1066/1776 and all that


We’ve had a couple of posts in the last week concerning battles in Saxon England. Many Americans, I suspect, think it no part of our heritage, but in that, they are wrong, these battles shaped the development of England, and that shaped America. Jessica wrote about this a few years ago and her thoughts are perhaps even more valid today. Neo

It is hard to pin down what you mean by culture, but despite the efforts of the MSM to pretend that our culture comes from all sorts of wonderful and weird places such as Kenya, the values on which this country was formed were those of a Christian heritage. It was a particular type of heritage. The early pilgrims were of British descent and of Protestant inclination. They were men and women who saw themselves as like the Israelites of old – in the wilderness, building a new Jerusalem – a shining city on a hill. But they also brought with them something from their British heritage – a love of law and freedom. Unlike some countries where the law was seen as the enemy of freedom, in England, from Magna Carta onward, it was seen as the protection of the liberties of the people.

But those Barons of Norman descent at Runnymede did not invent that idea; they inherited it.  The Normans were, as befitted the descendants of Scandinavian pirates, a tough lot; they could not have taken so much land if they had not been. But in England they found the descendants of other men from the North, the Saxons, and those Saxons had developed their own way of doing things.

For all that modern historians doubt the idea that the Saxons developed a form of consultative government via the Witan, that was not what those who settled America believed. They came with the idea that democracy had begun in the Saxon forests, and they applied it in the wilderness they settled. These were tough men and women too, but they valued freedom above all things. For that they crossed the Atlantic in small ships; for that they endured the hardships of building a new Jerusalem. Sustained by their Christian faith, and strong in their love of freedom, these people forged a nation and a culture. It was the threat to that from the German tyrant George which drove them to rebellion. Kipling expressed it best here:


The  snow lies thick on Valley Forge,
The ice on the Delaware,
But the poor dead soldiers of King George
They neither know nor care.

Not though the earliest primrose break
On the sunny side of the lane,
And scuffling rookeries awake
Their England’ s spring again.

They will not stir when the drifts are gone,
Or the ice melts out of the bay:
And the men that served with Washington
Lie all as still as they.

They will  not  stir  though  the mayflower blows
In the moist dark woods of pine,
And every rock-strewn pasture shows
Mullein and columbine.

Each for his land, in a fair fight,
Encountered strove, and died,
And the kindly earth that knows no spite
Covers them side by side.

She is too busy to think of war;
She has all the world to make gay;
And,  behold, the yearly flowers are
Where they were in our fathers’ day!

Golden-rod by the pasture-wall
When the columbine is dead,
And sumach leaves that turn, in fall,
Bright as the blood they shed.

It was a brothers’ war, and when it was over they bore no real ill-will and became friends and allies.

They could do that because of a shared love of freedom and the same concept of justice. There was no need to ask what culture was, and those uncounted millions who found in the New World a haven, embraced those values – so much so that people took them for granted – they were surely universal. Rule for the people and by the people did not fade from that land, and even after a second and bloodier war of brothers, the nation united around those shared values. To become an American was a great a noble ambition for every immigrant. It never meant junking your ancestor’s past, but it did mean embracing a better life – and recognising the values of your new country which made that possible.

Somewhere, and we can speculate where and how, that simple truth got mislaid by our rulers. The next few posts explore some of this – and invite you all to think about it with us.

Myths,legends and facts


I don’t know about you guys, but one of the greatest pleasures of this site for me, is going into the archives and reading what we have written, especially for me what Jessica has written. She has a gift, of drawing lessons for us from many things, and making them stick. And mind, there is a lesson here for us all. So let’s share one of my favorites.

“This is the West, sir, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” One of my favourite quotations from any film, and it is what the newpaper editor, Scott, says to Jimmy Stewart’s character, Ransom Stoddard at the end of The Man who shot Liberty Vallance. Even for the great John Ford, that’s some line. Stoddard, a Washington grandee, former Ambassador to the UK and likely Presidential nominee, has come back to the town of Shinbone for the funeral of a local rancher, a nobody called Tom Doniphon, and the local press want to know why: Jimmy Stewart’s character tells them a story which is not just about how the West was won, but how it became civilized.

The story began quarter of a century before, when what is now the State was a Territory – with men who wanted it to stay that way. The young Stoddard is held up by a notorious outlaw, Liberty Valance, and pistol-whipped. Doniphon, a tough local rancher, takes him back to town and sets him up with the family who run the local canteen – his love interest, Hallie helps the wounded lawyer recover, and he helps out at the canteen – eventually falling foul of Vallance – played by Lee Marvin at his brilliant best. In a scene packed with tension, Doniphon tells Valance to pick up the food that’s been spilled by him tripping ‘Ranse’ Stoddard up: it looks like there will be a shoot out – but Vallance backs away – Doniphon’s that sort of a guy.

So, we have there the old West, men are men and all that. It’s rough and tough, and if you haven’t got a gun – or don’t know how to use it – you’re not going to get far – or even live long. But Stoddard is the new order’s forerunner. He believes in the law, sets up an office in Shinbone and works with the local editor as the Territory moves towards statehood.

Doniphon tries to help Stoddard adapt to the ways of the West, but an attempt to teach him how to use a gun is a failure. But Valance and his type are not to be stopped by the law. They beat up the editor and burn down the newspaper offices, and Valance challenges Stoddard to fight him. The first two shots see ‘Ranse’ injured, and he drops his gun – Valance, wanting to rub it in tells him to pick it up – sure the next shot will be right between the eyes – but to everyone’s surprise, the next shot kills Valance. Hallie runs to help the wounded Ranse. Doniphon, who actually fired the shot, sees that he has, in saving Stoddard, lost Hallie – he goes back home, drinks himself into a rage and burns his house down – being saved by his faithful retainer.

At the convention where the vote for who should represent the Territory in Washington is to be taken, Stoddard is challenged by a rival, who says that he should not be trusted because he shot a man. Soddard hesitates, wondering if that is actually the case – should a gun fighter be a politician. Doniphon removes his doubts by telling him the truth about the man who shot Liberty Valance. The rest is history, Stoddard becomes Governor, Senator and Ambassador, marries Hallie and has the career which opened up to men of his type as the United States moved towards its manifest destiny. Now Doniphon is dead, it is time to tell the truth – but the press don’t want the truth – the legend does them just fine.

So Doniphon, who had saved Stoddard’s life and made his career possible, dies alone and unheralded – but not quite, Hallie and Ranse have not forgotten him, or who he was, and who he was was more important than what he did. He did what he did because of who he was. He was the sort of man who did the right thing because it never occurred to him to do the other thing.

This is Ford’s world at its best – there’s no one does the old world making way for the new better. He admires the values of the old West, and he sees them re-embodied in a different form in the new. Doniphon and Stoddard are two sides of the same coin. Their integrity shines through – and Doniphon is all the more believable for not behaving like a plaster saint when he knows he has lost Hallie. Plaster saints neither won, nor will the hold, the West. And now, as then, the media prefer the legend to the facts!

Too much zeal?


“Surtout, pas de zele” is attributed to the French statesman, Talleyrand, who managed in turn to serve the French revolutionaries, Napoleon and the restored Bourbon monarchs; it is little wonder that when he died during a conference on the future of Belgium, the Austrian Chancellor, Metternich, is supposed to have commented: ‘I wonder what he meant by that?’ In many ways this has become the modern political style – and not without reason. If we look at the zealots of the last century we see Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, men who claimed to be inspired by the ‘rights of man’ and the ‘rights of the worker’ and who, in pursuit of their vision, thought nothing of slaughtering millions of their fellow men in order to achieve what they thoughts of as a worthy end. That, of course, is the mark of the zealot – a claim to be acting in a higher cause whilst being willing to ruin the lives of millions – in Lenin’s chilling formulation: ‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.”

In our own era, the worst examples of this sort of zealotry come from ISIS, rightly categorised as a death cult, which thinks nothing of killing people and mistreating them in the most vile ways – the name of their ‘Prophet’. I can understand why so many Muslims get upset when others identify them with these people – it’s more or less my reaction when people who know I am a Christian try to blame me for the churches burning each other in the past, or for priests who covered up sex abuse, or for some of the dubious characters who have occupied high positions in the various churches. I doubt not that all these people were filled with righteous zeal for their cause – but I should not care to be ruled by such people, nor will most of us vote for such people.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam all have their ascetic, zealous wings, occupied by people who think that if someone is enjoying themselves, they are on the road to hell. The Puritans in Britain abolished Christmas, insisting it was a penitential season and should be marked as such; the moment the soldiers stopped enforcing such a rule, it was abandoned. ISIS insist there should be no smoking, dancing, or brightly coloured clothes; the moment their power is broken, people go and do all of those things.

The urge to tell people to behave in a certain way runs strongly in most religions. Jesus had little time for the religious authorities of his day, who seemed to him to be so obsessed with the letter of the Law that they had forgotten its purpose. The same is true of the religious zealots of our time – they imagine that if everyone lives lives of severe penance then somehow all will be well with them; if they got the chance they would try to enforce such a dour regime; they would have to, because no one would be fool enough to vote for it.

The ancient Manichean heresy survives still in such zealots. They instinctively separate the world of the flesh from that of the spirit and imagine that only the last matters, when the mainline Christian churches have, sensibly, emphasized the complementarity of the two; the Word became flesh, and the 40 days in the wilderness apart, was not given to feats of ascetic austerity, We can follow suite.

There has always been a type of personality which wants to exercise control over itself and others by imposing forms of personal austerity. One of the advantages of democracy is that such people never get elected.

We are all oppressed!


I am oppressed. It is offensive to me that I am oppressed. If you are a political leader you must do something about it; if you are a fellow commentator you must not offend me further by querying my oppressed status. But I am white, you may say, I have ‘white privilege’. True, that means I am not at the hope of the tree here, but let’s face it, I am female, ginger-haired, skinny and single – and I am half-Welsh; whoever keeps the score-card here should surely give me enough victim points to secure me something by way of status. Neo’s post yesterday, and some of the responses to it had a lot of good sense about this sort of thing. If we dissolve the idea of the common good into a set of identity politics objectives, we reach a point where one might legitimately ask why those in power should pay any attention to the voters unless not doing so involves the chance of revolution? We pass, thereby, into a realm where what matters are our concerns and what does not matter are those of others. But if that is so, why should others listen to our concerns? Just because we are claiming victimhood status? Why should anyone care in a world where we are all claiming to be victims.

In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male or female. Why? Because Christ loves each of us for the unique individual we are. He also calls us to follow him, and in doing that we are part of a community of ‘saints’, and we have a common duty to each other; we are called to love one another. That is not to pity each other, or to replace a hierarchy of class or race with one of victimhood, but to love each other because we are all uniquely valuable in God’s eyes. God loves me because I am his daughter, not because I am a good girl (though like all fathers, I know he wants what is best for me and that it is best for me to be a good girl); because he loves me, I love him, and because I think it will please him if I am a good girl, I try to be one; when I grieve him I am sorry. I am sorry not because he is going to do the celestial equivalent of paddling my butt, but because I have let him down; I have grieved him, him who sent his Son to die and rise again for me. How could I?

Here what matters is not my status. Being a woman, a ginger or a singleton are not important. What is important is I am loved for who I am. That makes me look at myself and think. ‘goodness gracious woman, get your act together and at least make a fist of being worth that sort of love. I know I can’t ever be worthy, but that’s not a reason for not, in love, trying to be the best child I can be. Yes, I want to win my father’s favour. I do that not by claiming I am oppressed and virtue-signalling, but by being repentant and contrite and doing my best to heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Oppressed? Moi? No, I am a child of the living God and what could be better?

The ‘Gay’ vote


The Democrats, like most leftist political groups, like to think collectively, and in an age of identity of politics we have ‘the black vote’, the ‘hispanic’ vote, the ‘latino’ vote, the ‘women’s vote’ and the ‘gay vote’. You’ll note we don’t have the ‘men’s vote’ – not even the Left is silly enough to imagine men can be categorised as voters by their gender. That doesn’t stop it thinking of the other groups as ‘brands’ whose loyalty can be secured by offering concessions. As Neo was saying the other day, the assumption is that the ‘gay vote’ is mainly Democrat. Historically there is good reason for that, as it was the political Left which was in favour of lifting the various legal discriminations from which gay people suffered. Want to get married to another woman? The Right said ‘no’. Some part of the Right were quite nice about it, large parts weren’t, and no one really likes those who call them ‘dykes’ or ‘faggots’, it isn’t nice. So when it comes to voting, hey, vote Democrat or Labour.

In the UK our last PM, David Cameron, annoyed the heck out of some of his supporters by allowing gay people to get married; but he detoxified the Tory party for gay people. Because under that label, most people whose sexual preference is for someone of their own sex are just as diverse as straights. There is no intrinsic reason why a gay woman or man would instinctively vote for a party that wanted high taxation and more state interference – once the discrimination stuff is gone, gay people are free to vote the way their own instincts and political preference leads them – and many will favour free-market economics and the chance to make a buck or two.

This is hard for the Right, at least the Religious Right, as the Bible is quite clear on homosexuality. But the Bible is pretty clear on lending at interest, divorce and a whole set of things the political Right has managed to absorb and get past. As it does so on this issue, so it frees up people to vote according to their interests. A person who identifies as gay is always liable to put their civil rights at the top of the list, and if, in the past, that meant voting Labour of Democrat whilst holding your nose at the rest of the programme, so be it. Once that ceases to be so, as it now is in the UK, then all those other interests, and identities, come into play. A politics which makes people identify by their sexual preference or skin colour, is a crude politics which works for the crude only when most voters are of one skin colour and one sexual preference. In our pluralistic societies, this is no longer a vote-winner. Trump, who is nothing if not a pragmatist, gets it, and I hope others will too.

All those ‘interest groups’ that the Left targets are part of a wider society, and they can easily be disaggregated by political groupings who do the simple thing of appealing to the common public good. If that means that people of colour get the same rights as white people, well, frankly, great, and not before time; the same is true of the other groups, including gay people. As the slogan goes, some people are gay, get over it. Of course, in church, it is different, but here we’re discussing the political sphere.

‘Mad as hell’?

Mad as hell

There is a palpable anger in our politics on both sides of the Atlantic. Here in the UK, one Labour MP was shot recently, and others have been threatened. This verbal violence is happening in the Labour Party, which preaches equality and social justice. It did not happen under Miliband, Brown and Blair, but it does under Corbyn, who, of course denounces it, but seems incurious about why it is happening on his watch, and quite unable to stop it. One of the problems with being a social justice warrior seems to be that the end justifies the means; demonise your opponents, and then you can treat them as demons; it is not a good way to do politics. There were some ugly scenes and the RNC last week, and there will be at the DNC this week. Meanwhile across the Channel, there have been attacks in Nice, Munich and other places, and the authorities, presumably trying not to stir things up, play down any religious motive in them, which, alas, simply makes ordinary people even more suspicious about what is going on. All of this increases the sense many ordinary people have that politics has become a place where the elites enrich themselves at our expense – and to steal a phrase, it makes many ‘mad as hell’ and they ‘don’t want to take it’.

In the UK the opinion formers and the media were confident that ‘Remain’, their side, would win, and as a ‘Remainer’ I hoped it would. But they ran an ugly and negative campaign, mainly around economics, warning us of the consequences of failing to vote the right way. What they failed to understand was that millions already feel penalised by the system, so they didn’t really see it getting much worse for them personally; the alienated, the simply fed up and grumpy, and the ardent ‘leavers’ were sufficient to overturn conventional wisdom and the predictions of the pollsters, and so the ‘Remain’ side lost.

This time last year we were confidently being told Trump would not survive the summer; then it was the autumn he wouldn’t survive; then it was ‘Super Tuesday’ that would bury him; then it was an agreement among his challengers which would finish him off; then he became the nominee. The media don’t ‘get it’. He does not follow the Clinton playbook. We shall see, with Hillary whether that one still works, but it does not work with the millions who are sick to their back teeth of self-serving, venal and lying politicians. Sure, Trump’s a load mouth, sure he’s rich, but the Americans have never minded rich men, it is politicians enriching themselves to which objection is taken; Trump’s riches mean he can’t be bought; if Hillary were a listed company she’d have a who board of directors running her.

Here in the UK, the new PM, Theresa May, came in talking of her sense of public duty and acknowledging that many people felt they were being left behind; these are good words, but they need to be followed by delivery. There is a palpable sense that the anger currently felt begins to threaten the system itself. The political system is not an end in itself, but it seems to have become one for the politicians and the lobbyists; unless it begins to fulfil the ends for which it exists – the public good  – the public may decide to end it – and if that happens, it won’t be pretty. We need to rediscover a sense of duty and morality in public life – we have gone on too long as though those were mere words – well words alone no longer suffice.


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