Tuesday, June 3, 2008

My Take on A Few Things

Hillary Clinton: She will not concede the race tonight. She will, perhaps, acknowledge that Barack Obama is “close” to winning the nomination. She will provide mathematical proofs that she could still win the nomination. The fight will go on to the convention. The undecided Democratic Superdelegates will see a few trickle into the Obama camp over the next few weeks, but the majority will hold off on a decision, pondering, as every good Democrat should, which candidate to support. And by support, I mean the Doonesbury notion of support, as when Alex and Mike are discussing her decision to vote for Howard Dean (I keep wanting to type John Dean; I’ve read too much about the Nixon administration) in the last election cycle: I believe I have the right,” young Alex says, “to pick the candidate I want, no matter if it brings the party down in flames.” “You’re a Democrat,” her father replies. “I thought so,” she adds. (Wish I could find the comic, but I can’t.)

The FLDS situation: Texas Supreme Court orders the kids be shipped home, the church vows not to perform underage marriages. Texas CPS waits in the wings, ready to swoop in if an FLDS parent so much as farts near one of their kids. The church or individual church members file lawsuits against Texas CPS and look likely to win. Texas CPS will blame the whole situation on Arizona and Utah, forgetting that they’re the ones who put FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs behind bars while Texas CPS lurched into YFZ Ranch with the Constitution stuck on the bottom of their shoes. The Christian Right will continue its umbrage because religious tolerance is supposed to be tolerance of things like The Ten Commandments monuments on public property, “In God We Trust” remaining on our coinage and other superficialities, rather than on, you know, religious tolerance. The Left will continue its umbrage because of, as James Lileks puts it, their disgust in not what these people believe, but that they believe.

This all reminds me a bit of something I read this week in Jonh Ciardi’s translation of Dante’s Inferno. Following Canto XXI, Ciardi includes a fairly lucid commentary on Catholic versus Protestant umbrage, entitled “A General Note on Dante’s Treatment of the Grafters and Their Guards.” He writes:

It has often seemed to me that the offensive language of Protestantism is obscenity; the offensive language of Catholicism is profanity or blasphemy; one finds on a scale of unmentionable words for bodily function, the other on a scale of disrespect for the sacred. Dante places the blasphemous in Hell as the worst of the Violent against God and His Works, but he has no category for punishing those who use four-letter words.

Of course, in America there’s equal-opportunity umbrage. In this instance, however, I think Texas CPS let their obsession over the “obscenity” of FLDS practices overwhelm them. Not that child abuse, proven or suspected, is acceptable, or unobscene. But they want in with some pretty shaky evidence, as the courts have shown, letting their umbrage over plural marriage fill in the details where, in most cases, the detail will likely prove not to be present. The FLDS vow not to authorize underage marriage, if it holds, likely will be tested by CPS, unable to get past the obscenity they perceive.

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