- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2003

‘Passion’ and noise

“Any piece of pop culture that touches on serious religious themes inspires its share of controversy, but the noisy assaults on Mel Gibson’s unfinished film ‘The Passion,’ which describes the final 12 hours in the life of Jesus Christ, seem unfair and painfully premature. Indignant denunciations of a movie that its critics haven’t even seen, coming nearly a year before that picture’s scheduled release, suggest an agenda beyond honest evaluation of the film’s aesthetic or theological substance. …

“In fact, the worries about anti-Semitic messages in the upcoming epic seem overblown based on known facts about the project. Of course, members of the religious establishment in ancient Judea come across badly … but beyond these villains, the new movie boasts a Jewish hero (or Hero) — not to mention many other sympathetic Judeans, including Christ’s disciples and mother. …

“The beleaguered director hopes to discredit his critics with his movie’s artistic quality. In almost plaintive tones, Gibson insists it always has been his intention that ‘The Passion’ would ‘unify people rather than divide them.’”

Michael Medved, writing on “‘Passion’ elicits unfair conflict,” Tuesday in USA Today

Little anarchists

“Young children … come to school as raw recruits. Though irresistibly cute and curious, they are in the strictest sense undisciplined. Their world has largely been the pursuit of their own pleasures with their own toys in their own homes on their own time. … They have never had to sit in one place for long stretches of time. They have never had to walk in a line or for long distances with anyone but a parent. They have never had to get along with so many others. They have never had to keep up with so much stuff: pencils, notebooks, restroom passes, folders, homework, papers of all kinds!

“They are restless, chatty, and excitable. Yet in a few weeks with proper instruction these recruits learn to keep up with all their papers, to speak only after raising their hands and being called upon, to say some of their lessons in unison, to walk from place to place in a straight line, to pay attention to the teacher rather than their ‘neighbors,’ and to work quietly when necessary. The progress that early elementary students can make in only a few weeks of school proves that, despite their initial inclinations to anarchy, children respond well to a firm but caring regime of discipline. This is no mean achievement since discipline is the foundation of learning. For once children learn to pay attention, their natural curiosity takes over, and learning proceeds apace.”

Terrence Moore, writing on “Young Students Need Discipline Along With Kindness,” for the John M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at www.ashbrook.org


“Congress serves freedom fries, American military wives talk of freedom kisses, vandals in Bordeaux burn and deface a model of the Statue of Liberty. It’s a good time to remember that American-French relations have had many ups and downs. … The two countries hate each other as often as they love each other; the bouts of hatred are inflamed by the intervening bouts of love. …

“From the point of view of the United States, France was both the bogeyman of our national childhood and the protective older brother of our adolescence. From France’s point of view, we were a lost opportunity, a conquest manque, that looked as if it might turn out well in the end. …

“By World War I France needed British and American help to defeat Germany. By World War II it could not defend itself. When the postwar United Nations awarded France one of five seats on the Security Council, it was no longer a recognition of current strength but a sentimental nod to past glory. This shift in the balance of Franco-American power breeds arrogance: arrogance on the part of the United States, the new cop on the world beat. But even greater arrogance on the part of France, which has so little else left.”

Richard Brookhiser, writing on “France and Us,” in the August/September issue of American Heritage

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