While the smoke was still rising from Notre Dame, social media lit up with posts decrying the ultra-wealthy who were anteing up sums measured in hundreds of millions of dollars for the rebuilding of the cathedral for not giving to the “right” causes. I lost track of the number of posts that said something to the effect of “Don’t give to Notre Dame because water in Flint or because the church is rich (which is a half truth at best because the wealth of the Roman church tends to be in items they can’t sell off or borrow against like St Peters or the Vatican museum) or because Puerto Rico.
It’s utter nonsense, of course. If you bothered to know anything about how cathedrals across Europe were originally financed a thousand years ago, you’d pretty quickly find that the local nobility and ultra-wealthy of the day gave lavishly to the cause. These symphonies in stone wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the funds that flowed in from those elite sources.
Ultimately, these posts illustrate one of my unreconciled problems with the left – the simple fact that I don’t need their help and certainly not their permission when deciding how to allocated the money I put in the time to earn. It’s like the they just can’t resist telling me how they know better where and for what to spend my money than I do. I guess being a holier than thou do gooder is easy as long as someone else foots the bill.
As for me, everyone can piss right off with that nonsense. Every time one of these lunatics tries to jam their hand a little further into my pocket, you can expect me to resist with all available energy. I’m no billionaire, but I’m proud of knowing that some small portion of my donation will go to restore or preserve such an important part of western civilization… But the hand wringing bleeding hearts should feel free to send their own check to the charity cause of their choice. I promise I won’t say a word about it, no matter how pretentious and attention seeking a cause they’ve selected.
I had another post written for tonight, but in light of the great fire sweeping Notre Dame cathedral those words fade to less than insignificant.
With its cornerstone laid in 1163, Notre Dame saw nearly the entire rise of Western civilization in its shadow over the last 855 years. It saw Paris grow and expand into one of the world’s handful of indisputably great cities.
As a young 18 year old American in Paris, I was fortunate to pass through the cathedral over 20 years ago. Honestly I don’t remember many details of that trip now, but I remember standing in the nave of Notre Dame and being awestruck – exactly the effect that it’s long ago designers and builders had hoped to achieve.
I’m not religious in any significant way… but Notre Dame wasn’t about just being Catholic, or even being Christian. Yes, the great structure was raised to the glory of God, but it was also about celebrating great art, and architecture, and an undeniable knowledge that there is, and there should be, something larger than ourselves. You couldn’t stand before the great rose windows and feel anything other than humble.
Tonight I grieve for the people of Paris, and France, and the world at the loss of such a treasure trove of our collective history. This world is poorer and darker for its loss.
It took about 36 hours before Facebook posts started trickling onto my feed implying that anyone who mentioned the attacks in Paris without talking about attacks that also took place in Lebanon, Nigeria and Baghdad, earthquakes in Japan, and all other manner of very bad things that happen every day around the world was a hate-spewing bigot.
The fact is, bad things happen all over the world every day. What makes Paris different, to me, is personal and simple. I’ve walked the streets of Paris. I’ve drank coffee in her cafes and rested my head in her hotels. I stood at the base of the Arc de Triomphe imagining the 24-wide mass of the US 28th Infinity rounding the monument and parading down the Champs Élysées when the city was liberated from German occupiers. I’ve stood on the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower and marveled like millions of other tourists at a city that was already a millennia old when our own country was founded.
In the French people America found its first ally in our struggle for independence from the British crown and one of our harshest critics during the Cold War and years that followed. Here, now, in the 21st century, France and America are once again marching towards the sound of the guns and a foe who has stated loudly and often the intention to kill as many of our people as possible and drag the whole world back to the 7th century.
It’s different because on September 11th, 2001 the French people stood with America on what was the most shocking and appalling day in living memory for most of us. It’s different because in this new war the great democracies of the Western world must stand together or risk facing a new dark age sweeping across the globe like a plague.
You can choose to believe I think it’s different just because I share the same pale skin tone with many in France, but I know better.
Today kind of feels like the day that wasn’t. Between getting a latter than usual start, the usual Saturday errands, cutting the grass and a laundry list of other minutia around the house I sat down a few minutes ago and realized it was almost 8:30 and I hadn’t gotten a blog post in for the day. In fairness, that might be mostly because there wasn’t a thing that happened today that was worth mentioning. As much as I would like to opine about the current fiasco in Syria again all that really makes me want to do is throw my hands up, quit civilization, and go find a couple of hundred acres of the mountain west to call my own, build an off the grid cabin and the proceed to ignore the rest of the world as much as possible. I don’t know how you go from being the world’s only superpower to begging the French for help in less than a generation, but it seems like we’ve managed to pull it off. Of course that’s not the point of this post.
Then again, this post doesn’t really have a point that I’ve been able to identity other than the fact that it’s slowly creeping towards 9PM and I can’t really give you an accounting of where they day went. Fortunately there are two days left this weekend. Hopefully I can manage not to lose them too.
1. Details. There are two general schools of thought when it comes to details. One school says that you should cover every minute detail in as great a depth as possible. The other is that you should flesh out the broad strokes of an issue and allow maximum flexibility in determining which of the details is important. I tend to fall into the latter category… and it makes me ragingly hostile when someone wants to nitpick every solitary detail rather than use their own best judgment about how to get from Point A to Point B.
2. Timing. It seems to me that despite best efforts to the contrary, most events generally happen when they happen. While most of us make an effort to manage timing as best we can, as often as not that train is leaving the station regardless of what we do and there’s not a thing gained from laying down on the tracks in front of it. So, although I’m more than happy to concede that timing certainly drives events and gives them momentum, I’ll be damned if I’m willing let it alone be the determining factor in how those events unfold. Grand strategy is far too important to be left to the simple whims of timing.
3. France. Suddenly the French have decided to be all loud and militant about chemical weapons in Syria. Welcome to the party, France, but you’re a little late. I don’t remember you coming online when Iraq was in the crosshairs and we know for certain that they used chemical weapons against their own minority Kurdish population. If France thinks Syria is a war worth fighting, I’m all in favor of giving them the green light to lead their own coalition of the willing into that stinking quagmire of a civil war. But after a generation or two of France thumbing its nose at US foreign policy, I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t jump on board with whatever wild international game they’re hoping to play.
Free and open elections are wonderful things, except for the part where people tend to elect the kind of leaders they deserve instead of the kind they actually need. Getting yourself elected on a platform of more spending, lowering the retirement age, taxing the rich, and saying the hell with the global finance system is pretty much a cakewalk. Politics 101 is pretty much focused on telling the people whatever they need to hear to give you their vote. Unfortunately, Politics 410 is the real world practice of how to govern once you find yourself taking over the plush new office you won in the last election. I suspect our friends in France are going to discover that governing is a far more problematic exercise than simply getting elected.
We live in a wildly interconnected world, particularly when it comes to the economy. Unrest in Europe, bad decisions, and blatant disregard for economic fundamentals will ripple across the Atlantic and wash up on our shores as tidal waves if a balance in the system isn’t maintained. For a hundred years, the United States could be counted on to prop up the international economy in times of distress. This week, this month, this year, the story is a little different. We aren’t in a position to flood the market with liquidity. We’re just barely in a position to eek out positive GDP growth for ourselves, keeping our proverbial head above water as it were… Even that’s required borrowing completely unsustainable amounts of money.
The system, for the moment, is in a perilous balance. Trying to go it alone based on election year promises seems like a sure recipe for upending what small measure of stability the marketplace has managed to achieve this year. I just hope our friends across the pond have the good sense to know the difference between electioneering and governing. If they don’t, well, the global economy and our own personal economies could be a much more brutal looking place a year from now. Might as well open the door on a new bloody Dark Age.
See, and people say I can’t be hopelessly optimistic.