Secular Fundamentalists

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Dear visionaries,

Before I left town, someone here hoped that the travel experience would broaden my horizons, and make me realize what beautiful and aesthetically satisfying civilization we have going here as a result of the whole Enlightenment project, which, in the minds of some, still does not exist. But I went to various places and want to report back that modernity is still hollow like a jug, and as ugly as Fred Phelp’s nightgown.

Having arrived back, I just wanted to respond to one gross misrepresentation of my son’s post on a husband and wife “possessing” one another. Possessing one another is a distinct thing entirely from one person possessing another. But suppose the misrepresentation is correct for a moment. What is wrong with that? Isn’t it an alternative lifestyle? Aren’t you all in favor of alternative lifestyles? Or just some of them? If just some, what criteria do you use to accept and reject? I am not being a gnat-strangler here — this appears to me to be a reasonable question.

What you visionaries are blissfully unaware of is what a group of prim and humorless fundamentalists you have allowed yourselves to become. Someone says something you disagree with and you start condemning left, right and center. Moral indignation is never lacking, whether you are talking about Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy,” mudbogging, or rerouted highways that threatens someone’s understanding of ecology. But what standard are you appealing to, and why is that standard binding on anyone else? I have asked this question repeatedly, and not having received an answer yet, I will charitably assume that it is because I have been placing it in the middle of paragraphs and stuff. The tangle of argumentation can make many assume they are in an unreasonable rain forest — so that they haul out the machete of the ad hominem and start whacking their way out. So here the question is, all by itself.

What standard are you appealing to, and why is that standard binding on anyone else?

We think that Sylvia Plath’s Daddy sounds like a jerk, or, if she is slandering him, she does. But we have a standard to appeal to in such things. Why do you think he is a vile man, and what reason could we offer to make him want to listen to you? Why should he?

On a different subject, and for your general edification, I have included below a letter to the editor that I sent in this morning.


Coming into town last night, I noticed that some friend of the republic had altered the “Welcome to Moscow” sign on the Pullman highway. The sign now said (quite strikingly I might add), “Welcome to Hooters.” Driving back out a few minutes later with family members who wanted to see it, we were disappointed to find that the plywood substitute had already been taken down.

I have two theories. Maybe the police took it down, in which case they have an ordinance to restrict topless protesting, but not toplessness as such. So what’s with that? My second theory is that the some members of the UI English Department took the sign because they wanted to hang it on their building.

Actually, make that three theories. Perhaps our liberal friends object to the connotations of this particular name, and want something more liberal and progressive like Jugtown, or Cantaloupe Meadows. But in any of the three scenarios, it appears that our local devotees of free expression do have their limits. Women can take off their shirts without restriction, but protesters of that fact can be shut down immediately.

But that’s all right. We’re used to it.

Douglas Wilson


“Apologetics in the Void” are repostings from an on-going electronic discussion and debate I had some time ago with members of our local community. The list serve is called Vision 20/20, and hence the name “visionaries.” Reading just these posts probably feels like listening to one half of a phone conversation, but I don’t feel at liberty to publish what others have written. But I have been editing these posts (lightly) with intelligibility in mind.


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