From Sphinx to Jinx

On hearing the news that Calvin Coolidge had just died, the humorist Dorothy Parker, whose wit could be pitiless, asked in mock surprise, “How could they tell?” Old Silent Cal, 30th President of the United States, the Sphinx of the Potomac according to Washington insiders, had passed on.  And nobody noticed.

Remind you of anyone today – The current occupant of the White House perhaps? Biden may well be dead, too, but how can we tell? How can anyone tell? Leaving aside his handlers, media shills and sycophants who’ve been frantically propping him up for years, most of us simply can’t be sure. But those in the know are certainly aware of the hollow shell they’ve kept on life support since before the election of 2020—going all the way back to the Biden basement where this whole charade began.

Alfred E. Smith, an admiring member of the opposition who very nearly became president himself, said of Coolidge that what distinguished him was “character more than heroic achievement. His great task was to restore the dignity and prestige of the Presidency when it had reached the lowest ebb in our history…in a time of extravagance and waste.”

Character is what enables a man to stand tall in the saddle, to make choices that are the result of a lifelong-habituated to the practice of virtue. It is what gives voters confidence in the leaders we elect, knowing that, as Plato put it, here is someone who actually does not covet the job we’ve given him. Allow only those who disdain the exercise, Plato taught, to lord it over the rest of us. When getting and keeping power becomes the consuming passion, it’s time for voters to pull the plug, lest the office holder be tempted to tyrannize over others.

How we’ve come to miss that quality among the moral pygmies who govern today.  Their lust for control of our lives has turned them into addicts.   Not since Coolidge, it seems, the quality of whose character impressed even his political opponents, have we moved so far from Sphinx to Jinx.

If the unfolding lunacy we see day after day coming out of D.C. doesn’t lead to a red wave in November, then the whole country has gone crackers.  We might as well all be pod people sleepwalking our way into the dustbin of history because we haven’t got a future.  In fact, we won’t even have a country, or at least not one any of us would care to recognize. 

We are living in very dangerous times.  But even with the polls moving in the direction of a sobering national recognition of the fact we’re doomed, it still may not be enough to change the outcome.  There may be no red wave coming in November.  And even if there were, what assurances do we have that the Republicans are really up to speed, that there’s enough character to go around to save us.

“A nation to be loved,” said Edmund Burke, “must be lovely.”  Maybe we’re just not lovely enough anymore.  But it is the only nation we have.  So, if we’ve any interest in keeping what’s lovely, we’d better get busy and defend it – by voting.  Not early and often as they say in Chicago, but at least once.

The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Edmund Burk

Source: Rescuing the Republic by Regis Martin, Professor of Theology and Faculty Associate with the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Crisis Magazine.

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