Regarding the supposedly leftist theorist Stanley Fish, Terry Eagleton once remarked:

It is one of the minor symptoms of the mental decline of the United States that Stanley Fish is thought to be on the Left.  By some of his compatriots, anyway, and no doubt by himself.  In a nation so politically addled that ‘liberal’ can mean ‘state interventionist’ and ‘libertarianism’ letting the poor die on the streets, this is perhaps not wholly unpredictable (Figures of Dissent).

I couldn’t help but feel the same sentiment after reading the Mother Jones article about Ross Douthat.  It’d be easy to replace Eagleton’s  “Fish” with “Douthat,” “Left” with “Right” and so on.  Although Douthat wants to position himself in a great line of Catholic Conservatives, his American ideological aspirations will never allow him proximity to his avowed heroes: Chesterton, Tolkien, etc. In the end, I think he’ll go the way of William F. Buckley. (He could do worse; at least Buckley was willing to interview Noam Chomsky and curse the likes of Gore Vidal.)

With all that said, there’s a hint of genius in the article’s recalling of Douthat’s formative years at Harvard.  In 2005 Douthat wrote:

 Whatever residual enthusiasm I felt for the venture dissipated, with shocking speed, as she nibbled at my ear and whispered – ‘You know, I’m on the pill.’… On that night, in that dank basement bedroom, she spoke for all of us, the whole young American elite.  Not I love you, not This is incredible, not Let’s go all the way, but I’m on the pill.

If only more of Douthat’s columns would begin with such insight.  Only then migh his alleged conservatism have something to say to the world in a Kierkegaaridan sense; even better, he might summon Yeats: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst /Are full of passionate intensity.” 

On the one hand, it’s pitiful that morality speak in our cultural is largely concerned with who one goes to bed with rather than how one manages their money or where one’s investment portfolios lie.  On the other hand, Douthat is right is point out the instrumentalization and comodification of not just sex or bodies, but of love itself.  When we lose this, then we’ve truly lost a viable culture that will ever take a stand.

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