9/11 Open Thread

Hard to believe that it has been 15 years – I can still remember so much of it so clearly. Getting a call from the Mrs’ daughter asking if anyone had heard from the other daughter who worked in Manhattan. Turning on the TV just in time to see the second plane hit live. Calling my father and telling him to turn on the TV…and then just watching, watching, watching for hours as the disaster unfolded.

It was supposed to be a turning point, but it ended up not being anything of the sort. The national unity which instantly asserted itself was torn down by various actors for cynical political reasons. These days, we’re not even really supposed to say what we’re fighting – and instead of being red blooded American patriots, we’re debating whether or not we should even stand for our national anthem.

Still, this is a day to remember those who died – on that day, and in the battles since then. I only hope that we some how manage to get through this time without a repeat of that day – this will take more luck than anything else, but one can always pray, and hope.

Ignorant People are Unpatriotic People

“My country, right or wrong,” is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober”. – G K Chesterton

Colin Kaepernick is just someone who doesn’t know history – which puts him right square in the middle of all too many of the American people. I saw a Facebook meme a couple days ago which asserted that Cecil Rhodes killed 60 million Africans compared to Hitler killing 6 million Jews. I did a bit of checking and found out the entire population of Africa was 133 million when Rhodes as doing this thing – how he managed to kill 40% of the continent’s population escapes me. This is especially perplexing as he didn’t have a “kill all Africans” plank in his political philosophy as Hitler had a “kill all Jews” in his. But that is the level of discourse these days – people are so ignorant of history that anyone who wants to grind an axe just has to make a statement and some people will believe it.

Columbus is made out to be this horrible person who set out to pillage and enslave – guys, he was just an intrepid sea captain who wanted to find a way to engage in the lucrative spice trade with Asia…as Muslim powers controlled the overland route and the Portuguese had got the route around Africa, pretty much the only other way was going west. Columbus, like everyone else, just had no idea an entire continent stood in the way. Every bad thing which happened afterwards was laid at Columbus’ feet – and it is all asserted as deliberate. Remember, people say that what happened to the Native people was a genocide – which means they are asserting it was a deliberate act. Of course, almost all the Native people who died were killed by disease, often before they even set eyes on an European. Isolated for a very long time in the Americas, the Native people had simply never encountered outside disease environments…as it turns out, the Europeans arrived with a concentrated disease environment from Europe, Africa and Asia. But this was going to happen eventually – someone, at some point, was going to sail from Europe or Africa or Asia and arrive in the Americas. The only way it could have been avoided is if the Americas remained untouched until modern medicine was invented and even then only if the first people to arrive were a bunch of doctors bearing vaccines.

We are told (endlessly) that if we don’t pay close attention to the bad then we are denying the bad ever happened. That is just a bit of nonsense. Does anyone sit around continually going over every last mistake they ever made? Of course not – when we idly think of our past, we like very much to think over the pleasant things we have done or experienced. A wise person does ponder the bad in order to learn the proper lesson from it – but to dwell on it is morose. But we’re not even so much dwelling on it as obsessing over it. It is an endless parade of evil and everyone who ever did a great thing in America is torn down because he or she also had some sins to account for. Because the Founders weren’t perfect, they are to be disparaged; as if any human being – even the most Progressive hero – hasn’t been heir to human folly. It is sufficient to know enough of the bad to ensure against repeating it – but once that is done, it is time to seek inspiration from the good that was done so it can be built upon. And even though George Washington engaged in the sin of holding slaves, it is far more important that we learn of his courage in adversity; his determination to succeed against all odds; his unwillingness to seize power for himself.

Colin Kaepernick probably has never heard of Prince Estabrook – he was a slave, and also the first African-American to fight in battle for American liberty. He was wounded during the Battle of Lexington and Concord. He continued to serve in the militia until the end of the Revolutionary War, after which he was granted freedom. It was a terrible crime that he was held as a slave by men who held themselves to be freemen. But that was the nature of the times – slavery existed everywhere on Earth in one form or another, and when Estabrook stood firm on Lexington Common, it was still about a decade before any voice would be raised asserting that slavery as a thing was inherently wrong. To remember the good and the bad is necessary – and thus remembering Prince Estabrook is important…because he was good and brave and fought for freedom even when he didn’t have it, because people wrongly believed that others could be held as slaves. But he still fought. Plenty of men – born free – would run away on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War. Estabrook didn’t run away – and because of men like him, we have freedom. But, also, because of men like Washington and Jefferson, who both owned slaves. It is said that the evil men do is interred with their bones while the good they do lives on – and this is completely true. We don’t know much about Estabrook – like most true heroes, he doesn’t seem to have gotten around to talking up his actions and making sure everyone knew about them. All we really know of him is that he lived and he fought…but he was also a man, and thus there were probably times when he didn’t rise to Christian perfection. But, no matter – if from time to time he wasn’t perfect, that is now interred with his bones. But the good he did lives on.

Right now, our nations teeters and rocks – we sway giddily on the path, reeling from disunion, bitterness and mutual recrimination. We hope, as Lincoln once did, that the mystic cords of memory which stretch from each Patriot’s grave will continue to bind us…but for that to happen, people have to know about it. Right now, all too many people don’t…and that is why you can find people saying America never was great. But America has been great from the beginning – it started out great, because it was started out by people willing to sacrifice all to strive for an ideal. We must recapture the past – the whole past, and most especially the past which showed us at our best. If we deny that – if we continue to harp upon evils done along the way with no mind to the greatness done by intent – then we will be doomed to failure.

Loving the United States

With all that goes on, it really isn’t hard. Now, first off, before anyone decides to come along and point out the sins of the United States I’d like to first point out a couple things:

1. There is no sinless nation. Whatever you can dredge up about the United States can be matched (or, very often) exceed by other nations on the level of sin.

2. I really do know all our national sins. In fact, if you’re getting your list out, save it. I probably know it better than you. My knowledge of history really is rather encyclopedic – I currently have somewhere north of 300 books in my personal library, most dealing with history…and I’ve probably read into the thousands of books over the course of my life…most of them about history. Seriously, I’ve got it – I know.

But it is still easy to love the United States. Not least, of course, because to love means to love the unlovable – it is when the United States is at its most unlovely that the true patriot stands ever more firmly beside her. And right now, we’re a rather unlovely prospect.

We’ve got millions of people in jail – many for crimes which only a liberal could think up. We’ve got abysmal poverty in a lot of areas in the nation. We’ve got a host of illegal immigrants which are brought here by a Ruling Class only interested in political calculations and cheap labor. A great number of our young people are ignorant of basic facts – and deliberately made that way by our public school systems. We’ve got a class of elitists battened on to our government, determined to grab what they can regardless of the fate of the nation. About 20% (my guess) of the population actually hates the nation they live in (not enough to leave it, of course). The wide world looks with contempt upon us – certain that our great days are behind and the wicked actors in the world are certain their time has come. The leading candidates for the Democrat party nomination are someone who should be indicted and someone who is convinced that socialism is a good idea. Over on the GOP side, the leading candidate is a demagogue who, I worry, doesn’t really know what he wants to do – but is determined to do it, anyway.

And it’s a great country – the best ever devised by the mind of Man. Trouble is, even the best thing devised by Man is bound to be horribly screwed up. But, still, we are the nation which leaps into action to help others. We are a nation of astonishing generosity within. We are a kind people who merely wish everyone to live as they see fit. We are an amazingly powerful nation which has not used it’s power for conquest. I know a lot of Progs think we have, but if we really were an Empire, the world would look a lot different…not better, but very different…mostly with the American flag flying over millions of square miles of land which is currently independent…and independent by our leave, as if we weren’t around, other nations would have conquered them a long time ago. We are, warts and all, a shining city on a hill – and will remain so, I think, for quite a long time.

I believe that because I believe that the seeds of regeneration are already sprouting within us. Do keep in mind that historical forces on the verge of triumph usually look like they are at death’s door – while that which appears to be all-powerful is usually already falling into the ash heap of history. The poisons which entered the United States well more than a century ago have burnt themselves out – still holding the reins, they appear powerful, but they are actually a spent force. I mean all that, for lack of a better phrase, left-of-center, Progressive nonsense which had the fundamental flaw of thinking that the “smart people” could organize everyone for the benefit of all. That is done. It is finished. It is despised and on it’s way out – and not just here, but around the Western world.

Oddly enough, it is the Trump phenomena which awoke me to the death of Progressivism – not that Trump has a clue, but the fact of Trump. The fact that he’s risen so far and appears invincible (though, of course, he still may wind up losing the GOP nomination). All of the forces of the Status Quo have been marshaled against Trump…and it, so far, hasn’t made a dent. And what did Trump do to gain this? He just spoke against it – and didn’t back down when he was told that he daren’t speak against it. Trump isn’t the man who will fix things. Supposing he gets in, any good he does will, in my view, be in a real sense accidental. But he has shown – and will continue to show – that those who have been ruling over us and wrecking every last thing they can get their hands on can be defied…and defied rather easily. Some time after Trump, someone else will come along and tap into the ocean of people sick to death of things as they are and bring about the real changes people want.

This is the United States of America, after all. We did such a good job that it took more than a century of Progressivism to mess it up (in Europe, which could never hold a candle to us, it took less than 20 years). People were willing to put up with the nonsense because for the longest time it didn’t have any immediate, negative impact on most people. But now it is having an impact – a very bad impact. People have been demanding change for 20 years and they haven’t been getting it. But all this has served to do is expose the Ruling Class for the liars they are. People know, for a fact, that as long as those in power remain in power, nothing will get fixed…and, so, on to Trump. He’s a lot of things, but he hasn’t spent his whole life ruining things, nor the last few decades serially lying to the American people about what he’s doing. He might make some fabulous mistakes if he gets into office, but fabulous mistakes are different from (and more forgivable) then horrible screw-ups deliberately concocted by people who have been lying to us about their intentions.

To me, it is all a sign of the basic health of the American people – a willingness to take matters in hand and smash a system which has become hopelessly corrupt. There’s life in the old girl, yet – America is not finished, not by a long shot. We might have a decade or two of “interesting times” as it is said, but I think that by the time I head for the hereafter, America will be the great, vibrant, free nation my grandfather was born in.

Veterans Day

Peace

Now, God be thanked Who has watched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there’s no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
Nothing to shake the laughing heart’s long peace there
But only agony, and that has ending;
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death. – Rupert Brooke, 1914

Attack

AT dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun
In the wild purple of the glow’ring sun,
Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud
The menacing scarred slope; and, one by one,
Tanks creep and topple forward to the wire.
The barrage roars and lifts. Then, clumsily bowed
With bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear,
Men jostle and climb to meet the bristling fire.
Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear,
They leave their trenches, going over the top,
While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists,
And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists,
Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop! – Siegfried Sassoon, 1918

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields. – John McCrae, 1915

Who were they?

…in memory’s eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs, on many a weary march from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle-deep through the mire of shell-shocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always, for them: Duty, Honor, Country; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.

And 20 years after, on the other side of the globe, again the filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts; those boiling suns of relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms; the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails; the bitterness of long separation from those they loved and cherished; the deadly pestilence of tropical disease; the horror of stricken areas of war; their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory — always victory. Always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men reverently following your password of: Duty, Honor, Country.

The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong.

The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training — sacrifice.

In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him.

However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind… – Douglas MacArthur, 1962

In Congress, July 4th, 1776

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…

…We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Memorial Day Open Thread

Sorry for not having this up earlier – and for not having anything interesting to write about this important day. My internet connection got some gremlins last night and I was unable to really get anything done.

At all events, do take some time today to remember our fallen – those who really did give the last, full measure of devotion to our nation. We owe our existence as a people to them and we can never repay the men and women who gave all for us.