Good morning, it’s Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, the opening of the Breeders’ Cup, run this year at Del Mar, which I consider the most beautiful racetrack in America. It’s also the day of the week when I reprise quotations intended to be uplifting or educational. Today’s comes from contemporary Southern writer Margaret Renkl, with an assist from Welsh-born writer George Herbert, who’s been dead nearly four centuries.
First, I’d point you to RCP’s front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. Today’s edition includes Ron Brownstein on the Virginia election returns (The Atlantic); Newt Gingrich on the broader trends reflected by Tuesday’s results (Fox News); and Susan Glasser on how both Joe Biden and Donald Trump took a beating on Election Day (The New Yorker). We also offer original material from our own reporters, columnists, and contributors, including the following:
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Virginia Shows That Abortion Absolutism Doesn’t Win. Jeanne Mancini cites exit polls indicating that the losing candidate’s messaging didn’t align with voters’ more nuanced views on the issue.
Bringing Ethics to Illinois’ Animal House. At RealClearPolicy, Brad Weisenstein highlights failed or weak efforts to make the legislative chamber’s inspector general more than a paper tiger.
Why Is the FAA Standing in the Way of Our 5G Future? Also at RCPolicy, Steven P. Bucci asserts that Federal Aviation Administration is using flawed research — and overstepping the FCC — to claim that 5G networks could interfere with certain aviation systems.
Germany’s Next Government Must Maintain NATO Commitments. At RealClearDefense, Daniel Kochis worries that the coalition of parties likely to take the reins will not prioritize treaty organization spending.
Secure Critical Supply Chains to Advance Decarbonization Goals. At RealClearEnergy, J. Peter Pham advocates bolstering trade ties that strengthen market interdependence.
Climate Showdown Need Not Be America’s Last Stand. Also at RCE, Heather Reams urges Glasgow negotiators to hold all carbon emitters to account, and fight for policies that foster what the U.S. does best — innovate.
My Vaccine Status Is My Business. At RealClearMarkets, Devon Westhill explains why he views vaccine mandates as the most totalitarian commands this country has seen since the days of eugenics-based forced sterilization.
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George Herbert was born in 1593 in Wales, one of 10 children in an influential Montgomeryshire family. His grandfather, a powerful politician and local chieftain, died within a month of his birth — and his father, a county sheriff and member of Parliament, passed away before he was 4. Although the boy would have male role models (including his oldest brother, Edward, and his godfather, John Donne), the strongest influence was his mother, Magdalen. She was an exceedingly capable matriarch who moved her family from Wales to her ancestral home in Shropshire, then to Oxford, and ultimately to a house at Charing Cross in London.
Like many modern parents, she gravitated to where her children could get a first-class education. George entered Westminster school around 1604 and Trinity College in Cambridge in 1609. Although his intention was to become a priest, his skill at public speaking and the pull of his father’s legacy sidetracked him for a time. He served briefly in Parliament before finding a sinecure as a rector in a rural church where he was much beloved. Herbert died before he turned 40.
So how does an American newspaper opinion writer “who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South” know about him? The answer, in general, is the same way any person of letters does: George Herbert left behind volumes of poetry described as “passionate, searching, and elegant.” The more specific answer is that when Margaret Renkl turned 60, a friend emailed her a passage from a George Herbert poem.
I’ll pick up the thread in her recent New York Times column in her own words: “The joking birthday cards that start coming at 40 were funny 20 years ago because they were so far from reality. Now they’re funny because they’re so true.”
One of them, she related, featured a photograph of plump women in swimsuits with the caption: “At your age, swimming can be dangerous. Lifeguards don’t try as hard.”
She said she laughed so hard her belly jiggled, “a feature of being 60 that troubles me only a little.” Then she related something personal and poignant. “This is just who I am now, a person who looks exactly like her late mother, despite far more exercise and a far healthier diet. Besides, I loved my mother, and I love seeing her again in every store window I pass.”
The friend who sent the George Herbert poem will also turn 60 this year, Renkl told her readers. The poem is titled “The Flower,” and the passage was this one:
Grief melts away
Like snow in May,
As if there were no such cold thing.
Who would have thought my shriveled heart
Could have recovered greenness?
“Who would have thought, indeed?” Renkl wrote. “But given enough time, we do go on, somehow. Like the stems and branches of springtime, our shriveled hearts can recover greenness, too. ‘And now in age I bud again,’ Herbert wrote, and so it is with us.”
And that’s our quote of the week.
Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics