Polemicists being what they are, it’s no surprise that many have used the death of celebrity centerfold Anna Nicole Smith to suggest that our society is overly sexualized, that girls need better role models, that the relentless seeking of celebrity leads to pathetic endings.
Much stranger, and far more perverse, was the Sunday New York Times op-ed by Stephanie Coontz, a scholar of the family who has long argued that traditional family structure is a locus of evil, and that efforts to strengthen marriage or the family are exercises in unjustified nostalgia. She made the case that the five-month-old daughter Smith left behind was in better shape than she likely would have been if the U.S. had failed in the late 1970’s to do away with all legal demarcations between legitimacy and illegitimacy as conditions for inheritance.
Scott Johnson at Powerline has a great post commemorating George Washington’s actual birthday—today, February 22nd. Johnson mentions especially the famous correspondence between Washington and Moses Seixas, then-president of America’s oldest Jewish congregation, Newport’s* Touro Synagogue, on the occasion of Washington’s visit there after Rhode Island’s ratification of the Constitution. Read the whole post here.
* The post originally mislabeled the location of the Touro synagogue as Providence.
Robert Knight of the Media Research Center, a conservative watch-dog group, is unhappy with me. In a piece I wrote for this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, I criticized Concerned Women for America (CWA), a group whose Culture & Family Institute Knight once directed, for the way it uses religion in the service of social conservatism. As I wrote:
For a taste of [intolerant fundamentalist] views, visit the Web site of Concerned Women for America, which bills itself as the “nation’s largest public-policy women’s organization.” Its mission is “to protect and promote biblical values among all citizens,” the Bible being “the inerrant Word of God and the final authority on faith and practice.” As for dissenters from CWA’s stand on issues like the “sanctity of human life,” a handy link to Bible passages explains “why you are a sinner and deserve punishment in hell.”
Knight calls this a “vicious mischaracterization,” so gross a distortion “as to constitute a lie.” My “out of context” quotes, he writes, have nothing to do with CWA’s position on “spiritual outreach.” Indeed, “nowhere does CWA state or imply that people will be sent to hell because of their views on public policy.”
It made big headlines in Israel on Wednesday, February 21, but I don’t imagine it got more than scant attention, if that much, anywhere else.
“Police thwart major suicide attack.” That’s not front-page news in America or England—unless, that is, it happened in New York or London. If it happened in Tel Aviv, you need at least a bomb going off, and preferably a death or two, for anyone elsewhere to sit up and take notice. And this explains a certain paradox: the more successful Israel’s army and security services are in preventing deadly acts of Palestinian terror against Israelis, the more the world looks upon the means of prevention as vindictive and unnecessary harassment of Palestinians on Israel’s part.
Maurice Papon has just died at the age of ninety-six, but his name will always stand for France’s moral collapse in 1940, and that country’s inability—or reluctance—to redress matters afterwards. In his capacity as a ranking Vichy official, the documentation proves, he signed the deportation orders to Auschwitz for 1,690 Jews, 223 of whom were children, organizing sixteen trains for them, the last in June 1944 when German defeat was certain. It was also his idea to send the bill for the expense of the requisite cattle-trucks to the Jewish representative council, thus obliging the victims to pay for their journey to be murdered. One of his German superiors described him as a sincere collaborator, “co-operating correctly with the Feldkommandatur.”