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The Welcome Closing of the American Mind
Sometimes wisdom requires judgmentalism and intolerance.


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Kathryn Jean Lopez

Judgmentalism, because we have to know the difference between good and evil, the beautiful and the ugly. We owe it to ourselves and the people around us, the communities we are in. “Yes, prejudice is wrong; but a well-honed and hard-won habit of good judgment is a hallmark of moral and intellectual maturity.” Seek good judgment.

And, finally, intolerance, because:

Socrates was intolerant of the Sophists. Moses was intolerant of Pharaoh. Jesus was intolerant of the Pharisees. Frederick Douglass was intolerant of slavery. Blessed Rupert Mayer was intolerant of the Nazis. Blessed Mother Teresa was intolerant of abortion. Blessed Pope John Paul was intolerant of the culture of death. Intolerance can be a beautiful thing — you just need to know how to do it properly.

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This does not mean a refusal to listen. This does not mean you’re always right. But it is an affirmation that there is truth out there, within your grasp. With a little humility and confidence, and a rootedness in things eternal and historic and cultural, with friends and teachers along the way, you can keep building a culture that seeks more for itself than watching Snooki and playing hooky. Perhaps you’ve heard about our culture of adolescence. You can lead us into something else. You can actually be discerning adults.

You don’t have to say “Ave Maria,” you don’t have to be a believer, you don’t have to be a twentysomething graduate of a Catholic college in Florida, to consider that the good father may have left us all with a little gift this summer. Wisdom is not a college degree. It’s having some idea what to do with what we’ve been given, every morning and every evening and all times in between.

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.This column is available exclusively through United Media.



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