The Long View 2003-07-31: God's Idea of a Joke

Twenty years ago, I had a modem fried in a lightning strike too. I still keep surge suppressors on my internet connection. Shipping has gotten much faster since then however.

It is probably worth repeating every so often, that at the time, I found most of John's ideas about Iraq convincing. I now know better, but it is no fun arguing with the dead.

God's Idea of a Joke

You know how people at computer stores keep trying to sell you a surge suppressor for you modem? You should listen to those people. Last Tuesday, July 22, the modem for my Gateway computer was fried during a severe thunderstorm, even though the machine was off at the time.

I did not notice anything was wrong until the evening. Since the rest of the computer was undamaged, it was not until the next day that I acknowledged I had more than a software problem. Two trips to a parts store and an expensive tech call were needed before I learned the magic word was "low-profile modem." (For a variety of reasons, I could not use an external USB modem.) So, early Thursday morning, I went to Gateway's outlet in Manhattan. This store, I discovered, was like the cheese shop in the Monty Python sketch, the cheese shop that was the best in the district because it was uncontaminated by the presence of actual cheese. I had to order the component.

It's a long way to South Dakota, even with UPS delivery. When the new modem did arrive, it came with the wrong driver. When I found the correct driver online, I discovered that the computer I was using would not accept the download. Only today was I able to get my machine back online. That is why this update is short as well as late; my capacity to surf has been limited to the kindness of strangers. Well, they aren't actually strangers, but they don't want me hanging around their terminals more than I can help.

* * *

There have been other signs of divine disfavor here in downtown Jersey City. Agitators were about on Sunday, though I heard them rather than saw them. Against an ominous all-purpose rap background beat, they denounced the Bush Administration and such of its works as related to Iraq.

How strange it is to see any political activity here that is not directly connected to an election. Hudson County has a history of intense political engagement, but at the patronage and money-making level. Ideology has always been foreign to local retail politics. The closest we have come in recent years was the compassionate-conservative Republican mayor, Brett Schundler, who was permitted to amuse himself with the Manhattan Institute, provided that he kept property taxes low.

As for Sunday's agitators, they are audible evidence of the new polemical dogma that the Bush Administration lied about its WMD intelligence. As documentary and physical support for the Administration's position is publicized, it will be interesting to see whether the dogma is subject to falsification. I suspect not. The people who are keenest to believe they were lied to are also those least interested in the truth.

* * *

Speaking of rabbles of doubtful provenance, there was a report in the The New York Times of July 28 about a protest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Orange, New Jersey, occasioned by the appointment of a new pastor with a penchant for Latin. The pastor, Fr. John A Perricone, is an academic who is indeed involved with the Latin Mass movement, but he did not attempt to say one at Mount Carmel. He does use the odd Latin phrase in the English liturgy, however. Also, the protestors claimed he was using some of the old rubrics while saying the new Mass. They said he sometimes faced toward the altar with his back to the congregation, though the Times reporter, Daniel J. Wakin, was unable to verify that.

Perhaps some reader can cite an instance to me, but I cannot recall a case of public protest against the policies of a pastor with a traditional bent. Odder still is the suggestion the Times quotes from Fr. Thomas J. Reese of America: "If a new pastor is not sensitive to his people, they can experience whiplash, because they've gotten used to a certain way of being a parish." The history of the post-Vatican II reforms in the US was the story of new priests who quickly transformed their churches, often with studied contempt for how people had gotten used to a certain way of being a parish. They were rarely whipped, or even publicly reprimanded by their congregations, though the people in the pews were often as unhappy as wet hens.

Nothing that the new pastor at Mount Carmel is doing sounds very radical, but 30 or 40 people with signs (middle-aged locals, to judge by the newspaper photo) picketed the 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday. This effect was incommensurate with the apparent cause.

Copyright © 2003 by John J. Reilly

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