The Right Coast

December 30, 2003
What would we do without the Times
By Tom Smith

You would think that with a whole Sunday magazine devoted to people who died in 2003, the Times could have found room for at least one soldier or marine who died in Iraq or Afghanistan. But no. There is an endlessly admiring obit of Serigo Vieira de Mello, the UN special envoy killed by a truck bomb some weeks ago in Bahgdad. After his death, the UN promptly pulled out. Am I missing something here, or is there something fundamentally useless about an organization that 'fights' for peace right up until the moment somebody gets killed? As to the people who are dying and not running away, the Times has nothing to say.

In fairness, I should say this week's magazine is well worth reading, with several fascinating profiles of people I had never heard of, such as Kemmons Wilson, the founder of Holiday Inn. For all that the Times (especially the Book Review) seems to have a requirement that authors try (and usually fail) to make some profound observation or other, this piece actually makes a good point: that the taming of the road trip for the American middle class, by providing clean, reliable accomodations on the road, made it psychologically much easier for baby boomers' kids to leave home for school and career.

But it also would not be the Times if it did not manage to include something that was at once stupid, pretentious, somewhat offensive and at least a little goofy. And the grey lady does not fail us. Allow me to quote from the description of the late Paul Moore, episcopal bishop and patrician do-gooder. With his death, the Times laments, "America lost one of its last dashingly handsome, abundantly sexual WASP crusaders for social justice." Don't they have editors at the Times? What is this supposed to mean? Abundantly sexual? I guess if you're a salesman, you're just horny, but if you're a bishop, you're "abundantly sexual"? I like the use of the churchy "abundantly." You could, I suppose, be "bountifully sexual," or even "bountiously sexual," but perhaps that should be reserved for a female partician WASP saint with a great figure. Pardon me for asking, but just how abundantly sexual was he? Did he bless his flock with his abundant sexuality and crusade for social justice at the same time? That would be something.

Maybe it's a Catholic thing. We have trouble thinking of our saints as, well, hot. But I guess the idea is to suggest that Bishop Moore is so far above all that holy stuff. He was a saint, but not a saint, if you, nudge nudge wink wink, know what I mean. I understand from looking at Albion's Seed, a great book, that the Puritans were, contrary to popular opinion, quite into sex, but it just really, really had to be within marriage. Maybe there's some Episcopalian thing I'm missing about liking Bishops to be studly. But I doubt it. I think the Times is just being its usual toadying, simpering self when it comes to the long-gone WASP ascendancy.
Update: Here's an interesting piece on Paul Moore and the Episcopal Church in the US.