Monday, 22 August 2011

Praise, patriotism, partisanship, and pop

The NYT this weekend includes a glowing memoir on the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, on the occasion of Sister Mary Jean Ryan's retirement as chief executive of one of of one of America’s largest networks of Catholic hospitals. The discussion includes their clear-eyed planning for the day (soon to arrive) when the order no longer exists. A friend and I were discussing this sort of thing recently: the difference in organisation and sensibility that allows Catholic groups to be distinctively themselves, while allowing for other ways of being faithfully Christian — something that contemporary Evangelical groups struggle with. There is still a lively tradition of openness in the pews, even in these identity-mongering times, but within the leadership?

A fan of the US military writes in criticism of “support our troops” pieties:
The irony is that our soldiers are the last people who are likely to call themselves heroes and are apparently very uncomfortable with this kind of talk. The military understands itself as a group endeavor. As the West Point professor Elizabeth D. Samet recently noted, service members feel uneasy when strangers approach them to — as the well-meaning but oddly impersonal ritual goes — thank them for their service, thereby turning them into paradoxically anonymous celebrities. It was wrong to demonize our service members in Vietnam; to canonize them now is wrong as well. Both distortions make us forget that what they are are human beings...
The change of tone in the coverage and discussion of Anzac Day, noticeable to anyone over a certain age, springs to mind as an Australian analogue, although the causes may be somewhat different.

An American radio host and author compares contemporary political debate to an auto-immune disease.

And my current nostalgia trip: Glycerine, the greatest hit of the band Bush. I have recently returned to an apartment complex where I was staying in late 1995, through 1996, and this song has been on my mind. Like many pop songs, it would not withstand too close an enquiry into the literal meaning of its lyrics, but as the distillation of a particular mood — masculine yearning, chastened by regret — it is superb. And in contrast to the posturing, braggarty tone of the songs in a male voice that followed it, it is unashamedly pretty. A female cover brings that out, although I do miss the surface roughness of the original:
I could have been easier on you,
I couldn't change though I wanted to.

1 comment:

One Salient Oversight said...

C'mon Bruce. Keep posting.