Saturday, January 12, 2008

Very Happy Wedding for Mature People

I had the honor of participating in a wedding today of an old friend. After decades, she was reunited with her first love. Everyone has happy, including children from one of the first marriages. Bride and groom were delighted and humorous, which set the tone for everyone.

The groom's brother, who was inadvertent midwife to this union by keeping each informed of the other's life through the years, was the minister who married them. He gave an excellent charge to the couple, including a serious recognition of their maturity in life. He said they came to the union now with a lack of innocence. This was not at all a dig. He noted for all that they knew about life and love and marriage much that young newlyweds do not. This was good food for thought, for me at least.

Oh, and if you are going to have a January wedding, may I commend Texas, where it was 67 degrees and sunny? There is a lovely wedding chapel in Salado.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Birds of a Feather Go Too Far

The British House of Lords has annulled the marriage of a pair of twins, separated at birth, who had married one another -- unaware of their relationship.

This says to me that nature is a strong part of who we are, and who we are attracted to.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Who Will Unite the Country?

A central question for centrists in any political year is, which candidate is most likely to unite the country?

In the New Hampshire primary, MSNBC exit polls report some useful results for this question. Voters were asked, "Regardless of how you voted today, which one of these candidates would be most likely to unite the country if elected president?" Among those who voted in the Democratic primary, 51% thought that Barack Obama would, while only 28% thought Hillary Clinton was a uniter.

Strangely, they did not ask this question of Republican voters.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hillary Clinton's Tears and the Gender Gap

Like any good political junkies, Mrs. G. and I were glued to New Hampshire election analysis last night. In the empty hours when the talking heads were blithering on, the guys chewed and re-chewed Hillary Clinton's show of emotion the day before. To them, it was a dangerous display of weakness or loss of control. They were dumbfounded, therefore, when at the end of the day (literally) she won, on the strength of independent women voters.

I think Hillary's tears played differently with women than with men. There were only a couple of women among the talking heads, and they said nothing distinctive on this topic. The press interviews with late-deciding Clinton voters this morning, though, told a different story. The women who chose Clinton in the last day before the election said that seeing her womanly side made the difference.

The news story in the Clinton vs. Obama race focused on the gender gap. This is true: among men, the split was Clinton 29%, Obama 40, while among women it was Clinton 46, Obama 34. I know from earlier elections that the gender gap is often really a marriage gap - married people vote one way, and single people another, but since there are more single women, the single vote looks like a women's vote. This is partly true in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. The married women split much more evenly. Married women with children split 42-34 for Clinton, whereas single childless women went 49-31 for Clinton. The gap among married parents exactly matched the final tally (39-36 for Clinton). Still, there is clearly a gender factor favoring Clinton here.

One more notable factor in the New Hampshire primary is that there are many independent voters, and they can vote in either primary. I think that at the last minute, many independent women voted in the Democratic primary to vote for Clinton, and many independent men voted in the Republican primary to vote for McCain.

I am glad that race is not over yet. We will stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

We'll Always Have Paris - Run!

New York magazine has a fine story about rich parents fearing that their children will end up spoiled. A whole industry has grown up to advise the parents on how best to not support their children too much -- not the problem that most kids have. The main advice of these experts is that rich kids need to be obliged to do real work when they are young, or they will be undone by meaninglessness by their 20s and 30s.

And what is the name and the face of what these rich parents fear the most? Paris Hilton.

Everyone serves some purpose - if only as a bad example.

Monday, January 07, 2008

"Juno" is a Fine Teen Preg Movie

The buzz movie in the pro-marriage circuit for the past six months has been "Juno," which finally opened during Christmas week. I went to see it with my daughter Endub and her friend. They thought it great -- they sang along with the Kimya Dawson soundtrack, repeated the jokes, and liked the title character. At the end they said they both felt "very indie." I am a little too old and was always too bourgeois to be indie, but I did appreciate Juno as a smart kid who did a dumb thing, but then handled it well. What is even rarer in popular fiction these days, her parents handled it well, too. This is a movie with a competent father -- a standout feature all by itself.

The acting is great, the dialogue is artistically heightened in a funny way, and the soundtrack is really good, especially for the target demographic. Most reviewers think it is excellent.

There are critics, of course. I was interested in what they criticized. They thought Juno was too hardened in her view of adult relationships, too mature, wise-cracking, and self-directed for her age. Yet I think a smart girl in her situation would just assume she could not really depend on the permanence of marital love. Juno is 16, and knows from the outset she is not ready to raise a child. Her teen boyfriend isn't either. Her parents are divorced and remarried (Juno's mom is off with her new husband and her "replacement kids.") Her step-mother is very helpful, but is still not her mom. Juno finds a child-hungry yuppie wife and her ambivalent husband to give the baby to. Juno's real crisis does not come from the baby so much as from the fact that none of the relationships is solid. I will not spoil anything to say the movie resolves the crisis sweetly and well.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

God on Both Sides of Charlie Wilson's War

"Charlie Wilson's War" is an excellent film. I hope Aaron Sorkin keeps writing great scripts about current politics. He has some grasp of complexity.

One of the key complexities was that evangelical Christians were rallying political support to pay Israelis to arm Muslim fundamentalists to fight communists. Joanne Herring, the Houston socialiate who pushes Congressman Wilson to arm the Afghan mujaheddin does so as a Christian crusader for religious freedom -- that is why she is anti-communist. Gust Avrakotos, the CIA agent brokering the deal, urges her to tone down the religion, lest the latent religious contradictions of the whole house of cards be fatally exposed. Mrs. Herring argues that she is persuasive because God is on her side. Avrakotos counters that that works until God is on both sides.

"Charlie Wilson's War" is an ironic film, but it doesn't hit you over the head with it. Politically informed viewers know that those same weapons that we gave the mujaheddin to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan later armed the Taliban. The political conclusion of the film -- and this is a political film much more than it is a religious one -- is that our semi-secret proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan was a great war, and was instrumental in ending the Soviet empire and winning the Cold War. But then we allowed Afghanistan to fall to the crazies because we didn't follow through with rebuilding the country when we could have.

The religious point, though, is equally important. Sometimes we need to fight wars to oppose great evils. But when we clothe our wars in God's mantle, we invite our enemies to do the same -- to the great corruption of their faith as well as our own.