The Point of it All - A Lifetime of Great Loves and Endeavors
Charles Krauthammer
Contributed by Jerrold Mcmenamin
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Themes
Themes are described as ideas that dominate a particular piece of literature. In almost all cases, pieces of literature will be centered a theme or a number of them.
Conservatism

As evidenced by the columns in the book, Charles Krauthammer, just like numerous eminent writers before him, journeyed the intellectual odyssey from liberalism to conservatism. In the column about Ronald Reagan, Krauthammer describes Reagan as the “greatest president of the second half of the 20th century” (Krauthammer 8). According to him, Reagan utilized two key qualities to win the Cold War: courage and conviction. He concludes that with time, the shallow explanations attached to the success of Reagan have fallen away, and now what is remaining is his largeness as well as deeply enduring significance. In addition to Reagan, the author also has similar praise for Pope John Paul II. According to him, people will remember him for having ignited, tended, and fanned freedom flames in Poland as well as the whole of Eastern Europe in the 1980s. The author observes that John Paul II mobilized the power of faith as an instrument of liberation. Overall, Krauthammer placed John Paul II, Churchill, Reagan and FDR as the 20th century great liberators (Krauthammer 18). Krauthammer also writes that President George Bush sought to liberate as well as bring democracy to Afghanistan and the Middle East Arab nations. Nevertheless, Afghanistan proved to be “too primitive to democratize and too fractured to unify” (Krauthammer 217) whereas the hard-won success in Iraq was frittered away by the administration of President Obama.  According to Krauthammer, Bush’s success, eventually, was that he kept us safe after 9/11, and at the same time established the entire anti-terror infrastructure that continues to keep us safe.

Krauthammer’s praise for Ronald Reagan, John Paul II, and Bush among other conservative leaders was matched by his censure for President Obama and largely the liberal view of the world. In the book, he argues that Obama was responsible for the US retreat from the Middle East, and the return of Russian influence in the region. He writes that under President Obama, Russia ran rings around America. Further, Krauthammer criticizes Obama’s reaction to Russian aggression in Ukraine, where President Obama lamented that a nation “can or should not try to dominate another nation” (Krauthammer 225). According to him, these were not sentiments of a free world leader explaining his foreign policy. Krauthammer also has some words for President Trump. As he decries what he refers to as Trump Derangement Syndrome on the left, he writes that Trump has undermined not only NATO but also the US, has extended deterrence, erroneously turned away from free trade, imprudently proclaimed the “America First” slogan and foolishly extended the support of the US to authoritarian nations across the world.

Krauthammer portrays ambivalence with conservatism, however, when he writes about social issues. As an example, in his article about Roe V. Wade, he explains that the case was wrongly decided and denounced late-term abortions. Nevertheless, it still supported the rights of abortion. In the book, also, Krauthammer supports individuals who believe in the sacredness of traditional marriage but again supports gay marriage.

Democracy

In the book, the author repeatedly suggests that in the current political system, no force prevents leaders or even the electorate from believing that the “self-evident”, as well as the topmost purpose of the government, should be to, say, achieve “social justice” or “make America great again.” That is not to say that these are unworthy goals; rather, it implies that for our system to endure, it is important for these goals to remain secondary to the primary principles of democratic self-government (Krauthammer para. 9-11). He argues that the alternative ideologies provide a predefined and unifying cause, which plays a greater role than the self. On the contrary, however, democracy is not a natural unifier. It allows, and also requires an individual to choose his/her own destiny: “Democracy is designed at its core to be spiritually empty, for it mandates means (elections, parliaments, and markets) but not ends” (Krauthammer 301). He goes on to state that democracy leaves life goals completely up to an individual. Totalitarianism on the other hand, decrees the purposes of life – it offers a sense of purpose and belonging. Even though liberal democracy defeated totalitarianism, it cannot replicate this attractive aspect of totalitarianism. Consequently, democracy can be described as once the “most free, most humane, most decent political system ever invented by man, and at the same time, the most banal” (Krauthammer 302). Dying in a search for democracy is much more ennobling than living it. Freedom, the extraordinary gift of democracy, therefore, is also a burden. It is difficult to define as well as pursue an individual’s own purpose and path in life particularly if you feel alone in that endeavor. As such, it is vital to have social bonds that bring us together in the common cause while at the same time maintaining the political structures that ensure that we have the liberty we need.

Nature of a Purposeful Life

In The Point of It All, Krauthammer shows that living a purposeful life entails living a life that you desire regardless of the obstacles that come your way. Krauthammer started his professional career in medicine. While in school, he suffered a crippling injury. Because of this injury, he was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. This disability, however, did not prevent him from living a wonderful life “full and complete with great loves and endeavors that make it worth living” (Krauthammer 329). In his final column of the Washington Post on June 8, 2018, which is found on page 329 of the book, Krauthammer writes that even though he is sad to leave, he leaves knowing that he lived the life he intended. Krauthammer also shows that living a purposeful life entails choosing what you love. His career as a writer, editor and columnist was a second career since he started out as a doctor. His wife, also, was initially a lawyer, but she decided that she did not love law and quit as well. Overall, therefore, everything is a choice, and nothing is inevitable. One should not be afraid to choose what they love.

Religion

The Point of It All also touches on the issue of religion. Notably, Krauthammer is scornful in his denunciation of the thoroughly secularized culture in America where religious believers, especially Christians, are treated as unsophisticated and uneducated. He talks about G.K Chesterton views on religion. Chesterton argued that tolerance is the virtual of individuals who are not believers of anything. In this case, Chesterton captured the upside of unbelief: where religion is trivialized, an individual is unlikely to find persecution. Krauthammer revises Chesterton words, noting that Tolerance is not merely “the virtual of individuals who do not believe in anything, it extends only to individuals who do not believe in anything” (Krauthammer 188). In another column dubbed “Leave Christmas Alone,” Krauthammer, who was a Jew, celebrates Christians and Christmas. Here, he states that he personally likes Christmas, and criticizes the attempts to de-Christianize Christmas.

Sports

Krauthammer portrays his love as well as an understanding of different kinds of sports in the book. He explains his experience as a baseball fan, describing the fallouts he had as well as the comebacks he managed. He became interested in the Montreal Expos, a team that he initially had no concern with until he found himself loving their game. In addition to baseball, Krauthammer also talks about chess. This is another game that Krauthammer loved, and this is portrayed in his description of his experiences with the game. He explains that chess had a lot of unexpected consequences, including the election of Kirsan Ilhyumzhinov in the Russian empire. Krauthammer is concerned about how Ilhyumzhinov ruled the people as if he was playing chess. Further, Krauthammer talks about golf, horse race, basketball and greatest players in these games such as LeBron James, Tiger Woods and Gary Kasparov. He hypothesizes that the pleasure of winning a game is less than the pain of losing it. By making this hypothesis, he clearly shows the reader how important various games are to the players, and how painful it is to lose. He also portrays his love for sports, as he might have perhaps experienced the same.

Family

In The Point of It All, the author portrays the family as an extremely vital unit in one’s life. He describes his son’s birth, emphasizing the challenges that he and his wife endured during this time to show that forming a family has some challenges, but the benefits outweigh the challenges. He explains that having a child makes you dream again, and it also makes your dreams utterly real. Krauthammer also beautifully describes his son, creating a vivid picture of a young Daniel Krauthammer in the reader’s mind. He also has some great, future imaginations of Daniel as a successful young man. The author also has a lot of praise for his wife, who according to him played the largest part in their son’s life. He writes: “What she does for him, of course, would not fit in a month’s worth of columns” (Krauthammer 3). In another article named “Beauty and Soul,” Krauthammer lets the reader know that he owed his award, achievement and entire career as a writer to his wife. It is because of his wife’s urging, encouragement, and support that they set off on the road that brought them to all that they achieved together. Overall, Krauthammer’s wife and son were the most important people in his life, and they are a portrayal of the value of the family unit.

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