Historians usually note the upsurge of religious enthusiasm that greeted the outbreak of war. German preachers, for instance, debated whether they should see the national mood in terms of Transfiguration or of a New Pentecost. All the main combatants deployed Holy War language, particularly the monarchies with long traditions of state establishment — the Russians, Germans, British, Austro-Hungarians, and Ottoman Turks — but also those notionally secular republics: France, Italy, and (later) the United States. What we may miss, though, is just how persistent and overwhelmingly widespread such language was, and how it was reflected in the enormous outpouring of visual imagery.
More specifically, with the obvious exception of the Turks, it was a Christian war. With startling literalism, visual representations in all the main participant nations placed Christ himself on the battle lines, whether in films, posters, or postcards. Jesus blessed German soldiers going into battle; Jesus comforted the dying victims of German atrocities; Jesus personally led a reluctant Kaiser to confront the consequences of his evil policies. Apart from the obvious spiritual figures — Christ and the Virgin — most combatant nations used an iconography in which their cause was portrayed by that old Crusader icon Saint George, and their enemies as the Dragon. Death in such a righteous cosmic war was a form of sacrifice or martyrdom, elevating the dead soldier to saintly status.
In every country, mainstream media stories offered a constant diet of vision and miracle, angels and apocalypse. Angels supposedly intervened to save beleaguered British troops, the Virgin herself appeared to Russians, while Germany claimed to follow the Archangel Michael. Those stories circulated in the first days of the war, and they persisted through the whole struggle, long after we might expect the armies to be wholly focused on the grim realities of front-line life. When the Germans launched their last great offensive in 1918, of course it was called Operation Michael. For the Allies, religious and apocalyptic hopes crested in 1917 and 1918, with the great symbolic victories in the Middle East. Most evocative were the capture of Jerusalem from the Turks, and the decisive British victory at — honestly — Megiddo, the site of Armageddon."
— My colleague Philip Jenkins, on his new book The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade (via ayjay)
Neither the President nor any official in her government denied Madonna any attention or courtesy during her recent visit to Malawi because as far as the administration is concerned there is no defined attention and courtesy that must be followed in respect of her.
In any case, even if the defined parameters of attention and courtesy existed in respect of Madonna, the liberties of discretion to give or not to give that attention or courtesy would ordinarily and naturally remain the preserve of the host. Attention or courtesy is never demanded.
Granted, Madonna has adopted two children from Malawi. According to the record, this gesture was humanitarian and of her accord. It, therefore, comes across as strange and depressing that for a humanitarian act, prompted only by her, Madonna wants Malawi to be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude. Kindness, as far as its ordinary meaning is concerned, is free and anonymous. If it can’t be free and silent, it is not kindness; it is something else. Blackmail is the closest it becomes.
Some time ago, I was invited to begin some reflections on beauty and conservatism in this forum, in hopes that years in the political wilderness might motivate conservatives to consider cultural matters more seriously. But because of the prominence of the prejudice I myself indulged, this is a harder task than I had imagined. Conservatives frequently tend to trust only tested formulae. This is praiseworthy, to an extent. Traditional patterns should be valued, and they are frequently revelatory, especially now, after their long eclipse. Still, tradition offers us no guarantee. Beauty does not always obey rules any more than it always breaks them.
Currently, the little energy conservatives tend to devote to contemporary cultural matters seems to be entirely expended in attack. Will conservatives eventually begin to accept and appreciate the new patterns of contemporary architecture? The enduring values in which conservatives believe—beauty among them—are more fecund than we think. We ought to be open to their new and unexpected manifestations. After all, what future is there for a movement without capacity for surprise?"
— Nameless Beauty: Conservatism’s Architecture Problem — by the invaluable Matt Milliner, once more (via ayjay)
Remember how Lupin says Harry’s instincts are good and nearly always right? Why are you mistrusting him at this late juncture? In fact, Harry gains infinitely more by choosing Ginevra Weasley over Hermione Granger.
Ginny brings with her the bright, abundant dowry of the things he always wanted in life and never had. He gains a wide wizarding family, full of people he already admires and loves—and even the requisite family priss-pot, somebody about whom everybody else can complain. What does Hermione offer in the way of family? A pair of nice … dentists. A future that means a tiny nuclear group. In the expansive Weasley clan, Harry will be an uncle many times over as well as a father. There, he has a second pair of parents who already care about him. He has big brothers. He possesses a resonant history with them all, and he is attached to the memory of their dead. We can even say that Harry becomes a kind of fraternal twin to make up for the dead Weasley twin, Fred, for he and Ron are the same age and share boyish passion for broomsticks and quidditch. His best friend becomes his brother.
Now then, what about Hermione, his other best friend? (Let’s note here that the books press onward toward the restoration of Harry’s broken world, and that Hermione and others help in that restoration. If you accept that idea, you accept that the thrust of story is not about Hermione—it’s not even about romance or who ends up with whom.) In the context of a Harry-Ginny union, having Hermione marry Ron becomes an added bonus for Harry—she too becomes his family when she marries Ron and becomes his sister. In this way, Harry becomes related to all the living people he loves most. And this is the only way they can all be related, the only way that nobody is left out of the circle of Harry’s deepest loves.
You see? Harry takes home all the toys. The cupboard child who was last is now first."
— "The cupboard child," an open letter to J. K. Rowling, in which the brilliant and wonderful Marly Youmans explains to our beloved author that the marriages at the end of her Harry Potter books are, among other things, about preserving and strengthening the bonds of friendship. (via wesleyhill)