identified your problem and offered a solution.

Your problem is that you have not been sufficiently brainwashed. So said Gov. Moonbeam himself, Gov. Jerry Brown of the People’s Republic of California. (Politico, via Watts Up via Maggie’s Farm)

Because, Jerry knows best. He knows things that you do not know and that you cannot imagine. He knows how bad it really, really is. Your pedestrian imagination flounders when faced with such a grandiose vision of human destitution and desolation, of a world where every last living thing, down to the most miniscule bacterium will be erased and eradicated. Your imagination, however capacious you think it is, cannot grasp the scale of the calamity.

On his way to the climate talks in Bonn, Gov. Moonbeam stopped off at the Vatican. Now being led by an Argentinian, the Vatican has become far friendlier to crackpot theories, especially anti-American ones. Whether this has anything to do with Argentina or with the fact that the pope underwent psychoanalysis, I leave to your imagination.

Politico sets the scene:

On his way to the United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany, this week, Jerry Brown stopped over at the Vatican, where a doleful group of climate scientists, politicians and public health officials had convened to discuss calamities that might befall a warming world. The prospects were so dire—floods and fires, but also forced migration, famine and war—that some of the participants acknowledged difficulty staving off despair.

The word “apocalyptic” does not quite do it justice. At least in the Biblical narrative, the New Jerusalem descends on the purified world. In the new leftist world of deep and serious thinking, nothing good comes about.

One needs to mention that this represents the last throes of an all-out assault on capitalism and free enterprise and the Industrial Revolution. Beginning with the famed Luddites the Western world has always had a coterie of haters, people who believed that economic progress was going to destroy your soul. In its place they proposed economic stagnation, because capitalism was evil and its gains ill-gotten. They knew, as you don't, that the hand of divine justice would destroy everything that the venal capitalists had built. But it would not stop there. It would destroy the rest of the world.

In the Vatican Jerry Brown was in his element. He seized the occasion:

California’s doomsayer governor did not express much optimism either. Seated between an economist and an Argentine bishop at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Brown leaned into his microphone and said, “It is despairing. Ending the world, ending all mammalian life. This is bad stuff.”

Next thing you know Gov. Brown will be standing in Times Square holding up a sign that reads: The End is Nigh.

And yet, Brown clings to one last thread of hope. He sees no cause for optimism, but he still believes that something can be done… like banning fossil fuels and raising taxes to the point where the vast majority of people in California will starve. Happily for Brown, nearly the majority of people in his state do not speak English at home. One trusts that he belongs to the Barack Obama, Angela Merkel open-borders school of immigration policy, the one that believes that we can do penance for our capitalistic sins by welcoming more and more people who reject our values and who will vote the way Brown wants them to vote.

Brown continues:

“There’s nothing that I see out there that gives me any ground for optimism,” he went on. Still, he promised action: “I’m extremely excited about doing something about it."

Being a patriot, Brown is showing off his own rejection of the last presidential election by traveling around the world pretending that he is the president, or, shall we say, a shadow president in an alternative nation. Didn’t Victor Davis Hanson once call it: Mexifornia?

 Crusading across Europe in his Fitbit and his dark, boxy suit, Brown advances California and its policies almost as an alternative to the United States—and his waning governorship, after a lifetime in politics, as a quixotic rejection of the provincial limits of the American governor. In the growing chasm between Trump’s Washington and California—principally on climate change, but also taxes, health care, gun control and immigration—Brown is functioning as the head of something closer to a country than a state.

In his final term, Brown has lobbied other states and regions to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, while augmenting California’s already expansive suite of climate change programs. But Trump’s election—and the specter of Brown’s own retirement—have lately set the governor on a tear. In a rush of climate diplomacy this year, Brown traveled to China to meet with President Xi Jinping, then to Russia to participate in an international economic forum. This past week saw him address lawmakers in Brussels and Stuttgart, Germany, and he was preparing for roundtable meetings with scientists in Oslo before arriving in Bonn for a climate conference, where Brown will serve as special adviser for states and regions. And he is preparing for California to host an international climate summit of its own next year in San Francisco.

While Obamaphile politicians whine about Donald Trump’s supposed lack of patriotism, Brown pretends that he no longer belongs to the great American nation. He is running his own foreign policy. Patriotism does not do it justice:

He [Brown] was still talking about the need for a fundamental shift in lifestyle when he said at the Vatican that confronting climate change will require “a transformation of the relationship of human beings to all the mysterious network of things.”

“It’s not just a light rinse,” Brown said. “We need a total, I might say, brainwashing. We need to wash our brains out and see a very different kind of world.”

Happily for us, we have the Jerry Browns of this world to keep us apprised of what is happening in the mysterious network of things. It sounds like he has taken a page from an earlier and greater opponent of the “dark Satanic Mills” of industrialization. Brown talks like someone who has been stuck in a time warp, sitting in class and reading William Blake. Didn’t Blake write:

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.

The more important part is the wish to brainwash everyone. After all, that is what it’s all about. The new Resistance, the one that is still fighting the Nazis in the fields of France, believes, as an article of faith, that those who voted for Donald Trump had been influenced, tricked, cajoled, nudged or pushed by those meddling Russians. No one in his right mind could have voted for Trump, so Trump voters were not in their right minds. It echoes the sentiment of one Thomas Frank. Didn't Frank write a book where he suggested that the people of Kansas did not know what was good for them and were voting against their best interests. It would not take any great leap to suggest that Frank knew better and that in a true democracy we could ignore their votes and allow their betters, like Frank, to decide for them. If that did not work, we would have to try a little brainwashing.

After all, totalitarian democracies do not need to have elections. The Party knows what is best for you. The Party can read the general will of the people. If you think otherwise, you have been indoctrinated by the great capitalist propaganda machine. Nowadays it is begin led by the Russians who have been meddling in our elections. Doesn't that mean that the Russians control your minds and are forcing you to do what is not in the best interest of Jerry Brown and Thomas Frank? To overcome the terrible things that Russia is doing to your mind, Jerry Brown proposes a good brainwashing.

Good to know where he stands. Good to know that you either agree with Gov. Moonbeam or you are guilty of thought crimes.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Dying Girls Need Love

It feels a little too convenient to be true, but I suspect that it is. Our friend Polly, advice-giver in training, has a friend who is undergoing chemo. Polly is trying to be a good friend—credit for that—but she is hardly up to the task. To help her out, her friend has been telling her what to do. Good friends are like that.

Since Polly seems to think that everyone’s problems are really about her, I will open with her account of trying to be a friend to someone undergoing chemo:

I’ve been trying to trick one of my friends into hanging out on her chemo days or while she’s recovering. I just feel like I could play the role of a good partner, fun or quiet or barely there if necessary. She questions why I’d want to be there, and I guess I don’t really blame her. Even though I see it as a way of showing up and offering her something I’m good at giving, maybe there’s also a little of the ambulance-chaser, disaster-gawker in the mix for me. Even if that’s a side effect of being drawn to the ugly truth at all costs, it can still feel a little suspect. As with any other personality trait, there are good impulses and bad impulses dancing together there.

Now, the friend is right. She is questioning Polly’s motives. Perhaps they are not the best of friends. Perhaps it’s not Polly’s place. Perhaps Polly is intruding. Certainly, Polly's behavior is irritating. The best part is, the friend calls Polly out on her Pollyannish treacle, her mindless pep talks that pretend to be profound, but aren’t.

Polly explains:

I get that this might sound obnoxious. I sometimes talk like this to my friend who’s going through chemo, and even though she’s a skilled novelist capable of capturing the most heartbreaking moments with a few well-chosen words, she’s not into my pep talks. She’s like, “Fuck you, I’m bald and I feel like shit.” Flowery words of inspiration just make her feel worse. So I give her shit and make jokes now. That’s what she likes.

Of course, this does sound obnoxious. And we are aghast at the second sentence, run-on that it is. Polly is amazed to see that her novelist friend, a woman who has mastered the art of prose, would not be into her pep talks. For our part we cannot imagine that anyone would be into Polly’s pep talks. As it happens, the friend is perhaps the first person to call Polly out to her face. Good for her.

Anyway, today’s letter writer is dying of cancer. This 28 year-old single woman wants, above all else, to die in the arms of someone she loves. She has been out looking for love in Tinder—hmmm—but has not yet found it. Now she has found a man she sees as perhaps fulfilling the role, but has not yet told him of her health issues.

Without further ado, here is the letter:

I feel like a strange amalgam of various others who have written to you, but nevertheless, here I am. I’m 28, single, and dying from a cancer that is breaking my body and spirit down at an alarming rate. Obviously, so many things about this situation scare and sadden me. But the thing that consumes me most, day in and day out, is the fear and heartbreak of not having a partner there with me through the two or so years I have left or holding my hand when it’s finally time to go. Having been confronted by mortality at a young age, I feel I know more about myself than many 28-year-olds do, and one thing I know is that I am a relationship person. I was in one relationship from age 20 to 25, and another from age 25 to 26, and while neither were perfect, I felt whole and truly like myself in both of them. And it’s not just because I love the feeling of being loved (though obviously I do), but I truly love giving my love to someone else. It feels like the thing I was meant to do, and the reality that I may never have that again is devastating.

Despite the fact that my days are mostly spent in doctor’s offices or lying in bed (or, frequently, both), I do the whole Tinder thing occasionally just for a sense of normalcy and, yes, male attention. I’m okay with most of these dates being one- or two-time things. It’s a salve, sure, but it’s fun, it gets me out of the house, and no one owes each other anything, which means I feel no need to disclose the fact that I’m a ticking, tumor-ridden time bomb. But when I do come across a guy where there’s some real potential (as is the case right now), I find myself both weaving an intricate web of lies to keep things cool in the present and steeling myself for the eventual parting of ways when I either tell them who I really am or break things off before that even happens.

So my dilemma is this: How do I square my desire for a loving partner with my reality as it is? I want to believe there’s someone out there who I could not only open up to about my health but who would accept and love me in spite of it. But that feels like a fairy tale (FUCK YOU, FAULT IN OUR STARS etc.). And even if it’s not a fairy tale, and that guy materialized, I would be wracked with guilt at the idea of even asking someone to get pulled into this terrifying, morbid mess. So, Polly, do I keep chasing the fairy tale? Do I give up entirely? Is there some other alternative I’m missing? Or is the salve the best I’m going to get until things are so bad that I no longer have the physical strength for any of it?

She signs it, Dying Girls Need Loving, Too?

In truth and in all fairness, we are inclined, as is Polly, to tell her that she should have whatever she wants. If she wants to die in her lover’s arms, we are for it. It sounds like a fairy tale, but, given her situation, she has every right to want to live out a fairy tale.

Polly is right on this point:

The real question is whether the fantasy of love will be a salve or not. Personally, I’m a big fan of choosing your illusion. I think every big, overwhelming event in life — sickness, kids, marriage, death — demands some suspension of disbelief. Fantasies and fairy tales present themselves to us culturally as modes of escape, but sometimes they’re actually a way of savoring the present; it just depends on how we use them. 

And of course, it is a fantasy. Again, we are for it. If it works for her, all to the better. And yet, did you notice that this 28 year-old seems to have no one in her life, no family members, no friends. Isn’t that slightly suspicious? This will sound slightly morbid, but if you are dying wouldn’t you want to be surrounded by people who loved you, who had cared for you throughout your life, and not someone you had met two months ago and had basically hired to play a part.

Apparently, whenever the letter writer feels well enough she goes on Tinder, finds men and hooks up. We wish her all the best. She must be thinking that she has nothing to lose, so why not?

Perhaps it’s therapeutic. Perhaps she feels for an instant that someone really wants her. And yet, hookups tend to disappear after the fact, leaving young women feeling alone and abandoned. Perhaps a second or third date, a developing relationship would make it all feel better, but I suspect that it will not.

Because, as she knows and as even Polly understands, anyone who agrees to act that role in her personal fairy tale will probably not have the best of motives. How does he distinguish the woman from her illness? We do not, incidentally, know her prognosis.

As for the question of when she should tell a man that she is ill, the answer, Polly knows it too, is very, very soon. The longer she waits the more she will feel like she is cheating him of vital information.

As for her last question, whether she should give up her quest for true love, I agree that if that is what she wants then she has every right to go for it.

And yet, would it not be better to spend more time with her family, more time with her friends, more time with activities that did not leave feeling empty at the end. The salient point of this letter is her failing to mention the existence of anyone else in her life. Hopefully, she is not detaching herself from the people who love her because she is out looking for Prince Charming.

Of course, Polly cannot resist offering up the kind of mindless pep talk that her novelist friend does not want to hear. It would have been nice if Polly had recommended that this woman spend more time with the people who love her not, but, she prefers to go all Zorba the Greek, seize the day, feel your feelings:

But I also think that you should cling fast to the fact that this is your life and yours alone, and it’s beautiful already in its own rough, ragged way. It already matters. It doesn’t matter more if someone is there with you. It matters now. I want to challenge you to dare to see yourself through that lens, whether you find someone worthy of your love or not. I would hate for your search for love to rob you of what you already have. I want you to be able to take every fucked up, scary, morbid moment and every glorious, divine, irreplaceable moment and every mundane setback and dreary wait and imperfect, faintly satisfying moment in between and add them up to something truly romantic.

Most of all, though, I want you to know that this world loves you more than you can possibly imagine. I want you to believe that. Even though the most terrifying and morbid evidence would seem to suggest otherwise, the truth is that this world adores you like the most devoted lover. I can’t prove it, but I know that it’s real. When you struggle, the leaves on the trees shudder, the sun weeps, Beethoven’s violins cry, and the spirits of the dead and the living are on your side. We are all living inside the same terrifying, sweet, sad question with you. Do you feel that? That part is not a fairy tale. That part is real.

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to tell someone who feels sick most of the time to feel her feelings.

One is not surprised, but has it not crossed her mind or Polly's mind or anyone's mind that this young woman might also find some comfort and consolation in religion? It's one thing to hire a lothario to hold your hand when you die, but perhaps she should have considered that religion can also provide comfort and consolation at such times. Is she not really looking for God's love? Is she making herself more worthy of God's love by hooking up? Just a thought.