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The trouble with Providence

Friday, June 16th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — the Virginia shooting — providence, like grace, is whole cloth, or it is nothing ]
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The basic paradox: I thank God Steve Scalise is still among the living, may he fully and speedily recover

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The trouble with Providence is that it makes more sense to the survivors than, on the whole, the deceased or those who grieve them. My father, gunnery officer on the British light cruiser Sheffield, survived the superior firepower of the German heavy cruiser Hipper in the Battle of the Barents Sea, and no doubt that was providential from my own perspective — I was born around elevn months later. Providential, too, it must have been on a larger scale — the Hipper was crippled:

When told of the news, Hitler flew into a rage. He referred to his ships as useless and decided on the spot that the High Seas Fleet should be scrapped. Admiral Raeder, commander of the Kriegsmarine, tended his resignation and was replaced by Admiral Dönitz.

My father’s guns, along with those of the Sheffield’s companion cruiser Jamaica, together disabled the Hipper.

Providential, three — in that same engagement, shrapnel knocked one of the eyes of Captain Robert St. V. Sherbrooke, commanding a contingent of British destroyers from Onslow, out of its socket, such is war, an incident which Sherbrooke ignored in the interest of continuing his command, and for which he later received the Victoria Cross, such is war. Such is war, such is providence, forty of Sherbrooke’s men on the Onslow lost their lives in the same two minutes in which he lost his eye.

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I report all this because Glenn Beck just invoked Providence in the matter of the Congressional baseball practice shooting:

We have an amazing story to tell of what I believe is Divine Providence. I just — I want you to think of one thing. Imagine what America would be like today, if yesterday the leadership of the G.O.P. and the majority of the G.O.P., 10 percent of the G.O.P. and Congress were dead. If we had coffins that we were facing today instead of one coffin of the shooter and one still in critical condition, what would the conversation be like today?

I’ve often said, you’re going to wake up on a Monday, and by Friday, your country will be completely different. I believe that is coming. But I do believe we saw Divine Providence happen yesterday. So that didn’t happen this week.

So providence postpones what it can’t altogether prevent?

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Glenn Beck, apparently — because he’s a Mormon, or a Christian more generally, or a believer, even more ecumenically, or a human, or at least a sentient being — or because he’s a media personality? — can serve as a spokesman for Providence:

Barry, let me — let me take you now to Divine Providence.

Beck is addressing Congressman Barry Loudermilk, who was present at the practice, who was himself a target — unlike Glenn — shot at, and providentially spared. It’s providential that we have Beck’s voice to explain to Loudermilk what happened..

I will tell you — I’ve seen some bad shots in my life. But for as many targets that were out on that field — and to have a rifle, I believe, Divine Providence played a role in keeping, you know, people safe yesterday. It is remarkable the number of rounds that were fired and the — the low number of people that were hit.

Providence approves the critical wounding of one congressman and the avoidance of same in several other cases, eh?

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Look, if I was one of the congresspersons who survived, I’d be more than a little inclined to thank providence — and if I didn’t survive, I wouldn’t be around to blame it. So here’s a special case of “history is written by the victors” — “belief in providence is written by the survivors”.

The problem with providence as an explanation is that it tends to overlook those who didn’t survive its providential ministrations. And that’s a problem of cognitive dissonance, if one tries to extend providence past the individual usrvivor or group of survivors, to the world as a whole — or to the “next week” that Beck feels prrovidence is saving some potential victims for..

Ruthlessly applied, providence comes for us all, as it has first devised us all — and all’s fair in love and hate, war and peace.

Or unfair. Forget Glenn Beck, I’ll let you decide.

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In a companion piece, Beck offers The Entire List of Who to Blame for the Attempted Slaughter of GOP House Members. Providence doesn’t catch any blame — and neither does the NRA, not Obama:

Here’s the truth. The shooter is responsible, by himself — not the gun, not the bullets, not the gun industry … not the NRA, not the left, not the right, not the president, not the former president, not Hillary Clinton, not Antifa — no one. The shooter is responsible, period.

Whee! And while we’re not blaming, or its corrollary, blaming, Glenn also posted The New York Times Runs the Worst Editorial in Human History, Blames SARAH PALIN for Giffords Shooting AGAIN

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The SPLC reports:

Gunman Who Fired on Congressional Baseball Team Consumed by Anti-Trump Anger

There’s a specter here, if it’s not providence and it’s not any of the interested parties who are to blame. The specter is polarization.

But that’s for a follow-up post on The physics of politics, god willing.

Sunday surprise: Paul Ryan

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — Paul Ryan and friends, plus dogs, pants, tardigrades, and the quantum cat ]
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Kyle Matthews provides his Twitter followers with a fine example of a visual DoubleQuote, which I’m reproducing here with the two images at the best magnification for Zenpundit:

If Paul Ryan and company were performing a re-enactment, they could scarcely have done a better job!

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On a more serious note.. Paul Ryan gave a presentation of his health care plan, which CNN brings you complete, thus:

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Less seriously again though, as Time reports, The Internet Is Having a Field Day Turning Paul Ryan’s Health Care PowerPoint Into Hilarious Memes. This one in particular caught my eye:

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Take a closer look at that slide. It’s amost a koan do dogs have pant-nature?

Sometimes imagining yourself into the scene helps solve the conundrum:

Or applying it to another koan:

Or applying it to the lovely but somewhat complex tardigrade..

Hey, you could always reduce it to the quantum level..

— probably — but not once the wave-form collapses..

Canadians, however, got all practical and entrepreneurial, with a company called Muddy Mutts:

Oh, and cute:

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With any luck, I took your mind off politics for a moment there..

Mindblowing WWJD from GOP Teens

Monday, April 17th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — a very basic blogpost on religious violence — specifically in authentic and weird, early and late Christianity — and sheer insanity ]
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On the Monday after The Defeat of Death, a bizarre scriptural exchange among followers of the GOP Teen twitter account at the intersection of christianity and violence, snd a sober examination of the same topic from one of the early Fathers of the Church, Saint John Chrysostom aka GoldenMouth John [below].

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Take a deep breath as we enter choppy waters:

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St. John Chrysostom‘s Homily 84 on Matthew 26. 51-54.

And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched forth his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear.

Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again your sword unto his place, for all they that take the sword, shall perish by the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot pray to the Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? How then should the Scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?

Who was this one, who cut off the ear? John says that it was Peter. [John 18:10] For the act was of his fervor.

But this other point is worth inquiry, wherefore they were bearing swords? For that they bore them is evident not hence only, but from their saying when asked, “here are two”. But wherefore did Christ even permit them to have swords? For Luke affirms this too, that He said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And when they said, Nothing, He said unto them, But now, he that has a purse, let him take it, and a scrip, and he that has no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. And when they said, Here are two swords, He said unto them, It is enough.

Wherefore then did He suffer them to have them? To assure them that He was to be betrayed. Therefore He says unto them, Let him buy a sword, not that they should arm themselves, far from it; but by this, indicating His being betrayed.

And wherefore does He mention a scrip also? He was teaching them henceforth to be sober, and wakeful, and to use much diligence on their own part. For at the beginning He cherished them (as being inexperienced) with much putting forth of His power but afterwards bringing them forth as young birds out of the nest, He commands them to use their own wings. Then, that they might not suppose that it was for weakness He is letting them alone, in commanding them also to work their part, He reminds them of the former things, saying, When I sent you without purse, lacked ye anything? that by both they might learn His power, both wherein He protected them, and wherein He now leaves them to themselves by degrees.

But whence were the swords there? They had come forth from the supper, and from the table. It was likely also there should be swords because of the lamb, and that the disciples, hearing that certain were coming forth against Him, took them for defense, as meaning to fight in behalf of their Master, which was of their thought only. Wherefore also Peter is rebuked for using it, and with a severe threat. For he was resisting the servant who came, warmly indeed, yet not defending himself, but doing this in behalf of his Master.

Christ however suffered not any harm to ensue. For He healed him, and showed forth a great miracle, enough to indicate at once both His forbearance and His power, and the affection and meekness of His disciple. For then he acted from affection, now with dutifulness. For when he heard, Put up your sword into its sheath, [John 18:11] he obeyed straightway, and afterwards nowhere does this.

But another says, that they moreover asked, Shall we smite? [Luke 22:49] but that He forbad it, and healed the man, and rebuked His disciple, and threatened, that He might move him to obedience. For all they that take the sword, He said, shall die with the sword.

And he adds a reason, saying, Think ye that I cannot pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. [Matthew 26:53-54] By these words He quenched their anger, indicating that to the Scriptures also, this seemed good. Wherefore there too He prayed, that they might take meekly what befell Him, when they had learned that this again is done according to God’s will.

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What think you?

WaPo just can’t bear their faces?

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — the words “substitute teachers” come to mind ]
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There’s nothing like quoting the recent past to illustrate the near future, eh?

presidential-vice-presidents-wapo-savedhttps://twitter.com/postpolitics/status/785172785417125889

I guess these guys seem more presidential?

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Edited to add: Okay, revised version, 20 minutes later:

https://twitter.com/washingtonpost/status/785177688839520257

Binocular vision on the Trump phenom

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — why the support, why the avoidance ]
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I thought it would be interesting to juxtapose these two quotes about Donald Trump.

One comes from my friend Timothy Burke of Swarthmore and the Easily Distracted blog (upper panel, below) — Tim describes himself as holding generally left or progressive views, though he likes to think of himself as “dedicated to unpredictability”. Tim’s comment goes a long way towards explaining Trump’s appeal.

Tablet DQ Trump Burke & King

The other (lower panel, above) is from Independent Senator Angus King, who generally caucuses with the Democrats, and explains in all too vivid terms why he cannot support Donald Trump for President.

Between the two of them, they nicely illustrate the two poles of opinion around Trump. Tim gives voice to the personal frustrations carried by so many of Trump’s supporters — grievous frustrations which have gone too long unheeded by both parties. And Sen. King voices the agonizing uncertainty surrounding Trump’s reliability as a potential major player in the high-stakes game of geopolitics and nuclear alerts — for his contrast between Trump and Clinton in this regard, read his whole piece at the link below.

I am grateful to both for their succinct expressions of the two very real sides here.

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Sources:

  • Timothy Burke, The Machine of Morbius
  • Sen. Angus King: I can’t vote for Donald Trump ‘in good conscience’

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