Who Is Vladimir Putin?

The Soviet regime is formally gone, but the legacy of its formidable security apparatus lives on. There was never a “decommunization” process in the wake of the USSR’s collapse. The vast majority of those who had participated in its structures and atrocities escaped punishment, and many of them created political careers in the post-communist era. People like Vladimir Putin were deeply marked by their socialization within that apparatus.
Fidelity to place, to the community of one’s birth, is not merely one virtue among others, but a foundational and formative source of our character. We first learn to be faithful husbands and wives from the unchosen example we witness of our own parents. We first learn to be faithful citizens as we explore the small postage stamp of terrain that we did not choose to go to, but simply awakened to with our first dawn of consciousness.
Over the past several decades, our civilization has experimented with a number of alternatives to faithful marriage. Yet the evidence is abundant that from a personal as well as a public perspective, we are most likely to flourish when faithful, monogamous, natural-law marriages are plentiful and the norm.
As we begin this inaugural Fidelity Month, we recommit and rededicate ourselves to God. You were made to know God. He is your ultimate happiness. Knowing God is not a rejection of creaturely good. It is vantage point that allows us to enjoy creaturely good as intended “from the beginning.”
In The Classical and Christian Origins of American Politics, Kody Cooper and Justin Dyer successfully refute the still (somehow) influential interpretation of the American Founding as a secular-not-Christian project. However, they do so without successfully establishing their preferred alternative, the Christian-not-secular interpretation. There is a vast middle between these two extremes whose existence slips through the authors’ fingers again and again like a well-greased elephant.
Seven hundred years ago the Catholic Church canonized Thomas Aquinas. Today he is often considered a consummate authority for Catholic philosophy and theology. We should remember, however, how revolutionary his views were.
It’s not just that many have been taught that the wrong things make them happy, and that their deliberation leads to choices that make them miserable—though that does happen in many cases. Far too often, they have not been given enough tools for moral thinking and acting at all.
What would happen if we dropped that charged word “liberalism” from the conversation and got down to specifics? I suspect much of Patrick Deneen’s postliberal magic would disappear.
The things we’re willing to die for are tied to what we hold as sacred. In fact, the willingness to die for something also consecrates it as sacred. We need to entertain the possibility that love for our country might lead us to sacrifice greatly, even radically, in order to preserve the best that remains in it.
My death will most likely come from a side effect of one of the medications I’m on to keep my body from rejecting my transplanted lungs. This makes some recipients resentful or angry, as seen in a recent New York Times op-ed by Amy Silverstein. She and I received the gift of a healthier and longer life when we received our transplants. The medications that she’s decrying are the ones that have kept her—and me—alive. These years are an inexpressible gift.
Pastor Keller preached the Gospel as true. He would blush when I told him he was a genuine apologist. But he deserved this cherished title as one who, in a compelling, credible, and colorful way, could present and defend the basic truths of God’s revelation. No watering down, no wavering, just the truth—which, he would repeat, has a name: Jesus.
In denying students access to their history; in dumbing down art, music, literature, and even the sacred liturgy; and in celebrating obscenity over beauty, you detach people from their past, their home, and the transcendental dimension of the human experience. You make them strangers to themselves, to the soul, and the soil.
In Sacred Foundations, Anna Grzmała-Busse argues that the secular nation-state derives much of its structure from the Catholic papacy when it was at its peak in the Middle Ages.
If The Nursery is a tale of motherhood, it is only a half-truth. Yes, giving birth to a child will leave you sleep deprived and emotional and physically scarred. That’s only half of the story.
In The Myth of Left and Right, Hyrum and Verlan Lewis certainly succeed in proving to the reader that the pieces within each ideological bundle have shifted over time and do not inevitably go together, but they go well beyond that in concluding that each coalition’s bundle is fundamentally random. Though labels and coalitions may be quite movable, at any given time (including now) ideological identifications can tell us something intelligible about our politics.
“Wokeism” is akin to an attempt to extend the professor’s authority over students to the rest of society. But this strategy will only have limited success: students are ready to listen and be convinced by their professors, but most of society doesn’t regard itself as pupils to the woke Left. True revolutionaries do not need to borrow authority from institutions, because they have the power to take what they want from their unconsenting enemy. The woke Left, whether we want to admit it or not, and whether it is itself conscious of it or not, has no such power.
Religiosity will rear its head in one way or another. If you are religious, you’ve wagered your life on particular and exclusive claims about who God is, what kind of world we’re in, and the kind of creatures we are. These stakes are impossibly high, and sensible political communities will vigilantly safeguard the sacred from the encroachment of politics.
The coalition of the sensible is not a coalition of the soft, the weak, the “can’t we all get along?,” or the squishy moderate. This is not a mood calling for peace, peace, when there is no peace; neither is it compromise for its own sake or a winking cynicism about the possibility of moral rights and wrongs. The coalition of the sensible is statecraft, and the realization that statecraft is not found in imaginary utopias, dreams of perfection, or big, brash theories of politics, but in the actual details of human action.
The New Right’s embrace of the “politics of war” is utterly reckless. No amount of friend–enemy Manichaeism or state-of-emergency governance will transform American pluralism into moral unity.
Leo Strauss was an extraordinarily generous writer, by which I mean that he went to great pains to present the best case he could for the arguments of a serious thinker with whom he disagreed, before offering any tentative critique of that thinker. One never finds in his writings mere polemic or straw men. He invites the reader to take seriously and try fully to understand and spell out the serious and deepest thoughts of those whose thought he is confronting, even if he disagrees.
Lincoln saw the fundamental problem in democracy as one single, monstrous question: “Can the principle that liberates all and produces self-government remain disciplined and restrained enough in practice to retain self-government?”
Of course the law gives Americans wide latitude to be nasty, unkind, and intolerant of one another. But that doesn’t mean we should strive to live in an uncivil and fragmented society. It certainly doesn’t mean that the NHL must continue hosting events that breed animosity and intolerance, the opposite of what they claim to aim for.
As a moral framework for assessing regimes in an imperfect world, Nigel Biggar’s Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning has much to recommend it.
It is through deep feeling that we see truth and beauty. Spiritually emotional people are fully conscious of their object, fully immersed in it. Someone who is profoundly sorrowful can see life’s purpose more clearly than any practitioner of science and technical skill who is devoid of feeling.