The Poetry of War, Part VI

An Occasional Series — Previous Installments:   I   II   III   IV   V

Wilfred Owen: The News of All the Nations

One of Wilfred Owen’s gifts was the ability to turn from the overwhelming horror of the moment and look beyond the nightmare of the Western Front to higher things. A great inspiration for him was the comeradeship of men in the trenches. The idealism of 1914 was gone, bitter anger and resignation had set in, and still these men were fierce in their devotion to their “mates”. The war was viewed as a monstrous insanity; yet each man would kill — and die — for the man next to him in the line.

Owen contemplates this devotion in the following sonnet (an “identity disc” is what we would call “dog tags”):

     Sonnet to my Friend
(With an Identity Disc)
If ever I had dreamed of my dead name
High in the heart of London, unsurpassed
By Time for ever, and the Fugitive, Fame,
There seeking a long sanctuary at last, —
Or if I onetime hoped to hide its shame,
— Shame of success, and sorrow of defeats, —
Under those holy cypresses, the same
That shade always the quiet place of Keats,
Now rather thank I God there is no risk
Of gravers scoring it with florid screed.
Let my inscription be this soldier’s disc.
Wear it, sweet friend. Inscribe no date nor deed.
But may thy heart-beat kiss it, night and day,
Until the name grow blurred and fade away.

Owen is looking here to the larger world, and does not seem to think it likely that he will survive to re-enter it. As it turned out, of course, his name was indeed unsurpassed among the poets of the Great War, though it was unknown in his own lifetime.

The larger world — the world that soldiers visited on leave, that they hoped one day to rejoin, that seemed so strange and irrelevant to the hell they lived in — was to be changed forever by the Great War. People went about their routines, children went to school, business was transacted, fortunes were made and lost, but an age had ended and a new one was about to begin.

There are intimations of this ominous new time in the following poem:

     Six o’clock in Princes Street
In twos and threes, they have not far to roam,
      Crowds that thread eastward, gay of eyes;
Those seek no further than their quiet home,
      Wives, walking westward, slow and wise.
Neither should I go fooling over clouds,
      Following gleams unsafe, untrue,
And tiring after beauty through star-crowds,
      Dared I go side by side with you;
Or be you in the gutter where you stand,
      Pale rain-flawed phantom of the place,
With news of all the nations in your hand,
      And all their sorrows in your face.

When the war ended, the “news of all the nations” continued. Revolution, social chaos, financial ruin, dictatorship, and, of course, another war — these were the shape of things to come.

The next post in this series will return to some of the other war poets.

Hawaiian Independence and Other Topics of Interest

I recently came across a new blog, the World History Blog. Since I am a history addict, it caught my eye, with numerous posts on any historical topic you can imagine. It is maintained by Miland Brown, but beyond that I have no information, since his profile is not available, and he does not allow comments.

Today’s post is on Hawaiian independence. Apparently there are groups that think the statehood of Hawaii is bogus, and do not believe that the United States has legal claim to the state. After discussing the details of the issue, Miland says:

     All the rest of the stuff that comes from these Hawaiian Independence sites is based on the flawed logic that Hawaii is currently undergoing occupation by the USA and that the Kingdom of Hawaii still legally exists! This logic then leads these sites to argue that Hawaii should be allowed to secede from the USA (or in their words restored) without a vote of the people of Hawaii. Further, any one without the correct DNA (the majority of Hawaiians!) would be denied a vote as only Hawaiians with ancestors who were citizens under the Hawaiian Kingdom would be allowed to vote in the new government. That is a cause that is assured to go nowhere. Can you really see world opinion swinging in favor of the disenfranchisement of the majority of Hawaiian citizens? Grandfather clauses are so post-Civil War American South…
The US Congress apologized for any past injustice in Hawaii in 1993. This was a political move to shore up support amongst Democratic voters. It may have helped in Hawaii but the Democrats lost control of both houses of Congress in the 2004 election anyway. This resolution has no legal force of law and is merely a PR act equivalent to the state of New Jersey declaring April 4th State Cherry Pie Day. Yet, the separatists always point to it as some great proof that Hawaii is not American…
The final argument is this. If the USA does not legally own Hawaii, why haven’t the majority of people heard of this before? If the Hawaiian vote of 1958 was interpreted illegally by the UN, why didn’t the Soviet Union veto it? They were pretty good at doing their best at making the USA look bad. Why haven’t current American antagonist made an issue of this? China hasn’t even when they are critiqued about Tibet. Cuba, Iran, North Korea are silent on this point. If Hawaii is not American and there was any legal case internationally to be made of this, don’t you think the UN, the World Court, and the international media would be all over this? The deafening silence you hear tells you exactly what the world community believes about Hawaii and the USA.
This issue will probably go away in another century or so. Nature being what it is most Hawaiians will eventually have DNA from both the original Hawaiians and the “occupiers” by then. It would be pretty dead now if it were not for the Internet and the ability of every fringe group to have their message heard on the Web. As it is, it will probably provide another generation or two of radicals the opportunity to confuse the public and be paid speakers on the university anti-American circuit.

An interesting topic in an interesting blog. History buffs should drop by the World History Blog.

The Poetry of War, Part V

An Occasional Series — Previous Installments:   I    II    III    IV

Wilfred Owen: The Pity of War

I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity. Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense conciliatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful. — Wilfred Owen

The young men dropped into the crucible of the Western Front emerged from it transformed, if indeed they emerged from it at all. The horrors of the trenches were of such magnitude and scope that any aesthetic sensibility could not help but be altered.

Before the war took its toll on him, Wilfred Owen was a promising young poet, albeit one practicing unremarkable variations on conventional themes in traditional forms. Consider the following poem:

     My Shy Hand
My shy hand shades a hermitage apart, –
      O large enough for thee, and thy brief hours.
Life there is sweeter held than in God’s heart,
      Stiller than in the heavens of hollow flowers.
The wine is gladder there than in gold bowls.
      And Time shall not drain thence, nor trouble spill.
Sources between my fingers feed all souls,
      Where thou mayest cool thy lips, and draw thy fill.
Five cushions hath my hand, for reveries;
      And one deep pillow for thy brow’s fatigues;
Languor of June all winterlong, and ease
      For ever from the vain untravelled leagues.

This is a pleasing and competently executed effort, but one that would hardly have been noted if it were all that Owen had ever offered us. But, just a short while later, we have this, which could have been written by an entirely different poet:

     Dulce et Decorum Est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under I green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, —
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori

“Dulce et Decorum Est” (the Latin inscription means “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”) is Owen’s best-known work, and one of his most powerful, condensing into a few lines all the horror and insanity of the Great War. It is widely viewed as the prototype of all anti-war verse, as if Owen were to be given an honorary posthumous membership in international ANSWER.

But to view Owen’s poetry in this light is to engage in “Presentism”, to apply the standards of the present to a past in which they are not appropriate. It is a failure to understand the context of the times. Modern Western culture is already so unthinkingly saturated with the sensibilities created by the Great War and its aftermath that it is difficult for us to reclaim even the ghost of that lost world of 1914.

The intelligent and thoughtful young men who were confronted with the monstrosity of the war at first reacted with horror and indignation. Later, as the horror became their daily routine, these were replaced with cynicism, bitterness, resignation, despair, and above all pity, both for themselves and for the comrades whose death and suffering confronted them daily. One of Owen’s late poems reflects these responses:

Under his helmet, up against his pack,
After the many days of work and waking,
Sleep took him by the brow and laid him back.
And in the happy no-time of his sleeping,
Death took him by the heart. There was a quaking
Of the aborted life within him leaping…
Then chest and sleepy arms once more fell slack.
And soon the slow, stray blood came creeping
From the intrusive lead, like ants on track.
*          *          *
Whether his deeper sleep lie shaded by the shaking
Of great wings, and the thoughts that hung the stars,
High pillowed on calm pillows of God’s making
Above these clouds, these rains, these sleets of lead,
And these winds’ scimitars;
— Or whether yet his thin and sodden head
Confuses more and more with the low mould,
His hair being one with the grey grass
And finished fields of autumns that are old…
Who knows? Who hopes? Who troubles? Let it pass!
He sleeps. He sleeps tremulous, less cold
Than we who must awake, and waking, say Alas!

Concern for comrades, indignation at the futility of it all, disdain for those in world outside who cannot possibly understand: these are the typical responses of the wartime poet. Antiwar sentiment as an active political force did not emerge until well after the war, when Soviet backing and the political climate of the time channelled the revulsion for the war into pacifism.

But the men in the trenches of the Great War did not react to their situation as a political one. After all, unless you were a Socialist Revolutionary, the available political options of the day did not offer you any viable alternative, since all had led to the same inferno in the trenches.

To view the Great War poems politically is to diminish them; they were much more important than that.

My next post in this series will conclude the examination of Wilfred Owen’s poetry.

A Dublin Blogger

Mark Humphrys, that rara avis — a libertarian and pro-American Irish blogger* — has some good links and information on democide, which he defines as a government’s murder of its people, whether it be for politics, race, or simply mass murder as a method of control.

Here’s an example: according to Mark’s figures, the Shah of Iran, while ruling from 1954 to 1979, was responsible for the deaths of sixteen thousand people. Since taking over the country the Islamic Republic has gone on to kill perhaps one hundred thousand Iranians. As he says, this is reminiscent of the Bolshevik “liberation” of Russia. With government leaders like these, who needs homicidal maniacs?

Mark links to Freedom’s Nest, a libertarian website where you can find Rudolph Rummel’s figures on annihilation in the twentieth century, broken down by either regimes or by country. Of particular interest are the numbers killed by the Soviet Union and by China. As is well-known, Stalin deliberately starved 6,000,000 people in Ukraine, while the world (and the New York Times) looked on. In the 1960’s, however, the Chinese created a famine by ineptitude and bad theory, (mis)managing to starve 27,000,000 of its citizens. Is is better to be starved to death by deliberate misdeed or by miscalculation?

Here are Rummel’s total figures for democide in both countries:

Soviet Union: 62,000,000
Communist China: 65,000,000 (including famine victims).

But wait. Mr. Rummel has another 110,000,000 for China:

     Additionally, there is the difficult question of involuntary abortion, of children desired by the parents, at the behest of the state or its agents. Whether the killing of a foetus is murder, and if not, whether it becomes murder when done against the mother’s will, is the problem. It is not clear if these abortions should be included in the democide totals.
But one may consider that Chinese abortions are often administered by allowing the mother to go through labor, then crushing the child’s skull with forceps as it is being born. This seems quite a bit like murder. Additionally, there have been numerous reports of infants being murdered following birth. Infanticide is not the official policy of Communist China. It is, however, the actual policy, official denials not withstanding.
The number of deaths resulting from coerced abortions and infanticide since 1971 is estimated at over 110 million, making this perhaps the greatest crime in all of history.

And so, in yet another round of unintended consequences, China is facing the same steep demographic decline that is coming to haunt much of the West. Our children’s children will be forced to live with the plague of all this social engineering. Do you think their curses will ring back down to years to us, their forebears, for being so stunningly arrogant, so stupidly blind?

Somehow, I don’t think there will be anyone left to pray us into Heaven.

*see Mark’s distinction between what he does and what a blog does. He’s been keeping up his site — blog or not — since 1995.

Fathers of Daughters

Father’s Day is a pale feast compared to what we do in May for mothers. That’s understandable since mothering roles have changed less than fathering has in the last generation. The daddy template is broken, or if not broken, certainly skewed and bent by stress. As the job has become more thankless and more easily taken from them, fewer daddies are to be found at their posts.

The easiest piece to see of this sad situation is the animus that the previous generation’s feminists have for men. Their anti-male bias has taken its toll on men, but it has not served women well either. Feminist politics are those of resentment and victimization. The younger generation of women coming along behind them are not eager to trap themselves in this ghetto where men are vilified and condescended to.

The most damaging thing the feminist movement did to women was to push fathers to the periphery. “I’d-rather-do-it-myself” was a mantra whose end result was not stronger, happier children. Long term studies of the children of divorce do not paint a pretty picture.

In contrast to this philosophy, I offer two anecdotal pieces of evidence of the importance of fathers for girls. We know they’re crucial for boys if they are to grow up able to strive and to maintain themselves in the world as productive adults, able — as Freud said — to work, to love, and to play. Without Dad, some of that will wither. What about the girls, then?

Here are two stories that show what a woman can only accomplish with the help of her father. These are fathers who had to buck the culture to give their daughters what they needed. They are brave and courageous and anonymous men who deserve our attention on Father’s Day.

The first story appeared this week in the print edition of the Wall Street Journal. Neo-neocon reports the serendipitous appearance at her front door of a copy of the Journal which contained an article entitled “Married at 11, a Teen in Niger Returns to School,” with Roger Thurow’s byline. Neo-neocon relates the sad story she read of the young Muslim girls of the Southern Sahara who face several horrific problems directly related to gender.

The first is genital mutilation. The second is premature marriage at wholly inappropriate ages to men much older than they. These early marriages result in pregnancy in little bodies that are not yet ready to bear babies to term. When the babies are ready to be born they cannot easily leave a womb which has no room to let them pass. The result is protracted labor in which long days of pressure on the walls of the uterus cause it to tear a hole between the uterus and vagina. The result is a fistula. The result is urinary incontinence and social ostracism for smelling so bad.

The girl under discussion here was sold by her father into marriage in exchange for a camel. Mr. Thurow gives us her story:

Anafghat Ayoub left school in third grade to get married. Her mother had died, leaving her goat-herder father with several daughters, of whom Anafghat was the oldest. After marrying, Anafghat’s husband left to find work in Libya, but not before impregnating his eleven year old wife. When the baby was ready to deliver, Anafghat’s body was not. She had been in labor for three days when her anxious father scraped together money from friends and relatives to get to the nearest maternity hospital. After traveling over sixty miles of rutted roads they were told the nurses couldn’t handle her delivery.

Mohamed Ayoub hired another car to get to Niamey — another forty dollars and another hundred miles away.

Eventually, the stillborn baby was delivered by forceps but the damage to Anafghat had been done. She had a fistula “the size of a baseball.” The doctors cured her infection, but they could do nothing for the fistula. Anafghat lived at the hospital for four months, waiting the arrival of volunteer American doctors who would be returning for their sixth visit to operate on little girls like her. In the end, a surgeon from Johns Hopkins performed the repair.

Now Anafghat is back in school. She lives at home with her father and sisters and will not be returning to her husband. She plans to go on with her education: while at the hospital she met a woman who is a medical student from Niger. Anafghat decided then and there that she would go on with her education and become like this woman.

Her father agreed with her plan and now all his daughters are with him, and all are in school. The future looks hopeful for this particular family because this particular father allowed his love for his daughter to transcend the limits of his life. The daughter he sold for a camel (which was later stolen) will be the jewel of his family and the way out for his other daughters.

Thousands of miles from Niger there is Mukhtar Mai. Gates of Vienna has devoted several posts to her situation — being gang-raped while her village laughed and danced, her efforts to bring her assailants to justice, her desire to make a better life for the children of her village, the outpouring of aid from around the world in response to her story of courage and determination, even in the face of death by her assailants and their defenders.

The opening chapters of her story are not that different from many tragedies for Muslim women. Shari’a law allows families to sacrifice women for debts of honor and she was thus designated by the village to stand in for a trumped-up charge against her brother. It was the middle chapter when she changed the story line. Instead of leaving to commit suicide as she was expected to do she was met on the road by her father, who covered her nakedness with a shawl and led her home. Through the following days of darkness it was her father and her imam who encouraged her to live, and then insisted that she file charges against her assailant.

And so it came to pass that instead of skulking off to die, Mukhtar Mai went to court. Her assailants were found guilty and she was awarded compensation. She took the money back to her village and opened two schools, one for boys and one for girls. She named the one for boys after her father.

Mukhtar MaiHer story isn’t over yet. President Pervez Musharraf won’t let her leave Pakistan because her story will bring shame on his country. But he is keeping her alive. And money has poured in from around the world, allowing her to bring electricity to her village and to fund other schools. None of this would have been possible without her father’s love and his courage to stand up to the powerful clan in his village who savaged his daughter. Can any of us imagine what it must have taken for this man to shield, protect, and urge his daughter on to justice?

These are stories of fathers that could not have been told about mothers. It is not that we don’t love our children. Of course we do. It is that we cannot provide the same things a father can, that a father must provide if he wants his daughter to grow strong and straight.

In this country, you can tell the girls with good fathers. They are at ease in the world and they are confident of finding their way. Unlike the fatherless ones, or the ones with absent or empty fathers, they do not have to live in a city of one. Having experienced being carried by the strong daddy who strode so easily past the white water places where she knows she could have gone under had it not been for him, the girl with the good father is free, freer than she could ever know.

If Only

Right Wing Nuthouse recently posted a moving look back at D-Day and the character of the American soldier which allowed us to pull victory out of a brutal and chaotic situation. From the perspective of sixty years, he looks back on that assault as the defining moment for the twentieth century, listing the many disasters which might have followed on the defeat of those soldiers hitting the beach.

In a house filled with amateur historians, the post sparked dinner table conversations that lasted for several days. Finally, the consensus came down to one incident, one date, that changed the course of the 20th century and set into play the events which were to dog the rest of our days, even down to the present.

Gavrilo PrincipThat moment, of course, is June 28, 1914. The incident is the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to Austro-Hungarian throne, by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo.

Princip was a member of an anarchist group, the Black Hand. He was one of three assassins (that lovely Arabic word), sent to Sarajevo when it was known the Archduke was to be there, invited to inspect Army maneuvers. All three of these anarchists had tuberculosis and figured they wouldn’t live long. They wanted their short lives to be useful and to that end set out for their date with destiny.

However, the prime minister of Serbia was told about the plot ahead of time and ordered the men arrested. His orders were ignored, and the men arrived in Sarajevo. If only the arrest orders had been carried out.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and SophieThe first attempt on Franz Ferdinand’s life was a grenade under the Archduke’s car as they drove from the train station to City Hall for the usual reception. However, the driver of the car saw this and managed to speed ahead, avoiding damage. Unfortunately, two people in the car following were seriously injured. Thus, after the reception the Archduke insisted on going to the hospital to see them.

It was decided that the Archduke should be escorted to the hospital on a route that bypassed the city. Unfortunately, no one told his driver. It was only as they were turning into Franz Josef Street that the Army general accompanying them noticed the mistake and had the driver back up. Guess who was at a café on the corner? Gavrilo Princip. Firing from only five feet away, how could he miss? He shot the Archduke in the jugular vein and the Archduke’s beloved wife, Sophie, in the abdomen. As he was struck, Franz Ferdinand begged Sophie to live. “Think of the children,” he implored.

The couple died at the governor’s residence. If only someone had told Franz Urban, the driver of the car, about the change in plans.

The cascade of events following their deaths was like a carefully placed set of dominoes. The players in this deadly game were as follows:

1. Princip was a Bosnian Serb. It was presumed that the machinations of Serbia were behind the assassination. Thus the demands and ultimata by Austria-Hungary were on Serbia. They sent an “expert” to collect evidence.
2. Serbia was bound to Russia by alliance and by ethnic ties.
3. Germany was bound by its alliance with Austria-Hungary.

Can you see the clouds gathering here? Can you see the dominoes beginning to tremble?

4. Austria-Hungary demanded apologies and cessation of anti-Austrian propaganda. They wanted cooperation from Serbia in their investigations. Meanwhile, Serbia stalled. This intestinal fortitude was encouraged by word from St. Petersburg that Russia would back them.
5. Now come Britain and France. Bound by a mutual alliance with Russia, the Triple Entente, they were obliged to come to Russia’s aid.
6. So began the mobilization: Britain readied the fleet, France mobilized.
7. Austria declared war on July 28th. Two days later, Russia mobilized, part of which was deployment on the German border.
8. The Germans made an ultimatum to Russia: cease and desist.

On July 29th, Germany proposed British neutrality. In return, the Germans would not annex Belgium or French territory. If only the British had agreed.

9. On August 1st, 1914 – less than six weeks after the Archduke’s death – Germany declared war on Russia.
And so the dominoes fell. From the invasion of Belgium to the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the losses were massive:

  Dead   Wounded
Britain   947,000   2,122,000
France   1,385,000   3,044,000
Russia   1,700,000   4,950,000
Italy   460,000   947,000
US   115,000   206,000
Germany   1,808,000   4,247,000
Austria-Hungary   1,200,000   3,620,000
Turkey   325,000   400,000

The direct and indirect costs of the war, estimated in the 1940’s, were about $332,000,000,000. That’s billions. In today’s dollars such numbers are incalculable.

The Great War of 1914-1918, the War to End All Wars, was the cultural equivalent of the Black Death. Its demographic deadliness lies in its victims: mostly fit young men. The war destroyed the “seed crop” of the next generation and divided our times into a Before and After, just as the Black Death had done for the 14th century.

But the numbers don’t tell it all. The most significant event triggered by Gavrilo Princip was not the Great War itself, but the Bolshevik Revolution, which ushered in the brief but deadly Age of Socialism. Socialism was in the air anyway, and would have taken its turn on the world’s stage. But the particularly virulent form midwifed by Lenin in the Soviet Union depended entirely on the immediate circumstances of the Great War.

In 1917, If only the German high command had not made the strategically brilliant move of sending Lenin to the Finland Station in a sealed train. If only if Russia had not suffered the particular reverses it did on the Eastern Front; if only the United States had entered the war earlier rather than later…If… if… if…

Timing was all, and timing led to the ascendancy of socialism. All the murderous totalitarian tyrannies of the 20th century — Fascist, Nazi, and Communist — were socialist in nature. One hundred million or more souls perished, directly or indirectly, as a result of socialism. Whether tortured and murdered in the camps, starved to death in deliberately engineered and accidental famines, or killed in the wars brought on by the dictators, the victims at the hands of the 20th century were, by and large, the victims of socialism.

Timing was all and timing allowed Gavrilo Princip his brief moment. Without that, there would have been no punitive Treaty of Versailles. Hitler would have remained a nobody. Lenin’s arrival in Russia would not have been so opportune, thus deflecting from their courses Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro and Guevara.

The 20th century began with Gavrilo Princip in June of 1914. It ended with Osama bin Laden in September of 2001. In Europe and all the territories of the Great War, socialism is on life-support. In America, a few ignorant souls call for its renewal.

Let us pray.

The Poetry of War, Part IV

An Occasional Series — Previous Installments:   I    II    III    

Wilfred Owen: The Ram of Pride

Of all the promising young lives cut short by the carnage on the Western Front in the Great War, none was more promising or more tragically snuffed out than that of Wilfred Owen. His poetic abilities were considerable, and came to full flower in the appalling conditions of the trenches. He was scarcely out of childhood when he took up arms in 1914, and was killed by a sniper in 1918 at the age of 25, just a week before the armistice, when the war was all but over. He spent his entire adult life as a soldier in the war, and his poetry is a reflection of it.

He is best known for bitter and angry poems like “Dulce et Decorum Est”, but his work displayed a wide range of topics, moods, and styles. Sometimes his verse was traditionally florid and romantic, a throwback to the previous century; at other times it was spare and modern. But his were poems of grace and power, and English poetry is worse off for having been denied his maturity.

When confronted with the monstrosity that was the Great War, the natural reaction was to rage against God. Owen uses a specific scriptural parable in the following poem, reversing the outcome of the narrative in order to have Abraham acting against his God:

     Parable of the Old Man and the Young
So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
and builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

What other explanation could be found, except for pride, that would compel the nations of Europe to continue the senseless slaughter?

The soldier at the front tended to identify with Christ, with the innocent suffering and death of the Messiah. Taking a different tack with “Soldier’s Dream”, Owen presents Christ as acting in opposition to God, in order to show mercy to the soldiers:

     Soldier’s Dream
I dreamed kind Jesus fouled the big-gun gears;
And caused a permanent stoppage in all bolts;
And buckled with a smile Mausers and Colts;
And rusted bayonet with His tears.
And there were no more bombs, of ours or Theirs,
Not even an old flint-lock, nor even a pikel.
But God was vexed, and gave all power to Michael;
And when I woke he’d seen to our repairs.

Both these poems project outrage at a war that could not be explained except as “the pleasure of this world’s Powers who’d run amok.” If such was the will of God, how else to respond except with a defiance of God?

Wilfred Owen’s poetry is too large a topic to be covered in a single post; there will be more on him later.

That Danged Book Meme, Amended

It was Pastorius at CUANAS who initially tagged us with this meme. It seemed an impossible task. Name one book I was reading? Have never read just one book in my life. Total number of books owned? Don’t want to go there; it would mean looking at the number of books I’ve lost over the years. Five books which mean a lot to me? FIVE??? You’re kidding. I’m finally getting book cases built to hold some of the precarious stacks of things I can’t let go of… and I do let many of them go to the library sales.

Then Fundamentally Right showed up with the same list of questions in hand. All right, all right. But here’s an amended version of this game of tag.

Total Number Of Books Owned Ever:

Probably as few as three or four thousand, but maybe eight. Who keeps count? And this doesn’t take into consideration the books I really, really wanted but managed to contain myself and get at the library instead. Someone gave me a button that reads “ I am a bookaholic: if you love me don’t let me buy another book.” As a kid, I read to escape a less-than-optimum life. Reading under the covers at night, hoping the nuns couldn’t see the flashlight, I’d covered all the Nancy Drew books by the time I was eight. Ruined my eyesight in the process.

Read-a-holics cannot resist the printed word: It starts with cereal boxes at the breakfast table or newspapers abandoned in the restaurant booth by whomever ate there before you and continues into reading your high school English lit books the day you get them. This is not virtue. A therapist once posed the question: “so when did you discover that books were a neurotic escape?”

Motto: never leave home without a book. You never know when you might be trapped somewhere with nothing to read. Horrors.

A room without a bookcase is boring. Walking into a room with a bookcase is permission to look at someone’s soul.

Last Book Bought:

Books aren’t purchased singly. At the very minimum they come in pairs. The Right Nation (Micklethwait and Woolridge); Donbas (Jacques Sandulescu);Eccentric Culture (Remi Brague); Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology (Gerald May). The list of books in my Amazon shopping cart is eleven. That doesn’t count the ones on the “Buy Later” list. For book-aholics, Amazon’s shopping cart feature is most helpful. Put a book there and sometimes they age out and you lose interest.

Last Book I Read:

Have never read just one book at a time. Unlike the virtuous and diligent Baron, who carefully reads a book from beginning to end (including the footnotes and endnotes), I’m usually working on several things at a time, and not always from the first page. At the moment this is the litter on my side of the bed:

The Case for Democracy Natan Sharansky
The War Against the Terror Masters Michael Ledeen
Browser’s Dictionary John Ciardi
Garden Annual Southern Living
Jersusalem Bible, 1967 Reader’s Edition The Usual Suspects
The Book of Common Prayer
Several recent issues of First Things
Right Nation Micklethwait and Woolridge
Box of Rain Robert Hunter

Five Books That Mean A Lot To Me:

Probably better off mentioning contemporary authors which mean a lot to me:

Jane Austen
Wilfrid Bion
Billy Collins
Theodore Dalrymple
Michael Eigen
Karen Horney
Elmore Leonard (no one has a better ear for American speech than L)
V. S. Naipaul
Flannery O’Connor
Robert Parker (bon bon books. Yum)
Pattiann Rogers
Ferrol Sams
Thomas Sowell
Anne Tyler
Evelyn Waugh
PG Wodehouse

Five Books I’ve Given Away Recently:

The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
I Heard God Laughing (Hafiz)
The Way the World Works (Jude Wanniski)
The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell)
John Boyd: the Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (Robert Coram)

See why I put off doing this list? It establishes my greed and my attention deficit delusion — the one which allows me to think if I read fast enough, I can catch up.

Who Do I Tag?

I hope none of you has been tagged with this one before:

Bill’s Comments

Hot Needle of Inquiry

L’Ombre de l’Olivier


Toe in the Water

Note from Baron Bodissey, who acted as scribe and editor for his lovely wife on this important post:

She left out Jack Vance. How could she leave out Jack Vance? Everyone: go read Jack Vance books.

Don’t forget Orson Scott Card, Baron. Especially Ender’s Game, which I have given to any number of people and which should be required reading for any boy/man over the age of ten. ~D

An Epistle to the Saved and Politically Certain

A commenter, Always on Watch, responded to the post on Walter Williams’ tongue-in-cheek “Amnesty” for white people by noting:

     The never-let-it-go mentality puts me in mind of the Hatfields and the McCoys.
Even worse, such thinking allows for much whining and much excuse-making.

He’s right on target with that one. What his comment highlights is the similarity between the tribal cultures remaining in the world. The links between Irish terrorism, jihadist murderous resentments, and the attitudes of the Black underclass are not a far reach. They all thrive on envy and bitterness. The individual is not primary, the group is; heaven protect you should you swim against the group-think of your tribe.

Honor and shame are closely linked and the latter is easily provoked. “Dissing” someone can get you hurt. Women are to be disrespected, of course. There is a difference only in degree between a man who calls his woman a “ho” and his compatriot in the Middle East who thinks her only place is total subservience.

Nor should we forget the tribe comes before the nation. Patriotism? Not hardly. Defense of your bro? Absolutely.

And who is the great defender of this kind of thinking? What segment of our population would defend to the death (someone else’s death, not theirs, thank you) the superiority of such tribal thinking? Surprise, surprise: it’s the same group who equate Guantanamo Bay with the Soviet gulag…

Unfortunately, this crowd fills the pews of my church. They apologize for the sins of their fathers, and they prostrate themselves for their racism. Not long ago, our diocesan newspaper printed one of these insufferable apologias as prologue to the formation of yet one more — yawn — Racism Committee.

Here is my response.

     “The Sin of Racism”: A Reader’s Response
The downward spiral of the Episcopal Church in its rush to irrelevance can nowhere be seen more clearly than in the enormous amount of leadership energy now spent on 1970’s-style consciousness raising. Periodically, congregations are subjected to yet more hortatory about the need for right thinking. Once again, congregations are shown to be lagging behind the bureaucracy: whether it be race or gender or Palestine, Episcopalians have to be in line with whatever the politically correct thinking is at the moment.
Surely there is not a white Episcopalian left who has not discovered with great personal dismay his own covert racist thinking? Right? As a racism workshop facilitator once said, “if you’re white, you’re wrong.” This facilitator also told his audience that it’s inherently impossible, given the racist culture in America, for a black person to be racist. How’s that for the ultimate in condescension?
My bona fides: I am white, but I live in a black community. I was married in a black church. Back when it was authentically cross-cultural, I was a member of the NAACP. In fact, we have some black people in our family.
Those who would condemn others for their failures to think correctly simply don’t understand the hard-wiring in the human soul. We are born with a capacity to prefer our own kind. Watch any child encounter a stranger and you can experience the primitive startle effect that leads to a preference to be with one’s own. This inclination toward the known is neither sinful nor wrong; it is human.
Game theory has shown that when members of a community are left to their own devices, groups of similars will collect or ‘bunch’ together. It is not deliberate segregation, it is congregation. Ask the black students on any campus who they prefer to hang with. And then ask them if this preference is racist.
In the continuing rush to right thinking, it is the children who lose out. The Law of Unintended Consequences is easily seen in the effects on children of both no-fault divorce and mandated diversity. The idea that culture can be sorted out and regulated is surely one of the most pernicious legacies from the 20th century. It is past time to move beyond this dated, statist thinking.
I’ll be the first in line when a commission is formed to investigate the harm which accrues to children from illegitimacy and illiteracy. With all the oxygen in the room being consumed by correct thinking, though, it seems there isn’t any left over for the kids. Bill Cosby had it right when he said the main problems facing black children have nothing to do with racism and everything to do with poor decisions. Now whose fault is that?
We are Christ’s people. We need to be about our Father’s business and we already have a Creed to tell us what that business is. The statements of Mr. Kelly’s Creed – the ones that begin with an individual examination of guilty conscience and ends with a call for a permanent national Episcopal committee on racism – are jarringly wrong-headed. How about a national committee to make illiteracy uncool? That would be both Christian and cogent. How about a church which devotes its energy to strengthening the good rather than a church which is compelled to wallow in its own sinfulness? If I wanted to be a Calvinist, I would not have chosen to be an Episcopalian.
Once upon a time, the Episcopal Church was at the forefront of educating children to the fact of their individual free will and their membership, via Baptism, in the City of God. Now it seems that we stand only for the further balkanization by race which has so grievously retarded our culture.
Race and ethnicity are accidental. They are not instrumental in our salvation.

This letter to the editor appeared in the online version of the diocesan paper because the webmaster agreed to include it. The editor of the print version never even responded. Call it an Epistle to the Saved and Politically Certain.

How long can a thinking person remain in the Church without gluing her gluteus maximus to the pew? Each person has their limit: mine will be when the Episcopal Church follows the lead of some of the other mainline denominations and dis-invests from Israel. At that point, I am, as they say, outta here.

Watchers’ Winners

Watcher's CouncilThe Council winner this week was What’s the Real Question in America? by the Sundries Shack.

Fisking Mr.Hiatt at the Washington Post, SS concludes:

We are not a perfect nation. We never will be. But it’s an enduring testament that we have the luxury of engaging in the sort of navel-gazing we’ve seen for the last couple years. It’s high praise, I think, to know that the worst sort of “abuse” on wihch our critical media can focus is a kicked book. Hiatt asks us if we’re as good as we could be and the answer if “of course not”. But he also asks if we’re as good as we expect other nations to be and the answer to that is “No. We’re far better”.

“…a kicked book…?” Amen.

A close second in the voting was e-claire’s What the Hell’s the Matter with the US.

The World Trade Center Memorial Cultural Complex will be an imposing edifice wedged in the place where the Twin Towers once stood. It will serve as the primary “gateway” to the underground area where the names of the lost are chiseled into concrete. The organizers of its principal tenant, the International Freedom Center (IFC), have stated that they intend to take us on “a journey through the history of freedom”–… a high-tech, multimedia tutorial about man’s inhumanity to man, from Native American genocide to the lynchings and cross-burnings of the Jim Crow South, from the Third Reich’s Final Solution to the Soviet gulags and beyond.

To which she responds, in amazement, “Do what, now?”

In her inimitable style, Miz Biscuit asks “Why do we let creeps do this to us?” Why, indeed. She has the addresses and information you can use to make your voice heard in this travesty, this one-more-attempt-to-make-the US-into-a-creature-resembling-Europe. And we know how ugly that sucker would be.

Read the whole thing and then…ACT.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Non-council winner is –surprise!– Joe Katzman at Winds of Change. It isn’t often that you get to read about a conversion experience. This one concerns Mr. Katzman’s metanoia re guns. As he says, the crux of the argument is this:

The Right to Bear Arms is the only reliable way to prevent genocide in the modern world.

En passant, he mentions Jacques Ellul’s Violence: Reflections from a Christian Perspective. I hadn’t read Ellul in years but what I remembered wasn’t fond. Probably the epitome of the propensity for French surrender, only this time tricked out in Christian clothing. You can find him here; it’s worth looking at if only to remind oneself of how far French Christianity wandered from the more robust idea of the just war. In some ways, Ellul isn’t far from jihadist thinking, though he is more passive: it’s not about killing but about dying.

Anyway, Mr. Katzman’s arguments are well-crafted. As usual. The normal admonition, to “read the whole thing” applies here. However, I warn you it will take awhile and when you’re done you will see genocide differently. But that’s the least of it.

Second place went to La Shawn Barber’s Corner for Anti-Lynching Legislation, which is so good it’s hard to know what to highlight. Here’s the money quote, though:

Freedom is more important than all the apologies, handouts, and excuses Congress could ever come up with. I’m living in the best country in the world, and I’d never be freer anywhere else. To blacks who grew up believing America was the most racist place on earth, if you no longer believe that and realize freedom, the right to be left alone, is the only apology you need, demand that from your senators.

Gates of Vienna is definitely in the Amen Corner on this one.

The Gordian Knot Has Been Cut. Everybody Go Home.

Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon Granted to
All Persons of European Descent

Whereas, Europeans kept my forebears in bondage some three centuries toiling without pay,

Whereas, Europeans ignored the human rights pledges of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution,

Whereas, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments meant little more than empty words,

Therefore, Americans of European ancestry are guilty of great crimes against my ancestors and their progeny.

But, in the recognition Europeans themselves have been victims of various and sundry human rights violations to wit: the Norman Conquest, the Irish Potato Famine, Decline of the Hapsburg Dynasty, Napoleonic and Czarist adventurism, and gratuitous insults and speculations about the intelligence of Europeans of Polish descent,

I, Walter E. Williams, do declare full and general amnesty and pardon to all persons of European ancestry, for both their own grievances, and those of their forebears, against my people.

Therefore, from this day forward Americans of European ancestry can stand straight and proud knowing they are without guilt and thus obliged not to act like damn fools in their relationships with Americans of African ancestry.

Walter E. Williams, Gracious and Generous Grantor

Thank you, Most Gracious and Generous Sir. I was getting a sore back from carrying that sack of s***, sir. Thus, I shall be always grateful for your declaration of amnesty which has resulted in a sudden improvement in my posture.

The good news is they will call you the Emancipator; the bad news is they won’t give you any money for it.

All right, everybody. Can we get back to the war now?

Hat tip: La Shawn Barber’s Corner

In Defense of Hatred

From Pogo, by Walt KellyHatred has fallen on hard times. When questioning the sexual orientation of a horse is considered a hate crime, you know that times are tough. Hate speech, hate crimes, “don’t be a hater…” Well, at the risk of being sent before the PC tribunal and then lined up against the multicultural wall to be shot with environmentally sensitive all-natural bullets, I’d like to rant a little bit about hate.


Obnoxious and offensive hate speech lies ahead! For those of tender sensibilities, skip this post!

Let’s celebrate diversity in a new way. How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways!

I’ll open with the Firesign Theatre, who answer the question: What makes America great?

     It’s candied apples and ponies with dapples
you can ride all day!
It’s girls with pimples and cripples with dimples
that just won’t go away!
It’s spics and wops and niggers and kikes
with noses as long as your arm!
It’s micks and chinks and gooks and geeks
and honkies (Honk! Honk!) who never left the farm!

What article in the Constitution forbids an American to hate? Which one of the Ten Commandments says, Thou shalt not hate?

The question is: Are there people or things worth hating?

Let’s just start a little free-lance hater’s list.

I hate the fanatics of the Great Islamic Jihad, the ones who brought down the Twin Towers, the ones who behead people on video and kill innocent women and children without compunction. I hate the brutal totalitarian dictatorships that enable the Jihad, the regimes like those in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Cuba, North Korea, and Zimbabwe.

I hate those barbaric bastards in Muslim societies who terrorize, mutilate, and brutalize women, and do it all with the blessing of their religion.

I hate the fellow-travellers in the West, the dhimmis and the wannabe jihadis, who facilitate the terrorists, who interfere with and pick at and ankle-bite the efforts of our brave soldiers in the war against the Great Jihad.

I hate the fact that our common language has been so debased that words like “gulag” and “holocaust” no longer have any meaning. I hate the fact that we all must dance around what we really want to say, cloaking our intentions with circumlocutions and euphemisms. I hate the fact that objectively considering who our likely killers might be is called “racial profiling”.

I hate the feminist bullies who had an attack of the vapors and emasculated the president of Harvard for daring to suggest the existence of genetic differences between men and women. And I hate Larry Summers for being a coward and rolling over for them, instead of telling them where they could stick their “gender equity”.

I hate the leftist pedagogues in our schools and universities who teach our impressionable young that America is a bad place, run by racist, sexist, and homophobic bigots. I hate the peddlers of discredited ideologies who infiltrate our culture at every level.

I hate the Jesus Hucksters, who claim to serve God but really serve Mammon, the ones who give Christianity a bad name. I hate the broad-based evangelical belief that prosperity is evidence of God’s favor.

I hate the anti-Semites, both here and abroad, the folks who respect Hitler and want to finish his work.

I hate people who wear Che Guevara T-shirts.

I hate the fact that Government works its tendrils into every part of my life, so that I can’t build a house, flush a toilet, or even buy a bag of Doritos without the government meddling. I hate the fact that our government, made up of our elected servants here in the land of the free and home of the brave, puts harmless pot-smokers in jail.

I hate the race hustlers, the poverty pimps, the TV talking head know-it-alls, and the shameless, voracious lawyers who have eaten away the vital parts of our civic body. I hate the cynical conmen who make their living off the stupid and the addled and the aged and the young.

And above all I hate socialists of all kinds — Fascists, Nazis, Communists, Fabians, Greens, you name it — because they made all the rest of this mess possible by poisoning the well of our political discourse so that their degraded ideology has leached into the soil of the larger culture. I hate the fact that their smug, self-righteous zeal has undermined and threatened the very existence of Western civilization.

That’ll do for starters. I’ll take suggestions from the gallery.

And I’ll close with a quote from Bob Dylan: Don’t hate nothing at all except hatred.

The Pain is Etched in Her Face

I Could Scream
A Pakistani woman opposed her husband’s second marriage so he killed her. Waiting until she fell asleep with their little daughter, he and his sister threw acid on both of them. Sonia, the child, is hospitalized. Her mother, Rozina, lived for a day after being admitted to Bahawalpur Victoria Hospital.

Her case is not unusual.There are not any accurate nationwide figures, though. Between 1994 and 1999 almost 4,000 burn cases were documented. Few of the women survive and those that do live a scarred, pain-filled and diminished existence.

Humaira Awais Shahid, a woman elected to Pakistan’s Punjab provincial assembly gives an account of the problem:

     According to my rough estimates, there has been a 200 percent increase in this. The reasons are: because it’s a copy-cat crime – every man that finds out about this must say to himself: “This is easy. All I have to do is buy a bottle of acid for Rs. 25 [US $0.45] and just throw it.” Now it’s being used against men also and children.
Again, there is no clear legislation on this. It’s covered by an ordinance known as the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance where the punishment accorded has to be proportionate to the wounds given: you know, a hand for a hand, an eye for an eye.
Now, acid crime victims die very slowly – over eight to ten days, even for those with 80 percent burns. So within those eight days, the perpetrator can just apply for bail and get it and vanish, because the Pakistan Penal Code sections 302 (attempted murder) and 307 (murder) do not apply to it.

Somehow, I don’t think legislation is going to cure this, but it’s a beginning. Where are the American feminists on this? Too busy having a case of the vapors over someone suggesting that men might have a general genetic advantage in math?

In the late ’80s someone wrote a book on domestic violence in America. One chapter was entitled “Because He Can,” which was the answer to an inquiry, “Why would a man do this?” What happens in any culture, whether that behavior is strictly lawful or not, is indicative of the overall health of its citizens.

hat tip: Jihad Watch