Day By Day

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Blindness of Joyce Carol Oates

My first impression: Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most horrible human beings on the planet. Read her piece on Teddy Kennedy and how fortunate we are that he killed Mary Jo Kopechne because his search for redemption (assuming that is what it was) led him to become, in the minds of some, the greatest senator of the century. She writes:
This paradox lies at the heart of so much of public life: individuals of dubious character and cruel deeds may redeem themselves in selfless actions. Fidelity to a personal code of morality would seem to fade in significance as the public sphere, like an enormous sun, blinds us to all else.
Read the noxious sentiments here.

As I said my first thought was that Ms. Oates is an exceptionally horrible person, but then I realized that many of Kennedy supporters had made precisely the same calculation -- that promotion of his career was more important than one young girl's life, and I was then reminded that millions throughout the West had excused the crimes of Stalin, Mao and other leftists monsters on similar utilitarian grounds. Oates asked whether art or public service could redeem personal wickedness and answered in the affirmative, but I cannot. That road leads to horrors beyond imagining.


Mat Welch, over at Reason magazine, writes regarding Oates' suggestion that "the life of a single young woman" might count for less than "the accomplishments of the man President Obama has called the greatest Democratic senator in history" and that her death might be considered "fortunate":
[T]he sentiment is a timely reminder of the seductive awfulness of political ideologies everywhere and always. The ends are always worth a few strangled means, especially to those wielding or sympathizing with power. If you're openly musing whether the unwilling, unjust sacrifice of an innocent is worth a broad set of alleged legislative improvements, you're not asking a morally challenging question, you're answering it.

And Mark Steyn argues that the willingness of people on the Left to say that Kennedy's political career exhonorates him for his behavior at Chappaquiddick says "something ugly" about American political culture.

Read it here.