- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2006

Royal fashion

“Marie Antoinette is back in vogue. A two-hour Public Broadcasting Service documentary on the last queen of France will be broadcast Sept. 25, followed by the premiere of Sofia Coppola’s film ‘Marie Antoinette’ on Oct. 20. …

“The nagging question is why Marie Antoinette has suddenly become so ubiquitous. …

“Has representative democracy, paralyzed by rancorous partisanship and bureaucratic incompetence, become the waning ancien regime assailed by hordes at the gates?

“There is an uneasy sense of siege in Europe and the United States from restive immigrant minorities who have taken to the streets or bred saboteurs. The intelligentsia seem fatigued, sapped by pointless theory, and impotent to affect events. … Materialism and status anxiety … have come to the fore in the glitteringly high-tech West.

“Yet the turbulent [Third World] offers agonizingly stark contrasts. The Marie Antoinette story, with its premonitions of doom amid a giddy fatalism, seems to signal a pervasive guilt about near-intractable social inequities.”

—Camille Paglia, writing on “In Our Hall of Mirrors, a Queen Looms Large,” in the Sept. 22 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education

‘Sly’ apology

“Five days: That’s how long it took Pope Benedict XVI to express regret for all the offense caused by his speech last week at the University of Regensburg, in his native Bavaria. But maybe his apology — on Sunday, he said he was ‘deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages in my address’ — was as sly as the speech itself.

“That speech deserves to be read in its totality, and not simply as the spark that set fire to churches across the West Bank because some Muslim fanatics object to the suggestion that there is too much violence in their religion. …

“A Europe that cannot understand its own religion, except as a form of subjective irrationalism, cannot possibly engage another. A Christianity that voluntarily recuses itself from reason cannot sustain a belief in the goodness of its convictions, to say nothing of its truth.

“A West that abandons a critical dialogue between faith and rational inquiry ceases to be the West. It becomes, in a peculiar way, guilty of the same errors Benedict accuses Islam of making. This is the pope’s teaching, and it requires no apology. Notice that he offers none.”

—Bret Stephens, writing on “Pope Provocateur,” Wednesday in Opinion Journal at www.opinionjournal.com

Life vs. death

“It’s a tiresome thing to say that the world changed on 9/11 — tiresome because it doesn’t seem to do justice to the severity of the wounds inflicted on that day. Nearly 3,000 murdered in an orgy of killing that left hundreds of thousands of their loved ones, friends, acquaintances, fellow churchgoers, co-workers and neighbors behind to spend not a single day of the rest of their lives safe from the memory.

“Murder is, it’s said, the crime that no one gets over. …

“Within two months of 9/11, I was engaged to be married, within 13 months I was married, had a baby 19 months after that and another one due to be born in a month’s time. …

“Something deep and elemental within me needed to supersede the evil of 9/11 with the purest affirmation of existence — unconditional hope for the future and new life in the form of children whose presence on this earth would be the most crushing blow a middle-aged man like me could deliver to the cult of death that sought to tear out America’s heart.”

—John Podhoretz, writing in “9/11: Five years on,” September 11 in the New York Post



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