13

Charles Krauthammer: Resquiescat in Pace

I have been uncharacteristically silent these past ten months. I had thought that silence would soon be coming to an end, but I’m afraid I must tell you now that fate has decided on a different course for me.

In August of last year, I underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in my abdomen. That operation was thought to have been a success, but it caused a cascade of secondary complications — which I have been fighting in hospital ever since. It was a long and hard fight with many setbacks, but I was steadily, if slowly, overcoming each obstacle along the way and gradually making my way back to health.

However, recent tests have revealed that the cancer has returned. There was no sign of it as recently as a month ago, which means it is aggressive and spreading rapidly. My doctors tell me their best estimate is that I have only a few weeks left to live. This is the final verdict. My fight is over.

I wish to thank my doctors and caregivers, whose efforts have been magnificent. My dear friends, who have given me a lifetime of memories and whose support has sustained me through these difficult months. And all of my partners at The Washington Post, Fox News, and Crown Publishing.

Lastly, I thank my colleagues, my readers, and my viewers, who have made my career possible and given consequence to my life’s work. I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking. I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny.

I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.

Charles Krauthammer, June 8, 2018

 

 

Charles Krauthammer has died at age 68.  He met his death from cancer with the courage that one would expect from someone confined to a wheel chair from the age of 22 by a diving accident, and who went on to live a life full enough for ten able bodied men.  A psychiatrist by training, for decades he was a public intellectual in the best sense:  a man of endless intellectual curiosity who came to his opinions based upon a dispassionate analysis of the evidence.  I often disagreed with his opinions, but I recognized that he brought a powerful intellect to the issues of the day and a profound sense of fairness.  He made a slow trajectory from the political left to the political right, but he always retained a sense of humor and a desire to understand the positions of his adversaries.

In a time of ranters and frauds, Krauthammer was a true gentleman and a true scholar, and I will miss him.  He defined himself religiously as a skeptical Jew, but he also had this to say of atheism:

“Atheism is the least plausible of all theologies. I mean, there are a lot of wild ones out there, but the one that clearly runs so contrary to what is possible, is atheism”. 

 

May God have been gentle with him when he came to his particular judgment.  Prayers for him, for his one and only wife, and his son, and for the world which is poorer by his passing.  Although he spent his adult life in a wheel cheer, when the Grim Reaper came for him I am sure that Mr. Krauthammer met him standing on his feet.

 

 

14

Grace in the Face of Death

As faithful readers of this blog know, I am a great admirer of the virtue of courage.  Nowhere does this virtue shine brighter than when someone meets death with grace and hope:

 

Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts gives us a current example of this grace:

Last week was a bad week for celebrities.  The suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade shed light on a problem that has been well known, if not overly covered, for several years now.  Suicides have been growing fast in the US, and continue to increase.  And it’s not just in the United States either.  Countries around the world, in and out of Europe, are seeing increases in suicide.  It’s almost like the same factors that have brought the new phenomenon of mass killings might somehow be linked to suicide.  It’s almost as if something in the last half century or so isn’t working.

I know, I know.  Suicides have always happened, are complex, and can impact those in and out of religious circles.  But here’s the thing.  We can appeal to past suicide rates all we want.  Never in human history has there been such an emphasis on psychological and emotional well being as now; never has there been so many safeguards erected for the sole purpose of preventing such mental spirals as that which could lead to suicide.  And yet, once again, we’re seeing that after tearing down almost everything the old world said was right and wrong, good and bad, we’re left at best with problems as bad as they ever were.  In some cases, we could argue they are worse.

I’ll leave others to scramble for a cause.  Suffice to say I’ll listen to materialists insist it’s all physical, and Christians and other religious individuals look to spiritual causes.  I will not listen at all to Christians, no matter how trained in mental health, act as if they never heard of God or the Holy Spirit, it must all be a matter of chemicals or biological deficiencies.  Nope.  Not going to go there.

As if the suicide news wasn’t enough, Charles Krauthammer announced that he has weeks to live, owing to a terminal case of cancer.  He has been Nazi and Commie to so many who themselves have a history of being disastrously wrong, I can’t help but think he brought something of value to our national discourse.  Unlike the previous two celebrities I mentioned, however, Mr. Krauthammer chose to endure.  Despite receiving a life altering injury that left him crippled for good, he persevered and chose life.  And like Lou Gehrig before him, he departs this earthly stage with grace and class, not self pity or resentment – at least none he has shown.

I don’t know.  Perhaps it’s a matter of perception, of attitude, of the way in which we look at life and the world around us.  I became a Christian almost 30 years ago, and in that time, Christians sound more like the world of agnosticism I left than the world of agnosticism sounds like any traditional manifestation of Christianity.  Yet there are still those who hearken back to a world in which our place is within it, not above it; an age when we had jobs to do and duty to ideals higher than ourselves.  Not a world in which the only reason God decided to exist in the first place was to create a universe centered around the awesomeness of me getting whatever I want, as soon as I want, with whomever I want, as often as I want, free of charge and if things go wrong it’s everyone else’s fault.

A clash of world views I suppose.  I get what I want, others be damned, or I don’t always get what I want, because I have other things to consider. Who knows?  Perhaps that ‘me’ focused approach isn’t something new, nor is the idea that we owe to others above ourselves.  And you never know.  Perhaps looking at the history of those differences could reveal something when considering suicide through the ages.  I dunno, just thinking out loud.

But prayers for the loved ones left behind.  I will not celebrate or make martyrs of those who killed themselves and left their loved ones behind to agonize for the rest of their lives.  Early on I was told that suicide is the most selfish of all sins, and I’ll keep that.  Nonetheless, I do pray for their souls and their loved ones who must shoulder the burden they were given.  I will pray for all who take their own lives, as well as their loved ones, in that manner.

I will also pray for, and give thanks for, those who through no fault of their own are smitten with ill fortune and decide to make all of the gift of life they can, thinking of their contributions to the world, of their loved ones, and all who know and care for them. May God bless them and give them the strength they need to die well, and shower blessings and grace upon those who benefit from their example.

Go here to comment.  We bring nothing into this Vale of Tears but ourselves, and we take nothing out.  However, each of us leaves behind an example of how we lived our lives, and for many of us what will be most remembered is how we meet our own death.  May we all meet it with grace and courage, as Christ did.  Before the battle of Lepanto the priests of the Christian fleet preached sermons on the theme of no Heaven for cowards.  Christians are meant to be brave, and must be brave, something we have lost sight of over the past half century.

 

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.

William Shakespeare

11

Condescender In Chief

Charles Krauthammer has an excellent column about President Obama’s immigration speech in El Paso the other day.  Here’s a sample:

The El Paso speech is notable not for breaking any new ground on immigration but for perfectly illustrating Obama’s political style: the professorial, almost therapeutic, invitation to civil discourse, wrapped around the basest of rhetorical devices — charges of malice compounded with accusations of bad faith. “They’ll never be satisfied,” said Obama about border control. “And I understand that. That’s politics.”

How understanding. The other side plays “politics,” Obama acts in the public interest. Their eyes are on poll numbers, political power, the next election; Obama’s rest fixedly on the little children.

This impugning of motives is an Obama constant. “They” play politics with deficit reduction, with government shutdowns, with health care. And now immigration. It is ironic that such a charge should be made in a speech that is nothing but politics. There is zero chance of any immigration legislation passing Congress in the next two years. El Paso was simply an attempt to gin up the Hispanic vote as part of an openly political two-city, three-event campaign swing in preparation for 2012.

Accordingly, the El Paso speech featured two other staples: the breathtaking invention and the statistical sleight of hand.

Krauthammer continues, calling out the president for his abuse of statistics and his demagoguery.

For a man who has blown so much hot air about civility and changing the dialogue in Washington, President Obama has been in fact more overtly partisan than any president I can recall, and my political memory dates back to Reagan.  Most of the president’s major addresses contain the following elements:

1 Discussion of other side’s opposition to his plans in tone that suggests mild surprise and even outrage that other people have differing viewpoints.  President Obama often pays lip service to respecting other’s viewpoints, but when he actually gets around to discussing policy issues his tone becomes sarcastic and mocking, as though no sentient human being could possibly think other than he does.

2Erecting strawman arguments and mischaracterizing opponents’ positions. An absolute staple of any Obama speech, as highlighted by Krauthammer above.

3 – Testily dismissing opponents.  Having characterized his opponents as people who want to starve the elderly, children, women, Asians, Eskimos, and puppies, President Obama then concludes this portion of his speech with a metaphorical wave of his hand.  On several occasions he has quite literally said that Republican input was not welcome.

What a uniter, that guy.

And here’s the thing.  In a certain sense I don’t really care.  There were times during George Bush’s presidency that I wanted him to be a bit feistier and take on his opponents more fiercely.  Presidents are supposed to be above the fray, but that’s a bit of hogwash.  Presidents can be partisan crusaders as long as they keep it within respectful limits.  In other words, they should be above the level of your typical comment box antagonist.

Besides, when President Obama gets into sarcastic mode it’s one of the few times he almost seems human and non-boring.  Most of the time Obama displays two rhetorical styles: faux Martin Luther King Jr, and robot teleprompter reader.  Either he’s doing his worst impression of a dynamic speaker or else he sounds like someone who has just woken from a deep nap.  I don’t know who these people are that think he’s a great speaker, but frankly he rarely speaks like a normal man except when he’s cranky and sarcastic.  In fact, if he were more regularly sarcastic and petty then I might be able to sit through more of his talks.  At least then they would be entertaining.

No, what grates about his divisive rhetoric is that it contradicts all his campaign blabber from 2008.  Oh, sure, it’s the same nonsense we hear from all camps every election season, and I’m sure several GOP candidates this Fall and Winter will go out of their way to make some appeal to “curing our partisan discord.”  Hopefully I will have my bucket at the ready for such moments.  But not only has Obama not kept this unkeepable promise, he actually has gone above and beyond to completely obliterate any sense of being some kind of uniter.

Unfortunately we will never learn, and again we’ll fall for this cheap rhetoric in the future.  As I said, we’ll get more of the same in 2o12.  Like the rising of the sun and its setting, empty campaign promises of entering into some non partisan fairy land are sure bets.  Such meaningless dribble overlooks two facts of life:  there have been very few times in American history when we have not been subject to deep partisan divides, and there will never be a time in America where people do not have passionate beliefs that are irreconcilable with other beliefs.  That’s not to say we have to be jerks about it, but it should make us wake up to the reality that differences of opinion will always exist in a free country, and glossing over those differences by vacuous campaign rhetoric won’t bring us any closer to bridging those gaps.