Daily Office: Friday


¶ Matins: Timothy Egan puts his finger on exactly what’s been bothering me since Barack Obama’s victory — bothering me like an itch, not like a problem.

In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice on the question of what to do when your dreams come true: don’t tell anyone.

Conversely, what do we do when our darkest fears, our hardened conventional wisdom and our historic homilies are all found to be hooey? Shout it from the rooftops.

I can’t believe that I can really shout good news from the rooftops.

¶ Lauds: A European friend of mine decided to spend his vacation in Chicago. Boy, did he choose wisely. Before the election, he visited the Art Institute and took this picture, which we’ve all seen so many times that we can’t remember or even imagine not knowing it.

¶ Tierce: Aaron Ross of Bergenfield, in a Letter to the Editor, claims,

“Equality’s Winding Path” (editorial, Nov. 6) reveals the true rift over the divisive issue of gay-marriage bans.

You refer to the “ugly outcomes” of the votes, the “defeat for fairness” and “unfair treatment” of “vulnerable groups” — all terms indicative of the fact that you see this issue as one of rights.

The fact that 30 states have now passed similar bans on same-sex marriage should perhaps alert you to the fact that not everyone has accepted that version of the issue, and that many Americans have chosen to define gay marriage not as an issue of rights but as one of morality.

As a country, we are still firmly rooted in a Judeo-Christian ethic that leaves certain unions outside of the pale of acceptability.

This language, although calm enough is startlingly reminiscent of the outraged opposition to granting full civil rights to Black Americans fifty years ago.

§ Matins. Later in his piece, Mr Egan speaks of “the race-baiting of Karl Rove’s majority strategy.” But this was simply a continuation of Nixon’s notorious “Southern Strategy.” The one thing I’m sure of is that the Obama win didn’t just put an end to eight years of Bushitis. No: to more than forty years of Nixoma.

amgoth.jpg§ Lauds. And tonight, for some reason, it hit me: American Gothic! Boy, am I slow! It’s a Memling, a Christus, a van der Weyden. A farming couple painted by Grant Wood as if by a Netherlandish oil painter of the Fifteenth Century.

Have I known this but forgotten it? Because now that I see it, it is embarrassingly obvious.

§ Tierce. The idea that “morality,” a term that, with respect to sexuality, has not reflected a consensus in decades, trumps “rights,” which exist precisely to be clarified, springs from the pre-democratic outlook that governed every religious settlement in the New World, starting about four hundred years ago. It was an outlook that proved to be notoriously comfortable with slavery and with the withholding of the franchise from women. When “morality” refers either to (a) Scripture or (b) “the way things have always been done,” it becomes a tool of the morally sluggish.