What is America for Mummy?

633701545[Not long after wwe met, Jessica asked me in an email, 

Perhaps the parallel goes beyond just the early pilgrims? America is either a vision of what can be, or it is nothing.

That is the choice we face, and it’s a stark one. Either we are who we have always said we are, or we are just another slave state like Europe.The question must be answered by the American people, we already know what the government thinks, don’t we?

Churchill said, in the Grand Alliance

But I had studied the American Civil War, fought out to the last desperate inch. American blood flowed in my veins. I thought of a remark which Edward Grey had made to me more than thirty years before—that the United States is like “a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is ignited under it there is no limit to the power it can generate.

That is true, we are Americans, we can do anything, if we choose to. Is the fire under the boiler lighted? If it is not, the dream is over. If it is, anything is possible for us.

This is one of Jessica’s first posts here, I was looking through our records and it struck me that we often become bogged down in detail, in theory, in the mundane day-to-day stuff that we deal with. We tend to forget what it’s all about, and we shouldn’t. Almost from the beginning America has been a dream; a dream of freedom above all, but also of material prosperity.

It was such a potent dream that Italian peasants told each other that the streets were paved with gold, although they knew what really awaited them was hard work, and bias against them because of their language and religion but, they came anyway, and if they didn’t have much but hard work and cramped tenements, their children did. And that’s really what the dream has always been: for our children to have a better life than we did. In the nineteenth century, Russian immigrants who had never had anything but black bread, except maybe on holidays, wrote home ecstatically that “in America, we eat wheaten bread every day.” And that too was part of the saga of America.

That’s what we have built over the last 400 years, a dream of freedom, of individual liberty, yes, but also of freedom from material want by virtue of hard work. And you know, as Jess is going to tell you again here, that is really pretty damned heroic as well. Neo]

When I was ten, I lived in America for a year – in the mid-West. I remember when we got to O’Hare airport looking at its size and marvelling; it seemed bigger than the town in which we lived in Wales. I recall going to St. Louis and seeing the Arch, and going up it and looking across the vastness of the city and asking my mother: ‘What is America for mummy?’ I can’t remember what she answered – she probably thought it was me trying to be clever; but it was a real question, and one I came to ask a few times whilst I was there.

I think I asked it for the reason many foreigners ask – there is something different about America.  I remember going with my mother to a Kiwanis Club and being struck by the way everyone put their fist on their breast as they swore the oath of allegiance to the flag. Indeed, I was so impressed that I memorised it so that the second time we went, I could do it too. I remember a nice man smiling but saying that I couldn’t do it because I was not an American citizen.  ‘How do you get to be one of those’, I asked? ‘Well, little lady, you could always marry an all-American boy’, was the answer.  I think I said something about ‘smelly boys’ and never wanting to get married because I wanted to be a nun. But a bit later I recall thinking that maybe the kind man had a point.  America, the very idea, seemed Romantic.

My father was fifty when I was born, and his tastes in movies became mine. When other teenage girls were swooning about Kevin Costner (really???), I was dismissive. John Wayne was my hero – and remains so. He summed up America for me. Strong, but never boastful about it. I remember crying when I saw ‘The Man who shot Liberty Valance’ – it was so unfair – it was Tom Donovan, not Ransom Stoddard who shot Liberty Valance, so why did the latter end up with the girl? Huh, I remember thinking, if I had been ‘the girl’ there was no way I’d have chosen Jimmy Stewart over John Wayne – what was she thinking?  But, as Tom Donovan might have said: “Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim”.

The film’s message, which passed me by in my indignation, was about the passing of the old West, and the place of myth in the making of a nation. America is a nation built around myths and legends. That is not to say they are wrong, it is to say that those movies told a bigger story about the making of a great nation and what made it that. All nations need myths, and the point about the American one seemed to be encapsulated in my second favourite John Wayne film – ‘She wore a Yellow ribbon.’ Captain Nathan Brittles was the quintessential quiet American. A man who, having lost his family, was married to the army, and who did his duty, no matter what. My teenage heart went out to him, and I was very sniffy about the heroine going off with those ‘boys’ rather than a ‘real man’.

What John Ford caught in those films – especially the great trilogy which began with ‘Fort Apache’ and ended with ‘Rio Grande’ – was the very idea of America.  Call me a Romantic (no, do) – but that idea of America remains with me to this day. God Bless America – the land of the free.

[I think Jess is very right, America is romantic, and yes, you can call me one too. But if we take the romance, and yes the legend and the saga out of our history, we are left with a strip of dirt, and just another group of people. That’s not my America, either. Here’s a piece of the legend. Neo]

I also have a post up at Jess’ Watchtower, and last year I had a pretty good musical post.

Happy Independence Day

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239 Times

pic_giant_070314_AWell, we’re still here, and we’re still, whatever the Supreme Court says, still America, and yes, by God’s grace that is so.

239 years ago a group of guys gathered in Philadelphia said loud enough to be heard in London that

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.

That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.

Tthe resolution passed, and a document that started “When in the course of human events…” was published. A committee including Thomas Jefferson (mostly), Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams wrote it. It became the Mission Statement first for America and then the free world. John Adams then said:

“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty; it ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

A man who knew his countrymen well, then and now. because it’s more about the American character than anything else. David Azerrad said this morning:

What sets us Americans apart is that we do not merely declare for liberty. We staunchly stand for it. To be an American is not only to know that you are born free, it is to have the courage to defend your freedom. This admirable aspect of the American character is evident in the fifth grievance the Declaration levels against the king.

It reads: “He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing, with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the people.” The king acted as monarchs are wont to do. Our forefathers, although they were subjects, did not take his abuses passively. They resisted—with manly firmness.

[…]

The 56 men who signed our Declaration of Independence set the example for their fellow countrymen and for future generations. They did not simply proclaim the universal rights of man. They also pledged“to each other, our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” And they meant it. Twelve served as combat commanders during the Revolutionary War. Five were captured and imprisoned by the British. Seventeen lost part of their fortunes.

America is not a country for servile men and women. We not only have aright to be free, but a duty to be free. For “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.” Free as we are, we have no liberty to choose despotism—even if it is sugarcoated, as it is today, with material comfort and license.

As Samuel Adams said in his rousing oration on American Independence: “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom—go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”

But the men to use those arms have never been lacking. From the men, like joseph Plumb Martin and his fellow Continental soldiers, right on down to today, that freedom has been won and maintained by the best of us, Warriors of America. A reminder to a troubled world, we are still here, we still care, and we will again some day soon (I trust) be on scene.

Perhaps we should end with something a man with an American mother said:

Never give in! Never give in!

Never, never, never, never — in nothing great or small, large or petty.

Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.

That man, of course, was Sir Winston Churchill.

Take Control of the Debate.

Conservative author and commentator William F....

Conservative author and commentator William F. Buckley, Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we move into July, with the dreadful baggage of June behind us, I find myself in a reflective mood. Three years ago this month, the Robert’s court, for the first but not last time, threw the law of the land under the bus to save Obamacare SCOTUScare. The day after that, I followed a comment on that, to Jessica’s blog All along the Watchtower, and there I found the exceptional young woman who would become my dearest friend, muse, mentor, guide, editor, and above all, teacher. Her love, for me, n particular, for mankind in general, and above all for God, has made a huge improvement in my life, the largest since the death of my father. For the many of you who remember her contributions here fondly, she continues to slowly recover from her cancer, mostly in seclusion at the convent in Walsingham.

In any case, I was reminded of one of her posts today, when I read on her website, Geoffrey Sales post, Too much about Sex, because one of Jess’ themes has always been that we focus much too much on the material, instead of the spiritual. As she wrapped up 2013 for us here, she made the point this way.

I sometimes wonder to what extent this concentration of material things is a function of our societies forgetting about God, or thinking He must be confined to the private sphere?  It is easy enough (which is why it gets done so often) to focus on the bad things which came from a time when society was more Christian: the intolerance of other views; the attempts to force belief on others; the narrow-mindedness of some believers, and the like; it is little use pointing out that these features were also to be found in non-Christian societies and seem to be art of mankind’s development (where it does develop); those who wish to blame Christianity for the world’s ills will do so regardless of the evidence. But there is another side to it all. The values which Christianity espouses are about personal responsibility but also altruism: you take responsibility for your own sins; but you are saved by God’s mercy; you are part of a Christian family, and you have responsibilities to others; you are not better than others, but others are no better than you: at your worst you are a sinner; at your best you are also made in God’s image. Redemption is always possible. No one is so bad God cannot save them; no one is so good that they do not need God’s forgiveness.

All of that gives a focus to life which takes us beyond narrow definitions of self-interest, and which helps put material wealth in a proper perspective. There’s nothing in Christianity which says money is wrong; there’s a great deal which says that loving money more than people is very wrong; it is bad for you and bad for the society of which you are a part. The moment you begin to regard another human being as somehow instrumental in a search for personal wealth, whatever you may gain, you are losing your soul.  Christianity has been responsible for education and social and health care long before civil society took an interest in such matters; it has inspired some great art and architecture. It is easy enough (and therefore often done) to think that a Church should simply sell off anything that can be sold to feed the poor, but that ignores so much about the motive for the art and architecture, and it betrays an attitude towards religion which comes from the purely material world.

Men and women have given of their gifts freely to God and His service, and some of these have been great artists and architects. They take us beyond the realm of the everyday to visions of what can be, they raise our eyes above the horizon of the possible towards what could be. It is good for the human spirit to have that, as it is good for it to repent of sin and to help others; all of these are part of what it is to be really human.  In losing these dimensions, our modern society threatens to shrink our world to the merely possible and the expedient. It was not thus that mankind advanced, nor will it be thus it advances further.

To me that says much about the intolerant, vituperative left, and why the have become vindictive, narrow-minded, lacking vision, without faith in man’s future, and all together not someone that your mother would allow you to hang around with. In fact, they have become hateful, racist bigots.

Rachel Alexander, writing for Townhall.com said this recently:

This is no longer the nostalgic era of the late William F. Buckley, Jr., where people only had a few political sources to choose from, such as reading National Review or watching Firing Line. Nowadays, there are thousands if not millions of news sources and people are overwhelmed with information. Have you seen how thin the print version of National Review is today? The right can no longer count on winning the debate with reasoned arguments alone. As we’re preaching to the choir at Tea Party meetings, the left has our children captive in school teaching them we’re haters.

The truth is, the far left does hate the right, so calling the left bigots is no longer a stretch. How many times have you been attacked on Twitter or Facebook with profane language or threats over your right-leaning viewpoints? I’m beginning to lose track of all the people I’ve had to block. The hate is increasing exponentially.

Sadly,  she is correct, and if we allow them to frame the debate, we will lose, and lose catastrophically. So it is time for us to resume control of the conversation. Easy? Nope, it’s going to be hard, very hard indeed, but since when did we believe in the easy way? We, who think for ourselves know, and have always known that we must do the harder right instead of the easier wrong.

Stupid Selfies and Kitteh Videos

Klavan and Whittle on culture.

Enough said.

Hubris

NEO:

This says it all about so many today. He’s right, hubris will destroy us just as the sun melted the wax in Icarus’ wing.

Originally posted on Practically Historical:

We know better, perhaps we know everything todaywe of the information age, with the world at our fingertips have all the answers.  Science, literature, culture…even history can be changed by our definitive grasp of what is right, just, and true.  Previous generations were naive, exploitative, and selfish.  Now with the benefit of hindsight which grows from our superior comprehension  of morality and intellectual prowess; we can right the wrongs, free the oppressed, and expunge the perpetrators from our collective memory.      This kind of thinking will be the end of our republic if we allow it to permeate our society. 

Don't Tread on Me Don’t Tread on Me

So, as pseudo-intellectuals Don Lemon and Ashleigh Banfield…  openly discuss destroying the Jefferson memorial in front of millions of viewers, the seeds of our downfall are planted.  Willingly equating the memory of Thomas Jefferson with the deranged ramblings of a homicidal maniac, Lemon…

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Interpretive Jiggery-pokery; Part One

91237701A lot of electrons have been disturbed in commenting on the SCOTUS rulings last week. A lot more will be, some of them by me, but underlying the whole sordid mess, is a pernicious view of the law. Justice Kennedy opened his opinion of SSM with this:

The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity. The petitioners in these cases seek to find that liberty by marrying someone of the same sex and having their marriages deemed lawful on the same terms and conditions as marriages between persons of the opposite sex.

In the analysis section, he says this:

The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.

Those two statements are consistent with each other and with the school of thought that can find new rights (or make them up out of the whole cloth) in a two hundred year old document, whose authors meant no such thing, if (and that’s very doubtful) they even thought of such things. That school is what is often called ‘the living constitution’. And it is fully capable of finding rights that don’t exist and were never intended.

Yesterday, No Mans Land published on All along the Watchtower, an excellent history of marriage in Christianity. But that, while interesting, has little to do with the court ruling, because like Roe v. Wade, the court simply decided what it wanted without recourse to the law. I probably should add that while I’ve always thought Marbury v. Madison was right, I’m beginning to doubt my conclusion.

Because the real problem isn’t with any of that, the real problem is the conception of the law. What Kennedy works from is the old Roman conception of the law that flows strongly in European law. It holds that one can do anything that the law permits. It leads to many laws, and a fair percentage of them perverse, and is imposed from the top down, like these SCOTUS opinions.

But American law, like English law, is based on the Common Law, and law that has built up over time, using precedents. We spoke the other day of the start of the written Common Law, in the days of King Æthelberht of Kent. Contemporary with St. Augustine of Canterbury, King Æthelberht’s Law was the first written version of the Common Law, indeed the first written law code in any of the Germanic languages. This was the basis of King Alfred the Great’s Code, and all subsequent English/American law, including Magna Charta.

The key takeaway here is that Anglo-American law is based on a different principle, that one can do anything that the law does not forbid. That difference is fundamental. That is also the basis of the Ten Commandments. That is an entire law code, in ten simple “Thou shalt not’s. More on that in an earlier post of mine, here, and Jessica postulated that Jesus boiled it down even more  here.

And so we see that there is a fundamental flaw in these decrees from SCOTUS, the court simply chooses to violate the fundamental basis of our law to grant non-existant rights.

More to come on this, of course.

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