On Monday night I posted to alicublog about something Rod Dreher said. Which isn’t unusual — he’s nuts and almost completely lacking in self-awareness, and thus always good for a laugh — but this particular Dreher thing was special: It was about the fire at Notre Dame, to which he reacted as if it were a scene from Revelations. Sample:
Like James Poulos above, I cannot see this as anything other than a sign. The only church in all of Western civilization more important than Notre Dame de Paris is St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The consuming fire is likely to have been started from a construction accident. I hope that is the case; if this was terrorism, then France is in for unimaginable spasms of violence. Nevertheless, if this was an accident, it still symbolizes what we in the West have allowed to happen to our religious and cultural patrimony. What happened in Paris today has been happening across our civilization.
It happens whenever we fail to live out our baptism, and fail to baptize our children. It happens by omission, by indifference, and it happens by commission, from spite. It happens in classrooms, in newsrooms, in shopping malls, in poisoned seminaries and defiled sacristies, and everywhere the truths that Notre Dame de Paris embodied are ridiculed, flayed, and destroyed in the hearts and minds of modern men. The fire that destroyed Paris’s iconic cathedral made manifest what we in the West have been doing to ourselves for over 200 years.
That’s a lot to get out of a construction accident. The “unimaginable spasms of violence” thing was just gross — I surely hope it’s not Muslims, but if it is I’ll be on the truck with the flaming guitar! But what really bugged me was Dreher’s instant elevation of the event into a metaphor for the morbid shit he’s always gassing on about: How the modern world is horrible and godless and we all have to go back to the Middle Ages (except with wifi because Dreher loves his gadgets).
I never got to see the Cathedral of Notre Dame. And now I never will. Although they’re already saying it’ll be rebuilt someday — and it’s hard to imagine that such a beautiful place could be left forever in ruins — it can never be rebuilt to what it was just this morning. It’s nearly unbearable to think about how much has been lost
(I’ve never seen the place myself, but maybe because I’m an old man and used to things changing, and not as self-centered as I was when I was DeSanctis’ age, I don’t consider my missing any of the various iterations of Notre Dame before this one a cataclysm. If humanity survives I can imagine people in 2519 wishing they could go back to 2025 to see the Macron version back when it was fresh.)
DeSanctis goes on:
But first and foremost, it is a tragedy for the Catholic Church, whose members are already suffering in so many places. To many Catholics, it feels as if the Church is on fire in a sense already. And now we are watching it blaze.
“In a sense already”? Not sure what she means there. Could she possibly mean the latest priests-fucking-kids charges? But there have been so many of these over the years — what church fires in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s would be attributable to them?
In the same publication, Rich Lowry:
Notre Dame has been thoughtfully restored and preserved over the years, to our credit. But it’s difficult not to discern a distressing message in the wanton destruction that ravaged the iconic cathedral — what prior generations so carefully and faithfully built, we are losing.
“We are losing” what? Wood and stone? We have plenty of that. Gargoyles? There are people who still make those. To what is Lowry alluding — and why is he so shy about spelling it out? Is he afraid it’ll be used against him at a competency hearing?
Leave it to an actual Nazi to be more forthright: Richard Spencer (who, surprise, Dreher defended the other day) starts off in the same minor key as the others (“Norte [sic] Dame has been burning for a long time. Today, we just started to notice”) but quickly gets where he really wants to go:
If the Nortre [sic] Dame fire serves to spur the White man into action--to sieze [sic] power in his countries, in Europe, in the world--then it will have served a glorious purpose and we will one day bless this catastrophe.
One pictures Spencer in his SS uniform, presiding over a disastrous attempt at a Fourth Reich, with a BLESS THIS MESS sampler on his office wall.
I don’t think the other conservatives who are blubbering about the Notre Dame fire, and about the unnameable je ne sais quoi that it really represents, are also Nazis, necessarily. But I do think they’re similarly into sturm und drang. And I suspect the ruin they’re really seeing when they look at Notre Dame is the World Trade Center on 9/11 — in fact Dreher, quiet-part-out-loud type that he is, even makes the connection overtly in his post.
It makes sense. The smoking towers were the icon that helped conservatives bamboozle America into war with the People Who Did Not Do 9/11 But Look Sorta Like Them and build another iron tier onto the national security state. Good times!
But this latest catastrophe is slightly different. For one thing, Notre Dame doesn’t have a perpetrator at hand that dumb yahoos can turn into Marinus van der Lubbe.
And even conservatives do not live by war and repression alone; sometimes they indulge fantasies, not to win converts, but to soothe their own aching egos. Look at the nation and the world as it is: America is under the most extreme type of rightwing grifter rule and the international fascist movement is picking up steam. Conservatives should be pleased with these results. Yet they actually seem to be miserable. You ever notice that? All you ever hear from them is gripes about how some SJW made them feel whatever sociopaths feel instead of guilt, or about how no one wants or is grateful for their stupid programs — they even gripe about Trump, who gives them everything except that feeling of righteousness they believe they should by right be enjoying.
When the church went ablaze, the inchoate cry they sent up was not a cry for vengeance or even of sorrow at the damage to a cultural monument — it was the baffled cry of a child who can’t understand why no one picks him up and hugs him anymore when he throws a tantrum. They were never happier when they were nine-elevening and the whole world nine-elevened with them; now they are alone and unloved; even the goons at Trump rallies don’t vote for them out of love, but merely out of rage and resentment and a desire to make their enemies suffer.
So can you blame them for flashing back to a time when disaster meant togetherness, when everyone nodded solemnly at their war-prayers instead of snickering or turning away? If they weren’t destroying the planet I might feel sorry for them.