Sunday, May 14, 2006

Beware grand solutions

From Tim Caggiano, your blogstress's comrade in creative chaos, comes this missive, written in response to last Sunday's Spirit feature, which focused on Curtis White's genius piece in the April issue of Harper's, titled "The Spirit of Disobedience: An Invitation to Resistance."

On the extreme right we have the fear-mongering people of the word -- the church, the legal dogmatists and fundamentalists avec/sans head wrap. Take B-16 [Pope Benedict XVI],who early in his reign took troubles to denounce situationalists or anyone else with a little intellectual imagination.

On the liberal left we have rationalist, humanist, big-D Democrats with utopian sugarplums a-dance in their heads. Some good ideas -- but, oh, those pesky unforseen circumstances.

What's a mother to do? Well why not dredge the Bible, starting from jump. Adam and Eve get the boot from Eden for being too big for their intellectual britches. Trying to play God, for God's sake. Would that our presumptive leaders would digest that morsel of humility when they foist upon us (pass on the tab, to boot) for grand schemae. Democracy for Iraq? Peace talks for pathological squabblers...

There are scads of great principles to be mined in the sacred texts of religion, even the great ranters, from Jefferson to Marx (Karl, not Zeppo.) Accumulated wisdom is a powerful vane to the wind of thought. And Imagination bermed with common sense can lead to swell solutions. Beware grand solutions, drawn from precedent or cut from whole cloth.


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Colbert duels Albright on Bible

Earlier this week, the Comedy Central satirist Stephen Colbert brought a tear to your blogstress's eye as he finished a New Testament quotation begun by his guest, former Secretary of State Madeliene Albright. If you've managed to escape seeing Albright interviewed this week, you are surely not watching political TV, mon ami, and are probably doing something quaint like reading a newspaper or watching Spike. As you may have guessed, Albright is promoting her new book, The Mighty and the Almighty, a tome about religion and the state.

In this role, Albright has proven herself to be as charming as she is quick on her feet, and her dance with Stephen Colbert on last Thursday's Colbert report was one of the most entertaining bits of television your cybertrix has seen in some time. Your Webwench invites you to watch the video on the Comedy Central site.

Herewith, your net-tĂȘte's very own transcription of her favorite bit from the interview (what your Ă©crivaine won't do for her devotees...), wherein Colbert and Albright spar over the meaning of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13:

COLBERT: But don't you think that the United States has a long history of embracing -- at least using our common religious language in order to convey American ideas; the ideas of manifest destiny, the idea of God bless that from sea to shining sea? That language is part of the American experience.

ALBRIGHT: You're absolutely right. And when I started writing this book, I thought that George Bush was an anomoly. that he really was different than all of American history. But when I went back and looked at it all again -- you're right. This country was started by religious people who wanted to escape persecution They then -- the whole manifest destiny, take over this continent -- forgetting, kind of , that there were some other people here before. And President McKinley actually said that we had a duty to Christianize the Phillipines. So, what President Bush talks about is not totally out of the character of the United States. The problem, however, is that he is so certain that everything he believes is right. And the problem with that , when it's translated into policy, means that if Plan A fails, you don't have Plan B.

COLBERT: But if God's giving you a Plan A, do you need a Plan B?

ALBRIGHT: Well, but we also know that, when on this earth, we don't everything. there are some people who may think so, but we do not know everything. As the apostle Paul said, "I see through a glass darkly," which means that you don't see it all. But if you believe--

COLBERT: -- "But then I shall see clearly; I shall know as I am known" -- after I'm elected.

ALBRIGHT: No -- in the next world. Then God reveals it. But I think that if you're so sure, as President Bush is, that you know everything, then you don't listen to alternative plans. That may explain why we're in such a mess in Iraq. That's a diplomatic term of art.

COLBERT: Well I see Iraq, I see Iraq -- I don't think I'm alone here -- I think President Bush might share my feeling on this -- I see President Bush as Jesus, and Iraq is Jesus's 40 days in the desert -- only it might be 40 years.
In truth, though he stuck with his schtick as a parody of a right-wing nut, Colbert truly engaged with Albright, and provoked a superb interview with her -- far better than your blogstress has ever seen a "legitimate" journalist get from Albright.

And is was truly touching to see him finish her verse from St. Paul. It was a revealing moment, a moment when his viewers caught a glimpse of the real person inside the character -- a man, it turns out, who knows his scripture, and one of the most brilliant artists to ever hit the little screen.

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