Things That Matter
Charles Krauthammer
Contributed by Nina Calhoun
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.
Things that Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics is a wide-ranging demonstration of the breadth of Krauthammer’s interests as well as the fluency of his thinking, all of which are built on the fundamental idea that politics exists to make things that matter possible – love, friendship, art, science, chess, baseball, nature, and philosophy. Politics is an important platform for these real things. As such, if it goes wrong, these things that matter are destroyed. Some examples throughout the book illustrate this argument. In the article about Winston Churchill, Krauthammer states that the uniqueness of the 20th century lays in its politics and not science. This era invented the police state and the command economy, mass propaganda and mass mobilization, and mechanized murder and routinized terror. He describes all these as a catalog of political creativity. Overall, therefore, the 20th century was shaped by politics. The manner in which politics impacts virtually everything in the society is evident in Krauthammer’s article about the F-word. Here, he suggests that partisan politics is the source of much of the hate and division we see in the society. He talks about the criticism that Dick Cheney got when he used the F-word on the floor of the house, whereas Al Gore did not get the same criticism when he compared President Bush with Hitler and Stalin. In chapter 7: “Citizen and State”, Krauthammer compares political campaigns with fast food companies, who are aware that if they advertise the products of their opponents negatively, they ultimately drive consumers away from their industry. American political campaigns are characterized by the slandering of one’s opponent, resulting in a severe discrediting of the individual selected to be the state representative. Following this, one may not be surprised by people’s general distrust of politicians, and their government as well. Krauthammer’s constant criticism of Obama’s inability to lead the country, which is most relevant to today is another illustration of the effects of failure in politics (Lincicome para. 7). In the essay dubbed “Language and Leadership,” Krauthammer states that the Obama administration created softened, politically correct terms, e.g. “reduction in staff” as opposed to evacuation. He attacks Obama for utilizing the term “violent extremism” rather than “radical Islam,” claiming that the word “extremism” is meaningless. To demonstrate that Obama was soft and ambivalent on terrorism, Krauthammer quotes him saying, “This war, like all wars, must end,” and states that the result of this is a vacillating policy reeking of incoherence. The softness and ambivalence on terrorism yielded nothing, and the result of this was increased terror war. As such, Obama failed in his role to defend the country – things that matter.
The theme of science covers various areas such as childbirth, astronomy, bioethics and stem cells among others. Talking about childbirth, Krauthammer considers the natural way, which in the current world needs medical assistance to ensure that the baby survives (Krauthammer 68). Apart from that, various diseases existing in the world today have a place in the book with the concern of stem cells and embryonic research being the possible solutions to the issues. Nonetheless, bioethics is important when considering these solutions to ensure that the dignity of life remains preserved entirely (Krauthammer 137). He discusses the issue of assisted suicide and end of life issues, forms of science that affect many individuals around the globe. Astronomy is a somewhat an exciting topic as discussed in the book. Krauthammer talks about the Hayden’s and their discovery. Besides, he mentions the Hayden Planetarium found in New York, the real representation of the understanding man has on the universe (Krauthammer 91). The US involvement in astronomy is evident considering that the nation made the first trip to the moon. Additionally, scientists and astronomers have continued to explore the universe, making studies and trying to discover any habitable planets apart from earth.
The Supreme Court and the legislation of social controversies
Another recurring role throughout the book is that the Supreme Court should stay out of regulating cases related to social controversies. An example of these social controversies is affirmative action (Lincicome para. 6). “Ambiguity and Affirmative Action” in Chapter 7 provides a commentary on the general public support for the decision by the Supreme court to uphold affirmative action in 2003, which according to Krauthammer was a flawed one. In a more recent case, Fisher v. The University of Texas, the climate is similar. Krauthammer even goes to the point of deeming the Court’s stance on the issue as morally ambiguous as well as intellectually incoherent. He also lays out the social costs of such a policy – adverse impacts on race relations as well as an attack on the constitutional principle of equality. Nevertheless, the author discourages the expedient solution of court action on this matter and instead encourages adherence to the principle that national policies need to be decided by legislature and citizen vote. Further, Krauthammer provides insights into various laws such as capital punishment, gay rights and polygamy (Krauthammer 122). He considers the death penalty as cruel and undeserving, as it does not control crime and murder cases (Krauthammer 114). He also finds a way of defending gay marriage by saying that it can be through empathy or making it a right. This leaves no justification for the states to decide the way forward solely (Krauthammer 124).
Jewish Experience
Another theme is on the Jewish experience over the years. Initially, Jews existed in Europe in large numbers. However, the reign of Hitler drove them away considering the events of the Holocaust. During this period, many Jews lost their lives, marking the most significant crime committed on religious bases in history (Krauthammer 165). Today, the community spreads around the world, and the largest group exists in the US. Apart from the US, Jews are found in Israel, the only Jewish county on the planet. Nonetheless, most of the countries surrounding Israel still struggle to replace the Jewish community as they claim that the land belongs to Islamic communities. The neighbors include Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq among others, and peace in the region seems to be shaky for decades now (Krauthammer 177).
Patronizing, demeaning and discrimination women have for long been happening across the world. This is illustrated multiple times in the book. In “Women and Children? Still”, Krauthammer questions the grouping of women with children. He states that the usage of the phrase “women and children” is as common today as it was in 1912. As an example, Dateline Mexico reported that out of the members of a paramilitary group gunned down, the Indians, most of them were “women and children” (Krauthammer 36). Dateline Burundi, a newspaper, reported that as many as 200 civilians, most of them women and children, were killed (Krauthammer 36). These examples were taken almost at random from new newspapers. Grouping women and children is belittling due to various reasons. Children are entitled to special consideration due to their innocence and helplessness. They are granted special protection because they have not acquired either the wisdom of experience or the faculty of reason. The phrase “women and children” attributes to women the same moral simplicity and pitiable dependence that is found in children. However, extensive societal restructuring has taken place to grant women equality; hence they should not be grouped with children.
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