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Archive for August 13th, 2012

Ryan and Rand and Romney

I have written of Paul Ryan before and his supposed denunciation of Ayn Rand and  adherence to the doctrines of St Thomas and of Catholic social teaching; you can read it here.

Now that he is the Republican candidate for vice president his beliefs take on a new importance. While we were spared a Catholic conservative presidential candidate, we now have one of the worst contending for the number two spot.

And what a weird man he is. First, he has the gall to state that his love of Ayn Rand is an “urban legend”. Uh, I’m sorry, Mr Ryan, an urban legend by definition cannot be documented. You have been filmed praising Ayn Rand. You have been quoted about the importance of her thought on your life; you said she inspired you to enter politics. You have said that you push her books on your staff. If you are a Thomist you are a very odd one, one whose every position contradicts the Angelic Doctor and his thought.

Secondly, he is weird because of the details of his life. He often cites finding his father’s dead body, at the age of 16, as being formative. As a good Catholic boy he sought solace in the sacraments, the rosary, and the writings of the saints. Actually, he did not do any of those things. He sought comfort and direction reading right wing economists, of whom Ayn Rand was first in importance. I think the only sane response to this bit of autobiography is “WTF??!!?” How can reading of the virtues of selfishness and greed, the “evil” of compassion, the creative destruction of the market possibly give anyone solace in a time of grief?

There is something profoundly wrong about that.

When I first heard that Romney had chosen Ryan I thought perhaps that was a good thing, that it would inspire a discussion about authentic Catholic social doctrine.

But then I realized that the volume and the money are on the right. And that most conservative Catholics are only too eager to get behind any Americanist who can throw around a few buzzwords (“subsidiarity!”) to lay claim to being a faithful adherent of the Faith. If I have learned anything from decades of fighting this fight it is that few Catholics care what the Church teaches on these things when they contradict treasured ideologies and American exceptionalism.

It is going to get divisive. And it is going to get ugly.

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Taj

When you are going to see Taj Mahal in concert you have no idea what to expect. The man has done music in every genre that traces its lineage to Africa: blues, calypso, reggae, r&b, jazz, and more.

But Saturday night it was pure blues. He performed with his trio; just Taj and a drummer and a bass player. This sort of trio usually sounds spare, but Taj fingerpicks, whether on acoustic or electric, and he is so skillful a weaver of sound that the music did not have the bare sound usually associated with a trio (think Cream).

They opened with raw electric blues, then switched to acoustic “country” blues, then back again to electric, with some banjo and dobro thrown in. Taj Mahal is not only a masterful musician, he is a consummate showman, personal and funny.

I took my 14 year old and 12 year old sons with me; they are musicians and the elder is a big blues fan. They had a great time, and it later occurred to me how odd it was that my sons and I bond over music; the thought of my dad and I enjoying a blues or a rock concert together was strange. Perhaps we should have seen johnny cash together.

As we left the park the sky exploded with fireworks, right over our heads. The park is right next to Akron’s minor league field, and I don’t know what they were commemorating but it was spectacular. Ashes rained down on our heads, and the whole thing seemed to seal the night with magic. Joey, the 12 year old, acts tough and cynical around his older brothers, but he is still a child, prone to wonder. His eyes got wide; “Do they do this every night in Akron?”

 The only disappointment was how many of my favorite tunes did not get played; No “Johnny Too Bad”, no “Take a Giant Step”.

Here is only one of my favorite songs that he did not perform:

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A Remarkable Quote

Tom Storck sent me this the other day, a rather remarkable quote from Benedict XVI, which appeared, in all places, First Things, in the January 2006 issue, and which is very relevant to the conversation that has been taking place in the comboxes:

“But in Europe, in the nineteenth century, the two models were joined by a third, socialism, which quickly split into two different branches, one totalitarian and the other democratic. Democratic socialism managed to fit within the two existing models as a welcome counterweight to the radical liberal positions, which it developed and corrected. It also managed to appeal to various denominations. In England it became the political party of the Catholics, who had never felt at home among either the Protestant conservatives or the liberals. In Wilhelmine Germany, too, Catholic groups felt closer to democratic socialism than to the rigidly Prussian and Protestant conservative forces. In many respects, democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine and has in any case made a remarkable contribution to the formation of a social consciousness.”                            –Benedict XVI

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