Safety First?

Should we really be putting safety first? Sure, it’s important to us all, and we should try to be safe. But does it override all other conditions? There was a story a few years ago about police and fire responders who watched a man drown because they didn’t have the proper personal protective equipment. Is that proper? If not, why not? Anna Mussmann over at The Federalist thought about this the other day.

“Be safe,” we shout. It would be nice, of course, if everyone also made an attempt at kindness, wisdom, courage, and compassion; but safety is the one thing we demand.

Safety is a code of conduct that transcends class and creed. It is a duty all have been raised to acknowledge, and therefore it allows us to speak to others, to tell them what to do. We aren’t supposed to chastise other people’s children in matters of morals or manners, but no one blinks at, “Don’t do that, or else you’ll get hurt.” No one is shocked at rules developed “for your own safety.”

In a religion of safety, it is only natural that suffering is the ultimate sin. […]

And we are reminded that safety isn’t a virtue at all. Because when a shooter is active, real virtue doesn’t hog the safest spot. Virtue tells others, “Here, stand behind me.” When fires roar through neighborhoods, virtue runs toward the smoke and flames to evacuate hospital patients from buildings surrounded by scorching wind. Real virtue is dangerous. Real virtue actively chooses the path of pain and potential suffering.

The violence in Vegas and the destruction in California’s wine country are both terrible reminders of the brokenness of our world. Yet in the dark shadow of these events we see also the breathtaking beauty of love and self-sacrifice. We see that the cold faith of materialism—the brutal selfishness of a religion that puts our own physical wellbeing above all other things—is not enough.

Because, of course, self-sacrifice-as-virtue doesn’t make any sense unless reality is bigger than human life. People who give up their own lives in order to save others are either the ultimate criminals against truth, or else they are witnesses to the truth of an eternity that changes the meaning of what is good and what is evil.  And national tragedies force us to ask which of those statements is a lie.

She’s right, you know. We don’t honor Audie Murphy, or George Washington, let alone The Light Brigade because they put themselves first. They cared about themselves and did their best to protect themselves, but it wasn’t the most important thing, was it? That was the mission, whether it was taking the Russian guns, founding America, or protecting his comrades, something mattered more than their safety.

Granted we are well advised to attempt to be safe, we are not likely to accomplish much by throwing our lives away, but ‘Safety First’ is a false religion. Other things, other people are more important.

If one talks to almost any of the many military heroes of America, one finds that whatever they did to earn that bauble was done to save somebody else. That is our definition of a hero, a man or women who is prepared to sacrifice himself for another. Anna ends with this, and it summarizes quite well.

Our neighbors suffer because they are sinners. So are—and will—we all. The question is not how to escape the pain of being human. The question is: how ought humans to suffer? We have seen the first responders, the courageous bystanders, and the self-sacrificial victims who tried to shelter others. All are witnesses to the truth that humans are more than a body to be kept safe. Humans possess a soul. As the old revival meetings told us, souls can be saved; but Jesus also tells us “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Our culture values safety above all things. In the end, this teaches us to value only ourselves. The real tragedy is that as we rush about protecting our bodies, we are losing our souls.

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The [Continuing] Story of Freedom

I don’t know about you guys, but most of what we have talked about this week, I find distasteful. There are few things that infuriate me more than the abuse of power, and it’s only worse when it is a powerful man abusing young women. perhaps at least some of them were willing to play the game, after all ‘the casting couch’ is a cliché for a reason, but why, exactly, should they have to. Yes, people will always abuse power, if they can, but we do not have to let them. In any case that was part of the reason that this week’s picture post was about Navy Day, not that they don’t deserve the recognition. I had simply had enough, and most of what I had was about Weinstein. Yuck! As I said today in a comment, Lord Acton was correct, “The love of power corrupts, and the love of absolute power corrupts, absolutely.”

One of the things I do when I get in this spot is to go back in our earlier posts, usually Jessica’s. She had a way of making things clear, no matter how much mud was spattered about, and it is one of the things I miss most about her. Some of her basic goodness comes through in those posts, and they help me, and I hope they help your morale as well. In her post from December 30, 2012, she reminds us that our freedom has a long history which is intertwined in British and American history. Here she takes us back to show us that the original resistance to secular tyranny came from none other than the Church, in our case through the Archbishop of Canterbury St Thomas Becket and thence to another Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton, who stood up to King John of infamous memory. But let her tell it, she tells it much better than I do. here’s my dearly beloved dearest friend, Jessica.

The story of Becket reminds us of the eternal conflict between the Church and the State. It is the natural wish of the latter, whether in the guise of a king, an aristocracy or ‘the people’ to encompass as much power to itself as it can. There is only one culture where this has been challenged successfully, and it is that of the Latin West. For all the atheists’ charge that the Church has been some sort of dictator, it never has been; indeed it has been the bridle on that happening in our societies.

I mentioned Stephen Langton yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury whom King John had refused to accept, and who sided with the Barons in their fight against the King’s tyranny. That does not mean, of course, that the Church has not had times when it has cooperated with tyranny, but it does mean that it has stood out, always, against the State controlling everything. Indeed, it was this example which gave courage to those who came to see the Church itself as a spiritually tyranny, corrupt and refusing to mend its ways. We can argue over the results of that, but what is unarguable is that it is from the deepest part of Christianity that the belief in freedom under God comes.

That qualification matters. Our forefathers did not mistake freedom for license. They knew they would stand one day before God to account for their time here on earth. They knew their sinful ways, they did not blame ‘society’, they knew that sin was an act of will on their part – of sinful rebellion against God. But they also knew that only through freedom could man be truly himself. Like God Himself, they believed in free will. Man was not free when he was in chains – literal and metaphorical ones. The black slaves were in literal chains, their owners in metaphorical ones.

Freedom has a price. Part of that is that we have to bridle ourselves. The excesses of our species when left to itself show why. Made in the image of God, we are capable of deeds of utmost evil, and we can also rise to heights of altruism and love – as the lives of the Saints show us.

We Christians are strangers in this world. We are meant to be the leaven; but too often we are the salt that has lost its savour. America is the one country in the world founded on a vision of how things could be. From its beginning it has taken the hard road of trying to rule itself without kings or aristocracies. It has found itself in some dark places, not least during its Civil War. But it has always valued freedom – and always acknowledged that there is a price to be paid.

There is a long and continuous thread leading from Magna Carta to now. We forget at our peril how unique that story is. You won’t find it elsewhere  – do we cherish it as we should?

242 Years in Pictures; Happy Birthday Navy

The United States Navy was originally established as the Continental navy on 13 October 1775, when the Continental Congress authorized the procurement, fitting out, manning, and dispatch of two armed vessels to cruise in search of munitions ships supplying the British Army in America. The legislation also established a Naval Committee to supervise the work. All together, the Continental Navy numbered some fifty ships over the course of the war, with approximately twenty warships active at its maximum strength.


At St Eustatius, in the Dutch West Indies, the brig Andrea Doria took the first salute offered by a foreign power to the US Flag. Later the man that Catherine the Great called “the greatest sailor who ever served Russia” would fight a single ship action, off Flamborough head, on the east coast of England. He won, although his ship, the Bonhomme Richard was sunk by HMS Serapis.

Her captain, John Paul Jones, when asked, after the flag was carried away if he had struck, replied, “I have not yet begun to fight”. He also passed along some wisdom which still guides the navy today,

I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way.

In 1794, Congress authorized six frigates. Amongst a few other things, this convinced Paul Revere to start the Revere Copper Works, to make the copper sheets for their bottoms. You might have heard of that organization, they still make some of the best cookware in the country, copper-bottomed, of course.

Those ships, Chesapeake, Constitution, President, Congress, and Constellation, were so good, and well constructed that one of them, USS Constitution is still afloat and in commission, the oldest warship in the world to be so. HMS Victory is older but is in permanent drydock.

These were the ships that fought the quasi-war against France, The Barbary war against Tripoli, where Decatur burned the Philadelphia in Tripoli harbor, to keep the Barbary Pirates from using it. This accomplishment led Britain’s Lord Nelson to call it the most bold and daring act of the age.

In the War of 1812, credible and valorous service obtained from the fledgeling navy – until it was driven from the sea by the overwhelming force of the Royal Navy. But when the British attempted to counterinvade from Canada, the navy found a new hero in Oliver Hazzard Perry after his victory in the battle of Lake Erie ended the threat of invasion. He flew a flag with the last command of Captain Lawrence of USS Chesapeake, “Don’t give up the ship, fight her till she sinks”. His dispatch to General Harrison has become a classic.

Dear General:

We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.

Yours with great respect and esteem,
O.H. Perry

 

At Vera Cruz, during the Mexican war in concert with General Scott, the navy conducted the largest amphibious assault seen until that time, one of the toughest battle problems even to this day.

Then came the Civil War and blockade duty, and what we today call riverine war. Occasionally exciting as when Admiral Farragut commanded, “Damn the Torpedoes, full speed ahead”, at Mobile Bay. And there was a precursor as off Hampton Roads two Ironclad vessels fought each other to a standstill. These were, of course, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimac).

Then in 1898 the US Navy finished what Drake had started with the Armada in 1588, the end of the Spanish Empire, off Cuba at the battle of Santiago e Cuba the Atlantic fleet destroyed the Spanish fleet, while in Manila Bay Commodore Dewey leading in his flagship USS Olympia destroyed the local fleet, and ended up with the Philippines.

And it is here that the United States became one of the Great Powers, primarily a maritime power, like Great Britain, and for the same reason, we have always been traders, all over the world, soon we would be involved in hunting U-boats and fighting at Jutland. But we really came of age in that wars second act. After the devastating loss at Pearl Harbor.

The next few years would see the building, training and employment of the greatest fleets in the history of the world, the liberation of not only Europe but Asia as well, as the power of the New World was transported around the world to fight and to win.

On the deck of one of the most powerful battleships to ever sail, in Tokyo Harbor.

But American have always known that freedom needs safeguarding and so, the sons and grandchildren of those warriors are still on guard around the world, not that many, but hopefully enough of them. Because we still have enemies, even if they are not so clear as they once were. But still, the fleets of freedom sail, to do good to friends, and to destroy enemies, for always there are rumors of war on the horizon, and no longer will we have time to build the fleet when we need it.

And so, yesterday, on Navy Day, the President issued a statement.

13 October 2017

As Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces, it is an honor to celebrate the 242nd birthday of the United States Navy.

Today, we recognize generations of brave men and women who have served in the United States Navy. Through their courage, selfless service, and unmatched professionalism, America’s sailors have projected American power on the seas, on land, and in the air. Today, the Navy continues to deter our enemies and confront the threats posed by terrorists and rogue nations around the world.

As we proudly celebrate the legacy of our Navy, we are all reminded of the duty we share to support our service members, military families, and veterans. Earlier this year, I commissioned the USS Gerald R. Ford into service—marking our Nation’s renewed commitment to providing our military with the tools and technology needed to preserve peace and win any war.

We are making progress on this commitment, but we remain forever indebted to all who serve and sacrifice, Non Sibi Sed Patriae—Not For Self, But For Country. I proudly salute these American heroes, especially those who gave their lives in defense of our Nation.

May God bless the men and women of our great Navy and all our Armed Forces. And may He continue to bless the United States of America.

Donald J. Trump

Happy Birthday, Navy

The Paris Statement

Archbishop Cranmer brings us tidings of a new statement, ‘The Paris Statement’ they call it. One of the writers is no less than Professor Sir Roger Scruton. That makes it worth paying attention to. So does the content. Here is some of his description.

In May 2017, a group of conservative scholars and intellectuals met in Paris…

No, don’t yawn.

They say they were “brought together by their common concern about the current state of European politics, culture, society and, above all, the state of the European mind and imagination. Through delusion and self-deception and ideological distortion, Europe is dissipating her great civilizational inheritance.”

Well, that’s true, isn’t it?

Unless your name is Nick Clegg, AC Grayling, or you happen to be a bishop in the Church of England (not Shrewsbury).

These fine conservative minds, which included our very own Professor Sir Roger Scruton, produced ‘The Paris Statement’, which kind of makes sense as a title because they were in Paris when they issued their tome, which might indeed be viewed as a statement because their words were issued quasi-authoritatively, as conservative scholars and intellectuals are wont to do. And ‘Paris’ gives the statement an aura of continental enlightenment in ways which, say, ‘The Slough Statement’ or ‘The Lewisham Statement’ probably never could.

The preamble continues:

Instead of simply wringing their hands in fruitless anxiety, or adding yet another tome to the ample literature that diagnoses “the decline of the West”, the Paris participants believed it was important to make an affirmation, and to do so publicly. They expressed their attachment to “the true Europe,” and did so with reasons that can be recognized by all. In doing so, it was first necessary to give an account of this true Europe, which lies hidden beneath the fashionable abstractions of our age.

The result is, “A Europe We Can Believe In.” This Paris Statement is a ringing call for a renewed understanding of, and appreciation for, Europe’s true genius. It is an invitation to the peoples of Europe to actively recover what is best in our tradition, and to build a peaceful, hopeful, and noble future together.

The Paris Statement is good, very good, contrasting, as it does, the false Europe of teleological superstition and utopian tyranny with the true Europe of nation-state cooperation based on Christian solidarity and civic loyalty. Consider:

Europe, in all its richness and greatness, is threatened by a false understanding of itself. This false Europe imagines itself as a fulfilment of our civilization, but in truth it will confiscate our home. It appeals to exaggerations and distortions of Europe’s authentic virtues while remaining blind to its own vices. Complacently trading in one-sided caricatures of our history, this false Europe is invincibly prejudiced against the past. Its proponents are orphans by choice, and they presume that to be an orphan—to be homeless—is a noble achievement. In this way, the false Europe praises itself as the forerunner of a universal community that is neither universal nor a community.

Good, that.

Well, you know what? I just read their statement, and aside from a few quibbles, much the same ones as His Grace mentioned in his article it is very good. So good on them. It’s also very good to see that there are conservatives in western Europe, we’re all aware of Sir Roger, but from the rest, it’s a rare (and most welcome) spark of conservatism. The Statement is here, and well worth a read.

I very much fear that Europe is a lost cause, but then again so was the American Revolution, so I wish them luck and Godspeed in their mission. For most of us, Europe is our ultimate homeland, and watching it go down without a fight is disheartening at best. It is time for Europa to again tame the bull, I think.

Weekend Pictures

Time to look around before we start a fresh week of hell, not to mention Pumpkin Spice

In case you were in space last week, the news is that casting couches still exist in Hollywood, and Harvey Weinstein knows how to use them, often. But something happened and all the bribes paid to politicians contributions to the Democratic Party haven’t sufficed to keep the story out of the paper. Film at 11!

“I’ll take that one!”

As always mostly from Bookworm and PowerLine. Have a good week!

 

Friday Change of Pace

Let’s talk about something completely different this Friday. There’s plenty of bad news out there, but it’s Friday, and I’m not in the mood.  Cheryl Magness wrote an article for The Federalist the other day, that tickled my fancy. Let’s have a look…

Robert Herrick, in his classic carpe diem poem “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time,” called upon youth to “gather ye rosebuds while ye may” because “having lost but once your prime / You may forever tarry.” With all due respect to the poet, I am not convinced “That age is best which is the first.” In fact, I have argued one’s fifties may well be the best, bringing with it an increase of wisdom, time, respect, and self-awareness that can lead to great contentment.

I realize I am painting with a broad brush and there are certainly exceptions. No age is immune to life’s crud. There is also undoubtedly at mid-life a certain sense of urgency, of time running short, that can lead to that phenomenon known as a “mid-life crisis.” It is often stereotypically depicted as the normally staid, dignified businessman who suddenly shows up on a motorcycle, freshly tattooed, with a much younger woman on his arm. But real mid-life crises, as opposed to those of the cartoon variety, are way more complicated.

Not a Mid-Life Crisis But a Mid-Life Launch

Looking at the many 50-somethings (and beyond) I know, I am not seeing mid-life crises as much as mid-to-late-life launches, manifested in renewed levels of personal energy, interest, and excitement. I know multiple people my age who are moving across the country, buying their dream homes, taking on new jobs, and immersing themselves in fresh (or long-delayed) interests, passions, and goals.

That’s not to say there aren’t struggles, some of them devastating and life-altering. But amid the struggles, there is a level of carpe diem I can’t say I’ve seen in my peers since my twenties. It is thrilling, and I love it.

Strikes me that there is a lot of truth in that. If I look back at my own 50s, that was when I started to not worry so much about the future but to again have outside interests. I must say though, it has accelerated in my 60s. I have my projects, that need doing on schedule, I have the blog, and have several things going on, but increasingly, if I don’t enjoy doing it, I don’t do it.

With exceptions, of course. I’m a better cook than I ever was, but mostly I grill a piece of meat – why? Because I can’t be bothered for one person. Things that must get done, get done, but there is also time to visit, and increasingly work (such as I choose to do) more resembles design and.or consulting. Part of it is the old eyes, that don’t see well in a box a foot off the floor, but more of it is a disinclination to do it.

It’s also fun that finally, I can buy some of the things I lusted after as a kid, not so much the Lotus, I could barely get in one when I was in college, no chance now, I’ve outgrown it. But I have scrounged around and put together an engineering drawing set that would have cost multiple thousands, in the 60s, and that I drooled over then in catalogs – now I have it, and yes, I enjoy drawing. Even if, as an artist, I’m a good engineer. But it is fun to draw with the drawing machine, especially with the engineering pens (yes, they are a bit of a pain as well). More fun, I think, than on the computer, although I enjoy both, I think better on paper.

There are other things I want to do, I’d like to travel some, especially to historic sites, and yet, I’m not very fond of travelling alone, so we’ll see. I’ve always wanted to live well out on a ranch or farm, increasingly I think neighbors should be kept a proper distance away, preferably at least couple of miles (Get off my lawn!) 🙂 I’m working on that, don’t know if it’ll happen, but keeps me occupied.

So, I think Cheryl is right. From the fifties on it just gets better. We no longer have to prove anything to anyone, more than ever before (since we were kids, anyway) we can follow our interests without thought of how they’ll affect our career, we’ve been there and done that, and bought the suits to prove it, jeans and t-shirts are more comfortable, aren’t they? And the suits are in the closet for when they are appropriate.

Don’t know about you, but I’m grateful to be in my 60s, can’t think of anything that would even tempt me to be in my 20s or 30s again, it’s better now than it’s ever been.

Have a good day!

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