Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mugged by Reality

Many readers know that I'm "one of those computer guys", but I hope they don't think I'm a good enough hacker to break into Rod Dreher's Beliefnet blog and write this. Of course I might have written some parts of it around six years ago when our oldest son was two and I moved to a safer part of the greater Cleveland area. But no, I think Rod wrote this piece himself; it's basically a common sense apologia for the suburbs as a place to raise your family. He admits near the end that it is "rambling", so I won't hesitate to excerpt bits of it and comment upon them.

I have surprised myself by how much I've fallen out of love with idea of living in the city, over the suburbs. With kids, it's just too exhausting. I'd have to make a lot more money than I do now to make it worthwhile. Whenever we get ready to buy our next house, it's not going to be in the city―here in Philly, there's a four percent tax added to your wages―but in one of the suburbs. I'd be lying if I said schools weren't a big part of it. We can't afford private schools where we live now, and the urban public school in our neighborhood leaves much to be desired, for the usual reasons.

Really. This is like stating, for the record, that as much as you find smoking sort of cool you have discovered that, for you, it negatively affects your health.

The older I get, and the older my kids get, the less tolerance I have for the kinds of things that I didn't much mind when I was younger and in love with city life.... I do think it's important to re-examine one's beliefs and assumptions in light of the evidence of one's experience, and that's what I'm trying to do here.

Kudos to Rod for admitting this. Seriously. One of the big problems that I had with the whole New Urbanist slant in Crunchy Conservatism is that the people in love with the urban are almost all childless academic anti-capitalists of the liberal persuasion who never mention kids and look down at people who have too many of them. They think that's too suburban, no doubt.

Erin brings up the old house thing in the combox thread, wondering if I'd changed my mind about the desirability of old houses since writing my book, which I completed in the first months of living in our old house in Dallas. Yes, I have....

A little vague, after all, there are old houses and there are old houses, i.e., junk. But it seems like the man can finally see why someone who claims to be a Christian might decide it's not immoral to purchase a split level built in 1970.

It's not at all that I've decided, or am moving toward deciding, that suburbia is utopia. I firmly believe the way we Americans built our suburbs was foolish and not amenable to human flourishing in community....

An obligatory knee-jerk disclaimer which he goes on to contradict...

[S]everal colleagues who live in the Philly suburbs, and who read my bit about the incivility, potential danger and resulting anxiety from the Fourth of July fireworks celebration downtown pointed out that they had gone to their local suburban town's Fourth of July celebration, and it was very communal and peaceful and pleasant. It sounded great. You can bet that if we're still in this neighborhood next Fourth of July, that we'll take our picnic blanket and go out to one of the burbs my colleagues mentioned. Why would I have to go out to a suburb to have the kind of communal festival experience I want, rather than in the city, where, according to my theory, this sort of thing should be more possible? I think about that ... and will think more about that when my wife and I start thinking once again about investing in a house.

The truth is that Rod's theory is just that―a theory. Reality for most people I know is quite a bit different. Most of the time I've found festivities in a suburb to be much more communal and friendly than those in a city, and more akin to that small town feel that everybody idealizes. Rod puts his finger right on the thing I've always rejected when he says "rather than in the city, where, according to my theory, this sort of thing should be more possible". My question is this: what makes it more possible to experience a communal festival in a city? Then he mentions another living room elephant.

No place is an Athenian republic, but considering the dysfunction of the Dallas city council, and the prospect that city taxpayers were going to be paying more taxes for fewer services, and the guarantee of dysfunctional government, I developed a Strange New Respect for the boring dependability and competence of suburban government.

Boring is good when it comes to government. All adults know this. I don't know what really makes suburban officials boring other than the fact that they are white people. I suppose I'm not allowed to speculate whether that makes them more competent.

[F]ar from being a franchise-eatery wasteland, the 'burbs often have the best ethnic restaurants).

Talk to some of the restaurateurs around Cleveland, especially in the Asian immigrant community, about why they moved away from downtown. You'll get an earful, and since none of their ancestors were plantation owners, they will not hesitate to be specific about which population subsection is the problem.

Well, I don't really want to skewer Rod much for this post. Even though a lot of stuff here is standard Rod fare (what's with pulling David Brooks in with his newly discovered anti-Walmart shtick? Is Brooks the poster child for male menopause or what?) I think it at least represents progress in the development of proper tolerance for the tastes of other Americans. My contention all along is that talking about remaining in a metropolitan area like it is some moral high-road is problematic if not simply un-Christian. Your first duty is to your family, not to the entire population of your region, and when you find needles in the driveway, who needs Gideon's fleece? This post also might be the man's attempt to allay his guilt before he settles into a less crunchy home with newer construction. So in addition to a clean conscience he might get insulation and windows that work as an added bonus. So I raise a glass of Bud to the man, get it while it's on sale at Marc's.

"I could be white..."

No, you are white.

Love this song.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

23 Skidoo

There are so many pathetic things being said by people in this town about LeBron James leaving that it would take a book the size of the real King James Bible to record it all. HuffPo lists 13 tweets that pretty much make Cleveland sports fans seem like complete idiots. Well, that's accurate, even though the point is that they are angry. Like they didn't see this train coming down the track. If you thought that LeBron was going to stay in Cleveland then (1) you probably live in greater Cleveland and (2) you are an idiot.

This morning a chick calls into WTAM and says something like "I was telling a guy I work with that an American soldier can't just join the Iranian army because he feels like it. I mean, our country might end up going to war with Iran someday.... but LeBron James doesn't understand that that is exactly what he would be doing if he leaves Cleveland because sooner or later he's going to have to play the Cavs!" Uh huh. Planet?

Here's my choice for silliest tweet listed in the HuffPo piece: "lebron james is a coward and should get nothing but misery. cleveland forever hates you, i know i do." Oh, yeah, moving to Miami is really cowardly. Would have been real brave to stay in Cleveland, yup. So we should wish him misery--that seems to be the proper respons to cowardice. It reminds me of the line in "King of Comedy" where the crazy lady shouts at Jerry Lewis's late-show host character: "I hope you get CANCER! You should only get CANCER!!" when he won't talk to her friend on a pay phone.

Question: has any sports figure ever done this before? In history?? Left the team he played for to play for another team? Is LeBron James the VERY FIRST SPORTS FIGURE TO EVER DO THIS?!

I remember the main message people took from LeBron wearing a Yankees cap to the 2007 ALDS Cleveland vs. New York game was that "Oh, maybe LeBron wants to play for NYC." No, the main message to take home was that he doesn't care about Clevelanders. Then tonight what was his big line? "I wanted to do what was best for LeBron James." I've been right all along. The guy is good, he's professional, he makes a lot of money... good for him. Maybe someday he'll get some class and much needed work on those verbal skills. And maybe someday Cleveland sports fans will get some freaking self-respect back....

If you really thought this guy was some kind of Messiah, then I've got some of Lassie's dog-shit to sell to you.

They pegged me


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Health Reform: Classic Bait & Switch

Joseph Rago shows how the "healthcare" plan in Massachusetts is basically a crystal ball which provides a view of what ObamaCare will look like. Insightful reading, though not much fun. Excerpt:

In other words, health reform was a classic bait and switch: Sell a virtually unrepealable entitlement on utterly unrealistic premises and then the political class will eventually be forced to control spending. The likes of Mr. Kingsdale would say cost control is only a matter of technocratic judgement, but the raw dirigisme of Mr. Patrick's price controls is a better indicator of what happens when health care is in the custody of elected officials rather than a market.

Rago gets bonus points for using the word dirigisme which has the benefit of sounding like a nightmarish disease, which it is. The people on the left who hate the invisible hand and love the government's hands on an industry to make things "fair" will not admit how much this cripples an industry itself and downgrades the products and services, either because they don't care or because the actually love this side-effect more than the stated purpose of "providing health care for all".

Sunday, July 4, 2010

B16: "Charity: Soul of the Mission"

From the Daily Gospel site, here's a small excerpt from a speech given by the Holy Father in 2006 for World Mission Day.

"Charity: soul of the mission"

Unless the mission is oriented by charity, that is, unless it springs from a profound act of divine love, it risks being reduced to mere philanthropic and social activity. In fact, God's love for every person constitutes the heart of the experience and proclamation of the Gospel, and those who welcome it in turn become its witnesses. God's love, which gives life to the world, is the love that was given to us in Jesus, the Word of salvation, perfect icon of the Heavenly Father's mercy.

The saving message can be summed up well, therefore, in the words of John the Evangelist: "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him" (I Jn 4: 9). It was after his Resurrection that Jesus gave the Apostles the mandate to proclaim the news of this love, and the Apostles, inwardly transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, began to bear witness to the Lord who had died and was risen. Ever since, the Church has continued this same mission, which is an indispensable and ongoing commitment for all believers.

Happy Fourth of July!