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Matthew Boudway April 4, 2013 - 5:32pm
The poet Charles Simic on health care, "the new American sadism"
Hendrik Hertzberg on why the Left should avoid calling social-insurance programs "entitlements"
Malcolm Thorndike Nicholson profiles Hilary Putnam, "one of the few living philosophers in the same mold as Russell and James"
Carson Holloway on Theodore Olson's bad arguments against polygamyCasey Cep on Christian Wiman's My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer
The Hertzberg piece was okay, but I liked the Jeremy Denk Personal History better: "Every Good Boy Does Fine."Good article today in Investor's Business Daily about Edward Stratemeyer:http://news.investors.com/management-leaders-in-success/040313-650255-ed... Stratemeyer syndicate books are free or very cheap on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_pg_1?rh=n%3A133140011%2Ck%3Astratemeyer&k...
Many thanks for the Wiman review. The point quoted below seems to echo what Charles Taylor (him again!) affirms in the last chapter of "A Secular Age" when he has recourse to the poets, especially Hopkins and Pguy:"Wiman suspects that the decline of faith might even be linked to the decay of language that can describe faith. We need a poetics of belief, Wiman writes of our age, a language capacious enough to include a mystery that, ultimately, defeats it, and sufficiently intimate and inclusive to serve not only as individual expression but as communal need.
I love Christian Wiman for many reasons, not least because of his courage in facing death. But most of all I admire his appreciation of a "marginal" man who made a rich life out of what the rest of us think of garbage. Francis would love him. Here's the beginning of one of his very best poems, "Five Houses down". I loved his ten demented chickensand the hell-eyed dog, the mailboxshaped like a huge green gun.I loved the eyesore opulenceof his five partial cars, the wonder-cluttered porchwith its oilspill plumage, toolscauled in oil, the darkclockwork of disassembled engineschristened Sweet Baby and benedicted Old Bitch;and down the steps into the yard the explosionof mismatched parts and black scrapsamid which, like a bad sapper cloakedin luck, he would look up stunned,patting the gut that slopped out of his undershirtand saying, Son,you lookin to make some scratch?http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/poetry/2009/06/29/090629po_poem_wiman
Personally, I don't find the term"entitlements" to work against what I perceive progressives' (and, arguably, the Catholic church's) views of what those programs are meant to accomplish. The term "social insurance" may bring its own set of baggage. For one thing, I'm not convinced that insurance companies have a reputation that's notably better than Wall Street, Big Pharma, banks or any other group of gigantic and powerful institutions. Many Americans have had negative experiences with insurance companies, their claims representatives and/or their lawyers. In addition: insurance is a commercial endeavor that needs to have a credible business case. Calling these programs social insurance may play into the hands of folks like Paul Ryan who want to strengthen that business case by slashing benefits, iiggering eligibility requirements or some such.We believe that there are basic human rights. Human beings *are* entitled to certain basic things simply by virtue of being human. We shouldn't shy away from making this point.
Matthew Boudway is an associate editor of Commonweal.
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