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An Interesting Sign of the Times:

I don't usually look at the N.Y. Times's wedding announcements (really), but I happened upon one today, involving an older couple reunited decades after a teenage romance. Very nice. But if I follow the story correctly, the groom hooked up with the bride well before he was separated from his wife of about thirty years, and apparently well before he made it clear to her that he was pursuing other relationships. The Times's story contains this choice line: "He suggested to Dr. Drager that they meet in Las Vegas the next year and go on a group river-rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. He told his wife about the trip but not about his companion." I understand these things happen, I haven't walked a mile in their shoes, I'm not being judgmental, I certainly wouldn't want my private life to be judged by others, and so forth. But what interests me is how social mores have changed. When did such things become not only not at least somewhat embarrassing, but something a prominent doctor (the bride) would willingly (eagerly?) share with friends, family, and millions of strangers? And isn't this the sort of things that newspapers would have refused to publish in their wedding pages not too long ago?

Kovarsky (mail):
David,

I think this is a point of sincere agreement on the Times. Completely bizarre.
2.11.2007 10:42pm
Owen Hutchins (mail):
Some people prefer to be upfront about such things, preferring honesty to hiding it. The article says that he had already decided that his marriage was irretrievably broken; having been in a similar situation myself, I know how difficult it can be to realize that you don't have to stay, and it sometimes requires a catalyst.
2.11.2007 10:46pm
Zoe1 (mail):
I read it a bit differently. I took that sentence as a bit of uncomfortable reality in the otherwise storybook tale. The writer was intentionally adding a tragic and embarrassing detail to the story to humanize the couple and remind us of the rocky road of life.
2.11.2007 10:50pm
Kovarsky (mail):
i'm sorry i'm too completely overwhelmed by how creepy the reflected steven spielberg lookalike image over the groom's left shoulder looks to begin reading the article.
2.11.2007 10:58pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Mr. Bernstein,
Your falling over yourself to engage in an oh-so-sophisticated refusal to judge answers your own amazement as to how and why social mores have changed for the worse.
2.11.2007 11:01pm
Kovarsky (mail):
unhyphen....

huh?
2.11.2007 11:16pm
Kovarsky (mail):
o wait i get it... david's failure to judge the groom harshly on the merits of his infidelity reflects our generalised moral decay.

gotcha.
2.11.2007 11:24pm
Tek Jansen:
I'm glad you aren't being judgemental.
2.11.2007 11:43pm
AAA:
The guy in the picture is creepy. He looks like a devil who is observing the unfolding of his plot to turn these people into sinners.
2.11.2007 11:53pm
AST (mail):
Adultery. What a concept!

What it reflects about our society is our absorption with ourselves, and our lost sense of honor in keeping our commitments. The old rules of morality were made for the benefit of a healthy society. The new ones reflect the psychological assessment that we enhance self esteem by doing what we like and refusing to feel guilt.

This couple is celebrating, but I wonder how the wife of 30 years feels. That used to be part of the equation.
2.11.2007 11:54pm
Gandalin (mail):
Basically, the groom admitted to very deliberate adultery. In the olden days of our Judeo-Christian culture, that was considered a sin big enough to get into the "top ten." In the first half of the 20th century, it would have gotten this couple ostracized from "polite" society for the rest of their lives. Now they celebrate it. The Times is deliberately fostering a society in which adultery is the prerogative of the sensitive, and elsewhere in its pages there is also frequently more sympathy for vicious criminals than for their innocent victims, and the more vicious the more the Times likes them. No wonder Walter Duranty loved the Holodomor.
2.12.2007 12:05am
godfodder (mail):
Let me be the first to say it: that marriage ain't gonna make it.
2.12.2007 12:25am
Richard A. (mail):
Not to be too much of an aesthete, but that guy doesn't need a surgeon; he needs an ophalmologist.
2.12.2007 1:08am
this week's anon (mail):
"The Times is deliberately fostering a society..."
Somehow, I think this fellow arranged his affairs, so to speak, entirely without the help or input or other facilitation by The Times. Just a hunch, yanno.

What is it with critical thinking these days...?
2.12.2007 1:13am
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
This Week,
Yes, I'm sure that he didn't consult Pinch and the boys. The point is that the Times' celebration of this event, and even Bernstein's hasty refusal to call the odious actions what they were, foster the climate in which people have affairs with relative impunity.
2.12.2007 1:17am
Kovarsky (mail):
this week's anon,

actually the times not only arranged the ceremony, it also arranged the reunion and the engagement. in fact, the times picked up the bill on their first date right before it dropped the dime on the administration. the new york times wedding section celebrates a generalised bacchanalia representative of the moral ruin in which this country's judeo-christian virtue now dwells.

the horror. the horror.
2.12.2007 1:34am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
unhyphenated-

I'm not defending adulterers, cheaters, etc. But I'm wondering if this moral golden age exists only in the mind of certain individuals. If memory serves in the times you mention all kinds of dalliances with secretaries, mistresses, girlfriends, prostitutes, etc. were often accepted and joked about in a "good old boy" kind of way. Then you have the free love of the 60s and all the swinging and such in the 70s. So it seems to me that while there is a lot of dishonesty and immorality today it doesn't sound like its all that much different from the past.
2.12.2007 1:36am
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
American Psikhushka (and if I had to type that, you got tell what it means :))

Read some of the old family law cases. Things weren't taken with a wink and a nod. And even if your recollections are true, did major newspapers celebrate the actions? That wasn't even the case in the 60s and 70s. And even then, were people really prouds to be swingers?
2.12.2007 2:01am
subpatre (mail):
So it seems to me that while there is a lot of dishonesty and immorality today it doesn't sound like its all that much different from the past.

Really? What was the unwed-teen birthrate back then?

The "moral golden age" is a strawman of course; there has always been dishonesty and immorality. When such acts are accepted by society, more socially concious people engage in it.

Morality isn't (just) about the primary parties. In this wedding there was joy. But because of immoral acts, there's a woman —ignored in the article— who was deliberately (ab)used by Wright for years as he dated his now-wife.

With unwed teen mothers, part of the issue isn't the birth itself, but with the subsequent 18 years.
2.12.2007 2:21am
Wallace (mail):
I think one needs to have a bit of vanity to seek to put one's wedding announcement in the NYT. Some may be so endowed with vanity that they are positively narcicisstic and don't see what's wrong or shameful about publishing accounts of their past infidelities.
2.12.2007 2:31am
ReaderY:
It's still a tort as well as a crime in North Carolina, and there were cases on it within the past year. See e.g.

McCutchen v. McCutchen, McCutchen v. McCutchen(N.C. 2006)

Stann v. Levine, Stann v. Levine (N.C. 2006)

Fox v. Gibson, Fox v. Gibson (N.C. App. 2006)

and more.
2.12.2007 3:22am
Well Armed Koward:
The groom gave his vow, VOW, to someone else, long ago. There is a protocol for extricating from vows, given that it is not possible to sustain the underlying commitments. Dishonoring another is not part of the package, and pain avoidance is not part of being a man about it, either.

A gutless, self-dealing mutt is precisely the sort of person the NYT should fawn over, since corruption, deliberate deceit, pretentious self-dealing and lying are written on the inside of its collective eyelids, just so it won't forget its principles on its zombie-shuffle into oblivion.
2.12.2007 3:48am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
unhyphenated-

Psikhushkas were psychiatric hospitals they used to abuse and "reeducate" dissidents in the USSR during the Soviet days. After all, who in their right mind could have a problem with totalitarian communism?

Read some of the old family law cases. Things weren't taken with a wink and a nod.

To an extent this is most likely true. But to an extent the only offense was in getting caught.

And even if your recollections are true, did major newspapers celebrate the actions?

Well those aren't my recollections. I was a kid during the 70s. I learned about the ancient history of those other periods through books, movies, and TV. ;)

That wasn't even the case in the 60s and 70s. And even then, were people really prouds to be swingers?

Not particularly - people who are swingers don't usually broadcast it even today.

But then there was more moral hypocrisy. Then there was more of a divergence between what people said they did and what they actually did.
2.12.2007 3:50am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
WAK-

The groom gave his vow, VOW, to someone else, long ago. There is a protocol for extricating from vows, given that it is not possible to sustain the underlying commitments. Dishonoring another is not part of the package, and pain avoidance is not part of being a man about it, either.

I'm not defending a cheater or adulterer.(I've never been married and I certainly wouldn't enter into it lightly.) But a lot of detail hasn't been provided on the first marriage or ex-wife. For all we know she could have been cheating on him, abusing him, stealing from him, etc. for years. The whole thing could have been a sham for all we know.

Re: Pain avoidance. Someone who puts up with pain when they shouldn't is either a coward or a masochist. Being a man means not being a doormat.
2.12.2007 3:58am
Gandalin (mail):
Okay wiseguys and geniuses. The Times didn't arrange anything, and I didn't say they did. But the Times chooses whose stories to tell and how to tell them. And you can laugh all you want. But a society that discourages virtue within, virtue in its fullest sense, will never survive the onslaught that now faces from without.
2.12.2007 5:41am
Alex R:
I had much the same reaction to the Times story as DB did...

But when I read the story, I also was reminded of the rather large number of Hollywood "romantic comedies" with similar plots -- the romantic leads are trapped in loveless marriages, but discover (or rediscover) each other and dump their unworthy partners. I find myself having to put aside a sense of queasiness for these as well.

So it's not *just* the New York Times on this.
2.12.2007 6:36am
Ted Frank (www):
There seems to be a Vow column a year involving marriages started with some apparent infidelity. In this column, the infidelity is only implied by the fact that so many of the couple's former friends refuse to attend the wedding, the couple pled for forgiveness, and claimed that everything was on the up-and-up despite suspicious timing. So perhaps there is some hope. A shame the Veiled Conceit blog still isn't active.
2.12.2007 6:36am
comatus (mail):
You've missed a couple of points: He's blaming it all on 9/11, and they met at Brown University. Curioser and curioser. Then, there's that rabbi...
2.12.2007 7:27am
Jay Manifold (mail) (www):
Am I the only one to notice that a marriage where one spouse travels across the country to go on a whitewater rafting trip without the other may already be pretty dormant? It's an easy guess that neither of them much cared about what would happen next by then. I found the synopses of the bride's earlier marriages much more indicative of an attitude that vows are disposable.

Quite a bit more of this sort of thing is being enabled these days by the ease of resuming contact with old flames via e-mail. That and the fact that first-wave boomers tend to have the money to indulge in flings two or three time zones away.

Also note the you-too-can-have-a-romantic-ending angle, aimed at aging baby boomers.
2.12.2007 8:36am
AppSocRes (mail):
I thought the Ralph Lauren ad was much more interesting than the courtship and marriage of the two monomaniacs.
2.12.2007 8:47am
lucia (mail) (www):
What an enchanting story! I'd like an update 5 years from now. Here's what I'll want to learn:

* During his time living in Arkansas while his wife lives in Berkely, will this charming man continue to communicate with former beautiful lady friends by email, bringing joy and excitement into their lives?

* Will this thrice married woman be lonely during the half of the year when he's in Arkansas? If yes, will she seek out the emails of former acquaintances and contact them?

* Will she let her third husband go on vacations by himself? Will he let her? Will they continue to go rafting together?

* What wonderful things will the children have to say about the couple, their romance and marriage?

* What do the couples friends and neighbors have to say?


* Will the bride's father still say "It all worked out for the best!"


I'm sure the next chapter will be even more interesting than the first one.
2.12.2007 9:09am
Well Armed Koward:
"Re: Pain avoidance. Someone who puts up with pain when they shouldn't is either a coward or a masochist. Being a man means not being a doormat."

Who said anything about being a doormat? Don't be dense. That is not recommended. Likewise, making other people a doormat is a foul idea, and that is the usual story, not hypothecation. Avoiding that conduct will generally have a price attached.

That is all I meant, and I don't think it was all that obscure.

'a coward or a masochist"?

Staying in a relationship for many years while running a little something on the side is generally not an issue of estate planning or "the children". Guys like this do not spend a lot of time meditating on the conflict between
self-indugence and getting their mental/physical ashes hau....ahhh, this is like shouting down a well. Still, since we're out in the orchard (pardon the pun:-)

"The planter is known by his trees."

Have a happy Valentines Day.
2.12.2007 11:02am
Ellen:
For what it's worth, the NYT has always required that wedding announcements include information about prior marriages -- thus the frequent line "The bride's first marriage ended in divorce," in NYT announcements. Usually this is simply ignored in announcements in other newspapers.

Perhaps this bride and groom wrote their original announcement without that information, were told by the Times that they were required to include it, and then came back with "Well, if we must include it, we'll tell the whole sordid tale and see if you'll publish that!"

I agree that it was in exceptionally poor taste, at the very least, for them to publish it.
2.12.2007 11:10am
Houston Lawyer:
Nice to see the Times celebrate a man dumping his wife for a change. Usually they only celebrate a woman dumping her man.

You have to wonder what the guy would have had to do to be frowned upon by the Times. Divorce law should still, in my opinion, protect innocent spouses. By being neutral, it protects the adulterers.
2.12.2007 11:22am
H. Tuttle:
I think the most shocking part of this extended commentary is that anyone actually still reads the Times.

I cancelled my home delivery sub here in NYC several years back and haven't looked back. Don't miss it in the least.
2.12.2007 11:40am
Chicago Legal Geek:
What he did was wrong and most likely very hurtful to his ex-wife. How sad and unnecessary that a majory publication should celebrate her humiliation.
2.12.2007 11:52am
alkali (mail) (www):
1) This article may shed some light on the bridegroom and his ex-wife in happier times.

2) I note that the NYT article mentions that the ex-wife has remarried.
2.12.2007 12:08pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
But then there was more moral hypocrisy. Then there was more of a divergence between what people said they did and what they actually did.
So? Leaving aside that merely not announcing what one does isn't "hypocrisy," (as opposed, say, to holding oneself out as a paragon of virtue while being an adulterer) hypocrisy really isn't the worst sin out there. Hypocrisy, as the old saying goes, is the homage vice pays to virtue.
2.12.2007 12:18pm
therut:
I was talking to my Mom about this just this past week. She is 73. She said things have definately changed. Sure there was some adultry and sex before marrriage but it was very rare. She said in the 1950's there was an older middle aged couple living together in the small town that were NOT married. The people did NOT like it one bit. The sheriff finally went and told them they need to get married or move out of city limits. The thing I have noticed that has changed is the unmarried girls having babies proudly put the picture of the newborn baby in the paper flaunting that there is no husband or even father mentioned. This would NOT have been done even in the 1980's. I do not even ask my pregnant patients if they are married just info about the father of the child. Sometimes that is not even known!!!!!!!!!!!
2.12.2007 12:56pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Being soft on adultery is not an innovation for Lois Brady's column. In 1999 she published a profile of Nina Burleigh's wedding saying:

Their romance stunned their friends. When they met, at a Washington party, she had just married her boyfriend of eight years, an architect, and was about to move to Chicago with him. ''Everything clicked, but she had just gotten married to somebody,'' recalled Mr. Freeland. ''It was kind of tragic.''

Fans of the Clinton Administration may remember Nina as the People Mag stringer who wrote that she would give BJ a BJ for preserving Roe v. Wade. Just Google.
2.12.2007 2:30pm
Lively:
therut

The thing I have noticed that has changed is the unmarried girls having babies proudly put the picture of the newborn baby in the paper flaunting that there is no husband or even father mentioned.

It used to be called "getting in trouble."
2.12.2007 3:30pm
Eva Brownstein (mail):
Why the concern with the private lives of other people? Spare me your righteousness.
2.12.2007 3:40pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Eva,
If you participate in a news story on your relationship, you make your "perivate life" quite public and fair game.

On a larger issue, you provide a perfect illustration of the libertarian conceit that private actions have no effect on other people and society as a whole. It is for this reason that libertarianism is less a political philosophy than a teenage intellectual wet dream of getting to do whatever they want.
2.12.2007 4:02pm
xxx:
who cares, i assume nearly everyone is adulturous and i think i am correct. those who deny it the most are probably the most quilty.
2.12.2007 4:16pm
BobNSF (mail):

Mr. Bernstein,
Your falling over yourself to engage in an oh-so-sophisticated refusal to judge answers your own amazement as to how and why social mores have changed for the worse.


Rough translation:


Mr. Bernstein,
Why aren't you blaming what's really responsible, i.e., the "homosexual agenda"!!!


More seriously, could someone point out to me where the article discloses adultery? I don't see it.
2.12.2007 5:27pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Gandalin-

But a society that discourages virtue within, virtue in its fullest sense, will never survive the onslaught that now faces from without.

What "onslaught" do we face from without?
2.12.2007 5:44pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
WAK-

Likewise, making other people a doormat is a foul idea, and that is the usual story, not hypothecation.

So are you trying to say that most men treat women like doormats? Depending on your sex, that's either sexist or sexist and self-loathing. Oh how evil men are and what saints women are.

Guys like this do not spend a lot of time meditating on the conflict between self-indugence and getting their mental/physical ashes hau....ahhh, this is like shouting down a well. Still, since we're out in the orchard (pardon the pun:-)

"The planter is known by his trees."


Not sure what you're getting at here. From what I've seen women are just as self-indulgent, if not more so, than the men.
2.12.2007 5:52pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
David N.-

So? Leaving aside that merely not announcing what one does isn't "hypocrisy," (as opposed, say, to holding oneself out as a paragon of virtue while being an adulterer) hypocrisy really isn't the worst sin out there. Hypocrisy, as the old saying goes, is the homage vice pays to virtue.

But the point is that society wasn't actually that much more moral then. And hypocrisy distorts reality - here are a bunch of cheaters who are not only cheaters but are pompous liars about it.

There was also a taboo against divorce back then. Now which is worse for the innocent spouse: Having some cheater lying to you and going around cheating on you and subjecting you to STD risks? Or admitting it and running away with the person so you can have a chance at a fulfilling life? I know all the puritans are going to say "no one should cheat if they're married in the first place" and that's true, but the innocent spouse can't control the other spouse.
2.12.2007 6:04pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Bob,
Well, I can see what's on your mind since you are the first person to bring the issue of homosexuality up on this thread. My comment was directed at the general moral decay our society has experienced in the last 40+ years, of which homosexuality is only a part of. However, while that is the current fire being fought, it does not mean that society and the family have not suffered from conflagrations before and that we are not feeling the results of them today.
2.12.2007 6:09pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
therut-

She said in the 1950's there was an older middle aged couple living together in the small town that were NOT married. The people did NOT like it one bit. The sheriff finally went and told them they need to get married or move out of city limits.

But let's see what else was going on in the 50's. A bunch of guys, probably even some of them cops or sheriffs, were beating the tar out of their wives, forcing them to have sex, etc. A number of people still cheated and a lot of men still saw prostitutes. There were probably a number of people that were gay or in marriages of convenience having sex with other people. Etc, etc, etc....

Having some sheriff going up to an unmarried, cohabitating couple and telling them to "git married or git out of town" is probably one of the stupidest things I've heard. Because while he was doing that there was probably a real crime going on somewhere. And that same day some "happily married" husband probably kicked the crap out of his "happily married" wife.

The thing I have noticed that has changed is the unmarried girls having babies proudly put the picture of the newborn baby in the paper flaunting that there is no husband or even father mentioned. This would NOT have been done even in the 1980's. I do not even ask my pregnant patients if they are married just info about the father of the child. Sometimes that is not even known!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm not defending this. Having unprotected sex and having children out of wedlock isn't a great thing.

But the 50s weren't some moral golden age. In fact they were very far from it.
2.12.2007 6:16pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
unhyphenated-

On a larger issue, you provide a perfect illustration of the libertarian conceit that private actions have no effect on other people and society as a whole. It is for this reason that libertarianism is less a political philosophy than a teenage intellectual wet dream of getting to do whatever they want.

Here come the ad hominem attacks. You disagree with me, and you are a teenager, immature, childish, etc.

And libertarians don't believe that private acts don't have an effect on society. They believe that private acts are the responsibility of the actors, and that government should meddle in them as little as possible. Too often "society" means "the opinions a group of people are trying to force on other adults".
2.12.2007 6:31pm
Eva Brownstein (mail):
Why the concern with the private lives of other people? Spare me your righteousness.

Eva Brownstein
_______________________


Eva,
If you participate in a news story on your relationship, you make your "perivate life" quite public and fair game.

On a larger issue, you provide a perfect illustration of the libertarian conceit that private actions have no effect on other people and society as a whole. It is for this reason that libertarianism is less a political philosophy than a teenage intellectual wet dream of getting to do whatever they want.

unhyphenatedconservative
________________

What do you mean by "perivate life"? Why don't you articulate arguments against the philosophical merits of libertarianism instead of unleashing merely descriptive terms like "conceit" and "teenage intellectual wet dream"? It may sound good to you, but as an argument, it is impotent. And ridiculous.
2.12.2007 6:38pm
lisamarie (mail):
Unhyphenated,
Libertarians certainly do not hold that one's private actions have no effect on other people. We believe that it is not the job of the government to control those actions. I would certainly never say that behavior like this should have no consequences, nor do I dream of a world where "everyone gets to do what they want." Rather, I believe that people possess certain rights, and that society can survive and flourish without the government enforcing morality or imposing consequences for actions that do not violate those rights. Out of curiousity, what do you think should happen to this man, and how would that differ from what you think the "libertarian" view of his actions would be?
2.12.2007 6:41pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
AP
One, thanks for the info on your name. I was aware those facilities existed but not their proper name.

More to the point, however, is your claiming I made an ad himinem attack. I did not attack Dave, rather libertarianism. Attacking a political philosphy is not the same as attacking the person. Communism was another childish, utopian philosophy but that did not make its adherents teenagers.

Further, while it may be well and good to say that the private consequences of an individuals actions are the responsibility of that individual, their actions have ramifications on others. While from the ages of the individuals involved, I will assume that they have no minor children, adultery often does involve such children. Those children are the first round of collateral damage, as evidenced by numerous studies on the lasting impact of divorce on minor children. See Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce and The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25 Year Landmark Study (Paperback)

And this impacts the rest of us. We don't live in a libertarian world, so when kids suffer things such as poverty, difficulty in school or other damage, there's always a new government program to fix the problem. When we ignore the destruction of society's little platoons, the battalions of government are happy to step in. Ironically, libertarian Jennifer Morse puts this case very well.

Eva,
Your argument style in not realizing that "perivate life" was not simply a typo for "private life," a phrase quoted from your own post, has brought me to my knees. And my descriptive terms do their job quite well in describing libertarianism. It's basic core is thinking that the actions of the individual can, pardon the phrase, be divorced from their effect on society. That is simply not the case, as stated above.

lisamarie,
Yours are interesting questions.

First, those things which libertarians count as "rights" such as obscenity, adultery, prostitution and the like were outlawed for the majority of our Republic's existence. They were discovered as "rights" only 30-40 years ago. So do you argue that prior to that time we were not a society surviving and flourishing? Or that we were some incipient fascist state? I ask that in seriousness, as you do sometimes hear the latter agrument from the Left.

As to what should happen to the man, I think there should be a couple components. One, I think that the wronged spouse should be able to sue for alienation of affections but, alas, California law is "enlightened" and specifically prohibits such a tort. Further, no-fault divorce also removes what used to be penalties for the bad actor in a divorce. And I would not be horribly heart broken if there were civil fines assessed to the man and the woman who engaged in adultery.

I dare say the private torts might not be incompatible with libertarian philosophy but I daresay that civil fines probably would.
2.12.2007 7:49pm
BobNSF (mail):
unhyphenatedconservative

Well, I can see what's on your mind since you are the first person to bring the issue of homosexuality up on this thread.


Can you now? Do tell!
2.12.2007 8:14pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
More seriously, could someone point out to me where the article discloses adultery? I don't see it.
I'll tell you what, Bob: you go meet up with a former lover on a camping trip. Don't tell your wife you're going to meet this person. Each night on the camping trip, "tug your sleeping bags farther from the group" you're camping with.

When you get home from the trip, tell your wife all that stuff -- and then deny that you committed adultery. Let us know what happens, okay?
2.12.2007 9:56pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
unhyphenated-

Attacking a political philosphy is not the same as attacking the person. Communism was another childish, utopian philosophy but that did not make its adherents teenagers.

Well by referring to the ideology as childish you are to an extent referring to its adherents as childish. Not a very illuminating argument.

And libertarianism is far from childish. It is statism, regardless of its leftist or rightist bent, that treats the people like children while setting up politicians and bureaucrats as the "adults", which is folly.

While from the ages of the individuals involved, I will assume that they have no minor children, adultery often does involve such children. Those children are the first round of collateral damage, as evidenced by numerous studies on the lasting impact of divorce on minor children.

There is no question that the choice of adults can effect their children. But it is very interesting how you pick and choose these effects. If an adult gets caught committing fraud and goes to prison that effects the children too. I don't see you arguing for the abolition of prisons.

You could argue for all kinds of things on behalf of "the children", in fact it is an emotionally manipulative tool that many people use for various things now. If you were ignorant of economics, you could use the cause of "the children" to argue for communism, since children of the wealthy are provided better educations. (The ignorance comes in not realizing communism would make society as a whole more poor.)

Those children are the first round of collateral damage, as evidenced by numerous studies on the lasting impact of divorce on minor children.

Bad choices by the parents effect the kids. That is true across the board. What is your solution? To make people that absolutely hate each other live together? Somehow I don't see that helping the kids all that much.

And this impacts the rest of us. We don't live in a libertarian world, so when kids suffer things such as poverty, difficulty in school or other damage, there's always a new government program to fix the problem.

And those government programs are nearly always dismal failures. That's when they don't make matters worse. Better to cut taxes so the parents can keep more of the money that is rightfully theirs. The economy would also be healthier, making the parents better off and therefore the kids as well.
2.12.2007 10:20pm
Scenescent (mail):
Someone needs to say it:

I'm of the youngest adult generation out there, and this article isn't remarkable at all. Off the top of my head, I can think of two hands worth of relationships that started or ended in a similar way, and that's just among friends the oldest of which are around 27.

MAN you people sound old.
2.12.2007 10:28pm
Gandalin (mail):
American Psikhushka,

You ask what onslaught we face from without.

Our society weathered a military and ideological war waged against it for nearly 75 years by communist tyrannies. Those forces are now regrouping, and seeking to ally themselves with a renewal of the 1300-year-old jihad waged against the civilizations of both the West and the East by they-who-can-not-be-named.

The rot from within is more dangerous than the onslaught from without, for the onslaught from without would have no chance of prevailing without the success of the rot from within, whereas the rot from within is capable of destroying decency and freedom without outside help.

Protecting our heritage, not to mention ourselves and our progeny, requires virtue, in the fullest sense of the old Roman word: authentic masculinity, with courage and patience, and the wisdom to know when to be kind and when to be severe, and the ability to be kind, and the ability to be severe. Self-indulgent adulterers who boast of their infidelity in the pages of a newspaper with a circulation in the hundreds of thousands, and who seek only more hedonism in their lives, are not going to do it.

Remember that an adulterer is someone who once promised something to a person he or she claims to hold more dear than anyone else in the world, and made that promise publicly, in many cases before the sacred altar of Almighty God. And then traduced that promise.

What will never cease to surprise me is that the paramours of these liars and oath-breakers marry them anyway.
2.12.2007 11:20pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
American,
WE will have to disagree with whether thinking an ideology is childish/foolish means you think all of its adherents are naturally the same. Again, very serious Americans were adherents of Communism.

As to the fact that you can justify anything pointing to the children, that is precisely my point. I am not saying that it is right but it is effective. And if you fail to discourage behavior that damages families, you will create more situations where people will demand such programs. As to the effects of staying in loveless marriages, refer to the books I linked to. The most recent research is showing that divorce is more damaging to "bad" marriages. I'd also suggest you read Love and Economics because the author is a libertarian and makes my argument from a libertarian perspective far better than I could ever hope to.

And your reference to going to prison for fraud is just confusing. Or are you trying to argue the interest in having an affair and breaking up the marriage equalsl society's interest in punishing criminals?
2.13.2007 12:40am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Gandalin-

Our society weathered a military and ideological war waged against it for nearly 75 years by communist tyrannies. Those forces are now regrouping, and seeking to ally themselves with a renewal of the 1300-year-old jihad waged against the civilizations of both the West and the East by they-who-can-not-be-named.

I think you're exaggerating massively here. The communist regimes aren't "regrouping". They are either isolated hermit regimes or involved in allowing at least their economies to become capitalistic. Venezuela is an exception, but they just adopted it recently.

The notion that fundamentalist islam is a threat is also greatly exaggerated. Although certain parties are doing their best to radicalize as many muslims as possible this "threat" represents a "force" that numbers, at most, in the low tens of thousands.

Protecting our heritage, not to mention ourselves and our progeny, requires virtue, in the fullest sense of the old Roman word: authentic masculinity, with courage and patience, and the wisdom to know when to be kind and when to be severe, and the ability to be kind, and the ability to be severe. Self-indulgent adulterers who boast of their infidelity in the pages of a newspaper with a circulation in the hundreds of thousands, and who seek only more hedonism in their lives, are not going to do it.

You have to be kidding me here. Some of the best soldiers throughout history have been what you would call "hedonists" - the romans, the mongols, the vikings, Alexander the Great's men, etc.

And as far as the guy in the story goes, he is in late middle age. Why are you bothering to assess his capabilities as a soldier in this "clash of civilizations" fantasy you have cooked up? With this focus on these huge imagined threats and fanatical militarism your views seem pretty strange.
2.13.2007 7:21am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
unhyphenated-

And if you fail to discourage behavior that damages families, you will create more situations where people will demand such programs.

People will always engage in behavior that damages families. The intrusiveness of using government to "discourage" this is not worth the cost or the loss of freedom. And as I said forcing people into bad situations doesn't sound like a good idea.

And who says the efforts at discouraging will be effective? I'll also note that it doesn't seem to be people asking for these programs, they seem more often than not initiated by the government.

And your reference to going to prison for fraud is just confusing. Or are you trying to argue the interest in having an affair and breaking up the marriage equalsl society's interest in punishing criminals?

No, I was just illustrating that people make bad decisions that harm their family all the time and that they don't have to involve adultery or divorce.
2.13.2007 7:33am
lisamarie (mail):
Unhyphenated,
It seems a given that you think the government is needed to mete out consequences for the damaging choices people make. But if people's tendency is to make choices that are damaging to others absent enforced consequences, what makes you think you will find people who can run a government capable of enforcing any kind of moral order?
2.13.2007 2:34pm
Troy Mojo B (mail):
Some of you are far to judgemental. Can't you see from the picture that this is a couple celebrating their happiness as they enter their golden years? It is clear that there are no suffering characters in this story. The ex-wife of the groom is happily remarried, the children of the bride are grown and their parents divorced nearly a decade earlier.

And to those of you who think that our society, or civilization is threatened by one man seeking happiness in the arms of a old/new flame as his marriage crumbles, you are terribly misguided.
2.13.2007 2:50pm
Gandalin (mail):
American Psikhushka,

Thank you for your response.

My answer is basically that I am not thinking as concretely about this as you are. I am less interested in the details of this particular case, than I am in what it means for the Times to portray it favorably, and broadcast its admiration of the intelligentsia-gliterrati's amorality.

I don't think I am exaggerating the threat from the Left and from the Islamist jihad. Although the fact that Western Civilization survived the onslaught of the Fascist-Socialists, National-Socialists, Militarist-Statists, and Communists might make you think that a massive economy and a huge military machine are necessary in order to bring down our world, such is not, unfortunately, the case. The terrorists are learning that the skillful application of isolated events of devastating violence, when coupled with the incessant pro-barbarianism of the media, is sufficient to influence a society, and eventually bring it completely to heel.

The fact that various famous warriors in myth and history are portrayed as "hedonists" does not detract from my argument that the survival of the West will only be possible if Western society remains virtuous. And the fact that the old man portrayed in the Times's story is unfit to fight in any war, is also not pertinent. The point is, soldiers kill and die willingly only when they believe that their killings and their deaths have transcendent value. If the West is no longer worth dying for, no one will die for it.

The Left already openly promulgates the belief that Western Civilization is not worth dying for. If Western Civilization consisted only in the un-virtuous hedonism and materialism that the Left believes are the only reality, they might have a point. The more they transform our society into such a worthless society, the weaker they will make it.

For as Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, if you have nothing worth dying for, you have nothing to live for.
2.13.2007 3:34pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Lisa marie,
We did it for a good couple hundred years before the Supreme Court began finding rights that had been cleverly hidden from their precedessors since the founding of the Republic. Were things perfect? Did people violate social notms? Yes and there were consequences, both through private oppprobrium and through government sanctions.

AP,
I think we will have to agree to disagree and I am glad we can do so without being disagreeable.
2.13.2007 3:48pm
Troy Mojo B (mail):
Dear Gandalin,

A society full of people who are not happy with their lives and are forced to live in malcontent marriages because they are bound by a code of honor. Marriage is a contract entered into by two people, and as a contract it can be revoked by either party. Society will surely crumble if people must surrender free will and happiness for the sake of moral codes enforced upon them by people like you with apocalyptic visions of a broken society where people are honest with themselves about their personal needs and desires.

Societies do not crumble, they simply change. Would you prefer to live under the rule of the Roman Empire, a society which crumbled, as I'm sure you will agree, due to a loss of honor and moral direction, with continued slavery, a strict class system and glorification of warfare that would make today's society look like a hippie commune? I will bet not. The world changes, people change, that is life. In this article I see two highly accomplished people, both with Ivy League degrees, one of whom is a surgeon who also raised two children. The sought a life or joy rather than one of loneliness and false love.

You sir have a inflated sense of moral superiority. You think you understand the way in which everyone should operate. In this sense you are no different than the 'jihadist' you rail against, jihadists who also proclaim that the world must live under a strict moral code that must not be violated for the sake of tribe or nation. You are who you claim to fight against, and thus you are wrong.

The Times is hardly telling everyone to cheat on their spouses, they were telling a story, a story of people who gave love a shot and didn't work, who looked for new love and found it and sought to live a life or peace and social contribution. A man like you who sees dishonor in this, knows no honor, and certainly, does not have honor.

Life is complicated, and so is love. It appears you know little of either.
2.13.2007 7:39pm
Gandalin (mail):
Troy,

As I have stated to you repeatedly, my concern is not with details of the individual stories the Times's reporter told, but only with the public approbation of deceit and promise-breaking. One can bring a marriage contract to an honorable end without adultery, without lies, without deceit. What can be forgiven in private should not always be celebrated in public. And that isn't hypocrisy, it's just common sense. And saying so doesn't make me a jihadist.
2.13.2007 8:24pm
BobNSF (mail):
For the third time, WHERE is the indication of adultery?
2.13.2007 9:03pm
Gandalin (mail):
BobNSF,

From the Professor's original post, above:

The Times's story contains this choice line: "He suggested to Dr. Drager that they meet in Las Vegas the next year and go on a group river-rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. He told his wife about the trip but not about his companion."

THERE.
2.13.2007 9:08pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Troy, are you suggesting that our society was crumbling prior to the implementation of no-fault divorce laws?
2.13.2007 9:12pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Gandalin-

The fact that various famous warriors in myth and history are portrayed as "hedonists" does not detract from my argument that the survival of the West will only be possible if Western society remains virtuous. And the fact that the old man portrayed in the Times's story is unfit to fight in any war, is also not pertinent. The point is, soldiers kill and die willingly only when they believe that their killings and their deaths have transcendent value. If the West is no longer worth dying for, no one will die for it.

The notion that society has to remain "virtuous" for people to fight for it doesn't follow. People tend to fight wars once they've been whipped up by propaganda and then to fight for their fellow soldiers once the fighting begins. I haven't seen any propaganda campaigns that focus on divorce rates, church attendance, etc. if that is your idea of "virtue".

Of course in the case of the most "just" wars (if war can ever be called that) the soldiers are fighting for self-defense - their homes, families, land, property, country, etc.

So it seems strange that you claim society will fight only if people perceive that society is "virtuous". Again it sounds like you are imposing your opinions on society.

The Left already openly promulgates the belief that Western Civilization is not worth dying for. If Western Civilization consisted only in the un-virtuous hedonism and materialism that the Left believes are the only reality, they might have a point. The more they transform our society into such a worthless society, the weaker they will make it.

I don't know how you're making these claims. If you are talking about Iraq, those that oppose the war (not limited to the left) tend to oppose it because it was illegal, unwise, and unnecessary. Claiming that this means they think Western civilization is "not worth dying for" is very inaccurate.

And as I said above, people do not tend to fight for virtue. If there was a war that was truly for self-defense I believe most of the population would be behind it.
2.13.2007 9:57pm
Gandalin (mail):
American Psikushka,

Many of the words we use have become cheapened and debased. Virtue is one of them.

Virtue does not mean church attendance.

Virtue is from the Latin virtus, which means the male function in a philosophical sense. Virtue means authentic masculinity. It implies courage and force of arms, as well as responsibility and self-control. It means embodying temperance, prudence, fortitude, and justice.

A virtuous society, a society of virtuous men, would be a society in which the strong protected the weak instead of preying on the weak, and in which the virtuous took out the predators. It would be a society in which a boy would aspire to honor and cherish the mother of his children, and to participate in the business of his community as a responsible citizen. It would be a society in which a man's word would be as good as any contract, and in which honor and integrity would be highly valued.

Such a society would be able to produce the Horatio at the bridge, the George Washington, the Leonidas that it would need to defend itself from those societies that produce the Lenins and the Pol Pots, the Kim Jong-Ils and the Saddams.
2.13.2007 11:13pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
unhyphen-

I think we will have to agree to disagree and I am glad we can do so without being disagreeable.

As long as you realize your opinions stop at any part of my body, life, and property I'm glad too.
2.13.2007 11:19pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Gandalin-

It means embodying temperance, prudence, fortitude, and justice.

Those are all subjective. One man's temperance is another's "hedonism". And indulging in a vice to whatever degree doesn't prevent one from doing the right thing. It sounds like you equate masochism, self-denial, or suffering with goodness, that isn't the case.

A virtuous society, a society of virtuous men, would be a society in which the strong protected the weak instead of preying on the weak, and in which the virtuous took out the predators.

What happens when those who act like they are virtuous are not? For example, say a man was outraged because his adult daughter took part in consensual sex. The man tried to use this as an excuse to torture, assault, and steal from the man his daughter had sex with. This man is a predator and criminal, correct?
2.13.2007 11:30pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
AP,
A serious question. Do you think America was a truly unfree place before the Court began discovering rights that had somehow been hidden for generations, a la the Da Vinci Code?
2.14.2007 12:44am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
unhyphenated-

A serious question. Do you think America was a truly unfree place before the Court began discovering rights that had somehow been hidden for generations, a la the Da Vinci Code?

I'd have to know what discovered rights you are referring to and in what context you are referring to them. Also, I haven't read the Da Vinci code or seen the movie and only have a vague idea of what it is about. So I don't have a problem answering your question, I just need more specifics on what you're asking about.
2.14.2007 7:37am
Gandalin (mail):
American Psikhushka,

The discussion is going rather far afield. Certainly the criminal predator you describe is a criminal predator. What does that have to do with it?

The classical virtues are open to interpretation, but that doesn't mean they are entirely subjective. Of course, to the post-modernist culturally-relativist left, nothing is true, everything is permissible.

As long as we are going off on tangents, let me go back to your assertion that the Norsemen and the Mongols were "hedonists." I haven't studied Mongolian culture well enough to comment, but what makes you think that the Norsemen were "hedonists?" I think you are just regurgitating the cartoonish hollywoodized image of marauding sea-robbers.

In fact, I think that Nordic society, and Germanic society in general, were deeply imbued with virtue, honor, and integrity. In a society where there was no law, and no real government, a word of honor between two men at arms was all they had to keep them from utter chaos. And they knew it. Always feeling the imminent presence of death, particularly death in battle, the Nordic and Germanic warrior was profoundly concerned to meet his sacred obligations to kith and kin.

For example, consider the celebrated passage in the Nibelungenlied, when Ruediger of Poechlarn and Hagen of Tronhje exchange their shields before commencing the hand-to-hand combat they know will violate their bonds of host and guest. Or consider the Burgundian prince Giselher's declaration: "Wir muessen doch erstarben, sprach do Giselher/uns enschiedet nimen von Ritterlicher wer/sver gerne mit us vehte, wir sin et aber hie/Dan ich dahienen minen friunt an trieuwen nie verlie." That says it all. "For I have never yet betrayed a friend."

That is not hedonism. That is virtue.
2.14.2007 8:36am
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
AP,
I confess to not being a Davinci afficianado. I merely reference it in the pop culture sense of finding hidden messages that have eluded folks for centuries.

The rights I refer to include limitations of local jurisdictions on regulating pornography, abortion, flag burning, and the exclusionary rule for some examples.
2.14.2007 12:13pm
Justin Wilson (mail):
Whatever happened between that couple and whatever the Times reported, it is certainly no worse than Bernstein's post or many of the subsequent comments.

Saying I don't want to judge then proceeding to do so shows that he internally knows it is cheap and tawdry to pass judgment about others, but still he can't help himself.

And all of the subsequent posters who clucked on about the perceived "adultery" are no better then a henhouse full of sanctimonious gossips.
2.14.2007 12:26pm
WaxingPoeticInChicago (mail):
Did you read the article? The woman described her first marriage as a "starter marriage"!!! Like a starter home. Not quite as spacious, not quite as nicely apportioned. She settled for something less, something that she could acquire right then. So wrong for so many reasons! She settled! She favored expediency in a decision that is supposed to last her lifetime! This is NOT a romantic story that we should be celebrating. This should be a depressing story, only mitigated by the fact that the woman claims to have find her "true love" before she croaked (and it's not even clear that we can assume that she's really found her "true love" - perhaps she is settling again, for a newer, shinier stone (an analogy to the critique of modern consumerism, anyone?), and the fact that the woman cheated to acquire this shiny new stone only strengthens the assumption that once again she is favoring expediency over any ideals of love and commitment). I'm positively repulsed. But perhaps I'm waxing poetic, under the influence of some valentine's day euphoria.
2.14.2007 12:51pm
poweroftruth:
WaxingPoetricinChicago,


I think its pretty sad that an article in the Vows section of the times will cause you to be repulsed. Get a life.
2.14.2007 1:14pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Justin,
What's wrong with gossip? Isn't gossip the way we transfer information about social norms? Or gather data to learn what the consequences of specific individual actions might be?

And anyway, isn't the original NYT story gossip in the first place?

The couple made their story public; fine. The New York Times facilitated dissemination of the story to many; fine. If Bernstein now wants to comment on the story -- or just the fact that the New York Times is willing to facilitate publication of their story -- I think that's fine too.


Why should there be any sort of rule that says only the couple, their supporters and the NYT gets to comment? Who says David can't comment on NYT policy using a specific article as an example? What's he supposed to do, make up stories like Jason Blair?
2.14.2007 1:25pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
A society full of people who are not happy with their lives and are forced to live in malcontent marriages because they are bound by a code of honor. Marriage is a contract entered into by two people, and as a contract it can be revoked by either party
Dear Troy Mojo B: the whole point of an ordinary contract is that it can't be revoked by "either" party, but only by both parties. When one party "revokes" a contract unilaterally, it's actionable.

Saying I don't want to judge then proceeding to do so shows that he internally knows it is cheap and tawdry to pass judgment about others, but still he can't help himself.
What's wrong with passing judgment about others? That's why Charles Darwin invented the brain: to make judgments.
And all of the subsequent posters who clucked on about the perceived "adultery" are no better then a henhouse full of sanctimonious gossips.
It's not "gossip" when the subject of the discussion was the one who publicized the events in question.
2.14.2007 1:30pm
Justin Wilson (mail):
I'd pick an honest adulterer over an idle gossip anyday.
2.14.2007 1:30pm
Justin Wilson (mail):

It's not "gossip" when the subject of the discussion was the one who publicized the events in question.

Ah yes, the favorite justification of the petty gossip.

As in "It's not gossip of she is going out to dinner in public with that man who is not her husband."

By your "reasoning" the clucking hens on The View aren't gossips, they are just "discussing" thing they read in the newspaper.
2.14.2007 1:51pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Gandalin-

The vikings raped, plundered, slavetraded, etc. If this isn't hedonism itself hedonism naturally follows from this. They may have kept agreements between themselves much of the time, but outsiders that ran into them when they were on a raid were generally in trouble. And yes I know they did a lot of trade, but they did a lot of plundering as well.
2.14.2007 2:02pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
unhyphenated-

The rights I refer to include limitations of local jurisdictions on regulating pornography, abortion, flag burning, and the exclusionary rule for some examples.

I'm a pretty big fan of the exclusionary rule, I tend to think it strikes a good balance in at least trying to protect privacy and check police power. As for the others, I don't think they are outrageous for a country with a very diverse set of values, beliefs, etc.
2.14.2007 2:09pm
BobNSF (mail):
Gandalin:


The Times's story contains this choice line: "He suggested to Dr. Drager that they meet in Las Vegas the next year and go on a group river-rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. He told his wife about the trip but not about his companion."


And, into that, you are reading an awful lot.
2.14.2007 2:40pm
BobNSF (mail):
AP:

The vikings raped, plundered, slavetraded, etc.


Yes, but I'm sure their victims were, dare I use the term, relatively less virtuous, so it was OK.

;-)
2.14.2007 2:44pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Justin said:
I'd pick an honest adulterer over an idle gossip anyday.


Justin, pick whichever you prefer. And continue to contribute to this discussion by clucking or crowing your own views to your heart's content. I'm sure that like me, the others welcome your decision to jump into the fray just to tell us a better class of poultry would soar above it all!
2.14.2007 2:44pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
AP,
I rather assumed that you would think those are good values. But my question was before the Court found them hiding in emanations of penumbras, do you think that America was an unfree country?
2.14.2007 3:55pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Unhyphenated,
I know I can't answer for AP, but I think America if all other things are held equal, America would be less free country without those rulings.
2.14.2007 4:14pm
r78:

What's wrong with gossip? Isn't gossip the way we transfer information about social norms? Or gather data to learn what the consequences of specific individual actions might be?

Sure, it's not petty, mean-spirited, cowardly back biting. It is "transferring information about social norms." Keep telling yourself that.
2.14.2007 5:19pm
Gandalin (mail):
American Psikhushka,

I am not endorsing every aspect of Nordic or Germanic culture. I am only endorsing the idea of virtue, as it was expressed in Nordic and Germanic culture. Engaging in pillage was not a unique feature of Nordic or Germanic culture. I don't understand why you think "hedonism" naturally follows pillage. Pillage was just an economic means to an end: survival. What exactly do you mean by "hedonism."

BobNSF,

Ask your wife how she'd feel if you told her you were going on a whitewater rafting trip, but didn't tell her that the purpose was to rekindle an old flame. Then decide how much I am reading into the Times's report.

As far as the Vikings and their victims go, there is nothing to suggest that the Britons were less virtuous than the Norseman. You might enjoy reading Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf as much as you would profit from it.

Justin Wilson,

Adultery is never honest, since it is predicated on deceit.

And as far as gossip is concerned, I am not at all concerned about the couple in question, but only in the fact that their adultery is deemed suitable, by them and by the New York Times, for widespread publication as a "love story." To comment on that publication is not gossip, it is social criticism.

WaxingPoeticinChicago,

You hit the nail right on the head with your reaction to the woman's comment that she had begun with a "starter marriage." Although I am not sure she thought so at the time. What you see in the Times article is the way that these two individuals want to restructure the narratives of their lives to fit their current situation. That's surely a normal phenomenon.
2.14.2007 5:44pm
BobNSF (mail):
Gandalin

Ask your wife how she'd feel if you told her you were going on a whitewater rafting trip, but didn't tell her that the purpose was to rekindle an old flame. Then decide how much I am reading into the Times's report.


I asked my hubby (no wife here, sorry) and he figures that "white-water rafting" must be some sort of hetero code for sex, because "adultery" means having sex, not going on vacation.


As far as the Vikings and their victims go, there is nothing to suggest that the Britons were less virtuous than the Norseman. You might enjoy reading Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf as much as you would profit from it.


Do you think the Vikings thought their victims were "virtuous"? One of the problems with "virtue" is that it is too often accompanied by a strong sense of superiority. Which reminds me, thanks for the reading suggestion. Much appreciated.
2.15.2007 1:51am
Nonhypocrite:
Gandalin,


What troubles you so much about this? Why does this rile your spine? Do you know the specifics of the couple? No. Perhaps the grooms wife was also unhappy in the marriage. Perhaps she also sought a new beginning. You make grand assumptions and make harsh judgements. You seem obsessed with elevating your own holy self over these good people, their joy, and the New York Times. You claim to be a man of God, but you show no love, only a pathetic holier-than-thou attitude that you use to serve your own ego, your own self-righteousness.

You are better than no one, you possess no greater honor. You are just someone with grandiose notions of our civilization crumbling because people fall out of love and at the same time fall in love again. You know no love, only how to use weak analogies to prop up your own false arguments.

I ask you this -- is there honor in letting people live their lives, and respecting the fact that life is not black and white, right and wrong, but gray, and we all must do what we can to make it as good as we can.

Christ...vikings...
2.15.2007 2:04am
GandalinGandalin (mail):
BobNSF,

Thanks for your response. It seems that you and your hubby have a more open relationship than many married "hetero" people do, if he would find nothing unacceptable or odd if you decided to surreptitiously (deceitfully) go off on a rather intimate vacation with an old flame -- instead of him.

In many cases, I am sure that Vikings felt that their enemies or victims were as "virtuous" as they were. In many old cultures, warfare against a "virtuous," often closely-allied or culturally similar group is thought to be much more "honorable" than warfare against groups perceived as weaklings. The Vikings would have preferred to fight against others who shared their values. There was more honor in that. More glory. You get more "credit" from a worthy opponent. That's not to say that they would have refrained from attacking those they perceived to be lacking decent values.

You will, I hope, enjoy Beowulf. Heaney published his translation facing a well-researched Anglo-Saxon text. The Anglo-Saxon is impenetrable, and very far from anything you or I would recognize as English. But it does give you a feel for the prosody. Note that, although an English poem, much of the action of Beowulf takes place among Danes. Although the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes were at war for hundreds of years, I think they recognized that they were part of the same cultural milieu, and I think that the Anglo-Saxons upon whom the Danes preyed were similarly imbued with a culture of honor, integrity, and oath-keeping.

Nonhypocrite,

Thanks for your comment. Please read my comments again. I do not claim to be a man of God.

I am not really concerned with the couple whose adulterous antics were written about in the article. My concern, like that expressed in the original post which Professor Bernstein posted, is with the fact that the apparently adulterous prelude to the marriage celebrated in the Times, was openly talked about; this is something that would have been considered deeply shameful even 25 or 50 years ago.

I certainly don't think that our civilization will crumble because some people "commit" adultery. And I have never said so. I think that one sign that our civilization is crumbling is that adultery is openly celebrated in the pages of a "serious" newspaper.

People will always commit adultery. In any society. That's not the point. The point is, does a society celebrate fidelity, honesty, integrity, and honor, or does a society celebrate deceit, betrayal, and promise-breaking?

I submit that a society which publicly values oath-breaking, promise-breaking, deceit, and betrayal has some serious problems.

It has nothing to do with whether this couple is feeling the love or not.

So please get off your high horse, and stop lecturing me about what you think my personal failings are. That's not what we're talking about.

Just tell me why you think that a viable society can be based on treachery, deceit, promise-breaking, and dishonesty.
2.15.2007 6:13am
Jitterbob:
Gandalin,

Nice post, you got it exactly right. In every society there is going to be deceit and breaking of promises. That's not the issue. The issue is whether society should celebrate and support such deceit and breaking of promises, or should it discourage such deceit (or at least, ignore the deceit without lauding it.)
2.15.2007 10:26am
Ken Kukec (mail):

Really? What was the unwed-teen birthrate back then?


Too bad we can't ask Strom Thurmond. Those were the days, huh?
2.15.2007 1:26pm
lucia (mail) (www):
From the US Department of Health and Human Services:
Teen Pregnancy Rates Hit All-Time Low.
Note also: The decline in teen births was concentrated among girls aged 15 to 17.
2.15.2007 3:50pm
Ken Kukec (mail):

But my question was before the Court found them hiding in emanations of penumbras, do you think that America was an unfree country?


Unhyphenated:

It was un-free for the un-white. (By law until 1870; by Jim-Crow custom for another hundred years, until those rights were "discovered.")
2.15.2007 5:28pm
Ken Kukec (mail):

Although the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes were at war for hundreds of years, I think they recognized that they were part of the same cultural milieu[.]

Pillage was just an economic means to an end: survival


Gandalin:

At war for hundreds of years and survivalist pillaging. There's some virtue worth emulating.

The last time someone was so hot for Nordic/Germanic mythology, he was calling for racial purity and had a Schnickelgruber in the family tree. When you're done with "Hagar the Horr ... Bravehear ... Beowulf, try reading some William Shirer.
2.15.2007 5:53pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Gandalin-

I am not endorsing every aspect of Nordic or Germanic culture. I am only endorsing the idea of virtue, as it was expressed in Nordic and Germanic culture. Engaging in pillage was not a unique feature of Nordic or Germanic culture. I don't understand why you think "hedonism" naturally follows pillage. Pillage was just an economic means to an end: survival. What exactly do you mean by "hedonism."

The plunder process involved rape and slavetrading. Rape always follows slavetrading. This is systemized criminality and nonconsensual hedomism.

And during this period fermentation was the only way to preserve the nutritive value of grains, fruit, etc. for long periods, so ale, wine, and other alcoholic beverages were big staples of the diet. To think that there was rarely any overindulgence seems pretty naive to me.

And what do you think they would do with all this wealth they were able to immorally seize from other people? Human nature being what it is, one would assume that they would have some fun with it.

So with the above factors I think its pretty safe to call what the vikings engaged in to be "hedonism" or worse. True, most parts of the ancient world were like this - with conquest, plunder, slavery, etc.

Note that a significant portion of my ancestry is germanic, so I don't have it in for germanic or scandinavian people. I just believe in being accurate and not whitewashing history.
2.15.2007 10:20pm
Gandalin (mail):
Ken Kukec,

The history of northern Europe isn't that much different from the history of anyplace else at earth. The wars between rival confederations of Iroquoians, the Iroquois and the Huron, probably lasted as long, and were accompanied by cruelties just as bad, if not worse, than what occurred between the Danes and the Saxons.

Whether your business is pillage or publishing, it still makes a difference if you conduct it with integrity or not.

As for your parting insult, I have not expressed even the faintest admiration for Nordic/Germanic mythology, let alone being "so hot" for it. The subject came up because a previous commenter, I think it was American Psikhushka, claimed that the Vikings were "hedonists." I brought up the importance, in Nordic and Germanic culture, of honor, friendship, and trust, in order to refute American Psikhushka's racially demeaning and incorrect view of the ancestors of many of today's Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, and, incidentally, Minnesotans and North Dakotans.

I would have thought that a well-educated post-modernist cultural-relativist like yourself would have seen the value in attempting to learn something that is beautiful and true from each and every of the many wonderful cultures on this earth.

And didn't there used to be a rule on Usenet, that whoever accused the other party of being a Nazi immediately lost the argument?

Moreover, despite the claims of some poorly documented occultist fanatasies about Hitler's quest for the Holy Grail, the National Socialist movement was not organized as a neo-pagan cult. Some of its fringe elements did indulge in that sort of thing. But National Socialism was first and foremost a form of Socialism, and the Nazi program was an anti-capitalist movement aimed at attracting the working class. After all, the full name of the Nazi party was the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei, or National Socialist German Workers' Party. Read the National Socialist program. You will see that it is pure leftist tripe, through and through.
2.15.2007 10:31pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
unhyphenated-

But my question was before the Court found them hiding in emanations of penumbras, do you think that America was an unfree country?

While I agree with many of the outcomes, I do concede that the results in some cases were arrived at with sloppy reasoning. And unfortunately this kind of sloppy reasoning opens the possibility of coming to bad outcomes as well.

And I do think that in some ways the country was less free then. But in some ways the country is less free now, especially since 2001.
2.15.2007 10:41pm
Gandalin (mail):
American Psikhushka,

Well we seem to have different understandings of what "hedonism" means. You seem to think that anyone who ever has "fun" is a "hedonist."

To my mind, a "hedonist" society would be one in which the only value, or the highest value, would be the immediate pleasure an individual might derive from a particular course of action, regardless of any other consequences for himself or herself or others.

The fact that Vikings robbed and plundered as part of their economic life, and that they may have often enjoyed some of the various pleasures that life has to offer, does not mean that their society was hedonistic. They believed in a code of honor and integrity among themselves, and if they did not evolve a highly nuanced moral code, they certainly distinguished between virtuous and non-virtuous conduct.

Western Civilization is composed, I think of three major strands, the Classical strand, which originated in the Greek city-states, but which we have received in many respects as filtered through the Roman experience, the Jewish strand, which most of the West received as filtered through the Christian experience, and the Germanic strand, which contributed tot he development of feudal society, and which remains important as the basis for Anglo-Saxon law. Each of these three strands has contributed important, valuable, and significant elements to Western Civilization. The Germanic contribution is chiefly, I think, in the area of law and freedom. (I am no longer, and it is perhaps hazardous for me to opine about this on a law professor's blog.) The Anglo-Saxons developed a nuanced sense of themselves as free men and their legal customs provide far more individual freedom, and a far more equitable trial system (which is based on trial-by-combat) than does Roman law, for example. The unflinching seriousness with which the Germanic knight faced his life but more particularly his death, and the personal honor and integrity to which he aspired, are not, I think to be disparaged. If you did not like the literary examples that I mentioned earlier, in Beowulf and the Nibelungenlied (I like A.T. Hatto's prose translation, if you are interested, it is available in Penguins) then perhaps you would believe a French Jewish historian who was shot by the Gestapo in 1944 while he was fighting with the French resistance. Marc Bloch's two-volume work, Feudal Society, provides a well-documented and vividly written, very humane account of life in feudal times, and is particularly good on the importance attached to personal relationships of honor and integrity.
2.15.2007 10:46pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Gandalin-

The subject came up because a previous commenter, I think it was American Psikhushka, claimed that the Vikings were "hedonists." I brought up the importance, in Nordic and Germanic culture, of honor, friendship, and trust, in order to refute American Psikhushka's racially demeaning and incorrect view of the ancestors of many of today's Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, and, incidentally, Minnesotans and North Dakotans.

As noted in my reply just above yours my comments were aimed at historical accuracy and were not meant to be "racially demeaning". Especially seeing as how I am a member of that "race".
2.15.2007 10:52pm
Gandalin (mail):
American Psikhushka,

Thank you for that clarification. I understand your intention. I still think that it is unfair to label Nordic society "hedonist."

By the way, the fact that someone is a member of a "race" does not mean that he will not demean or degrade that "race." Happens every day.
2.15.2007 11:10pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Gandalin-

You seem to be shifting definitions here. First you bring up the term "hedonism" in the context of a modern man presumed to be committing adultery. Then you state that viking raping and pillaging cannot be considered "hedonism". The contrast between the two is night and day. I realize you are focusing on the rulebreaking aspect, but it is rather odd in the conext of a society partially focused on criminality. Keeping a "code of honor" in the midst of plunder, rape, and slavetrading would seem to border on the ridiculous.

By the way, the fact that someone is a member of a "race" does not mean that he will not demean or degrade that "race." Happens every day.

I'm aware of that. Accurately discussing historical events doesn't come close to demeaning or degrading.
2.16.2007 6:51am
Ken Kukec (mail):
I shouldn't have gone all Godwin on you, Gandalin. I happened to have re-read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich recently, and Shirer sure suggests that the Nazis relied heavily on Nordic/Germanic mythology to stir up the Volk. (As for your contention that Facists were "leftists," I suppose so -- in the sense that Brooklyn is "west" of Manahattan if you take a long enough route.)

You are no doubt correct that there are many things to be admired about Nordic and German cultures (and you don't have to be a po-mo cultural relavist to appreciate that). I just don't think that hundreds of years of war and all that raping and pillaging -- against your friends, for crying out loud -- are among them.

Anyway, I'm not clear on what all this Norseman cometh stuff has to do with the two schlubs who posted their silly NY Times wedding announcement (which is where this thread started).
2.16.2007 2:28pm
Gandalin (mail):
Ken Kukec,

Thanks for your thoughtful response.

I wasn't there, but I think that Shirer may overstress the Voelkisch aspects of NSDAP propaganda. If you read through the Partei's program, I think you will find that it is 99% straightforward leftism, and maybe 1% Voelkisch mysticism. There is at least one site on the WWW which has archived Partei propaganda used both in Germany and in Western European countries overrun by the Reich, and the appeal is mostly proletarian and anti-capitalist. Of course, the externally aimed propaganda would be expected to play down the specifically German aspects, and emphasize uniting all of Europe.

I think you would enjoy a recent book comparing the communist and National Socialist regimes under Stalin and Hitler, Richard Overy's "The Dictators." He demonstrates that Nazi Germany was in fact a socialized, centralized economy. For example, the Germans had more central economic planners than the Russians did. There can be no doubt that Hitler was serious about his socialism. The fact that so many people have a knee-jerk automatic reaction to consider communism the totalitarianism of the left and Naziism the totalitarianism of the right is primarily an after-effect of communist electoral propaganda in Germany, and of subsequent worldwide communist propaganda in general. If you take a careful, unbiased look at the way the NSDAP structured life in Germany, there is no doubt that you will recognize the hallmarks that have characterized all socialist projects since Plato's Republic.

As far as what people did to survive in the 6th-10th centuries. Nordic culture was not based only on rapine and pillage, as I'm sure you know. Some authors think that the Viking raids were only a very minor component of Scandinavian economic activity, most of which was agrarian or mercantile; the raids were simply the most dramatic part, and the most important part to the mainly monastic scribes who recorded details about them.

Be that as it may, life was surely very hard for people in the northern climes during that period. I think it was generally cold during this period, which immediately preceded the Medieval Warm Period (10th -13th centuries). The early middle ages were probably not as cold as the Little Ice Age which followed the MWP, but the growing Danish population certainly required more resources than appeared to be available in Denmark and Jutland.

The Viking period also immediately followed the Voelkerwanderung of the 5th and 6th centuries (the period described in the Nibelungenlied, which was composed around 1200) when the first great Mongolian invasion of Europe (the Huns) pushed many peoples far from their previous ancestral homes, and caused tremendous upheavals throughout the West. Note that the Hungarians did not invade Hungary until the tail end of the 9th century.

Again, I am not attempting to excuse pillage and rapine, but I do suggest that within the context of the times, the fact that Scandinavians occasionally or frequently raided other peoples' settlements should not distract us from considering whether or not they had a moral or ethical code of some kind.
2.16.2007 3:34pm
Gandalin (mail):
Ken Kukec,

Sorry, I forgot to mention my response to your closing comment:

":Anyway, I'm not clear on what all this Norseman cometh stuff has to do with the two schlubs who posted their silly NY Times wedding announcement (which is where this thread started)."

Let's go back to the beginning. Professor Bernstein posted his original entry on this story precisely because the people to whom you refer as "two schlubs" are not schlubs at all but a sucessful entrepreneur and a surgeon, and because it was not a wedding announcement that they posted, but the featured article in the wedding section, the "Vows" article, which the Times runs every week.

It seemed odd to the Professor that a rubric entitled "Vows" would highlight a relationship that was rekindled in admitted adultery, and odd that a previously adulterous couple would be willing to have that information presented in the Times.

My comment was that this appeared to be an example of a deliberate editorial policy to disparage marriage and fidelity. Like the recent article, about which the Times's ombudsman, Byron Calame, recently wrote a scathing critique, in which the reporter deliberately used misleading data to claim that there are more unmarried than married adult women in the US.

I brought up Nordic and Germanic culture, because in medieval times, when there was very little law, and very little recourse to national legal authority, people depended on trust, loyalty, honor, and integrity for their very lives, and because these values are strikingly illustrated in some of the classic literary artefacts of the period, which also deserve to be mentioned because of their inherent beauty.

So now you know the rest of the story.
2.16.2007 3:42pm
Gandalin (mail):
American Psikhushka,

Thanks for your additional comments:

"You seem to be shifting definitions here. First you bring up the term "hedonism" in the context of a modern man presumed to be committing adultery. Then you state that viking raping and pillaging cannot be considered "hedonism". The contrast between the two is night and day."

Yes the difference is as stark as the difference between night and day, although I don't see it exactly as I perceive that you do.

The Germanic tribes engaged in warfare, rapine, and pillage to survive in a cold world that was riven by the upheaval of the migration of peoples and the expansion and contraction of the Roman Empire. Their culture did not, as far as I know, extol the immediate pleasures of the moment as the nec plus ultra of human life. they believed in at least some transcendent values, such as honor, integrity, trust, and fidelity.

In contemporary American society, particularly among the intelligentsia and glitterati, I perceive a nihilistic hedonism which rejects any possibility of meaningful transcendence and in which the immediate gratification of physical desires is assumed to be the only purposeful endpoint of individual or collective human life.

Maybe I am overstating it a little, but I see that strain in contemporary society. I don't find it in Beowulf, in the Nibelungenlied, or in the Sagas.
2.16.2007 3:52pm