Author: Scott P. Richert (Scott P. Richert)

Home Scott P. Richert
The Word Remains
Post

The Word Remains

In the beginning was the Word.  (Not the picture. Or the number.) —John Lukacs, “The Reality of Written Words,” Chronicles (January 1999) The last time I visited John Lukacs at Pickering Close, his home just outside of Phoenixville, Penn., he greeted me in Hungarian. My knowledge of that language is confined to goulash and paprikash...

Post

Sufficient to the Day

I take a lot of pictures.  I am old enough to have spent thousands of dollars on film and photo developing over three decades, from my late single digits up until about the age of 35.  While I was an early adopter of the iPhone in June 2007, my film photos trailed off almost four...

Post

Returning to Earth

What lies at the root of the abstractionism that I discussed last month, which afflicts the modern world like a mania, especially here in the United States?  Walker Percy dubbed the phenomenon angelism, by which he did not mean that those who exhibit it have evolved to a state of moral purity but that we...

Life Is Not a Fantasy
Post

Life Is Not a Fantasy

The reality of place has weighed heavily on me from a very young age.  My knowledge of self has always been inseparable from the place in which I live.  My understanding of who I am has been closely tied to those with whom I most often interact—family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and even those with whom...

Picture This
Post

Picture This

Last year, just before his 21st birthday, my son Jacob learned of a condition called aphantasia.  In its strictest form, aphantasia is the inability to create mental images.  Like many such conditions, aphantasia affects those who have it to varying degrees.  In Jacob’s case, his mental images are very fuzzy and indistinct.  In my case,...

Pontius Pilate, Ora Pro Nobis
Post

Pontius Pilate, Ora Pro Nobis

To the leaders of the Free Speech Movement of the 1960’s, self-censorship—once known as civility and decorum—was as dangerous as the social enforcement of civility by private organizations and by public educational institutions, and those social norms were, in turn, just as destructive as attempts by government to limit the freedom of speech guaranteed by...

Post

Quod Scripsi, Scripsi

Reader: I wasn’t quoting you.  I was characterizing your analysis as such. Me: You were mischaracterizing my analysis.  What I have written, I have written.  What you have written, I did not. Reader: Says you. Words have meaning.  We live our lives, for the most part, in a world in which, on a clear spring...

A Generation in Need of Editing
Post

A Generation in Need of Editing

Many years ago, as the luncheon speaker at a meeting of the John Randolph Club in Rockford, Illinois, Tom Sheeley gave a thought-provoking lecture interspersed with a splendid performance of classical guitar.  His main theme was the need for form in art; and all these years later, one line stands out in my memory: “What...

Drain the Swamp
Post

Drain the Swamp

The most remarkable aspect of Bruce Springsteen’s performance at the 2018 Tony Awards wasn’t what he said or that he said it, but the unanimous acclaim with which it was greeted by both the assembled audience and those who viewed it at home.  As I noted in my August column, the story of faith, family,...

Hungry Heart
Post

Hungry Heart

“We lived spitting distance from the Catholic church, the priests’ rectory, the nuns’ convent, the St. Rose of Lima grammar school—all of it just a football’s toss away, across the field of wild grass.  I literally grew up surrounded by God.  Surrounded by God and—and all my relatives.” The Hollywood elite has been painfully boring...

The Telegraph and the Clothesline
Post

The Telegraph and the Clothesline

“We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.” —Henry David Thoreau, Walden Communication, in the abstract, is easier today than it has ever been before, largely because of the advance of technology.  From the telegraph to the...

Post

Can We Talk?

A few months after we moved to Huntington, Indiana, I was inducted into the Cosmopolitan Club, one of the country’s oldest extant discussion societies.  Chartered on January 18, 1894, the Cosmopolitan Club convenes on the fourth Tuesday of every month from September through May.  The membership is entirely male and capped at 25, and all...

Alien Nation
Post

Alien Nation

When Pope John Paul II would arrive in a new country, his first action was always to drop to his knees and kiss the ground. This gesture of reverence was usually portrayed in the media as a sign of respect and of love for the people of that country—and it was that. But for the...

Post

The Quest for Community

“A sense of the past is far more basic to the maintenance of freedom than hope for the future.  The former is concrete and real; the latter is necessarily amorphous and more easily guided by those who can manipulate human actions and beliefs. —Robert Nisbet, The Quest for Community The trouble with labels—whether adopted voluntarily...

Post

Welcome Back, Potter

Several years ago, aided by the wonders of modern technology and the principle of fair use, a number of people independently produced remixes of It’s a Wonderful Life as a horror movie.  That this worked brilliantly is really no surprise, since the dystopian world of Pottersville in Frank Capra’s masterpiece foreshadowed such later classics of...

Post

Freedom From Obligation

For many Americans at or near the mid-century mark of their lives, Frank Capra has shaped their understanding of the meaning of Christmas in a way that only Charles Dickens could possibly rival.  Of all of his films, It’s a Wonderful Life was Capra’s personal favorite, but even though it was nominated for Best Picture...

Post

Sophistory

From the September 2015 issue of Chronicles. Two thousand fifteen was the year that we Americans broke history.  By “breaking history,” I do not mean something like “breaking news,” or “breaking records,” or even “breaking the Internet” (though the Internet certainly played a role).  Yes, the “historic moments” of the Summer of #LoveWins and #HateLoses—the...

Get Big or Get Out
Post

Get Big or Get Out

Most people think of E.F. Schumacher today (to the extent that they think of him at all) as some sort of vaguely leftist harbinger of the environmentalist movement.  His most famous work, Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, is often reduced to “Buddhist Economics,” the title of one of the essays collected therein. ...

Post

Chronicles of Culture

“Culture does not exist autonomously,” wrote Robert Nisbet in The Quest for Community; “it is set always in the context of social relationships.”  The implications of Nisbet’s statement should be obvious, but in the age of “social” media, when we speak of “long-distance relationships” with “friends” we have never met, the obvious too often gets...

Post

Breeding Mosquitos

“Where there’s no solution,” James Burnham used to remark, “there’s no problem.” That’s easy for him to say, the modern populist conservative replies.  Burnham died while Reagan was still in office!  What did he know about problems? Ah, the Golden Age of the 1980’s, when life was good.  At least until we compare it with...

Post

East of Eden

Russell Kirk frequently warned those who read his essays and books and attended his lectures not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  Even at the most mundane level of everyday life, the Sage of Mecosta offered good advice.  If we spend all of our days dreaming about what might be—let alone...

Post

Make Yourself at Home

“Unless you were born here, you will never really be at home in this city.”  Amy and I heard those words (or a variation thereof) over and over again in early 1996, as we met new people in our adopted hometown of Rockford, Illinois.  We continued to hear them occasionally through the years; the last...

Post

Man Up

Mike Madigan (so the rumor goes) will never leave the Illinois House of Representatives, or even risk vacating the speaker’s chair, because doing so would almost certainly set him on the path trodden by four of the last eight governors of Illinois.  As long as Speaker Madigan stays in a position where he can leverage...

Post

Economy and Independence

The president of the little village in West Michigan where I was born and raised (Spring Lake, population 2,360, sal-ute!) no longer wants to be village president.  The obvious solution to this conundrum seems to have eluded the 84-year-old Joyce Verplank Hatton.  Rather than resign the office, President Hatton has decided to take the road...

Post

Rockford in the Springtime

I first entered Rockford the way that most people do when they’re coming from the east, taking the exit off I-90 onto East State Street, where the ramp T-bones into the Clock Tower Resort and Conference Center, now closed for good but then, in November 1995, still home to “the world’s most comprehensive collection of...

Post

#FillTheHotTub

There’s an ancient adage—ancient in terms of our Internet Age, at least: If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.  Do you think Facebook is free?  Take a look at those ads in your Facebook feed, and over on the right-hand side of the page.  Ever wonder why so many of them...

Post

Power to the People!

The world is broken. There was a time when those words would have been considered unremarkable—a truism, even.  Of course the world is broken: Our first parents, Adam and Eve, broke it.  They did so by their sin.  They had everything that any man or woman could ever reasonably want: a paradise to live in,...

Post

Matthew Rarey, RIP

The editors were saddened to learn of the passing, on April 3, of our onetime colleague and longtime friend Matthew A. Rarey. Matt’s time at Chronicles was not long—he was with us for a little over six months—but as he did everywhere he was employed, Matt left his mark. He was an accomplished writer and...

The End and the Beginning
Post

The End and the Beginning

How many “final” books can one man write?  For most men, the answer is one.  John Lukacs is not most men, however.  In early 2013, ISI Books released History and the Human Condition, a collection of previously published (though revised) material that the press declared to be “perhaps John Lukacs’s final word on the great...

What the Editors Are Reading
Post

What the Editors Are Reading

About 20 years ago the late George Garrett, a professor of English and writing at the University of Virginia and a contributing editor to this magazine, told me an anecdote meant to illustrate the intellectual and social naiveté of students at one of the most prestigious schools in the country.  After George requested his sophomore...

Post

Celebrity Politics

Throughout the Republican primaries and the 2016 general election, commentators regularly characterized Donald Trump’s campaign as the political equivalent of a reality show.  References to Trump’s leading role on NBC’s The Apprentice were a dime a dozen.  Some on the left, in fact, criticized the 24-hour news networks for providing Trump with the equivalent of...

Post

A Man of the People

Only where love and need are one, And the work is play for mortal stakes, Is the deed ever really done For Heaven and the future’s sakes. Long-time readers of Chronicles may recall that this column bore a different rubric when it first appeared in the January 2001 issue.  The initial mission of the Letter...

Post

Abortion in the Age of Trump

The pro-life movement has made great strides in recent years, though many people who consider themselves active pro-lifers may not realize it.  That’s because the good news has all happened at the state and local levels.  State laws combining health-code restrictions on abortuaries with reasonable waiting periods and required ultrasounds have given local pregnancy-care centers,...

Why Fake News Matters
Post

Why Fake News Matters

Fake news, as I discussed last month (“Faking It,” The Rockford Files), is a very real problem, though less for the reasons commonly given (the potentially destructive effects it may have on our “democracy”) and more for the fact that it both flows from a lack of concern for truth (and thus says something about...

Post

Politics and Sports

When people compare politics to sports, they do not mean the comparison to be flattering.  Voters, we are told, treat politics as irrationally as sports fans do football, baseball, basketball, and hockey.  (The less said about soccer, the better—a good principle for life in general.)  In this analogy, the Democratic and Republican parties are the...

Post

Carrier, Congress, and Cronies

“Crony capitalism” is the new buzzphrase, now that Donald Trump is cutting deals to keep jobs in the United States.  When previous presidents cut deals to allow companies to build new factories in Mexico and overseas while shutting down factories here, no one called it crony capitalism, even though it was; we called those deals...

Post

Faking It

If one were to believe the mainstream media—and who doesn’t believe the mainstream media?—Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of these United States this month because over 60 million Americans are unable, and possibly unwilling, to tell the difference between true, objective reporting, filled with facts and designed only to help...

Post

What the Editors Are Reading

I have a long-standing habit of picking up books from secondhand shops that I have no intention of reading in the immediate or even foreseeable future, and pulling them off the shelf according to whim, sometimes years later.  One such title is Love and the English, by Nina Epton, which I came across almost by...

Post

Taking Back the Culture

By the time you read this, “the most important election of our lifetime” will be headed for the history books.  If the last six most important elections of our lifetime are any indication, however, we will once again have a chance to vote in the most important election of our lifetime in 2020. Or perhaps...

A Confederacy of Dunces
Post

A Confederacy of Dunces

In the final weeks of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, as our modern-day Madame Defarge’s poll numbers declined slowly but steadily in rhythm to the drip-drip-drip of purloined emails by WikiLeaks, the Clinton campaign settled on a strategy and clung to it for dear life.  No one from the campaign would confirm or deny the...

Post

The Day After

Imagine how the electoral map would have looked if the 2016 presidential election hadn’t been rigged. Donald Trump pulled off a yuge upset, and in the Upper East Coast and up and down the entire West Coast, people who have never flown over the vast swath of red in the midst of the country, let...

Trumped-Up Document Dump
Post

Trumped-Up Document Dump

“Can’t we just drone this guy?” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reported, by several sources, to have asked in a meeting at the State Department in 2010.  The “guy” in question was WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and after the stunt he pulled in the early morning hours of October 4, Donald Trump and Hillary...

To Drone or Not to Drone
Post

To Drone or Not to Drone

Reactions to the revelation that Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, may have seriously considered launching a drone strike against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have predictably been divided along partisan lines.  Supporters of Donald Trump have seen it as one more strike (no pun intended) against a presidential candidate whose entire career of “public service”...

Post

Our Corner of the Vineyard

Nolite confidere in principibus. The voice of the Psalmist speaks to us down through the ages: “Put not your trust in princes: In the children of men, in whom there is no salvation.”  We can be forgiven if we find those words more relevant than usual in this particular election year.  But it would be...

Post

Incalculable Rewards

        Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. —Romans 12:2 While Mother Teresa was still alive, few who knew of her doubted that she would eventually...

Post

What the Editors Are Reading

Having read and reviewed John Hardman’s superb Life of Louis XVI (Books in Brief, August), I was encouraged recently to pick up a copy of Louis XIV: The Other Side of the Sun, by Prince Michael of Greece (a descendant of the Sun King’s on the maternal side), first published in the United States in...

Post

Dos to Tango

Donald Trump’s surprise visit to Mexico on August 31 has been analyzed every which way, except for one—the one that may, in the long run, prove most important.  While every journalist and political pundit felt compelled to speculate on what Trump hoped to gain from the visit, and whether it would help or hurt him,...

Post

Of Sam and Siddiqui

“You know,” he said, “I wouldn’t have let your family in, either.” Standing in a conference room at the Congress Hotel in downtown Chicago, Sam held my gaze in that sideways glance of his, waiting to gauge my reaction. “I understand,” I said.  “And I agree.  You shouldn’t have.  But I’m here now, so let’s...

Post

Taking Care of Business

Starting January 1, every abortion clinic in Illinois will be required to refer those who come seeking its services to one of the many nonprofit pregnancy-care centers in the state, established to help pregnant women understand that there are alternatives to abortion, and to provide those alternatives.  Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the bill into...