Elshtain on war:
"On one of the many radio interview programs I participated in during the gulf war, I suggested that perhaps we Americans should be thinking about what happens to the very young children, some of them infants a few weeks old, whose mothers (some of whom are a child's only parent) are deployed to a war zone. This is a matter of simple justice and humanity, I argued. I was told in no uncertain terms by the other participant on the program, an officer in a major national women's rights organization, that I was 'reducing women to a uterus.' That is how low our political discourse in this matter has fallen."
"I think the great Hollywood directors did a much better job of dealing with [issues of war and violence] than the academy. You just can't do better than The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance or The Searchers. Someday I'm going to teach a course called 'Movies and the Moral Life.'"
"It is terrible when political or intellectual dissent is redescribed as a psychological problem: 'You make me uncomfortable.' When this happens in the classroom, it means that the teacher is evading her responsibility to help students grow up by by...[listening] to a disagreement without personalizing and psychologizing the encounter. If making someone feel uncomfortable is not permitted, then dissent and discussion are not permitted."
"Do you remember the scene in A Man for All Seasons, where Thomas More is in trouble with the king and has to walk home instead of being rowed in state up the Thames? His daughter runs out to meet him and plead with him to defy the law. He says something like, 'England is a thicket of laws. If they were uprooted we would be alone, standing in the wind. We would all be knocked flat.' That's such an important insight. In America, we see only the entanglement and want to be free of the thicket."
"The utopian tells us that once the struggle is over all will be well; problems either will have vanished in the blissful harmony of a perfect order or will somehow be solved without decisive conflict, with those dissatisfied at the outcome walking away. Democrats know better. Democracy is precisely an institutional, cultural, habitual way of acknowledging the pervasiveness of conflict and the fact that our loyalties are not one, our wills are not single, our opinions are not uniform, our ideals are not cut from the same cloth."
On trends in American politics:
"Everything private--from one's sexual practices to blaming one's parents for one's lack of self-esteem--becomes grist for the public mill....Everything public--from the grounds on which politicians are judged to health policies to gun regulation--is privatized and played out in a psychodrama on a grand scale...The complete collapse of a distinction between public and private is anathema to democratic thinking."
A prominent political theorist announced that he "couldn't work with anyone who has theistic commitments. I don't understand that attitude. The world is so complex and mysterious. What are they afraid of?"
"There's no doubt that a fetus is a human life by the sixth month. At that point the state has a compelling interest to move toward protecting it. I remember one woman saying she thou thought sonograms were a bad thing because they made women feel guiltier if they chose an abortion. I thought, it's good to feel guilty! It shows there's some moral sentiment still there."
"Even if the data showed that having two parents didn't matter all that much I would still feel obliged to say, 'There's still a problem here, saying that half of the human community can just walk away from children. Mothers and fathers are both called to raise children.' That's language we don't have much access to."
"What do young people want from us? One report I heard at a recent meeting described focus groups in which young people said they wanted four things: more guidance, more discipline, more involvement, and more God. The researcher seemed puzzled by that last item 'We're not sure what they're talking about here. Maybe it's something about meaning and spirituality' That's the way a lot of academics think. It's as if the young people had been speaking Urdu. I put up my hand and said, 'Maybe "God" means God.'"