Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I was going to do a whole thing about Rick Santorum. I was going to write about Biblical literalism, with specific reference to the bit about the entire town stoning the adulterous daughters to death. Oh, I was on a roll, in my mind, at that point. I was going to do moral relativism, moral absolutism, Leviticus, separation of Church and State, the finer points of Catholicism.
Since Santorum’s views on abortion are so strict, and he has stated categorically that he would have doctors arrested and imprisoned for performing the procedure, I was going to go into a whole existential exploration of personhood.
The definition of personhood (horrible word, but the one that is used in this context, I’m afraid) is absolutely fascinating, once you get to thinking about it for more than five minutes. It can’t be thought or language or even self-consciousness, since babies have none of those things; nor do some very mentally disabled people, or those who suffer traumatic brain injury or are in the end states of Alzheimer’s disease.
Ah, I thought, as I walked down to give the pig a treat of carrots and tomatoes (she adores tomatoes), this is properly interesting. I shall be like the majestic Lord Bragg on In Our Time: I shall unpack it. Melvyn Bragg is always unpacking things. He is the shining light of unpacking. I think he must think a day wasted if he does not unpack something really recondite.
I got back from the pig. She was in ferociously fine fettle today, skipping across the walled garden with her little twisty tail high in the air. She actually wags her tail when she sees me, like a happy dog. I made some yellow split pea soup. I had forgotten quite how good the split pea soup is.
Sustained, I sat down at my desk, fingers itching to get to the bottom of the Santorum madness. I watched a couple of his interviews, I found some very, very strange quotes. I began to write. Two sentences in, the will to live drained from me. I could not do it. It was too depressing.
I know I am supposed to be a fearless examiner of the human condition. Oh, look at me, shining a light into the darkest corners, without favour or fear. I don’t believe in pablum or whitewash or glossing over the nasty parts. There must be the truth, or nothing. I have always been faintly disturbed by those people who refuse to read the news, because it is too demoralising, although occasionally I have a faint envy for them. My own idiot construction is that one must face the news, in order to be a concerned citizen. How earnest and po-faced I sometimes am. But today, faced with the full strangeness and sadness of a Rick Santorum, I could not do it.
Oh, said the tired part of my brain, please can we think about puppies or penguins instead? Tell them about the pig with her wiggly, piggly tail, eating the carrots and grinning all over her sweet porcine face. Come on, said the post-Christmas exhaustion, you really don’t have to go into battle against every piece of egregious reasoning that you encounter. And, said the low realist, are you really going to change anyone’s mind? Is that even your job? You are, I tell myself firmly, not Lord Bragg, King of the Reithian imperative.
This last thought is rather a relief. Although of course, it then sets up a new dilemma: where is the fine line between practical reality, and copping out? One should fight for something, after all. Yet it is fabulously dull to be lecturing people all the time. There is something very tiring about that finger-wagging conviction of one’s own rightness. On the other hand, without conviction one is just a straw in the wind. So that is the new conundrum that I shall be pondering for the rest of the day.
Now for the pictures.
It was another dull, dirty day. The sleet and gales have subsided, and there is just a flat, brown nothing. I cannot complain. Looking back over the pictures of the last weeks, I see day after day of dazzling sunshine. And in some ways, the bad weather is quite good, because it makes me look at the small things of beauty. The only loveliness one can find outside on a day like this is in the minute elements: the texture of the stone walls, the bark on the trees, the moss and lichen. I always feel there is something rather symbolic in that.
The Pigeon did her every-good-girl-deserves-a-treat pose:
And her I'm really bored of this now, can I please move pose:
And her little blinky eyes face, which is almost too much to take:
Funnily enough, even on this drab day, with its flat grey sky, the hill looked rather vivid and glorious:
Oh, and in case you think I am being a bit melodramatic about the strangeness of Rick Santorum, here is just one quote from him from the campaign trail. He told a crowd in Sioux City: 'I do not want to make black people's lives better by giving them other people's money'.
I'm not being funny: I genuinely, genuinely do not understand what that means. I mean: why black people? It's like a nonsense poem. Those are recognisably English words, strung together in a phrase, but making no sense at all. I do, however, think that anyone who could come up with such a bizarre sentiment should not be taken seriously as a potential president of the local Rotary Club, let alone the United States of America.
If you have the heart for it, you can see the whole thing here.