Greetings from the Porch,
When we published an essay a couple of weeks ago suggesting that pro-lifers should be wary of the libertarian assumptions in anti-masking rhetoric, we received some pushback via comments and emails. This week, we published an essay that is more skeptical of masking, and this essay also elicited some critical comments. As we all know, the questions surrounding masks and other public health measures have become quite polarized. Porchers tend to value both liberty and community (and to recognize the ways in which these two goods are, in fact, dependent on one another), and public health measures can pit these goods against each other. Charitable disagreement is healthy, and I hope the Porch can continue to be a place that hosts discussions about difficult issues. If you agree with everything you read here, we aren’t helping to deepen and refine your understanding.
On the topic of liberty and community, I commend this paragraph from Edmund Burke. It’s from a letter he wrote to a Frenchman about four months after the French Revolution began:
Permit me then to continue our conversation, and to tell you what the freedom is that I love, and that to which I think all men entitled. This is the more necessary, because, of all the loose terms in the world, liberty is the most indefinite. It is not solitary, unconnected, individual, selfish liberty, as if every man was to regulate the whole of his conduct by his own will. The liberty I mean is social freedom. It is that state of things in which liberty is secured by the equality of restraint. A constitution of things in which the liberty of no one man, and no body of men, and no number of men, can find means to trespass on the liberty of any person, or any description of persons, in the society. This kind of liberty is, indeed, but another name for justice; ascertained by wise laws, and secured by well-constructed institutions.
In my weekly Water Dipper, I recommend essays about doctors returning home, the CSA boom, and local news.
David McPherson reviews Michael Sandel’s The Tyranny of Merit and compares Sandel’s left-communitarianism with the right-communitarianism articulated by people such as Oren Cass, Josh Hawley, and Marco Rubio.
Chris Boland describes attending Cesar Chavez’s rock-concert-esque funeral and reflects on the paradoxes of political power.
Brian Jones argues that it is time to begin taking steps toward phasing “out the restrictions of the COVID-era.”
Matt Rigney discusses the Bruce Springsteen Super Bowl commercial and wonders if any national narrative can unite Americans. He finds the prospect of local stories more promising: “the only way to begin to heal these fractures is to resist the dehumanization of our neighbor that mass politics demands and instead work to find the stories we share with real people in our local communities.”
Alan Cornett talks with Gracy Olmstead in the newest episode of Cultural Debris.
What’s on the docket for next week? An interview with Gracy Olmstead, a reflection on Italio Calvino’s Invisible Cities, an account of how censoring books might prod some to read them more carefully, and perhaps a tribute to Larry McMurtry.
This Easter weekend, I’m reminded of one of my favorite Sabbath poems. I wrote a bit about this poem for 30 Poems to Memorize (Before It’s Too Late), a delightful anthology edited by David Kern. In the poem, Wendell Berry responds to a fresco by Piero della Francesca (included below the poem).
For Giannozzo Pucci
“Why seek ye the living among the dead?”
Early in the year by my friend’s gift
I saw at Sansepolcro Piero’s vision:
The soldiers who guard the dead from the living
themselves become as dead men, one
tumbling dazedly backward. Awake, his wounds
bleeding still, his foot upon the tomb, Christ
who bore our life to its most wretched end,
having thrust off like a blanket the heavy lid,
stands. But for his face and countenance
I have found no words: powerful beyond life
and death, seeing beyond sight or light,
beyond all triumph serene. All this Piero saw.
And we who were sleeping, seeking the dead
among the dead, dare to be awake. We who see
see we are forever seen, by sight have been
forever changed. The morning at last
has come. The trees, once bare, are green.