Enough Said

 

And remember, always

It is the Soldier

It is the soldier, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier,
Who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.
Father Denis Edward O’Brien, USMC

The Coming of Christ, the Golden Blossom

christ-in-majesty

Christ in Majesty (Benedictional of St Æthelwold, BL Add. 49598, f.70)

Advent is, for Christians, a time of waiting, in some ways, it is like Lent, but not exactly, here we await the birth of the Lord, and by extension, his return in Glory. It is the time of beginning, of promise. My favorite Clerk gave us Sunday, a homily from an anonymous Anglo-Saxon author, in the Blickling homilies, and is likely from the tenth century. Quite remarkable and amazing.

‘Dearly beloved, we have often heard tell of the noble advent of our Lord, how he began himself to intervene in this world, as patriarchs said and proclaimed, as prophets prophesied and praised, as psalmists sang and said, that he would come from the kingly throne of his glorious realm here into this world, and would take for himself all kingdoms into his own keeping. All that was fulfilled after the heavens broke open and the supreme power descended into this earth, and the Holy Spirit dwelt in the noble womb, in the best bosom, in the chosen treasure-chamber, and in that holy breast he dwelt for nine months. Then the queen of all virgins bore the true Creator, Comforter of all people, Saviour of all the world, Preserver of all spirits, Helper of all souls. Then the golden blossom came into this world, and received a human body from St Mary, the spotless virgin. Through that birth we were saved, and through that child-bearing we were redeemed; through that union we were freed from the exactions of devils, and through that advent we were honoured and enriched and endowed.

And afterwards the Lord Christ dwelt here in the world with men, and showed them many miracles which he worked in front of them. He intended lovingly to heal them and teach them mercy. They were stony-hearted and blind, so that they could not comprehend what they heard there, nor could they understand what they saw there; but then the Almighty God removed for them that wrongful veil from their hearts and shone upon them with enlightened understanding, so that they could understand and know how he descended into this world to be their helper and healer and refuge. Afterwards he opened for them the ears of compassion, and kindled faith in them, and manifested his mercy and made known his kinship to them. Before that we had been made orphans, because we were deprived of the heavenly kingdom and were put out of the original… [text missing in the manuscript] Christ lives and reigns with all holy souls, eternally without end, for ever and ever. Amen.’

What beautiful writing (the translation too), and as accurate as anything ever written on Advent, but here the imagination and verve of the language is simply remarkable.

This is her translation, and it sums thing up admirably. She says that the original would have been quite beautiful when read or spoken aloud. I suspect she is correct. Anglo-Saxon English is very often even better to listen to than to read. It was a time of the spoken and sung word, reading not so much, for reasons which I hope are fairly clear. That is true of other times as well, one of the reasons the King James Bible is so loved is that it was specifically designed to be spoken aloud. An amazing language, and it is no less amazing to see this homily written over a thousand years ago, and still as relevant as it was then.

via A Clerk of Oxford: The Coming of Christ, the Golden Blossom Do read it all, as usual, exceptionally well done.

Castro, and the Reaction

Mom really did say that if you don’t have anything good to say about someone, especially a dead someone, then say nothing. It’s a good rule, helping avoid social friction and silly irritations.

But I’m not sure that it really holds for public discourse on the death of public enemies. I can’t really imagine Winston Churchill, or Harry Truman, mouthing empty platitudes about Adolph Hitler, can you? That’s why I think the last few days have been quite instructive. Tell me who a man idolizes, and I’ll tell you what he wants to be.

President Obama

At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans – in Cuba and in the United States – with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.

Former President Jimmy Carter

Rosalynn and I share our sympathies with the Castro family and the Cuban people on the death of Fidel Castro. We remember fondly our visits with him in Cuba and his love of his country. We wish the Cuban citizens peace and prosperity in the years ahead.

Jesse Jackson

In many ways, after 1959, the oppressed the world over joined Castro’s cause of fighting for freedom & liberation-he changed the world. RIP

Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau

It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President.

Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.

While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for “el Comandante”.

I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.

On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.

Jeremy Corbyn (British Labour Party leader)

“He managed to bring good quality health services to all the people of Cuba, good quality education to all the people of Cuba and, of course, he had a foreign policy which was global, but particularly important in Southern Africa in supporting Angola against the apartheid regime.”

You can make what you wish of all that, I know I will. But around here we read (and have even lived some) history. And we know some things, such as Fidel Castro actually wanted a nuclear war, even though Cuba would have been wiped out in the first 15 minutes, since at that moment, better than half of the US military was targeted on it.

Here, via Powerline, is an excerpt from a letter Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev sent to Castro after the Cuban missile crisis:

 

In your cable of October 27 you proposed that we be the first to carry out a nuclear strike against the enemy’s territory. Naturally you understand where that would lead us. It would not be a simple strike, but the start of a thermonuclear world war.

Dear Comrade Fidel Castro, I find your proposal to be wrong, even though I understand your reasons. We have lived through a very grave moment, a global thermonuclear war could have broken out. Of course the United States would have suffered enormous losses, but the Soviet Union and the whole socialist bloc would have also suffered greatly.

It is even difficult to say how things would have ended for the Cuban people. First of all, Cuba would have burned in the fires of war. Without a doubt the Cuban people would have fought courageously but, also without a doubt, the Cuban people would have perished heroically.

We struggle against imperialism, not in order to die, but to draw on all of our potential, to lose as little as possible, and later to win more, so as to be a victor and make communism triumph.

But there really are rational people out there.

Former PM @TonyAbbottMHR says Fidel Castro was a brutal dictator and ‘his legacy is a bad one’. #agenda#auspolhttps://t.co/6efamtvlRp

— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust)

US Senator Ted Cruz (R, TX)

Fidel Castro’s death cannot bring back his thousands of victims, nor can it bring comfort to their families. Today we remember them and honor the brave souls who fought the lonely fight against the brutal Communist dictatorship he imposed on Cuba.

US Senator Marco Rubio (R, FL)

Fidel Castro seized power promising to bring freedom and prosperity to Cuba, but his communist regime turned it into an impoverished island prison. Over six decades, millions of Cubans were forced to flee their own country, and those accused of opposing the regime were routinely jailed and even killed.

Sadly, Fidel Castro’s death does not mean freedom for the Cuban people or justice for the democratic activists, religious leaders, and political opponents he and his brother have jailed and persecuted. The dictator has died, but the dictatorship has not. And one thing is clear, history will not absolve Fidel Castro; it will remember him as an evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery and suffering on his own people.

And above all, President Elect Donald Trump.

Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades.

Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.

While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.

Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty.

I join the many Cuban Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me, with the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba.

That is a proper American statement on the death of a tyrant, who spent 60 years butchering his citizens err prisoners. I think Reagan would approve. Simple decency prevents us saying good things about almost purely evil people.

Assuming he likely did not make a good confession, may the Lord grant him his justice, and may his soul burn in Hell forever.

Three Great Men Died That Day

narnia-the-chronicles-of-narnia-8460264-640-477Fifty-three years ago yesterday, three great men died. Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, John F. Kennedy, President of the United States, and C.S. Lewis author of innumerable works, including the Narnia Chronicles. Is it important that they all died the same day? Probably not, merely a coincidence, although books have been written about what they may have talked about on the journey to the afterlife.

Huxley’s Brave New World most famous amongst his works seems to me, and many others, as the most descriptive of the dystopian novels, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union. It always repays reading.

Kennedy has become more myth than man, whether one thinks he was a great president or a pretty bad one. In truth, I think he was pretty average, he (and his father) played much about his heroism in World War II, but even as a child, I wondered how one managed to get one’s PT boat rammed by an enemy destroyer. And only fifteen years after the war, World War II heroes (real or manufactured) were a dime a dozen.His greatest accomplishment was when for 13 days the world stood on the brink of annihilation over Russia’s deployment of missiles in Cuba. He ( and Kruschev) managed to avert that. But would it have happened if he had either supported properly or forbidden the Bay of Pigs? I doubt we’ll ever know that.

Personally, I think Lewis was more important than either. His coming to Christianity and the muscular Christianity showcased in Narnia and his other books is one of the best series of works in Christianity to my mind. He explains in words that an average child can understand what we believe, and yet, for me, the delight is as great now in my sixties as when I fist read them as about an eight-year-old. As I grew older, I came to delight in his language and the logic behind it, and neither has that delight ever left me.

Here is an example.

via Three Great Men Died That Day: JFK, C.S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley – The Daily Beast

Perhaps some of Chesterton’s words from the Ballad of the White Horse could symbolize that day

They shall not come with warships,
They shall not waste with brands,
But books be all their eating,
And ink be on their hands.

“Not with the humour of hunters
Or savage skill in war,
But ordering all things with dead words,
Strings shall they make of beasts and birds,
And wheels of wind and star.

“They shall come mild as monkish clerks,
With many a scroll and pen;
And backward shall ye turn and gaze,
Desiring one of Alfred’s days,
When pagans still were men.

“The dear sun dwarfed of dreadful suns,
Like fiercer flowers on stalk,
Earth lost and little like a pea
In high heaven’s towering forestry,
—These be the small weeds ye shall see
Crawl, covering the chalk.

“But though they bridge St. Mary’s sea,
Or steal St. Michael’s wing—
Though they rear marvels over us,
Greater than great Vergilius
Wrought for the Roman king;

“By this sign you shall know them,
The breaking of the sword,
And man no more a free knight,
That loves or hates his lord.

“Yea, this shall be the sign of them,
The sign of the dying fire;
And Man made like a half-wit,
That knows not of his sire.

“What though they come with scroll and pen,
And grave as a shaven clerk,
By this sign you shall know them,
That they ruin and make dark;

“By all men bond to Nothing,
Being slaves without a lord,
By one blind idiot world obeyed,
Too blind to be abhorred;

“By terror and the cruel tales
Of curse in bone and kin,
By weird and weakness winning,
Accursed from the beginning,
By detail of the sinning,
And denial of the sin;

“By thought a crawling ruin,
By life a leaping mire,
By a broken heart in the breast of the world,
And the end of the world’s desire;

“By God and man dishonoured,
By death and life made vain,
Know ye the old barbarian,
The barbarian come again—

“When is great talk of trend and tide,
And wisdom and destiny,
Hail that undying heathen
That is sadder than the sea.

“In what wise men shall smite him,
Or the Cross stand up again,
Or charity or chivalry,
My vision saith not; and I see
No more; but now ride doubtfully
To the battle of the plain.”

The Individual in the West

marcus-cicero-freedomBookworm went on the National Review cruise this year, and how I envy her! What a glorious opportunity. She’s written a series of posts about it, which you should read. In any case, she wrote a post that she called National Review cruise — let’s talk about the individual in the West. The whole post is well worth your time and is linked below, don’t miss the comments, either, but I want to focus on something she said here.

I’ve been reading Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s Jewish Literacy, a book I highly recommend, not just for those interested in learning about all things Jewish, but also for those anxious to reconnect with Old Testament knowledge and interesting corners of world history. I especially enjoyed his Biblical discussions, because it’s been some years since I sat down and read the Torah.

What’s so striking about the Torah, of course, and what I believe has kept it the most vibrant book in the Western canon, is that it’s not a book about mass movements or ideological theories. It’s a book about people. Abraham who upends his family to follow a God, Sarah who laughs at that God, Jacob who wrestled with that God, Moses who argued with that God, David who fought for that God, and all the individually-named prophets who spoke for that God. Each person we meet in the Torah is someone we can imagine walking through our own communities today.

The same is true for the New Testament. Jesus is a vividly rendered personality, but so are the others who appear with him. Through their writings, we know Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Apostles are real people grappling with the burden of a living Messiah whom they know will soon die, only to live again. And Paul — oh, my goodness! Through his letters he is one of the most vibrant people in world history.

But the West’s recognition of real people living in different times doesn’t end with the Bible. We discuss Roman history, not just in terms of battles and empire, but in terms of the personalities whose ambition, honor, greed, etc., made that history happen. When reading Christian-era Western history, names with vivid attached personalities tumble off the page: Charlemagne, William the Conquerer, Joan of Arc, Henry VIII, Cardinal Richelieu, each and every Borgia or Medici, Marie Antoinette, Lord Nelson, our Founders about whose personalities we are intensely interested, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and even Barack Obama. In all cases, we want to know who they are and what drove them to take actions that are hinge points in history.

This is a remarkably different approach to the past and the president than under statism regimes, which seek at all levels to erase the individual. And I do mean all levels. The cults of personality that totalitarian societies cultivate, as in North Korea, have nothing to do with the real person. They are slickly enameled fakes that are meant to obscure rather than reveal the individual holding such immense power.

I have a theory that this individualism is part of what propelled Trump into office (along with voters’ desperation for a candidate who, no matter how personally tawdry, didn’t have the stink of “business as usual” in Washington). Hillary, as we know, has been endlessly re-packaged and re-presented to the American people.

The reality, as Americans understand, is that with her rigid hair, botoxed face, expensive Mao suits, and prepackaged Leftist rhetoric, she’s just another statist cipher. Her years in the public eye have revealed that the personality behind the presentation is a corrupt and ugly one, but the important thing is that we’re endlessly being sold someone whose public identity is as fake, unrevealing, and poll driven as any cult leader in a totalitarian society.

And then there’s the Donald: Mercurial, defensive, grandiose, self-confident, intuitive, vulgar, quite kind (according to many who know him), unfiltered, and, above all, absolutely real. Yes, there’s definitely a “reality TV” persona, but the overlap between the public and the private Trump is apparently quite strong. With Trump, we don’t get a poll-tested, campaign-consultant-created generic politician. For better or worse, he is an individual in the historic mold.

I think, therefore, that Trump represents something unique to Western Jude-Christian culture: Starting with Abraham and going right up to Trump, individualism matters. We, The People are not movements, we’re not ciphers, we’re not symbols. We are real beings, with individual characters, and we seek that same quality in those who lead us.

via National Review cruise — let’s talk about the individual in the West

She’s on to something here, and it’s important. When the progressives were taking over the academy they ridiculed the so-called ‘Great man theory of history’ propounded by Macauley, by Bancroft, even by Mahan, preferring to denigrate the great captains of history. This suited their revisionist souls but did a disservice to their craft. Bookworm is right, we can walk with the ancients, but we are not mindless ciphers being acted on by indifferent forces. We, the people know that to lead us, we need people who can lead with vision, not simply tell us what to do. Can it be overdone? Of course, it can. We are individuals in a community, one man believing something is usually a crank, but groups of people, acting for their individual and groups benefit are what has driven history, and freedom. Where would we be without a William Marshal, an Oliver Cromwell, a George Washington, A Lord Nelson, an Abraham Lincoln, a Winston Churchill, even a George Patton, or yes, a Donald Trump?

153 Years Ago, Yesterday

gettysburg-addressA sick man stood hatless for three hours on a platform in a field, in freezing Pennsylvania, listening to the greatest orator of the age. Then he made a few remarks, that he said few would note, or long remember. Well, those remarks are the greatest speech in American history. From that day forward, they have defined America, to America, and to the world. Often, we don’t live up to them, our greatness is that we try to.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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