As a lover of language and of fine writing, I have a deep appreciation for those who practice it as an art form and not simply a science, as I sometimes tend to do. Oh, I suppose those of us who are word "scientists" are needed just to protect the language for those who are gifted enough to practice the art...but I would love to have been born with their gifts.
Peggy Noonan is an artist.
But not only that...she is in a category of one as an observer of human nature, both individual and societal. When I observe her at her canvas, I never get the feeling that she is writing for a deadline or a word quota or even an audience. I always get the calming sense that she has picked up her pen only just in time to speak something profound that has crystallized moments ago, some growing perception that is only in this moment ready to be shared.
Today, the gracious lady that is Peggy Noonan has picked up her pen to call for a rebirth of grace in public life:
We're going to need grace. We are going to need a great outbreak of grace to navigate the next difficult months.
America is turning against a war it supported, for the essential reason that no one is able to promise a believable path to a successful outcome, and Americans are a practical people. It is not true that Americans are historical romantics. They are patriots who, once committed, commit on all levels, including emotionally. But they don't wake up in the morning looking for new flags to follow over old cliffs. They want to pay the mortgage, protect their children, and try to be better parents in a jittery time. They are not isolationist. They want to help where they can, and feel called to support the poor and the sick wherever they are. They are also, still, American exceptionalists, meaning they believe the creation of America--the long journey across the sea, the genius cluster that invented the republic, the historic codifying of freedom--was providential, and good news not only for us but the world. "And the glow from that fire can truly light the world."
And how many people who have the ear of those in highest power would be courageous enough to observe:
A very small theory, but my latest, is that many politicians and journalists lack a certain public grace because they spent their formative years in the American institution most likely to encourage base assumptions and coldness toward the foe. Yes, boarding school, and tony private schools in general. The last people with grace in America are poor Christians and religiously educated people of the middle class. The rich gave it up as an affectation long ago. Too bad, since they stayed in power.
Peggy's words in this piece are, characteristically, exquisitely beautiful. But today they also carry an exquisite anguish, a severe beauty that can only issue from one who deeply loves her country and deeply feels the ache of its slow bleed. I have a new appreciation today for her peerless wordcrafting. More importantly, my ear is paying closer attention to the subtle rumblings that Peggy Noonan always seem to hear before the rest of us.