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?

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Bare Ruined Choirs

In Sonnet LXXIII Shakespeare wrote

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long

Not one of his happiest, but it accords well with my feelings, this fall. It hasn’t been a year I would wish on anybody, but this is the season when I understand why All Hollow’s is sometimes called Totenfest by those of German heritage. Tomorrow is the Feast day of Our Lady of Walsingham, and for me, that has significance as well. Six years ago, I had never heard of Walsingham, let alone this representation of Mary, but One summer day in 2012, Jessica became my dearest friend at almost the moment she lit a candle for me at the shrine. The main part of the story begins here. I have ever since found Mary a worthwhile conduit for my prayers. But for me, it’s specifically the Walsingham representation. Earlier this year,  Fr Matthew Pittam wrote in the Catholic Herald about his feeling for the Shrine.

 

Whilst visiting this year I met some other pilgrims who were unfavourably comparing Walsingham to other well-known European Shrines that they had visited. It is true Walsingham is no Lourdes or Fatima but for me that is part of the appeal of the place. It seems right that the English National Shrine is understated, reflecting the character of the English themselves.

The story of Our Lady’s Shrine and the meaning of its message demand a much tenderer charism than Walsingham’s more flamboyant European cousins. Above all Walsingham is a memorial to the Annunciation. The whole place speaks softly of Our Lady’s ‘Yes’ to God. Mary’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel was abundantly full of humility, generosity and peace. The quieter pace and rhythm of our National Shrine really can take us to the heart of this life changing and life-giving moment.

The location of Walsingham is also understated. It is not set amidst mountain grandeur but nestles within the pleasant rolling meadows of the Stiffkey Valley, echoing the gentleness of the shrine’s own spirituality and Our Lady. The whole place seems to be set apart for peaceful encounter.

He nails it for me. Without the slightest intention to be offensive, much of Roman Catholicism is too ornate, too baroque, and the decoration, like some of the verbiage, is over extravagant for me. That’s not a knock on it, it simply doesn’t fit with this working guy of Lutheran Scandinavian heritage. I’m no iconoclast, but enough is enough. Both the Roman Catholic and the Anglo-Catholic shrines at Walsingham have a northern European feel about them, which I find comforting. I’m still of my roots, I have found it comforting to talk with Our Lady, as Jessica once said, it feels rather like talking to Mom, which in a sense it is.

And then there is the relief, that I have felt on several occasions, after talking with Her, usually not the formal Rosary, although I do that sometimes as well, mostly sitting here, meditating silently directed towards Her. The old man’s knees aren’t really up to kneeling much anymore, anyway. 🙂

Strangely, it is only 3 years, nearly to the day, since the Abbess from Walsingham came to Jessica’s hospital bed to pray over her and sprinkle her with Walsingham water, giving her some ease, and then again a mere two weeks later, just after she received the last rites, she again prayed over her and sprinkled her. Two days later she was out of her coma, without pain and cancer free. A remarkable testimony to the power of prayer.

A year after that Mary Katherine Ham lost her husband,  Jake in a bicycle accident while pregnant with their second child. It was one of those things that shocked many of us, this young vibrant couple, and him suddenly gone. She wrote about it this week at The Federalist.

I love the idea of the divine spark. It crosses a lot of cultures and religions, the idea that you carry a bit of the Creator inside you, that it animates your life.

Jake’s life always brings to mind a spark and then some. Jake’s soul, to me, was a bonfire. He was here and he was in your face and he was warm and bright. He roared with enthusiasm at the beginning, even the hope of something new, sometimes a little too much. His glow was infectious, throwing sparks into the night air, silhouetted against a dark sky before they landed on everyone in his vicinity. He mellowed to embers as the night wore on, usually over a glass of bourbon or a beer.

I lived seven years of my life looking into a bonfire. I warmed my hands and found comfort in its flame. There were times when I damn near burnt myself or got a giant waft of smoke at exactly the wrong time.  Because that’s life. And that’s fire. It’s not all s’mores and sweetness.

Everyone who’s loved someone knows that light and warmth. Everyone who’s lost someone knows the feeling when it goes dark and cold one day.

When that happens at any time, it’s jarring. When it happens without warning, even more.

The light went out. This fire I’d stood next to for seven years just went out, like a flood light on a switch. Boom. Imagine staring into a fire, and then suddenly turning 180 degrees to survey the woods behind you. I couldn’t see. I was standing in what otherwise was my life, and I knew all the other parts of it were there, but I couldn’t understand its contours anymore. I was standing in my own life, blinded, blinking away those disorienting shimmery green spots.

Brilliant, simply brilliant. But you know when we lose someone we love, not even always to death, it’s like that as well. It was for me when my marriage broke up, and even though my sisters, parents and brothers-in-law lived full lives, in truth as much as could be expected, they have left a hole, that cannot be filled.

And so it was for me, a year ago today, when I received the last email from  Jessica, who as far as I know is healthy, happy, and busy. Too busy or some other unexplained reason, to maintain the friendship that turned to love on my part, more than I ever felt for another human being. And get your mind out of the gutter, yes she is beautiful, but I loved her before I knew that, far more a case of Agape than Eros. She was my friend, the best one I’ll ever have. And even Our Lady of Walsingham has found no way to comfort me. I’m reconciled that I must go on more alone than I have ever been, but have little appetite for it. Which is why that sonnet speaks loudly to me.

Walsingham, and Our Lady are her legacy to me, and I thank God for them everyday. But it does make me think of another poem.

Weepe, weepe O Walsingham,
Whose dayes are nightes,
Blessings turned to blasphemies,
Holy deeds to dispites.

Sinne is where our Ladie sate,
Heaven turned is to hell,
Sathan sittes where our Lord did swaye,
Walsingham oh farewell.

But it is true that while Eliot was writing of Little Gidding, I’ve always thought that this applied as well to Walsingham

           If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.

We merely have to trust God that Dame Julian of Norwich was correct.

‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

Video Monday

I was doing things other than writing last night, once in a while, I like to step away from the blog, and recharge, and doing this seven days a week can get to be a pain. Okay, whinge over, and yeah, I volunteered. How about some videos today? Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve watched these, most of them more than once, and I like them. I think you will too. Obviously, you don’t have to watch all of them, watch the ones that interest you, but they all cover some facet of what we do here.

Steve Bannon making sense? Yep, surprising as it is.

Ben Shapiro on why your feeling don’t matter

I wish we could convince the Brits of this because it is obviously true.

The modern world is a Tudor Enterprise. Think about that for a bit. That is what one can accomplish with “the stomach of a king, and yes, a King of England”.

As we change course a bit, just who is smarter? Eh, who cares, really? But Siobahn! 🙂

We’ve said this many times: If you do not have the freedom to fail, you can not succeed.

How we got rich…

How to keep it happening:

Sense a theme here? Yep, there is one. It’s called personal responsibility. If you want to accomplish something, you need to take responsibility for it. Whether you’re Stephan Langton leading the barons to Runnymede, Queen Elizabeth humbling the greatest Empire of the age, our founders doing that humbling thing again, or the guy that wants to start the next Microsoft; you need to own it, to work hard at it, and maybe fail a few times before you get it figured out, not run to Washington, claiming to be a victim. We, the Anglophone nations built the world we live in following these simple rules, seems silly to me to quit doing something that has worked so well.

Although I suppose if I simply desired power over others without reason, simply the power of the clenched fist, I would probably dislike this world, with its emphasis on freedom and justice. Think about that.

Amish Attack in London

From The Resurgent:

What appears to be a homemade bomb using a white plastic bucket inside a shopping bag exploded in a London Underground station during the morning rush, injuring “a number” of people, according to reports.

London Metropolitan Police have confirmed the explosion at Parsons Green station on the District Line was being treated as a terror attack.

One Twitter user included an anonymous chat room post which read “Because we are a safe haven for terrorists, we are so PC that we accuse the eskimos of terrorism and any other religion/race that has over run the UK, bombs on the trains are all part and parcel of living in a city, pray for the muslims on that train.” Of course such sentiments could be considered illegal in England as “hate speech.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s statement published on Facebook said:

Our city utterly condemns the hideous individuals who attempt to use terror to harm us and destroy our way of life. As London has proven again and again, we will never be intimidated or defeated by terrorism.

The New York Times reported the explosion occurred at 8:20 a.m. on a District Line train as it left the station.

“The train was packed, and I was down the other side of the carriage standing up, looking at my phone and then I heard a big boom and felt this heat on my face,” said Natalie Belford, 42, a hairdresser and beautician who was on the train. “I ran for my life, but there was no way out. The doors were full of people and the carriage was too packed to move down.”

London Metro Police tweeted that this is a terror incident, but that it’s too early to determine the cause.

Well, whatever. While I have all the sympathy in the world for the average UK citizen; until they elect a government with the moral courage to enforce the law, fairly and evenly Kahn is right, they will have to learn to live with terrorism. But the way it is in Britain these days, if he had self-detonated while wearing a neon sign saying Aloha Snackbar, they wouldn’t be able to figure out the motive – because they are not permitted to figure out the motive.

I notice the whinging for more money to not solve the problem has already begun. Money is not the problem, the will to not offend certain segments of the population is the problem, and no amount of money will allow the oh so PC Metropolitan Police to see a problem they will not look at.

So they will sing sappy songs and leave teddy bears and tea lights, and go on until it happens again, Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Until the Islamic terrorists whom anybody with two brain cells to rub together know are responsible, not the Amish, win.

This ran on Warsclerotic the other day, it is most germane.

“Close your eyes, have no fear,” says a song by John Lennon, the wretched soundtrack of a West which has definitely lost military, political and cultural courage. After the Paris terror attacks, many people were inspired by John Lennon’s songs. It was a clear message to Jihadists: you can continue to butcher us, we don’t care 

********************************

In 1978, the great Russian writer Alexander Solzenitsyn delivered a famous speech at Harvard University. “A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days”, the author of “Gulag Archipelago” said at the time. “The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course, there are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life”.

Solzenitsyn uttered these important words at a time when the West still had some courage against Communism. What would he have said today seeing Europe’s reaction in front of Islamic terrorism? and North Korea/

Terrorism will end, when a country has enough courage to name it, and fight it. If a country doesn’t do so, the country will end. It is that basic, and that binary. The UK isn’t as craven as Spain, or Germany, yet, but they are not doing right by their citizens, either.

Until HMG is willing to name the enemy and undertake realistic step to combat it, well I find it difficult to be overly sympathetic.

Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities… because it is the quality which guarantees all others.

Winston Churchill

The wrath of the awakening Saxon

150px-Sutton_hoo_helmet_room_1_no_flashbrightness_ajustedWhen Churchill said that democracy was the worst form of government – except for all the others – he was making an astute comment. He began his political career when the UK electorate was about 7 million, all men, and all property-owners of one sort of another. In 1918 that system was blown apart after the Great War, and the electorate went up to 21 million, some of them – gasp – female, Fortunately they didn’t let young women vote – you had to be 30. By then, so the thought went, you’d be married and have a man who could tell you what to do. In 1928 they gave in, and the ‘flappers’ – women between 21 and 30, were added to the franchise.

The job of Government in the UK back then was still close to what it had been for a long time – keep law and order and the peace, and make sure the Royal Mail worked. But with the advent of real democracy in terms of numbers, it became increasingly impossible for politicians to tell their electors that problems like unemployment and poverty were nothing to do with the Government; people wanted help and they expected action. After the Second World War, the UK Government did the obvious thing and brought in a Welfare State. The thought then was that we would have a health service which would, once it cleared the back log of ill health, would be cheap; they got that wrong – as it soon began to eat up huge amounts of money and still does. Governments also said they’d deliver education, and did, and now that costs a fortune too. You see the pattern? Governments took on much that used to be done (sometimes not very well) by private bodies. The problem with this dream of utopia was that it cost money. The Democracy was receptive to ideas about money could be redistributed more fairly; it forgot, if it ever knew, that someone needed to create wealth. You can’t redistribute what you don’t have – that’s called robbery.

But in the great modern boom, Governments found they could borrow and print money and promise their citizens the sky. With material prosperity came moral laxity – it always does – look at old Rome. Bread and Circuses kept the plebs (us) happy. But then the casino went bust and the music stopped, and now we are beginning to see the confidence trick,  We handed over freedom for prosperity – and we seem to have less of both now.

Because politics seemed so complicated, it got dominated not by the old elites, but a new one. The old elites were patrician enough – no one ever accused FDR or Churchill of slumming it, but they had that paternalism of an aristocracy born to rule. Neither man enriched himself in office, and they knew that they had a responsibility to those they ruled. The new elite was different. It knew it was smart. It got to office because it was smart, and it rather despised those who weren’t. There was no humility there because these men (and a few women) had got there by their own efforts and despised those who hadn’t.

It was a twist of fate to combine the ascendancy of this class with the end of gravy-train. The bread to keep us quiet was not so plentiful as it had been, and whilst the circuses were glitzy and full of ‘celebs’, they somehow failed to shut us up or to disguise from us what was happening.

In the UK and the USA the old parties seem irrelevant – vehicles for career politicians who don’t care which team they drive for as long as it is the winning one. And out here, beyond the Thunderdome, we’re beginning to see that whoever else wins, we lose. We don’t much like it. But we are slow to anger – and yet our rulers should heed Kipling’s words, put into the mouth of a Norman noble on his death bed, talking to his son:

“The Saxon is not like us Normans. His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice and right.
When he stands like an ox in the furrow – with his sullen set eyes on your own,
And grumbles, ‘This isn’t fair dealing,’ my son, leave the Saxon alone.

Our rulers should beware the phenomenon described in ‘The Wrath of the Awakened Saxon”

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.

Well, we know this isn’t ‘fair dealing’ – so they should beware.

First Published by Jessica on May 6, 2013

Good bye and Farewell, Charlie

Well, I said this a while ago, too much time was wasted for Charlie Gard to survive his illness. The NHS has run out the clock, to the point where his parents have made the decision that they must let go. His dad, Chris Gard made a heartbreaking statement:

“Firstly, I would like to thank our legal team who have worked tirelessly on our behalf for free. And to the nurses and staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital who have cared for Charlie and kept him comfortable and stable for so long.

We would also like to thank everybody who supported us, including all the people here for us today.

This is one of the hardest things that we will ever have to say and we are about to do the hardest thing that we’ll ever have to do, which is to let our beautiful little Charlie go.

Put simply, this is about a sweet, gorgeous innocent little boy who was born with a rare disease who had a real genuine chance at life and a family who loved him so very dearly. And that’s why we fought so hard for him.

We are truly devastated to say that following the most recent MRI scan of Charlie’s muscles as requested in a recent MDT meeting by Dr Hirano.

As Charlie’s devoted and loving parents, we’ve decided that it is no longer in Charlie’s best interest to pursue treatment and we will let our son go and be with the angels.

The American and Italian team were still willing to treat Charlie after seeing his recent MRI and EEG perform last week, but there is one simple reason why treatment cannot now go ahead and that is time. A whole lot of time has been wasted.

We are now in July and our poor boy has been left to just lie in hospital for months without any treatment whilst lengthy court battles have been fought.

Tragically having had Charlie’s medical notes reviewed by independent experts, we now know had Charlie been given the treatment sooner, he would have had the potential to be a normal healthy little boy.

Despite his condition in January, Charlie’s muscles were in pretty good shape and far from showing irreversible catastrophic structural brain damage.

Dr Hirano and other experts say his brain scans and EEGs were those of a relatively normal child of his age.

We knew that ourselves because as his parents, we knew our son, which is why we continued fighting.

Charlie’s been left for his illness to deteriorate devastatingly to the point of no return.

This has also never been about ‘parents know best’.

All we wanted to do was take Charlie from one world-renowned hospital to another world-renowned hospital in the attempt to save his life and to be treated by the world leader in mitochondrial disease.

We’ll have to live with the what-ifs which will haunt us for the rest of our lives.

Despite the way that our beautiful son has been spoken about sometimes, as if he is not worthy of a chance at life, our son is an absolute warrior and we could not be prouder of him and we will miss him terribly.

His body, heart and soul may soon be gone, but his spirit will live on for eternity and he will make a difference to people’s lives for years to come. We will make sure of that.

We are now going to spend our last precious moments with our son Charlie who unfortunately won’t make his first birthday in just under two weeks’ time.

And we will ask that our privacy is respected during this very difficult time.

To Charlie we say mummy and daddy, we love you so much. We always have and we always will and we are so sorry we couldn’t save you.

Sweet dreams baby, sleep tight our beautiful little boy. We love you.”

Courtesy of The Independent

Given what we know, while this has to be a heartbreaking decision for Charlie’s parents, I’m quite sure that it is also the correct one. God give them strength.

Well, we all did our best, and we have lost a battle, there will be more, and we need to move faster. We too were late to his aid, and the dilatory nature of the NHS, along with its near-religious status in the UK, and it’s stubborn clinging to power made this an uphill battle. And that is the real lesson here, and it’s important to remember even as we mourn that little warrior in London. If we don’t fight it all the time, every time, the culture of death that the NHS represents will win. But we, British and Americans, with an assist from the Pope, came close. If we had been even three months earlier, we might have prevailed.

And that is what I simply cannot understand, the religious fervor of the Brits for this Stalinist health (non)care system. No matter what you say about it, your answer will be, “But it’s free.” Which it decidedly is not. Nor is this anything new. Back in 2013 Jessica and I both wrote about the Stafford scandal in which something up to 1200 patients were allowed to live in filth and die unattended. Those articles are here, and here. They were based on an article in The Telegraph, which is here. So what happened? Nothing, of course, the latest story in Google is from February of 2013, three days after our articles were published.

Nothing will change because of Charlie Gard either. Why? Because while Americans were outraged over the whole thing of stealing this baby from his parents and allowing him to die, the British for the most part shrugged and said, “It’s free.” Maybe they haven’t heard it ain’t free they pay at least $1500 each per year for this shoddy simulacrum of health care.

As I said then, “That’s the thing about government bureaucracies though, no one is responsible.” That’s often the point of a bureaucracy, as we have surely seen in the last few years. Jeff Weimer commenting on this story yesterday at Ace‘s said this:

Once again, socialized medicine gets the preferred health outcome it was looking for.

You are not – I repeat – you are *not* the customer in a socialized single payer system. You are a *cost*. the government is the customer and it gets what it pays for.

Always.

And that is the simple truth. So is this from the same comment stream:

For me, nothing has been so infuriating in all this as reading feedback from the British public. Usually, the comments section at sites like Daily Mail is fairly right-leaning, but even there, when it came to poor Charlie, the parents were being absolutely excoriated for fighting the hospital, which apparently, in the eyes of their fellow Brits, is run by the most intelligent, compassionate people on Earth. Charlie’s parents, it was said over and over again, ought to “do the right thing” and let their son die already.

I shouldn’t blame them too much. It is only too clear that this attitude is the result of decades under a welfare state and the mind-warping that induces. But it is hard to come away with any conclusion except that the UK is now home to millions of soulless automatons who would rather the innocent perish than lose their own entitlements. Damn them all.

Goodbye, Charlie, we tried our best, and we failed. May God help your parents find some peace.

All three of you will be in many prayers.

 

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