Don’t Fence Me In: Claim The Inheritance

How sad is that? Almost makes you cry, doesn’t it? We all like the fact that reports say the Millenials are the most conservative generation since the ‘Greatest Generation’, but there is nothing to celebrate in an American generation being risk averse. Ben Domenech wrote about it in The Federalist, and it’s worth commenting on.

Space is the next frontier. Throughout the history of America, we have been a nation driven by the idea of the frontier—a place where law was slim and liberty was enormous, where you could make your way in the world based on your own ambition and abilities, not fenced in by the limitations of society. The idea of the frontier is a stand-in for the idea of liberty. The danger for the millennial generation today is that even as they inhabit an era providing utopian degrees of choices, they have become too fearful to actually make those choices and seize the future liberty allows. In so doing, they deny their inheritance as Americans.

OK, a break, I simply can’t resist…

We have an abundance of evidence on this front. Millennials are extremely reluctant to invest or risk their capital. UBS found that in the wake of the financial crisis, millennials appear more risk-averse than any generation since the Great Depression. Brookings has analyzed the sense of displacement driven by technology, seeing Spike Jonze’s “Her” as a prediction of the world as it will be when millennial values drive society. And Megan McArdle has written eloquently about the fear of failure of any sort, even in the smallest ways, that animates young Americans. […]

Once there was a country born without an inheritance. It was a civilization carved by the rejected refuse of the old world, by the religious freaks, criminals, bastards, and orphans. They were the type of men and women willing to risk all to cross the wine-dark sea in search of their fortune. They came from all the corners of the world, and in this land they worked the good earth and made their way. In time they built marketplaces and cities and governments, and threw off the shackles of their far-off, old-world rulers to make their own law. Where other revolutions had been crushed, they prevailed. They risked it all, and won.

Still, some were restless. So the risk-takers pulled up stakes and moved further west, finding the edge of civilization and making their homes there, and bringing their language and their law with them. They were called to the promise of the golden light of the horizon, so they journeyed west and further west, from sea to shining sea.

But the risk-takers never stopped. Their families had come from nations where inheritance was all—where blood was royal or serf, and the class of those who sired you charted your future, not the ability of your mind or the strength of your will. This truth they denied, and out of this audacity was birthed a society that, slowly but surely, through march and blood and slaughter, embraced the equality of all under law. […]

This is an American inheritance, but it is not a birthright. It must be claimed. And it is an open question whether the children of the children of those who rescued the old world will claim it. […]

There is comfort in the safety gained. But, slowly and surely, there is something lost, too—an idea that once lived here, in this new world. It was a belief that we are not prisoners of our destiny, that the world we pass on can exceed the one we were born into. This is not a uniquely American belief, but a human one, although not all cultures acknowledge or honor it. It was here in America where this belief was uniquely understood from our inception in our creed. We are born with an equal claim to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of what lies beyond that far horizon. To deny this is to break faith with our own humanity, rejecting what is best in ourselves.

I don’t have a lot to add except that if you care about America, or especially the idea of America, you need to read Ben’s article and apply it to yourself, and especially encourage those coming after us to take the longhorn by his horns, and risk it all. That is what won America. My life hasn’t been what I dreamed of as a boy – I didn’t get rich, nor did I marry Ann Margeret. But I have had a hell of a good time, and while I never worried overmuch about tomorrow, I made due allowances and did what I perceived to be my duty. No man can do more, nor should he ever wish to do less, to paraphrase Robert E. Lee.

I’m reminded of an American girl from Brooklyn, about 150 years ago, or so. It seemed she had it all, a doting daddy, a reasonable education, and more money than she knew what to do with. As it happened she went to England, and rumor had it had an affair with the Prince of Wales, and married the son of the Duke of Marlborough, and they had a son, who became perhaps the greatest Prime Minister of Great Britain. In the very dark days after Dunkirk, he quoted a poem, which pretty well summarizes the American experience.

 

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

 

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
ln front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright

It still is, if we make it so.

Not “Would You Die for That?” but “Would You Live for It?”

Much has been written this week about the Miracle at Dunkirk, where the fate of the British Expeditionary Force was placed in the hands of the civilian boatmen of mostly southeastern England, back in 1940 after the debacle of the Battle of France. In not much of a spoiler, with heroic support from Royal Navy light forces, and the Royal Air Force, they saved 300,000 + men to fight another day. As most will know, many of the soldiers and many of the rescuers died, heroically, their face to the enemy. They stood for something, in the face of death, and that is why we celebrate them. My Scandinavian forebearers, who knew a bit about small boats in the open ocean would have called them Sagamen, men who were worth immortalizing, as an example of what we want to be. And so they were.

But for so many of us, this movie is so worth celebrating because it marks a return to what we grew up with, not completely, perhaps. [I haven’t seen it, just can’t convince myself to drive 300 miles one way to see a movie, but I will see it.] But it is again about those men, and in this case, they were men, and white British men at that, dying heroically for something beyond themselves. We don’t celebrate that enough anymore. After millennia as the foundation of our civilization, living for something, let alone dying for it, beyond our individual wants has become passé, or so our elites say.

As he often does, our own Fr Robert, in comments on the other day’s article about Sweden, asked this.

Just more material about the whole moral and spiritual loss in Europe, and now in unlikely places! Sad, very sad! Once again the word Apostasy comes to mind! Just where is the moral and spiritual force of European and historical, biblical Christianity?

I didn’t then, and don’t now, have the answer for him. But I wish I did. Anna Mussmann writing in The Federalist begins to define the problem.

Dutch politicians are considering changing euthanasia laws so that healthy people can die whenever they want. In an interview, the leader of the political party that introduced the bill said, “You didn’t ask to be brought into the world,” and explained that his party’s goal is to make euthanasia freely available to all.

The idea that death is a human right is gaining traction in the U.S., too. In fact, arguments that we should kill terminally ill infants are respectable enough for the New York Times. […]

Sadly enough, it is true. That leaves me with the question, “If you die for little or no reason, does that mean your life as well was of little import?” I fear the answer for many is, “Yes.”

After speaking of Scott and Amundsen’s race for the pole in 1911, she asks why we lionized Scott, who failed, and died, even beyond Amundsen, who succeeded.

After all, generations of British and American schoolchildren were reared on stories of the Spartans at Thermopylae, Joan of Arc, Nathaniel Hale, and, later, Martin Luther King Jr. Children were expected to learn virtue by seeing that courage transcends death, and that material prosperity is a poor fig in comparison to patriotism, faith, and self-sacrifice.

Yes, those educators of the nineteenth and early twentiety centuries sometimes demonstrated a weakness for sappy moralism. [And often rather purple prose!] At the same time, however, they understood that the way we view death shapes the way we view life. […]

The moral imperative to guide our own fate means that, most of all, we must never continue to experience suffering we cannot control. Ultimately, life is worthwhile only within the narrow parameters of our own happiness and success. This sad way to look at the world is also an opportunity.

We can talk to our neighbors about the differences between taking life and giving it up. Admiration of suicide and murder is unnatural. It isn’t entirely new—plenty of decadent cultures in the past also developed cultures of death—but it is still an aberration against natural law. In contrast, the sacrifice of martyrdom is something that tends to speak to even the most hardened soul. Even the bloodthirsty mobs of ancient Rome found their views of Christianity influenced by the sight of Christian martyrs in the arena.

The thing is, a willingness to give up life in all its sweetness is about far more than death. It is a witness that life is defined by something much bigger than ourselves or our circumstances. It is a witness to hope in eternal life. It is something our neighbors need to hear about.

Here’s a truth for you.

Some things are assuredly worth dying for: Faith, some of our countries, our families, there are some that you may believe that are different than those I do. They are also worth living for, even if your life is not optimal. But no rational creature, ever, anywhere, thought that because he thought somewhat differently about sex than his neighbors, he should kill himself. If anything that is a natural working out of Darwin’s Law, and the culling of the weak. Not that it isn’t real as Hell, itself. Back in the day, I had a few rounds of depression, and if I hadn’t had some really good friends…well, only God knows. But I didn’t really care, either way.

Strikes me that we’ve hit right into the midst of what used to be clichés, and for a reason. Starting with, If you are willing to die for something, are you also willing to live for it? And continuing on through to the one that I repeat so often –

If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.

Reflections on a Trip

Six years ago today, I published post number one, on Nebraska Energy Observer. As with many others, I tried to draw conclusions from observations. Those tend to be the posts I like best, although I simply don’t post things I don’t like. It’s been I long haul, six years, 2703 posts, over 19,000 comments and all. It’s also been a lot of fun, and I suspect it has been for some of you, as well.

We’ve commented often that so many bloggers who were around when I started have fallen by the wayside, I think probably three-quarters of the blogs I read now, didn’t exist then and 80% of those I read then are gone, and some that remain have changed completely. It’s not easy, but what worthwhile ever is? I find that I occasionally have to take breaks from it, but I feel incomplete when I do, and that’s why often I will schedule some older posts that keep drawing readers over my breaks.

I started the blog because I was bored, and needed something ‘productive’ to do, and was already (in 2011) completely fed up with Obama. I never thought it was going to make me rich. I wouldn’t mind, but it’s such I long shot that I don’t even try, and so I can stay true to what I believe. Neither did I think I would still be writing it today, but it has become a habit, maybe an obsession.

In any case, thanks for reading, and commenting here, it means more to me than you can imagine, and probably more than is good for me. This is the post published six long years ago, and still one of my favorites. It was titled “Reflections on a Train Trip”.


I recently had an opportunity to travel by train back to Nebraska from Philadelphia. As most of you who have ever travelled by train know, it gives you a fair amount of time to reflect on whatever crosses your mind. For some reason this trip (which I actually take roughly every year) caused me to reflect on the industrial powerhouse that was America. If you travel by train, you see a lot of industrial areas new and old.  What struck me this time was coming through Pittsburgh, northern Ohio and northwest Indiana was remembering these areas when I was a kid back in the 60’s, when it was very common still to see the black smoke and flames shoot into the air at the steel mills. These were the mills that industrialized America and made the steel that built the machines that won two World Wars and conquered a continent and fed the world.

It is commonly said that steel built the railroad industry and the railroads built the steel industry and it’s true; if one includes coal in the steel industry. What awesome plants they were, for instance, the main street of Gary, Indiana (itself named for a steel executive) ends at the main gate of US Steel Gary Works. And remember a basic element of US Steel; Carnegie Steel produced more steel than Great Britain in the 1890’s. Pittsburgh was much the same, only possibly more so. Here was the steel produced that made the railroads, which then made the largest common market in the world, and the steel for the agricultural equipment that still feeds the world, and the steel for the American automobiles and the weapons and transportation of the American military that won two World Wars  and the Cold War. Read more of this post

Mobocracy, Individual Rights, and Government

This new Bill Whittle series is extraordinary. This one, entitled Government may be the best short explanation of why and how America’s government was designed as it is.

The last week has been rather heavy in British constitutional theory and practice, what with the general election and all. It’s not a bad reason to remind ourselves and others why it is so important to limit the size and power of the (especially general) government.

And yes, the Brits actually do know this as well as we do. That’s where we learned it, of course. We here in the United States, when it came our turn to mount the recurrent civil war (English Civil War, American Revolution, and American Civil War) we learned not only from the Stuarts, and their overthrow but from Cromwell and his excesses. And because we started with a clean slate, and toweringly good men, and above them one, George Washington, we were provided with safeguards from almost all dangers, except for we the people ourselves.

My British friends have always been uncomfortable with the emphasis we put on the individual. I understand their concern well, so did Benjamin Rush, who wrote to John Adams, in 1789.

Philadelphia Jany. 22nd. 1789.

My dear friend

Your affectionate and instructing letter of Decemr 2nd. did not reach me ‘till yesterday. I Embrace with my Affections, as well as my judgement that form of Government which you have proved from so many Authorities, to be the only One that can preserve political happiness. It was my attachment to a constitution composed of three branches, that first deprived me of the Confidence of the Whigs of Pennsylvania in the Close of the year 1776. My Observations upon the misery which a single legislature has produced in Pennsylvania, have only served to encrease my Abhorance of that Species of Government. I could as soon embrace the most absurd dogmas in the most Absurd of all the pagan religions, as prostitute my Understanding by approving of our State constitution—It is below a democracy. It is mobocracy—if you will allow me to coin a word. If you will not permit me to compare it to a Wheelbarrow, or a Balloon. I never see our self-ballanced legislature meet, but I feel as if I saw a body of men ascending in One of those air vehicles—without sails or helm.—I have collected materials for a history of the Revolution in Pennsylvania, but despair of being Able to arrange or publish them, while I am so closely confined to the duties of my profession. They contain such an Account the follies & cries of mankind as would tend forever to discredit a single legislature. …

If memory holds, the Pennsylvania government of 1776, was not all that different from that of England, a fairly weak executive, and courts, all subservient to the basically unitary legislature. It was a decided failure. In England at the time, the House of Commons was moderated by both a much stronger House of Lords and crown than they are now.

In many ways, it’s a balancing act, between the executive, the legislative assembly (House of Representatives, now), the States (The Senate as originally constituted), and the courts, not to mention the people.

Mobocracy is always a danger, of course, as we are seeing in our own time, offsetting that is that by guaranteeing the unalienable rights of the individual, we thereby guarantee those of the family, the community, the church, and the constituent state vis a vis the federal government, which then as now is seen as the most likely to degenerate into tyranny, which must be guarded against from all comers, whatsoever. And it also guarantees them in practice from the mob itself.

If you would know why I, and many Americans, supported Brexit, full-throatedly, you will find your answer here. We, as Americans, if we know our history, easily quote from our Founders, to make all these points, on rights and obligations and all the rest. But so can the British, more than any other people in the world. For all of these men, who bequeathed to America whatever share of freedom and liberty we have maintained, every one of them considered himself a free-born Englishman, and a proud one, until that government attempted to remove those rights. Then they became Americans. There is nothing comparable to the Anglo-American concept of responsible liberty on the face of the earth, there is only the autocracy of the elites, and the mobocracy of the serfs.

Only in the Anglosphere, (not so) strangely including Israel, do men walk as free men, with unalienable rights.

 

That was the Week that Was

It’s been an interesting week, hasn’t it? The horror of the attack at Manchester, the reactions following, the reactions to the Trump tour of Europe, and yes, the irresponsible and potentially criminal handling of intelligence by American officials. How do we make sense of all this information?

I’ve been fairly quiet this week, listening, and thinking, and have drawn some conclusions.

First Trump. He just might turn into one of the best Presidents we’ve had in a long while, especially in foreign affairs. His speech in Riyadh bears more attention than it got. So does his response to Manchester. Beyond the conventional and necessary expression of sympathy to our friends and allies, he made an excellent point, which we should adopt, when he said, as Scott Adams reports.

President Trump just gave ISIS its new name: Losers. (Short for Evil Losers).

If you think that’s no big deal, you’re wrong. It’s a big deal. This is – literally – weapons-grade persuasion from the most powerful Master Persuader of our time.

As I have taught you in this blog, President Trump’s clever nicknames for people are not random. They are deeply engineered for visual impact and future confirmation bias.

In this case, the visuals will be provided by future terror attacks. That reinforces the “evil” part, obviously. But more importantly, the Losers will be doing nothing but losing on the battlefield from now until “annihilation.” They are surrounded, and the clock is ticking. Oh, and the press isn’t allowed to watch the final battles. In other words, we won’t need to build new holding cells on Guantanamo Bay this time. No press means no prisoners, if you know what I mean. (American soldiers won’t be shooting the prisoners. We have allies for that sort of thing.)

As you know, “annihilation” of the Losers in Loserdom won’t stop the loser’s ideas from spreading. You still have to kill the ideas. And that takes persuasion, not bullets. President Trump just mapped out the persuasion solution: Evil Losers.

Think about that for a while. Do it while you cry into your Kleenex™, taking your Excedrin™ for your headache, and seeing the USA in your Chevrolet, send me a Xerox™ me of your results, and don’t forget the Kodachromes™ of your trip. Marketing: it’s what we do, it’s what Trump does, his name has always been his brand, and he’s done it again. ISIS now equals Evil Losers™. It’ll stick because it’s true, and it’ll stick because they’ll demonstrate that it continues to be true. A genius move.

Then there is the trip, Riadayh, Jerusalem, Rome, to start. Think there might be a theme there? Sure there is: the home of the three so-called Abrahamic faiths. Truth to power in Saudi Arabia, reinforcing something that the King believes, that his people must modernize, but he, like England, for instance, is awash in Wahabi fanatics. It ain’t going to be easy, and at least he’s trying, and the direct flight to Israel demonstrates that the Saudis recognize that Israel is part of the solution, and that one cannot separate the US from Israel, Great Satan will always stand with Little Satan, not only the government but the people.

Then on to Rome, where all of us Christians have a stake, Catholic or not, this is the last, and foremost of the Patriarchates formed by the Apostles themselves, and arguably, even for Orthodox and Protestants, the one formed by the man that Jesus himself said about, “Upon this Rock.” The current incumbent is in some ways disappointing. In the exchange of gifts, Trump gave him a first edition collection of the works of the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, a highly appropriate gift, I think. In return, he received copies of Amoris Laetitia, Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si’. Am I the only one the who finds it a bit reminiscent of Obama giving Queen Elizabeth an I-pod with his speeches? That’s what I thought.

But writing in the aftermath of Manchester, our friend, Francis Phillips wrote in The Catholic Herald about Dietrich von Hildebrand.

In response to the Islamist terrorist atrocity on Monday night in Manchester, in which 22 innocent people died and 59 have been injured, some severely, so many questions arise: why wasn’t the suicide bomber apprehended earlier (there had been several complaints to the police about his behaviour)? Are sporadic acts of Islamist terrorism now a fact of life in Europe in the future? Is the misplaced ideology of multiculturalism to blame for this act of outrage and others like it? Can we confidently make a distinction between Islam that is peaceful and Islamism that isn’t?

These are natural human questions. But as Christians we have to ask other, deeper and more personal ones. I have been reading the chapter “Blessed are the peacemakers” in Dietrich von Hildebrand’s book Transformation Christ as a way of moving beyond the highly disquieting news in the media with all the anxious questions that flow from it.

As the author says, to imitate Christ necessarily involves a love of peace and “a horror of all forms of discord, disunion and dissension”. But that in itself is not enough: to love peace is to act in a way that will help to bring it about. “Ignoring objective evils does not establish true peace”; nor does a “passive tolerance of evil”, through moral cowardice or sloth. At an individual level this means that we have” to draw [our enemy’s] attention to the wrong he has done us.” It also means engaging with the wider society and for the same purpose.

As von Hildebrand points out, “Cowardly acquiescence is not the love of peace”. True peace can only be found in close communion with Christ. This relationship alone will give us the strength to “possess, irradiate and spread peace.” We cannot always avoid suffering in this world but we can at least show others what the peace of Christ means in our lives. It calls for courage as well; in particular the courage to point out that what society calls “tolerance” is often the opposite. Christian values are not always the same as “British values” – as Christians have learned to their cost.

Indeed so, Christianity, and its allied secular powers have not built the modern world by ignoring evil, nor will we maintain it by doing so.

Then there are the inexcusable leaks to the New York Time of evidentiary material from Manchester. The British (and American) people deserve far better from our bureaucracy, as does our President. Hopefully, dismissals and prosecutions will follow. Something else bears here, as well. The Senate would be well advised to get off its ample rear (or head, it’s hard to tell) and confirm Trump’s people, a lot of this, I’d bet has to do with unreconciled Obama appointees.

On the other hand, it might have had a bit to do with waking up a few British folk about how much HMG covers up, to the point that I am hearing the word Londonistan again. And amongst my friends, I sense a resolve to solve this problem, one that I (and they) fear that their government does not share. And that is a most charitable way of putting it.

If I were asked (I won’t be!) my advice to Mrs. May would be three words from Britain’s heroic past…

Who Dares Wins

Manchester

So, it has happened again, this time in Manchester, England. We talked about this after the Boston bombing, and it’s just as true for our cousins, except this was arguably worse, targeting kids, many of them girls. I simply have no words, not even unprintable ones, for the scum that do such things. But I do have words for the way Manchester and England reacted, but Cranmer put it better.

Bodies and blood.

Carnage, terror and tears.

“There are children among the deceased,” confirmed Greater Manchester Police. “This has been the most horrific incident we have had to face,” said Chief Constable Ian Hopkins.

Nuts and bolts and nails.

Smoke and burning.

“This is horrific, this is criminal,” said Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain. “May the perpetrators face the full weight of justice both in this life and the next.”

Emergency services praised.

Cobra committee convened.

“Please hold the people of #Manchester in your prayers,” tweeted David Walker, Bishop of Manchester. “We’ve faced terror attacks before and this latest won’t defeat us.”

Fear and division.

Thoughts, prayers and condemnation.

Evil descended upon Manchester Arena last night: his target was teenagers at a pop concert. He wore a vest packed with explosives and metal bits. There was a blast and then a flash of fire. And then everyone just started running, screaming and crying.

And then Jesus came.

“We are visiting for a health conference from morecambe bay trust tomorrow 3 Theatre ODPs available if needed,” tweeted Kirsty Withers, an NHS theatre clinical manager.

“If anyone needs shelter we are right on the outskirts of central Manchester in Salford, anything I can do to help DM me!!” tweeted science student Karolina Staniecka.

“Anyone in Manchester who needs to wait for their parents or needs somewhere stay or to make phone calls, etc, just DM me. We have tea!” offered the BBC’s Simon Clancy.

“Anyone needing somewhere to stay can come to our Manchester headquarters in the city centre,” tweeted Stephen Bartlett.

“The Holiday Inn nearest to Manchester Arena have taken dozens of kids who have been separated from their parents tonight,” said Samuel Carvalho.

“Taxi drivers in #Manchester offering free journeys to those stranded after the events in #ManchesterArena,” tweeted Bethan Bonsall.

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,‘ said Jesus.

God love the cousins, “We have tea!” It’s the way of our people, care for the injured,  help the helpless, bury the dead, and carry on.

The Book of Common Prayer has it.

MERCIFUL God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life; in whom whosoever believeth shall live, though he die; and whosoever liveth, and believeth in him, shall not die eternally; who also hath taught us (by his holy Apostle Saint Paul) not to be sorry, as men without hope, for them that sleep in him: We meekly beseech thee, O Father, to raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; that, when we shall depart this life, we may rest in him, as our hope is this our brother doth; and that, at the general Resurrection in the last day, we may be found acceptable in thy sight, and receive that blessing, which thy well-beloved Son shall then pronounce to all that love and fear thee, saying, Come, ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world: Grant this, we beseech thee, O merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Redeemer. Amen.

And then there will be time to consider what must be done.

But our cousins don’t need us for that, like us, they will find the answer, likely after they have tried almost everything else. That too is the way of our people. But I suspect I speak for all Americans, that we agree with what Harry Hopkins told Churchill, long ago, in another crisis.

Well, I’m going to quote you one verse from that Book of Books … ‘Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.’” Then he added very quietly: “‘Even to the end.’”

But those who wish us ill would be wise to consider the words of another Englishman, as well.

It was not part of their blood,
It came to them very late,
With long arrears to make good,
When the Saxon began to hate.

They were not easily moved,
They were icy — willing to wait
Till every count should be proved,
Ere the Saxon began to hate.

Their voices were even and low.
Their eyes were level and straight.
There was neither sign nor show
When the Saxon began to hate.

It was not preached to the crowd.
It was not taught by the state.
No man spoke it aloud
When the Saxon began to hate.

It was not suddently bred.
It will not swiftly abate.
Through the chilled years ahead,
When Time shall count from the date
That the Saxon began to hate.

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