George Washington, Howard Roark and George Bailey

Friday, December 26, AD 2014

[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

(I originally posted this on December 26, 2012.  It seems like a good post for the day after Christmas, so here it is again.)

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.

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8 Responses to George Washington, Howard Roark and George Bailey

  • I’ve enjoyed this look into the soul of man. Many thanks. When pondering on the concept of, made in the likeness and image of God, it is precisely this self-sacrifice that George Bailey (reluctantly at times) finds himself. The “loosing of oneself.” It is in this loosing that our true identity is revealed…the one in which we see an image and likeness of divinity itself. The death of self is the beginning of a life that surpasses expectations, the skyscrapers bridges and grandiose accomplishments are manifested in the depth of Georges heart…in the servitude to the people around him. They ARE the great works and George is helping to build them.

  • The Church in America was given the choice to sell out to The Man and, alas, her bishops took it. Inviting in the smoke that materialized as Obamacare was not the first such sell out and hasn’t been the last. (Heard a bishop thunder from the pulpit about casting a vote with an informed conscience during the election year? I haven’t. Been hit up for a handout to the Catholic Campaign for Obam-alinsky Development? I have.)

    So I must ask: if the Church’s bishops had chosen more wisely and not sold out, would that have made them cult-figure sociopaths too?

  • Thank you The power of movies and stories as parables is profound, i think, because when a parable is told, whether by Rand or Capra or by Jesus, we get to observe and consider that parable more or less remotely; detached enough that we can draw conclusions and learn lessons without having to fight through the fog of defensiveness. it is happening in someone else’s life, but we can relate.
    .
    “but even here on earth it is not that uncommon to see that our actions do have consequences, for ill and good. ” We tell stories of noble lives hoping they might help guide young people through — maybe avoid some of those consequences! God bless those film makers who are actively trying to “do Good” with their work.

  • To me, the “best” scene is where young George Bailey declines to deliver the poison Mr. Gour (?) mistakenly mixed (because he had imminently learned of his son’s death). At an early age, George Bailey was tested. Even then, he had the maturity and love to see the good and evil and chose to do the good regardless of the personal cost/risks. Even better, George never said a word to anyone about the mistake. The desultory testing of GB follows throughout the movie.

    .
    We are ever presented with choices: good or evil. love or hate, our desires or the common good, life or death. Sometimes, we need to take a step outside ourselves and dispassionately review what we have done, and decide if we chose good or evil. Go to Confession . . .
    .

    We hear a lot about peace at this time. What is peace? It is simplistically the absence of war/violence. But, for us peace needs to be more. Peace needs to be love for God and for our brothers/sisters. It means that we are not only not about to harm our fellow man, but that we will aid him if he needs it; and forgive him if he harms us. Peace is love. It is not that warm/fuzzy kumbaya stuff, either. Peace oftens involves physical/worldly courage, pain, and sacrifice. The rewards of eternal life (which Christ purchased for us by His life, death and Resurrection) are infinitely more desirable than any temporal good.
    .

    Anyhow, the meditation in my Rosary booklet for the Nativity, the Third Joyful Mystery, is to (I add fiercely) desire to love God. And, to think of how Mary so lovingly accepted poverty as she lay the infant Jesus, Our God and Redeemer, in a manger in the stable in Bethlehem.

    And, none of that is possible without God’s grace. Remember when Peter first told Jesus He is is his Lord and his God? Jesus tells Peter, that God had given him that faith and Peter “picked up the ball and ran with it” albeit with a few “hiccups” along the way.

  • Anzlyne. Agreed. God bless filmmakers and artists that strive to promote goodness trumping the commercial aspect. ($) The public is thirsty for such films.

    T.Shaw. That young George was “born older” as his father told him at the dinning room table. Recall the heroic jump into the icy water to rescue his younger brother. And as you mentioned Mr. Gower’s shame concealed by Georges maturity at such a young age. GRACE for sure.
    God has loved us so much and for so much longer than we have attempted to love him. “Behold the Heart that has loved man so much and has been loved so little in return.” Jesus to St. M.Mary Alacoke…the Sacred Heart appriation

  • ( apparition. ) please excuse me.

  • This is a bit off topic, but to me the best love scene of all time is the phone conversation between George (James Stewart) and Mary (Donna Reed).

  • “the American struggle for independence might well have died in the winter of 1776-1777.”
    .
    The American struggle for independence will live on in every generation. Man is hardwired for independence.

George Washington, Howard Roark and George Bailey

Wednesday, December 26, AD 2012

[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.

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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.”