Monthly Archives: May 2011

Top Ten Films For Memorial Day Weekend

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“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”

              Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Infantry Division at Kohima.

The upcoming Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, is a time of fun here in the US.  However, it should also be a time of memory.  Memorial day is derived from the Latin “memoria”, memory, and we are duty bound this weekend to remember those who died in our defense, and who left us with a debt which can never be repaid.  One aid to memory can be films, and here are a few suggestions for films to watch this weekend.

10.  300-This may seem like an odd choice, not involving Americans, and a fairly bizarre retelling of the battle of Thermopylae.  However, it celebrates the idea of never forgetting those who died for their country.  “Go tell the Spartans passerby, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.”  So wrote Simonides, the greatest poet of his time, in tribute to the Spartans who fell at Thermopylae.  The speech of Dilios at the end of the film, which may be viewed here, reminds us of our duty to remember those who laid down their lives for us, a message to be recalled this weekend.

  9.   They Were Expendable (1945) John Ford and John Wayne tell the story of the doomed PT Boat crews that fought against overwhelming odds during the invasion of the Philippines in 1941-42.  The film has a gritty downbeat feel, appropriate to the subject matter, but an oddity for a film made during the War.

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  8.    Hamburger Hill (1987)-Content advisory: very, very strong language in the video clip which may be viewed here.  All the Vietnam veterans I’ve mentioned it to have nothing but praise for this film which depicts the assault on Hill 937 by elements of the 101rst Division, May 10-20, 1969.  It is a fitting tribute to the valor of the American troops who served their country in an unpopular war a great deal better than their country served them.

   7.   Porkchop Hill (1959)-Korea has become to too many Americans The Forgotten War, lost between World War II and Vietnam.  There is nothing forgotten about it by the Americans who served over there, including my Uncle Ralph McClarey who died recently, and gained a hard won victory for the US in one of the major hot conflicts of the Cold War.  This film tells the story of the small American force on Porkchop Hill, who held it in the face of repeated assaults by superior forces of the Chinese and North Koreans.  As the below clip indicates it also highlights the surreal element that accompanies every war and the grim humor that aspect often brings.

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  6.    Glory (1989)-A long overdue salute to the black troops who served in the Union Army during the Civil War.  Robert Gould Shaw the white colonel who led the 54th Massachusetts died at Fort Wagner in the assault of the 54th.  He was buried by the Confederates with his black troops.  His parents were given an opportunity to have his body exhumed and returned to Boston for burial.  Their reply was immortal:    We would not have his body removed from where it lies surrounded by his brave and devoted soldiers….We can imagine no holier place than that in which he lies, among his brave and devoted followers, nor wish for him better company – what a body-guard he has!

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Anderson on Shea on Carter

My good friend Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia often delivers some of the most insightful commentary on Saint Blog’s.  Here is commentary that he did today fisking Mark Shea’s observations of  Joe Carter’ post  at First Things, where Carter took a look at Generation X conservatives, and which may be read here.   This gave  Mark an opportunity to voice his disdain for forms of conservatism other than the paleocon version he embraces, and to go “O Tempora, O Mores”, over the coming generation of conservatives.  Jay’s commentary is priceless:

Mark Shea has commented on an excellent piece by Joe Carter at First Things, in which Joe seeks to define “Generation X” conservatives, who he labels “X-Cons”.

Mark begins:

He has been one of the few voices in the conservative movement to speak out of actual conservative values and not out of the Consequentialism that dominates the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism. So I was interested in his description of “X-Cons“, the rising generation of conservatives (so-called) who have been coming of age in the past decade. I think his description is accurate, rather depressing, and a further proof that Chesterton is right when he says that each revolutionary movement is a reaction to the last revolution–and that it typically knows what is wrong but not what is right. I appreciate Carter’s clear-eyed analysis and suspect that he, like me, is not altogether thrilled that this is the desperate pass in which the Thing that Used to be Conservatism now finds itself.

Later on, Mark continues:

X-Cons know little about history and their deepest influence is disk jockeys, who “taught us X-Cons to appreciate confirmation of our political views.” The perfectly reasonable thing to ask in light of this crushing diagnosis is, “What, precisely, is being conserved by such a ‘conservatism’?” A conservatism that knows nothing of engagement with ideas outside the Talk Radio Noise Machine (including engagement with ideas from its own intellectual history) and which has learned, as it’s primary lesson, “to appreciate confirmation of our political views” is a conservatism that is intellectually barren and open to manipulation by demagogues who flatter its adherents and teach them to remain safe in the echo chamber.

Mark goes further in his assessment of “X-Cons” as the dupes of demagogues:

When Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are your intelligentsia and Buckley is a sort of a ghostly eminence gris you no longer bother listening to, one must again ask what, exactly, is being conserved by such a conservatism. Much that bills itself as anti-elitist is just a celebration of intellectual laziness and a resentment of people who have done the hard work of thought. Yes, there are pointy headed intellectuals who pride themselves on their learning. That’s not an excuse to be a wahoo who prides himself on his ignorance.

Mark concludes his analysis of Joe’s piece lamenting Joe’s acknowledgement of the fact that “X-Cons” will soon displace the generation that came before us. Joe writes:

• X-Cons will soon be replacing the Boomers as the dominant cohort within the movement. We’ll be fielding presidential candidates in 2016 and dominating elections in 2020. We are, for better and for worse, the future of the movement. And of America.

… and Mark responds:

Bleak words indeed…

My Comments:
First, let me note that I tried to leave my thoughts in comments on Mark’s blog, but the commenting tool Mark uses rejected the comment as too voluminous. Rather than breaking it up into several comments, I decided to blog my view on the matter here.

While I commend Joe on his piece at First Things, I call B.S. on at least parts of Mark’s analysis of Joe’s piece, and ESPECIALLY on some of the commenters who have responded favorably to Mark’s analysis by blaming the so-called “X-Cons” for the commenters’ decisions to continue to support the party of abortion-on-demand.

The “X-Cons” aren’t responsible for “the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism” (hereafter, “the Thing”) – in fact, we are increasingly skeptical of “the Thing” and especially the Republican Party claiming the mantle of “the Thing”. As evidence, I submit my own blog as well as a piece today at National Catholic Register by Pat Archbold (recently described by one of Mark’s sycophants as a “Republican shill”).

No, the folks responsible for bringing us huge deficits, Wilsonian foreign policy, and consequentialism dressed up as “the Thing” were decidedly NOT members of the “X” generation, but were baby boomers and even members of the so-called “Greatest Generation”. Given that fact, Mark’s assessment as “bleak words indeed” of Joe’s acknowledgement of the rise of the “X-Cons” to replace the previous generation seems completely without merit. Surely we can’t do any worse with respect to “the Thing” than the generations that have come before us. In short, given our increasing distrust of what “the Thing” has become and the party that champions it, it is the “X-Cons” who are the antidote to “the Thing”, not the purveyors of it.

In addition, rather than criticizing the “X-Cons” for rejecting elitism and embracing what they see as middle-class authenticism, why not ask whether the elites have actually served them well and, if the answer is “HELL NO!” (which it most assuredly is), whether there are better alternatives for leadership from among the “riff-raff” who actually share the values of the “X-Cons”? Mark asks what is it that is actually being conserved? Well, if you ask me, the traditional family values of protection of life, protection of the institution of the family, hard work, integrity, loyalty, etc., etc., are being protected far more on the front porches, parish halls, and town halls of flyover country than they are in the halls of academia and, yes, even on the pages of National Review. Maybe “X-Cons” see the people Mark derides as base and demogogic as being the actual preservers of the values we hold dear (i.e. they’re the ones doing the “conserving” these days), as opposed to the new generation of Buckleys who view us as so much white trash and instead embrace The One.

Continue reading

A Vote for Romney Is a Vote for the LDS Church

Patheos – One evangelical explains why he cannot support Mitt Romney for President.

What [Paul] Weyrich understood was that you can’t have it “both ways” when it comes to Romney’s faith. You can’t say that his religious beliefs don’t matter, but his “values” do. The Christian worldview teaches that there is a short tether binding beliefs to the values and behaviors that flow from them. If the beliefs are false, then the behavior will eventually—but inevitably—be warped. Mormonism is particularly troubling on this point because Mormons believe in the idea of “continuing revelation.” They may believe one thing today, and something else tomorrow. This is why Mormons have changed their views, for example, on marriage and race. Polygamy was once a key distinctive of the religion. Now, of course, it is not. Mormons once forbade blacks from leadership roles. Now they do not. What else will change?

Even if a Mormon social teaching happens to concur with orthodox Christianity at this point in time, it is unreliable and subject to alteration. It’s tempting to say that “continuing revelation” has defined Romney’s career, who has changed his positions on same-sex marriage and abortion and just about every major “culture war” issue… TO READ MORE CLICK HERE.

The Church teaches us that there is a hierarchy of truths. Errors regarding God will result in errors involving man. The author make the assertion that “Evangelical Christians should have no part of [the] effort” to elect Romney. Should the same be said for Catholics? Read the entire article above and judge it. Let me know what you think on this matter.

American Nihilism

Webster Bull has written a very interesting article regarding a talk given by Mnsgr. Lorenzo Albacete at The American Bible Society.

One false response, Albacete insisted, is to reduce Christianity to an ethical system. Christianity as a form of moralism, he said, suggests that we are not broken sinners requiring salvation but just “decent folk who need instruction.” Christianity truly lived, he went on, begins with the experience of being saved, then seeking to live that experience in the surrounding culture. We usually reverse the equation, trying to heal the culture (ethically) in order to save it and ourselves. What saves us is not ethical conduct but the fact of Christ’s life… TO READ MORE CLICK HERE

HARPERS – Hot air gods By Curtis White

Crossroads Cultural Center

Goodbye Oprah

I have to admit that were it not for the Conan O’Brien Show, I would not have realized until now that this was the final week of the Oprah Winfrey Show.  Today National Review Online ran a symposium about her.  My response would have been simply: “Good Riddance.”  Alas other writers offered more detailed thoughts about her.  It was an interesting mix of reviews, some of them positive and others more critical.  While I appreciate some of the good that Oprah has done in promoting literacy, I am squarely in the camp of people who think Oprah’s net influence on the culture has been abysmal.

Several of her critics in this symposium discussed her left-wing politics.  The most succinct summary was Ben Shapiro’s towards the end of the symposium.  While she did indeed shill endlessly for the Chosen One in 2008, her politics never really bothered me.  The popular culture is littered with leftist clown acts.  Instead, her baleful influence on the culture runs much deeper.

Danielle Bean has one of the more insightful commentaries.  She discusses Oprah’s “spiritual” rather than religious side.

When we weren’t looking, Oprah transformed her image into something close to a spiritual icon. Her book recommendations included not only chick-lit fiction titles, but New Age spiritual resources. Her show’s tagline became “Live Your Best Life Now,” a directive that included a spirituality based on the works of New Age notables Marriane Williamson, Betty Eadie, and Sophy Burnham, among others.

In every human heart there is a void — a longing for emotional happiness, personal fulfillment, and spiritual wholeness. Our empty, aching hearts are made for communion with our Creator. Jesus Christ, who alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, can make us whole.

Oprah is a funny, smart, charismatic, and real American woman who has found commercial success by tapping into a human need for “soul food.” When popular culture feeds us New Age mumbo-jumbo, feel-good speak, and words of affirmation, we might be temporarily satiated, but in the end we come away empty again.

Oprah fills our hearts and minds with fleeting feelings. Only Christ can feed our souls.

Oprah is just the most notable representation of our culture’s affinity for new-age spirituality.  We see it everywhere.  Generic mumbo jumbo about getting in touch with our inner feelings has replaced the meatier aspects of religious formation.  Sadly this mentality is not just limited to popular culture.  It’s infected many of our parishes – just look at some of the offerings of our faith formation committees and the bland nonsense which they pass of as religious instruction.  Oprah has fed this beast better than anyone, and that is much more harmful than any of the good she may have accomplished.

Lisa Schiffren gets to the heart of why I’ve always found Oprah so odious.

Enter Oprah. Her personal confessions, tears, and overflowing emotions (delivered articulately enough to suggest preparation), changed the style of casual discourse — and, ultimately, political speech too.

Of course, the feminization of American culture had been underway for a century, episodically, before she showed up. Historian Ann Douglas had ascribed it (partly) to an alliance between victimized women and preachers, attempting to sissify a rugged pioneer culture (e.g. Prohibition or the peace movement).

On her show, Oprah got to be the hurt woman and the preacher. She talked about depression, weight, and sexual abuse, in a manner familiar to women from the intense, intimate confidences of deep female friendship. Those agonies and confessions won the love and allegiance of millions of American women, who were a little lost at whatever point in their lives they were home, watching. It worked because, in the same show, she’d go from victim to healer, offering a female version of the deeply American boot-strapper archetype.

The triumph of her style has helped de-stigmatize real victimization — which is a clear good. Alas, it has made life that much harder for conservatives and others who prefer the rational to the emotional, who don’t think that understanding necessarily equals forgiveness, and who think that there are constraints to material reality, even if there aren’t with love and forgiveness.

There are positive elements of the  feminization of the American culture, as Lisa points, but the overall effect of the Oprah-ization of America has been completely destructive.  Weepy sentimentality has become prevalent. Yeah, it’s good to deal with your emotions, but there is much more to life than perpetual group therapy.

Mollie Ziegler Hemmingway offers the most succinct summary:

If you support the widespread practice of pseudo-confessional but ultimately self-justifying defensiveness, the unleashing of hayseed morons such as Dr. Phil and trust-fund prevaricators such as James Frey, the spreading the New Age teachings of “The Secret” and normalization of a generic spirituality that views all religions as equally truthful, and encouraging grab-bag materialism over time-honored virtue, there is no question that Oprah Winfrey has had a net positive on American culture.

Amen sister.

Some will defend Oprah by saying she is a marked improvement over Jerry Springer and that brand of trash daytime television.  But a clear majority of people looked upon shows of its ilk for the trash that it was and is.  Oprah’s version of the daytime format is more nefarious because so many people actually buy into it.  In other words, almost all of America recognized that Jerry Springer was a clown.  Not so many recognize the same in Oprah.

Saint Thomas Becket and Three Plays

 

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Destiny waits in the hand of God, not in the hands of statesmen.

TS Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

The investiture scene from the movie Becket (1964).  The story of the great Archbishop of Canterbury Saint Thomas Becket, who, from being the worldly Chancellor of King Henry II, became the great champion of the Church in life, and a greater champion in death, has always attracted artists and writers.  In our time Jean Anouilh wrote the play Becket, brilliantly brought to the screen in the 1964 film.  Filled with historical howlers, Becket was Norman not Saxon for example, it brilliantly captures the clash between Henry and the man who had been his friend and loyal servant, but who served a Greater Master after Henry, over his protest, had him raised to be Archbishop of Canterbury. Continue reading

John Trumbull: Painting the Revolution

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In an age before photography, America was fortunate to have a painter of the skill of John Trumbull to give us a visual narrative of those stirring days and portraits of so many of the participants.  A veteran of the American Revolution, serving as an aide to George Washington and deputy adjutant general to Horation Gates, Trumbull painted with one eye, having lost sight in the other as a result of a childhood accident.

Some of the more notable paintings of Trumbull are:

Trumbull allowed future generations of Americans to visualize these scenes of the birth of their nation.  Of course, the man was not without his critics: Continue reading

What is Harvey Milk Day?

Save California has released an informational video explaining all of the details conveniently left out by the Kulturkampf Jihadists otherwise known as Liberals/Progressives and ACLU in celebrating high-risk sex by exposing it to innocent five year old children in California’s public schools.

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For the Save California website click here.

Hat Tip: Cal Catholic Daily

The Rapture Trap

Well it’s Monday and it looks like we’re all still here.  The predicted Rapture event failed to occur, and now Harold Camping is scrambling to come up with an excuse.  While it’s tempting to revel in this man’s exposure as a con artist, we should temper our enthusiasm just a little bit.

For one thing, though we all knew that the rapture would not be occurring because, well, there won‘t be a rapture (also see Carl Olson’s excellent book on the topic), there will be a final day of judgment.  It could very well have happened on Saturday, and it may happen next week.  Or next year.  Or a billion years from now.  We simply don’t know when the final hour will be at hand, and if nothing else maybe this story can remind us to live our lives in anticipation for Christ’s second coming.

Moreover, though Camping deserves much of the scorn heaped upon him, we should remember that there are people who were taken in by this fraudster and who gave up everything because they truly believed that the end was nigh.  Writing at The New Republic, Tiffany Stanley explains why we should not be overly gleeful about this past weekend’s non event. Continue reading

A Time for Truth by Tim Pawlenty

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Pawlenty 2012 (main website)

USA TODAY – Real change is about telling hard truths

POLITICO
Tim Pawlenty’s moment

With straight talk message, Tim Pawlenty announces

State Rep. Renee Schulte, Iowa House of Representatives (R):
From an Iowa perspective, Pawlenty is the early frontrunner. As the candidate who has put together a large, well-regarded staff and spent the most time working the grassroots here, Pawlenty has secured the pole position in the early, organizational phase of the campaign. Clearly, his campaign needs to win the Iowa Caucuses in order to become the alternative to Mitt Romney. The Iowa Straw Poll will be a crucial early test to determine the effectiveness of his organization and the strength of his appeal…

As Catholics, is it reasonable to support him?
Continue reading

Bibi & Barry

One fought for the survival of a young Jewish state.

The other smoked and lounged around bragging about his latte prowess.

Who would you think has the better character and judgement skills needed in today’s dangerous world.

Fr. Pfleger Celebrates First Mass Since Reinstatement

Fr. Michael Pfleger

The latest from Chicago:

This Sunday, Fr. Michael Pfleger celebrated his first Mass at St. Sabina since he was reinstated by Cardinal George after apologizing and pledging to assist in a transition for the parish.

From WLS, Chicago:

Father Michael Pfleger celebrated his 62nd birthday Sunday as well as his first mass since being reinstated as pastor of Saint Sabina Catholic Church.

Father Pfleger apologized to his congregation for the unsettled period over the past three weeks during his suspension, but he expressed his gratitude to Francis Cardinal George and encouraged parishioners to do the same.

The cardinal suspended Pfleger following comments Pfleger made about leaving the church rather than being removed from Saint Sabina.

Pfleger today said that his words were misinterpreted.

Read more

I have personally spoken to four members of St. Sabina parish and have found them to be sincere, caring people who love Jesus…but who have not really been taught the Catholic Faith, particularly the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I do not think it is fair to refer to the parishioners as “disobedient” or “dissenting”. It has become clear to me that, though Fr. Pfleger has done much good in the community, particularly for young people, his failure to instruct his flock in core teachings of the Faith has resulted in the fullness of the Faith being hidden from them, something that can only be detrimental to their spiritual lives, not beneficial.

As always, I ask for prayers for the members of St. Sabina parish, for Fr. Pfleger, and for Cardinal George. Let us pray for the return of this prodigal son who has taken a positive step in reflecting a sense of obedience to Holy Mother Church. All things are possible with God.

 

 

Waterboarding is for pansies.

‘You asked me once,’ said O’Brien, ‘what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.’

The door opened again. A guard came in, carrying something made of wire, a box or basket of some kind. He set it down on the further table. Because of the position in which O’Brien was standing. Winston could not see what the thing was.

‘The worst thing in the world,’ said O’Brien, ‘varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive, or death by fire, or by drowning, or by impalement, or fifty other deaths. There are cases where it is some quite trivial thing, not even fatal.’

He had moved a little to one side, so that Winston had a better view of the thing on the table. It was an oblong wire cage with a handle on top for carrying it by. Fixed to the front of it was something that looked like a fencing mask, with the concave side outwards. Although it was three or four metres away from him, he could see that the cage was divided lengthways into two compartments, and that there was some kind of creature in each. They were rats.

‘In your case,’ said O’Brien, ‘the worst thing in the world happens to be rats.’ [George Orwell's 1984 Part III, Chapter 5.]

Those familiar with Orwell’s 1984 know what happens next. And if you haven’t, here’s the final scene of the movie adaptation (embedding disabled).

* * *

A scene which struck me, appropos of the following remarks from a recent exchange here at @ American Catholic:

“What John McCain suffered actually was torture. His bones were broken, for example. Induced panic isn’t torture.”

“I don’t base the definition of torture on subjective determinations. Clearly it’s an issue of prudential judgment and it is certainly clear to me, someone who has severe panic attacks, that panic is not torture.”

“If we cannot induce panic in our enemies with the intention of saving millions of lives, we can’t go to war at all. It’s as simple as that.”

Waterboarding is for pansies. If Ab? Zubaydah could withstand being waterboarded 83 times during August 2002, we’re clearly not doing it right. Let’s turn up the panic a few notches. Let’s take it one step further. Let’s put the fear of God almighty in these pathetic excuses for humanity.

Let’s go Orwellian — “Room 101″ style.

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