The New Yorker has noticed that Oriana Fallaci is not exactly what you might call a run-of-the-mill commentator on recent events. "At one point in The Rage and the Pride ," Margaret Talbot notes, Fallaci "complains about Somali Muslims leaving ‘yellow streaks of urine that profaned the millenary marbles of the Baptistery’ in Florence. ‘Good Heavens!’ she writes. ‘They really take long shots, these sons of Allah! How could they succeed in hitting so well that target protected by a balcony and more than two yards distant from their urinary apparatus?’"
Margaret Talbot’s article is a fascinating one for many reasons, beginning with the author’s ambivalence toward her subject. No, "ambivalence" just isn’t strong enough to describe the weirdness of Talbot’s bifurcation. The New Yorker article is simultaneously fawning and minatory, if that is possible. It just loves how fabulous Fallaci’s clothes and kitchen are¯and wasn’t she once extra, extra mean to Henry Kissinger? Why, yes, she was, and she even made the Ayatollah Khomeini laugh just by the sheer brio with which she challenged him to his face.
But Margaret Talbot doesn’t have just her mincing side as a world-class Personality Parade reporter. She’s also a prim and sour-faced schoolmarm who has to be sure that we know her own skirts haven’t gotten dirty with all this improper talk about Islam. The New Yorker ‘s article on Oriana Fallaci is skillful and pleasant and readable, as one might expect. And yet everything that’s truly creepy in the world of contemporary journalism is present as well. A performance worth remembering.
"Babies aborted for not being perfect," reported the Daily Mail at the end of May. Nothing we didn’t know already, but the casualness of the abortions¯the insouciance ¯is still jaw-dropping.
Speaking of British newspapers, you may have missed this in the London Times . Turns out that approximately 40,000 people a year visit the farming village of Shingo in northern Japan in order to see Christ’s tomb. Jesus, you see, was Japanese, and while he was in Jerusalem in the year 33¯ while he was in Jerusalem in the year 33? ¯he did all those other things you may have read about, before returning to Japan.
A friend emails to ask what books he should read to learn about Just War theory. Much of this is old news to readers of First Things , but perhaps it’s worthwhile to name a few of the better volumes. The arguments made by older writers, from Augustine to Grotius, are usually scattered passages in book-length texts, and it’s probably better to get a standard modern anthology that extracts and collects. Among modern standard authors, there are three obvious books:
Paul Ramsey’s The Just War: Force and Political Responsibility , George Weigel’s Tranquillitas Ordinis: The Present Failure and Future Promise of American Catholic Thought on War and Peace , and James Turner Johnson’s Morality and Contemporary Warfare .
For the application of all this to the contemporary struggle over American intervention in Iraq, George Weigel’s recent essay in First Things is the most provocative and serious analysis available. Over at Christopher Blosser’s blog , you can find an excellent roundup of the various attempts that have been made to bring Just War theory to bear on current events.
In addition to which :
Father Neuhaus will be discussing his new book, Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth , at a book signing on Thursday, June 8, at 7:30 at Barnes & Noble, 720-30 Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He says he would be delighted to see you there. For information, call 610-520-0355.
The title phrase is Abraham Lincoln’s, but we must work to make it our own. That is the argument of Paul Johnson’s article “The Almost Chosen People” in the June/July issue of First Things . Johnson, the British historian and author of Modern Times and many other notable books, provides a much needed antidote to the current and reckless talk about “theocracy” coming from those who would divest the American experiment of its intimations of transcendent purpose. Isn’t it time for you to subscribe to First Things ?