by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét
Sing hey! For bold George Washington,
That jolly British tar,
King George’s famous admiral
From Hull to Zanzibar!
No–wait a minute–something’s wrong–
George wished to sail the foam.
But, when his mother thought aghast,
Of Georgie shinning up a mast,
Her tears and protests flowed so fast
That George remained at home.
Sing ho! For grave Washington,
The staid Virginia squire,
Who farms his fields and hunts his hounds
And aims at nothing higher!
Stop, stop it’s going wrong again!
George liked to live on farms,
But when the Colonies agreed
They could and should and would be freed,
They called on George to do the deed
And George cried “Shoulder arms!”
Sing ha! For Emperor Washington,
That hero of renown,
Who freed his land from Britain’s rule
To win a golden crown!
No, no, that’s what George might have won
But didn’t for he said,
“There’s not much point about a king,
They’re pretty but they’re apt to sting
And, as for crowns–the heavy thing
Would only hurt my head.”
Sing ho! For our George Washington!
(At last I’ve got it straight.)
The first in war, the first in peace,
The goodly and the great.
But, when you think about him now,
From here to Valley Forge,
Remember this–he might have been
A highly different specimen,
And, where on earth would we be, then?
I’m glad that George was George.
I have never liked President’s Day. Why celebrate loser presidents like Jimmy Carter and James Buchanan, non-entities like Millard Fillmore, bad presidents, like Grant, with great presidents like Washington and Lincoln? Officially the date is still the commemoration of George Washington’s birthday and in this post we will recall the life of the greatest American who ever lived. Ironically in the length of a blog post we will be unable to cover all of Washington’s event filled life, including his Presidency. We will break off at the close of the Revolution and finish off on February 22, the actual birthday of the man who will always be first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of all of us who, as Americans, in many ways are his children.
Only Abraham Lincoln comes close to Washington in our American secular pantheon. Our first president, he was also the man who led our armies to victory in the Revolutionary War, a conflict I am certain that we would have lost but for his leadership, faith and example. In his own time, and from his days as a very young man, most people who encountered Washington assumed he was destined for greatness. Six foot three at a time when most men were around five foot six, Washington was a literal giant for his day, weighing 220 pounds of muscle, and noted for his feats of strength. A quiet aura of dignity and command seemed to envelop him from the first time that he put on the uniform of a Virginia militia officer. He had a hot temper that he usually successfully controlled beneath a mask of quiet dignity, leavened by a lively sense of humor. However, none of these explain why men and women instinctively looked to him for leadership, but they always did. Perhaps it was simply a matter of trust. Although the cherry tree is a myth, Washington was always known to be an honest man, and a man who could be entrusted with great tasks that he would attempt to do out of a sense of duty and not for personal aggrandizement. Such men are very rare in history, and almost all Washington’s contemporaries realized that he was such a rarity.
Washington of course did not appear full grown on the stage of history. When he was born none would have expected him to have any historical significance in his life. Continue reading
The things that you find on Youtube! Churchill warning in a radio broadcast during the second year of Nazi rule of the threat posed by them to the peace of Europe. Churchill tells a very old truth: one side of a dispute embracing functional pacifism, short of abject surrender, will not make war less likely, but rather ensure the coming of war.
Bonus: The actor Robert Hardy in 1986 gave a ninety minute presentation on Churchill. In the below excerpt he talks about socialism and the impossibility of isolationism as a foreign policy for the United States: Continue reading
From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of the Tiber:
Washington, DC––Vice President Joe Biden announced today that he was stepping down as Vice President just hours after an altercation on the phone between Biden and President Obama regarding the sanctity of life. This comes on the heels of Biden’s visit with with Pope Francis after the conclusion of the pope’s Installation Mass, in which Biden could be heard uttering the words “what have I done…what have I done.” “It appears as though Mr. Biden has had a change of heart with regards to the abortion issue after his meeting with the pope earlier today,” U.S. Press Secretary Jay Carney told the press moments ago. “He [Biden] called President Obama and informed him that he could no longer stand by as millions of babies were aborted. He also said that he had confessed his sins and now looked to remain in good standings with the Church and the good Lord. He also urged President Obama to make peace with God.” Although the full details of the phone conversation have been slow to come out, Washington insiders have said that after a heated debate about when life begins, Biden told President Obama that he was stepping down ”effective immediately” to live a life of prayer and meditation. Biden aides have yet to comment on the details, but have confirmed reports that the former vice president had placed a call to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI about staying with him until he could get an abandoned monastery of his own to live out the rest of his life. At press time, a bare-chested Biden was seen on his knees outside St. Peter’s Basilica, repeatedly lashing himself as he screamed the words “mea culpa” in reparation for his sins. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. We’re In a Revolution, a first rate riff on Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire, set in the American Revolution. This seemed appropriate as a precursor for the extensive post on George Washington that will be posted here on “President’s Day” this Monday.
It is painful to see a venerable superstition dying a hard death. I am of course referring to the superstition of socialism. Since the 19th century socialism has had an iron hold of the mentalities of many elites, and would be elites, in most nations around the globe. Wherever it has been tried it has proved damaging to economies and where its attempts have been extreme enough the socialist economies prove to be productive only in producing mass poverty. The latest example of this is in Venezuela, currently undergoing riots, as Maduro, Chavez’s successor, oversees an economy in free fall and desperate protestors take to the streets at the risk of murderous repression at the hands of Maduro’s thugs. Richard Fernandez at PJ Media tells us how bad the economy has become in Venezuela:
The suddenness of Venezuela’s collapse should have come as no surprise because downfalls are inherently abrupt. Collapse is a phase change. One moment something is sailing along fat, dumb and happy and the next moment it is sinking beneath the waves. The change from two to one is a loss of 50%; but the change from one to zero is binary.
So it was in Venezuela. Imagine waiting two years to buy a car and finding just when you thought you finally buy one that there are no cars for sale at all.
Leonardo Hernandez had hoped to buy a new car this year, ending nearly two years of waiting on various lists at different dealerships throughout the country.
Those hopes were dashed last week when Toyota Motor Co. said it would shut down its assembly operations in Venezuela due to the government’s foreign exchange controls that have crippled imports and made it impossible to bring in parts needed to build its vehicles.
The country’s other car manufacturers, including General Motors and Ford, haven’t even started operations this year, while waiting for needed parts to arrive.
Think of not being able to buy soap, rice or toilet paper or order a cup of coffee, where even the rich are feeling poor. “In the serene private clubs of Caracas, there is no milk, and the hiss of the cappuccino machine has fallen silent. In the slums, the lights go out every few days, or the water stops running. In the grocery stores, both state-run shops and expensive delicatessens, customers barter information: I saw soap here, that store has rice today. The oil engineers have emigrated to Calgary, the soap opera stars fled to Mexico and Colombia. And in the beauty parlours of this nation obsessed with elaborate grooming, women both rich and poor have cut back to just one blow-dry or manicure each week.”
Imagine there’s no money to keep up the sovereign bond payments, the only source of money to keep power plants going. Continue reading
Planned Parenthood is constructing a new $42.M, 8k-square foot building in New Orleans.The City of New Orleans has already approved the construction permit and the facility is scheduled to open later this year. It is estimated that 30 abortions will be able to be performed each day at the facility.
Archbishop Gregory M, Aymond of the Archdiocese of New Orleans isn’t taking the news sitting down, taking direct aim at the facility in a letter published in the Archdiocesan newspaper, the Clarion Herald.
“We cannot be silent in view of the grave injustice presented by the abortions that will be performed at the Planned Parenthood facility,” Aymond wrote. “The Archdiocese is obliged to remind every person and organization involved in the acquisition, preparation, and construction of this or any abortion facility that they are cooperating with the evil that will take place there.”
Not mincing his words, Archbishop Aymond fired off a unique first salvo:
For this reason, the Archdiocese, including the churches, schools, apartments for the elderly and nursing homes, will strive in its privately funded work not to enter into business relationships with any person or organization that participates in actions that are essential to making this abortion facility a reality.
This policy applies to all businesses, regardless of religious affiliation or non-affiliation. Our fidelity to Church teaching and our conscience necessitates this stance. There is no justification, including economic hardship that will make a direct or indirect relationship with Planned Parenthood, or any abortion provider, acceptable. Additionally, affiliation or support of Planned Parenthood by Catholics is a matter of serious scandal. (emphasis added)
In his final salvo, Aymond noted:
There are many issues, from violence in the streets to poverty, which hurt this community. A regional abortion center will not solve our problems; it will only create more….We hope that the community invested in the City of New Orleans and in her future will join us in standing for life, not more abortion. All citizens of the New Orleans area must stand together for a peaceful community, not one with more abortion and more Planned Parenthood.
Kudos to Archbishop Aymond! His Excellency not only is attention to the facility, but also calling upon Catholics and non–Catholics alike to use their economic clout in the cause of life. Pressuring those who have or will be participating in this grave evil by entering into direct or indirect business relationships with the facility is a very clever way to challenge Catholics, in particular, to put their faith into economic practice.
How’s that for some authentic Catholic social justice?
To read Archbishop Aymond’s letter, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
Catholic clerics in Europe have been reporting that more Catholics have been attending Mass since Pope Francis became Pope. According to one survey, this has not been the case in America:
According to the survey, 22 percent of Americans identify themselves as Catholic — virtually unchanged from 2007 and the same as when Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected the successor to the ailing Pope Benedict XVI in March. Similarly, weekly Mass attendance levels in the eight months of Francis’ young papacy have remained stable at 39 percent — a slight statistical decline from the 40 percent reported 2012, the last full year of Benedict’s papacy.
Francis’ global popularity and favorable media coverage have led some to search for the “Francis Effect,” with Catholic clergy members having noticed an increase in church attendance in Italy, Britain and other countries.
Pope Francis has thrilled some and unnerved others inside the church with his forthright statements on issues such as social justice for the poor, fair treatment of the disabled and personal humility, while downplaying many of the social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In a marked contrast with his predecessor, Francis has eschewed the luxurious papal residence, shown a popular touch while wading into large crowds and washed the feet of prisoners. Continue reading
“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”
Hattip to Instapundit. Josh Stearns at Huffington Post reports on the fact that the media in the US isn’t quite as free as it used to be.
According to a new report from Reporters Without Borders, there was a profound erosion of press freedom in the United States in 2013.
After a year of attacks on whistleblowers and digital journalists and revelations about mass surveillance, the United States plunged 13 spots in the group’s global press freedom rankings to number 46.
Reporters Without Borders writes that the U.S. faced “one of the most significant declines” in the world last year. Even the United Kingdom, whose sustained campaign to criminalize the Guardian’s reporters and intimidate journalists has made headlines around the world, dropped only three spots, to number 33. The U.S. fell as many spots as Paraguay, where “the pressure on journalists to censor themselves keeps on mounting.”
Citing the Justice Department’s aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers, including its secret seizure of Associated Press phone records, the authors write that “freedom of information is too often sacrificed to an overly broad and abusive interpretation of national security needs, marking a disturbing retreat from democratic practices. Investigative journalism often suffers as a result.”
The threats facing newsgathering in the U.S. are felt by both longstanding journalists like New York Times national security reporter James Risen, who may serve jail time for refusing to reveal a source, and non-traditional digital journalists like Barrett Brown.
Brown is a freelance journalist who has reported extensively on private intelligence firms and government contractors. He now faces more than 100 years in jail for linking to stolen documents as part of his reporting, even though he had no involvement in the actual theft. Continue reading
One of the more annoying features of modern life is the superstition that people are immune from stupidity. This translates into the belief, I might call it an article of faith, that people should be free to do whatever idiotic thing they please and suffer no ill consequences therefrom. Alas, life does not work that way. The piper always has to be paid sooner or later.
Walter Russell Mead explains this basic fact of life to the college bound who wish to ruin their lives quickly:
Third, find teachers and role models who will encourage you to develop an attitude of enlightened contempt for ordinary American middle class life, the world of business, and such bourgeois virtues as self-reliance, thrift, accountability and self-discipline. Specialize in sarcasm and snark.
Sixth, when you graduate and discover that you have to repay the loans and cannot get a job that pays enough to live comfortably while servicing your debts, be surprised. Blame society. Demand that the government or your parents or evil corporations bail you out.
Seventh, expect anyone (except for other clueless losers who’ve been as stupid and wasteful as you) to sympathize with your plight, or to treat you with anything but an infuriating mixture of sorrow, pity and contempt.
Go here to read the rest.
On the other hand, for those who might not be eager to ruin their lives, here are seven tips, college bound or not, that might help during their journey through this Vale of Tears: Continue reading
Like flowery fields the nations stand
Pleased with the morning light;
The flowers beneath the mower’s hand
Lie withering ere ‘tis night.
Isaac Watts, Our God, Our Help in Ages Past
The twenty-ninth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here, here , here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here , here , here, here, here and here.
Kipling will always be remembered as a British patriot and a lover of the British Empire. Both of those facts are true enough, although Kipling was not blind to the faults of his nation and its empire, but Kipling also had the ability, shared by some true great artists, to step momentarily outside his time and place to make some imperishable commentary on the human condition. Kipling did it in his poem Recessional, written on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, which rather than a rah, rah celebration of Great Britain, envisages a time when the glory and power of Britain and its Empire will have passed, one with Nineveh and Tyre, and a stark warning for his British contemporaries to use the power they currently possessed responsibly, and prays to God for mercy upon them. This unexpected Jeremiad contains what I have always regarded as the most moving lines of poetry ever written by a secular poet:
Sandro Magister has an interesting look at a theological paper that has been released by the Vatican, which was initiated at the request of Pope Benedict in 2008:
“Heresy” and “dogma.” The two words in the Church that almost no one dares to say anymore – all the more so in this season of “mercy” – suddenly came back to the forefront on January 16, in their full meaning and in the most official form, on the front page of “L’Osservatore Romano.”
“As far as the Christian faith is concerned, violence in the name of God is a heresy pure and simple”: this is what the editorial in the pope’s newspaper calls the “unmistakable thesis” of the document of the international theological commission made public that same day.
And vice versa: “Scrupulous respect for religious freedom stems from that which is most dogmatic in the idea of God that the Christian faith has to offer.”
The international theological commission, instituted after Vatican Council II, is an arm of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, is headed by its prefect, and is made up of thirty theologians of various nations, appointed by the pope “ad quinquennium.”
The document made public on January 16 was ordered by Benedict XVI in 2008, in the context of his dialogue with contemporary culture, in order to reopen within it a pathway toward God, the true God. It was crafted over five years by 10 members of the commission, including the Chinese Salesian Savio Tai Fai Hon, today the secretary of “Propaganda fide,” the Swiss Dominican Charles Morerod, today the bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg, and the Italian Pierangelo Sequeri, a leading representative of the theological school of Milan.
For now the complete text of the document is available only in its Italian version – elegant and incisive as rarely happens with theological texts, thanks to the pen and the mind of Sequeri, even if here and there it is not easy to read – while in eight more languages an introductory summary is ready, with the complete translation still to come:
The title provides a glimpse of the document’s motivation: to fight the widespread idea that monotheism, faith in the one God, is synonymous with obscurantism and intolerance, is an indestructible seed of violence . And therefore is to be banned from civil society.
Jews, Muslims, Christians are the target of this typically relativistic theorem, which demonstrates that it intends to replace monotheism with a moderate “polytheism” deceptively presented as peaceful and tolerant.
Jews are charged with having faith in a vindictive God “of wrath and war,” that of the Old Testament, and this is imputed to them with a preconceived hostility that the document says is present “even in sophisticated culture” (one recent example of this theological anti-Judaism is provided in Italy by Eugenio Scalfari, the ultra-secularist “interviewer” of Pope Francis.
Held against the Muslims – with the reinforcement of the facts – is “the order of Muhammad to defend the faith by means of the sword,” as Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos had denounced in his dialogue with the Persian sage made known around the world by Benedict XVI in the Regensburg lecture of September 12, 2006. And it is curious that, on the same day as the release of the document of the thirty theologians, a 36-page document appeared on the Huffington Post written by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the destruction of the Twin Towers and a detainee at Guantanamo, which cites Benedict XVI in order to refute the idea that the Quran legitimizes the use of force as a means for religious conversion, and justifies the attack of September 11, 2001 as an exclusively political revolt of the oppressed against the oppressor:
But Christians are the main enemy to be overthrown, in present-day anti-religious polemics. And it is here that the document brings into play the concepts of heresy and dogma.
The mere thought – it affirms – that the Christian vision associates faith with violence is consummate heresy. While it is an irrevocable dogma that “the Son, in his love for the Father, draws violence upon himself, sparing friends and enemies, or rather all men,” and therefore, with his ignominious death confronted and overcome, “he annihilates in a single act the power of sin and the justification of violence.”
The document is rich with argumentation and effective both in its “pars destruens,” where it unveils the flimsiness of the modern condemnation of monotheism, and in its “pars construens,” where it highlights the Trinitarian nature of Christianity, which distinguishes it from the other forms of monotheism and is the basis of “the irrevocable seriousness of the Gospel interdict with regard to all contamination between religion and violence.”
The document is not silent about Christian concession to religious violence in history. But it urges the recognition of the present time as the “kairòs,” the decisive moment, of an “irreversible departure” of Christianity from such violence. Continue reading
Well this is intriguing:
On a day when everyone is recalling Pope Benedict XVI’s historic — and stunning — announcement last Feb. 11 that he intended to resign the papacy comes a fascinating revelation from the 2005 conclave that elected Benedict: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who reportedly ran second to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in that conclave, later told a fellow cardinal that if he had been elected then he would have taken the name “John” after Pope John XXIII. Instead, Bergoglio was elected in March of last year two weeks after Benedict resigned and became the first pope named after Francis of Assisi. “Good Pope John,” as John XXIII is known, also stunned the church and the world by calling the Second Vatican Council that in the 1960s introduced numerous reforms and ushered Roman Catholicism into the modern world. “John, I would have called myself John, like the Good Pope; I would have been completely inspired by him,” Bergoglio told Cardinal Francesco Marchisano, according to a new book by longtime Italian Vaticanista Gianluca Barile. – Continue reading
IN THIS TEMPLE
AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE
FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION
THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
IS ENSHRINED FOREVER
Inscription over the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial
Well, it took long enough. Lincoln had been dead for almost half a century before work finally began on his memorial in Washington, with a dedication ceremony occurring on his birthday in Washington DC a hundred years ago. Plans to memorialize Lincoln in Washington had been mooted about since the time of his death, but in Washington, then and now, nothing moves swiftly. Controversies about cost and just what form the memorial should take had delayed the project for decades. The final plan to erect a Greek styled temple to house a Lincoln statue appalled some Lincoln admirers who thought a log cabin memorial would better suit a man as humble as Lincoln.
The building of the memorial would take eight years, with it being completed and opened to the public on Memorial Day, May 30, 1922. Continue reading
One of the more interesting figures in American public life is Justice Clarence Thomas:
Thomas spent his childhood in a place and time in which businesses and government services were legally segregated. In his 2007 memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son,” he described his experience growing up as an African-American Catholic in Georgia during the Jim Crow era. “I was a two-fer for the Klan,” he said.
Thomas moved north from Georgia and graduated from Yale Law School in 1974. He went on to a successful judicial career that took him all the way to the Supreme Court. Thomas’ views on constitutional issues usually put him on the conservative side of the court, where he has penned opinions intended to rein in affirmative-action laws and overhaul a section of the Civil Rights Act that requires states with histories of discrimination to seek approval from the federal government before altering voting policies.
“The worst I have been treated was by northern liberal elites. The absolute worst I have ever been treated,” Thomas said. “The worst things that have been done to me, the worst things that have been said about me, by northern liberal elites, not by the people of Savannah, Georgia.”
“I quite frankly don’t know how you do these hard jobs without some faith. I don’t know. Other people can come to you and explain it to you. I have no idea,” he said. “I don’t know how an oath becomes meaningful unless you have faith. Because at the end you say, ‘So help me God.’ And a promise to God is different from a promise to anyone else.”
Go here to read the rest. Thomas was raised by his cantankerous maternal grandfather Myers Anderson, a man with little education but who through hard work built a thriving business selling fuel oil and ice. He worked Clarence and his brother liked rented mules, and imprinted on them the value of hard work, promising them that if they worked hard enough, and got an education, they could be anything they wanted to be, having nothing but scorn for the idea that white racism could stop them. Thomas has said simply that his grandfather is the greatest man he has ever known. Continue reading