President Paul?

     Is it possible? Behold, there are signs that Ron 
Paul is now gaining support. All his many virtues make 
him a misfit in the Republican Party, which would love to 
be rid of him: He shames it by quietly and steadfastly 
practicing the principles it preaches.

     Over the years he has made enemies of George W. Bush 
and Newt Gingrich; and he is a truer conservative than 
Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan ever were.

     This thoughtful, unassuming man has a rare ability 
to get under people's skin without trying to. The anger 
his gentle consistency provokes is something to behold; 
it's not the Democrats who detest him, it's the 
Republicans! He is, in spite of himself, a walking rebuke 
to hypocrisy.

     By rights Paul should be the hero of a Moliere 
comedy, or a Frank Capra film. Politics is mostly 
hypocrisy, and the man of simple good faith can be a 
disruptive force, like the driver who observes the speed 
limit when all the others are flooring it.

     My own hope is that Ron will run for president on 
the Constitution Party ticket, as the two big liberal 
parties nominate Hillary and Rudy. It's not so much that 
I want him to win -- wonderful though that would be -- as 
that even if he lost, he could outshine his opponents and 
change the terms in which American politics is discussed.

Islam at War

     A rather chilling article in the June 10 issue of 
THE NEW YORK TIMES sketched various Muslim views of whom 
it is allowable to kill in wartime, and under what 
circumstances. Civilians? Children? Americans? Israelis? 
Sunnis? Shi'ites?

     Of course it's a gross and unfair mistake to assume 
that Muslims are unanimous about these questions, let 
alone uniformly violent and pro-terrorist in their 
conclusions. Far from it, as anyone with Muslim 
acquaintances knows. The debates among them are subtle 
and nuanced, like similar debates in the West.

     The very fact that these controversies occur attests 
to the conscience and civility of these people. I doubt 
that the Mongols under Genghis Khan agonized over morally 
permissible tactics.

     Such problems arise now in large part because the 
Muslims have been severely provoked by the Western 
powers, especially the United States, where certain 
interests have long agitated for war between the U.S. and 
the Arab-Muslim world. It ill becomes those who invade a 
country and kill and sometimes torture its people to get 
indignant at the methods the defenders adopt and justify.

     Having said all that (and much more could be added), 
I must say that my mind keeps coming back to one point. 
All this talk of "legitimate targets" sounds like the way 
our own modern warrior-intellectuals talk, but what it 
doesn't at all sound like is the New Testament.

     Centuries after the Roman persecutions, when 
Christians had political power, they did confront the 
problem of warfare in ways they hadn't had to in the age 
of the martyrs. And their criteria for just warfare were 
far more severe than those of today's U.S. government.

     But even that is a secondary matter. More important 
is the fact that so much of the Koran is concerned with 
war and violence. Never mind whether it is right or 
defensible. It's simply strange. I'm baffled that anyone 
could think that Islam superseded Christianity, that 
Mohammed improved on Jesus or even St. Paul.

     Try to imagine the epistles to the Corinthians and 
Ephesians laying down conditions for just revenge and 
decent polygamy.

     I'm not suggesting that Muslims are bad people; far 
from it. I merely feel that Islam itself borrows from, 
and abridges, the Christian message, while completely 
missing the essence.

     It's rather as if you were to call Gandhi a failed 
general or social engineer, when he was actually in a 
different line of work altogether.

The Genius of GKC

     Great genius can be permanently amazing, even 
shocking. Working on a book about Shakespeare for 
students lately, I've had prolonged exposure to HAMLET, 
and I never get over it. How could any writer produce 
something so inexhaustibly wondrous?

     Then, last week, a friend gave me a copy of another 
book I hadn't read in many years: G.K. Chesterton's 
little study of St. Thomas Aquinas, THE DUMB OX. I've 
always loved Chesterton, but this time I felt the full 
force of his genius as never before.

     I used to suspect Catholics overrated him a bit out 
of partiality to a distinguished convert. Perish the 
thought! At his peak (where we often find him) he is one 
of the greatest, deepest, most eloquent and joyous 
writers in the English language, not far below 
Shakespeare, whom in some ways he even excels.

     What a gift from God Chesterton is. I pity anyone, 
especially the young Catholic, who hasn't read him.

                 +          +          +                  

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