Daily Office:


Matins: Timothy Egan puts his finger on exactly what’s been bothering me since Barack Obama’s victory — bothering me like an itch, not like a problem.

In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice on the question of what to do when your dreams come true: don’t tell anyone.

Conversely, what do we do when our darkest fears, our hardened conventional wisdom and our historic homilies are all found to be hooey? Shout it from the rooftops.

I can’t believe that I can really shout good news from the rooftops.

Lauds: A European friend of mine decided to spend his vacation in Chicago. Boy, did he choose wisely. Before the election, he visited the Art Institute and took this picture, which we’ve all seen so many times that we can’t remember or even imagine not knowing it.

Tierce: Aaron Ross of Bergenfield, in a Letter to the Editor, claims,

“Equality’s Winding Path” (editorial, Nov. 6) reveals the true rift over the divisive issue of gay-marriage bans.

You refer to the “ugly outcomes” of the votes, the “defeat for fairness” and “unfair treatment” of “vulnerable groups” — all terms indicative of the fact that you see this issue as one of rights.

The fact that 30 states have now passed similar bans on same-sex marriage should perhaps alert you to the fact that not everyone has accepted that version of the issue, and that many Americans have chosen to define gay marriage not as an issue of rights but as one of morality.

As a country, we are still firmly rooted in a Judeo-Christian ethic that leaves certain unions outside of the pale of acceptability.

This language, although calm enough is startlingly reminiscent of the outraged opposition to granting full civil rights to Black Americans fifty years ago.

§ Matins. Later in his piece, Mr Egan speaks of “the race-baiting of Karl Rove’s majority strategy.” But this was simply a continuation of Nixon’s notorious “Southern Strategy.” The one thing I’m sure of is that the Obama win didn’t just put an end to eight years of Bushitis. No: to more than forty years of Nixoma.

amgoth.jpg§ Lauds. And tonight, for some reason, it hit me: American Gothic! Boy, am I slow! It’s a Memling, a Christus, a van der Weyden. A farming couple painted by Grant Wood as if by a Netherlandish oil painter of the Fifteenth Century.

Have I known this but forgotten it? Because now that I see it, it is embarrassingly obvious.

§ Tierce. The idea that “morality,” a term that, with respect to sexuality, has not reflected a consensus in decades, trumps “rights,” which exist precisely to be clarified, springs from the pre-democratic outlook that governed every religious settlement in the New World, starting about four hundred years ago. It was an outlook that proved to be notoriously comfortable with slavery and with the withholding of the franchise from women. When “morality” refers either to (a) Scripture or (b) “the way things have always been done,” it becomes a tool of the morally sluggish.

4 Responses to “Daily Office:

  1. Matthew says:

    Aaron Ross appears to be a communal leader at a synagogue in Bergenfield. Perhaps he has missed the irony of a Jew declaring someone else’s civil rights “outside of the pale of acceptability” since that phrase has its origins in anti-Jewish restrictions, see
    “Catherine the Great created a ‘Pale of Settlement’ in Russia in 1791. This was a western border region of the country in which Jews were allowed to live. The motivation behind this was to restrict trade between Jews and native Russians. Some Jews were allowed to live, as a concession, beyond the pale.”

  2. Tony says:

    I have to say that the passage of what I consider to be hate legislation in 4 states has sucked all of the joy of the Obama victory out of me.

    I am very tired of people justifying their bigotry by hiding behind specious religious dogma.

  3. jkm says:

    I, too, was sad to see the passage of California Prop 8 and similar bans in other states. The state in which I live did the same thing a couple of years ago and I was angry (but not surprised, as I live in the ‘Bible belt.’) As a heterosexual who has been happily married for almost 25 years, I simply cannot understand why allowing homosexual couples the same marital rights I enjoy will somehow undermine my marriage or the fabric of society or whatever other cliché the opposition chooses to invoke. It’s hateful and indefensible and will, I fervently hope, ultimately die the same death as the laws banning inter-racial marriage.

  4. fdp says:

    “The one thing I’m sure of is that the Obama win didn’t just put an end to eight years of Bushitis. No: to more than forty years of Nixoma.”

    An end? I wish I could be so sure. The evident consequences of disastrous policies, politics and leadership are invisible to a significant fraction of GOP. All they feel is an overwhelming sense of rage that their team has lost.

    They emerged from the rubble of the Nixon debacle hardened and more crazy; they reacted to the election of Bill Clinton with eight years of obstructionism, agitprop and subversion. Like Khmer Rouge, defeat only makes them more insane and more ardent and they won’t be satisfied until they have purged the non-believers and are surrounded by the smoking wreckage of their utopia.

    Sorry. I’m out of coffee and the caffein-jones does this to me every time.