Among the Merciless and Perpetually Outraged, Mind Your Soul – UPDATED

With Meanwhile, Back in America Peggy Noonan wrote a truly excellent column this week, one so full of grieving truth that only the hackiest of partisan hacks could deny it. Those for whom Noonan has beautifully articulated the here-and-now of their concerns could not help but make note of it, but they couldn’t acknowledge it with an equal measure of beauty. It was more important to them to thank her while mashing a grapefruit in her face, as Sarah Palin — who used to have leadership skills that went beyond throwing red meat — did here:

Great article, Peggy, but where the heck were you when I and other commonsense conservatives were sounding the warning bell in ’08? You joined the “cool kids” in mocking and condescendingly criticizing — ultimately demanding that we “sit down and shut up.” Better late than never, though, Peggy and your ilk, because, meanwhile back in America…

Ugly and bullying. There is no grace in that response, not the tiniest bit of magnanimity in victory. No mercy. If Noonan got Obama wrong, she’ll never be allowed to forget it, because the “cool kids” on the other side of the lunchroom won’t let it be forgotten, haven’t the maturity to say, “we all screw up sometimes; the past is past, let us move forward, today.”

That’s what good leadership does. That’s what love does; it is what Christians are called to do — show a little mercy to the other guy, and leave the spiteful grapefruits for smaller hearts and minds.

Goethe said “Love does not dominate; it cultivates.” We can say precisely the same of leadership, and of debate and persuasion; if it is sane and healthy, it tries to cultivate, not dominate. A garden hewn with care yields a substantial harvest; one stomped upon in fury yields nothing. I wonder if Palin, by indulging in her point-making, realizes that Noonan will very likely find her an unattractive candidate in the future — not because they disagree, but because Palin used a gift to make a field goal and then spike the ball, like a showboater. She chose stomping over seeding. She used to know better.

She used to understand that there is an art to good politics.

Palin’s response, however is representative of what discourse in America has become. From the White House on down, no one on the national stage seems capable of political cultivation, which is why we are a people transitioning away from being led, and becoming a people ruled.

This sense of everyone having their own pair of jackboots (one named “victimhood” and the other “righteousness”) and being all-too-willing to make a march on someone is not exclusive to our political movers and shakers, of course. Ann Althouse notes the feminists getting all over each other, and one need only look at social media to see how profoundly quick we all are to pick up that serrated grapefruit and find a face to smash.

We are too much on auto-hate-mode; we’re not listening to hear, but to react with a jerking-knee; we’re not trying to understand, because we’re too busy making sure people know how passionately we believe what we are sure we know. We are all-mouth-no-ears, so engrossed in our issues and our daily furies that we don’t even see how often we are doing precisely the thing we say we hate.

I’ll give you an example:

Early yesterday, during the most recent MSNBC Carousel of Conservative Caricature, I happily joined in the twitter snark and then got into my work day. At day’s end, I went back to twitter and the first thing I saw was a high-dudgeon case-of-vapors about an actress whose endorsement deal was politically incorrect. I dared to tweet a sigh expressing weariness with these sorts of stupid commercial controversies.

Immediately a very high-up-the-food-chain conservative swiped at me, “Sorry you think that’s what this is about!”

It took a few minutes, but I realized that shortly before my remark, MSNBC had done its ritual “apology and firing” over the earlier flap, which was about a hateful tweet over a Cheerios commercial featuring a bi-racial family. Clearly, this conservative — who had been consumed all day, by the MSNBC story — had assumed my tweet was in response to that.

I understood the error, but nevertheless thought the snottiness was uncalled for, particularly because this person should know me better. So I tweeted a response, looking for clarification — given my tweets 7 hours earlier, was I being charged with insensitivity on the bi-racial thing? If not, how about an acknowledgment that the thwapping was unjust? Not an apology, mind you — our culture is so saturated with apologies that it seems delightfully counter-cultural to not need one — all I wanted was same sort of response I give someone when I have jumped to a hasty conclusion: “ack! Working too fast; read you all wrong” or something along those lines.

I have found that making such a simple acknowledgement usually suffices; it demonstrates that one has stopped for a moment to see and hear the human being before you (even digitally), and that is all most of us want. It is all most of us need to access our own well of mercy, and reply, “ah, no worries; been there, done that.”

It’s a small thing, that exchange, but it is important. It is the difference between retaining a small part of our humanity, or surrendering every bit of it to the idols of our furious and certain ideologies.

This person couldn’t do it, and chose to simply ignore me. And all I could do was marvel at the irony, and lose a bit of respect for someone who could spend an entire day wrapped up in justifiable anger because of an ignorant tweet — organizing responses, demanding clarification and apologies and so forth — but could not recognize that our exchange was the same thing, in micro, and stop for a moment of human grace.

A quick “oops”, however, was more than could be borne. Apparently admitting even small errors has become a sign of weakness, something the “other side” might see and exploit, so we must be always right, and therefore never wrong — never obliged to see or hear those human people around us who do not consistently echo us back to ourselves, and thus become an amorphous “them”, worthy of our blazing hatred.

It is precisely that sort of thinking that leads a woman to pass up a chance to forge a graceful alliance for the satisfaction of a spiteful face-mashing before the eager crowd. It is precisely that sort of thinking that permits a president to forget he was elected to serve the whole citizenry through skillful cultivation of the opposition, and choose, instead, to simply dominate.

All for control of America.

This trend is a soul-spoiler, inhuman and ungodly, and I am increasingly glad to have found an exit away from its constant distraction and illusion.

In a meditation before his bishops, Pope Benedict reminded us that beyond all of our perceptions and passions, “Everything is created so that this story can exist: the encounter between God and his creature.”

If that is so — and it is — then America was created to be a vehicle for this encounter, which is the ultimate reality. America is a great nation, and worth fighting for, but it I’ll be damned, if I give up my soul for it. Nor should anyone else.

And this is no scold, more of a warning, born of my own errors and failures in love.

Fight for America, by all means.
Engage, passionately, every day, if you like — observe, critique, organize, and even snark a bit, now and then. But don’t give up your humanity for her, because nations only last for as long as they last, and then they are gone. If, while fighting for this one, you become incapable of seeing the human person before you (who is equally beloved of the creator) you will have gained the world and lost your soul in the process.

Which is precisely what Christ Jesus warned against, and is the devil’s own trick. Every time.

People clearly disagree
— and they’re entitled to — but it seems to me that as the feud between “perfect conservatives” and “finky bad conservatives” continues, and everyone is distracted with their grudges and feeling good about it, this is happening all around us. As long as the right continues to fight amongst themselves, they serve Obama’s interests.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • stevethird

    The arrogance of the eastern mean girl press (noonan Coulter, Ingraham, Perrino, Tantaros. is rooted in jealousy. They all could use a good humiliating kick in the pants. I think perhaps Sarah is just serving notice that the days of free shots are over.

  • Ellis_Weiner

    Oh my, where to start. Palin, Noonan…Girls, girls, stop. You’re BOTH laughable. You’re BOTH either pathologically disingenuous or congenitally mendacious. Anyone who takes Palin seriously as anything other than an opportunistic grifter and chef du worde salade should have their head examined, and anyone who takes Noonan seriously should have their brain biopsied.

    And you don’t kick a field goal and then spike the ball. The ball is out of your hands by then, sister.

  • friskyness

    Actually, Noonan is the one that was mean to Sarah, just as you are today…..Face it, Sarah Palin was and is right about Obama, Noonan got Obama wrong and she should pay the price for it……..Noonan should never be forgiven for the way she did and does treat Palin, just as you do…………………

  • MJUdall

    I could care less if you were a Palin fan or not. Or if you did or didn’t defend her.
    Your criticism is neither mild or intense. It’s downright boring.
    How do you know that she’s holding a grudge? I’m sorry but that’s a baseless platitude. And again, she can’t call out a woman who has been on the side of everything that she is now deriding in her sanctimonious piece?

    Gets what? You included that link, what was the purpose of having me read that link? Who are looking to work together with? The organized left? Obama? Please, be a little more direct. I don’t like codes.

  • friskyness

    If you want to talk about the Past……then Noonan and the media should stop rehashing the past about Sarah Palin……so it is what it is, Sarah can’t speak her mind, but her enemies can trash her all they want……….NO, it doesn’t work that way…….you trash Sarah Palin with no real facts, only opinion…..IT WILL COME BACK TO HAUNT YOU…………

  • MeanLizzie

    Bwhahaha. “I” am “mean” to Sarah? This is precisely what I mean about her fans and their inability to endure the mildest criticism of her. I’m sure you were fine with me when I was defending her from the press, particularly after the ugly Newsweek covers and the Giffords shooting. Nice try.

  • MeanLizzie

    I only know baseball. :-)

  • friskyness

    Where was your comment in 2008 when lie after lie was told about Palin…… just don’t want responsibility for ones actions……everyone who bashed Palin will have to pay for it…..they are not grudges, liberals hold grudges………’s well deserved pay back……………and it feels great!

  • MeanLizzie

    I didn’t say YOU were slandering anyone and assumed you were criticizing my moderation b/c I asked someone else to remove a slander from their comment. My bad, that. I should know better than to assume. And you’re right, you don’t have to like my mode of moderation. It is what it is. :-)

  • friskyness

    mildest criticism………oh please……..she was targeted all over and all lies………liberals and you hold grudges and if Palin does, which I don’t think she does……..well she has earned it………….pay back is a bitch…………

  • friskyness

    too liittle too late………Noonan gave pain, when it was preventable……unforgiveable……………

  • MeanLizzie

    First of all, did you even bother to read Noonan’s piece? She doesn’t write about Palin, and the only reason I bring up Palin is b/c SHE responded to it. Secondly, I don’t trash Palin, and you’re welcome to peruse my archives and see my defenses of her. Third, you don’t know what you’re talking about, fourth, are you threatening me?

  • MeanLizzie

    Check my archives. You don’t know what you’re talking about, and………’re…….becoming……..creepy. So I don’t know how long you’ll……be…..posting……….here.

  • Augustine

    Do you know Sarah personally to state that all that you did about her above? Methinks that Tweeter is a sort of stream of consciousness, so it’s one thing to judge someone over what was posted there and she would have written in an op-ed.

  • Augustine

    I think that your mistake is considering Sarah and Peggy as private people. They’re not, they’re both notorious professional politicians. Everything they do is for political gain, to advance their own team.

  • Augustine

    Nothing that a politician does in public is sincere. They’re displays to grab attention and keep them in the headlines, lest the suc… voters forget about them.

  • MeanLizzie

    No codes here, dude. Everything is upfront; I say what I mean.

  • Augustine

    Isn’t this a bit exaggerated, that two women hissing at each other on the Internet means the end of anyone anywhere willing to cut a little slack? A mountain out of a molehill perhaps?

  • MeanLizzie

    Wasn’t twitter, it was facebook, and I don’t think it takes a rocket science to decipher her meaning. A couple of comments around here, on the other hand… :-)

  • Augustine

    Oh, Bookface, then it surely must be taken with all seriousness as a peek into Sarah’s heart… Not!

  • MeanLizzie

    Well, actually, that’s where Palin puts all of her responses to news, so yes, it can be taken as read.

  • L.B.

    Noonan would regain a lot (not all, of course) of her previous supporters/readers if she apologized to Palin. I still like Noonan’s writing, but disagreed with her vehemently during the election and have since shied away from and questioned anything she’s written. Noonan was absolutely awful towards Palin in ’08 AND she was WRONG to support Obama (his lack of experience was down right pathetic, but what should have been more troubling for any Christian was the cult like reaction of his supporters).

    I think Noonan would do herself and the nation a favor if she apologized to Palin. Someone, somewhere needs to be the better person. The nation is hurting and Obama ain’t no saviour

  • MeanLizzie

    You’re inviting me to repeat myself, here, and I don’t see the point in that. Again, Noonan didn’t mention Palin. Palin felt compelled to respond on her FB — which is where she always responds to news items — and I found her response to be a missed opportunity. But yes, the inability of ppl to cut each other a little slack for their imperfections for the sake of working together to fix things is precisely why we are watching the nation transition into something very different that it was even ten years ago. The combox is a terrific example of it.

  • technopeasant

    In Die Hard, John McClane, is gracious and says “Welcome to the Party” to the LA cops. But deep down he is cynical because he knows they were late.
    Obama has been re-elected. The time for Noonan to have written this piece was before the last election. The damage has already been done. In addition not only did Noonan not rip Obama to smithereens she took every opportunity to attack Palin.
    Call it poetic justice or Noonan getting her comeuppance.

  • MeanLizzie

    There is a movie I remember seeing — can’t remember what it was called — where someone disagreed with a movement or a war side or something, and walked away. But then when things got dicey, that character came back and picked up a flag and waded into the battle. No one stopped the character to say, “wait! Have you fully and formally apologized for walking away, before?” He didn’t need to apologize. Everything that needed to be said was said in his actions. Noonan, in writing her piece, has taken an action; she has picked up the flag and waded into the battle. I am at a loss to understand why she needs to apologize to anyone for being foolish in ’08. As far as I know, being foolish is no crime or sin.

    Moreover, did you read Noonan’s piece? If you did, you’d know she never mentions Palin in it. It wasn’t about Palin. Palin, however, chose to comment on it, and she when she did, she threw red meat to her base, instead of simply being glad someone had come back to fight.

    She used to be better than that. I’m not sure anyone needs to apologize to anyone. I’m frankly sick of how everyone in this country demands apologies all the time, for everything. Let’s just get on with trying to fix the damn country, already, and worry about hurt feelings later.

  • MeanLizzie

    Call it whatever you like. When do people get done with the past and work on the present, together? If conservatives can’t get past their hubris and indignation and say, “alright then, let’s try to
    get MORE on board, like Noonan” then it’s over — b/c it’s going to take a united right to battle the left, and if this combox is any indication, unity is not going to be possible.

    And yes, that totally serves Obama’s purpose.

    Like it or not, the conservatives need the folks they despise among the “GOP Elite” — there is strength in numbers and in connections and public credibilities that count, even if far-right conservatives don’t like them. Don’t kid
    yourself…all the folks like Noonan who were mistaken in Obama (ppl like Brooks, etc) and who have been unable to publicly
    admit what is going on — whether b/c of pride or something else — will be that much LESS likely to dare to speak up, if they saw
    the way Palin responded to Noonan. How likely are they, now, to want to
    get on board, write anything criticizing Obama, just so they can get
    backhanded by the right, in response.

    If folks want to insist on their pound of vengeful flesh before they can accept a battle-mate, I guess that’s their right. But they won’t get as much help as they’d want or need.

  • MeanLizzie

    I have deadlines to meet so, having spent most of the day in this combox, releasing your comments quickly, I must now do other work. Sorry if your comments don’t appear immediately.

  • CBDenver

    I have to disagree with you on your portrayal of Noonan’s article. Noonan talks about the people who are dissatisfied by the heavy-handedness of the federal government as “they” and “them”. Noonan clearly sees herself as one of the ruling elites, not one of the masses who feel grief or rage over what the federal government is doing. Noonan says the big danger is that the actions of the government “have the effect of breaking bonds of trust between government and the people.” Not the those actions are wrong, or contrary to the Constitution. No, the big danger for people like Noonan is that the heavy hand of the government makes it harder for the elites to rule.

    Noonan isn’t worried about the people who are suffering under the abuses of the progressives. No, she is worried that the progressives have gone too far; that they have turned up the heat and are boiling the frog too fast. The poor frog has figured it out and wants to jump out of the pot. Noonan’s article is telling her fellow elites to turn down the heat a bit, go slower, so that the proletariat go back to a complacent sleep.

    Did Noonan ever once say she was wrong about Obama? That he wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill liberal but was in fact a radical leftist? I sure haven’t heard it. If Palin’s response leads Noonan to actually admit she was wrong and renounce here support of Obama, that would be great. If Noonan still refuses to admit she was wrong, then it is only Noonan’s pride that keeps her from doing so.

  • Augustine

    Perhaps it’s not worth to count on Peggy for anything anymore after displaying such an incompetence and naiveté, such a lack of backbone and acuity, such a willingness to betray her colleagues to try to garner some sympathy from her opponents. So, I’d pretty much discard her as untrustworthy and venal, the kind of person that one just cannot work with.

  • Augustine

    Spare me having my com-box comments read as a peek in my heart…

  • Adam Frey

    Unforgiveable? If we don’t forgive, then why we expect the same from God? No sin is unforgiveable (except the sin against the Holy Spirit, but this ain’t it).

  • Augustine

    Meanwhile in America, the actual scandal is how much Peggy seems to still agree with Barry. She objects to the form of the address, but is moot about his usurpation of the republic bypassing Congress. Then again, of course she’s fine with that, as she supported George W. in the many instances that he resorted to such monarchical powers, even if compared to his successor he pales as an amateur. Peggy is a political hack who writes for the in-crowd, paying close attention to opinion polls. She’s a follower, a drifter with no moral or political convictions. She’s a courtesan of those who can extend her favors or on whose fame she live off.

  • deTocqueville1

    Exactly. Noonan is very late to the revelation. Apparently not the sharpest knife.

  • Augustine

    Peggy mentioned Sarah back in 2008, so it’s no wonder that she made a point now. Then again, can you cut Sarah some slack for her imperfections? Just a little so that we can move on, lest Patheos be a terrific example of the slide of the nation, nay, the whole wide world in the tank?

  • Nicky

    I agree with you, Lizzie…100%.

  • deTocqueville1

    I agree with your update opinion and apologize for the harshness in my earlier comment. I would just say that your admonition should apply equally. I have followed Palin and Noonan for many years (Noonan back to her days with Reagan). The articles Noonan wrote about Palin in 2008 were mean spirited, condescending, supercilious and erroneous. She apparently holds those elitist views to this day. We are dealing with culture clashes here as many conservative thinkers (such as Thomas Sowell and Victor Davis Hanson among many others) have pointed out.

  • Augustine

    Meanwhile in America, Dopey, Grumpy and Sleepy…

  • Anne

    Peggy Noonan is the same old Peggy Noonan. Every once in a while she writes a piece like this: all worried but wistful about what’s happening in the country. I’m not sure why she does it, but it scarcely rises to any significance. Just wait for her next column…

  • meerk

    Where is the “Christian grace in your response” that I’m engaging in mental masturbation when I provide relevant context? Where is the Christian grace in saying that you’re bored? Is your response “godly”? does it try to “cultivate” rather than “dominate”? hmm?

  • Ron Turner

    You understand that is a pay piece, right?

  • MeanLizzie

    It’s either one or the other? But I haven’t said either of those things — I never said there should be lockstep agreement; never said “anything remotely unpleasant” on the right serves Obama. I said, very specifically, that the unwillingness of people to put the past behind them to work together is what serves Either you’re deliberately putting words in my mouth, or you mistook me.

  • MeanLizzie

    Again, I was very clear. The first part of your comment is something I have been reading all day — you came into a packed thread and said nothing new. It is, quite simply, becoming boring. Is there something in scripture that says a Christian who has been reading the same argument (and no advance at all from it) is not permitted to feel boredom? And I clearly said “rehashing becomes mental masturbation” — which it does, b/c it goes nowhere, and is just a continual mindstroke — and that was a comment about this whole thread, not you. Is my response “godly”? I don’t know.

    Is it cultivating? It’s trying to be. I’m trying to get people who have been stuck in the same place for six years to move forward, for the sake of the country. But I don’t think you actually want to hear any of that. You just want to do your angry “stop being mean to Palin” thing. Which I’m not being. I’m simply — I’ll say it again — expressing disappointment that someone I admired and defended for a long time had a chance to bring people together for the good of the nation, and instead served herself.

    You don’t have to like it or agree; you’re entitled to your opinion. But you do have to read me correctly (re your last comment) — because I don’t have a high tolerance for passive-aggressive bullying that tries to put words in my mouth, and have no problem lowering a ban-hammer on it — and you do have to be willing to distinguish between when I am speaking of you directly, or speaking in a more general way.

    And I don’t really care if you judge me. Go ahead and judge me if you want. It’s your life.

  • Adam Frey

    I get the anger around here, but I don’t get the bitterness. (Well, I’m human, so I do. But I’m Catholic, so I don’t.) I’ll as a general question of everyone here: if you went to heaven and found Sarah Palin or Peggy Noonan (or Barack Obama, or John Boehner, or Nancy Pelosi, or whomever you dislike in politics right now), would you be willing to dine with them at the Lord’s table?

    If you think they’re NOT going to the Lord’s table, what are you doing to help them get there? Sneers and disdain won’t do it.

  • Dave m.

    I think you are wrong, Anchoress.

  • Augustine

    Exactly! The problem to Peggy and other statists is not that the law of the land has been usurped. No, to her the problem is that the usurper is not of her team. Much like the run-of-the-mill conservative, the problem is not a federal government way out of its constitutional boundaries, but that it’s not them to use the coercive powers of the state to achieve their ends, because the ends justify the means. In other words, this is a banana republic, not a state of laws, not only because of people like Barry and Biden, but also because of people like McCAIN and Sarah and the respective propagandist accomplices.

  • Augustine

    I’m sorry, but such pragmatism at the expense of ideas is what has brought us infamous tickets like McCAIN/Palin and Romney/Ryan, all wiling to sell out in order to maintain the welfare-warfare state that drains our prosperity and peace away.

  • Marcus Decimus Maximus

    Lizzie (Mean or Otherwise),

    It’s not a matter of ”spurning” or “forgiving”…. I’m capable of forgiving without condoning the behavior.

    When I’ve had to discipline my soldiers, I didn’t “spurn” them, but I didn’t let them off the hook either. Some things need to be said out loud. The purpose of discipline is rehabilitation.

    The same goes with Peggy Noonan. Of course we forgive her, and although I would not dream of speaking for Mrs Palin, I suspect she’s Christian enough to forgive as well. But that doesn’t mean that a reprimand isn’t warranted. It is, and it’s people like Noonan who are partially responsible for the mess we find ourselves in now.

    Good for Peggy for recognizing her mistake and writing her act of contrition. Welcome home, Peggy. But she shouldn’t expect not to have any consequences for abandoning her post.

  • fedupwithhypocrisy

    Without grievance politics, Palin’s got nothin’, and she knows her audience–this post of yours is going to put some $ in her pac.

  • virago

    I went back and reread Noonan’s column and Palin’s response to it. I’m still glad Noonan is finally seeing things that have been clearly evident for along time now. Late to the party, at least it’s good she came. BUT, if I had a Facebook page, and I don’t, I would have responded pretty much as Palin did. That doesn’t make me a divisive or merciless person, just someone who acknowledges someone’s late arrival to the party and wonder want took her so long. But Palin’s Facebook page would get more traffic than any one that I would have and thus more publicity. I just don’t see the problem with her response. And as someone here alluded to they are public people and hopefully have their big girl pants on. Hopefully, Noonan will stay in the “war and fight” with us this time.
    But, I don’t think Noonan has the heart for the fight that Palin does. Or that I do.
    Or maybe we just fight differently.
    True, I’m Palin fan but I’ll welcome Noonan to communion of saints for sure if I get there !! Forgive the poor typing, syntax,………

  • stevethird