Fresh from her adoring portrait of death-penalty abolitionist Pope John Paul - in which she bemoaned the "dumbing down" of Catholic precepts - the irrepressible Peggy Noonan lashes out at the jurors who denied her the blood of Zacarias Moussaoui. In doing so, this God-drunk lamb shows off her ability to x-ray the souls of her fellow citizens, and reveals her essentially Nietzschean view of morality:
What we witnessed here was not the higher compassion but a dizzy failure of nerve....How removed from our base passions we've become. Or hope to seem.Compare Nietzsche in The Geneology of Morals:
It is as if we've become sophisticated beyond our intelligence, savvy beyond wisdom. Some might say we are showing a great and careful generosity, as befits a great nation. But maybe we're just, or also, rolling in our high-mindedness like a puppy in the grass. Maybe we are losing some crude old grit. Maybe it's not good we lose it.
What if a symptom of regression lurked in the “good,” likewise a danger, a seduction, a poison, a narcotic, through which the present lived at the expense of the future? Perhaps more comfortably, less dangerously, but at the same time in a meaner style, more basely?I must say, Noonan's deconstructive approach to moral excellence has me thinking very seriously about my marital vows. Am I faithful to my wife out of "the higher compassion," or was my unwillingness to get involved with that woman at the sushi restaurant merely a "dizzy failure of nerve"? Am I rolling in my high-mindedness like a puppy in the grass? Do I merely hope to seem removed from my base passions?
How can I prove to myself that my fidelity isn't vanity masquerading as rectitude? Only, I suppose, by consciously wallowing in the "crude old grit" of infidelity.
If anyone's interested in helping me along the Via Dolorosa that leads - I hope! - to Noonanesque spiritual authenticity, I'll be spending the weekend in Room 108 of the El Morocco, in Bakersfield, California. Knock three times. And for God's sake, bring a bottle of something.