America • civic culture/friendship • Great America • Post • The Culture

Rural America, ‘Romanticism,’ and Open Minds

ACCIDENT, Maryland—Hours before the festivities began, generations of families were lining up along U.S. Route 219, which is Main Street in this Garrett County town. Armed with coolers of ice, folding chairs and old blankets, and dressed in colorful patriotic clothing, they came to watch the 100-year-old homecoming parade that celebrates their community and the bold beginning of our independence.

Anticipation, that sweet pang of excitement and eagerness that’s becoming less common in an age of instant gratification, was tangible as nostalgia swept the old and novelty thrilled the young.

A meaningful silence filled the crowd as the American Legion color guard of veterans spanning World War II to today’s conflicts crested Route 219 and made their way along Main Street. A wave of applause and salutes greeted the men who made the sacrifice to serve their country in their youth and then their community in their maturity.

Following them were scores of floats, fire equipment, local bands, scout troops, church groups, the Rotary Club, beauty pageant winners, plenty of livestock and the all-important volunteers, who tossed out penny candy to the gleeful young children.

Accident, Maryland, is not much different from many small towns that dot our countryside. It’s got an odd name (yes, based on an accident), great trout fishing along the creek named after a bear, and just enough small businesses to provide a family’s essentials (plus any sweet tooth, pizza craving or appetite for fresh, locally made cheese).

This isn’t the story of rural life you’ll read in much of the media. “I spent a lot of my vacation driving around rural areas, through NC, KY, and TN,” tweeted blogger Dave Roberts. “My impression: horrible land use, bland, ticky-tacky strip-mall architecture, & economic decay. I feel compassion for those people but I have zero time for romanticism about US rural life.”

But Mike Koch and Pablo Solanet don’t romanticize about their lives in Accident. The married couple are Washington, D.C., expats. Koch worked in housing finance for 22 years, and Solanet was a sought-after Argentine trained chef. They gradually eased out of Beltway life beginning in 2002, permanently departing a few years ago.

FireFly Farms, their bustling cheese business, is lined with paradegoers on the day of the homecoming. Despite their exquisite, locally made goat cheeses appearing on the coveted shelves of Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Zabar’s and served in dishes in some of the finest restaurants in New York and Washington, the men remain grounded and committed to their rural enterprise.

Koch said: “When we first started the business, Pablo was the original cheesemaker, the original herd manager. He really put his heart and soul, while I continued to work because, as you probably know, starting a farm-based business, the money just doesn’t roll in. So, it was necessary to make sure we could sustain ourselves.”

They are also deeply committed to their rural community.

Koch said: “On election night 2016, we stopped watching the national news, and Pablo and I made the decision to focus on our community: Do we know the county commissioners? Do we go to the chamber of commerce annual membership dinner? Do we know about what’s hot in Garrett County politics and what people would like to see in terms of improvements in recycling? Do we know Mayor Carlson of Accident, Maryland? Do we know Ruth Ann who runs town hall?”

That additional investment in community (outside of working with six local farms for their fresh goat milk and employing over 20 locals) has been, in a word, remarkable.

Koch dismisses the typical stereotypes hurled at rural people, saying: “It’s no secret that Pablo and I are married and we’re gay. It’s never brought up. What they care about is: Are you contributing to the community? Are you creating jobs? Are you behaving like a responsible citizen? And the red/blue stuff? Well, people don’t obsess about that in the way society assumes they do.”

With the exception of a few years in Florida, Glen Maust has called Accident home. The hardworking entrepreneur who has both a construction company and a 25-unit apartment building fulfilled a dream last year when he opened the Rolling Pin Bakery with his wife.

On doughnut day, which is three days a week, the aroma tempts the pedestrians to dive into the baker’s family legacy; she is Mennonite and is using the same recipe her grandmother taught her as a child. There are also sandwiches, cookies, muffins and anything else you need to satisfy a sugary craving.

The father of six, Maust employs 15 locals including his son. He knows the challenges of rural life and embraces them: “Our town has had its up and downs, but we are definitely a prosperous, growing little town, but not so much that we’re not in danger of getting a Walmart anytime soon.”

It is a pretty open-minded town, said Maust: “I would say that we still would be a fairly conservative town, and most conservatives are open-minded. Certainly some aren’t, but then there’s some liberals that are so open-minded that their brains fall out.”

“I think maybe the town of Accident is kind of a happy medium,” he said.


Photo credit: Getty Images

America • Americanism • civic culture/friendship • Post • The Culture • the family

The End of Watch Call

Jesus said, “Blessed are those pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

Our country is filled with unheralded heroes. Those that don’t seek self-promotion or use bombast to be recognized. Their hearts are only pointed to serving others. They work for our good and for God, not seeking fame, but to serve.

Many of our firefighters fit this model. They mostly serve as volunteers in local fire departments. They don’t get paid to serve, they just show up. They are the men and women who rush into burning buildings to bring people to safety. Their joy is in saving and not gaining.

When they pass into our Lord’s hands, they are given an “End of Watch” call—a broadcast over the airwaves to announce that their service and time is complete. The fire volunteers upon hearing this call offer them a moment of silence. It is a moving gesture of recognition.

Louis “Lou” Aroneo was on one of those men. He died this July and received his “End of Watch” call from the Stirling, New Jersey Fire Department. But Lou is more than just an individual who received a last call. He represented what makes America a special place. In his life he represented a way to live life. A way our forefathers taught us. A way that included honor, respect, duty and service. Lou didn’t curse the darkness, but instead chose to light candles.

Lou had no special privileges in life. He wasn’t a star athlete or a famed entertainer or even a noted politician. He was part of the tapestry of men and women known as first responders. Lou didn’t go to Harvard or Yale; he went to a local college and became an engineer.

While some will seek fame through rancor, Lou sought kindness. While some sought self-promotion, Lou sought to serve. Some seek to tear down, Lou sought to build up.

He had a wife and raised his children in a small town in New Jersey. He passed on to our Lord with a very ordinary resume. A simple life on paper, but a rich life in the hearts of the people he helped and served.

Even though he received a medal of honor for rushing into a burning building to rescue a wheelchair-bound individual, there will be no movie made about his exploits. Even though he raised his children to honor and respect others, no book will be written about his excellence. Lou lived his life the right way. A uniquely American way.

I take it upon myself to declare Lou a hero. Because he lived the way we all should live, with a quiet faith and desire to do good. Lou’s life compass was pointed to doing what was right and without compromise. Noting that perhaps we as Americans we should strive harder to recognize these people as the heroes. We should read about them more or see them on television. Perhaps knowing more about these heroes will soften the drums of discord.

Lou would be the first to point out he wasn’t special, he knew many others who lived the same life. And he would have been right, many others do. Our country needs these standard bearers of commitment and service. They are the ones who are there in times of disaster. Lou and his fire company stood on the shores of New Jersey during 9/11 to help. They stood in line waiting to help those devastated by Superstorm Sandy. They are the ones carrying children late at night from a house fire. They are the ones who are first on the scene of a terrible car wreck. They are the first eyes you see when you need to be rescued. They work, while we sleep. They are American first responders. They serve because they are supposed to serve.

I only wish that I knew Lou before I completed my latest book, Your Faith Has Made You Well. He would have been a terrific character to stand beside the dozens of other ordinary heroes, who are portrayed. As Christians we can never have enough heroes of faith. Lou stood tall among them.

As a country we need heroes like Lou. These are the people who don’t use social media to bring them fame through bombast. They don’t like to jockey for position to get what they want. These heroes seek only to help.

Every day we see these unnoticed heroes in our midst. They walk in supermarkets, hotel lobbies, or along crowded streets. They have blended in to live their lives without notice.

Look hard though and you will see them walking among us. They hold doors for others. They stop and pick up litter. They speak kindly to others. They have faces that show their integrity. They help parents overloaded with groceries. They are with us every day.

Lou passed on to our Lord on July 3. He had a funeral procession that included nine ladder trucks decorated with American flags and a long waiting line of people giving their last respects. Lou didn’t pass on with millions in the bank or with lasting notoriety. He passed with a more blessed legacy, a peaceful assurance that he would reside with his Lord from living an honorable life. While maybe not recognized fully by the world, it certainly was recognized where he is today, with his Lord for eternity. America needs more heroes like Lou.

Lou did get his last call. A time honored tradition for firefighters. He was the Chief of Stirling’s fire department and was sent off to be with God, having served humankind with honor. Many other first responders will go after him and they as well will receive the last call. Their special moment when the dispatcher says: “End of watch call! You have completed your mission here and been a good friend to all. Now it is time to rest. Thank you for your service.”

Photo Credit: iStock/Getty Images

America • civic culture/friendship • Donald Trump • Elections • Free Speech • Identity Politics • Post • race • The Culture • The Left

Wokescolds Won’t Let Us Knit in Peace

The ways of the “woke” have seeped into every part of American life. No activity or outlet is safe. Even my beloved crafting community is no longer immune. Suddenly, knitters and crocheters need to “examine their privilege.”

For months, I’ve been unfollowing wokescolds on Instagram who, in their earnest desire to awaken me to the apparent and horrendous lack of “inclusion” in the fiber world, have made me question the hobby’s utility as escapism. 

Tin Can Knits is perhaps one of the larger, and most egregious, companies to jump on the wokewagon. Concerned about the lack of BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) used as models in their photographs of finished pattern projects or their inclusion in your local crafting circle, they felt the need to out themselves as unconscious oppressors and ask for contrition from the Woke crowd. 

In a February 28 blog post, the company issued this statement: 

We are sorry that our Instagram feed and our publications have, overwhelmingly, reinforced white norms of beauty, instead of challenging them. We are sorry that we personally have been ignorant and not educated ourselves beyond a superficial level on issues of racism, nor considered our white privilege critically.

Apparently, white privilege is a knitted toboggan. Among the resources recommended for overcoming this scourge is White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, which, these newly awakened grannies tell us, will allow whites to “overcome your discomfort around speaking about race,” a crucial first step in managing the tricky intersection of knits and purls. 

For a more recent example that is not surprising yet has caused a great deal of controversy, Ravelry issued this statement on its website on Sunday: 

New policy, effective immediately

We are banning support of Donald Trump and his administration on Ravelry. We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. Support of the Trump administration is unambiguously support for white supremacy. For more details, read this document:

In this statement, the editors at Ravelry have decided that “[y]ou can still participate if you do in fact support the administration, you just can’t talk about it here.” But be careful. You may be banned if you “support in the form of forum posts, projects, patterns, profiles, and all other content.” 

And what can you do to rid Ravelry of all mention of President Trump? 

You can help by flagging any of the following items if they constitute support for Trump or his administration:

Projects: Unacceptable projects will be provided to the member or made invisible to others.

Patterns: Unacceptable patterns will be returned to drafts.

Forum posts: right now, only posts written after Sunday, June 23rd at 8 AM Eastern

That’s right, fellow knitters! Become a snitch!

This is censorship. Ravelry, once filled with amazing and creative people, has now become an enforcer of leftist groupthink. They are weaponizing their members to report fellow members. Members, no doubt, will be seeking out profiles and turning in conservatives and Republicans when the ability to flag member profiles is up and running. 

While no one questions the right of the editors and their members to adhere to an Anti-Trump point of view,  Ravelry should take care when making a public announcement that amounts to a clear statement intended to squash free speech. Yet many organizations today are making similar statements and, rarely (if ever), are they challenged. 

In response to this heavy-handed scorn, Republican and conservative knitters are flocking to Love Knitting (part of Love Crafts) and Humble Acres Yarn’s new app. The app, less than a month old, promises no political discussions, and all are welcome. Humble Acres still supports Ravelry as a business and, until this episode, they’ve always had a good business model. But Humble Acres’ openness and (heh!) humility is refreshing. We don’t have to agree on political, social, or cultural issues to come together over our mutual interest in and love for all things yarn. 

As more indie dyers and others join Ravelry’s call for intolerance and hate against Trump supporters and conservatives, we will keep searching for an alternative. Knitters like me just want to find great patterns and chat with like-minded yarn lovers . . .  about yarn! 

Ravelry’s policy “inspiration” came from the gaming world’s “,” which implemented a similar ban. The language is virtually the same. 

1. We are banning support of the administration of President Trump. You can still post on even if you do in fact support the administration—you just can’t talk about it here.

2. We are absolutely not endorsing the Democrats nor are we banning all Republicans.

3. We are certainly not banning conservative politics, or anything on the spectrum of reasonable political viewpoints. We assert that hate groups and intolerance are categorically different from other types of political positions, and that confusing the two legitimizes bigotry and hatred.

4. We are not going to have a purge — we will not be banning people for past support. Though if your profile picture is yourself in a MAGA hat, this might be a good time to change it.

5. We will not permit witch-hunts, progressive loyalty-testing, or attempting to bait another into admitting support for President Trump in order to get them banned. The mod staff will deal harshly with attempts to weaponize this policy.

6. It is not open season on conservatives, and revenge fantasies against Trump and Trump supporters are still against the rules.

Sorry, gamers. But your escapist world is also a place where Trump supporters are not allowed. Note that you cannot have an avatar with MAGA on it. 

Needless to say, companies wearing political commentary on their sleeves, had better stick to the armbands provided by the totalitarian Left.

Recently, Daisy Cottage Quilting stated her pro-life stance on Instagram. One commenter told her to “stay in your lane” and stick to quilting before unfollowing her and she still receives hate mail almost three weeks after the incident. 

Wokescolds will make you miserable until you give in or slink away. Then they sit back smugly and congratulate themselves for their ability to silence dissent. Standing up to them takes guts these days because you will be vilified and slammed at every opportunity. Gibson’s Bakery in Oberlin, Ohio proved it can be done. 

I hate, truly hate, that politics has leached into every part of society. I knit and quilt and sew. I do these things for fun, enjoyment, and escape from the outside world. Now politics have invaded my crafting world and it makes me sad and angry. Can’t we just knit and enjoy each other’s company?

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

America • civic culture/friendship • Education • Identity Politics • Post • Progressivism • self-government • The Culture

K-12 Education Has Become Progressive Sunday School

As an adolescent, just beginning my education as a Catholic, I had Catechism classes. There, for usually an hour, we learned some of the basic tenets of the Roman Catholic faith. In other denominations, this is known as Sunday School. I suppose the true purpose of Sunday School is edification and the equipping of the pupils with a solid foundation in religious faith. Progressive Liberals have their own Sunday School. Of course, given that they tout a Trojan Horse religion, they get away with not calling it what it is.

As a teacher and a former public school student, I have become intimately acquainted with the inner workings of the Progressive Liberal Sunday School catechizing the youth of America. Over 50 million young people attend the public schools every year where—to an overwhelming extent—their minds are prepared to accept and think uncritically about basic Progressive Liberal doctrines by the priests and priestesses who teach their classes.

Within the schools that teach the teachers, Social Sciences—which the university Schools of Education fall under—registered Democrats outnumber Republican Professors by a margin of over 10 to 1. Even in my Jesuit School of Education, we were heavy on social justice but weak on the classical canon of literature; we went deep into the all-powerful influence of racism, sexism, class and other bigoted isms as applied to education, but we hardly ever talked about the Western tradition of liberty, the pursuit of truth, and the search for the sublime.

It should come as no surprise that K-12 teachers in America adhere overwhelmingly to the Progressive Liberal faith. Verdant Labs, using Federal Election Commission data showing the professions of those who contribute to political campaigns, created some educated guesses about how Republican or Democratic certain professions are. The data on my profession, teaching, was unsurprising. There are 79 Democrats in the teaching profession for every 21 Republicans. At the high school level there are 87 Democrats for every 13 Republicans. And in elementary schools there are 85 Democrats for every 15 Republicans.

The Unions, to which almost all teachers belong, give overwhelmingly to Democrats. Since 1990, the K-12 teacher unions gave close to 80 million dollars to Democrats; they gave only 3.4 million of those dollars to Republicans. 95 percent of their donations have gone to Democrats. This puts traditionalists like myself in a tight bind. My dues help bargain for the salary that allows me to be a part of the middle class; but the organization is a far-left outfit that pushes a social agenda that is antithetical to my own personal beliefs.

I saw firsthand the workings of the union at the State Representatives Assembly I attended several years ago. We spent a good amount of time discussing salaries, working conditions, and so on, but the floor was also open for numerous resolutions. Among them were resolutions about equity (a Progressive Liberal code for forced equality of outcome), ethnic studies (any culture except traditional European, Jewish, or Christian cultures in practice), celebrating the “Black Lives Matter” movement (no motions about Blue Lives—including Black Blue Lives were brought up), a resolution about “toxic masculinity” (despite the fact our most problematic students tend to have NO masculinity in the house) and a resolution against teachers being armed in class. Essentially, it was a hit parade of the Progressive Liberal professions of faith.

The Sunday School works quite simply. Students are exposed to a Progressive Liberal curriculum by a teaching staff who are constantly honing their skills to be at the cutting edge of Progressive Liberal doctrines as they develop. The job of the curriculum, which Progressive Liberal instructors posing as “experts” select, is to prepare the ground for them to explain and inculcate Progressive dogmas into the minds of children.    

Textbooks are often where this starts. What does that look like in practice? Take an Advanced Placement U.S .History textbook called The American Pageant. This is a popular textbook that tens of thousands of the 500,000 students who take the AP U.S. History test use to prepare for the exam. In the words of Burt Folsom, an economic historian and emeritus professor at Hillsdale College, the textbook teaches “flawed ideas…that mislead students into thinking that the United States is fundamentally corrupt, and that the world is often worse off because America exists and has so much global influence.” In the textbooks which we use, certain words are used as slurs. This isn’t shocking. They are written by a professoriate which I earlier mentioned has 10 liberals for every 1 conservative—and social conservatives are often even less represented. Words like “conservative,” “Christian,” “male,” “patriarch,” “white,” “European,” “rural,” “older,” and “religious,” are used almost exclusively in negative contexts.

What is the outcome of immersing students in these ideas? Can we trust K-12 educators to present them objectively and fairly when they skew so heavily to the Left?

While students are fed a steady diet of Progressive Liberal dogmas and content, teachers are subject to a steady stream of re-education meant to indoctrinate them further and further into the Progressive Religion. Where practicing Christians have Bible studies to refresh their minds and re-enter the study of Scripture, K-12 teachers have Teacher Training to refresh the basics. For example, while I was researching this Chapter, I got an email from my Union offering a free course called: “Implicit Bias and Microaggressions: Race, LGBTQ, Ability and Intersectionality.” I get invitations to these sorts of courses at least once a month in my personal and school email.

This course, which probably involved paying the presenters several thousand dollars, begins “with an overview of implicit bias and microaggression as it applies to race in the classroom and the workplace. A special emphasis on how implicit bias and microaggressions can impact the success of students regardless of the positive intent of adults or other students.”

What is an example of a microaggression? Asking a student where he is from.

The apparatus for teaching Progressive Faith Dogmas is well funded and extensive. That Far Left Institution for Propagating and Defending this Social Justice Faith—also called the Southern Poverty Law Center—has an endowment of over four hundred million dollars.  One of the programs they run is called “Teaching Tolerance.” The lessons that this group produces are used in thousands of American public schools in front of hundreds of thousands of American students, every single year.

Teaching Tolerance has numerous other lessons pushing the Progressive Liberal religion and do all of the things .Progressive Liberalism needs to exist as a faith. For example, deconstructing the past (e.g.,  Teaching Tolerance’s lesson that excoriates Dr. Seuss as a racist), breeding racial resentment (e.g., Teaching Tolerance’s lesson on the poisonous concept of “white privilege”), pushing open borders (e.g., Teaching Tolerance’s lesson on Islam which paints anyone opposed to migration as a xenophobe), calling for higher taxes on Americans as a form of environmentalist reparations (through its lesson on how class relates to carbon emissions).

The largest teachers union, the National Education Association, itself has a list of similar “social justice” lesson plans intended to do to students the same thing Teaching Tolerance aims to do.

Every parent and taxpayer who is a traditionalist unwittingly supports this system as they fork over property taxes to pay for the educations of their own children or the children of their community, the faith of the family is denigrated.

If you think that an hour of Church every Sunday or the occasional patriotic celebration like the 4th of July is enough to immunize your children from the tidal wave of cultural liberalism they are subjected to on a daily basis, you are either negligent or sorely naïve. We can see the results of this so clearly and yet social conservatives wonder why they keep losing the culture war and are pushed further and further to the margins.

We are losing our country because the Progressive Left has captured the institutions which they know are crucial for destroying the Judeo-Christian foundations of this civilization. While Bible reading is banned as mixing Religion with the State, no such ban applies to any of the pseudo-religious texts which constitute the “Holy Scriptures” of Progressive Religion. Gallup documents the changes since 2001; and they are striking. In 2001, 45 percent of Americans believed having a child outside of the context of marriage was acceptable. In 2018, the number was over 61 percent. In 2001, 59 percent of Americans thought divorce was morally acceptable; in 2018 the number was 71 percent. In 2001, 49 percent of Americans thought doctor-assisted suicide was acceptable; in 2018 it was 56 percent. Indeed, it will probably only be a matter of time before for support for other forms of sexual “liberty” become more and more popular. The culture is moving from Traditional faith due to the Progressive Sunday School system: polygamy, bestiality, bigamy, prostitution, perhaps even pedophilia have the potential to be mainstreamed into a culture being torn out from the roots up.

The Trojan Horse is at the gates. And the faithful are caught unawares.

Photo credit: Getty Images/ Stock photo

America • civic culture/friendship • Post • The Courts

It Can Take a Foreigner to Teach Us the American Dream

NORTH VERSAILLES, Penn.—Starr DeJesus admits she learned a lot about both the generosity of the American people and her own potential from an immigrant who spoke to her civics class.

“I didn’t know it was just an America thing to tip servers,” the high school senior and part-time Denny’s server said. “We rarely emphasize the good things about our culture. The only things you ever hear about on social media are complaints or criticisms.”

DeJesus said she also didn’t consider how much it is within her own power to earn more money. “You gotta push,” she said. “Some people you really have to impress and wow to get that tip. If you do the bare minimum, they’re not going to care and they’re going to disregard you. But, me personally, I try my best every day. That’s why I have a lot of regulars, and I’m able to earn so much money being this young. But it is a lesson I will take with me to college and eventually my career.”

The larger lesson she and 100 or so other high school students here at East Allegheny High School learned was something they sheepishly admitted afterward that they had taken for granted: how lucky they are to be born in America.

Nick Adams, the immigrant from Australia who spoke to the students, appreciates this in a way a native may never truly understand.

When Adams was a boy, an American doctor, who happened to be interning in Australia, successfully diagnosed the rare cancer he had. Adams points to that moment as evidence of American exceptionalism.

He has since dedicated his life to reminding young people through his nonprofit, the Foundation for Liberty & American Greatness, of all the aspects that make this country truly unique. On this blustery spring day, he was in the Mon Valley discussing with these students why they should remember America’s greatness.

The students were riveted by Adams’ perspective. His questions engaged them and challenged them on the benefits of their citizenship, which he equates to winning the lottery.

“OK, so in my hand I have a coin,” he says. “I want to ask you, there are three things inscribed on every coin in U.S. currency and printed on every dollar bill of every denomination in American currency. Who can tell me what those three things are?”

The students provide the answers: “In God we trust,” “e pluribus unum” and “liberty.”

“I like to call it the American trinity,” Adams says. “Some of you might have heard the holy Trinity. I like to call it the American trinity. Those three things make America a unique place. Some countries have one of those things. Some countries have two of those things. But no other country in the world has the unique blend of each of those three different things. Liberty, e pluribus unum, and in God we trust.”

East Allegheny High School is an ordinary high school campus located in a tidy middle-class neighborhood that has seen better days economically. It is nonetheless surrounded by modest homes whose owners clearly take great pride in their appearance.

It is a town that has not succumbed to the hollowed-out blight common among river towns in the Rust Belt. But the shrinking population has led to a smaller school district: There are 724 students seventh through 12th grade. The student body is 57 percent white and 30 percent black.

Fifty-seven percent of the 2018 graduates went to a four-year college. Thirty-eight percent went to community college. Three percent went to a trade school. And 1 percent joined the Army.

Marissa Riggs, a senior from the nearby borough of Wilmerding, was told by her honors history teacher to come to the presentation. “Honestly I am glad it was compulsory,” she said. “I really learned a lot.”

“I thought Mr. Adams was really inspiring. He reminded us powerful things we sometimes take for granted, such as we are a government of the people, not a people of the government,” she said, adding, “I think we’re a little bit too spoiled and entitled sometimes in our thinking.”

Perhaps learning, like everything else in our daily lives, is too laced with politics, and simply delivering the details to students in a compelling way can help make understanding all of history, good and bad, a lot more meaningful.

Photo Credit: Getty Images


America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • civic culture/friendship • Declaration of Independence • Identity Politics • Lincoln • Post • race • The Culture

Reparations and Diversity Are Not the Path to Equality

The revival of reparations talk signals an opportunity for a serious discussion of the revival of republican self-government or strong citizenship. Instead, we get the blithe attitudes of Democrats and the grumbling about handouts from Republicans which signal the bipartisan lack of seriousness—a deficiency also characterizing disputes over immigration and “diversity.”

The best opportunity for a serious discussion took place at Georgetown University, which had been shocked to discover the 1838 sale of 272 slaves who were owned by its predecessor, Georgetown College. Genealogists were able to track down some current descendants of those who were sold to Southern plantations in Louisiana and elsewhere. Records remain of the contemporary debate over the sales and accounts of the dividing of families

So here was a clear case of some physical connection between a wrongful deed and a living person with some connection to it. But the key question remains, what should Jesuit-founded Georgetown University (or those who benefitted from the slave sale, including the debtors that Georgetown paid off from the slave sales) do today? It’s too easy for current students to vote for a modest student fee (often paid for by parents in any case) to benefit someone or another. A tougher question is whether there should be a surtax on current Georgetown Jesuits, the faculty, and staff. Cognizant of the ties of common faith as well as a common institution, Georgetown’s Catholics may feel particular obligations, which would appropriately have included prayers and fasting. Still, the question remains of what obligations the present has concerning past misdeeds.

Current immigrants may scoff at the notion that they are financially or morally obligated to make amends for the wickedness of slavery, an institution that was abolished 150 years ago and long before the arrival of their families. In this they follow the lead of other Americans, who make the same sensible objection: It’s not right to be generous with other people’s money and deprive people of goods in order to bestow them on others you would prefer to see prosper.

If we look to Abraham Lincoln for guidance, however, we will find both the most acute American critic of reparations and its most staunch advocate. What can this mean? Despite his hatred of slavery, his argument against the institution was rooted in constitutional doctrine—which is why he insisted that his wartime Emancipation Proclamation did not free any slaves in Union-held territory but only those in rebel-held ground. Moreover, rejecting slavery is in accord with those who defend property rights today: “this argument of [Stephen Douglas] is the same old serpent that says you work and I eat….”

Or, to put it somewhat differently, “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is not democracy.” The 13th Amendment was the fulfillment of Lincoln’s Civil War statesmanship:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. 

The dramatic change for America was not only in a shift in domestic law and not only in putting an end to the category of slaves, but it was also in abolishing the category of masters and as well upending the relationship between states and the federal government concerning the freemen. But the amendment also respected the separation of powers and required Congress to act—there was no special empowerment of the president or of the Supreme Court.

Thus, Lincoln’s constitutional argument also advanced a moral understanding of the Civil War, stated most succinctly in the Gettysburg Address and above all in the Second Inaugural with its astounding appeal to the conscience of the re-United States: “With malice toward none; with charity for all,” following a conflict that devastated the country and would transform the South. “Reparations,” in this sense, would need to be made to all who suffered in the war. The purpose of the war he had seen thus:

This is essentially a People’s contest. On the side of the Union, it is a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men—to lift artificial weights from all shoulders—to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all—to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life. Yielding to partial, and temporary departures, from necessity, this is the leading object of the government for whose existence we contend.

Joining a nation is not like buying a club membership. The bonds are stronger. Its debts become those of the member’s. Each assumes the glory and the folly of the nation’s past.

In all this, the protection of the rights to property, as James Madison had emphasized at the founding, would be more important than ever. But property could no longer be held in slaves. A sensible Reconstruction policy would have assured the protection of the natural rights of freedmen and the abolition of the master class in the South. Neither took place.

Lincoln’s statesmanship was missing, and though President Grant strived to expand property rights protections for all, he was thwarted in his noble effort. The nation did not fulfill James Madison’s founding premiseas a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.” Without proper protection of property rights in their full and comprehensive sense, republican self-government is illusory. The party of “you work, I eat” remained in power, though morphing to cope with new political realities and to appeal to those it once argued should be enslaved, eventually becoming the administrative state that now rules the country.

That party in its early and later Progressive forms would then recruit immigrants into their cause. The immigrants came for work, but they stayed for more, often expressing gratitude for their new home. The ethnic diversity of immigrants, in country of origin, mores, and religion, reflected the Declaration’s equality of natural rights. But there was also a disturbing lack of concern for the suitability of immigrants for republican government, given immigrants’ past under old-world tyrannies. Nonetheless, the earlier, patriotic Progressivism along with the practical effects of time for assimilation led to their recruitment into its framework.

Today, the anti-American Progressivism of the administrative state has fostered the notion of privilege for an expanded array of allegedly oppressed groups—racial and ethnic, feminist, and now sexual. The Claremont Institute has recently published symposia on multiculturalism in its Claremont Review of Books and American Mind online magazine.

David Azerrad succinctly argues “Identity politics should be rejected not because it demands justice for those who have been unjustly treated, but because it poses a threat to republican self-government by corroding patriotic ties, fostering hatred, promoting cultural separatism, and demanding special treatment rather than equality under the law.” This is not healthy pride but aristocratic arrogance.

While each of these new identity groups needs to be understood in its particular demands on American republicanism, they all need to be distinguished from connection to the tyranny of slavery and the contemporary denunciations of “white privilege.” Briefly, the American descendants of slaves should be confident in their equality of rights and not remain in debt. Any gratitude they feel should be to the founders and to those who would perpetuate the constitutional order that finally recognized—even at the cost of some 600,000 American deaths—its obligations to them as fellow citizens.  

Alexis de Tocqueville has a useful insight here about Americans being Good Samaritans, though obviously limited in the amount of aid they will offer (Democracy in America, Volume II, Part3, chapter 4). Such limitations are not based on stinginess, however, but instead on the assumption that help given without limitation would be a sign of disrespect for the unfortunate’s ability to live freely and independently.. We today lack the restraint of Tocqueville’s earlier Americans who lived out an ethic of equality that recognized the equal human dignity of the poor and others suffering misfortune demanded treating them as persons capable of living independently.

Thus, the privilege talk, with its reminder of aristocracy, rankles our republican spirit. What the American Republic faces is that “old serpent,” in a new form, oligarchy, a form of personal privilege bestowed on oneself based on one’s origins.

For the study of multiculturalism, one should add to the Claremont Institute publications the “Symposium on American National Character” in the latest issue of Perspectives on Political Science. William B. Allen offers a refreshing bon mot, “a people who cannot lift their own heads cannot lift up their nation.” Or, as a recent president put it, “through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.”

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America • Big Media • civic culture/friendship • Cultural Marxism • Donald Trump • Identity Politics • Israel • Post • Religion and Society

Why Most Jews Aren’t Bothered by the Times’ Anti-Semitic Cartoon

Last week, The New York Times published a cartoon so anti-Semitic that Bret Stephens wrote in his Times column that it was “an image that, in another age, might have been published in the pages of Der Stürmer.” Der Stürmer was the Nazis’ major anti-Semitic newspaper.

A Times columnist charging the Times with publishing a Nazi-like cartoon is quite a moment in American publishing history.

For those who haven’t seen the cartoon, here is Stephens’ description:

The Jew in the form of a dog. The small but wily Jew leading the dumb and trusting American. The hated Trump being Judaized with a skullcap. The nominal servant acting as the true master. The cartoon checked so many anti-Semitic boxes that the only thing missing was a dollar sign.

The dog leading Trump had the face of Benjamin Netanyahu and was wearing a Star of David necklace. Trump was wearing a back yarmulke.

For those naifs and Israel-haters who dismiss such depictions as merely “anti-Zionist” or “anti-Israel” but not anti-Semitic, the yarmulke on Trump’s head should be the giveaway, as should the theme itself—the Jew leading the Gentile astray, one of the oldest anti-Semitic canards.

Of course, the cartoon is not just about Israel or Jews. It is about Trump, whom the Left so hates. It depicts him as the stooge of both Vladimir Putin and Netanyahu. There is no truth to either depiction, but if truth mattered to the Left, there would be no Left. Truth is a liberal value, and it is a conservative value, but it is not a leftist value. Truth to the Left is pravda. Pravda, the Russian word for “truth,” was also the name of the Soviet Communist Party newspaper.

So, the question is: Why would the New York Times, published in the city where more Jews live than any other city in the world outside of Israel, whose publisher is a Jew and whose editors are disproportionately Jewish, publish a Nazi-like anti-Semitic cartoon?

Here is Stephens’ answer:

For some Times readers—or, as often, former readers—the answer is clear: The Times has a longstanding Jewish problem, dating back to World War II, when it mostly buried news about the Holocaust, and continuing into the present day in the form of intensely adversarial coverage of Israel. The criticism goes double when it comes to the editorial pages, whose overall approach toward the Jewish state tends to range, with some notable exceptions, from tut-tutting disappointment to thunderous condemnation.

For these readers, the cartoon would have come like the slip of the tongue that reveals the deeper institutional prejudice. What was long suspected is, at last, revealed.

Stephens continues:

How have even the most blatant expressions of anti-Semitism become almost undetectable to editors who think it’s part of their job to stand up to bigotry?

The reason is the almost torrential criticism of Israel and the mainstreaming of anti-Zionism, including by this paper, which has become so common that people have been desensitized to its inherent bigotry. So long as anti-Semitic arguments or images are framed, however speciously, as commentary about Israel, there will be a tendency to view them as a form of political opinion, not ethnic prejudice. But as I noted in a Sunday Review essay in February, anti-Zionism is all but indistinguishable from anti-Semitism in practice and often in intent, however much progressives try to deny this.

Exactly right. As I wrote in Why the Jews? The Reason for Anti-Semitism 40 years before Stephens wrote his column, there is no difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Of course, one can criticize Israel, just as one can criticize any country, but that is not anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism is not criticism of Israel. It is a hatred of Israel—a hatred greater than that of any other country and a delegitimization of Zionism, the movement to reestablish the Jewish national home. Imagine someone who argued that the establishment of the Italian state—Italy—was illegitimate and who hated Italy more than any other country in the world yet claimed that he was in no way anti-Italian, as he had Italian friends and loved Italian culture. No one would believe such an absurdity.

Why aren’t most American Jews troubled by the Times’ cartoon? Why were all American Jews horrified by the anti-Semitic shootings at the California synagogue this past weekend, while most barely had their feathers ruffled by the anti-Semitic cartoon in one of the most influential media in America?

The answer is most American Jews, while ethnically Jewish, are ethically leftist. And ethics trump ethnicity—as they should. For most American Jews, therefore, the Times is far more consonant with their ethical values than are Jewish values (if, by Jewish values, we are talking about the Torah and traditional Jewish religious/moral teachings). So, then, when you combine hatred of the right-wing prime minister of Israel and reverence for the left-wing Times, even a Nazi-like cartoon—if it negatively depicts Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump and is published in the New York Times—is no big deal.

Photo credit:  Getty Images

America • Center for American Greatness • civic culture/friendship • Defense of the West • Education • political philosophy • Post • Religion and Society • The Culture

Who Will Convert Us? The Life of James V. Schall, S.J.

At the passing of a priest, age 91, who was also a profound scholar and inspiring teacher, one expects to see praise of his dozens of books, hundreds of writings, 60 years’ worth of lectures, and generations of students.

In the case of Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., the longtime Georgetown University political theorist who passed away on April 17, 2019, such praise will be deservedly legion. More to the crux of the matter, his whole life seemed devoted to rebirth or conversion, the Socratic periagoge, a decisive turning around. As the example shows, such an experience is not limited to Catholics but is fundamental to a fully lived human life.

Indeed, the most striking eulogy of all may be the one by the geopolitical strategist and author known as Spengler. David Goldman wrote on Facebook, a few hours after his passing:

Fr. Schall was a theologian as much as he was a strategist, and brought a deep understanding of mankind’s spiritual condition to bear on geopolitical analysis. I had the privilege to meet him and correspond with him over the past decade and considered myself blessed to engage so luminous a mind. There are few strategic thinkers who understand the primacy of man’s existential condition in the course of world affairs. We cannot forget him; we cannot replace him. We only can mourn.

And earlier a mutual friend, a Chinese immigrant scholar, wrote late last year to Fr. Schall, recalling one of several Chinese dishes they had shared (though Schall was persuaded away from the duckfeet):

We also tried the whole fish dish at a Chinese restaurant in Arlington (walked across the bridge to get there). You did a good job using chopsticks to extract fish from the bones and added green onion slices to go with it. Then, you philosophized over the fish skeleton with its head and tail arching upward.

Using the recollection of the food, she was recalling him to life from what had been presumed was his deathbed.

More modestly, I recall breakfasts with Fr. Jim in Georgetown (I always visualize him in motion from the Jesuit Residence to our rendezvous). At one he exchanged greetings with George Will, noting to me that the columnist had hired former students of his as research assistants. We would discuss questions of political philosophy, theology, current politics, and the university. This would prepare us for interviews in the form of exchanges conducted by email, to be published by the Claremont Institute. The focus of these conversations, which began in 2002 and were typically published during Advent, was on the relationship between theology and philosophy in the study of political philosophy.

One of those conversations reemerged as an Appendix in Schall’s book, The Mind That is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays.

The conversations thus reflect the catholicism (with a small c) of Schall’s teaching. I could recommend for this purpose one of his earlier books, At the Limits of Political Philosophy, in particular the chapter on an enduring theme of his, political friendship, that is, patriotism.  But this catholicism, this defense of the West, is displayed in particular in the book on Pope Benedict’s 2006 Regensburg Lecture which I recommend to my classes on American political rhetoric. In debunking journalistic accounts of Benedict’s analysis of the crisis of the West, Fr. Schall shows the profundity of that crisis for both reason and faith by explicating the text. In repudiating its roots in faith, Schall and Benedict show, that the West also denies reason. Revelation and rationality require each other and belong together. As he put it more recently,

The Church really is the last major bastion in the world that stands for the sanity of normal mankind. Its enemies, and it has enemies, recognize the importance of capturing the “image” of a Church about to change, about to embrace modernity in all its glory and goriness. I think that Pope Francis has learned a lot in his first year in the papacy. What is missing is what Benedict and John Paul II understood, namely, the importance of intellect in this whole analysis of what needs to be done.

This account of this powerful message can be found in a Claremont conversation that occurred just before Easter, almost exactly five years ago. The context I supplied for our exchange was a two-day seminar led by Harry V. Jaffa on his own major books.

While not a participant at that seminar, Schall observed that  

I am in part thinking of Harry Jaffa’s remark at Strauss’s funeral that the importance of Aquinas was that he kept Aristotle alive. Indeed he did, but he also saw how Aristotle and revelation were in fact related. It has been my life work, as I look back on the political philosophy essays and books that I have written, to explain how they belong together. We still must keep the proper distinctions and observations.

Schall repeated this theme in his reflections on his life in January. They are particularly acute as the smoke of the Notre Dame fire still lingers:

We want to say that nothing basic is really going on. Yet too much evidence appears that some huge disconnect it taking place in our midst. That clear line of thought from Aristotle to Aquinas to Benedict seems frayed. Orthodoxy meant a confidence that what was handed down was not itself changing or becoming obscure. It also meant that reason would meet what was revealed to us as compatible with what we could learn by ourselves. The truths of God made reason more itself, when thought out.

Strictly speaking, if what is revealed and what is understood are no longer coherent to each other, then that central promise on which we rely for stability of doctrine and practice cannot be maintained.

Fr. Jim and I had spoken several times of a book collecting  his Claremont conversations, as a complement to another book of conversations he has since published. Our volume might conclude with writings from his last years.

I’ll remember the time of his passing, April 17, 12:48 Pacific Time corresponds to when (albeit in Eastern Time) I was scheduling a Mass to be said for him. About the nearest date available was St. Anthony of Padua’s Feast Day, June 13. Fitting for a world that is losing its mind and for a saint who was a Doctor of the Church. My birthday too, for my conversion seems impossible without Fr. Jim.

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Photo Credit: The Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University

America • Center for American Greatness • civic culture/friendship • Deep State • First Amendment • Free Speech • Intelligence Community • Post • The Media

Wikileaks or the Washington Post?

The imbroglio du jour of the political class is the question of whether Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder arrested last week in London, is a hero or a villain. Is he a journalist entitled to special treatment or a criminal deserving punishment?

And if pursuing then publishing classified materials is a federal offense, what kind of consequences should American journalists face for reporting classified information? Especially when the illicit information is intended not to warn the public of a legitimate threat posed by their government but for partisan political purposes—specifically, to advance the bogus Trump-Russia collusion hoax?

Assange has been charged in a federal district court in Virginia with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for allegedly working with former U.S. Army security analyst Chelsea Manning to access and post a massive trove of stolen classified documents.

“The primary purpose of the conspiracy was to facilitate Manning’s acquisition and transmission of classified information,” the indictment read. “Assange was knowingly receiving such classified records from Manning for the purpose of of publicly disclosing them on the WikiLeaks website.”

Some of Assange’s detractors insist his alleged attempt to steal classified information, and not the act of posting the illicit documents, makes him a criminal, not a journalist entitled to First Amendment protections.

“Assange wants to fight his case under the banner of press freedom,” Washington Post columnist David Ignatius argued last week. “His problem is that the Justice Department has drawn its indictment carefully enough that the issue is theft of secrets, rather than their publication. That’s why so many press advocates seemed to be distancing themselves from Assange after the news broke Thursday.”

Now, that is an interesting (and not entirely accurate) take coming from Ignatius. His newspaper has been one of the most egregious curators of classified government information in the Trump era. And “theft” is an ambiguous term that could apply to all sorts of shady tactics. From publishing details about private calls between the new president and other world leaders to helping fuel the downfall of Lt. General Michael Flynn, the earliest casualty of the Trump-Russia collusion scheme, the Washington Post has disclosed illegally sourced classified information on multiple occasions.

In January 2017, Ignatius was the first journalist to report that incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had spoken several times with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in late December 2016. Ignatius, in an attempt to help bolster the then-emerging plotline, further hinted that the conversations might have run afoul of an obscure law. “What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions?” Ignatius asked. “The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about ‘disputes’ with the United States. Was its spirit violated?”

Ignatius’ article lit a firestorm of controversy for the incoming administration. It also served as a pretext for two post-inauguration briefings between acting Attorney General Sally Yates and White House counsel Don McGahn, where Yates told McGahn that Flynn might be vulnerable to Russian “blackmail” because his public statements didn’t line up with his private comments to Kislyak.

The details of those calls were leaked several days later to the Post. In a February 9, 2017 bombshell, three Post reporters claimed that Flynn did discuss Russian sanctions with Kislyak, contrary to Flynn’s public statements.

“Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters,” according to the Post. “Officials began poring over intelligence reports, intercepted communications and diplomatic cables, and saw evidence that Flynn and Kislyak had communicated by text and telephone around the time of the [sanctions] announcement.” Since the calls occured in December 2016, the sources would have been Obama Administration officials who likely were complicit in the scheme to fuel the Trump-Russia collusion hoax.

They also were breaking the law. The details of the calls were gleaned from classified reports produced by “intelligence and law enforcement agencies that routinely monitor the communications of Russian diplomats,” the Post acknowledged. This violates a federal law under the Espionage Act that prohibits the disclosure of classified information—a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

During a congressional hearing in March 2017, Representative Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) pressed then-FBI Director James Comey about the leak to the Post.

“How would you begin your investigation… that a U.S. citizen’s name appeared in the Washington Post and the New York Times unlawfully?” Gowdy asked Comey. After Comey stammered and called the illegal leaks “terrible,” Gowdy continued to push. “One thing you and I agree on is the felonious dissemination of classified material most definitely is a crime,” the congressman said.

But the Post and its abettors were undeterred. In April 2017, two of the same reporters divulged how the FBI had sought and received a FISA warrant to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. The article was sourced by “officials [who] spoke about the court order on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of a counterintelligence probe.”

But, of course, that’s not why the officials wanted to remain anonymous and the Post was less than forthcoming to its readers about why they didn’t want their identities revealed. The reporters would have been more accurate—and truthful—by explaining that disclosing the existence of a FISA order to anyone also is a felony.

Two years later, as I’ve pointed out, the felonious leakers in both the Flynn matter and the Page FISA article have not been charged, let alone identified. Representative Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, appears poised to expose at least a few of the leakers when he submits eight criminal referrals to Attorney General William Barr perhaps as early as this week.

Nunes told Fox News host Sean Hannity that one of his referrals is a “global leaks referral which involves just a few reporters but could involve multiple people.”

Now, these reporters likely would argue that publishing classified information sourced from government officials engaged in a criminal act isn’t a crime itself because they are entitled to some vague protections under the First Amendment. Further, they would argue that, unlike the allegations against Assange, they did not directly attempt to “steal” the classified material from an email server or a computer hard drive or a government document vault.

But what if the reporters enticed the officials with pledges of, say, free tickets to basketball games or golf tournaments? What if the journalists persuaded the felonious leaker to divulge classified information with a promise of a night on the town? After all, that is exactly what the Justice Department’s inspector general concluded in his June 2018 report on the Clinton email investigation.

“We identified instances where FBI employees improperly received benefits from reporters, including tickets to sporting events, golfing outings, drinks and meals, and admittance to nonpublic social events,” the report disclosed. This fueled “a culture of unauthorized media contacts” that the IG detailed in two charts at the end of his report.

Or what if the reporter was being paid by political flacks to print classified information designed to harm the opposition? Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson is a former journalist with deep ties to the D.C. media claque. Turns out that Simpson was paying some of his journo-pals to write stories about the Fusion-planted Russia investigation.

Or what if the reporters and the news outlet published illicit national intelligence in order to win a major award? After all, the staff of the Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for its “deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage in the public interest that dramatically furthered the nation’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign.”

Or what if the reporter slept with the man in charge of classified documents for a powerful Senate committee just so she could get the scoop, as was the case with a young New York Times reporter, Ali Watkins, and her lover, 30 years her senior, who fed her secret info about the Trump-Russia investigation?.

Just because these journalists didn’t steal the Page FISA application or Flynn transcripts themselves should not excuse their culpability. Further, unlike previous examples of news organizations publishing classified information against the will of the federal government, none of this was done in the public interest or for national security. The Washington Post reporters were used as scribes for anti-Trump antagonists associated with the top echelons of our law enforcement and intelligence apparatus while refusing to inform their readers that the information they were publishing was sourced by people breaking the law. It’s hard to see how most Americans would consider that legitimate journalism protected by the First Amendment.

In fact, at least WikiLeaks posted the entire trove of documents and let the reader judge for himself what to make of the evidence. The Washington Post reporters, and others of their ilk, are worse, relying on politically-motivated Obama holdovers bitter that Donald Trump won the election who were doing everything in their power to undermine his presidency.

That’s not heroism, or even solid journalism. It’s exploiting special privilege for partisan purposes. Not only should that not be rewarded, it should be investigated and handled accordingly. It’s clear that the widely-accepted press protections under the First Amendment have been abused by the American media in service of sabotaging Trump’s presidency. The damage they’ve inflicted on the country and the individuals involved is as serious as any other criminal leak of classified information.

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America • American Conservatism • Americanism • civic culture/friendship • Hollywood • Law and Order • Post • self-government • The Culture

Civilization Wins in ‘The Highwaymen’

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Hollywood’s cultural liberalism is effective not because it lectures us. Indeed, the lecturing, hectoring awards shows have been getting clobbered in ratings precisely because they do that. The movies and TV shows that succeed in moving our culture leftward do so because they tell a story that gets us to sympathize with the hero.

In his fine little book, The Three Languages of Politics, Arnold Kling writes that the three most significant political ideologies in America see political issues in terms of distinct fundamental conflicts. For liberals, it’s the oppressors versus the oppressed; for conservatives, it’s barbarism versus civilization; for libertarians, it’s tyranny versus freedom.

The categories are not mutually exclusive, because the people who hold these ideologies are rarely completely pure. (People with completely pure political ideologies are fanatics, and all fanatics are boring, Pellinore.) The oppressed fight for freedom; tyranny is itself a form of barbarism; real freedom can only flourish in civilization. Still, as basic frameworks, they are both durable and remarkably explanatory.

John Lee Hancock’s new film, “The Highwaymen,” speaks the language of conservatism. The movie—showing in theaters and on Netflix—follows famed Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and his partner Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) as they track and ambush Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, bringing an end to one of the most celebrated killing sprees in U.S. history.

Superficially, “The Highwaymen” is a cop-buddy picture, with the stock elements of the genre. More substantially, it’s a compelling consideration of society’s response to evil, civilization’s response to barbarism.

John Fusco’s screenplay serves as a rebuttal to 1967’s unduly honored “Bonnie and Clyde.” If ever there were a movie that spoke the language of liberalism, that was it. In the popular imagination of the Great Depression, Bonnie and Clyde were Robin Hoods, robbing from banks. Director Arthur Penn bought into that myth, weirdly sympathizing with them even as his film graphically displayed their violence. If Bonnie and Clyde were bloody, they at least sided with the oppressed Everyman against the oppressor banks.

Likewise, “Bonnie and Clyde” slandered Frank Hamer as a braggart and a buffoon, motivated not by a sincere desire to enforce the law and protect society but rather by revenge and self-glorification. The Hamer family was so upset by the portrayal that they sought and won a substantial defamation settlement against Warner Brothers.

Hancock and Fusco set out to right that wrong, along the lines of John Boessenecker’s 2016 book, The Epic Life of Frank Hamer.

Rather than a showboat, Hamer is correctly depicted as a serious, experienced lawman, methodically tracking his quarry across the south and Midwest. Bonnie and Clyde knew they were wanted; they didn’t advertise their route or their whereabouts. Hamer and Gault had to understand their targets and anticipate their moves. They also had to disabuse some of the locals of their hero-worship and figure out which local law enforcement officers they could trust.

In reframing the story to be sympathetic to Hamer and Gault, Fusco literally had no choice but to choose the language of conservatism: Hamer as Civilization, confronting the Barbaric Bonnie and Clyde.

Because Bonnie and Clyde were barbarians. They robbed banks. They killed lawmen in cold blood and engaged in any number of petty thefts from the Everyman whose sympathy they exploited. And as true barbarians, they turned civilization’s own ethics against it. Confident that men in 1930s America would be reluctant to shoot a woman, Clyde used that moment’s hesitation to get the drop on those they confronted.

Hancock’s filmmaking here is masterly. He simultaneously emphasizes the inhumanity and violence of Parker’s and Barrow’s crimes, while distancing us from the criminals. They are shown only from a distance, from behind, unclearly, fleetingly. They are the Other, come to terrorize, and we can never empathize with them.

And yet, we are dealing with human beings. If we are to avoid turning civilization’s defenders into tyrants or oppressors, if Hamer is to be something other than the assassin from “Serenity”, we must confront the choice to take life head-on. Conservatism demands that examination of hard truths and hard choices. In two pivotal scenes, Fusco’s screenplay does just that.

Repeatedly, Hamer has to tell people that Bonnie and Clyde aren’t who they think they are. They aren’t Robin Hood and they’re not the nice kids who grew up in Dallas. They are stone-cold killers.

One person Hamer doesn’t have to tell that to is Henry Barrow, Clyde’s father. Yes, they discuss whether Clyde was a bad seed or was pushed to go bad. Instead of ending there in trite fashion, though, the two men agree that it really doesn’t matter. What matters is what Clyde has done. Is it enough to put him past redemption? And if so, what must the response of society be to that evil, whatever its source?

Our distance from Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow works to filmmakers’ advantage in one other scene. The two detectives have located the criminals’ hideout. Harrelson’s Gault holds Parker’s hairbrush, and is reminded that he has been chasing a real person across the country, a woman, and he is preparing to take her life. Because we have also only seen Bonnie and Clyde from a distance, we’re with him.

Once again, Hamer sets the terms: “It’s never easy, and it’s never pretty. And there’s always blood at the end of the road—you know that.” Weakness right now is just going to get more good men killed.

The movie opts not for the easy postmodern moral ambiguity, but instead shows the calm, reasoned self-confidence of men bringing individuals to justice.

Photo credit: Netflix

America • civic culture/friendship • Conservatives • feminists • Post • Pro-Life • Religion and Society • The Culture • the family

‘Unplanned’ and the Effective Arsenal of Life

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One thing you can say about “Unplanned” is that it is ambitious. The film tops “Gosnell” in forcing the audience to confront the true nature of a legal abortion in a sanctioned clinic.

Even given the advanced medical equipment and sterile conditions, the true nature of an abortion horrifies. But that isn’t the point of the movie.

Although it’s hard to imagine anyone short of a hardcore zealot making it through the entire film with his pro-choice beliefs intact, the intended audience of “Unplanned” does not appear to be the pro-choice crowd. The movie seems more to be directed at turning existing pro-life opinion into effective action.

The film’s critical scene depicts the contrast between two kinds of pro-life responses. On one side are grandstanding protesters screaming at women as they walk into a clinic. As the demonstrators bombard these pregnant women with accusations of promiscuity and murder, this moves moves the sympathy needle toward the volunteers protecting their patients as they scurry into the clinic.

A contrasting group of protesters employ the tools Jesus taught: Love, forgiveness, understanding, and prayer. They calmly entreat the abortion-seeking women just to talk to them, tell them their story. They offer help through counseling and adoption services. They offer understanding and forgiveness to women who have made mistakes but who can still be reached through the healing redemption of divine forgiveness.

The movie retells the story of a former director of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic named Abby Johnson. As the plot unfolds, Abby begins to interact with the gentler protesters. They learn each other’s names and the protesters inexplicably offer her smiles and encouragement, even congratulating her on a promotion. At one point, Abby lashes out at them with a political speech about reproductive rights. Abby is shocked to learn that the protesters have an intellectual argument, not just a faith-based one, that leaves her speechless.

Little by little, the people in Abby’s environment encourage her to take a different path. Abby resists, seeing them as misguided. She feels irrevocably committed to the abortion rights cause because of her personal history with abortion. Her husband, an earnest pro-lifer, swallows his personal distaste for her chosen career and nevertheless showers her with love and support.  

As Abby rises through the Planned Parenthood hierarchy, she begins to realize that some of her assumptions about the morality of Planned Parenthood’s work just aren’t true. The core focus of Planned Parenthood is not birth control or prenatal counseling. The money that pays her salary comes from abortion and she’s trained to sell abortions as a product. Planned Parenthood purposely expands operations to accommodate later and later abortions beyond Abby’s red line of fetal viability.

She also learns that the clinic is actually an assembly line or, rather, a disassembly line for abortion. When one patient has complications due to the negligence of the performing doctor, Abby is forbidden from calling an ambulance to aid the woman because it might open up the clinic to public criticism.

Early on, Abby delivers her sales pitch to reluctant customers, reassuring them that the fetus growing inside of them is incapable of feeling pain. But when she’s forced to watch a procedure on a sonogram, she realizes this is a lie. The unborn baby clearly reacts in pain and attempts to flee the vacuum hose. “They all do that,” the performing doctor quips in response to her shock.

When Abby does switch sides, Planned Parenthood sends an army of lawyers to silence her.  Abby successfully defeated these efforts in court with the help of a plucky attorney’s pro bono work. Abby’s experience calls to mind the use of a prosecutor to retaliate against Project Veritas when it recorded a video of Planned Parenthood openly discussing selling the remains of aborted fetuses. While it is a felony to sell human tissue, that’s not the crime that got prosecuted. Instead a pro-abortion prosecutor exacted vengeance on behalf of Planned Parenthood to deter future abortion-rights dissenters from exposing the ghoulish trade to public scrutiny.

While watching “Unplanned,” tears of impotent rage wet the viewer’s cheeks. But the story of “Unplanned” demonstrates clearly that the monstrousness of abortion cannot be conquered with anger or violence. The key success of the pro-life group depicted in the movie is to offer the women in crisis a choice. The abortion industry thrives on women motivated by shame and fear over their pregnancies. Offer forgiveness and support to those women and you take away Planned Parenthood’s most powerful marketing device.

At the end of the movie, the creators display a written message with instructions to abortion workers about how to get assistance if they decide to quit their jobs. The pro-life activists promise help with job placement and support. And yes, prayers do work. Near the end, when Abby joins the protesters, one of them expresses doubt that all of their prayers end up doing anything. Abby gives them a priceless insight: When potential patients saw people praying outside the clinic, the no-show rates would skyrocket.

For a pro-life activist awakened to abortion’s gruesome nature, it must feel impossible to show love and forgiveness towards the abortion practitioners and the women who hire them. Yet, if you are called to take action against abortion, this is what “Unplanned” challenges you to do. The awakening of Abby Johnson is an invaluable victory for the pro-life cause and the story of “Unplanned” is a study of the tools proven effective to replicate this victory. Prayer and love worked on Abby and they remain the most effective weapon in the arsenal of life.

America • civic culture/friendship • Donald Trump • Post • The Culture • The Left • The Media

Media Prove They Don’t Care About Violence Against Trump Supporters

Whenever I open my mouth about the outrageous bias of our national news media, liberal journalists always seem to jump at the opportunity to prove me right.

When I went on “Fox and Friends” Monday to talk about the Jussie Smollett hoax, for instance, I pointed out how ridiculous it was for the actor to claim he was attacked by two men in MAGA hats on the streets of Chicago. I made a joke about how no one wore MAGA hats in downtown Chicago because they would get shot in “two seconds.”

No one watching the segment could possibly have believed that I meant you would literally be shot if you wear a MAGA hat in Chicago, but that’s how the media—in an obvious bad faith effort to make me look bad—reported my words. It’s even more upsetting that these are the same partisan hacks who reported the implausible lies of Jussie Smollett as Gospel truth and called anyone who questioned their narrative “far-right extremists” or worse.

But the shameless misrepresentation of my words in the press, is emblematic of the blasé attitude most media outlets exhibit towards violence against my father’s voters.

There are enough examples from Chicago alone to illustrate the inexcusable double standards of the national news media. In early 2016, my dad’s campaign had to cancel a major rally for the first time ever after Black Lives Matter and other extremist groups indiscriminately attacked both supporters who were trying to get into the UIC Pavillion to see my father speak and the police officers who were assigned to protect them.

How did the media report this? “Violence breaks out at Trump rally.”

That sort of deceptive headline reflected the media’s pattern throughout the campaign, and the practice continues right up to this day. When there’s violence against Trump supporters because of their political beliefs, the media will ignore it until they can’t, and then they’ll downplay it. If that fails, they’ll just proclaim that the Trump supporters had it coming to them because of the “climate of hate” that their political views create.

Consider last week’s attack on Hayden Williams, a conservative activist who got cold-cocked on the University of California-Berkeley campus while he was recruiting students to join a conservative organization. At first, CNN and the rest of the fake news media just ignored it.

Then, when the liberal media finally did get shamed into covering the Berkeley attack, they went with “allegedly attacked” headlines—despite the fact that two videos and one very ugly-looking black eye made it very clear what happened. They did the same thing with Kellyanne Conway when she was affronted by a protester, saying she only “claimed” to have been attacked.

Yet, the vast majority of news outlets didn’t see the need to include qualifiers such as “allegedly” or “claimed” in their coverage of Jussie Smollett’s case.

You see, when someone says Trump supporters committed a hate crime, the media thinks you can take that straight to the bank. Even though these “evil Trump supporter” stories are almost always complete fabrications, liberal reporters and editors write them uncritically and use them to whip up national hysteria again and again and again.

When people who hate President Trump engage in real, verifiable, politically motivated violence, the media aren’t nearly so interested. For every fake attack blamed on Trump supporters, there’s a real one committed against Trump supporters.

Just this weekend, a woman on Cape Cod, Massachusetts screamed at and hit a restaurant patron because he was wearing a MAGA hat. When the cops showed up, the attacker explained that she was the victim and that the man shouldn’t have been allowed to wear his hat. That may sound ridiculous, but, as we saw with the Covington Catholic kids, the mainstream media have basically the same attitude toward MAGA hats.

You see, even though I was being hyperbolic in my “Fox and Friends” interview, I wasn’t completely kidding about the unacceptable amount of violence Trump supporters have faced in Chicago.

On the Windy City’s West side, just days after my father won the election, a man who voted for him was savagely beaten and dragged from a car while people yelled “he voted Trump!” and “don’t vote Trump!”

Months later, a craven group of thugs live streamed themselves cutting and beating a mentally disabled 18-year-old while they told the camera “F*** Trump” and “F*** white people.”

These very real stories of political violence didn’t get nearly the attention that the mainstream media devoted to Jussie Smollett’s lies, which is precisely the point I was making with my joke about the dearth of MAGA hats on the streets of Chicago.

Somehow, I don’t think the people who twisted my words were actually intending to prove my point. But that’s exactly what they did.

America • civic culture/friendship • feminists • Post • Pro-Life • the family

Distinguishing Abortion from Infanticide

We have reached a pivotal moment on abortion. New York recently legalized late-term abortion up to the moment of delivery and repealed a law requiring doctors to care for babies who survive. The new law legalizes procedures for which the infamous abortionist, Kermit Gosnell, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. A similar Virginia proposal generated much discussion but failed in committee. In Rhode Island similar legislation, supported by Gov. Gina Raimondo, is pending.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate, Democrats blocked a bill that would require medical professionals to provide care and treatment for babies born alive after abortion attempts. How far we have come since 1996 when President Bill Clinton stated what was then understood to be the mainstream view on abortion: that it should be “safe, legal, and rare.”

Read the rest at the Providence Journal.

America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • civic culture/friendship • Cultural Marxism • Democrats • Economy • Identity Politics • Immigration • Post • Progressivism

Progressing America Into the Abyss

Leftists self-identify as “progressives.” Yet anyone with a scrap of sanity and a rudimentary understanding of their philosophical antecedents, as well as their injurious policy prescriptions, objectively identifies the Left not as “progressive” but as “regressive.” Their incessant, implacable lust to destroy the American Revolution’s novel birth of individual freedom and replace it with an antiquated, governmentally coerced collectivism cannot be classified as anything ordinarily understood to be “progress.”  

Today’s “progressives” stand in opposition to the autonomy of the empowering times in which we find ourselves, namely the communications revolution. Their deluded aim seeks a societal regression back through serfdom to “noble savagery” all in the name of an “equality” that ultimately reveals itself to be one of penury, misery, and servitude (unless one is a member of the Leftist governing elite).

Yet, is this view fair to the Left? After all, isn’t regression simply the march of progress in reverse? Is it not, then, possible the regressive Left is, in point of fact, also progressive? Is it not, then, only fair to credit the Left for its “progressive” deeds; and, further, donning radically chic Leftist berets is it possible to reimagine ourselves as good little lemming Lefties singing their praises?

Shrug. Why not?

The Left has progressed beyond prosperity all the way back to socialism. It is cruel, though sadly not unusual, for people to keep what they earn. For these selfish folks, charity may balm their consciences, but its other cumulative effects amount to a drop in the bucket compared to the social justice the government can and must buy with your money. The craving for social justice will only be sated when such avaricious people are forced to realize all money is the government’s money. Then, and only then, can America’s newly minted citizen-serfs be grateful for the crumbs the government deigns to let us keep. And for just desserts, all rich people will be skewered and roasted on a spit. Bon appetit!

So too, during the 2019 State of the Union, the Left progressed beyond the Constitution’s speech and debate clause’s protections back to the Roman Senate, where everybody had to “watch your ass.” (If you don’t believe me, ask Caesar.) But following the sage advice found in Parliament (George Clinton’s not Great Britain’s) to “free your mind and your ass will follow,” we peons likely owe a debt of thanks to the Left for demanding their elected officials toe their party line and put booty before country. Ah, the sweet whiff of freedom!

What else would one expect from the Left that has progressed beyond Watergate back to weaponizing the police powers of the state against its opponents like a hungover J. Edgar Hoover?  And, to further protect America from the legitimate outcome of conservatives being elected, the Left has progressed beyond McCarthyism by insinuating and outright accusing the president of the United States of being a treasonous stooge of the Kremlin not based upon concrete evidence but upon “credible allegations,” the origin of many of which were ginned up in the wholly unverified Democratic opposition research.  Never has America been so well protected against the deplorable decisions of its own citizens.

Speaking of citizenship, the Left has progressed beyond legal immigration to open borders and sanctuary states and cities. Because the census counts persons not citizens, illegal immigration is a boon to sanctuary states, like California, for the purposes of the apportioning seats in the U.S. House and (ergo) weighting the Electoral College. In a splendiferous instance of Karma, this increases the sanctuary states’ power vis-à-vis the xenophobic states obstinately upholding federal immigration laws; and, if you will, helps to wall in the political power of the hateful voters residing therein.

In one sanctuary city, San Francisco, the Left has progressed beyond public sanitation back to open air sewers.  This is not due to illegal immigrants but rather to the city leaders’ compassion for down on their luck citizens, which manifests itself in turning a blind nostril to public defecation and an agile foot to avoid used needles. Historically, such unsanitary conditions were plague incubators. But though the impoverished denizens of Dickensian London might have had an evil empire, they didn’t have evil Big Pharma’s antibiotics. And once those price gouging corporate jackals are nationalized under “Medicare for All,” the more open sewers the merrier. Plague, schmague. The comparative effectiveness panels will make sure those they deem the most productive patients will get medicated and well. As for the rest of us, at least it’s free when the government declares us too expensive to save.

In public schools, the Left has progressed from God and prayer back to pagan earth worship. Sure, you can’t post the Ten Commandments, but the staff can pass out condoms—and it doesn’t matter if your deplorable parents are peeved about it. Now, if those condoms fail, here’s a Planned Parenthood brochure. And, in case Climate Change kills us faster than the settled science promises—happy Earth Day, goddess Gaia!

In our universities, the Left has progressed beyond education to indoctrination. It wasn’t easy to transition from teaching students how to think to, instead, teaching students what to think, but our radical, taxpayer subsidized Lefty professors were more than equal to the task. It is all the more amazing these professors managed to do so while hardly teaching classes at all, what with publishing, punditry, activism, and sabbaticals and so forth. Somehow, though, they’ve managed to cajole and coerce your child into forsaking independent thought in return for becoming a cog in the collective machine. Oh, the transcendent self-esteem birthed from following the herd and, if white and male, self-loathing! No wonder we need free college for all. More adequately compensating lefty professors, silencing hate-speech and creating safe spaces on campus costs money. But almost as importantly, nobody should go broke getting woke!

In society, the Left has progressed beyond the melting pot, pluralism, and a color-blind society back to the identity politics and cultural appropriation complaints like those enlivening the Balkans, circa 1914. Nothing is more American than loving one’s neighbor, so long as they first hate themselves for being an unconscious racist subject to a Pavlovian response to the dog whistles which, oddly, only the Left seems to hear.  

No matter, though, all such [fill in the blank] phobes shall be revealed by a Leftist media that has progressed beyond objectivity back to accountability journalism, which rekindles journalism’s golden age of Pravda and Izvestia by insisting reporters have an ethical obligation to insert the Left’s party line opinion into their “reporting” of events. How else could the Left progress beyond “innocent until proven guilty” back to “all accusations are credible against non-Leftists” without a like-minded media mob marching in lockstep with platforms and tweets aloft to slay conservative monsters!    

Speaking of monstrosities, the Left has progressed beyond national security back to appeasing our enemies with all the toxic masculinity of Neville Chamberlain. It wasn’t easy lifting all those billions onto a plane bound for Iran, the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism who happens to chant “Death to America.” It’s not like they mean it, any more than those cuddly mullahs want “Death to Israel.” Besides, oil rich Iran’s leaders are too busy developing a peaceful domestic nuclear energy industry to bother anybody.

Then there’s the despicable fact the Left has progressed beyond “safe, legal and rare” back to “infanticide” on a scale unimagined by—but for reasons not unfamiliar to—the ancient practitioners of child sacrifice.  

Let us doff our radically chic leftist berets and again don our thinking caps. No, the above isn’t an exhaustive list of what the Left considers its “successes.” Thus, it is crucial to realize “progress” marks the milestones along the journey not the desirability of the destination. One could progress into a rose garden or off a cliff.

In the instance of the regressive Left, if granted sway to get their way, America’s revolutionary experiment in human freedom and self-government will falter, fail and progress into a socialist, Orwellian abyss. Talk about something worth resisting.

But, hey, orange man bad, right?

Photo credit: Jane Tyska/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • civic culture/friendship • Cultural Marxism • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Post

Is Brokaw Wrong About Assimilation?

My father came to the United States in the 1950s under the Bracero Program, worked multiple jobs for most of his life, bought a home in Southern California, and put his two children through school.

Though we never had the conversation, I can imagine his surprise at hearing that the expensive education he afforded his American-born children was a long lesson in why they shouldn’t embrace the country that had given him, and them, so much. The America—and the California—my father found was very different after all.

According to a Pepperdine University study, by 1970 the typical Latino in the Golden State spoke only English and had fully assimilated into “Anglo” culture. But times have changed and assimilation has been eclipsed by the rise of multiculturalism. The Pavlovian outrage at former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw’s benign comment over the weekend about Hispanic assimilation is testament of this.

“I . . . happen to believe that the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation,” Brokaw said during a panel discussion on “Meet the Press” Sunday. “That’s one of the things I’ve been saying for a long time. You know, they ought not to be just codified in their communities but make sure that all their kids are learning to speak English, and that they feel comfortable in the communities. And that’s going to take outreach on both sides, frankly.”

Brokaw, a self-described liberal Democrat, said nothing that would have been considered controversial 15 or 20 years ago. It’s a sign of the times that a man who once considered it a “test” to work in a “deeply conservative” newsroom is not immune to the outrage and abuse of the quixotic multicultural Left.

Lauding the American identity now anathema.

To better understand it got that way, the late Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington offered an enlightening guide in his final book, Who Are We?, published in 1995. In brief, assimilation and civic identity fell out of favor because the schools stopped teaching those things.

The classroom, Huntington explains, from the Progressive Era until recently were central in the promotion of a cohesive American identity, thus facilitating the assimilation of immigrants and their children into our national mythos.

Thanks to the efforts of reformers, and immigrants themselves who were resolved to Americanize, by 1920 the United States had achieved more or less universal literacy. This feat is testament to the theory and practice of American idealism.

Indeed, until the advent of post-1965 mass immigration, the United States was a nation of some 200 million people virtually all of whom spoke English. The Pepperdine study illustrates the connection between assimilation and English, and the lasting impact of the Progressive Era.

Today, however, there are 65.5 million people in America who report speaking a language other than English at home. Spanish is the “other language” for 62 percent of them—around 40 million people. As of 2016, there are 26.1 million individuals in the United States collectively classified as Limited English Proficient (LEP). Spanish speakers account for 64 percent (16.6 million) of the LEP population. Never before in American history have so many people spoken a single non-English language.

If our schools could promote unity then so, too, can they now sow disunity.

A study from the early 1990s of high school students in San Diego, California, which Huntington cites, illustrates the shift. University of California-Irvine sociologist Rubén G. Rumbaut found that after just three years of school, the proportion of students who identified as “American” dropped by 50 percent, the proportion that identified as hyphenated Americans dropped by 30 percent, and the proportion that identified with a foreign nationality alone (overwhelmingly Mexican) had increased by 52 percent.

But if high school doesn’t do the trick, there is always college.

At the University of California-Berkeley, Huntington noted, minority and immigrant students who “describe themselves in high school as so assimilated into majority Anglo environments that they did not think of themselves as minority group members,” report a change of heart shortly after freshman orientation.

Berkeley helped students to “see themselves differently,” Huntington observed. In other words, the university helped them to cultivate and embrace their ethnic and racial identities. One Mexican-American student claimed to have been “born again here at Berkeley.” Fiat Lux indeed.

The greatest obstacle to assimilation now isn’t necessarily immigrants, but American academia that has made “diversity”—that is, division—its business.

They work toward the day, in the words of one scholar, when the United States “may never again be culturally ‘united,’ if ‘united’ means ‘unified’ in beliefs and practices,” and, in keeping with the promise of multiculturalism, to the day when Americans will not be a “culturally definable group.” Martha Nussbaum of the University of Chicago derides “patriotic pride” as “morally dangerous,” supporting George Lipsitz of the University of California, San Diego, when he argues that “in recent years refuge in patriotism has been the first resort of scoundrels of all sorts.” University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann is appalled at the idea that American students might learn that they are, “above all, citizens of the United States.” Richard Sennett of NYU denounces “the evil of a shared national identity,” while Peter Spiro of Hofstra University is content with the thought that it is “increasingly difficult to use the word ‘we’ in the context of international affairs.”

So Brokaw is half-right. Integration into American society for immigrants and their children has brought untold prosperity to millions, so Hispanics should work harder to assimilate.

But the institutions created for that purpose are now geared to perform precisely the opposite function, and it just so happens that many of the people Brokaw rubs elbows with are to blame both for the challenges to assimilation and the outrage culture that has claimed him as its latest victim.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact

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America • Center for American Greatness • civic culture/friendship • Cultural Marxism • Democrats • feminists • Post • Pro-Life • Religion and Society • The Culture • the family

Cuomo Excommunicado

The New York State Legislature on Tuesday night passed the Reproductive Health Act (“RHA”), which legalized abortion in New York State up to the moment of birth. Governor Andrew Cuomo quickly signed the bill into law, hailing it as a triumph for “reproductive freedom.” Then the governor ordered the spire of New York City’s Freedom Tower be lit up pink in celebration.

New York’s Catholic bishops denounced the new law. New York City Archbishop Timothy Dolan released a statement signed by all of the state bishops asking, “This is progressive?” Sternly worded condemnations are fine as far as they go, but not nearly far enough in this instance. Either Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of the Diocese of Albany—the location of Governor Cuomo’s canonical crimes—or Cardinal Dolan of New York—where Cuomo is probably canonically domiciled—should solemnly excommunicate the governor for his enthusiastic support of this monstrous law.

The RHA strips abortion from the penal code, permits non-doctors to perform abortions, and makes abortion legal on-demand for the first 24 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy; abortions are permissible after 24 weeks, but only if they are “necessary” to protect a mother’s life or health. The RHA does not define “health,” though it certainly has an expansive meaning since the very broad definition from Doe v. Bolton (1973), the companion case to Roe, is likely what the “progressive” New York legislators intended to codify.

The effective outcome is that a baby can be shot through with poison or hacked apart by forceps a moment before the child is born. That should horrify any sane, moral person. And yet, after the RHA passed, the New York lawmakers were seen smiling and clapping with glee in celebration—a display of utter barbarism and depravity that shocks the conscience.

Bishop Scharfenberger writes in a statement condemning the RHA that we must “support the lives of all, especially the voiceless, the most vulnerable and marginalized.” He goes on: “Let’s not bequeath to our children a culture of death, but together build a more humane society for the lives of all of our fellow citizens.”

“Mr. Cuomo,” the bishop concludes, “do not build this Death Star.”

Cardinal Dolan also joined his voice to the bishop’s, noting the illogic at the heart of a concept of “progress” that celebrates the slaughter of the tiniest and most innocent among us: “For a genuine progressive, all human life deserves dignity, respect, care, and protection, no matter what stage, from the womb to the tomb. No exceptions! The more vulnerable, threatened, or fragile, the more dignity, respect, care, and protection life requires” (emphasis in original).

Both statements are necessary and demonstrate morally clear thinking on the part of both men, which is admirable in these topsy turvy times. But pointed press statements without action in this case are empty. They need to take swift and decisive action. They have real power and they ought to use it.

One or both of these men has real authority to punish Cuomo, a heretic if ever there was one, for the grievous scandal he is causing.

The Church is not just a spiritual haven; she is inescapably a political actor, too, and the episcopacy needs to stop letting enemies of the Church remain at home within her, subverting her mission and redefining her in a way antithetical to her true purpose which is to convert the world to Christ. Bishop Scharfenberger and Cardinal Dolan are not mere pundits who must be content to fling rhetorical arrows at a shameless, immoral man like Cuomo. Instead, they, princes of the Church, can exercise the authority of their high offices and defend her from evil—and they should.

In his commentary to Pope Saint John Paul II’s Ad tuendam fidem, then-Cardinal Ratzinger included “the doctrine on the grave immorality of direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being” as on par with “the articles of faith of the Creed, the various Christological dogmas and Marian dogmas.” He then declared: “Whoever denies these truths would be in a position of rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church.” In other words, assent to the proposition that abortion is a gravely immoral act is required of any faithful Catholic.

A person like Cuomo, who insists that the unborn have no right to life, undeniably is spouting heresy—“the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith.”

If either cleric were to excommunicate Cuomo, he would be performing a great moral service to the world, the Church, and, most importantly, to Cuomo himself. Throughout the Church’s long history, excommunication was seen as very strong medicine, sometimes necessarily administered—but only rarely—to bring an especially wayward soul back to Christ and His Church. By alerting Cuomo to the seriousness of what he has done, the Church might prompt him to return to the Faith; failing that, excommunicating him might at least warn other public officials of what could happen should they behave as he has.

In addition, it would signal to everyone that the Church remains fully serious about its teachings on the sanctity of life, and it would encourage faithful Catholics to retain their zeal for the Church’s beautiful, good, and true teachings on that subject, as well as send a clear message to those wavering or who outright reject her moral teachings on abortion and other things, like marriage, that they must not continue to do so.

It would, finally, put an abrupt halt to the Church’s steady assimilation to the world and its prerogatives. In excommunicating a man who believes that women have the “fundamental right” to contract with another person to execute their preborn children, the Church would sound the death knell of the much-abused “seamless garment” worldview, which is more often than not a rhetorical smokescreen for those want to ignore abortion outright, elevating other “life issues” to equal or higher corrective priority.

But the “consistent life ethic,” as applied by its most notable boosters, is pernicious nonsense. Would we think it sensible to avoid making murder illegal while we fret about what makes people murder? Or would we just attack the evil of murder directly and declare, by making it illegal, that nobody ought to do it, ever, no matter what kinds of poor conditions they were raised in or hardships they face?

To ask is to answer.

It is wrong and an abuse of canon law to wield the sword of excommunication to exact revenge on someone or for purely political purposes; however, that is not the case here. Abortion is a moral evil at least on par with chattel slavery, a practice we rightly regard with horror.

It would be fitting for the Church—which resolutely stands for the dignity of every single human being against the powerful who would destroy them for convenience’s sake—to stand now with the unborn, against a moral monster like Andrew Cuomo.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact

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America • Cities • civic culture/friendship • Economy • Post • The Culture

American Civic Life Tries to Make a Comeback

PITTSBURGH—It’s just before 7 p.m. on a frigid December night, and already the Allegheny Elks Lodge No. 339 on the city’s North Side is filling up quickly—both the long bar and the tables in the adjacent hall.

There’s a woman collecting for a 50-50 raffle. (You may as well give in; she won’t take no for an answer.) Elks volunteers young and old are manning the bar and the kitchen, where the special tonight is a gourmet grilled cheese (black forest honey ham, Gouda cheese, and bacon).

Upstairs a six-lane sparkling white and red art deco bowling alley straight out of the 1920s is filled with young people from a local league. The floor above that is where lodge meetings are held; it is a beautiful ballroom also straight out of the Roaring ’20s.

The beer is cheap and cold. The food is cheap and tasty. Soon the entire building is packed to the rafters, people lining the walls in the hall and the bar. It’s as if Frank Capra made a movie in this century.

Tonight is Banjo Night, the weekly event when the Pittsburgh Banjo Club takes to the stage in the 90-year-old building. The event attracts an eclectic mix of college students; suburbanites; pink-haired, inked, multi-pierced artists; and octogenarians all joining in to sing along to tunes like “Daisy, Daisy” and “You Are My Sunshine.”

There’s even a free song sheet, but it carries a stern warning: “Thou shall not take with you.”

This is not an Elks event, as the Banjo Club rents the hall every week. Still, its presence at the lodge has helped reignite interest in the civic organization that first came into being just after the Civil War. A group of young actors initially formed a social club to elude New York City’s strict Sunday tavern hours of operation. Theatrical shows would end too late for them to grab a drink after a show.

The Jolly Corks, as they were originally called, evolved into a charitable civic group through tragedy. One of the original members died, leaving his widow and children destitute, and they all chipped in to ease her financial stress. This moment transformed their organization from the social Jolly Corks to the service-oriented Elks.

Memberships in civic organizations such as the Elks or Masons or Rotary Clubs peaked across America after both world wars, and they began falling in the 1960s when Americans began shedding fraternal socialization and front porches for television shows in their living rooms and backyard decks.

Since the late ’90s, all of them have rapidly faced near extinction, thanks to the isolating effects of gaming and smartphones, and the anti-social components of social media. These things erase that sense of community, security and civic duty that fraternal organizations can cultivate.

By 2012, the membership at this Elks had hit a low, only 340 members remaining, and most of them were closer in age to 80 than to 70. The community was ebbing in fast-forward, and that social capital was evaporating.

And something else was fading: the tradition of elders sharing stories, sometimes tall tales, passing on their wisdom and experiences to the young people in the community. It’s the kind of knowledge and information you can’t Google or ask Alexa to find for you, the kind of knowledge that shapes the character of men and women and a community.

Today the membership is nearly double its 2012 low point. Weekly outside events like Banjo Night and the monthly jazz and bluegrass nights bring the crowds. Annual events like the Lenten Fish Fry and the very popular Johnny Cash Night, which always falls on the late crooner’s birthday and typically features several Cash cover bands, have raised enough awareness about what Elks actually do that membership has soared.

And the scope of its work, all volunteer, is astounding, from supplementing federal food stamp deficiencies for the local poor, to summer day camps for at-risk kids, to youth drug-awareness programs, to veterans programs, to visiting nurses, to a holiday charity drive.

There was even a luggage charity drive to collect gently used luggage, totes and book bags for foster children transitioning between homes and women transitioning in or out of women’s shelters. This provided a bit more dignity than the black trash bag Health and Human Services provides.

They also raised money for the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and for the Tree of Life Synagogue Victims & Families Fund in the aftermath of the mass shooting this fall.

All of these only touch the tip of the iceberg of the philanthropic work this one lodge does, with many of the new members having first walked through the lodge doors on Banjo Night, looking for a place that could become a second home of sorts, a place to connect with people they were somehow missing in their lives.

Too often people think that to make significant change in the world they have to get involved in global issues or lobbying the central government. What they miss is that most things that improve the world begin in a small community civic organization like this Elks—even something like helping homeless veterans get a free haircut, interview clothing, and housing until they get on their feet.

That vet or the kid who gets a scholarship through the Elks will, in turn, keep alive the notion of service and go on to improve the world in his or her own way.

Ray Link, the young “exalted ruler” of this lodge, says there are a dozen or so new members about to be sworn in to this Elks beginning in 2019. Even the mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, has been a member in good standing for a couple of years.

Joining has been something Americans have been doing for centuries. In the past decade, we’ve sadly replaced our participation in churches and civic organizations with a heavy participation in politics and social media, neither of which really does much for us or our communities.


America • civic culture/friendship • Post • Religion and Society • The Culture

Resolutions to MAGA

It’s that time of year again! We groan with the weight of guilt for things about ourselves that we want to change as we take stock of the past year. That extra poundage? This is the year! We’re gonna lose it. That annoying habit of saying “yes” when we really ought to say “no?” Done with that noise. The excess drinking, the temper, the lazy schedule, the gym avoidance: gone, gone, gone! We will be better friends! Better daughters and sons! Better spouses! We will be neater, more organized, less frivolous with money and people. We will be better caretakers of our time and energy.

Humdrum, all of them. Important as they may be, they don’t tend to vary year after year. Sometimes, however, we don’t address the items in our lives that need real attention, that require superhuman self-awareness and then energy and focus to change.

Here are some from the list that I am making. Raise your right hand and vow with me:

I will stop taking offense at every little thing. Progressives aren’t the only snowflakes out there, let me tell you. I see fellow conservatives laughing about their melting counterparts, only to fall apart at the seams when some of their pet beliefs get questioned. Knock it off, people. Discuss differences like an adult; don’t justify ill-tempered responses with “I know, but . . . ”

I will not use the fast lane as a traveling lane, thereby holding up drivers who wish to get where they’re going with some expediency.

I will allow my life to be ruled by principles and not feelings. If my behavior isn’t guided by any objective standard greater than myself, and you aren’t guided by any greater than yourself, we have a problem, Houston. Might makes right, even in the strength of our emotions in this case, and anarchy ensues. America and our personal lives were more peaceful and cohesive when a greater number claimed at least a nominal obligation to a Power higher than self. This has the added benefit of our children and friends witnessing lives ruled by standards. We ought to live, teach, and apologize to the standard.

I am willing to admit when I am wrong (as a corollary to the previous). If I hold a truth to be self-evident that claims its source outside of my own determination, then I ought gracefully to admit defeat when the standard says that my behavior, my belief, or my reaction is wrong. Humility is a lessening commodity. Let’s rediscover it, and let’s develop it on a personal level.

I will find the turn signals on my car and use them frequently and appropriately.

I will reinstitute a family dinner table. These used to be typical American times where news of the world and of the day was passed along from family member to family member. In so doing, common values were emphasized and a family had time to come together to laugh and discuss matters both light and serious while partaking of a meal. We look each other in the eye, delight in ideas together, and form a stronger union in so doing. This should be a non-negotiable in most houses for the majority of our days. Don’t have a family close by? Invite those in regularly who could use some company, an ear, and a good meal. We are becoming a nation separated by our screens—let us attempt to regain some solid footing on interpersonal relationships.

I will find and make frequent use of my sense of humor. America has been long characterized by a hearty sense of humor—it is easy to find examples rife with it even in older political debates. As a people, we are growing afraid to laugh at one another, to laugh at ourselves, and sometimes, even, afraid to whistle in the darkness.

I will learn to entertain myself and depend less on my devices. The growing compendium of research suggests, no, screams, that screen time is associated with depression, anxiety and relationship issues. I will rediscover old walking trails, pick up (and smell!) favored old books, I will ponder anew theological and philosophical ideas that have been pushed to the back of my brain while my electronic jester entertained me.

I will teach people properly to merge by not allowing access to any doodie heads who can’t think ahead and try to get into my lane at the last minute.

I will look for softer ways to express myself. Social media has destroyed much gentility in our expressions to one another. I will put my much-loved snark back on the shelf and trade it instead for less harsh verbiage. I will attempt understanding and not to jockey to a position of power, crowing over a triumph in an online battle of words.

The time we’ve been given here on earth is so fleeting—it is but a whisper, a shadow, a blink. We must strive to eke the most meaning out of every minute we’ve been given, from admiring the tiny fist of a newborn, to laughing riotously at a shared humorous event, to seriously considering what the purpose of all of this is. We must give shape to our lives and encourage and exhort those around us to higher standards by our very example.

I will pay homage to every passing moment as the grey hairs and wrinkles accumulate, along with some modicum of wisdom.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

America • civic culture/friendship • feminists • History • Post • The Culture • the family • The Left • The Media

Snowflakes or Mistletoe?

Baby, it’s cold everywhere these days, outside and inside.

The #MeToo movement has put flirting and romance into a deep freeze. Men across the country fear the ramifications of holding a door open for a woman, let alone pouring her a Christmas cocktail. There’s ice, ice baby in feminists’ veins.

What’s a man to do if he’s walking in a Winter Wonderland by himself? (In this case, Rod Stewart and Michael Bublé hang out together). And what’s a lonely gal to do, when logs on the fire fill her with desire? I wrote in 2016 about the leftist meltdown in “Baby, It’s Dumb Outside,” but since then things have regressed even further. I knew the lefties weren’t the brightest bulbs on the tree, but this year they don’t even know how to put the plug in the socket.

Apparently we women will have to mix the drinks and be the ones who move in closer, just like in this original 1949 “flipped” version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Betty Garrett and Red Skelton. She strips his jacket off, pushes him down onto the sofa, jumps on top of him and turns off the light. It’s all against his will, but I don’t hear anyone throwing a fit about date rape or nonconsensual behavior. Typical contemporary feminism: What’s good for the goose isn’t allowed for the gander.

While the #MeToo Left and their Snowflake siblings are all in a flurry over song lyrics, I have to wonder, Do You Hear What I Hear? Apparently not. Christmas is to celebrate a birth, but the Left totally misses the miracle of life: they want the right to end it at any stage or in any season. And this Christmas season, a line has been drawn in the snow. Either you are a Snowflake so traumatized by the classic “Baby It’s Cold Outside” that you applaud when radio stations ban it from playlists; or you are the type who cheered when a station in Kentucky played it on a continual loop for two hours. I identify with the latter; that’s the perfect amount of time to spike some eggnog for two, and heat things up under the mistletoe.

There’s a frenzied attempt to deconstruct countless other Christmas songs, as if getting rid of the music will get rid of Christmas. These folks need some re-education! They need to be locked into their safe spaces watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” on an unending loop. Perhaps their hearts will grow three sizes that day. Maybe they’d think of something they hadn’t before . . . perhaps Christmas means a little bit more? Short of that, we can at least save our Christmas playlist from all those folks who are more Angry Elf than holly jolly.

One of the classics that lefties are squalling over is “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”—they think it’s threatening, that it depicts Santa as a stalker, and that it ridicules emotions. But back when this was a hit in 1962, children had rules and bedtimes and knew that unacceptable behavior had consequences. Some of us call this “discipline” or “expectations,” nothing that Snowflakes can understand since they were never subjected to such horror; it would have damaged their self-esteem. The Four Seasons’ version is great for compelling kids to be on their best behavior. Frankie Valli’s falsetto calls out the children who are cry-eye bay-ay-bees, while deep voices warn children that they are being watched night and day. I like to envision my newly-wed parents dancing to this hit around their living room, my mom sipping a Pink Lady and my dad with a Gimlet.

Back to the kids with the bad behavior: Snowflakes are so “woke” to bullying that “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is now off their playlist. “Poor Rudolph!” they lament; “All the other reindeer ridicule his differences, they aren’t inclusive!” Unbelievably, the National Bullying Prevention Center has produced a “T.E.A.M. Rudolph Toolkit” for teachers. It’s a digital resource for teachers to learn how to use the song to teach “acceptance and inclusion through teamwork.” I would like to say “Yay! You go, teachers!” except I’m disgusted that there are such brainless teachers that they would need digital resources to sing about red-nosed Rudolph with their class.

Unlike Snowflakes, Rudolph didn’t need years of therapy; he grew a chest and became Santa’s F-22 Raptor. It’s true: What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, as long as you don’t cower and hide in hopes that someone will hand you hot cocoa for comfort. Singing Cowboy Gene Autry wrote “Rudolph” and other Christmas songs; he also was a rodeo champion who owned and rode world-class bucking broncos. I’m a boy mom, and I’m keeping Bad-Ass Rudolph on my playlist.

I’m also keeping “White Christmas” on my playlist; I recommend the swoon-worthy rendition by Bing and Bublé, with a bottle of bubbly. And don’t be ridiculous, people. It’s not racist. It’s about freshly fallen snow. Which is white. I’ve lived in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Western New York, and white snow is definitely something to celebrate. Because soon enough, it is plowed into muddy, slushy piles along the roads, dirty from tire treads and exhaust—not exactly dreamy, merry, or bright. If my sleigh gets mired down in mud, forget about sleigh bells—the children are more likely to hear mom swearing. As my son at the age of 4 once explained to a flight attendant, “My mom will feel much better after a Cosmopolitan.” (This Winter White Cosmo is definitely a cup of cheer).

Kids these days see and hear much worse than a few swear words. Thanks to a progressive agenda, little children are increasingly confused about whether they are male or female. Across the country and around the world, birth certificates now offer a third or neutral “gender;” a parent can decide that a 3-year-old child is “transgender;” liberal media lauds a child drag queen and drag queen story hours; and only half of all children are raised in families with married birth parents. It’s hardly a surprise that the Left is pushing for a ”gender-fluid” Santa Claus. These folks are more than a few nuts short of a fruitcake.

Because the Snowflake generation has learned only revisionist history, they don’t realize that Santa Claus was real, and that Santa Claus was a man. It’s no wonder that that they have such a frigid response to Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. For them, that kind of childhood wonder has become a millennial’s childhood trauma: Is mommy is having an affair? Wait, I thought Mommy dated women! Is this consensual? Is Mommy trying to get extra presents? I think the better question to ponder is this: Why does anyone assume this kissing was steamy enough that Santa and Mommy might end up Rocking Around the Christmas Tree? (But if you want to, I suggest the rendition with Gary Hoey on guitar).

Santa might be checking his list twice, but I bet he’s had to revise it to check whether we are naughty or ice—as in “Give me a man, a martini, and some mistletoe” versus “I’m a special snowflake and mistletoe is rapey.” If you ask the Left, I’m pretty certain they’d say I fall into the “naughty” category. I will happily identify as such, if it’s because I reject leftist ideology. I say Merry Christmas, I think flirting needs a revival, and the only snowflakes I tolerate are those that fall on my nose and eyelashes.

As long as I’m professing my naughtiness, I might as well send those Special Snowflakes into a whiteout: Ho! Ho! Ho! is how Santa laughs and has nothing to do with slut-shaming; “Here Comes Santa Claus” is not sexual, not even when Elvis sings it; I think reindeer boobs are a great idea for the nursing mother; “folks dressed up like Eskimos” is not cultural appropriation; I don’t know nor do I care what’s on Starbucks Christmas cups; it’s OK to say “snow balls;” candy canes aren’t “J” for Jesus; and the White House Christmas decorations are gorgeous this year.

Wishing you a Merry and Bright, Oh Holy Night; with abundant Comfort and Joy all these 12 Days of Christmas.

But above all, take to heart these words of the Wexford Carol (here performed in the studio by Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Kraus):

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son.

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

America • civic culture/friendship • Post • the family

Missing Dad and Taking Stock This Christmas

This will be the second Christmas holiday without my father. Although I miss him every day—we used to talk on the phone, like clockwork, at 9:30 every morning—I think I miss the cantankerous old coot the most on the big holidays.

Dad could be—how to put this?—difficult. I’m in the opinion-writing business. Most things are debatable. My father was in the certainty business. An engineer by trade and disposition (if you’ve ever known an engineer, you’ll know what I mean), he liked things a certain way, and that way was always his way, and his way was always the right way, and if it wasn’t right, he would make sure it was somehow or another.

In his prime, he cooked the turkey and he cooked the roast. He ruled the table. He knew everything. We had some great fights . . .

Read the rest at the Sacramento Bee.