- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Apocalyptic policy

“[T]he 9/11 attacks were a frontal assault on the American narrative. They were instinctively compared to Pearl Harbor, but we were not the same innocent nation in 2001 that we were in 1941, seemingly minding our own business. In the intervening 60 years, we had built a position that in its narrative splendor was a true world empire. Some even announced that we had triumphantly ended history on our terms. Henceforth only American values reigned. …

“Simple retribution would not be enough. We had to utterly destroy the prophecy couched in 9/11 and reassert American predestination.

“This grand symbolic response — re-establishing our dignitas and reclaiming history — had to be a Great War narrative. It had to mirror, and in critical ways surpass, the mythic passage of World War II. That war reified the narrative tabernacle, but this war had an even greater charge: the divine final fulfillment of America’s world mission.

“So we are, as our own government tells us, in a war of civilizations — a national testing in which we will emerge triumphant, the true beacon and best hope of humankind or else find ourselves destroyed, the detritus of history.”

— Michael Vlahos, writing on “The Fall of Modernity,” in the Feb. 26 issue of the American Conservative

Cashing in

“The sight of Sting with his old chums at the Grammys … tricked out in all his sleeveless retrosexual glory, belting out ‘Roxanne,’ in that fakey Jamaican burr, made me want to reacquaint myself with the man.

“Sting’s is an unusual iteration of the hackneyed English rock and roll biography. He was the son of a modest dairyman in Newcastle upon Tyne who taught himself the rudiments of piano and guitar, sold a zillion records, and now lives like a feudal lord. …

“By 26, John Lennon had recorded ‘Sgt. Pepper’s,’ Bob Dylan ‘Blonde on Blonde,’ Bruce Springsteen ‘Born To Run.’ By the time he was 26, Sting had worked as a schoolteacher and played some music on the side. … The would-be rock god, in other words, had stalled out in the provinces. Before he became a star, Sting had lived a fully commenced, fully un-famous adulthood …

“The Police were an unanticipated, and almost thoroughly cynical, shot at cashing in on the punk ethos.”

— Stephen Metcalf, “Sting, Stung,” Friday in Slate at www.slate.com

Celebrity saint

“Unlike the many saints recognized by the Catholic Church, Mother Teresa’s apparent sanctity took root and flourished during her lifetime. Her beatification in 2003, just six years after her death, propelled her further toward actual sainthood.

“The Indian media took an interest in Mother Teresa from the early 1950s, not long after she had set up her mission within the slums of Calcutta. Here was a white, Western, Roman Catholic nun showing compassion and providing support for those typically impoverished and abandoned by the old class-conscious and caste-ridden Indian society. Mother Teresa was used to highlight the new, tolerant and welcoming India that was imagined to be born from independence and the separation from Pakistan in 1947.

“Mother Teresa was noticed by the American Catholic media apparatus toward the end of the 1950s, and her usefulness to political campaigns was also gradually exported around the world.”

Stuart Derbyshire, writing on “Mother Teresa and the ‘me, me, me’ culture,” Feb. 14 in Spiked Online at www.spiked online.com

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