Friday, October 19, 2018

A World Split Apart

From Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Harvard University commencement address, June 1978:

It is almost universally recognized that the West shows all the world a way to successful economic development, even though in the past years it has been strongly disturbed by chaotic inflation. However, many people living in the West are dissatisfied with their own society. They despise it or accuse it of not being up to the level of maturity attained by mankind. A number of such critics turn to socialism, which is a false and dangerous current.

I hope that no one present will suspect me of offering my personal criticism of the Western system to present socialism as an alternative. Having experienced -- Having experienced applied socialism in a country where the alternative has been realized, I certainly will not speak for it. The well-known Soviet mathematician Shafarevich, a member of the Soviet Academy of Science, has written a brilliant book under the title Socialism; it is a profound analysis showing that socialism of any type and shade leads to a total destruction of the human spirit and to a leveling of mankind into death. Shafarevich's book was published in France -- Shafarevich's book was published in France almost two years ago and so far no one has been found to refute it. It will shortly be published in the United States.

But should someone ask me whether I would indicate the West such as it is today as a model to my country, frankly I would have to answer negatively. No, I could not recommend your society in its present state as an ideal for the transformation of ours. Through intense suffering our country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive. Even those characteristics of your life which I have just mentioned are extremely saddening.

A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human beings in the West while in the East they are becoming firmer and stronger -- 60 years for our people and 30 years for the people of Eastern Europe. During that time we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of Western experience. Life's complexity and mortal weight have produced stronger, deeper, and more interesting characters than those generally [produced] by standardized Western well-being.

Therefore, if our society were to be transformed into yours, it would mean an improvement in certain aspects, but also a change for the worse on some particularly significant scores. It is true, no doubt, that a society cannot remain in an abyss of lawlessness, as is the case in our country. But it is also demeaning for it to elect such mechanical legalistic smoothness as you have. After the suffering of many years of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today's mass living habits, introduced by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music.

There are meaningful warnings which history gives a threatened or perishing society. Such are, for instance, the decadence of art, or a lack of great statesmen. There are open and evident warnings, too. The center of your democracy and of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin, then, the social system quite unstable and unhealthy.

But the fight for our planet, physical and spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a vague matter of the future; it has already started. The forces of Evil have begun their offensive; you can feel their pressure, and yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?

Very well known representatives of your society, such as George Kennan, say: We cannot apply moral criteria to politics. Thus, we mix good and evil, right and wrong, and make space for the absolute triumph of absolute Evil in the world. On the contrary, only moral criteria can help the West against communism's well planned world strategy. There are no other criteria. Practical or occasional considerations of any kind will inevitably be swept away by strategy. After a certain level of the problem has been reached, legalistic thinking induces paralysis; it prevents one from seeing the size and meaning of events.

In spite of the abundance of information, or maybe because of it, the West has difficulties in understanding reality such as it is....

The two so-called world wars (they were by far not on a world scale, not yet) have meant internal self-destruction of the small, progressive West which has thus prepared its own end. The next war (which does not have to be an atomic one and I do not believe it will) may well bury Western civilization forever.

Facing such a danger, with such splendid historical values in your past, at such a high level of realization of freedom and of devotion to freedom, how is it possible to lose to such an extent the will to defend oneself?

How has this unfavorable relation of forces come about? How did the West decline from its triumphal march to its present sickness? Have there been fatal turns and losses of direction in its development? It does not seem so. The West kept advancing socially in accordance with its proclaimed intentions, with the help of brilliant technological progress. And all of a sudden it found itself in its present state of weakness.

This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very basis of human thinking in the past centuries. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was first born during the Renaissance and found its political expression from the period of the Enlightenment. It became the basis for government and social science and could be defined as rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the proclaimed and enforced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of everything that exists.

The turn introduced by the Renaissance evidently was inevitable historically. The Middle Ages had come to a natural end by exhaustion, becoming an intolerable despotic repression of man's physical nature in favor of the spiritual one. Then, however, we turned our backs upon the Spirit and embraced all that is material with excessive and unwarranted zeal. This new way of thinking, which had imposed on us its guidance, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man nor did it see any higher task than the attainment of happiness on earth. It based modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend to worship man and his material needs. Everything beyond physical well-being and accumulation of material goods, all other human requirements and characteristics of a subtler and higher nature, were left outside the area of attention of state and social systems, as if human life did not have any superior sense. That provided access for evil, of which in our days there is a free and constant flow. Merely freedom does not in the least solve all the problems of human life and it even adds a number of new ones.

However, in early democracies, as in the American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted because man is God's creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were discarded everywhere in the West; a total liberation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were -- State systems were becoming increasingly and totally materialistic. The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man's sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistically selfish aspect of Western approach and thinking has reached its final dimension and the world wound up in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the glorified technological achievements of Progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the 20th century's moral poverty which no one could imagine even as late as in the 19th Century.

As humanism in its development became more and more materialistic, it made itself increasingly accessible to speculation and manipulation by socialism and then by communism. So that Karl Marx was able to say that "communism is naturalized humanism."

This statement turned out not to be entirely senseless. One does see the same stones in the foundations of a despiritualized humanism and of any type of socialism: endless materialism; freedom from religion and religious responsibility, which under communist regimes reach the stage of anti-religious dictatorships; concentration on social structures with a seemingly scientific approach. This is typical of the Enlightenment in the 18th Century and of Marxism. Not by coincidence all of communism's meaningless pledges and oaths are about Man, with a capital M, and his earthly happiness. At first glance it seems an ugly parallel: common traits in the thinking and way of life of today's West and today's East? But such is the logic of materialistic development.

The interrelationship is such, too, that the current of materialism which is most to the left always ends up by being stronger, more attractive, and victorious, because it is more consistent. Humanism without its Christian heritage cannot resist such competition. We watch this process in the past centuries and especially in the past decades, on a world scale as the situation becomes increasingly dramatic. Liberalism was inevitably displaced by radicalism; radicalism had to surrender to socialism; and socialism could never resist communism. The communist regime in the East could stand and grow due to the enthusiastic support from an enormous number of Western intellectuals who felt a kinship and refused to see communism's crimes. And when they no longer could do so, they tried to justify them. In our Eastern countries, communism has suffered a complete ideological defeat; it is zero and less than zero. But Western intellectuals still look at it with interest and with empathy, and this is precisely what makes it so immensely difficult for the West to withstand the East.

I am not examining here the case of a world war disaster and the changes which it would produce in society. As long as we wake up every morning under a peaceful sun, we have to lead an everyday life. There is a disaster, however, which has already been under way for quite some time. I am referring to the calamity of a despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness.

To such consciousness, man is the touchstone in judging everything on earth -- imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects. We are now experiencing the consequences of mistakes which had not been noticed at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. In the East, it is destroyed by the dealings and machinations of the ruling party. In the West, commercial interests suffocate it. This is the real crisis. The split in the world is less terrible -- The split in the world is less terrible than the similarity of the disease plaguing its main sections.

If humanism were right in declaring that man is born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it. It is imperative to review the table of widespread human values. Its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President's performance be reduced to the question how much money one makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline. Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism.

It would be retrogression to attach oneself today to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Social dogmatism leaves us completely helpless in front of the trials of our times. Even if we are spared destruction by war, our lives will have to change if we want to save life from self-destruction. We cannot avoid revising the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man's life and society's activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?

If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge: We shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.

This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth has any other way left but -- upward.

Several years after delivering this address, Solzhenitsyn shared some related thoughts:

Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened." Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened."

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Resistance is Futile!

The bedrock of the old-style Democratic Party was economic fairness. But today, liberals love that income is wildly maldistributed, with them at the top. 

As long as they cut a check to BLM and fly a rainbow flag, they can live like nineteenth-century robber barons. Corporate America is delighted—I had no idea it was this easy! The rest of us can only sit trembling, waiting for the next great social justice warrior idea for remaking thousands years of human history. Borders, genders, what’s next?

Liberals live mostly in the moneyed areas on the coasts. With their basic subsistence needs taken care of, they are free to dedicate themselves to patrolling the borders of class. The party’s new motto could be “Keeping the Bathwater and Throwing Out the Baby!”

The left has no complaint with the rich—they are the rich! There will be no policing of Wall Street. Only Internet memes and Twitter jokes are heavily policed for inappropriate humor.

The Resistance has become a hilarious version of the straights, the squares—the uptight businessman in his business suit, going to the big office. They have become “the Man.” Being “woke” is just another status symbol, proving they are elite enough to insulate themselves from the consequences of their BLM/social justice warrior policies. Their kids will still get into Harvard.

Trump gives snobs a wonderful opportunity: by sneering at him, they can make fun of the Walmart types without getting called on it, because they’re technically talking about a rich man who is president.

Hillary spoke to liberals’ deepest beliefs when she called Trump supporters “deplorables.” The Democratic base loathes guns, Confederate monuments, steelworkers, and Trump because they all represent a certain kind of middle-class American. They care more about a female Yale law grad who didn’t make partner at a fancy New York law firm than a union plant bookkeeper whose job has been outsourced to Mexico. In a way, it’s more honest having liberals not bothering to pretend to like flyover people anymore.

Nothing the Russians ever dreamed of could compare to what the Resistance is doing to democracy, obliterating the will of Trump voters, who wanted him to get to work on urgent problems.

It is nothing less than a coup.

-Ann Coulter, from Resistance is Futile!

Monday, October 15, 2018

High-Brow Art

The media is making hay over this painting by Andy Thomas that is hanging in the White House. I kind of like it, but the leftist media is nothing but snarky about the artwork.  It is a fair point, I would concede, that it bears some resemblance to C. M. Coolidge's classic painting of poker-playing dogs.

Of course, the arbiters of "good taste" just loved it when President Trump's predecessor tapped Kehinde Wiley for his official portrait:

Looks like he's taking a dump in a kudzu patch, but whatever.  Anything BHO is the Greatest.  Painting. Ever.

The media gushed over Wiley's earlier works, and it is easy to see what made him Obama's choice: 

Such unassailable artistic sensibilities!

When it comes to making a statement, though, I'll take Jon McNaughton's "Crossing the Swamp" over anything by Kehinde Wiley:

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Fighting the Dragon

Saint Michael fighting the dragon (miniature from the Book of Hours of the Knight √Čtienne)

Saint Michael Archangel,
defend us in battle,
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil;
may God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, cast into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls.

- Prayer to Saint Michael, Pope Leo XIII, 1886

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Wisdom of Winston

Winston Churchill - 1876-1965

Do not let spacious plans for a new world divert your energies from saving what is left of the old.

If you cannot read all your books...fondle them---peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them, at any rate, be your acquaintances.

A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.

We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us.

What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone? How else can we put ourselves in harmonious relation with the great verities and consolations of the infinite and the eternal? And I avow my faith that we are marching towards better days. Humanity will not be cast down. We are going on swinging bravely forward along the grand high road and already behind the distant mountains is the promise of the sun.

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.

We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people's idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.

To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.

A lady came up to me one day and said "Sir! You are drunk", to which I replied "I am drunk today madam, and tomorrow I shall be sober but you will still be ugly."

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018


How "Progressives" school "Old White Men" in Portland:

From the report featuring this video

 One angry protester shouts at the driver in the blue car for being “a little whitey” and then calls him a “white supremacist” and a KKK member, all for refusing to obey some random woman issuing orders in the street. 

Meanwhile, police seem to be watching from a block away and doing absolutely nothing, even as the man in the car calls the police for help. Another driver apparently struck a protester as he was trying to get away from them. In the clip below, you can’t really see the person being hit but you can see them leaning on the hood as the car slowly makes a turn. 

Then when the driver gets free he guns it and is chased by the angry mob down the street. You can see that the crosswalk was set to “walk” when the driver entered. He’s an older man and it appears he might have panicked a bit with the protesters surrounding him. KATU reports police are now in contact with the driver who claims the protesters did $3,000 worth of damage to his car. He wasn’t able to give descriptions of the people who damaged his car, probably because there were so many of them around his car and some had masks. So far, no one has been arrested. 

 As Andy Ngo points out, this isn’t the first time this year that Portland has become a semi-lawless zone. This summer, a group of protesters set up an Occupy camp next to an ICE facility. When the protesters began blocking access to the building, ICE employees called 911 for help. The cops never responded to those calls because Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler had ordered them not to interfere with the protesters. The Occupy Camp was finally cleared out on July 25th after the city’s police chief told the mayor enough was enough. Having received 76 service calls from the site in a matter of weeks, she wanted the camp cleared and order restored.

In this related video from Portland, "peaceful protesters" tell the driver to "go back to North Carolina."

Monday, October 8, 2018

Happy Holiday

Christopher Columbus, 1451 - 1506:

It was the Lord who put into my mind that fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies. All who heard of my project rejected it with laughter, ridiculing me. There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit, because He comforted me with rays of marvelous inspiration from the Holy Scriptures.

No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Saviour, if it is just and if the intention is purely for His holy service. The working out of all things has been assigned to each person by our Lord, but it all happens according to His sovereign will, even though He gives advice. He lacks nothing that is in the power of men to give Him. Oh, what a gracious Lord, who desires that people should perform for Him those things for which He holds Himself responsible! Day and night, moment by moment, everyone should express their most devoted gratitude to Him.

And they know neither sect nor idolatry, with the exception that all believe that the source of all power and goodness is in the sky, and they believe very firmly that I, with these ships and people, came from the sky, and in this belief they everywhere received me, after they had overcome their fear.

Weep for me, whoever has charity, truth and justice! I did not come on this voyage for gain, honor or wealth, that is certain; for then the hope of all such things was dead. I came to Your Highnesses with honest purpose and sincere zeal; and I do not lie. I humbly beseech Your Highnesses that, if it please God to remove me hence, you will help me to go to Rome and on other pilgrimages.

As I saw that they were very friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some red caps, and strings of beads to wear upon the neck, and many other trifles of small value, wherewith they were much delighted, and became wonderfully attached to us. Afterwards they came swimming to the boats, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread, javelins, and many other things which they exchanged for articles we gave them, such as glass beads, and hawk's bells; which trade was carried on with the utmost good will. But they seemed on the whole to me, to be a very poor people. They all go completely naked, even the women, though I saw but one girl. All whom I saw were young, not above thirty years of age, well made, with fine shapes and faces; their hair short, and coarse like that of a horse's tail, combed toward the forehead, except a small portion which they suffer to hang down behind, and never cut. Some paint themselves with black, which makes them appear like those of the Canaries, neither black nor white; others with white, others with red, and others with such colors as they can find. Some paint the face, and some the whole body; others only the eyes, and others the nose. Weapons they have none, nor are acquainted with them, for I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their javelins being without it, and nothing more than sticks, though some have fish-bones or other things at the ends. They are all of a good size and stature, and handsomely formed. I saw some with scars of wounds upon their bodies, and demanded by signs the of them; they answered me in the same way, that there came people from the other islands in the neighborhood who endeavored to make prisoners of them, and they defended themselves. I thought then, and still believe, that these were from the continent. It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return to carry home six of them to your Highnesses, that they may learn our language. I saw no beasts in the island, nor any sort of animals except parrots.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

What an Alluring Utopia!

"The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterized by rigid observance of routine and by a resistance to every kind of improvement. They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent. They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office. Every man but one a subordinate clerk in a bureau. What an alluring utopia! What a noble cause to fight!" 

-- Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) Economist and social philosopher

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Saturday, September 8, 2018

What I Like About the South

"That's What I Like About the South"
Phil Harris - 1904 -1995

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Grass of Parnassus

Grass of Parnasssus, or Bog-Star,   Parnassia asarifolia, Haywood County, NC, 8/23/18   

                   Grass of Parnassus

Pale star that by the lochs of Galloway,
   In wet green places ’twixt the depth and height
Dost keep thine hour while Autumn ebbs away,
   When now the moors have doffed the heather bright,
   Grass of Parnassusflower of my delight,
How gladly with the unpermitted bay
Garlands not mineand leaves that not decay
   How gladly would I twine thee if I might!
The bays are out of reach!  But far below
   The peaks forbidden of the Muses’ Hill,
Grass of Parnassusthy returning snow
   Between September and October chill
Doth speak to me of Autumns long ago,
   And these kind faces that are with me still.

p. 1
  - Andrew Lang, ca. 1888

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Silent Sam and Me

From The Abbeville Blog, by the Abbeville Institute:

Silent Sam and Me
By Ben Jones on Aug 22, 2018

In September of 1961, I left my job at a basket factory in Wilmington, North Carolina and hitch-hiked up to Chapel Hill to become a student there. I followed in the path of UNC’s very first student, a boy named Hinton James, who had famously walked those roads up from Pender County back in 1789. As befits the first student at the first State University, he did not come by carriage.

My last ride was in the cab of a well-weathered farm truck. The grizzled driver wished me well and let me out in the middle of town. “You’ll like it here,” he told me with pride. “My little grandbaby went here and she became a schoolteacher!”

I was pointed the way to Battle Dormitory which faced Franklin Street, Chapel Hill’s “main drag.” My room, 8 Battle, looked out over McCorkle Place, the “upper quad” of the campus.

It was from there, over the next two years, that I watched the changing of the seasons on the campus grounds, the blazing autumn hardwoods and those seductive dogwood and magnolia spring-times, not to mention the passing coeds with their skirts, far too long in those days.

I was told that Thomas Wolfe, the author of Look Homeward, Angel had lived in that room, next to that same window back in 1916. I could not believe my good fortune in having landed in this “Southern Part of Heaven.” Like Wolfe, I was overflowing with ideas and dreams and confusion. And like him I chased the elusive girls of the night and drank the last drop that was to be had.

The one constant outside that window, in every season, was the noble statue of “Silent Sam,” the Confederate soldier who stood vigilant watch over the campus. “Sam” represented those young students who had left the campus when “the War” came, and who went off to do their duty. It was said that UNC gave more students to the Southern Cause than any other school. It is “likely” true.

Just a few weeks after my arrival, I joined thousands of other students as we tramped through the campus to Kenan Stadium, to listen to a speech by the nation’s young President, John F. Kennedy, on the occasion of the University’s Founders Day. Then in his first year in office, JFK was in full form, at his handsome, youthful and charismatic best.

And here is how he dealt with the South’s past and the War Between the States. Here is what this liberal Democrat from Massachusetts said then of the Tar Heel State:

“There is, of course, no place in America where reason and firmness are more clearly pointed out than here in North Carolina. All Americans can profit from what happened in this State a century ago. It was this State, firmly fixed in the traditions of the South, which sought a way of reason in a troubled and dangerous world. Yet when the War came, North Carolina provided a fourth of all of the Confederate soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice in those years. And it won the right to the slogan, ‘First at Bethel. Farthest to the front at Gettysburg and Chickamauga. Last at Appomattox’.”

I was still a student at Chapel Hill when, a little over two years later, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. It had a profound effect upon me. He had asked at Chapel Hill, echoing Goethe, “Are you going to be a hammer or an anvil?” Within days I was marching and demonstrating in the Civil Rights Movement. It was my way of dealing with his death.

The “Movement” was dangerous and heady. In the next few months, I was sucker punched, shot at, threatened often, and spent more than a few nights in jail during the sit-ins.

In the end, the Public Accomodations Act settled the issue, but those heady times were always a point of pain and pride when we all reminisced about the “the Sixties.”

I had grown up in a railroad “section house” without electricity or indoor plumbing. The folks around us were in the same shape, except that they were all black. So I guess I felt I owed this to them, to those neighbors who got the short end of things.

That idealistic leap into political reality was the beginning of something else that was pushing to the front of my passions. During the summers of 1962 and 1963, I had a job on a work train clearing right-of-way along the railroads in the deep South. I loved it, every second of it. I began to realize that my Southerness was more than just a birthright. I came to believe that it was an honor bestowed upon me by my Maker. I still feel that way.

The period just after the Civil Rights Movement was critically important to the South. I remember how proud I was when a group of kids from Charlotte went up to Boston during that city’s violent busing crisis to show the kids up there how to get along with one another. It seemed to me that left to ourselves, outside of any political climate, Southerners would get along as Southerners. For we had always shared a culture, that whole cultural menu of language and weather and food and music and work and laughter. We have far more in common than that which would separate us. That shared culture is being forgotten in these radical times.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. never contemplated the destruction of historic monuments or the removal of historic symbols. His entire thrust, reiterated again and again, was for Southern white and blacks to “dine together at the table of brotherhood.” He longed for the “integration” of our different “histories” as essential to our common future. A simple acceptance of the past is all that is necessary. With that comes forgiveness. It may not be easy, but it is necessary.

Fifty plus years ago I would look out at Silent Sam from my window in Battle Dorm and try to imagine what it must have been like to have gone off to war in those days. I thought of Sam as maybe a youth from somewhere like Tarboro or Clinton or Hickory. He was of good heart, I figured, maybe 18 or 19, a bit thin, a bit afraid. He was of that tough North Carolina stock, that “salt of the earth” fellow whose character is reflected in the State’s motto: “Esse Quam Videre.” To be rather than to seem.

He could have been my great great Uncle Gabriel Jacobs, who was killed at Fraysor’s Farm pursuing McClellan in his escape to the river. He was 21. He, in turn, was named for his great great great grandfather Gabriel Jacobs, a slave who was freed by his master John Custis in Northhampton County, Virginia in 1695.

Our South is a land of many secrets and many truths.

The radical trash who tore down Silent Sam and those academic idiots who enable them are not worthy to walk on the same ground as Gabriel Jacobs. Silent Sam will rise again, and we, not they, shall overcome.

Friday, August 10, 2018



You must remember this when I am gone,
And tell your sons — for you will have tall sons.
And times will come when answers will not wait.
Remember this: if ever defeat is black
Upon your eyelids, go to the wilderness
In the dread last of trouble, for your foe
Tangles there, more than you, and paths are strange
To him, that are your paths, in the wilderness,
And were your fathers’ paths, and once were mine.

You must remember this, and mark it well
As I have told it — what my eyes have seen
And where my feet have walked beyond forgetting.
But tell it not often, tell it only at last
When your sons know what blood runs in their veins.
And when the danger comes, as come it will,
Go as your fathers went with woodsman’s eyes
Uncursed, unflinching, studying only the path.

First, what you cannot carry, burn or hide.
Leave nothing here for him to take or eat
Bury, perhaps, what you can surely find
If good chance ever bring you back again.
Level the crops. Take only what you need :
A little corn for an ash-cake, a little
Side-meat for your three days’ wilderness ride.
Horses for your women and your children.
And one to lead, if you should have that many.
Then go. At once. Do not wait until
You see his great dust rising in the valley.
Then it will be too late.
Go when you hear that he has crossed Will’s Ford.
Others will know and pass the word to you —
A tap on the blinds, a hoot-owl’s cry at dusk.

Do not look back.  You can see your roof afire
When you reach high ground. Yet do not look.
Do not turn. Do not look back.
Go further on. Go high. Go deep.

The line of this rail-fence east across the old-fields
Leads to the cane-bottoms. Back of that,
A white-oak tree beside a spring, the one
Chopped with three blazes on the hillward side.
There pick up the trail. I think it was
A buffalo path once or an Indian road.
You follow it three days along the ridge
Until your reach the spruce woods. Then a cliff
Breaks, where the trees are thickest, and you look
Into a cove, and right across, Chilhowee
Is suddenly there, and you are home at last
Sweet springs of mountain water in that cove
Run always. Deer and wild turkey range.
Your kin, knowing the way, long there before you
Will have good fires and kettles on to boil,
Bough-shelters reared and thick beds of balsam.
There in tall timber you will be as free
As were your fathers once when Tryon raged
In Carolina hunting Regulators,
Or Tarleton rode to hang the old-time Whigs.
Some tell how in that valley young Sam Houston
Lived long ago with his brother, Oo-loo-te-ka,
Reading Homer among the Cherokee;
And others say a Spaniard may have found it
Far from De Soto’s wandering turned aside.
And left his legend on a boulder there.
And some that this was a sacred place to all
Old Indian tribes before the Cherokee
Came to our eastern mountains, Men have found
Images carved in bird-shapes there and faces
Moulded into the great kind look of gods.
These old tales are like prayers. I only know
This is the secret refuge of our race
Told only from a father to his son,
A trust laid on your lips, as though a vow
To generations past and yet to come.
There, from the bluffs above, you may at last
Look back to all you left, and trace
His dust and flame, and plan your harrying
If you would gnaw his ravaging flank, or smite
Him in his glut among the smouldering ricks.
Or else, forgetting ruin, you may lie
On sweet grass by a mountain stream, to watch
The last wild eagle soar or the last raven
Cherish his brood within their rocky nest.
Or see, when mountain shadows first grow long.
The last enchanted white deer come to drink.

-Donald Davidson, 1893-1968

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Rose Pink

Rose Pink, Sabatia angularis, observed July 30, 2018 at site in Cowee Mountains, Nantahala National Forest, near Cullowhee, North Carolina

Monday, July 23, 2018


Former Senator and 1972 Presidential nominee George McGovern wrote a Wall Street Journal column in 1992, confessing how one foray into "the real world" opened his eyes.  Excerpts follow:

Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late.
-- Justice Felix Frankfurter
 …After leaving a career in politics, I devoted much of my time to public lectures that took me into every state in the union and much of Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.
 In 1988, I invested most of the earnings from [the] lecture circuit acquiring the leasehold on Connecticut's Stratford Inn. Hotels, inns and restaurants have always held a special fascination for me. The Stratford Inn promised the realization of a longtime dream to own a combination hotel, restaurant and public conference facility -- complete with an experienced manager and staff.
 In retrospect, I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business, especially during a recession of the kind that hit New England just as I was acquiring the inn's 43-year leasehold. I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.
 Today we are much closer to a general acknowledgment that government must encourage business to expand and grow….  We intuitively know that to create job opportunities we need entrepreneurs who will risk their capital against an expected payoff. Too often, however, public policy does not consider whether we are choking off those opportunities.
 My own business perspective has been limited to that small hotel and restaurant in Stratford, Conn., with an especially difficult lease and a severe recession. But my business associates and I also lived with federal, state and local rules that were all passed with the objective of helping employees, protecting the environment, raising tax dollars for schools, protecting our customers from fire hazards, etc. While I never have doubted the worthiness of any of these goals, the concept that most often eludes legislators is: "Can we make consumers pay the higher prices for the increased operating costs that accompany public regulation and government reporting requirements with reams of red tape." It is a simple concern that is nonetheless often ignored by legislators.
For example, the papers today are filled with stories about businesses dropping health coverage for employees. We provided a substantial package for our staff at the Stratford Inn. However, were we operating today, those costs would exceed $150,000 a year for health care on top of salaries and other benefits. There would have been no reasonable way for us to absorb or pass on these costs.
Some of the escalation in the cost of health care is attributed to patients suing doctors. While one cannot assess the merit of all these claims, I've also witnessed firsthand the explosion in blame-shifting and scapegoating for every negative experience in life.
Today, despite bankruptcy, we are still dealing with litigation from individuals who fell in or near our restaurant. Despite these injuries, not every misstep is the fault of someone else. Not every such incident should be viewed as a lawsuit instead of an unfortunate accident. And while the business owner may prevail in the end, the endless exposure to frivolous claims and high legal fees is frightening….
In short, "one-size-fits-all" rules for business ignore the reality of the marketplace. And setting thresholds for regulatory guidelines at artificial levels -- e.g., 50 employees or more, $500,000 in sales -- takes no account of other realities, such as profit margins, labor intensive vs. capital intensive businesses, and local market economics.
 The problem we face as legislators is: Where do we set the bar so that it is not too high to clear? I don't have the answer. I do know that we need to start raising these questions more often.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Swamps and Scamps


In dark fens of the Dismal Swamp
  The hunted Negro lay;
He saw the fire of the midnight camp,
And heard at times a horse's tramp
  And a bloodhound's distant bay.

Where will-o'-the-wisps and glow-worms shine,
  In bulrush and in brake;
Where waving mosses shroud the pine,
And the cedar grows, and the poisonous vine
  Is spotted like the snake;

Where hardly a human foot could pass,
  Or a human heart would dare,
On the quaking turf of the green morass
He crouched in the rank and tangled grass,
  Like a wild beast in his lair.

A poor old slave, infirm and lame;
  Great scars deformed his face;
On his forehead he bore the brand of shame,
And the rags, that hid his mangled frame,
  Were the livery of disgrace.

All things above were bright and fair,
  All things were glad and free;
Lithe squirrels darted here and there,
And wild birds filled the echoing air
  With songs of Liberty!

On him alone was the doom of pain,
  From the morning of his birth;
On him alone the curse of Cain
Fell, like a flail on the garnered grain,
  And struck him to the earth!

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

(A reply to Longfellow's "Slave in the Dismal Swamp")

Under a rattling whirligig,

Which a Yankee had taught to spin,
A maiden sat, with bosom flat,

And fingers long and thin ;
And she was the slave of a dismal scamp,

A man with a soul of tin.

And hers was a chest like a coffin lid,

And cheeks like the churchyard clay,
And pulses that feel like the click of steel

Picking a life away.
Daily dying, and toiling still,

For the dismal scamp in his dismal mill,
Under the shadow of Bunker Hill —

What does she sing or say?

"Oh! why are my eyes so large and bright,
And my ringers so long and thin?"

"The better, my dear, for the spindles' flight,
The faster, my love, to spin" —

Spoke the maiden whose lungs were lint,
And the man with the soul of — tin.

"Would God that my skin were not so white,

And my brain of a lesser size !
And would that my hair were kinked so tight

That I couldn't shut my eyes !
And oh ! for an hour in the sunny fields,

Where the snow-white cotton grows ;
For the heaviest, hardest task that yields

Free breath and sweet repose !
For a night that never knew a lamp,

And a day that has a close !"

Sung to the rattle and roar and tramp,

In the heart of a merciless mill,
Under the light of a dismal lamp,

And the shadow of Bunker Hill.

Poets of doodledom ! true and sweet,

What sensitive plants ye are,
Ready to faint at a cry from Crete,

Or Borioboola-Gha !
Ye have rhymed the slave from his happy cave

And bloodhound in the swamp ;
Give us a stave for the maiden slave,
With the black wolfs bite, and her living grave

In the den of the dismal scamp.

-Francis Orray Ticknor (1822-1874)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Said So Well

From Thomas Sowell:

Socialism is a wonderful idea. It is only as a reality that it has been disastrous. Among people of every race, color, and creed, all around the world, socialism has led to hunger in countries that used to have surplus food to export.... Nevertheless, for many of those who deal primarily in ideas, socialism remains an attractive idea -- in fact, seductive. Its every failure is explained away as due to the inadequacies of particular leaders.  

Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.

I have never understood why it is "greed" to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else's money.

Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good. 

Intellect is not wisdom. 

Virtually no idea is too ridiculous to be accepted, even by very intelligent and highly educated people, if it provides a way for them to feel special and important. Some confuse that feeling with idealism.

No government of the left has done as much for the poor as capitalism has. Even when it comes to the redistribution of income, the left talks the talk but the free market walks the walk.  What do the poor most need? They need to stop being poor. And how can that be done, on a mass scale, except by an economy that creates vastly more wealth? Yet the political left has long had a remarkable lack of interest in how wealth is created. As far as they are concerned, wealth exists somehow and the only interesting question is how to redistribute it. 

If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism.

One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain.

If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 50 years ago, a liberal 25 years ago and a racist today.

It takes no more research than a trip to almost any public library or college to show the incredibly lopsided coverage of slavery in the United States or in the Western Hemisphere, as compared to the meager writings on even larger number of Africans enslaved in the Islamic countries of the Middle East and North Africa, not to mention the vast numbers of Europeans also enslaved in centuries past in the Islamic world and within Europe itself. At least a million Europeans were enslaved by North African pirates alone from 1500 to 1800, and some Europeans slaves were still being sold on the auction blocks in the Egypt, years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed blacks in the United States.

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong. 

To believe in personal responsibility would be to destroy the whole special role of the anointed, whose vision casts them in the role of rescuers of people treated unfairly by “society”. 

It was Thomas Edison who brought us electricity, not the Sierra Club. It was the Wright brothers who got us off the ground, not the Federal Aviation Administration. It was Henry Ford who ended the isolation of millions of Americans by making the automobile affordable, not Ralph Nader. Those who have helped the poor the most have not been those who have gone around loudly expressing 'compassion' for the poor, but those who found ways to make industry more productive and distribution more efficient, so that the poor of today can afford things that the affluent of yesterday could only dream about. 

Liberals seem to assume that, if you don’t believe in their particular political solutions, then you don’t really care about the people that they claim to want to help. 

The concept of “microaggression” is just one of many tactics used to stifle differences of opinion by declaring some opinions to be “hate speech,” instead of debating those differences in a marketplace of ideas. To accuse people of aggression for not marching in lockstep with political correctness is to set the stage for justifying real aggression against them. 

Among the many other questions raised by the nebulous concept of “greed” is why it is a term applied almost exclusively to those who want to earn more money or to keep what they have already earned—never to those wanting to take other people’s money in taxes or to those wishing to live on the largesse dispensed from such taxation. No amount of taxation is ever described as “greed” on the part of government or the clientele of government. 

Despite whatever the left may say, or even believe, about their concern for the poor, their actual behavior shows their interest in the poor to be greatest when the poor can be used as a focus of the left’s denunciations of society.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Silence and Noise

Robert Cardinal Sarah

“A Godless society, which considers any spiritual questions a dead letter, masks the emptiness of its materialism by killing time so as better to forget eternity.”

“It is necessary to protect precious silence from all parasitical noise. The noise of our “ego”, which never stops claiming its rights, plunging us into an excessive preoccupation with ourselves. The noise of our memory, which draws us toward the past, that of our recollections or of our sins. The noise of temptations or of acedia, the spirit of gluttony, lust, avarice, anger, sadness, vanity, pride—in short: everything that makes up the spiritual combat that man must wage every day. In order to silence these parasitical noises, in order to consume everything in the sweet flame of the Holy Spirit, silence is the supreme antidote.”

 “Relativism is a widespread evil, and it is not easy to combat it. The task becomes more complex inasmuch as it arbitrarily serves as a sort of charter for a way of communal life. Relativism attempts to complete the process of the social disappearance of God. It guides mankind with an attractive logic that proves to be a perverse totalitarian system.”

“The most important moments in life are the hours of prayer and adoration. They give birth to a human being, fashion our true identity; they root our existence in mystery.”

“Soviet Communism showed how possible it was to lead mankind into misery while promising absolute equality.”

“Words often bring with them the illusion of transparency, as though they allowed us to understand everything, control everything, put everything in order. Modernity is talkative because it is proud, unless the converse is true. Is our incessant talking perhaps what makes us proud?”

“I am not the only one critical of the West. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had harsh words for those who perverted the meaning of liberty and set up a lie as a rule of life. In 1980, in his book L’erreur de l’Occident,7 he wrote:  ‘The Western world has arrived at a decisive moment. Over the next few years, it will gamble the existence of the civilization that created it. I think that it is not aware of it. Time has eroded your notion of liberty. You have kept the word and devised a different notion. You have forgotten the meaning of liberty. When Europe acquired it, around the eighteenth century, it was a sacred notion. Liberty led to virtue and heroism. You have forgotten that. This liberty, which for us is still a flame that lights up our night, has become for you a stunted, sometimes disappointing reality, because it is full of imitation jewelry, wealth, and emptiness. For this ghost of the former liberty, you are no longer capable of making sacrifices but only compromises. . . Deep down, you think that liberty is won once and for all, and this is why you can afford the luxury of disdaining it. You are engaged in a formidable battle, and you behave as though it were a ping pong match.’ This man who experienced repression in the gulags of the former USSR can use such language. He knows firsthand what true liberty is.”

 “There is a great risk that Christians may become idolaters if they lose the meaning of silence. Our words inebriate us; they confine us to what is created. Bewitched and imprisoned by the noise of human speech, we run the risk of designing worship to our specifications, a god in our own image. Words bring with them the temptation of the golden calf! Only silence leads man beyond words, to the mystery, to worship in spirit and in truth. Silence is a form of mystagogy; it brings us into the mystery without spoiling it.”

“Our world no longer hears God because it is constantly speaking, at a devastating speed and volume, in order to say nothing.”

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Miscellaneous Chesterton

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

“Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.”

“There is the great lesson of 'Beauty and the Beast,' that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.”

 “The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”

 “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.”

 “There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”

 “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

 “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

 “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.”

 “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.”

“It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.” 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Erase Its Memory

The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long the nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was. The world around it will forget even faster. The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting. 
-Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1980)

Protestors Pose with Toppled Monument, Durham, NC

The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.
-George Orwell, 1984

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Morally Homeless

THE PRESENT POSITION of the Bright Young Thing, or Brilliant Young Cynic of a hard and realistic epoch, is so heartrendingly sad and pitiable that aged sentimentalists can only gaze at it through floods of senile tears. The cynics themselves, of course, do not believe in sentiment, but they embody a most poignant example of pathos….

Oddly enough, it is the same people who always teach us, in their Outlines of History and Encyclopaedias of Everything, that everything is always getting better and better, and that even our most miserable contemporaries are more happy than their fathers—it is these same people who always tell us that one slip in modern diplomacy, or one falsehood in modern journalism, may precipitate a towering and toppling horror of torture and panic far worse than anything the world has ever known before. It might well be asked, with a certain abstract curiosity, why our civilization must produce the very worst in the way of war, if it must produce the very best in the way of everything else….

Here, again, the brilliant modern is bringing in as modernity something that was rather like one of the antics of antiquity; he is rushing back to his ascetical grandfather to escape from his romantic father. And the confusion in both cases is due to the same pathetic quality in his whole position. He is staggering about from century to century, because he has no real standing-ground of his own; and he has no standing-ground because he has destroyed anything on which he could stand….  

As we should be genuinely sorry for tramps and paupers who are materially homeless, so we should be sorry for those who are morally homeless, and who suffer a philosophical starvation as deadly as physical starvation.

Not only is it true that some of the most modern philosophers are only trying to prove that we cannot have a philosophy; it is even more true that the most modern among the physical scientists are only trying to prove that science is not physical. It would be even truer to say that some of them are trying to prove that science is not science. For science is only an old word for knowledge; and knowledge is exactly what some of the new scientists say we can never obtain. All this, right or wrong, has left that generation in an unprecedented degree unprepared with any axioms on which to act, or any tests on which it could really rely. And it is especially awkward, when the young man who has never learned anything except how to hate his own father and grandfather, is suddenly called upon to love all men like brothers.

-G.K. Chesterton:  As I Was Saying, XI.

Monday, February 19, 2018

From "The Naked Public Square"

In a democratic society, presumably, the public business is carried on in conversation with the actual values of people who are the society. In a survey of North Carolinians in the 1970s, seventy-four percent agree with the statement: "Human rights come from God and not merely from laws." . . . North Carolinians may be more "traditional" than other Americans on these scores, although there is no reason to assume that. One suspects, rather, that there is among Americans a deep and widespread uneasiness about the denial of the obvious. The obvious is that, in some significant sense, this is, as the Supreme Court said in 1931, a Christian people. The popular intuition is that this fact ought, somehow, to make a difference. It is not an embarrassment to be denied or disguised. It is an inescapable part of what Bickel calls the "tradition of our society and of kindred societies that have gone before." Not only is it tradition in the sense of historic past; it is demonstrably the present source of moral vitalities by which we measure our virtues and hypocrisies.

The notion that this is a secular society is relatively new. . . . In a democratic society, state and society must draw from the same moral well. In addition, because transcendence abhors a vacuum, the state that styles itself as secular will almost certainly succumb to secularism. Because government cannot help but make moral judgments of an ultimate nature, it must, if it has in principle excluded identifiable religion, make those judgments by "secular" reasoning that is given the force of religion. . . .

More than that, the notion of the secular state can become the prelude to totalitarianism. That is, once religion is reduced to nothing more than privatized conscience, the public square has only two actors in it--the state and the individual. Religion as a mediating structure--a community that generates and transmits moral values--is no longer available as a countervailing force to the ambitions of the state. . . .

No, the chief attack is upon the institutions that bear and promulgate belief in a transcendent reality by which the state can be called to judgment. Such institutions threaten the totalitarian proposition that everything is to be within the state, nothing is to be outside the state....

In recent decades, "pluralism" has become something of a buzzword. It is variously employed. Often it is used to argue that no normative ethic, even of the vaguest and most tentative sort, can be "imposed" in our public life. In practice this means that public policy decisions reflect a surrender of the normal to the abnormal, of the dominant to the deviant. Indeed it is of more than passing interest that terms such as abnormal or deviant have been largely exorcised from polite vocabulary among the elites in American life. The displacement of the constitutive by the marginal is not so much the result of perverse decision makers as it is the inevitable consequence of a polity and legal system in which the advantage of initiative lies with the offended....

The legitimacy of law in a democratic society depends upon the popular recognition of the connections between law and what people think life is and ought to be....