Thursday, May 31, 2007

Dubya, by his own standards

What virtue is it that Dubya and the rest of the Bush clan hold up as the queen of virtues?

We all know this one, right? It's loyalty. The Bush code is, "You be loyal to us and we'll be loyal to you."

Personally I think that is a morally perverse code. Loyalty is only a virtue in certain restricted cases; loyalty elevated above integrity -- and the Bushes elevate loyalty above everything -- becomes a vice, not a virtue. Still, Dubya was raised a Bush, and to Dubya the most important measure of a man is loyalty.

So let's judge the man by his own standards. How well is Bush doing at showing loyalty and gratitude to those who have shown loyalty to him?

UPDATE: Bill Kristol comes to the conclusion my rhetorical question implied, albeit on a completely different topic: "For President Bush, loyalty is apparently a one-way street." And ends with a rhetorical question of his own: "Many of us used to respect President Bush. Can one respect him still?"

Guess that's a tougher question if you started off with more respect for Bush than I did to begin with.

(HT on the Kristol thing: Rich Lowry.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

An Incident on Good Friday, revisited

I had forgotten about this one until I started hunting back through the blog in search of a different post. Not a pleasant thing to remember, but good for me to remember it all the same.

Pierce kid pictures: Anya and Natasha

I talk about my kids a lot but I'm not much for photographs. A few days ago, though, Dessie got a hankerin' for a new round of family photos. So here are pictures of each of my kids (spread across several posts -- each of which has this exact same opening paragaph -- due to Blogger's five-photos-per-post limit).

Anya (diminutive of "Anna," a name reflecting her maternal Russian heritage)

Unfortunately Anya's face is in shadow in this one, in which she's hamming it up a bit in front of the water fountain at the little park where we went to take the pictures.

This is a considerably less formal shot of Anya, with Natasha on our couch (you may remember this one from an earlier post). Anya is the one with the big grin.

Natasha (as every reader of War and Peace knows, you just don't get much more Russian than that)

Almost four years ago, now, Dessie and I made our first trip out to the Litvínskoye children's home way out on the Kazakh steppe miles from anywhere, or so it seemed (though it turned out to be very close to the tiny village of Osakárovka, which is where the happy part of Anya's and Kinya's childhood was spent). And there our friend Marina introduced us to the shy little cutie in the next picture (Marina is the one on the left).

So that was Natasha Iónina (now Natasha Brown) when we met her for the very first time -- that picture was pretty much taken as Marina introduced her to us. Here she is now, gettin' close to all grown up:

Unfortunately you don't get her smile in that photograph; this next is the best I can do as far as Natasha's smile, though it's still clearly not her Grade A effort.

Next: Kasia and Kinya.

Pierce kid pictures: Kasia and Kinya

I talk about my kids a lot but I'm not much for photographs. A few days ago, though, Dessie got a hankerin' for a new round of family photos. So here are pictures of each of my kids (spread across several posts -- each of which has this exact same opening paragaph -- due to Blogger's five-photos-per-post limit).

Kasia (that's pronounced "KAH-sha," and is a Polish name, not a Russian one -- it was going to be Katarzyna Krystyna but then we remembered she would have to be able to spell her own name by third grade at the latest, and so we took pity on her and just named her the Polish for "Kate")

[sigh] The Princess got her driver's license two days ago...and I still remember when they put her in my arms for the first time I was overcome by a completely unexpected and fierce surge of protectedness and thought -- I swear -- "God help the first boy who tries to date her."

I like this shot of Kasia and Sean together.

Kinya (that's pronounced "KEEN-ya," and is our family diminutive for "Kristina," a name that reflects the paternal German side of Kinya's ethnic heritage)

This one shows how pretty Kinya can be when she chooses to...

...but this is a much more characteristically ornery (in the best and most good-natured of senses) pose.

Next: Kegan and Merry -- just because I figure Sean and Kegan would find it refreshing not to be thrown in together for once.

Pierce kid pictures: Kegan and Merry

I talk about my kids a lot but I'm not much for photographs. A few days ago, though, Dessie got a hankerin' for a new round of family photos. So here are pictures of each of my kids (spread across several posts -- each of which has this exact same opening paragaph -- due to Blogger's five-photos-per-post limit).

Kegan (rhymes with "Megan," though Dessie was disgusted to find that after two weeks' attendance at Lyndon B. Johnson Elementary School in Johnson City, Texas, the boy came home one day pronouncing his own name, in a pronounced Hill Country drawl, as "KAY-gun")

Kegan isn't much for pictures, either; so apart from the whole-family shots this is about all Dessie got out of him. A boy after my own heart, I have to say.

Merry (who used to tell people her full name was "Mewwy Chwismuss Ewisabeth Pierce," and whose name I occasionally got disastrously wrong back when we had an Australian shepherd whom my LOTR-mad children had insisted on naming "Pippin")

I shorely do like this smile, which you guys have seen recently on this very blog.

And here we have Merry's version of the shot with this flowerin' tree (I haven't got a clue what kind of tree it is, myself, but it has flowers on it):

Finally, Merry with Sally:

Next: Sean, Rusty and Sally

Pierce kid pictures: Sean, Rusty and Sally

I talk about my kids a lot but I'm not much for photographs. A few days ago, though, Dessie got a hankerin' for a new round of family photos. So here are pictures of each of my kids (spread across several posts -- each of which has this exact same opening paragaph -- due to Blogger's five-photos-per-post limit).


I like both this picture...

...and this one as well. (The boy has the chutzpah to have gotten as tall as I am, I might add.)

Rusty (short for "Rustém," a Farsee -- i.e., Iranian -- name given to him by his Kazakh birth mother)

Is this an infectious grin or what?

Alas, we didn't get many pictures of Rusty this day, probably because he was running around playing with Kegan and trying (unsuccessfuly, fortunately for his backside's comfort) to figure out an excuse to fall into the water.

Sally (short for "Saltanát," which is Kazakh for, roughly, "holiday" or "fiesta," making Sally the only one of our five "Kazakh" kids actually to have a gen-u-wine Kazakh name)

Finally, here's my Sally, who seems awfully serious in this one for some reason.

And there you...what about the parents, you say? Well, Dessie pretty much stayed behind the camera rather than in front of it. And you pretty much don't want to intrude my picture in with all these good-lookin' kids...

Oh, fine, if you insist. Here you go:

Dad / Papa

(continue reading)

The Sarah Jessica Parker thing...oh, don't ask.

Pierce kid pictures

The next several posts involve pictures of the kids and should be read from the top down as they appear in the blog, rather than from the bottom up in the order posted. So if you're catching up on a backlog of posts by reading from the bottom up, you should now skip to here and read down until you find yourself back at this post.

Updated family photo

For those interested in the ever-more-diverse Clan Pierce, here's the latest family photo, including Natasha, who as usual isn't willing to smile for the camera (see below, however, for the sole exception I've managed to locate):

Back row: Natasha, Anya, Kasia, Merry, Kinya
Front row: Sean, me, Sally (where did
that expression come from?), Dessie, Kegan.
Dead center: Rusty (who got his expression, apparently, from wherever Sally got hers)

We're used to Sean and Kegan's looking alike, but I hadn't realized how much Merry was catching up to Kasia in height and how much more like twins those two are consequently starting to look.

Here are my parents:

And here's a cropped shot from another family photo, in which not many people were smiling -- but Natasha, mirabile dictu, IS smiling, having apparently forgotten momentarily that it was a camera she was looking at.

I'll post individual photos later -- Blogger seems to have a limit on how many photos I can put on a single post.

An update on Natasha

My ward Natasha and her parents have amicably agreed that it's best for everybody if Natasha doesn't live in the Browns' home, for various reasons (and please don't presume that just because I'm not spelling them out, there are dark secrets being kept -- I like and respect everybody involved and am just sorry that the situation isn't right). So there is now the question of where Natasha, who will turn eighteen in December, will live for the next two years, as she finishes high school.

Natasha, who objects to having her picture taken and therefore refuses to flash her devastating smile in the direction of a camera, almost smiling in spite of herself

Now, for the time being she's happy in our house, and we're happy to have her. She's been with us for a couple of months now and our house is a happier house with her than it was without her. That doesn't necessarily mean we're the family she needs to spend the next two years living with, but it does mean that we have a luxury one doesn't usually see in disrupted adoptions: we don't have to rush her into another family that might not be any better a fit than the first one. We're pretty wary about rushing any such decision, because we know all about the phenomenon of serial adoptions -- our friend Laura has an adopted daughter who was adopted seven times before she found her way into Laura's home. Wherever Natasha goes next, we want to make sure that it's exactly the right place for her; and since she's okay where she is for now, we can afford to take our time over the decision. And that's best for the family, too; you don't want another nice family to go through the stress and emotional upheaval that the Browns have had to work through -- for they love Natasha very much, and this was not at all an easy decision for them.

At any rate, we now have the job of figuring out where Natasha will live for the next couple of years. We've talked to the Browns about what they think Natasha needs, and of course we now have a couple of months' observation of our own. So let me describe the kind of family we're looking for (you can take for granted the obvious qualities like loving, caring, etc.):

1. Natasha very much needs to be in a home with older children, ideally a girl her age (her grade, which next year will be junion in high school, would do) or older, both to have somebody her age to talk to and also to help her navigate the complicated social and educational currents of American high school.

2. The Browns would very much like for Natasha to be in a household with quite a bit of organizational structure, because a problem they and Natasha struggled with was Natasha's difficulty in things like remembering where she was supposed to be and when, and making sure she actually got there -- basically, just being able to rely on Natasha to fulfill the family responsibilities she needed to fill. You can call this irresponsibility or unreliability; you can (if you're trying to find a euphemism so as not to hurt the feelings of people such as, um, myself) call it absent-mindedness; but at any rate, America is not a society that celebrates or rewards economically irresponsibility or a lack of organizational skills, and the Browns would like to see Natasha in a family that can help her develop those skills. (In other respects we Pierces have found Natasha to be at least as mature as are most other sophomores in high school.)

3. The Browns very much want to be able to stay a part of Natasha's life -- for one thing, Natasha's grandparents have fallen very hard for her indeed. I'm not saying that a family from Juneau would be automatically disqualified, you understand; I'm talking much more about attitude.

4. Natasha has a couple of minor medical issues that have required the service of a specialist, and the Browns have also had her under the care of a therapist. I wouldn't want to overstate this -- we haven't been taking her back to Austin for weekly therapy sessions and I can't overstate how well she has handled herself since moving into our house -- but she was after all the victim of some pretty horrific physical abuse before the government took her away from her father, and I can imagine that one could well think therapy would possibly be very good for her and would be most unlikely to do any harm.

Now, obviously, families that have at least one daughter who is a junior or senior in high school...who are (unlike myself) good at organization and good at teaching those skills to young persons who are (like myself) weak in that area...who are comfortable with taking on responsibility for a young lady who was raised in the former Soviet Union by a violently abusive father and subsequently by an orphanage with four hundred other kids and who has failed to fit in to one adoptive home already (but who, I emphasize very strongly indeed after two months of sharing a home with her, is against all odds a delightful and charming and intelligent young lady)...who are interested in taking into their home a girl who is only a few months shy of her eighteenth birthday...okay, we know families like that aren't exactly dropping off of trees.

But (a) this is a really, really special young lady, and (b) you just don't ever know what God has in mind.

So I'm posting this on the blog, and we'll post something similar on various international adoption lists, and we'll just see what comes of it. And in the meantime, Natasha is happy and we're happy and we'll be fine until God decides to do something different.

Though, as you can imagine, we'd be grateful for any prayers you might be willing to take time to offer on our and Natasha's and the Browns' behalf.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

How do you get your children to understand what Memorial Day is really about?

I never had been able to figure out how to convey to my children -- at the gut level, where genuine gratitude lives -- why it is that "Happy Memorial Day" ought to be something of an oxymoron. The American fighting man has done his job too well, and there are entire generations who have grown up with no conception of the cost of freedom (as witness the fact that half the country thinks that the loss of 4,000 American soldiers over four years -- compare 2,400 American deaths at Omaha Beach alone, 80,000 dead in Vietnam, and 45,000 dead every year in American automobile accidents -- is a shocking bloodbath that requires our retreat from the field of battle, despite the disastrous long-term consequences such a retreat would engender).

So this year I decided to try something different. I gathered the family in the living room (attendance mandatory, to the disgust of some of the teenagers) and talked to them about what life was like under Saddam Hussein, or under Stalin (my three teenaged Kazakhstani girls nodded their heads and muttered assent at that point, remembering their history classes), and explained to them that it is honorable soldiers who stand between us and such persons and allow us to live in freedom and peace.

I talked about the 60,000,000 who died in World War II, and I invited them to imagine walking through 30 cities the size of Houston, back to back, and seeing nothing but corpses. Here again, my ethnically Russian Natasha, who grew up in the shambles and detritus of the Soviet Union, spoke up to mention the 80% of Russian men of military age who died in that war. I mentioned Aliya Moldagulova (a Kazakh girl who served with distinction as a sniper in the seige of Stalingrad before falling in battle), whose statue all of my girls have seen in one of the central parks in Almaty, and at that point even wise-cracking, solemnity-undermining, only-here-under-extreme-protest Kinya got interested in spite of herself, and remembered that her grandfather had been in the Soviet Army. (Anya's and Kinya's father also served in the Soviet navy.)

I pointed out that every soldier we have in Iraq today is a volunteer. I explained to my kids that most of them are soldiers who could have come back home long ago, but who reenlisted in order to continue the fight against the evil they've seen close-up, evil to defeat which they are willing to risk torture and death.

Which was all just me talking to them, and you know how much good that does. But then...well, then I banished Merry and Rusty and Sally from the room and hit the play button on the DVD remote, and we sat together and watched the first half-hour or so of Saving Private Ryan, up through the point at which the general reads Lincoln's letter to the woman who lost all five of her sons in the Civil War.

Well. It worked. It worked, much better than I expected. There was silence from the moment the first cross in the cemetery came into shot, and, except for the occasional gasp and choked sob (and one fist-pumping cheer from Sean when an American sniper picked off a German machine-gunner), that silence was unbroken until I clicked the pause button after the general's reading of Lincoln's letter. Still nobody spoke or moved for several seconds. Then I said, quietly, something along the lines of, "And that is why we stop every Memorial Day to remember the men and women who fight to defend us, and that is why you do not say, 'Happy Memorial Day.'"

There was more silence for twenty or thirty seconds, and then I said, "You should all know that most of the young men in that invasion were younger than Anya is." Six pairs of eyes widened in shock.

After ten or fifteen more seconds I told them, "Look, if any of you want to watch the rest of this movie, you can, but if you want to leave now, that's okay." And most of the kids got up and quietly left the room, but a couple of the older girls stuck around and we talked for awhile about democracies and wars, about why people didn't take Hitler seriously and didn't stop him when they could have done so at relatively little cost, about how democracies generally let all problems go until they become catastrophes and only then, at a cost grotesquely more exorbitant than should have been necessary, do they finally solve those problems.

So I think this will become an annual ritual in our family.

And if you are, or ever have been, a member of America's armed forces...

Thank you.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Because, You Know, It's Not Like Your Nose Is Visible Dept

Paula Abdul broke her nose on Saturday, and her publicist then came forth with this gem:

"She is fine. This will have no effect whatsoever on her appearance on American Idol tomorrow and Wednesday for the finale."

Really? No effect on her appearance? Man, these short-order plastic surgeons these days...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Overheard in the coffee shop during Katy ISD finals week

Nothing like sitting next to a couple of high school girls boning up for their world history get to hear snippets of conversation such as:

"What's with the Shah of Iran?"

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know, the study guide just says, 'Shah of Iran.'"


Or -- and this is certainly something you wouldn't expect to hear from the boys' study table:

"Chiang Kai-shek was a hottie."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The obsolescence of universities?

The older I get the more I find myself wondering whether universities are not yet another service industry that is obsolete and would no longer exist -- since far better and more effective alternatives would presumably already have been found -- if it weren't for the fact that universities are kept alive by massive infusion of coercively collected government funding. But I just thought it was the humanities that were in trouble.

But now here is a frightening post by Frank Tipler in which he says some things about the teaching of physics in American universities that I can hardly believe are true. Can it really be this bad? I mean, even I, a classics major whose formal education in physics consists of Physics for Poets, know how important the General Theory and the Standard Model are. It's not really possible that most American universities allow you to earn a Ph.D. in physics without having studied either of them, is it? I just can hardly bring myself to believe that that's true. Is this guy just a crank of some sort when it comes to this subject? Can somebody knowledgeable on the subject give me a second opinion?

But if this is really true, then, um, why exactly are we pouring all of this federal money into these institutions, again?

HT: I don't remember. Maybe Instapundit?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Best outraged Republican post-amnesty quote I've seen so far today

Though unfortunately I don't remember where I saw it. Whoever came up with it was responding to Hugh Hewitt's search for "41 good Senators:"

"While you're at it, how about figuring out where we could find one good President?"

[chuckling sardonically] Guys, if a good President was what you Republicans really wanted to begin with, you wouldn't have nominated Dubya. But if a conservative President was what you Republicans, well, then in that case too, you wouldn't have nominated Dubya. It's not just that you had Dubya's record as governor of Texas to go on; you had Dubya's daddy's record as well. I mean, you guys of your own free will saw to it that, for us independents, the only alternative to the Al Bore or to John "Purple Heart" Kerry was good ol' "Son of Read My Lips." Now that your chickens are coming home to roost, I'm doing my best to muster some pity for you, but really, I'm not managing to drum much up.

No, when you picked Dubya, it wasn't because you were trying to find the best or most faithfully conservative candidate. You nominated a guy that you knew was a second-rate talent because you thought he had discovered the magic formula that would let you be a majority party, even though his magic formula involved betraying traditional conservative principles. You just thought he had picked the strategically "right" ones to betray.

I mean, the very label "compassionate conservative" is itself an implicit endorsement of the liberal slander that conservatives who don't think most problems are best solved through government action, are motivated by a morally reprehensible lack of compassion rather than by a rational evaluation of the means best suited to give genuine and lasting help to those who need it. So you found a guy whose favorite description of his own personal political creed proclaimed loudly, "The Democrats who say Republicans are evil callous bastards aren't right about me, but they sure are right about all those small-government Republican types." And you thought, "Hey, cool, this is the perfect guy to lead the Republican Party." Don't try to deny it; you knew exactly what "compassionate conservativism" stood for, but you got in line behind it because you thought it would help your side win. And now you are shocked -- shocked! -- to discover that your Leaving-No-Child-Behind, Spend-Like-A-Drunken-Democrat, When-People-Are-Hurting-Government-Must-Act Fearless Leader is willing to -- gasp! -- betray traditional conservative principles!

Um, just one question:

Are you Republican dudes always this stupid? [still chuckling, with an unholy Libertarian glee, since we Libertarians long ago had to find some emotional mechanism for coping with the knowledge that our only real choices were to be governed either by Democrats or else, well, by Republicans, and my own coping mechanism is sardonic, if-you're-going-down-with-the-Titanic-you-might-as-well-enjoy-the-brandy-while-you-wait amusement. On the one hand, Al Gore or John Kerry; on the other, Dubya...oh, well, as the Campus Crusade folks always used to say, "it's all gonna burn," anyway.]

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Rusty and Dad have a woeful conversation about the unfairness of life

RUSTY [in frustration, as Sally precedes him onto the school bus]: But, Dad, why do I always have to be a gentleman?

ME: Well, Rusty, are you always a boy?

RUSTY [in "well, duh" tones]: Yeah, Dad.

ME: Then that's why.

And you thought it was rude of her not to take the baby outside to calm it down...

Okay, so you're a mom, and you've been taken to a restaurant for Mother's Day, but your one-year-old kid is screaming and won't stop, and the 56-year-old woman next to you, who is taking her own 90-year-old mother out for Mother's Day, asks you to please get your child to be quiet. What do you do?

Well, obviously, if you're a sane person with manners at least as good as, say, a retired Hell's Angel, you take your child outside of the restaurant and get him calmed down.

But if you're 24-year-old Sylvia Harris, you just ignore the woman and let your kid keep screaming. And if she keeps asking, you just let the kid keep screaming, until she is finally so frustrated that she yells at your kid to shut up.

And when that happens, you jump up and start beating the crap out of the old lady, starting The Great Toledo Mother's Day Brawl, which results in five people's (including your richly deserving self) getting arrested, plus four people's (including the 54-year-old and her 90-year-old mother) winding up in the emergency room.

So can we all just agree that the one-year-old in question ought seriously to consider investing in a foster or adoptive mother at his earliest convenience?

Meanwhile, I have just one question that occurred to me instantly and that I can't get out of my mind:

Was the kid's dad not there, or was he just too much of a jerk (or a wimp) to deal with the kid problem himself? I mean, how do you not say, "Dear, why don't you just enjoy your meal while Junior and I go outside to work this out"?

HT: Riehl World View.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Now this makes me like Ken Griffey

Mild content warning, by the way, because baseball players and fans are often known to use strong language, plus the story does pretty much center around Griffey's jockstrap. But I thought this was hilarious and am inclined to agree with the season-ticket holder whom I shouldn't quote directly because he was certainly not a Baptist.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Why We Need Guys Dept

Because without guys, the important stuff just wouldn't get done.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Think twice, Miss Merry Mac

My daughter Merry informs me that, like the Princess before her, she wishes to be a cheerleader. Kasia has offered to use her personal experience to convince Merry that it's not a great idea, but I think the following two YouTube videos should do the trick just fine. Plus the second one will keep her out of marching band as well.

Um, if you're not the kind of person who thinks the Darwin Awards are funny, you may want to skip these. (The frightening thing is that are lots of cheerleading-disaster videos on YouTube that are FAR more disturbing than these relatively light-hearted blooper reels.)

You gotta totally love the one cheerleader in the fifth clip of this second video, though, who pulls a totally Calvinesque "ta-da" from her unexpectedly low elevation.

Meanwhile, in the "explain this" department (mild content advisory, but then when you see a dude alone in room with a xerox machine and an inconspicuous security camera, you surely know what's coming next...or at least you think you do):

And here's a kid who should have studied harder for his sobriety test:

But you have to figure he did better than this guy (look, I know it isn't funny that the dude was out on the road behind a wheel, but look at it this way: surely it'll be a heckuva long time before he gets his car keys back):

Pearls from the Princess

There's a big whiteboard up in our kitchen, and no child is allowed to leave the house without writing under his name (a) where he's going and (b) when he's going to get back. The kids have to do this even though they also have to get permission to go and therefore have presumably told me where they're going -- because how am I supposed to remember which of the boys has gone to Jeremy's house and which to Taylor's, etc.? At any rate, Bad Things ensue if either of those pieces of information turn out to be inaccurate.

So a couple of days ago the following appears on the board under Kasia's name:

I've gone off to try to find myself. If I happen to show up before I get back, please ask me to wait.
As a bonus, here's an original joke that I thought the Princess made up, but she says I made up, as we were having a flippant conversation about suicide bombers (odd conversations between the Princess and myself are not uncommon):

Did you hear about the Aggie who applied for a job as a suicide bomber, and on his resume he bragged about how much experience he had?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Thy will be done

"There are only two kinds of people in the world: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God finally says, 'Thy will be done.'"

Thus Dorothy Sayers, whom I have quoted for years in theodical discussions. But since yesterday morning I've been wondering...what if that isn't true? What if there is only one kind of person in the world: those to whom God says, "Your will be done"?

Six of us, ranging in age from low twenties to advanced and respectable old age, are sitting in a small circle of chairs in the corner of a church fellowship hall. We have just gotten to one of those embarrassing ask-and-ye-shall-receive passages, and inevitably the conversation shifts to unanswered prayer, especially unanswered prayer for healing. Then one person raises the topic of Job -- as an illustration that we don't know what's going on behind the scenes, and if we did, there's a very good chance we'd approve wholeheartedly of what God is doing.

You see [this gentleman observes, if you'll pardon some the inevitable paraphrasing due to a leaky short-term memory], if you take the time to read Job carefully, all the way through in one sitting, one of the things that strikes you is the fact that Job spends suprisingly little time complaining about the loss of his children and possessions. For most of the book, he isn't begging to have his children and his camels and his, bad example, sorry...anyway, he isn't begging to get his money back or to get his kids back. What he seems to want back more than anything else in the world is his reputation. Once his "friends" have accused him of being a sinner, there is no room in his mind for any of his other losses: he wants his friends proved wrong about him. He knows what they're saying about him isn't true, and it just drives him crazy, for chapter after chapter after querelous, indignant chapter.

Now, what Job doesn't know -- but we do -- is that this isn't the first time his reputation has been slandered. The poem opens, after all, in God's court, where Satan (the very word "satan" means "accuser") complains bitterly that Job's reputation for virtue is undeserved. "He only does what you want because he knows you're the mother of all sugar-daddies," Satan says, combining malice with (at least in my admittedly free translation) the mother of all mixed metaphors. "He's just using you. He's not really a nice guy at all."

We know exactly how Job would have reacted if he had been standing there to hear the accusation -- because the author of the Book of Job has taken pains to show us Job's reaction to a false accusation. Job, we can be confident, would have complained that Satan's accusation was false and would have demanded justification. Trouble is, justification might turn out to be harder than it looks.

Think about it: If God doesn't temporarily remove Job's blessings, then Satan can keep right on making the same accusation from now until God gets tired of it and banishes Satan to his unpleasantly warm room with no supper -- and even then Satan won't admit Job's okay. And even if God does temporarily remove Job's blessings, Satan can still claim that Job is only behaving himself because he knows what's up and is playing a role. There is only one way Job can truly be proved utterly innocent of Satan's charges, and that is for God -- without letting Job know what's going on -- to take everything away from Job that Satan says Job's in it for, and thus prove that, even without all of that stuff, Job will remain faithful to God.

So that's exactly what God does -- because that's what Job would want God to do if he knew the whole story.

Well, that came up yesterday morning in a discussion that I was sitting in on, and it wasn't a new idea to me. But a corollary occurred to me as I drove away from church that had never before crossed my mind.

One of the differences between myself and my wife is that Dessie, by temperament, is biased heavily toward the words-of-affirmation love language, whereas I am biased way over toward physical touch. A side effect of this difference in temperament is that I find it very easy not only to say, but to feel that the opinions of silly people who don't know me well are of absolutely no importance to me -- but that is very difficult for Dessie. In other words, there are certain people whose opinions matter to me because I respect their judgment, but otherwise people can think whatever they want to think about me, and if they're accurate, props to 'em, and if they're wrong, that's their problem, not mine. But it bothers Dessie very much to feel like people have a bad opinion of her, even if those people are people she knows are silly jackasses.

So, I'm thinking about that this morning in the car, and I suddenly thought, "What if Job hadn't been the kind of person who is passionate about his reputation? What if Satan went up to God and said, 'That Kenny -- you know he's really a total jerk and hypocrite, don't You?' If Satan did that, and God picked up the phone and called me and said, 'Hey, listen to what Satan just said about you,' I know exactly what my response would be: 'Um, and why exactly would I care about Satan's opinion as long as You and I are okay?' Isn't it pretty likely that, given that response from me, God would hang up the phone, turn to Satan, and say, 'Tell you what, Lucy, you go ahead and think whatever you want to think about Kenny, because neither he nor I care in the slightest about your opinion'?"

And the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me to believe that if Job hadn't been the kind of guy who cared more about his reputation than he cared about money and family -- and whether you think that's how he should have felt or not, the poet certainly seems to me to go out of his way to paint Job that way -- then I don't think he would have lost his wealth and kids in the first place. I think the Job-poet shows us a man who thinks he's being mistreated by God when in fact God is simply giving Job what Job would have chosen had he known what his choices were.

Well, maybe I have that right and maybe I don't. But that train of thought had one more station to go, and even if the literary criticism in the middle isn't right, I think my final conclusion is valid, and that is this:

There is only one kind of person in the world: the kind to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." For in the end, each person who goes to hell, goes to hell against God's wishes because he insists on going there and God finally gives up and lets him have his way. But for each of the redeemed, when we see no longer through a glass darkly but face to face, we will find that God has something different to give each of us, and on that day we will discover that what God has given us is nothing more nor less than what our hearts most deeply desired all along.

P.S. Actually, there are only 10 kinds of people in the world: those who think in binary, and those who don't.

Friday, May 04, 2007

When Doctors Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Doctors Dept

The gang that hangs out over at the ATB comments section contributes a link to a genuinely hilarious sendup of the usage of statistics in politics, which I think you'll find highly amusing no matter which side of the gun control issue you're on.

HT: nofate and gringoman, primarily.

Since the humor piece uses gun control as its takeoff point, I'll pass on a home security tactic gringoman links to. The whole story is interesting, but I love Ms. Matthis's far more effective version of the little signs that say, "This Home Protected By 24-Hour Security Service," or even, "Mr. Burglar, Meet Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson." She simply went out to the shooting range, put a few tightly-spaced Glock rounds in the vitals of a human-silhouette paper target, brought the target home, taped it up on the inside of the glass storm door, and THEN put next to THAT her own sign:

"Don't even think about it."

Now that's my kind of chick.

"Well, Prince Charles, Obviously, But Who Are The Other RBH's?" Dept

Given the high level of intelligence and competence ceaselessly on display over at Huffington House, one must presume that this headline was deliberately comic...