Kimberly Strassel for Prager University reveals the ongoing attempt by the left in this country to shut people up. If Trump wins the election, and the polls are off, the left can thank their own brownshirt tactics in convincing many Americans that here, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, keeping one’s mouth shut is the better part of valor if one’s sentiments are not politically correct. I blog under my own name. Partially that is because it is part of my nature to stand up for what I believe in, but partially it is because I have been self-employed for thirty-one years. In today’s climate, if I were not self-employed, I doubt if I would be blogging under my own name, if I were blogging at all. My ancestor, Major Andrew McClary, did not die on Breed’s Hill in 1775 so that generations later Americans would live in fear of expressing their heart-felt sentiments. We can do far better than this, and we owe it to our honored war dead to do so.
My favorite living historian Victor Davis Hanson has a brilliant post on the rot that infects the West:
Sanctuary cities illustrate how progressive doctrine can by itself nullify the rule of law. In the new West, breaking statutes is backed or ignored by the state if it is branded with race, class, or gender advocacy. By that I mean that if a solitary U.S. citizen seeks to leave and then reenter America without a passport, he will likely be either arrested or turned back, whereas if an illegal alien manages to cross our border, he is unlikely to be sent back as long as he has claims on victimhood of the type that are sanctioned by the Western liberal state. Do we really enjoy free speech in the West any more? If you think we do, try to use vocabulary that is precise and not pejorative, but does not serve the current engine of social advocacy — terms such as “Islamic terrorist,” “illegal alien,” or “transvestite.” I doubt that a writer for a major newspaper or a politician could use those terms, which were common currency just four or five years ago, without incurring, privately or publicly, the sort of censure that we might associate with the thought police of the former Soviet Union.
It is becoming almost impossible in the West to navigate the contours of totalitarian mind control. Satirists can create cartoons mocking Christ, but not Mohammed. If a teen brings a suspicious-looking device of wires and gadgetry to school, he will be suspended — unless he can advance by his religious or ethnic background some claim on victimization.
And one of them, a doctor of the Law, putting him to the test, asked him, “Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus said to him, “‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.’ This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like it, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22: 35-40
Dennis Prager, the founder of the Prager University series of videos, notes that the structure of the Ten Commandments follows what Jesus taught:
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
You shall not kill.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.
The Ten Commandments begins with our duties to God and ends with our duties to our fellow men.
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.
A fascinating video from Prager University with Jonah Goldberg noting that liberals tend to use social justice as a catch phrase to pursue a new program by government. In that context the phrase has little meaning with as little substance as saying “I support policy A and policy A is “good”.”
Prager University explains why our present system of taxation and fairness are not on speaking terms. My bride has described a possible sequel to this video:
SEQUEL (Suggested by Don’s wife Cathy): Harry sells his house and moves out of the cul-de-sac, leaving Tom & Dick to fend for themselves (& argue with the much-less-“brotherly” new neighbor) in regard to any future neighborhood improvements — and the cul-de-sac is renamed “Detroit.”
We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark.
Harry Truman, Diary entry-July 25, 1945
A bit late for the annual Saint Blog’s August Bomb Follies, but here is a new Prager University video by Father Wilson Miscamble defending Harry Truman’s decision to use the atomic bombs to bring World War II to a rapid conclusion. I will repeat here what I wrote back on July 24, 2012 after Father Miscamble made an earlier video on the subject:
Getting the annual Saint Blogs August Bomb Follies off to an early start. Father Wilson Miscamble, Professor of History at Notre Dame, and long a champion of the pro-life cause, defends the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the video above. The video is a summary of the conclusions reached by Father Miscamble in his recent book, The Most Controversial Decision. Go here to read a review of the book by British military historian Andrew Roberts. Go here to read a review of the book by Father Michael P. Orsi. Go here to read a review by Michael Novak.
I echo the conclusions of Father Wilson Miscamble and appreciate his heroic efforts to clear up the bad history and inane American self-flagellation that has distorted a very straight-forward historical event. I also appreciate his willingness to take the heat that his position has caused him. Go here to read his response to a critique by Professor Christopher Tollefsen. This portion of his response is something I have noted in regard to many critics of Truman, an unwillingness to address the consequences of not dropping the bombs:
It is when one turns to alternate courses of action that the abstract nature of Tollefsen’s criticisms becomes apparent. He criticizes Truman’s actions as immoral but offers no serious proposal regarding a viable alternative. Elizabeth Anscombe had naively suggested that Truman alter the terms of surrender, but such an approach only would have strengthened the hand of the Japanese militarists and confirmed their suicidal strategy. Tollefsen concedes that “it might well be true that greater suffering would have resulted from a refusal to use the atomic weapons in Japan,” but he backs away from any genuine discussion of what Truman should have done and of what that “greater suffering” might have involved. He provides no evidence that he has considered this matter at all. But should philosophers be able to avoid outlining what they would have done in the demanding circumstances that Truman confronted? I have always thought that moral reflection wrestles with the awful and painful realities. Tollefsen seems to want to stand above the fray, to pronounce Truman’s actions as deeply immoral and to leave it at that. It would have brought greater clarity to this discussion if he had confronted the alternatives seriously.
If Tollefsen were to engage the military issues involved in the war in the Pacific, I suspect he would be forced to raise further objections to the American military practices pursued well before the Enola Gay flew toward Hiroshima. Take as but one example the early 1945 Battle for Manila, in which approximately one hundred thousand Filipino civilians were killed. Some were killed by the Japanese, but many of this large number were killed by aggressive American air and artillery bombardments used, without particular regard for civilian casualties, as the American forces sought to dislodge an established enemy that refused to surrender. These harsh tactics could not meet Tollefsen’s criteria with regard to means. Given his unbending approach on moral absolutes, I assume he would condemn the action; but just what military means would he support in trying to defeat a foe that considered surrender the ultimate disgrace and who fought accordingly? Similarly, Tollefsen could hardly approve of the military force utilized in the taking of Okinawa and the high number of civilian casualties that resulted.
I suspect that Professor Tollefsen would be willing to say that it would be better to do absolutely nothing and to live with the consequences, if I may use that word, than to use morally questionable tactics. But the decision not to act undoubtedly would have incurred terrible consequences. Surely such inaction would carry some burden of responsibility for the prolongation of the killing of innocents throughout Asia, in the charnel house of the Japanese Empire. Is it really “moral” to stand aside, maintaining one’s supposed moral purity, while a vast slaughter is occurring at the rate of over two hundred thousand deaths a month? Isn’t there a terrible dilemma here, namely, which innocent lives to save? Would Tollefsen really have rested at peace with the long-term Japanese domination of Asia? Would that be a pro-life position?
Let me confess that I would prefer that my position had the clarity of Professor Tollefsen’s. It is a large concession to admit that Truman’s action was the “least evil.” Arguing that it was the least-harmful option open to him will hardly be persuasive to those who see everything in a sharp black-and-white focus. Yet this is how I see it. If someone can present to me a viable and more “moral way” to have defeated the Japanese and ended World War II, I will change my position. I suppose my position here has some resonance with my support for the policy of deterrence during the Cold War. I could recognize the moral flaws in the strategy but still I found it the best of the available options, and the alternatives were markedly worse. Interestingly, I think the author of Veritatis Splendor thought the same thing and he conveyed that view to the American bishops as they wrote their peace pastoral letter.
I trust that my pro-life credentials will not be questioned because I refuse to denounce Truman as a “mass-murderer.” Unlike Tollefsen, I do not think that my position initiates the unraveling of the entire pro-life garment. I believe Truman pursued the least-harmful course of action available to him to end a ghastly war, a course that resulted in the least loss of life.
Harry Truman knew that if he ordered the dropping of the bombs, a very large number of Japanese civilians would be killed. He also knew that if he did not drop the bombs it was virtually certain that a far larger number of civilians, Allied, in territory occupied by Japan, as well as Japanese, would be killed, as a result of the war grinding on until the war ceased due to an invasion of Japan, continued massive conventional bombing of Japan, or a continuation of the blockade which would result in mass famine in Japan. He also knew that an invasion of Japan would have led to massive, almost unthinkable, US military casualties, to add to the 416,000 US deaths and 670,000 US wounded that World War II had already cost. The morality of Truman’s dropping of the bombs has been a subject of debate since 1945. Comparatively little attention has been paid to the practical and moral consequences of Truman failing to act. Father Miscamble is to be congratulated for examining this facet of Truman’s Dilemma.
When the flush of a newborn sun fell first on Eden’s green and gold, Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mold; And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart, Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves: “It’s pretty, but is it Art?” Wherefore he called to his wife and fled to fashion his work anew— The first of his race who cared a fig for the first, most dread review; And he left his lore to the use of his sons—and that was a glorious gain When the Devil chuckled: “Is it Art?” in the ear of the branded Cain. They builded a tower to shiver the sky and wrench the stars apart, Till the Devil grunted behind the bricks: “It’s striking, but is it Art?” The stone was dropped by the quarry-side, and the idle derrick swung, While each man talked of the aims of art, and each in an alien tongue. They fought and they talked in the north and the south, they talked and they fought in the west, Till the waters rose on the jabbering land, and the poor Red Clay had rest— Had rest till the dank blank-canvas dawn when the dove was preened to start, And the Devil bubbled below the keel: “It’s human, but is it Art?” The tale is old as the Eden Tree—as new as the new-cut tooth— For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows he is master of Art and Truth; And each man hears as the twilight nears, to the beat of his dying heart, The Devil drum on the darkened pane: “You did it, but was it Art?” We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree to the shape of a surplice-peg, We have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yolk of an addled egg, We know that the tail must wag the dog, as the horse is drawn by the cart; But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: “It’s clever, but is it Art?” When the flicker of London’s sun falls faint on the club-room’s green and gold, The sons of Adam sit them down and scratch with their pens in the mold— They scratch with their pens in the mold of their graves, and the ink and the anguish start When the Devil mutters behind the leaves: “It’s pretty, but is it art?” Now, if we could win to the Eden Tree where the four great rivers flow, And the wreath of Eve is red on the turf as she left it long ago, And if we could come when the sentry slept, and softly scurry through, By the favor of God we might know as much—as our father Adam knew.
Jonah Goldberg for Prager University asks and answers what is social justice. I agree with him that social justice usually in practice ends up with thieves employed by the government taking property from A, keeping a substantial cut, and throwing the much reduced remainder at favored B and C. This poorly thought out Robin Hood theology is at the basis of the manifestly failing welfare states today. It is the antithesis of the voluntary charity called for by Christ in the tale of the Good Samaritan and it is beyond shameful that powerful people within the Church still think that the State is the preferred medium for social justice. For those completely destitute and unable to work through no fault of their own, State support is a last resort necessity. Where the welfare state ideology, masquerading as social justice, has gone astray is in taking a last resort and always making it a first resort, with disastrous consequences that are obvious to all, and completely ignored by those who ever bleat “social justice” and usually mean “state control”.
Dennis Prager , in this episode of his Prager University series of videos, takes on an ever popular heresy: evil is irrational. This heresy is popular for any number of reasons but doubtless it all boils down to the belief, completely unfounded in human experience, that reasonable people will agree on what is good and what is evil. The experience of the last half century in the West should have knocked that bit of foolishness into a cocked hat. Agreement on good and evil in practice is largely a matter of convention. If the social norms of a people come under challenge, we quickly see apparently reasonable people disagreeing on such fundamental questions as whether an unborn child has a right to life, or whether sex outside of marriage is evil.
As superb look at suffering by Dr. Peter Kreeft, courtesy of Prager University. I agree with his division of suffering into what Man causes through our actions, wars are a classic example, and suffering caused by nature, the type of suffering caused by the seizure that took the life of my son Larry on May 19, 2013. He is also correct that when we cry out against such suffering inflicted by nature we are appealing to a standard that presupposes a God, since nature cares not a whit about human suffering or the lack thereof. It is only by belief in God that the scales of what occurs to us in this brief life are ever balanced. To us death is often regarded as the greatest of evils. To God physical death is merely our gateway to Him. CS Lewis captured this perfectly in Letter 28 of his Screwtape Letters:
They, of course, do tend to regard death as the prime evil and survival as the greatest good. But that is because we have taught them to do so. Do not let us be infected by our own propaganda. I know it seems strange that your chief aim at the moment should be the very same thing for which the patient’s lover and his mother are praying – namely his bodily safety. But so it is; you should be guarding him like the apple of your eye. If he dies now, you lose him. If he survives the war, there is always hope. The Enemy has guarded him from you through the first great wave of temptations. But, if only he can be kept alive, you have time itself for your ally. The long, dull monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere. The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it – all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition. If, on the other hand, the middle years prove prosperous, our position is even stronger. Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is “finding his place in it”, while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth which is just what we want. You will notice that the young are generally less unwilling to die than the middle-aged and the old.
The truth is that the Enemy, having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else. That is why we must often wish long life to our patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of unravelling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the earth. While they are young we find them always shooting off at a tangent. Even if we contrive to keep them ignorant of explicit religion, the incalculable winds of fantasy and music and poetry – the mere face of a girl, the song of a bird, or the sight of a horizon – are always blowing our whole structure away. They will not apply themselves steadily to worldly advancement, prudent connections, and the policy of safety first. So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics or eugenics or “science” or psychology, or what not. Real worldliness is a work of time – assisted, of course, by pride, for we teach them to describe the creeping death as good sense or Maturity or Experience. Experience, in the peculiar sense we teach them to give it, is, by the bye, a most useful word. A great human philosopher nearly let our secret out when he said that where Virtue is concerned “Experience is the mother of illusion”; but thanks to a change in Fashion, and also, of course, to the Historical Point of View, we have largely rendered his book innocuous.