Entry from September 21, 2015

The invitation list to the White House for the welcoming ceremony ostensibly in honor of the Pope’s visit to America next week is yet another example, if one were needed, of the breakdown of civility in America. Or rather, it was not so much the invitations to avowed opponents of the Church’s doctrine and teachings as the assumption on President Obama’s part that neither he nor his party would pay any political price for such rudeness to a guest and a respected figure in an even more respected office who is also a foreign head of state. One must suppose him right in this assumption, too, in the absence of any reproof to his bad manners from anyone not already numbered among the President’s political enemies. The Vatican itself, though unofficially and anonymously expressing a certain chagrin at the Pope’s treatment, has not so far shown any disposition to lodge an official protest.

You may also have noticed, as I did, the absence of any protests elsewhere in the media against the manners of the journalistic inquisitors of the Republican candidates at Wednesday evening’s "debate" in California — even though CNN made no bones about its purpose to provoke them into angry and insulting behavior. Why should it? People no longer expect good manners, either from journalists or from politicians or even, it seems, from a politician holding the office of head of state of the United States and thus, among other things, the chief diplomat representing our nation to the world. Diplomacy itself, in other words, along with good manners, is now seen as being as much of a back number as the Church’s teachings regarding sexual morality.

Both have had to yield to the emotional authenticity of those imbued with the political purpose of redefining what decency means. The academic left pioneered this self-exemption from the demands of ordinary politeness at the time of the Vietnam War, when it first became acceptable in public to treat those with whom one disagreed politically as evil and contemptible and therefore not entitled to even the most basic decencies, including the right to speak for themselves, and to be heard, without being shouted down. But giving free rein to one’s feelings of hatred and contempt soon became a habit with the paladins of the left, a kind of entitlement owed, as they saw it, to their own superior political morality. The media, equally given to self-righteousness and largely in sympathy with left-wing beliefs, soon learned to claim the same privilege, which media-consumers have by now long-since resigned themselves to granting them.

It is not so in Britain. Or at least not so to the same extent. When the newly-elected republican (and Marxist and pacifist and terrorist-sympathizing) leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, ostentatiously declined to sing along with "God Save the Queen," his country’s national anthem, at a 75th anniversary commemoration service for the Battle of Britain this week, there were numerous commentators in the media who took him to task for his bad manners. Even the left-wing Guardian ran a piece headed: "The national anthem may stick in Corbyn’s craw, but it is his job to sing it" — though admittedly it ran alongside another one insisting that "Corbyn was right not to sing the national anthem. Authenticity is all he has."

That last sentence sounds rather like an epitaph. Authenticity, you could argue, is all that Donald Trump has too — which is why he has so far proven himself immune to the media’s attempts to take advantage of their own privileged position in order to try to embarrass and shame him. He’s managed to turn the tables on them by demanding the same privilege for his own authentically ill-mannered self as they demand for theirs, and they don’t like it one little bit. One could hardly wish the Pope to go and do likewise, thus creating what they used to call a "diplomatic incident" over the President’s rude treatment. The meek shall inherit the earth and all that. But if he did, I can imagine feeling the same sense of satisfaction I feel, in spite of my strong preference for good manners, every time Mr Trump forgets his place and talks back to the media.

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