I saw something today which reminded me of Dr. Stephen Maturin in the Patrick O’Brian novels. He dosed and physicked the sailors and officers with black draught and blue pill… which have, how to say, laxative effects. He made his concoctions truly disgusting in order to convince the men that they were really getting the powerful treatment they needed. Here is a passage from the first book, Master and Commander, which touches on his prescriptions:
[Stephen] left the cabin with what seemed to [Captain] Jack [Aubrey] an inhuman want of concern and went directly below, where he mixed a draught and a powder from the large stock that he (like all other naval surgeons) kept perpetually at hand. Under the thrust of the gregale, coming in gusts off Delamara Point, the Sophie’s lee-lurch slopped out too much by half.
‘It is too much by half,’ he observed, balancing like a seasoned mariner and pouring the surplus into a twentydrachm phial. ‘But never mind. It will just do for young Babbington.’ He corked it, set it on a—rail-locked rack, counted its fellows with their labelled necks and returned to the cabin. He knew very well that Jack would act on the ancient seafaring belief that more is better and dose himself into Kingdom Come if not closely watched, and he stood there reflecting upon the passage of authority from one to the other in relationships of this kind (or rather of potential authority, for they had never entered into any actual collision) as Jack gasped and retched over his nauseous dose. Ever since Stephen Maturin had grown rich with their first prize he had constantly laid in great quantities of asafetida, castoreum and other substances, to make his medicines more revolting in taste, smell and texture than any others in the fleet; and he found it answered—his hardy patients knew with their entire beings that they were being physicked.
On another tack, I have been watching the Republican race these with the same enthusiasm I have had when viewing an autopsy. It is fascinating and revolting.
While I haven’t made a decision about any candidate yet, I can affirm the same decision I made last election cycle: I would vote for the corpse of Millard Fillmore before I would not vote, to keep any of the running Dems out of the White House.
Donald Trump and Catholic Social Teaching
I was recently asked by Time Magazine for my general opinion on Donald Trump, his relation to Catholic ideas and White Evangelicals and any other thoughts I might have. I was briefly quoted in Time. But I thought I would include here the parts of my remarks that were not used in the article as well.
Trump’s moral positions on life and sexual morality stray widely from Catholic moral and social teaching in many respects. I would also think that conservative Catholics would have problems with him especially on abortion.
I cannot address the issue of Catholic-Republican organizing because I am not a Republican or for that matter, a member of any political party.
The more pertinent question regarding Trump and the experience of Catholics is that of populism and here Catholics have been on all sides of the question, in Argentina (Peron), and Italy (both Berlusconi and Mussolini) – so I suspect that today this would be the same.
Frankly, I cannot figure out the alleged white-evangelical attraction to Trump. To my ear, he simply is not one of them. He is obviously unfamiliar with the Bible and he does not speak in any evangelical dialect with which I am conversant. I would think that in the end, religious conservatives who haven’t aligned themselves with Trump will find themselves allied behind the alternative Republican option. [Read: When the excitement ends, they will leave him and support someone else.]
On the whole Trump thing I can offer this somewhat provocative thought, though it is hardly a distinctly Catholic idea:
For some time our body politic has been blocked and seems not to move anywhere. This blockage[Are you getting the point yet?] is made up of both a lack of philosophical understanding of the authentic roots of human freedom and a lack of courage to defend those roots. Now comes Donald Trump, who says some things that are refreshing and bold, who obviously does not speak from talking points but in the end, are neither substantial nor nourishing of a civil order. In this circumstance, the best one could hope for is that Trump will act like a strong physic one has to abide from time to time just to get things moving again. But that is not something one wants as a whole diet.
Physic for the Body Politic. Perhaps that’s what’s needed.
And, of course, the moderation queue is ON.