Women and Harley’s and Power and War

rftw-flag-bikesSometimes, in my more cynical moments, I think the Monday Holiday Law was enacted to make us forget the cause of the holiday. Proof, I suspect, if you needed it, that I have my full share of the traditional American distrust of the government and all its doings. It may be misplaced but, I’ve always found it a good guide.

But sometimes it backfires because it gives us more time to reflect, and this Memorial Day is one of those for me. As I mentioned last Saturday when General Logan issued the orders to the Grand Army of the Republic that instituted Decoration Day, he specified that it should be done on 30 May, and frankly moving it to 25 May is nearly too far. But there is nothing really wrong with America’s memory, and we know both what and why we celebrate it.

Bruce Catton in describing a route march of the Federal army observed that march discipline was terrible with stragglers all over the place, where men stopped for a drink and a rest and all. He also noted that when the battle lines were drawn all those stragglers were right there, and no armies ever had better battle discipline.

Not because the officers demanded it, a few thought discipline should be like the regulars, but the volunteers, with their mostly elected officers weren’t having it. He made the comment that Billy and Johnny were very much like GI Joe that he knew in the forties as well. American armies always have a sort of loose-jointed, lanky discipline. Pretty much everything important gets done, and on time, but there’s not much spit and polish in evidence.

And that is about as American as it gets, ad hoc, informal, git ‘er done. And that’s what I’ve been thinking about this Memorial; Day: Rolling Thunder. What could be more American than a bunch of veterans, sick of being ignored because of the war they fought in, getting together to commemorate their comrades, and all the others, from Washington on down to those still ‘downrange’.

Stanton S. Coerr wrote movingly about it in The Federalist.

Yesterday, nearly a million sunburned Americans converged on Washington DC’s National Mall for the Rolling Thunder Run, a combination memorial event and motorcycle rally held since 1988. Hundreds of thousands were mounted, roaring one at a time along the nation’s front yard; more than half a million watched from sidewalks, ice cream in hand, yelling and cheering from the sidelines. Wives rode pillion, and flags snapped and streamed behind the bikes: the Stars and Stripes; POW/MIA flags; Navy unit crests; Marine Corps colors; Ranger flags; the yellow and black of the Airborne.

Devoted to good Detroit steel and unmuffled V-twin combustion from Harley Davidsons built in the heartland America of small-town Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Missouri, these veterans celebrate every year, in booming engines and determined presence, the American fighting man. […]

They started gathering early Sunday morning in the parking lot of the Pentagon, that building which sent them to war and their friends to early graves. Looking up from the rally point, these riders could see the Arlington gardens of white stone, thousands of acres of perfect, serried ranks where their brothers lie. Standing sentinel above those rows of crosses and Stars of David, looking out at Washington, is the house which came through the Washington family to Robert E. Lee, and which the Union took from him, its land appropriated for the graves of the Union fallen in the War Between the States.

Low and right of that house, riders could just see above the trees the American flag flying above the Iwo Jima Memorial, Joe Rosenthal’s photo come to life, commemorating the fallen of the Marine Corps’ wars. Carved into black stone on the base of that monument are the dates and wars in which Marines have fought….but only wars which are complete. Iraq and Afghanistan are absent. […]

The Harleys flowed, too. They passed monuments to America’s best moments and her worst: the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the National Museum of African American History under construction, the White House, the Capitol, the National Museum of the American Indian. Black leather, black bandannas, black helmets, black motorcycles, black POW/MIA flags snapping in their breeze, they motored past the quiet white buildings of the United States: government agencies, art galleries. They passed within feet of the National Archives, engine noise thrumming in the rooms that hold the Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta. They passed the block-long glass of the Air and Space Museum, the busiest museum in the world, a monument to the strength and can-do know-how of Americans who conquered the skies, won our wars and put men on the moon.

All of this is America. The roads of Rolling Thunder– Independence and Constitution – are bookends to the ideals for which these men joined and fought, and for which their friends died. […]

Returning to Virginia, the bikers did what Americans do. They shut down the bikes and men, women, and engines cooled. They gathered. Some went to visit their brothers in Bobby Lee’s backyard, leaving totems atop the cool white stone: rocks and unit patches and jump wings and bottles of Jack, cards and boots and bullet casings. They turned for the cameras and left space for their brother between their knees. They put their arms on one another’s shoulders and looked at the frozen lives, carved now into the nation’s stone. And they wept.

Reads it all at: In Washington, Motorcycle-Mounted Veterans Remember Their Own

And that too strikes as so very American, veterans parading in good order and discipline without any real semblance of leadership, while the American people cheer. Jess has told us several times that in Britain the military is nearly monastic, separated from the people most of the time. Not here, the American military is the darling of the people, well, the no nonsense folks from the Heartland anyway, it’s quite rare for a soldier out here to buy his own beer. And this in a country that at it’s founding abolished the Army because of its threat to domestic tranquility.

Orwell was right you know, we sleep safe in our beds because of rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf.

I spoke above of how the Civil War soldiers always showed up for battle, and here is why, then, and now, they are a band of brothers, who fight for each other, the question really is always, “Who were you with?”

What’s it all mean? Perhaps as usual Kipling put it best.

We cleansed our beards of the mutton-grease,
We lay on the mats and were filled with peace,
And the talk slid north, and the talk slid south,
With the sliding puffs from the hookah-mouth.
Four things greater than all things are, --
Women and Horses and Power and War.
We spake of them all, but the last the most,
For I sought a word of a Russian post,
Of a shifty promise, an unsheathed sword
And a grey-coat guard on the Helmund ford. […]
 
"Heart of my heart, is it meet or wise
To warn a King of his enemies?
We know what Heaven or Hell may bring,
But no man knoweth the mind of the King.
Of the grey-coat coming who can say?
When the night is gathering all is grey.
Two things greater than all things are,
The first is Love, and the second War.
And since we know not how War may prove,
Heart of my heart, let us talk of Love!"

Although perhaps today we should substitute Harley’s for horses, since they perform much the same function, and that throbbing sound of power is also America at its best

I think General Logan would approve

Peacekeepers

FVhF8GUArchbishop Cranmer yesterday shared his thoughts about the British Trident, and they’re apropos for us as Americans as well. Trident is, of course, the British submarine based nuclear deterrent force, comparable in most respects to the US Strategic Command. The British were the world’s second nuclear armed power, because of their contribution (a huge one) to the Manhattan Project, and they have, as always, been steadfast in their duty.

I doubt I’m the only one who remembers with gratitude the sight of the American strategic forces at RAF Greenham Common guarded by the RAF regiment from the Moscow inspired Greens of the CND.

But that was then and now is now. The old Soviet Union is gone, although it does seem to be stirring somewhat like a phoenix, and its nukes still exist as do China’s, Pakistan’s and North Korea’s. Nor does it lo0k improbable that Iran, and perhaps others in the Middle East will develop nuclear weapons, and some may not be as rational.

Here is some of what His Grace had to say:

Trident is the price we pay not only for peace and national security, but for the contribution Britain makes to the security of the world. Our seat on the UN Security Council is contingent on our nuclear potency, which the SNP may not care very much about, but they will if President Putin keeps making incursions into Scottish airspace.

And it’s not only Russia: there’s also North Korea, and President Obama has just gifted the eschatological ayatollahs of Iran the means of ushering in the Mahdi and wiping Israel off the map. There is denial that this deal will do anything of the sort. But an assurance that Iran will open up their nuclear programme to inspection and not make a bomb for 10-13 years is no assurance of anything at all. When you believe you have a prophetic role to play in ushering in the End Times and the Second Coming of Isa, a decade-long delay is as a few minutes in the quest to reestablish Allah’s kingdom of righteousness.

There is no ‘Christian’ approach to nuclear deterrence: Jesus would no more bless a Trident submarine than He would a fruitless fig tree. And it’s hard to square a nuclear bomb with the Just War theory on the grounds of proportionality alone, let alone the collateral incineration of civilians. There is no jus post bellum after a nuclear strike: you’re dealing with the fallout (quite literally) for decades if not centuries.

But Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.’ And Trident helped to establish international treaties of concord throughout the Cold War era, even if that peace was sometimes hot. How would a nuclear-free Scotland defend herself against a nuclear aggressor?

Keep reading Archbishop Cranmer.

And that’s the point, isn’t it? These ugly weapons, always restricted for ‘no first use’, that no one ever wants to use, have kept the peace in Europe, for 70 years, courtesy of the United Kingdom and the United States. These two great maritime powers have taken the doctrines that allowed them to first make and then protect the modern world and turned them into a doctrine that has allowed them to keep the peace worldwide, for nearly 70 years.

It has been hugely expensive for both countries both fiscally and psychically. It is a power no rational man would desire, the ability to end life on Earth, and yet our countries have done so, and kept the peace.

It was no joke when back in the 1940s the USAF Strategic Air Command took as its motto:

Stategic Air Command

Stategic Air Command; via Wikipedia

Peace is our profession

For truly these warriors, some of the best in the United States and the United Kingdom are indeed the peacekeepers. To them every person in the world owes their life, and such freedom as they have, or even hope for.

As Cranmer said above:

But Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.’

For truly:

Si vis pacem, para bellum

The War Against Freedom

2272458246_b77147169e_zIn recent days we have looked at various things, The War Against Academic Freedom, The New Intolerance, the likely outcome of forcing Americans to do much of anything, and today we’re going to look at the intolerance shown in the opposition to the RFRA in Indiana. We’ll start that with some background provided by Richard A. Epstein writing for The Hoover Institution.

The War Against Religious Liberty

Our country is in the midst of a heated and corrosive debate over what protections the law should afford to religious liberties. The matter reached its boiling point on March 17 when Indiana passed a now amendedReligious Freedom Restoration Act that was, with significant variations, patterned on the federal 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Hard as it is to remember, the federal RFRA represented an overwhelming bipartisan rejection of Justice Scalia’s 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith, which stood for the proposition that “the right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes).’”

Having enunciated that broad principle, Justice Scalia then upheld Oregon’s decision to deny unemployment benefits to Alfred Smith, a member of the Native American Church, because he was fired for having ingested peyote, a banned substance, as part of his religious rituals. Under Scalia’s iron logic, the disparate impact of this law on Smith did not require Oregon to make any accommodation for his religious beliefs. The denial of unemployment benefits here was collateral damage, given that Oregon did not initiate criminal proceedings against him, as it might have done if he had ingested peyote for recreational use.

Justice Scalia’s dangerously broad neutrality proposition prompted massive disapproval at the time because of the potential breadth of its application. Under that rule, the United States could draft Jews or Muslims into the military and force them to eat pork. After all, they have the choice to go hungry in order to not violate their religious convictions. It could also require commercial Kosher butchers to slaughter meat in accordance with federal health laws inconsistent with kosher rituals.

RFRA’s response established that the United States could not “substantially burden” the religious liberties of any person unless it could show a compelling state interest for the law that caused the burden, and even then it had to pick the least restrictive means to achieve its narrowly-defined public interest. During the more than twenty years that the federal RFRA has been in operation, it has provoked relatively little litigation on provision of services issues, and courts have never read it as a blanket license to discriminate. For the most part the application of the law dealt with matters of faith and religion.

 

Continue reading The War Against Religious Liberty | Hoover Institution.

That’s about as good on the background as I’ve seen. Mark Bauerlein writing on First Things has something to say on religious liberty as well

[I]n Public Discourse this week is a forthright statement of religious liberty signed by five distinguished figures. It’s a point that needs to be made again and again.

Religious liberty is the first freedom. It is one of the “moral roots” of our “constitutional system.” It is every American’s “birthright.” Without it, “civic harmony” is endangered.

And yet, a circumstance in our country today makes arguments for religious liberty alone inadequate. The statement acknowledges it in the third paragraph:

In recent days we have heard claims that a belief central to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—that we are created male and female, and that marriage unites these two basic expressions of humanity in a unique covenant—amounts to a form of bigotry.

That’s the crux of the matter. Religious conservatives demand religious liberty, while liberals, progressives, and libertarians demand that discrimination stop. In this set-up, which the media blast daily, conservatives don’t defend their beliefs. They only defend their right to exercise those beliefs. The charge of bigotry stands.

Keep reading:  RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IS A REARGUARD POSITION.

Ben Johnson writing on Life Site News tells us that

A New York Times columnist and a corporate leader have agreed that Christian churches “must” be convinced, or coerced, to change their teachings on sexual morality and abandon an “ossified” doctrinal teaching that sex outside heterosexual marriage is immoral.

Frank Bruni wrote that traditional Christianity – whether among evangelicals, Catholics, or Orthodox – provides the greatest resistance to normalizing homosexuality in the United States in a recent column in the New York Times.

“Homosexuality and Christianity don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere,” Bruni insisted. “The continued view of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as sinners is a decision. It’s a choice. It prioritizes scattered passages of ancient texts over all that has been learned since — as if time had stood still, as if the advances of science and knowledge meant nothing.”

Bruni quoted furniture tycoon Mitchell Gold, who has used his millions to found a liberal pressure group Faith in America, writing that Gold believes Christian churches “must be made ‘to take homosexuality off the sin list.’”

Keep reading Christian churches ‘must be made’ to affirm homosexuality, says New York Times columnist.

Now remember that there is a difference, especially in the United States, between what is legal in the civil realm. Frankly, i can see little justification for banning SSM there, although I do think it should be confined two natural persons, which is a better firebreak. It is different in any church built upon Christ’s teaching, (or Mohammed’s, for that matter) that is very clear. But that does not give us the right to coerce others, but it does give us the right to say who is a member in good standing of our congregations. We are covenantal organizations, when you join, you  promise to obey (or at least try to obey) the teachings of the Church. If we do not have that right, the church itself has no meaning. And that is, I believe, the objective.


In many ways what we are seeing is a multi-pronged full on assault on freedom and liberty (yes, political correctness is part of this, it sets the allowable terms to be used, If you obey, you lose).

Why now? I think, with the best President they’ve ever had foundering in scandal, and ineffectiveness worse than anyone since Wilson himself after World War I, they have grown desperate because America is more conservative today than it has been since about 1928.

They have to win now, or they will be set back at least another 50 years, and so they are trying to make ha while the sun shines. If we stick with it now, I think we have a historic opportunity to roll back the nanny state, and increase freedom.

So cheer up and keep your powder dry, the kleptocracy is losing again, for at least another generation. Will America be as it was before? Nope it’ll be different, it always is, and likely it’ll be still better. because as always it will be:

The Shining City on the Hill

Because, amongst other reasons, as Maggie Thatcher said:

Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy.”

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/margaret_thatcher.html#EHsh3oeD8k7vxAWp.99

Netanyahu Speech Before Congress On Iran: Fist Pumps From The Midwest

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flagsMy, and many of yours, as well, old friend, Cultural Limits wrote today in the DC Gazette a Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of the US Congress. Her article is linked here, and I recommend that you read it. But one paragraph really struck home with me:

For Americans starved for forceful leadership without excuses, Mr. Netanyahu’s address was a breath of fresh air.  It is very obvious that this man loves this country and respects the system it represents even if he is the leader of a different nation.  His presence was without apology  – and without constant references to his own achievements real or imagined.

Netanyahu Speech Before Congress On Iran: Fist Pumps From The Midwest ⋆ Dc Gazette.

I doubt that I need to say that I couldn’t agree any more with her. This afternoon Daniel Hannan. MEP Tweeted this, which you can see I retweeted.

It is rather refreshing to see a man address Congress who has, and likely will again put his life on the line to do “the harder right instead of the easier wrong”, isn’t it?

Here’s Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel to the United States Congress yesterday.

And just a quick note, Netanyahu thanked Congress for our help with the Iron Dome system that saved so many Israelis last summer. If you didn’t know the Israeli Iron Dome system is a spin-off of the much maligned Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI-Star Wars) that so many ridiculed President Reagan about.

CPAC 2015

Gladstone quoteI haven’t been doing much politics lately. That doesn’t mean that I no longer care, I do as much as ever. It means that for the present all we can really do is hold, and frankly I’m very disillusioned with the Republicans, who have turned into democrat (not so) lite.

Still CPAC is different. Even though they let some of the ones we derisively call RINOs talk, it’s about conservatism, and doing things that work. So, here’s a selection from last weekends CPAC 2015.

My overall thrust remains what it always has been. It is summarized quite well in the lead quote in the sidebar.

This you really want to listen to, it is that important!


And we’ll finish off with a man who knows all to well what Brent Bozell was talking about. If what you know about UKIP comes from the British press, you’ve simply been lied to. Unless I had a very good reason for voting for somebody else, and some do, I’d vote UKIP in a heartbeat.

 

The Decline and Fall of the Person

Dr. Jeff Mirus over at Catholic Culture did some musing the other day on his stack of unread books. I tend to be sympathetic because I have one of those plus a bunch of half-read ones on my Kindle. That tends top be life in the Information Age. His musing is a lot more informative and useful than my whining though. Here’s some of what he had to say:

The grand synthesis between Christian revelation and classical reason which formed Western culture placed the person at center stage. As a direct result, the universe was perceived as pregnant with meaning, created by and for persons, and capable of generating a kind of wonder that leads back to the Creator. But under various internal and external pressures, this intensely human synthesis tended to break down. People began to relativize ideas—the human grasp of meaning which is so often subject to disagreement, debate and conflict. And they began to absolutize facts—descriptions of material reality which are amenable to physical measurement and empirical proof.

There are so many ways to trace this shift in perception that it is difficult to know where to start. However it is traced, what we now call “science” gradually took the first place in human studies. Deeply dependent on earlier Western ideas about order in the universe as a whole, the rapid advance of the physical sciences won them deep respect. They offered largely non-controversial benefits to mankind while appearing to reduce the need for moral improvement.

The attraction is not hard to understand. Nobody has to grow in love or overcome habitual vices to appreciate the benefits of science and its resulting technology. In fact, whether good or evil, the achievements of science readily appeal to personal selfishness. They can make us healthier and more comfortable; they can reduce sweat equity; they can maximize pleasure.

I can’t really say I disagree with any of that nor, in some ways, do I think it bad.

Unfortunately, this relativization of what we might also call the moral or the spiritual, and this absolutization of what we must call the material, led the West as a whole to commit a fundamental error. We might call it a philosophical or a logical error, but it is just as much an error of common sense. A whole culture began by choosing to focus overwhelmingly on the material world. For obvious reasons, it then lost awareness of what it chose not to focus on. Finally, it proclaimed—completely without warrant—that what it was focused on is all there is. In other words, the West slipped progressively into a deeper and deeper materialism.

This has created gargantuan problems. If everything is material, how can we account for meaning and purpose? The answer is that we cannot, and the long-term result of this reticence concerning meaning is an insistence that everything must be random. In its evolutionary form, this randomness is thought to tend toward continuous improvement, at a huge but justifiable cost to whatever is left behind.

Nothing to disagree with here either but like the author, let’s think about this a bit. If there is nothing but the material world, then there is no cause for any morality at all, might is right is the way they phrased it in Camelot, if for some reason you are not the one with the power, you simply do not matter, get out of my way. Sounds a lot like a stone age tribal society, doesn’t it? Or maybe the twenty-first century industrialized world. Because in large measure we have devolved to a society in which if you can’t buy enough influence from the corrupt court, you’re gonna lose.

Another way modern Western culture has dealt with the absence of meaning is through the reduction of happiness to pleasure. It is an ever-present human tendency to prefer easily-gained and primarily physical pleasures over hard-won but more deeply satisfying growth in perfection (which presumes purposes and ends). Technology excels at producing pleasures for our consumption. Unlike ideology, pleasure does not provide an alternative form of “meaning”. Instead, it makes it easier to forget meaninglessness. In this sense it is also an escape from moral responsibility. But this is really a flight from despair, a flight from the frightening emptiness of a valueless existence, of a life without meaning.

Sound familiar? Yeah, it does to me as well, and I suspect it is true for a large part of our populations. There just aren’t many things our society thinks worthy of belief, are there?

There is quite a bit more at this link, The decline and fall of the Person: Musings on my stack of unread books – Catholic Culture. all of it worth reading, including Benedict’s  Caritas in Veritate. But let’s finish as Dr. Mirus does, because I don’t think it can be improved on.

[…] But when I looked at the clutter on my desk today, I realized that there was a very definite pattern to the clutter. A pattern, yes, and therefore purposes and ends and meanings which can only be discerned by persons.

To put the case in a nutshell, there really is a theology of the body. The end of our modern insanity is to learn again who we really are. I have chosen my words carefully: I do not mean what, but who.

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