Saturday, June 17, 2006

G.K. Chesterton

"The Nothing scrawled on a five-foot page." -- G.K. Chesterton, in A Song of Defeat.

Another elegant metaphor for all web logs, especially this one.

Speaking of Chesterton, to some degree conservatives have conveniently co-opted him for their own uses, as if they own him. (Just as conservatives have at least attempted to appropriate the American flag solely for their own worldview.) That's to be expected, naturally, of someone who wrote Orthodoxy. Various websites of Chesterton aficionados (such as www.Chesterton.org) display tidy categorizations and careful compilations of Chesterton quotations. Of course, that's their right (well, it's a rite, too). At one time, one of these organizations had a rather tasteless quote forward-referenced to 9/11 (about the destruction of buildings), but it seems to have been removed.

But in the cozy compilations of quotes, you don't tend to find this line, from The Defendant (1901), essays of various Chesterton reviews:

"'My country, right or wrong,' is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, 'My mother, drunk or sober.'"

Yes, we can spend hours deconstructing and debating elements of this: patriot, desperate, motherhood, drunkenness. Another time perhaps.

Is it buried purposefully? Accidentally?

The words are very apt today. My take is that it's that kind of sentiment that we need to hear more of (yes, you can end a sentence with a preposition). I hear too many jingoists invoking too many cliches.

I've adapted this apt quote and put it on T-shirts, stickers, mugs -- even thongs and boxers (www.laughorism.com). Irreverent? Twisted? Chesterton would like irreverent, I'd venture.

It's worth a debate.

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