Category: Perspective

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Tom Fleming’s Complainte

George Garrett used to tell the story of a young writer who visited him in York Harbor, Maine.  The writer, who had worked in a prison, wore a cap emblazoned with the letters SCUP, which stood for something like South Carolina Union of Prisons.  Sharing some of George’s sense of humor—which bordered on the wicked—he...

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Family Tradition

Michelle Parker, a young mother of two, disappeared from her Florida home in 2011 and has never been seen again.  The only suspect in her disappearance is her husband, who has left the state with the two children.  Michelle’s mother, who has not seen her grandchildren since 2011, has repeatedly petitioned the Florida legislature to...

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Why They Fought

The late Jean-François Revel wrote a once-famous book with the title Comment les démocraties finissent.  Revel was not a stupid man, and I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon “we tired the sun with talking,” but as a political philosopher, he was a prisoner of the leftist ideology that treats terms like equality and democracy as substantial...

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A Plague on Both Their Houses

“Layze Ameeze de tayze ameeze sont mayze ameeze.” A drunken redneck recited this at me late one night in 1965, at Andy’s Lounge.  Andy’s was one of Charleston’s last “blind tigers”—a speakeasy, complete with gambling and homely B-girls, that defied even the closing laws that the other scofflaw establishments observed.  I went there often to...

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A Different Drum

You turn on the radio for the weather report: “Sunny and warm today, with a high near 80.  Light breeze out of the south at five miles per hour.  Chance of rain less than ten percent.”  Outside your window, you watch the winds rage and the rains pour.  Which are you going to believe, your...

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Aliens and Strangers

“Pope Francis: Caring for the Poor Doesn’t Make You a Communist,” screamed the headline the day before Halloween.  Perhaps not, I thought when I read the story, but why is it that caring for the world’s poor always seems to involve massive national and international programs of wealth transfer that might have been copied directly...

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Dante’s Path to Heaven

Dante Alighieri died here in Ravenna, a little city where any sane man or woman might well choose to live and die.  Like most people, I come here from time to time to stare stupidly at the Roman and Byzantine mosaics—though as the years go by I notice most people are letting their cameras and...

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Political Poltergeists

“They’re back,” cries the little girl in the movie, when the demons from Hell reappear on her television screen.  The phrase, a cliché in the cliché-driven headlines of the Washington Post and Time, comes to mind at the beginning of every election cycle, as gibberish-driveling demons like Hillary and Joe, Sarah and Newt get interviewed...

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Rebuilding the Family Castle

A police officer stops two black teenagers sashaying down the middle of a public street.  According to law enforcement and at least one noninvolved witness, one of the two—a six-foot four-inch, 300-pound behemoth—charges the cop and goes for his gun.  Fighting for his life, the policeman shoots and kills the “gentle giant,” who, as it...

Thinking Outside the Boxes
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Thinking Outside the Boxes

And the people in the houses All went to the university Where they were put in boxes And they came out all the same . . . In “Little Boxes” Malvina Reynolds was protesting against the conformity of the 1950’s, when core requirements and a limited number of majors still ensured some measure of common...

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And All Shall Equal Be

This is our annual summer vacation issue, which means I am free to ramble on like an old lizard soaking up gin and sunshine at the beach and telling stories that all begin, “Did I ever tell you about the time . . . ” Did I ever tell you about the time I first...

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The Wasted Century

The Great War and its inevitable successor have been called Europe’s civil war, and there is some truth in this characterization.  Divided by language, religion, and culture, the nations of Europe were nonetheless united in a common civilization that developed out of the ruins of the Christianized Roman Empire.  Despite the strains brought on by...

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Virtual Neighborhoods

“‘I am half sick of shadows,’ said The Lady of Shalott.” “We’ve turned into a nation of TV watchers, video-game players, and virtual sex addicts,” observed the cheerful old cynic. “How is that so different,” asked the resentful 30-something adolescent, “from earlier generations that spent all their time reading poetry and fiction or going to...

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America’s Grand Strategy

Auferre trucidare rapere falsis nominibus imperium, atque ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant. “Robbing, slaughtering, pillaging they misname sovereign authority, and where they make an empty waste they call it peace.”  Tacitus puts this accurate if one-sided summation of Roman imperial strategy into the mouth of Calgacus, a Caledonian chieftain, urging the Celtic warriors to resist...

National Debtors
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National Debtors

The United States is a nation of debtors.  Whatever sources you consult or trust, our per capita debt is extraordinarily high.  The money geeks at NerdWallet.com, after analyzing statistics from the Federal Reserve, offer the following profile of American households: Average credit-card debt: $15,270 Average mortgage debt: $149,925 Average student-loan debt: $32,258 I shall not...

In Search of the Bourgeoisie
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In Search of the Bourgeoisie

“How beastly the bourgeois is,” sneered D.H. Lawrence, “especially the male of the species.”  What courage and imagination a writer must have to revile a social class that has been under attack for over a generation!  Aristocrats (and would-be aristocrats) look down their noses at the bourgeoisie’s convention-bound moralism and dismal commitment to hard work...

The Mandela Mandala
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The Mandela Mandala

Every year, the Christian calendar is more and more marginalized by anti-Christian “holidays” and commemorations.  In 2013, the first week of Advent, by decree of President Obama and National Public Radio, was displaced by Nelson Mandela Week.  Since we were only in December, I could not wait to see what our masters will pull out...

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Wiseguys

The American home-mortgage crisis, though it is only a little less urgent than it was a year ago, has taken second place, in the ambulance-chasing media, to Obama­Care, same-sex “marriage,” and even the wars in Syria and Afghanistan.  We have all been informed that the Great Recession was caused in large part by high rates...

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The Making of Books

When I came to Chronicles, I looked forward to the arrival of a steady stream of books for review: new fiction and poetry, histories and biographies, and the occasional works of popular scholarship or science.  From the first I was disappointed in the quality of the books sent in “over the transom,” and I turned...

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Answering Islam

Americans find it difficult to understand the Islamic threat.  It is not just that they have made the mistake of listening to presidential speeches on the “religion of peace” or dulled their wits reading the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.  The fault does not lie exclusively or even primarily with American schools,...

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Terminators, Inc.

        “Hieronymo’s mad againe.” The cover of the August issue of The Atlantic Monthly, titled “Drone Warrior,” features a picture of President Obama and the question, “Has It Become Too Easy for a President to Kill?”  I should have thought “Stop me before I kill again” or, perhaps, “I’ll be back” would...

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The Best Schooling Money Can Buy

Well, the jury, they see their facts.  My thoughts of the jury, they old, that’s old-school people.  We in a new school, our generation, my generation. Poor Rachel Jeantel has been ridiculed for her diction, elocution, and irrationality, but in her interview with Piers Morgan she makes a valid point in contrasting “old-school people” who...

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Goodbye to All What?

As far back as I can remember, I had the feeling that I had been born some time after the end of everything that mattered.  Yes, there was still an abundance of material comforts and some vestiges of marriage and religion, but vanishing before our eyes—like the stars in the sky faded by street lights—were...

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Topsy-Turvy

Titles shall ennoble, then, All the common councilmen . . . Peers shall teem in Christendom, And a Duke’s exalted station   Be attainable by competitive examination. “Oh, horror!” cry the addlepated young noblemen in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe.  Horror, indeed.  Their world will be turned upside down if the Queen of the Fairies carries...

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Classical Christian Marriage

You can almost always rely on conservative politicians to surrender their principles, even before the first shot is fired.  Within a month of President Obama’s second inauguration, Republicans were already selling out on the marriage issue.  When the GOP leadership contrived the Defense of Marriage Act (1996), I said at the time that in making...

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Facts and Opinions

“I think it’s been very hard for Speaker Boehner and Republican Leader McConnell to accept the fact that taxes on the wealthiest Americans should go up a little bit, as part of an overall deficit reduction package.” This haplessly phrased bit of Obamaspeak is one out of many illustrations of a confusion between fact and...

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Thoroughly Modern Millies

So I spurred my mule, and I went riding on down the road Minding my own business, ’n’ I wasn’t bothering a soul. So finally I rode into town, And I seed the man standing at the window, pulling off his clothes. Every time he’d pull off a piece, he threw it out the window....

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Dead Souls

Barack Obama’s second presidential triumph has left many American conservatives feeling stranded.  It is as if they have become aliens in their native land.  Are conservatives simply sore losers, or does their sense of alienation correspond to a seismic disturbance in America’s political terrain?  It is hard to say, but this much seems clear: When...

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Freedom From Religion

As the presidential campaign came to a close, religious questions sneaked surreptitiously into the national debate.  The Democrats had an easy target: Governor Romney’s unusual religious affiliation, though since few Democrats know anything about any religion, particularly Christianity, they found it difficult to distinguish Mormonism from other not-quite-so-strange semi-Christian sects.  Watching national commentators fumbling for...

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Voting for Monarchy

Presidential elections in the United States sometimes seem more like the Wars of the Roses than political contests.  The resemblance to dynastic conflict goes beyond the predictable acrimony between two sets of political interests: the taxpayers of the Republican Party and the tax consumers on whom the Democrats rely.  It is true, of course, that...

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“We Want the World, and We Want It Now!”

The Jerk virtually defines the American character of the 21st century.  Ask any foreigner, and he will tell you amazing tales of badly dressed, obnoxious Americans who treat restaurant owners as their personal servants, snap their fingers, screaming Garçon! Garçon! for service, and complain about everything they eat.  Too many American travelers have seen too...

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Men Men Men Men Manly Men Men Men

Some insomniacs do endless sequences  of sums in their heads, while more traditional conservatives rely on counting sheep—or sheep in elephants’ clothing.  An instinctive Machiavellian even as a child, and dimly conscious of the reality of power, I preferred to count rulers.  In elementary school I learned the American presidents, and in high school I...

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Escapist Fantasies

Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt. (The weather not their mind they change who rush across the sea.) Horace’s tagline is generally cited to illustrate the American cliché that, wherever you may go, you cannot run away from yourself.  In a country where divorce is more common than marriage, where millions every year...

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Never Never Shall Be Slaves

The shooting of Trayvon Martin and the trial of George Zimmerman have divided the country along predictable lines: blacks and whites, “liberals” (that is to say, self-hating European-American leftists) and “conservatives” (or, rather, confused liberals).  The racial conflict is entirely without interest except insofar as it tends to confirm what everyone in America knows by...

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Do Androids Tweet…?

The America depicted in the news is every day coming closer to the dystopian future imagined by science-fiction novelists.  I am not referring so much to the rising tide of violence and irrationality that has overtaken our society at all levels as to the systematic spiritual, intellectual, and social desolation of our public culture. One...

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Texas’s Pound of Pluck

Hello friends and neighbors in Mason and surrounding counties.  Attention!  Be a vic-tor, not a vic-tim!  We will be having a beginners’ concealed-handgun class this coming Wednesday . . . at Keller’s Riverside Store on the beautiful Llano River. . . . We will attempt to teach you all the necessary information you need to...

Dead Stars,Black Holes
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Dead Stars,Black Holes

The recent death of Whitney Houston elicited the handwringing and lamentations that are the hallmark of American journalism.  Poor Amy, poor Whitney, poor Michael, poor Notorious—they were so young, and they had so much to live for.  What a tragedy! The word tragedy is no longer applied to the death of worthy people who made...

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Revolting Parasites

Movements are always based on lies, and the lies begin with the titles and slogans that are chosen to advance “the cause.”  Here in the United States, so-called liberals are really nonrevolutionary Marxists, while the people who call themselves conservatives are, at one extreme, libertarian capitalists who reject any principle or experience that cannot be...

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Lessons of the War

Tactics is merely The mechanical movement of bodies . . . After nearly nine years, about 4,500 Americans killed and 30,000 wounded and no one seems to know how many trillions of dollars it will cost in the end, the United States is finally doing what we should have done almost immediately, once we made...

In the Gutter With the GOP
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In the Gutter With the GOP

The Republican Party’s search for a presidential candidate is a bit like a musical revue.  As the star (Mitt Romney) goes up and down the chorus line, one after another dancer emerges from obscurity into the spotlight, dazzles the audience for a few moments, before sinking back into the anonymous mass.  Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann,...

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Rome and Jerusalem

I shall not cease from mental fight Nor shall my sword sleep in my mind Till we have built Jerusalem In England’s green and pleasant land. William Blake was quite mad, even madder than most Swedenborgians—and that is saying a good deal—but Christians less insane than Blake have dreamed of building a new Jerusalem where...

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The Tyranny of Democracy

Winston Churchill’s backhanded praise of democracy as “the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried” is usually cited as the last word on the subject.  It is a good way of closing off a dangerous topic of discussion, and it works quite well with that vast majority of people...

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The Hollywood Horror

My wife does not like horror films.  I used to think it was because she does not wish to be frightened, but we all, even prim Victorian ladies, enjoy a good scare from time to time, especially when we know we are safe.  Girl Scouts around the campfire tell stories about the murdered little girl...

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Five Really Good Reasons

Atheism is once again the rage.  These religious fads come and go like skirt lengths or medical trends.  When I was a child, everyone I knew had had his tonsils out.  My mother was more conservative: The tonsils were there for a reason, she said, so why remove them without a good reason?  A later...

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Freedom From Religion

The recent “flap” over the Ground Zero Mosque is the meaningless debate we have come to expect from American political debates, which are a mere exchange of platitudes.  The only interesting part is the common ground occupied by both sides.  The left says that the First Amendment and the universal human right to enjoy religious...

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Children of the Revolution

We are all children of the Revolution.  Wherever we look, in the office or at church, whatever professions we examine or traditions we cherish, we are hard pressed to discover a single significant aspect of human experience that has not been transformed by a perpetual revolution that has inverted all the ancient truths and turned...

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Break out the Booze?

No healthy boy has ever wanted to go to school.  I know I did not.  Parents who are confronted with a son who has played hooky or feigned a stomachache will sometimes try to reason with him, explaining why it is important to get a good education.  These exercises never worked with me, and I...

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Looking Backwards

“Whose picture is this, Daddy?” The little blond girl is 11 years old, and, as she flips through the iScraps, her smooth round face shows the first twinge of the questioning mind that will disturb the complacency on which all future happiness depends. “That’s my grandfather.” “Your grandfather?  He doesn’t look a bit like us,”...

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Lighting a Candle

Many Americans say they are fed up with their government, that “the time is right for a palace revolution.”  President Obama’s approval rating has sunk below 40 percent, and the voters are angry not so much with the administration as with all incumbents.  But why would anyone pay attention to opinion polls?  All polls are...

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Cursing the Darkness

Her mother said she had been brainwashed.  Her daughter had never liked who she was and was always looking to become someone else.  Mother is quick to reassure reporters she is not prejudiced: “I’m not against Muslims.  I married one.”  Jihad Jamie, as the press has dubbed her, is only 31, but she has lived...