George Washington, Howard Roark and George Bailey

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[34] But the Pharisees hearing that he had silenced the Sadducees, came together:

[35] And one of them, a doctor of the law, asking him, tempting him:

[36] Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?

[37] Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.

[38] This is the greatest and the first commandment.

[39] And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

[40] On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

Matthew 22: 34-40

Joe Carter at Catholic Education Resource Center has a wonderful post entitled The Fountainhead of Bedford Falls, which compares the fictional characters Howard Roark and George Bailey:

Not surprisingly, Roark has become something of a cult figure, especially among young nerdy males entering post-adolescence. Although Roark is artistically gifted and technically brilliant, he prefers to take a job breaking rocks in a quarry than sell out to The Man. He provides a model for the underemployed, misunderstood, twenty-something misfit by choice. These see themselves in the uncompromising sulker, believing it better to vandalize and destroy than allow society to co-opt their dreams.

Rand herself would have certainly envisioned things differently. She would have sneered in disgust at the idea that Roark was anything like the slacker working at Starbucks the populists marching at Tea Parties. Her hero was a cross between the modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the serial killer and child rapist William Hickman. Rand’s ideal was the nonconformist who exhibited sociopathic tendencies. She dreamed of the minority of brilliant, atheistic ubermensch who would “eventually trample society under its feet.” The vast majority of the people who read The Fountainhead might admire Roark, but they’d never emulate him.

Similarly, Capra’s audience flatters themselves by believing the message of Wonderful Life is that their own lives are just as worthy, just as noble, and just as wonderful’ as George Bailey’s. In a way, they are as delusional as the Randian Roark-worshippers. Despite the fact that they left their small-town communities for the city, put their parents in an assisted living facility and don’t know the names of their next door neighbors, they truly believe they are just like Capra’s hero.

Such delusions are the reason these characters have remained two of the most dominant archetypes of American individualism in pop culture. The pendulum of popularity is swinging back toward Rand but it’s Capra’s creation that should be our model for inspiration.

Roark is nihilistic, narrow-minded, and something of a bore. Bailey is far darker, more complex, and infinitely more interesting.

What makes George Bailey one of the most inspiring, emotionally complex characters in modern popular culture is that he continually chooses the needs of his family and community over his own self-interested ambitions and desires – and suffers immensely and repeatedly for his sacrifices.  

 Although sentimental, Capra’s movie is not a simplistic morality play. It’s true that the movie ends on a happy note late on Christmas Eve, when George is saved from ruin. But on Christmas Day he’ll wake to find that his life is not so different than it was when he wanted to commit suicide.

 He will remain a frustrated artist who is scraping by on a meager salary and living in a drafty old house in a one-stoplight town. All that has really changed is that he has gained a deeper appreciation of the value of faith, friends, and community – and that this is worth more than his worldly ambitions. Capra’s underlying message is thus radically subversive: It is by serving our fellow man, even to the point of subordinating our dreams and ambitions, that we achieve both true greatness and lasting happiness.

Go here to read the brilliant rest.  If you really want to be happy in this world, and in the next, do good to others.  It is a truly simple lesson, but it is amazing how many people lead their entire lives without grasping it.  This of course is not happiness in the “Wee, that was a wild roller coaster ride!” sense, but in the sense of the satisfaction of a joy that surpasses understanding, the type of joy that parents experience as they see their kids growing up to be responsible parents themselves, or the joy of a priest who sees a penitent sinner embracing whole heartedly Christ.

It is not given us in this life to foreknow the tangled paths that our lives will follow or to predict what we will be remembered for, or if anyone will remember us at all after we are gone.  What we do know, however, is whether our lives are a blessing or a curse for those we encounter is very much determined by our own actions.  Altruism, love of neighbor, is an all important factor in determining the balance sheet of our lives, and often time that means going against our short-term selfish desires for what may turn out to be a path that leads us to what we will be remembered for.

A perfect example of this is George Washington.  Today is the 236th anniversary of the Battle of Trenton, in which Washington led a Continental Army on the point of defeat and dissolution across the Delaware and captured the entire Hessian garrison of some 900 troops at Trenton.  It is impossible to overstate the importance of the victory of Trenton.  It renewed hope in ultimate American victory in the struggle, led directly to a second American victory on January 3, 1777 at Princeton and the abandonment of much of New Jersey by the British.  But for this brilliant stroke by Washington, the American struggle for independence might well have died in the winter of 1776-1777.

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And the man who worked this miracle, George Washington, was he a professional soldier who had always desired to be at the head of a great army and to gain victories that would echo down through the centuries?  Well, actually he was a Virginia planter and throughout the War, and when he served as first president of these United States, his personal correspondence centered upon Mount Vernon, his plantation, and instructions about the planting of crops, the care of livestock, prices for commodities, the upkeep of buildings, etc.  Left to his own desires Washington would have lived out his entire life at Mount Vernon, been quite happy, and been a footnote in our histories, if he appeared at all except for his service in the French and Indian War.  Instead, he answered the call to duty, took up the burden of command of the Continental Army in the Revolution, although he feared he was unequal to the task, and served as our first president, although he found the duties onerous and realized that he was sacrificing much of the remaining years of his life away from his beloved Mount Vernon.  Washington, as a result of his sacrifices, will be remembered as long as there is a United States and as long as men cherish freedom.  The path of altruism was for him also the path to his true life’s work.

The same can be said for George Bailey.

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The above video is the pivotal scene in the movie.  George rises to the defense of his father’s life’s work:  the savings and loan that allows people in Bedford Falls to escape from Potter’s slums and become home owners.  To save the savings and loan, George gives his brother the money George has saved to go to college, so that he can attend college while George takes over the presidency of the savings and loan.  His journey down the path of altruism will cost him his dream of being an engineer, traveling the world and building huge products.  Instead he gains true love, a family and the admiration and respect of the people he helps in Bedford Falls.   His altruism is not a one way street, even in regard to business success.  Here I differ with Joe Carter who wrote:

Although sentimental, Capra’s movie is not a simplistic morality play. It’s true that the movie ends on a happy note late on Christmas Eve, when George is saved from ruin. But on Christmas Day he’ll wake to find that his life is not so different than it was when he wanted to commit suicide.

He will remain a frustrated artist who is scraping by on a meager salary and living in a drafty old house in a one-stoplight town.

Actually, George Bailey is a man on his way up.  Due to his hard work, honesty and decency he has developed a strong community support for the Savings and Loan.  In a scene that is often overlooked in the film Potter is informed by his rent collector, played by Charles Lane, perhaps the best character actor of his era, that George Bailey is a mortal threat to his operation:

REINEMAN
Fifteen years ago, a half-dozen houses stuck here and there.
(indicating map)
There’s the old cemetery, squirrels, buttercups, daisies. Used to
hunt rabbits there myself. Look at it today. Dozens of the
prettiest little homes you ever saw. Ninety
per cent owned by suckers who used to pay rent to you. Your
Potter’s Field, my dear Mr. Employer, is becoming just that. And
are the local yokels making with
those David and Goliath wisecracks!

POTTER
Oh, they are, are they? Even though they know the Baileys haven’t
made a dime out of it.

REINEMAN
You know very well why. The Baileys were all chumps. Every one of
these homes is worth twice what it cost the Building and Loan to
build. If I
were you, Mr. Potter . . .

POTTER (interrupting)
Well, you are not me.

REINEMAN (as he leaves)
As I say, it’s no skin off my nose. But one of these days this
bright young man is going to be asking George Bailey for a job.

This causes Potter to offer George a job, which, after being momentarily tempted, he angrily declines.  George has found his life’s work.  He doesn’t get to build a few grand projects around the globe, but many small projects in Bedford Falls, grand to those he benefits as a result.  Success is coming his way, with even the loss of $8,000.00, stolen by Potter courtesy of the absent-mindedness of Uncle Billy, being only a momentary set back.

Howard Roark on the other hand is supposed to be a brilliant architect, but I wonder how many projects he would get in the future after being crazy enough to dynamite a building because his artistic vision is being violated.  Gary Cooper, who played Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, thought the speech that Ayn Rand insist that he deliver in the video at the beginning of this post was crazy in parts and didn’t make much sense overall.  His woodenness throughout the film was an indication of a lack of comfort in a role he had little sympathy for, Cooper normally portraying men in films who were motivated by altruism for those they love.  A prime example of this type of role was his performance in Sergeant Yorkthe story of the Tennessee mountaineer, a Christian, who earned the medal of honor in World War I, for which he won an academy award in 1941.  Rand would complain about Cooper’s lack of passion in the role, but her ideological paean to selfishness embodied in the film, was the reason for Cooper’s lack of passion in  a role he simply did not believe in.

It has been said that sin is its own punishment and virtue is its own reward.  I believe that.  However it is interesting how even in this often unjust world we see sin punished and virtue rewarded.  There are no guarantees, and many people will meet with justice only in the life to come, but even here on earth it is not that uncommon to see that our actions do have consequences, for ill and good.  The paths of our lives are hidden to us, but often some act of altruism we have the opportunity to perform, points us on our way.  Something to keep in mind the day after Christmas and all days.

 

46 Responses to George Washington, Howard Roark and George Bailey

  • “it is interesting how even in this often unjust world we see sin punished and virtue rewarded…”

    Well, not really. As Aristotle, the philosopher of common sense, saw, “the good” must be “our good” and, other things being equal, will lead to our flourishing. St Thomas, who agreed with Aristotle, notes that we only offend God, when we act against our own good [Non enim Deus a nobis offenditur nisi ex eo quod contra nostrum bonum agimus – ScG III. 122] How could it be otherwise?

  • Completely disagree MPS. Acting in a just manner is often short term detrimental. A simple example: a bank teller makes a mistake and gives you a 50 dollar bill instead of a 5 dollar bill. Returning the 50 to the teller is the right thing to do, but it deprives you of a windfall of 45.00. Philosophers often paint beautiful word pictures that often have only a passing resemblance to life.

  • “Virtue is its own reward.”

    As usual, IWL was aired on broadcast NBC on Christmas Eve. My (commie) ex-twin (my wife’s brother-in-law) emailed that the classic movie on TV and added a snide comment about “banksters.” Of course, every conservative and advocate for the private sector is “Mr. Potter.”

    My curt reply included a suggestion to concentrate on, and emulate, Bailey’s virtue and (firm grasp of the obvious) avoid Potter’s caricature evil.

    We are constantly confronted with choices: good or evil, life or death. Choose rightly.

  • 1. George Bailey does not suffer immensely. He has a portfolio of disappointments characteristic of middle-aged men.

    2. George Bailey is not particularly complex, just not unidimensional

    3. The catalyst for his suicide attempt is an act of embezzlement by the nefarious Potter for which he and his uncle are due to be blamed by bank examiners and the public prosecutor. It is actually a very implausible sequence of events, as is the solution. However, there is, in the course of the narrative, a solution, which is to say the problem will not be there in the morning.

    4. Despite George Bailey’s financial anxieties, the Bailey family is the most affluent depicted in the film, bar the bachelor Potter. George Bailey’s parents employ a domestic who appears to be in residence (proportionately much more common in 1928 than today), some amount of foreign travel is feasible on their income (uncharacteristic of the suburban bourgeois of 1968, much less 1928) and some amount of higher education in feasible. Please note, most youngsters between the ages of 14 and 18 were not (in 1928) enrolled in high school, much less have any opportunity for tertiary schooling.

    5. “Bedford Falls” is not a one-stoplight town. It has a taxi service, at least two banks, and specialty merchants. It was putatively inspired by Seneca Falls, N.Y., which is small but about 7x the size of real one-stoplight towns. It is also weirdly affluent by the standards of that time. The local high school has a swimming pool constructed under a gymnasium with a retractable floor.

    6. I have heard of elderly couples buffaloed into entering assisted living facilities by their relatives. I cannot imagine what the family dynamics must be in the situation I know best (bar that the oldest son is absolutely furious about the machinations of his niece and sister-in-law for which his accommodating brother was a conduit). That having been said, assisted living centers in New York, unlike nursing homes, are not places to where hospital patients are discharged either for rehabilitation care or because it is unsafe to send them home. You are not ‘put’ in assisted living. People elect assisted living after considering other alternatives. It is hideously expensive, and the residents therein are not typically gaga (which is to say under guardianship or readily manipulable), just suffering mobility problems. The clientele are the very small minority of the elderly with the retirement income (> $60 k a year) to pay for it or who calculate they will outlive their assets.

  • 1 Cor 13:3-7

    And if I distribute all my goods in order to feed the poor, and if I hand over my body to be burned, yet not have charity, it offers me nothing.
    Charity is patient, is kind. Charity does not envy, does not act wrongly, is not inflated.
    Charity is not ambitious, does not seek for itself, is not provoked to anger, devises no evil.
    Charity does not rejoice over iniquity, but rejoices in truth.
    Charity suffers all, believes all, hopes all, endures all.

    This is my problem with George Bailey. He’s depicted as a guy who does everything right, but he has no love. He has a short temper, he envies, and when he faces a major life challenge, he opts for suicide. I respect his actions, but he is a horrible human being.

    This article says that “if you really want to be happy in this world, and in the next, do good to others”. George Bailey is incredibly unhappy. Why? Take the scene where he nearly takes a job with Potter. He’s torn between two emotions: greed and anger. He wants the riches and power of Potter, but he also hates the man. I get no sense of love of principles, love of the town, desire to do right. The anger is targeted justly, but it doesn’t seem like righteous anger to me.

  • “He has a short temper, he envies,”

    He is also shown as loving, kind, humorous and courageous. In short he is a fairly typical human being with good moments and bad moments intermingled.

    “when he faces a major life challenge, he opts for suicide”

    No, he thinks of suicide. That is brought about by Potter’s statement that he is worth more dead than alive, and his desire to spare his family the shame of seeing him go to prison. (Never a real threat since the prosecution would have to prove embezzlement, not an easy thing to do, but this is overlooked in order to have the plot device to allow Clarence to show George how his life has been a force for good.)

    As for the job offer I think Bailey’s assessment of Potter is entirely accurate and his anger is justified. I suspect that some of the anger is directed at himself for being weak enough to be tempted by the offer without considering the impact on the savings and loan:

    GEORGE
    Well, what about the Building and Loan?

    POTTER
    Oh, confound it, man, are you afraid of success? I’m offering you
    a three year contract at twenty thousand dollars a year, starting
    today. Is it a deal or
    isn’t it?

    GEORGE
    Well, Mr. Potter, I . . . I . . . I know I ought to jump at the
    chance, but I . . . I just . . . I wonder if it would be possible
    for you to give me twenty-four
    hours to think it over?

    POTTER
    Sure, sure, sure. You go on home and talk about it to your wife.

    GEORGE
    I’d like to do that.

    POTTER
    In the meantime, I’ll draw up the papers.

    GEORGE
    All right, sir.

    POTTER (offers hand)
    Okay, George?

    GEORGE (taking his hand)
    Okay, Mr. Potter.

    As they shake hands, George feels a physical revulsion. Potter’s
    hand feels like a cold mackerel to him. In that moment of
    physical contact he knows he
    could never be associated with this man. George drops his hand
    with a shudder. He peers intently into Potter’s face.

    GEORGE (cont’d –– vehemently)
    No . . . no . . . no . . . no, now wait a minute, here! I don’t
    have to talk to anybody! I know right now, and the answer is no!
    NO! Doggone it!
    (getting madder all the time)
    You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think
    the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it
    doesn’t, Mr. Potter! In the . . . in the
    whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but
    a scurvy little spider. You . . .

    He turns and shouts at the goon, impassive as ever beside
    Potter’s wheelchair.

  • He has a short temper, he envies, and when he faces a major life challenge, he opts for suicide. I respect his actions, but he is a horrible human being.

    Pinky, if that character as portrayed manifests your idea of a ‘short temper’, you have lived a very sheltered existence. He is dissatisfied with his own situation, but he envies no one. People threatened with immanent personal disasters sometimes contemplate suicide. It is unserious, verging on demented, to view this character as a ‘horrible human being’.

  • Art, it’s been a while since I watched it, and I could be off-base. Maybe there were scenes depicting him as a caring person that I’ve forgotten. My impression of the character was entirely negative. And wasn’t he envious of his brother? Didn’t he snap at his wife, his daughter, his uncle?

  • And wasn’t he envious of his brother?

    No. The only envious figure is Potter.

    Didn’t he snap at his wife, his daughter, his uncle?

    Husbands, fathers, and nephews have been known to snap at the people they live and work with. Again, can that possibly be your idea of a ‘horrible person’?

  • Perhaps I should have said “horrible man”. There are two traits that are most despicable in a man: self-pity and bullying. I see the entire movie (except for the last ten minutes) as a documentation of self-pity. When Bailey yells at his wife and daughter, he becomes a bully.

    I’m reminded of Kipling’s “If”. Bailey fails Kipling’s standards of being a man across the board, but fails no test more than this: “and lose, and start again at your beginnings / and never breathe a word about your loss”. I promised myself that I’d get through the Christmas season without getting into another anti-Bailey rant, but it jsut drives me crazy to see him treated as someone worth emulation.

  • #39 love thy neighbor as thyself.

    George was witness to his fathers deep love for neighbor. He told George; “you were born older.” Possibly an acknowledgment of the sons wisdom in matters of “deeper” things, like self sacrifice, and love of neighbor; brothers near drowning & wrong pills to pharmacist client.
    I believe George is portrayed as a struggling suffering servant, and I for one love his humanity, fallibility included.

  • “When Bailey yells at his wife and daughter, he becomes a bully.”

    No, he is a man confronting what he views as financial ruin and disgrace for his family and not knowing what to do. I have snapped at my wife and kids for far less, and apologized later for such outbursts. I do not regard myself as either a horrible man or a bully for such failings, but rather a man possessed of a temper which I do my best to control, usually successfully, but sometimes not. As for self pity, the next person I meet who has not engaged in that at some point in their life will likely be the first. We aren’t all born as paragons of virtue and gifted with iron self control, but the important thing is that we learn from our sins and mistakes, engage in contrition and do our best to amend our lives.

  • The very end is precious.

    …no man is a failure who has friends.

    Georges friends are born of respect for the man. The undeniably presence of a man with true conviction to see the poor as brothers, even to the point of protecting a feeble uncle.

    George has friends, more friends than acquaintances…..chumps?…not at all. Good will to men….indeed.

  • I have never read Fountainhead or watched the movie. I watch Its a Wonderful Life with my kids every Christmas. George is human (he has strengths and weakness, conflicting desires and emotions, just as we all do) and if his one outburst in 28 plus years makes him a horrible person then I am ten times more horrible. And will pay for it in purgatory or hell as God deems appropriate. It is a movie and uses plot devices that are not accurate but . . . my take away is that with God’s help all will work out for the best.

  • I love the post and the connection between George W and George B. I have never read Fountainhead; lots of info right in the Gary Cooper clip. (A while back I ordered and enjoyed the Gary Cooper movie about Sgt York because of your post)
    I agree with Michael PS, Augustine and St Thomas…and I don’t think they think of good as long or short term : ) but eschatologically.
    There may be another example that makes your point but Denying yourself a random windfall (much less one that was predicated on the mistake of another person that may negatively cost that other person…. A windfall that never really belonged to you is not really sacrificing anything that was was personally yours or really detrimental to your condition. Remaining at status quo while not getting an advance is not the same as a loss.
    I always learn so much from the discourse on this blog. Thank you Mr. McClarey and all the regulars!

  • Thank you for your interesting and thought-provoking piece, Mr. McClarey. Ironically, over at First Things, Patrick Deneen recently posted a piece interpreting ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ from a different angle. Deneen, no doubt, agrees with your thesis — love of God and neighbor is the ultimate ingredient for a good life — but challenges our common notions of ‘success’ and ‘ambitions’, as well as our (unfortunate) disdain of ‘small’ towns and human scale lives.

    I agree with Deneen and his ilk (read Frontporchrepublic.com for a more thorough idea of their view of a ‘good life’). If you’ve time to read First Things today, I’d be interested in your take.

    Regardless of whether you find time or are even interested in doing so, I think this is an opportune time to thank you (and all the contributors of this blog) for your time, energy and thoughts that are needed to sustain a blog. Although, of course, I don’t agree with every viewpoint expressed here, I find the discourse and wisdom imparted here encouraging and enlightening.

    God bless you and yours during this holy season!

    http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2012/12/itrsquos-a-destructive-life

  • “but challenges our common notions of ‘success’ and ‘ambitions’, as well as our (unfortunate) disdain of ‘small’ towns and human scale lives.”

    I agree that success comes in many shapes and sizes Justin, and having been raised in a town of 10,000 and having lived now in a village of 4,000 for 27 years and counting, I have a keen appreciation for the virtues of small town life while not being blind to the vices.

  • I agree with Deneen and his ilk (read Frontporchrepublic.com for a more thorough idea of their view of a ‘good life’). If you’ve time to read First Things today, I’d be interested in your take.

    You did not ask for mine, but I will give it to you anyway. Deneen’s thesis is overstated. Bailey’s real estate development does not ‘destroy’ the town. It is an appendage to the town that has a mix of agreeable and disagreeable features. You can schlep around small towns in Upstate New York and see the same deal: a marked contrast between pre-war and post-war development. It is much more manifest in commercial real estate than in residential housing, however, and the older housing stock is still there. Post-war urban planning has been a failure, by and large. Deneen might have explored why such development was attractive to producer and consumer alike. That sort of inquiry would be incongruent with striking attitudes (which seems to be the main purpose of Front Porch Republic).

  • Deneen, no doubt, agrees with your thesis — love of God and neighbor is the ultimate ingredient for a good life — but challenges our common notions of ‘success’ and ‘ambitions’, as well as our (unfortunate) disdain of ‘small’ towns and human scale lives.

    You have confounded Deneen with Wendell Berry.

  • Pinky, I think you need to put the 19th c. verse aside and work on appreciating ordinary people. Just my $0.02.

  • Thank you for your response, Mr. McClarey and Mr. Deco.

    Mr. Deco: From my readings, Mr. Berry and Dr. Deneen are more similar than different — do you not agree?

  • If I recall correctly, First Things has had quite a few articles about city planning. It’s always nice to read an article that accuses George Bailey of things that even I wouldn’t, though.

    Art, we disagree about the movie.

  • Um, no, Pinky. We disagree about the propriety of certain emotional states. In the course of common-and-garden domestic life, people have words. Husbands and fathers who do not, on occasion, snarl and their wife or children are very unusual (or have very unusual children). And the notion that someone facing unjust criminal charges, civil liability, the loss of his livelihood, and social disgrace is ‘despicable’ for being in a state of distress about it is beyond flabbergasting. You were the one who made a to do about Sarah Palin’s ‘affect’ and now you are complaining that fictional character has any affect at all. What do you expect George Bailey to do, sing “Put on a Happy Face” and dance around the room with royal blue chickens, like one of the felt characters on Sesame Street?

  • Mr. Deco: From my readings, Mr. Berry and Dr. Deneen are more similar than different — do you not agree?

    Yes and no. Wendell Berry had a tour in academe, but he has spent the bulk of his adult life farming in Kentucky. He da man in a way Dr. Deneen can never be. (I think Berry is wrong to the degree he argues agrarian life is economically and socially viable for aught but a small minority given contemporary technology, but that is a different issue). I would be more impressed with the Front Porch crew if they were not so self-conscious about differentiating themselves from ‘them’ (that would be folk like Messrs. McClarey, Zummo, &c.), not so fixated on anyone within three-degrees-of-separation of William Kristol, were willing to knock-it off with chuffering about ‘empire’, and actually concerned themselves vociferously with the true injuries to place (bad urban planning), limits (sexual misconduct and the misuse of divorce courts), and liberty (the mundane abuses of public prosecutors and family court judges). Not holdin’ my breath.

  • Art, we all have moments of self-pity. But that doesn’t make it any less pathetic. Bailey was beaten by a bully, and he fell into self-pity and bullying himself. Don’t expect me to laud it. Palin was beaten by a bully, and her supporters fell into self-pity and bullying. Don’t expect me to laud that either. Part of life is taking a punch. If you hire an incompetent uncle or run for VP with only two years of high-level experience, you’re going to get hit. Don’t feign surprise at it.

  • “and dance around the room with royal blue chickens, like one of the felt characters on Sesame Street?”

    Comment of the month Art!

  • Art, we all have moments of self-pity. But that doesn’t make it any less pathetic. Bailey was beaten by a bully, and he fell into self-pity and bullying himself. Don’t expect me to laud it.

    Pinky, you used terms like ‘horrible’ and ‘despicable’ to describe a man in quite unremarkable emotional states while facing unusual threats.

    Palin was beaten by a bully, and her supporters fell into self-pity and bullying.

    Who? You need to be able to distinguish between ‘self-pity’ and disgust or exasperation. You need to distinguish between argument, complaint, and ‘bullying’? You do not.

    Don’t expect me to laud that either. Part of life is taking a punch. If you hire an incompetent uncle or run for VP with only two years of high-level experience, you’re going to get hit. Don’t feign surprise at it.

    Actually, Gov. Palin’s background (11 years as a public executive) compared favorably with that of Barack Obama, Joseph Biden, John Edwards, and John Kerry (collective executive experience = zero). The following national candidates have put in comparable time (or more time) as a line administrator than Gov. Palin (summing time in public and private sector posts): Richard Cheney, George W. Bush, Ross Perot, James Stockdale, Lloyd Bentsen, George H. W. Bush, Sargent Shriver, Dwight Eisenhower, Earl Warren, John Bricker. That is no where near a majority of those who have run in the last 70 years. You are free to offer opinions on the weight of public sector experience v. private sector experience and of experience at various levels and with various quanta of people working under you. It is a bit rich though, for someone like Charles Fried to argue that Palin was so unprepared it justified a ballot for Barack Obama, whose work as an executive consisted of running the Chicago Annenberg Challenge into the ground. Of course, Fried could have argued she needed to have been a federal official to earn his vote (Obama’s two and a half years as an undistinguished working Senator being so valuable), though had he done so he would also have to explain why he accepted a post in the Reagan Administration, given that Mr. Reagan’s preparation for the office was strictly in Sacramento. Fried is a law professor. He argues for a living. At least that’s what I’ve heard. (Was the foregoing paragraph ‘self-pitying’ or ‘bullying’, btw?

  • By the way, Pinky, the name of the firm in the film is “Bailey Brothers Building and Loan”. Although the company was formally incorporated, it was founded by the uncle. (btw, there are people in this world who have performance problems but who can still be valuable).

  • I was never going to comment here again, but something Philip wrote struck me: “The very end is precious….no man is a failure who has friends.”

    Authentic Christians have friends.

    Liberals, progressives, libertarians, Ayn Rand objectivists, dope smoking legalizers, anti-nuclear activists, etc. – do they have friends?

    I used to read Ayn Rand. But it affected my thinking. So I stopped reading her works. I watched the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” many times. I never read anything into it other than a wonderful moral theme, just the opposite of the selfish individualism of liberalism, libertarianism and objectivism that glorifies ego and the right to choose ahead of everything, including God, one’s neighbors, personal responsibility and integrity.

  • “Authentic Christians have friends.

    Liberals, progressives, libertarians, Ayn Rand objectivists, dope smoking legalizers, anti-nuclear activists, etc. – do they have friends?”

    Of course not, Paul. None of them have any friends, and they all hate their families too. And none of them could possibly be Authentic Christians either! You have to be a registered Republican to earn that distinction.

  • Check-Check, JL.

    Christians love those that hate them and pray for those that persecute them. I think PWP was communicating that.

    And, he was being charitable in performing Spiritual Works of Mercy: “Admonish the sinner” and “Instruct the ignorant.”

    In his way, PWP is trying to save souls. That is charity.

  • JL,

    I am not a registered Republican. I joined the Constitution Party because its platform more closely conforms to Church teaching than that of any other.

    http://www.constitutionparty.com/Portals/0/Images/National%20Platform%20Full%20Version.pdf

    Thank you, T. Shaw, for the support.

  • Of course not, Paul. None of them have any friends, and they all hate their families too. And none of them could possibly be Authentic Christians either!

    Do you have hobbies other than maladroit sarcasm?

    Actually, if you read accounts of the dynamics of the social circle around Ayn Rand prior to its implosion in 1968, you can see the question of whether or not they could at that point form and maintain non-pathological friendships is a serious one. People whose lives revolve around drug use generally socialize with fellow addicts as well (and they exploit each other for their next fix).

    You have to be a registered Republican to earn that distinction.

    Falls kinda flat. A number of the regulars here have been contending for years with seamless-garment / peace-and-justice hucksters who have been maintaining just the converse or twisting themselves into knots to excuse the Democratic Party.

  • Paul,

    Apologies for the errant assumption. I think the point still sticks, namely that a particular party affiliation, or lack thereof, is not necessarily the best indicator of “Christian Authenticity.”

    Art,

    I play the banjo, too. But that’s basically it. Sarcasm and bluegrass.

    Of course objectivists are a messed up bunch, but not sure how te others are indicted as incapable of maintaining friendships. And not everyone who is for the legalization of drugs makes drug use the central pillar of their life, so I reject that mischaracterization.

    And I think the point does NOT fall flat. Being a Republican does not make you a good Christian. Not being a Republican does not make you a good Christian. Being a good Christian makes you a good Christian.

  • And I think the point does NOT fall flat. Being a Republican does not make you a good Christian. Not being a Republican does not make you a good Christian. Being a good Christian makes you a good Christian.

    Since you are criticizing something no one asserted implicitly or explicitly, the point falls flat.

    A generation ago, John LaFalce could get about a quarter of the House Democratic Caucus to sign a pro-life petition of sorts. Three years ago, Bart Stupak rounded up a grand total of 5% of the House Democratic Caucus for an interim period of resistance to an extension of public provision of abortion. Outside of Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, the Democratic Party is rotten all the way down. Too bad, but that’s the deal. Recognizing that forecloses some political stances (stances preferred by the peace-and-justice poseurs, the “Catholic” higher education establishment, and sundry Church-o-crats). It does not require other stances. I will cast a ballot for members of my local Democratic caucus if they are tasked with making decisions about land use plans or the fire department budget; if their preferred candidates are tasked with decisions about Medicaid expenditure or matrimonial law, forget it.

  • I mostly agree with JL. However, people who put their personal freedom to choose first – for example, the overwhelming majority of objectivists, libertarians, liberals, progressives and Democrats – are by definition NOT Christian. Given the pro-abortion platform of the Libertarian and Democratic Parties, one wonders how a person can be either Libertarian or Democrat and have a legitimate claim to being authentically Christian. To get back to the point of the post, Ayn Rand’s heroes are selfish SOBs full of intellectual arrogance. But “It’s A Wonderful Life” shows a very opposite attitude of humility and gratitude. Those virtues, very Christian indeed, have never been the hallmark of any objectivist, libertarian, liberal, progressive or Democrat. I will concede that few Republicans possess them either, but overall they have a better chance. That being said, “Being a good Christian makes you a good Christian.”

  • Paul-

    If it’s on a bumper sticker……
    “Pro- Woman, Pro-Choice & Pro-Family.”
    ……..then it must be true.

    When it comes right down to it, I am so very happy that we will be judged by God. Could you imagine being judged by man?

    God knows the heart of man. Our witness to love and our imperfect applications to serve our neighbor including our intent, will speak volumes on that great and terrible day. I too like the movie, and the heart of an imperfect George Baily.

  • Perhaps you are correct, Philip, nevertheless I am reminded of the admonition of Hebrews 10:30-31 – “30 For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

  • Paul-
    Prov. 8:17; “I love them that love me: and they that in the morning early watch for me, shall find me.”

    As for me, I will continue to grope for him, and continue on this path knowing full well that the more I decrease the more He may increase in me and that Anything that is good and holy from me is not mine, for His works are good, His are Holy, and not mine.

    T.Merton; “Perhaps if I only realized that I do not admire what many admire I would begin to Live afterall. I would be liberated from the painful duty of saying things I do not think, and acting in ways that betrays Gods truth and the integrity of my own soul.”

    Living simply and trying to walk humbly.
    May all of our walks lead to eternal rest in The Sacred Heart.
    I’m glad your back Paul. I enjoy reading the many learned insights you and many other participants bring to TAC.

  • Thanks, Philip. I have to continuous learn your motto:

    “Living simply and trying to walk humbly,” along with steering clear of anti-nuclear activists. ;-)

    Somebody reminded me today that God is so awesomely holy that we should be on flat on our face prostrate in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. What you said applies: “As for me, I will continue to grope for him, and continue on this path knowing full well that the more I decrease the more He may increase in me and that Anything that is good and holy from me is not mine, for His works are good, His are Holy, and not mine.”

    PS, I love TAC, but loathe anti-nuclearism almost as much as I do liberalism.

  • Your welcome Paul.
    All of us have our “anti-nuclear” challenges.
    For some it’s the acceptance of others that flaunt their sin publicly. The acceptance that they we’re made in Gods image, and we must accept them as Gods handiwork, however never accepting their lifestyle, or sin.
    All of life on Earth is testing ground.
    Praise Jesus.

  • Paul,

    I’m curious what you mean when you say “anti-nuclearism.” Could you expand?

  • JL, I am referring to “anti-nuclear energy”. I have worked in commercial nuclear power for 30+ years as a submarine reactor operator, an instrumentation and controls technician, a radiation monitoring systems engineer, a digital design engineer, an engineering training instructor, and a software QA specialist. I have taught Pressurized and Boiling Water Reactor Systems training as well as a variety of instrumentation and controls training courses. Nuclear energy is safe, clean and cheap, even including Fukushima where only 6 people died compared with 1700 lives lost in a nearby dam collapse from the earthquake. A blogger here at TAC would not accept reasoned arguments with backup from reputable sources such as the IAEA, the US NRC, NEI, WANO, etc. He denigrated me as some nit wit on the Internet, and defaulted to that vaunted excess of liberal anti-nuclear intelligentsia called Academia which in practice knows nothing about this complex subject. The facts that coal fired power plant pollution (that he supports) releases more radiation in the form of radium, uranium and thorium meant nothing to him. The fact that coal pollution kills 30000 people annually in the US from air pollution was irrelevant to him. He could not be reasoned with and all the web links to reputable scientific sources were useless. I can’t abide stuff like that. I know what happened at Fukushima, Chernobyl, TMI and Windscale. I teach training courses on those accidents, and they pale in comparison to the tens of thousands of lives lost from dam collapses and fossil fuel pollution. Logic and science mean nothing to either libertarian or liberal. They are so full of their intellectual self-confidence that they will reject any authority because by goodness, they are so darned smart! Ok, you asked, JL, And that’s my answer. BTW, if you want to know who I am, look me up on LinkedIn. There are not too many Paul Primaveras over there who work in nuclear. My critic here, decrying me as just another net bot, went by a pseudonym, not even his real name, refusing to divulge who he really is. Well, you can easily find out who I am and verify that I am not lying. I believe in science the same way that I believe in the Bible. Because it’s true. It’s that simple.

  • And PS, the best nuclear weapon is one whose uranium or plutonium is being recycled as fuel in a commercial nuclear reactor, forever making it unavailable for weapons use!

  • Paul, rest assured that at least one contributor here very much appreciates your reason and knowledge when it comes to nuclear energy.

  • Thank you, Paul Z. I know that you and Donald and many of the rest are among the best. And I like this post of Donald’s, how it contrasts the hubris of objectivism and libertarianism with the humility and gratitude of old fashion Americana, which is how I feel about “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

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