THE CATHOLIC NATIVITY
Re: James Bowman’s review of The Nativity Story:
James Bowman, whose reviews I generally enjoyed over the years, I think missed one salient point in the new movie The Nativity Story. It is potentially very offensive to Catholics — at least those Catholics who take their theology and faith seriously. I know the general script and dialogue are based loosely on the Gospels, and that the director Catherine Hardwicke attempted to make the Mother of God more approachable to post-modern teenage girls; however, the content of the movie itself I find very offensive.
Catholic Mariology is based on two thousand years of Sacred Tradition, and it always stressed that Mary was never just a normal peasant girl. When the angel Gabriel announced she was “full of grace” (full, meaning she had all of God’s graces), Mary had to be different. The fact that God chose her to carry his Son logically implied — if you believe what was written in the Old Testament about God’s demands concerning the building of the Arc of the Covenant — that Mary had to be sinless. She carried God’s new Covenant with Man. Her body would infuse her humanity to the Savior. Christ’s humanity was hers. Christ’s DNA came from hers. As Simeon would later say, Christ’s physical sufferings would become her sufferings. By overshadowing Mary the Holy Ghost became her spouse. Mary, betrothed to the Holy Ghost, conceived Jesus without Sin. Again, Gabriel announced that she possessed all of God’s graces. Her Fiat, or total acceptance of God’s Will, was evident in the Gospels, and this was always understood by the Apostles, who knew her best. Yet somehow this is totally missing in the movie. Hardwicke’s depiction of Mary was an obvious attempt to bring Mary down to our level. It was in this sense, the movie begins to lose it. Mary is depicted as just another petulant teen suffering teen angst, and is so totally self-absorbed that she rarely realizes that she is carrying the Son of God. Despite being in total communion with Christ (how many people can say they were in direct physical contact with God 24X7?), Mary doesn’t quite figure out what’s going on.
The virgin birth, and perpetual virginity of Mary, of course are not written into the script. Mary’s labor and birth to Christ are painful and bloody just like a normal birth. St. Augustine believed that Christ passed into the world like light passing through glass. Most if not all Protestants believe that Mary and Joseph had other children. For Catholics, the Holy Ghost is Mary’s spouse. If Mary and Joseph had other children, Mary would be an adulterer. The supernatural union of the Holy Ghost and Mary could only come by if Mary was sinless. Mary’s womb, the 2nd Arc of the Covenant, would have to remain perfect and undefiled — that is her virginity would have to remain intact even after the conception and birth of Christ. It was written in the Old Testament that even touching the Arc of the Covenant by unclean hands resulted in instant death by those who touched it. For Catholics, it is even more so concerning a woman whose body would bring forth God’s final Covenant with Man. Hardwicke’s script fails completely to bring this aspect of Mary’s birth of Christ to light. Mary’s perpetual virginity is not some piece of useless trivia long forgotten. It is central to the Nativity Story.
I understand what Hardwicke was doing. For over 50 years, the Nativity Story has become a piece of civic tradition. Both Catholic and Protestants celebrate the incarnation of God into the World. The Catholic understanding of her isn’t necessarily the easiest to convey via the cinema. I’m sure Hardwicke had no intentions of directing the movie with a copy of the Catechism in one hand. However, for Catholic parents the movie totally undermines what they believe and wish to convey to their children. The Nativity goes directly against the Joyful Mysteries that are regularly prayed by Catholics. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend the movie to Catholics.
DEPENDS ON THE MEANING OF “WON”
Re: William Tucker’s Bush Needs to Pull a Nixon:
My word, Mr. Tucker, I never thought of things quite that way! Nixon actually “won” Vietnam by losing it. Why, all we had to do was abandon all those people that we’d made all those promises to. I mean, so it cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese who’d stood with us, to say nothing of the millions of Cambodians who were ‘in the way’ of our delayed economic victory. How shortsighted of us!
And speaking of our “victory,” look where we are today. China and Vietnam are still Communist. Cambodia is still a fourth or fifth world country. And Nixon is hated even more than ever. I can see where Mr. Bush would want to emulate him. If only ‘W’ were as forward thinking as you and Mr. Baker.
Has it not occurred to you that the players in the Middle East aren’t comparable to the Chinese and Vietnamese leaders we faced 40 years ago? You say, “…it would give Iran, Syria, Egypt et al. a chance to act like mature nations, which they just might do.” Or, they might just keep trying to blow us off the face of the earth. Sir, Iran will have nuclear capability, oh, any day now. Syria despises us, and fully supports and funds terrorists groups throughout the area. Saudi Arabia takes our oil money with one hand, and doles it out to radical America-hating Wahabbi imams around the world with other. The Arab world hates us, and despises the Jews. No amount of diplomacy has changed that since Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton did everything but cede Israel to the Palestinians.
Even the most rabid Chinese leader would have quailed from the thought of attacking the U.S. then. Islamists today can’t wait to do so. Remember 9/11, sir, and the celebrations throughout the Arab world in its wake?
— Tim Jones
The United States had things going for it during Nixon’s trip to China that is lacking today: a united West (Europe and the United States were united in their opposition to Russia), and something of value that China wanted from the West (commerce), and strength. The USA showed China its might even though it’s generally thought we lost Vietnam (political but not militarily).
Today the West is fractured, China and Russia complicate matters with their Security Council vetoes, and the United Nations is anything but a friend of the United States.
Why would the tin-horn dictators deal with the West when they misbehave with impunity. They have built their foundations railing against the USA. Plus they also have their own mass media to use against their own populations and our own media. Why would they want to change a course of action that has been working for them?
If the State and Federal governments sat down with the KKK does anyone think that would have solved anything except to legitimize them? Does anybody honestly think that trying to rationalize with a country that is holding a conference of Holocaust Denial can truly be a reliable partner? Mao was not a tin-horn dictator compared to these modern day dictators. These dictators will see the West as weak. Smoking a hookah with them will reinforce the perception just delivered via the recent elections.
— Diamon Sforza
William Tucker writes: “By swallowing his pride and treating Mao as an equal, Nixon achieved two things — he accomplished our policy objectives in the Far East and he won the Vietnam War. “
Yes. I understand that everything we now consume is made in China, but I think I missed the report about our “winning” the war.” It was a long time ago, I know, so maybe I simply forgot. On the other hand, perhaps I just didn’t have CBS turned on the night when Walter announced our victory on his evening news show.
— Michael Presley
I disagree on a Bush visit to Damascus. Simply put; it won’t work and a comparison to Nixon’s China visit is ridiculous. First; the Chinese were well educated at the time of Nixon’s visit. Where are the Universities in Iran, Syria, Lebanon etc that are open to anything western? And the few that exist what do they teach; hatred of America. And what about the Madrases that pump out little students of hate? Second the Chinese leadership was populated by realists. They understood to become a world power, they needed to engage the U.S. They weren’t waiting for the Seventh Imam! There’s simply no comparison. Iran and Syria’s leaders are radical Islamic fascists who want nothing more than to destroy the U.S. and Israel. Do any realists exist in Iran or Syria? Former denies the Holocaust happened and has an exhibit where you enter by walking on an American flag! George Bush is better off staying home and securing, make that really securing the borders!
— Bob Montrose
Fort Lee, New Jersey
I think the two generations born into Communism after our “success” in Vietnam, the millions that died trying to help us with our “success” there and the millions of U.S. soldiers, many of whom were drafted into the military, that served there would disagree with your conclusion that we “won” the Vietnam War. If Vietnam ever becomes something less than a Communist dictatorship and has economic worth beyond Wal-Mart’s needs, it will come long after the generations that paid the price there are gone from this earth.
— Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia
It appears that dear Mr. Tucker still has Thanksgiving on his mind, in that he continues to toss out to us more turkeys that substitute for sane ideas. What an intriguing thought, that acting out on the Internet and blogs has helped prevent assassinations and other acts of violence throughout the world. Quick, contact the Iraq Study Group; add Recommendation 80: “The U.S. should immediately provide lap-tops in substantial quantities to members of Hamas, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda, in order to quell actual violence against U.S. soldiers and the state of Israel.” Perhaps Ninetendo can come up with appropriate virtual killing games that further quench the thirst for actual blood. Maybe those with the most points can still get left over oil vouchers from Saddam. But what is less funny from Mr. Tucker, and frankly, borderline obscene, are his facile and caviler quips about Nixon’s success in Vietnam by treating China as an equal. Is Mr. Tucker that cold hearted that he can treat the genocides in Vietnam and Cambodia, which ensued from our hasty “victorious” troop redeployment, as accomplished objectives of the U.S.? And then, to continue in this vein, that we should treat Iran and Syria as equals and leave Iraq and Afghanistan to these regional caretakers, then sit back and wait for the engine of 21st Century free enterprise to fire up, after our capitulation? Peace with honor has brought about enough genocides, don’t you think Mr. Tucker? Mr. Bush does not need to pull another Nixon. Quite the contrary, since you started your article discussing a movie, let me suggest that what Mr. Bush needs to do is follow the simple dictate from “Yo, Adrian” to Rocky, just before the big fight in Rocky I….JUST WIN.
— A. DiPentima
Mr. Tucker’s piece is intriguing enough that I won’t forget it soon; I’ll be looking for signs that Iran wants to be popular more than notorious.
But at least three things blur the vision:
1. Western decadence is appalling, hence the strong grip of the mullahs–they hate it.
2. China wanted to change its society into something new and different; Iran wants to bring back the good ol days of the 7th century.
3. Iran sees nukes as the only way to become a regional power.
These are generalizations, but “talks” is a generic noun. Let’s hear examples of what might work. Nixon, Kissinger offered what, exactly, to the Chinese?
— M Scott Horn
Please ask Mr. Tucker what planet he is on. We according to everyone lost the Vietnam war even though we could have won it. As for China, Nixon opened it for what. They are still our enemy and are stealing our technology (military and otherwise). Finally, we did reach out to Iran before in previous administrations with no success. If Mr. Tucker really thinks we can deal with Muslim nations, please show the evidence. They do not negotiate in good faith with unbelievers. Please look at the Koran and history. I would like some successful examples of this. The negotiators are dead, or the broke the treaty (surprise) or are no longer in power because of it.
— Joseph D’Ambrosia
I wish to congratulate you folks on your coup. Who would have ever thought that you could get a devoted denizen of the Daily Kos to write a column for the Spectator. And he does so without the profanity that infuses the vast majority of the comments over there with their flavor. Splendid job, y’all.
— Ken Shreve
Mr. Tucker failed to let us know whether he thinks the president should hold this international confab with the various Muslim statesmen before or after he signs the Kyoto Protocol.
— E. Costello
THE FIRE NEXT TIME
Re: Paul Johnson’s Operation Overload:
Yes, in retrospect, the bombing of Dresden might seem excessive and ineffective, for as Paul Johnson writes, “Only a tiny number of top Nazis were killed by bombing” and that “German morale did not suffer.”
But none of that mattered, did it? The bombs and destruction came anyway to German (and Japanese) cities.
There’s a lesson here for the Islamists. When the dogs of war are let loose, even democracies can do rather nasty things. Today, Arab fanatics seem to think they can bomb and kill to their hearts’ content, while the sappy West wrings its hands and essentially grants immunity to the families, villages, countries, and religious centers of the terrorists.
But such grace, such self-restraint, can evaporate overnight and turn into uncontrolled wrath once a certain threshold has been crossed. Where is the that line? Nobody can say for sure, but I can tell you this: It does exist, and if it is crossed — which hopefully it will not be — the Islamofascists will have entered a new dimension — a dimension beyond their imagination.
Now some might say that “overreacting” is exactly what Al Qaeda wants, that this will enflame the Muslim world against the West. Although this is true, it is also irrelevant. For the fact of the matter is that the military and economic power of the West is such that no force on the planet — let alone backward Arab and Islamic societies — can withstand it if it is focused on an enemy. How long could Saudi Arabia keep its oil if we really wanted it?
— Peter Skurkiss
If you asked Joe Sixpack in 1940 what is the most fearsome weapon of war, he wouldn’t have said atomic or biological weapons, he would have said the airplane, more specifically the bomber. Americans, then, had a mass phobia about terror bombing of American cities. The idea that an enemy would deliberately bomb a man’s family and intentionally kill innocent women and children was horrifying. So naturally, the Americans, along with our British cousins, couldn’t wait to inflict it on the Germans and Japanese.
In our Western psychology, revenge and spreading terror for terror’s sake can’t be justified; these visceral feelings need to be suppressed and a rational reason substituted. The myth of precision bombing of specific military and industrial targets was developed to justify dumping hundreds of bombs all over cities, countryside and oceans. Military proponents of air power claimed bombing alone would win the war. And it wouldn’t hurt their careers either.
The British and Americans bombed their own troops by accident on several occasions. After the battle of Midway in 1942, the Army Air Corps erroneously claimed to have sunk most of the Japanese ships with B-17’s. Hitting a warship twisting and turning at high speed from 20,000 feet was considered possible with precision bombing. It was more like trying to catch a greased pig with both arms tied behind your back.
This author doesn’t mention how many munitions factories were destroyed by the British/American Dresden bombing, probably because Dresden didn’t have much war industry and what little it did have survived most of the bombing. An American expression best describes our joint efforts: “Dang, we missed.” The real purpose of Operation Thunderclap was to help the Red Army by driving refugees from the cities and on to the roads. The German army was retreating from the Russians and refugees clogging the roads and requiring food and shelter hindered the movement of German forces. Churchill personally ordered the bombing, although he later repudiated it.
“Bomber” Harris, the American generals Hap Arnold and Carl Spaatz were convinced that terror bombing was completely justified and helped the war effort. Whether it did or not has been much debated, but the debate is healthy if it makes us closely examine our motives and how we want to wage war in the future.
— Patrick Skurka
San Ramon, California
RISE AND FALL
Re: Jed Babbin’s The Lebanon in Iraq:
Jed Babbin made the right point when he said that America should be defending itself rather than building democracy in the Middle East, but he did not follow through to the ultimate conclusion . The Romans had exactly the same approach, summarized neatly by the statement “we don’t care if they hate us as long as they fear us.” The difference between Rome then and America now is the Romans went to great lengths to make sure they were feared. Read Julius Caesar’s Commentaries to see what happened to truculent populations under the Roman sandal and then wonder why Gitmo is such a big deal nowadays — Gitmo wouldn’t rate a minor footnote in the Roman scheme of things, it was peanuts. If Gitmo is the worst the other guy has to complain about then you are not being anywhere near tough and ruthless enough, your war effort is a pathetic joke and you have no prospects of winning whatsoever. Americans would do much better to look to their own history, when William T. Sherman said he would make Georgia howl in his march to the sea. If Americans can do that to their own people then they should have cleaned up the Middle East fifty years ago without raising much of a sweat at all.
The problem America has, going right back to the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, is that America has had the worst of both worlds in the Middle East — it has not been able to promote “democracies” that haven’t been a haven for terrorists who hate Israel and America, but neither has it acted with enough force and ruthlessness to be feared. America is not prepared and not able to attack with full force and vigor and win a victory in Iraq that will convince Syria and Iran to behave, but America can’t retreat either because that would put Syrian and Iranian cats right among the pigeons. Heads you lose, tails they win. I see no point to that game, it is worse than stupid.
Winston Churchill once criticized the British army for being big enough to get into trouble but not big enough to fight their way out of it. That is exactly the problem America has now and the only response America has if it wants to get out of the mess that is in is to restore and use the divisions it threw away in the 1990s when it thought there was a “peace dividend.” What an enormous mistake that was and it still has yet to be acknowledged, let alone fixed. If America wants to defend itself the Roman way then it has to have the forces to do the job and the will to apply them and it does not have either. Five years into a global war on terrorism and that is a terrible, terrible state of affairs, there is no excuse for it, it shows an appalling lack of energy, vision and resolve that is moving ever closer to becoming a national suicide note. George W. Bush will be a utter failure as a President unless he can explain this to the American people and convince them to make the sacrifices necessary to change.
— Christopher Holland
This Nation has lost every “conflict less than war” since WWII. You draw a line starting with Korea right through Somalia in 1993. The UN has authorized force twice that I can remember, once in Korea and once in the first Gulf War and we were the leading enforcers in both cases. Without us there would be a united Korea under Communism and Kuwait would still be part of Iraq along with their oil production. We did a very good job of killing the North Korean/Chinese, North Vietnamese and their VC allies but never actually adhered to the tenets of warfare and brought about victory and vanquished the enemy. Same for the first Gulf War which would more accurately be called just a battle and a very short one at that. Somalia started out as a humanitarian effort like our venture into Lebanon and ended the same way. Vietnam, the template for failure for half of my generation, was just the longest in a long list of halfway measures and less than that results.
For over 50 years our collective leadership has searched for that silver bullet that lets us win a limited war with both our hands tied behind our backs. Personally, I don’t think there is such a solution and no number of Study Groups is going to find one. Wars start when someone thinks they can achieve something politically “cheaply” with force of arms. They end when one side can’t sustain the material and manpower losses any longer. Limited wars don’t produce the causality rate required to accomplish this for the most part.
What we want in Iraq requires a sophisticated electorate with a high degree of common ground. Killing each other seems to be the primary common ground the ethnic groups in Iraq share at the moment and we are standing in the way of them “sorting this out.” On the other hand, Iraq at one time had over a million men under arms to control the situation. Our 140,000 and their 134,000 seem a little light for the task at hand.
While I don’t endorse the redeployment to Okinawa scheme, redeployment to Kuwait might have some merit along with a significant increase in our ground force levels for later re-entry into Gulf War III. Maybe by then we will have made the investment in our military capability and National will to get the job done the old fashion way.
— Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia
Re: Lisa Fabrizio’s Justice and Love:
The U.S. government has never removed charitable work from FBOs; rather, government programs were put in place to help cover countless cruel gaps in services not provided consistently by local religious institutions. Our government has only supplemented, not usurped religion’s role, as Ms. Fabrizio claims. Ms. Fabrizio’s statement that the whole argument boils down to who is most qualified to do charitable work, religious organizations or the state, actually gets the question wrong. The legal issue is not who is most qualified to dispense charitable services, but whether all taxpayers should be forced to subsidize other people’s churches and religions and their proselytizing programs that operate with no accountability and weak hiring and employment protections. If FBOs can’t raise enough funds through their own followers, it is doubtful they can consistently provide high quality charitable services anyway. They shouldn’t call themselves Faith Based Organizations when they’re really Tax Based Organizations.
— Aleda Diggins
SORRY, MR. PRESIDENT
Re: Lawrence Henry’s Victory, Yes, But…:
This is the best assessment that I’ve read concerning our imminent defeat in Iraq, and places the blame squarely in the lap of the one most responsible for it (primarily because he was the only one in any position to head it off), George W. Bush. Our national will has been flagging for decades, perhaps due to the onset of a systemic moral decadence and an overemphasis on the good life which insulates Americans from the harsh costs that freedom can exact.
So it was by no means certain that we would be up to the task that was thrust upon us on 9/11. But Bush has sadly frittered away what may have been our best chance to thwart an aggressive Islamic barbarianism in still early stages. Hampered by an innate lack of vision (“that vision thing”), and a lunatic political strategy that relied on schmoozing with and not confronting your political enemies, and advisers that did not understand the true nature of war, the single-minded harshness and determination needed to win it and the local popular support necessary to wage it, Bush has now lost control of the effort and is at the mercy of those enemies. He has also squandered the support of his own party, the people who elected him, through shear neglect, and has no power base left.
If we only had the Gipper, but men like that come along maybe once in a century. It’s not to say that the Gipper would have had a cake walk, the disloyal American left (most of the Democrat party), a now decadent Europe as well as the seditious media are daunting if not impregnable obstacles to any U.S. victory. But we started with a united (if only momentarily) and angry citizenry, a military that we should all thank God for, a young, seemingly vigorous president with access to the greatest bully pulpit in the world, and the means to do what we needed to do.
What a waste!!
— John T. O’Connor
Re: Ben Stein’s I Don’t Feel for Felt:
A friend sent me an article by Ben Stein today and I looked him up in your paper.
I liked both his articles and I plan to follow his work.
I just finished the one on Deep Throat and Richard Nixon in your paper. I always thought he was nice man and wondered what the fuss was all about. Now I know. It was political dirty work again.
— E. Bernice Douglas
Re: Frost’s letter (under “Turning Up the Heat”) in Reader Mail’s Turning Up the Heat:
In the course of denouncing climate science in general , your anonymous correspondent, “Frost” ( December 12) complains that
NASA is hardly a “reliable source” because, like any governmental group or bureaucracy, it’s only interested in those “facts” that justify more “research” and more taxpayer dollars — to insure their own damned jobs!
Interestingly, as I recall, Mount Erebus down in Antarctica spews more crap into the atmosphere in one day than mankind does in a decade or so.
If this observation seems familiar, it is because it ranks among the more bizarre factoids aired by Rush Limbaugh, whose science communicators, including Marc Morrano, Rush has since lent to Senator Inhofe. Like Rush, “Frost” seems unacquainted with what our men in Antarctica have discovered about Erebus’s eructions . (See Geophysical Research Letters (ISSN 0094-8276), vol. 17, Nov. 1990, p. 2125-2128.) Research supported by NSF and U.S. Navy rates the volcano’s maximum daily tonnage of CO2 at about 1,850. In the last decade, human activity has released considerably in excess of 200,000,000,000 tons.
If one million dittoheads can be factually wrong by five orders of magnitude when it comes to the material basis of human-induced climate forcing, what fraction of Rush’s audience may have gotten the sign wrong on other policy debates that make demands on the audience’s numeracy. It is not a pretty picture.
— Russell Seitz
NEW BACKING FOR THE PRESIDENT
Re: Deborah Durkee’s and A. DiPentima’s letters (under “Fresh Air”) in Reader Mail’s Turning Up the Heat:
I would gladly trade in all the accolades from my fellow contributors, nay, sacrifice them on the altar for even a wisp of an opportunity to help the President rediscover the part of his body no President can govern without, his spine (I know you Democrats might have thought I was about to refer to another body part, per Bill Clinton, but we need something a little stiffer).
The NYT reported recently that an agreement among the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds on sharing Iraq’s oil profits was very close. I’d like to believe that’s good news. And, Drudge reports that Ahmadinejad had to suffer some serious heckling by some students, during a speech he was giving at Amir Kabir University. Again, I’d like to believe that’s good news. Of course, the oil profits agreement could fall apart, and the students could have been plants designed to give us the wrong impression about dissent in Iran, but I’ll leave that to the conspiracy buffs.
The President has now, less than two years, and one chance to get this right. And, let me add to my litany of recommendations, that he encourage through any channels available to him, the execution of Saddam, before his 70th birthday next spring allows him to weasel out under Iraqi law, to deflate the Baathist insurgency. Let there be no doubt that Saddam is in the past. Some dust may be kicked up temporarily, but that chapter in Iraqi history must be closed. Closure on Saddam would be a decided blessing for most Iraqis.
One thing we all must remember, and the President tried to tell us early on. This is not going to be like any war we’ve ever fought before, in duration or strategy. Assuming he still believes that, he should remind us again, and again, ad infinitum, until he is forced by the Constitution to pass the baton on January 20, 2009.
— Mike Showalter
Re: Diane Smith’s letter (under “Cache Niche”) in Reader Mail’s Aiming to Appease:
Years ago, I recall, it was two words uttered by some Pattonesque General referring to bureaucrats, to paraphrase, “an elephant being nibbled to death by piss ants.”
— Donald S. Sammis