Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why Keepeth Thee Thy Head?

[Longtime Penn State linebacker coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted last week of 45 counts of sexually abusing boys and will be sentenced this fall. 

One of the main prosecution witnesses was former assistant coach Mike McQueary, who late one night happened upon Sandusky and a youngster in the university showers.  Rather than intervening, he reported the incident to his father – and to head coach Paterno the following day.

Pennsylvania has the death penalty, but there is no indication that Sandusky is a candidate.  The most recent execution in the state was in 1999.

Here is Dr. Pence's reaction to the Sandusky trial.]

    Holiness is not simply knowing God, but desiring Him. Whetting the desire of a weakened will is for many men a more arduous task than enlightening the darkened intellect. Love of God depends on training our emotions as well as ordering our intellects.

   So, too, in our response to evil. Watch the predator Sandusky – see how he lies. Hear the screams of his victims – see how they suffer.
   Do not be sad. That will not do. Judas “was remorseful.” Be angry.

   The demon angel betrayed the Trinity’s plan for love. Do not be bewildered by the mystery of evil. Be angry with the Dragon, who is the Father of Lies and a murderer from the beginning. He must be cast out – permanently. If you have no anger to embolden your reason, you will never dare face such a terrifying enemy.

   Those given over to diabolical acts must taste the righteous anger of legitimate authority, or in justice they will taste the righteous anger of offended men and their kin.

   The State was given a sword for a reason. “Two swords are enough,” said Christ. So Peter was to sheath his sword, but not the State. Christ did not doubt the authority of Pilate. He confirmed: “You would have no power at all against me unless it was given you from above.”

   Watch the predator – smell the wolf. He will not strike the man, but a screaming boy in the shower. The boy looked in vain for a shepherd man to step between him and the wolf.
   But finally the rapist is captured and found guilty, though the echo of the screams still reverberates – awaiting a just ruler who will carry out sufficient punishment.

   The man at the scene of the crime did not have the athlete’s instinctual traits of character that would have moved him, as an act of habit, between the rapist and his victim. The State in the courtroom of the righteous verdict brings no instrument for justice that can match the terror of the crime. Better that states define a crime as capital, and bear a sword raised in deliberation to focus a criminal for a last act of repentance (for he too is a man, not the Devil). But the slow raising and rapid falling of the sword is not principally for rehabilitation or deterrence. It is an act of imperfect, though partial, justice.

   Ten men – once boys – were found to testify. They did their part inside the law, and now they ask the State to shed the blood they have forsworn. The jury, too, did its duty and rendered a verdict on the feast of Saint Thomas More. That noble Catholic and Englishman lost his head unjustly; but he too, like his Savior, never questioned the deadly ‘potens’ of communal authority. Every earthly pleasure that Jerry Sandusky enjoys will mock the maimed souls of his accusers. It is not the moral superiority of our age that feeds and pampers Jerry Sandusky. It is effeminate decadence that lets him keep his head. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The duty of our first patriarch in regard to the fallen angels

"The original mission of Adam and his sons was to conquer the earth in the face of Satan – to restore the Living to the household of the Father."         

Five small colonial ducks in a row

During the era of the great European overseas empires, the NE coast of South America had a string of “Guianas” [click on map to enlarge]: Spanish, British, Dutch, French, and Portuguese.

The Spanish colony is now part of Venezuela; the British is Guyana (capital is Georgetown); Dutch is Suriname; next is French Guiana; and the Portuguese colony is part of Brazil.

Guyana and Suriname are both sovereign states.  French Guiana (the least populous of the trio: less than a quarter million) remains an overseas region of France -- and also, since 1968, has acted as its spaceport, being close to the equator and the ocean.

[Until the 1950s it had also been famous for 'Ile du Diable' -- Devil's Island -- which housed political prisoners].

The bishop who was laicized in the run-up to his (unsuccessful) presidency of Paraguay

Yesterday I read the latest on the nation known as ‘Corazon de America’ (Paraguay being situated in the heart of the continent).

Fernando Lugo, the erstwhile Catholic bishop, was impeached and ousted as president.  His election four years ago ended more than six decades of rule by the right-wing Colorado Party.  One of his goals was better land distribution.

Other nations in South America, nervous about any democratic toppling of governments, have now pulled their ambassadors from Paraguay; and Venezuela has threatened to cut off oil supplies.

With Paraguay’s population at about 6 ½ million, the two largest cities are the capital Asuncion and Ciudad del Este. 

Aside from Spanish, which language is understood by 90 percent of the citizens?  Guarani.

[The article also touches on General Stroessner, the dictator from 1954 until 1989 when he fled to Brazil to live out the rest of his life.  Decades earlier, his German father (a brewery accountant) had emigrated and married a wealthy Paraguayan].

UPDATE:  Our former ambassador to Paraguay, mentioned in the article as having released an album of Guarani folks songs, is now serving as the mayor of Coral Gables (home of the University of Miami).

They don’t have a clue they’re trampling on Atticus Finch

Peter Robinson, who was a speechwriter for President Reagan, commented on Professor Elizabeth Warren reveling in her blood ties:  
"To Kill A Mockingbird, I think, is still required reading in high schools across the country.  And who is the great hero of [the novel]?  Atticus Finch, who is struggling against identifying people on the basis of race.  And we know that one of the things that was so pernicious about racism in the South was the ‘one-drop’ rule.
   "At some level, doesn’t it just drive you to a kind of despair to think that Harvard University publicized the notion that Elizabeth Warren was 1/32 Cherokee?  That is a transmission of values from the scorned small-town Old South to Harvard University in un-transmuted form.  It is simply picking it up from here and dropping it down over there… It’s madness!”

LBJ and Bobby Kennedy were like two scorpions in a bottle

Several years ago I glanced at a couple of the earlier volumes in Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson, and found the narrative fair to good… but his most recent, The Passage of Power (which is number 4 of a proposed five), is mesmerizing throughout.

Covering Johnson’s frustrating stint as subdued “second fiddle” – his three years in the vice-presidential desert – and then his ascension after JFK’s assassination, the tale keeps returning to the long hatred between Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson: “the greatest blood feud of American politics in the 20th century.”

The book carries us to LBJ's landslide election over Barry Goldwater.  The next volume, of course, will include all the crazy events of 1968: Johnson squeaking out a victory over Gene McCarthy in the New Hampshire primary, RFK's opportunistic decision to throw his hat in the ring four days later, and the withdrawal from the field by the President (who, throughout his electoral career, had an outsized fear of losing and "humiliation") a fortnight later.

For the best-written review, check out Garry Wills.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Some basic facts about the world that our eternal God created for us

Dr. Pence says every man should have a rough timeline in his head:

Our universe is 14 billion years old.

The earth is 4.5 billion years old.

Bacteria appeared 3.8 billion years ago – and for almost two billion years, they were the only form of material life!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"Bishops seem to think that anger at sin is un-Christian"

Any bishop worth his salt is always striving to elevate his fraternity of priests to become “men in full.”  A true spiritual father is vigilant, as well, about preserving any part of the Church’s rich patrimony that is being slighted.

Having come across an essay that Leon Podles wrote three years ago, I can only wonder why the “Touchstone” magazine editor – with his refusal to go along with our generation’s willful ignorance about Thomas Aquinas’ view of anger – is not being called daily by American bishops, asking him to come and address his priestly troops.

Even a man with such a towering legacy as Joe Paterno – who had been molded by the Jesuits at Brooklyn Prep – came to the end of his life knowing in his heart that he had not gotten angry enough at the evil of sin.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"[T]he child who yesterday possessed / A country welcomer than this" (Randall Jarrell)

The best geography blog has posted a list of the ten countries with the greatest number of fleeing refugees – with Afghanistan at the top.  The only nation in the Americas among them is Colombia (many of its people have fled into Ecuador).

The most populous country in South America after Brazil is Colombia -- more than 46 million.
Its three largest cities are Bogota (known as the “Athens of South America” for its many universities and libraries); Medellin; and Cali.

No country in the world has more internal refugees – known as “internally displaced people” – than Colombia.

What is causing all the trouble?  The government of Colombia has been fighting Marxist guerillas since the 1960s… plus there has been the upheaval of massive floods in recent years.  The revolutionaries, known as FARC, make millions off of drug trafficking and they hold hundreds of hostages. 
(Four years ago the government forces were able to liberate 15 hostages, including the French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and several American defense contractors after long captivities).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Authority: a Harvard case study

Roberto Unger, a Brazilian philosopher and political activist, was one of Barack Obama’s professors in law school.  He was an informal adviser for the Obama campaign four years ago.  But now Mr. Unger, frustrated that the president hasn't shown more progressive backbone, has publicized his desire to see him defeated in November.

The following anecdote confirms that even Huckleberry Finn had a more nuanced understanding of authority than a broad swath of our society’s best and brightest:
"In 1976, at 29 years old, Unger became one of the youngest faculty members to receive tenure from the Harvard Law School. In that same year, he also won a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship. Although appointed to the faculty of law, Unger often taught courses in social theory and philosophy. For his class ‘Aquinas, Kant, and Hegel’ the dean once asked him to append ‘and the law.’  Unger recalled that, 'I said no because of the code of honor that kept me from saying yes to a figure in authority. … And he just laughed and shrugged his shoulders, and that was that. Basically no Harvard Law School dean since then has ever asked me for anything.' "


Yell bloody murder in the public square or “punch Jerry out”

If there’s one lesson from the Sandusky trial – and the countless other sex-abuse tragedies that have come to light in recent years – is that passivity allows a widening circle of lives to be destroyed.

Maybe Cicero (d. 43 BC), in his comments on politics, was onto something broader:

"Sometimes if you find yourself stuck in politics, the thing to do is start a fight – start a fight, even if you do not know how you are going to win it, because it is only when a fight is on, and everything is in motion, that you can hope to see your way through."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Toss out sex roles and “all you’ve got left is a blob”

Joseph Campbell – with the help of Bill Moyers (who was ordained as a Baptist pastor in the 1950s) – led many people astray with his “follow your bliss” mythology and his trashing of monotheism and the Bible.

There was one area, however, where Campbell (who died in 1987) stayed tethered to commonsense tradition:

"Women are losing the appreciation for their own domestic life… They are turning it all over to the state and the schools… We have unisex barbershops.  It’s ridiculous because the whole energy of life depends on polarity and when you give that up all you’ve got left is a blob."

Friday, June 15, 2012

China forced to apologize for shameful treatment of mother

Violently subjecting a young mother -- seven months into her pregnancy -- to an abortion has brought condemnation on the Chinese government.  The article also gives some background on the role that recently exiled dissident Chen Guangcheng (pictured with his wife and son) has played in protesting the one-child policy with its train of abuses.

Some Democratic feminists in our country are ramping up their bizarre rhetoric, as they hope to incite a new pride in women who have aborted their children. 

("In his Aug. 29, 1996, speech to the Democratic National Convention, President Bill Clinton said ‘abortion should not only be safe and legal, it should be rare. That's why I helped establish and support a national effort to reduce out-of-wedlock teen pregnancy, and that is why we must promote adoption.’ The convention attendees responded with enthusiastic applause.")

Women saints who called men to act like men

Catherine of Siena (14th century) chastised the Pope to quit Avignon and return to Rome; and Joan of Arc, in the following century, stirred the men of France to finally show some backbone in defending “la patria.”

There is a fascinating section in the autobiography of Saint Therese of Lisieux where she recounts her stint as novice mistress in the Carmelite convent.  She saw the absolute necessity for sometimes employing a ‘cold face’:
"I have said that I learned a lot by teaching others.  I discovered that every soul has almost the same difficulties and that there is yet a vast difference between individual souls – a difference which means that each one must be dealt with differently.  There are some with whom I must make myself small and show myself willing to be humiliated by confessing my own struggles and defeats, for then they themselves easily confess their own faults and are pleased that I understand them through my own experience.  To be successful with others, firmness is necessary.  I must never go back on what I have said, and to humiliate myself would be regarded as weakness.
"God has given me the grace of having no fear of a fight.  I will do my duty at any cost."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A sophomore’s credo on his bumper

This morning, while stopped at a red light, a college kid pulled into the traffic lane next to me.  As he accelerated, I noticed his bumper sticker: “Subvert the dominant paradigm.”

The prose from our over-educated elites is frustrating… but not nearly so much as witnessing the lock-step fealty on campus to orthodox liberalism.

A few years back, the ‘Chronicle of Higher Education’ reported on a study that found about 80 percent of college faculty voted for John Kerry in his presidential bid of 2004.  The president of Harvard at the time, Lawrence Summers, remarked that no social science teacher at a PhD-granting institution admitted voting for President Bush that year: “There is an overwhelming tilt toward the progressive side.”

UPDATE:   David Brooks does a superb job of explaining why eternal rebellion and semi-anarchy is a dead-end.  Our generation -- deeply cynical about just authority -- has gone too long without thinking "properly about how power should be used to bind and build."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Flat-out fratricide

In the early 1990s Jesse Jackson addressed a group of black government workers: “We talked 30 years ago about genocide.  It’s now fratricide.  At this point, the Klan is not nearly the threat that your next-door neighbors are.”

Dinesh D’Souza has plenty of captivating material in The End of Racism.  He reminds us that, back when John Kennedy was elected president, almost 80 percent of black families were headed by married couples.

The ever-moderate Spike Lee is quoted as ripping a senior black official in the Bush Sr. administration who pushed race-neutral scholarships: “[He’s an Uncle Tom who should be] dragged into the alley and beaten with a Louisville slugger.”

But the reason I picked up D'Souza's book was to check out the chapter on the chasm between the philosophies of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois (the first black to receive a postgraduate Harvard degree).  Du Bois dismissed the proponent of industrial education and personal discipline as the original Uncle Tom!

Booker Washington knew that political agitation would not save the black man:
"Back of the ballot, he must have property, industry, skill, economy, intelligence and character.  No race without these elements can permanently succeed… Whether he will or not, a white man respects a Negro who owns a two-story brick house."
[Picture in your mind the thousands of white customers over the decades who harbored disdain for the "yellow race" – who, nevertheless, chose to walk into Chinese take-out restaurants and pull greenbacks out of their wallet.]

D’Souza says that Du Bois – who spoke French and German, and sported gloves and a cane – was an unabashed elitist: “The Negro race is going to be saved by its exceptional men.”  But even he, at times, had to admit the obvious:
"A little less complaint and whining, and a little more dogged work and manly striving, would do us more credit than a thousand civil rights bills."
Though it hasn’t worked out very well in practice, Du Bois was convinced that “the rights we are clamoring for are those that will enable us to do our duties.”

Booker Washington wanted to transcend the identification with race; Du Bois embraced it.  Both men "emphasized the impediments of white racism, [but] Washington also considered the defects of black culture."

The chapter ends with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
"We must not let the fact that we are the victims of injustice lull us into abrogating responsibility for our own lives.  We must not use our oppression as an excuse for mediocrity and laziness.  Our crime rate is far too high.  Our level of cleanliness is frequently far too low.  We are too often loud and boisterous, and spend far too much on drink.  By improving our standards here and now, we will go a long way toward breaking down the arguments of the segregationist… The Negro will only be free when he reaches down to the inner depths of his own being and signs with the pen and ink of assertive manhood his own emancipation proclamation."

[To find out which state leads the nation in black-on-black murders, go here.]