Saturday, May 29, 2010


More on this Catholic priest thing. Why? It’s amazing to watch this thing keep going, with so many commentators tossing whatever they happen to have handy in the hopes that something will stick. And yet it is presented by ‘The New York Times’ and its corporate subsidiaries with all the breathless solemnity of ‘serious’ stuff.

Carroll has a full-page piece. He’s basically running the plan of claiming that all the priestly abuse and all the ‘cover up’ is due to priestly celibacy (and an old-boy network that also comes back to ‘men’, not to put too fine a point on it).

In this approach he dovetails nicely with Garry Wills, about whom I recently Posted. Although, Wills goes after the Papacy and the entire concept of a hierarchy and a clergy (at least a male clergy) as being late add-ons to a fancied original layperson’s church nicely called “the people of God”.

But they both join the ‘liberal’ siege that is seeking to neutralize the Church’s credibility and stature as a moral force, either through sex-abuse (cases now either very old or diminishing in number), hierarchical cover-up reaching up to the Papacy itself (opening the path to a ‘democratic’ – and thus more ‘liberal’? – Church), maleness (opening the way for women to be ordained and become bishops and even Pope), or – not quite coherently – abolishing the Papacy and the hierarchical priesthood itself (what will that do to all the ordainment opportunities for women?).

I sort of get a sense of déjà-vu: the old Tailhook game-plan now run against the Church, presumably with as much success as – alas – it had with the Navy and the Pentagon. The Church, though, appears to have a bit more backbone than the Admirals and assorted pols, and perhaps enough intellectual chops to see that the proposed utopia of Postmodern Ascendancy has more than a coupla downsides.

Which resistance is not having a good effect on the ‘liberals’’ blood-pressure at all.

Carroll is going for the idea that if the Church got rid of clerical celibacy then there wouldn’t have been all the sex-abuse.

Of course, you first have to remind yourself that the ‘abuse’ has been defined to include anything from a touch to outright rape, with an awful lot of the claims at the lower end of that spectrum, and with almost all of the allegations never subjected to the inquiry of a trial (even as the trial process has been skewed in favor of allegators in the Age of Sex Mania).

But beyond that, I’d need to know if the existence of sexual abuse is less among married clergy.

That’s an utterly necessary bit of information to have before you can start assessing the dump-celibacy (or dump-men) plan. But it’s a tough one, since – by amazing coincidence – the marquis media investigative resources have never done any sustained and effective looking into the question.

Anglican clergy? Protestant clergy? Fundamentalist clergy? Mormon clergy? Jewish clergy? Where either the male or the female is the ordained member?

Surely the sex-offense movement’s rather shrewdly underplayed information is that when you actually look at the numbers, more than 90 percent of the sexual abuse of children takes place in the family setting. And that the stranger-man so favored in media reports constitutes less than 5 percent of the instances. Marriage doesn’t seem to have the effect that Carroll presumes it to have.

Nor do I say here that the clergyman is a ‘stranger’; but then I would want to know if Catholic priests are relatively more frequent or less frequent offenders (when they actually do offend) than clergy of other faith-groups. And that too is a rather vital piece of the puzzle that the marquis reporting media haven’t really discussed.

This is not an attempt to ‘minimize’ by trying the ‘everybody does it’ gambit; but if Carroll is going to pin everything on ‘celibacy’ (and ‘men’ to a lesser extent) then answers to these questions are essential.

He stakes a lot on his own experiences as a seminarian and priest for some years.

He himself left, he says, because he wanted to be a writer and he felt he couldn’t exercise the freedom to do that while a priest. He’s probably onto something there: large organizations don’t usually allow their official representatives or employees an unlimited latitude for freedom of expression. It’s sort of built into the organizational – even the ‘team’ – dynamic, and is clear in corporate and military settings as well as in political and even academic settings.

But he also reports on the substantial amount of immaturity – emotional, psychological, as well as sexual – among the Catholic clergy as he experienced them.

And I think he’s on to something there.

The Church made a choice for an unmarried clergy in the 12th century. There were organizational and strategic reasons for that. Organizationally, married priests died, for example, leaving wives or concubines and even children to be supported and there arose questions of what belonged to the priest’s ‘estate’ and what belonged to the Church (did the widow or relicts have a legal claim upon the parish property?).

Strategically, the Church in the various nascent monarchies of a Europe recovering from the Dark Ages, was looking to protect not only its spiritual integrity and authority (fearing what ultimately took place in Henry VIII’s England) but also the physical infrastructure of parishes and bishoprics and so forth.

And in suppressing the pre-Reformation agitations of dissenting sects (the Cathari and Albigensians, most notably) as well as in looking at the diplomatic and military professionalization going on in the developing monarchies, the Church leadership saw the possibility of having a corps of professional dedicated agents in the form of a celibate priesthood.

It was that or allow a slide toward priests becoming employees of the nascent monarchies (as happened in Henry VIII’s England, most notably) or simply popular local tribunes, chained to local popular whims theological, social, political and otherwise.

And, of course, if you were married – and marriage being such a significant and profound sacrament – then your first responsibility in life had to be to your family and not to God and the folks assigned to your care. (Which is why the military for so long preferred unmarried folks and was not ‘family-oriented’. I clearly recall an episode in the first season of the ‘Star Trek’ TV show (the one with Kirk and Spock and the gang) where two officers on the ship (a male and a female; the show wasn’t TOO far ahead of the times) are going to get married; suddenly the Battle-Stations alarm goes off as an enemy vessel is sighted; the betrothed immediately rush … to find each other for re-assuring hugs. Thank God this is science fiction, I said to myself.)

But there was a spiritual dimension to it as well. Carroll rightly looks to the original deformation – to remain in the spirit of his analysis – that took place in the early centuries of Christianity when certain North African Christians took to the deserts to live a life of almost complete withdrawal from the life of this world, the better to conduct a vital relationship with the Divine, unhindered and undistracted in their pursuit of the soul’s excellence by the needs of societal living and even of the body itself.

Their idea was something akin to naval life: you stripped down the vessel so that it carried only those things essential to the mission of the warship. You lived your life as focused on the Mission of conforming yourself to a relationship with the Divine as a naval officer at sea lived his life conformed utterly to the needs of the Mission (you see a robust echo of this in “Master and Commander” Jack Aubrey’s overriding dedication to ‘the needs of the Service’, which so exasperated his friend, the scientist (and, in the books, government intelligence agent), Dr. Stephen Maturin).

This strand resembles the insight underlying Noh plays: you strip down the inessentials, thus acutely refining and intensifying the spirit to fit into the most core essentials in the script-action and in the performance. (Alhough there then developed Kabuki for those who weren't up to the challenges of performing or watching Noh - but I'm not going to draw the analogy out that far: because in the Church, and certianly as reaffirmed in the Second Vatican Council, 'lay life' wasn't seen as merely a 'watered-down' version of genuine Christianity suitable for 'lesser' minds, souls and lives - rather, the lay life was in itself a mode of the Divine life expressing Itself in life and history and human affairs.)

There was a significant weakness in this desert hermit approach: not everyone baptized into the Church community was going to be living as a desert hermit. And the Church saw her mission as not only to provide a matrix for desert hermitry, but also for all of those human beings who still wished to carry on a life of more conventional (not to say less-spiritual or less morally valuable) societal participation, marrying, raising families, and earning a living through which sustenance could be provided for same.

The hermits, let’s face it, took a dim view of ‘the body’ and of Matter (as opposed to Spirit) generally. To them, all of that was ‘the world’ and it was the playground of the Devil. And especially sex, which the hermits rather vividly – and perhaps acutely – perceived as capable of raising one hell of a mess with one’s concentration and one’s life. Few adolescent boys of any era (girls too, in their way) could disagree with that concern.

The trouble with sex was that it is not only a human capability, but is one of the most primal evolutionary* fundaments of the human being, and in each individual self, it was a remarkably powerful element of ‘motivation’. This, we now know, wasn’t surprising: the first thing Nature seeks to ensure in a species it that it will be able to reproduce itself and raise its young to continue the cycle of birth, life, and death.

But in the Church’s (and hence the West’s) view, the human being also possessed a ‘soul’, something that kept going after death, something that (as we now know) maintained personal identity even as all the cells in the body replaced themselves in the space of multi-year cycles throughout life.**

And the problem arose of how to integrate the human’s primal evolutionary sexual urge into the advanced life of being possessed not only of Material (physical, bodily) existence but some form of non-Material, spiritual (metaphysical) existence as well.

Scripture was not definitive. There are two Creation accounts, one which emphasizes procreation and one which seems to indicate that God created Eve so that Adam wouldn’t be all alone and lonely. Nor does Scripture apologize for the bald duality in its text.

Is sex for ‘having kids’ or for ‘relationship’? Or for both? (Or, as in today’s hook-up culture, the gift of the past 40 years, is it for ‘personal fulfillment’ or for ‘stress relief’ or for ‘health’ or for laffs?)

And in any case, then, how integrate it into a general balance among one’s human powers and potentials? Or do you just call Sex your personal equivalent of the Prime Directive and let it run your life?

You may already sense that these issues are hardly ‘quaint’ or of merely historical interest. For much of the past 40 Biblical years this country has been wrestling with the question. And taken it to new heights or depths of conceptual creativity. And political activity - or political theater, anyway.

Especially in a consumerist culture that emphasizes the immediate gratification or ‘fulfillment’ of the individual and every desire, not to be postponed or ‘repressed’ for any reason – including, some would say, responsibility to ‘children’ and succeeding generations (once quaintly known as ‘posterity’).

The Church has evolved a concept of human ‘fulfillment’ that involves a responsible use of sex (by males and females) that is tied into a complex and dynamic human reality that involves other human beings in the Present building on the experiences of humans in the Past and holding itself responsible for those humans in the Future, that posterity yet to be born. And the whole three-ring circus to be overseen by a Beyond that cared enough to guide, nurture, support and – in the widest and most constructive sense of the word – ‘judge’.

And it is a concept that requires more than a little ‘postponement of gratification’, a hallmark of maturity in psychological circles that yet affronted (and affrighted) the cocky adolescent Boomers (who, if you ask me, were given far too much too soon, not only by their doting parents but also by their government when the Democrats gave them the vote in 1972 and told them they were the cutting edge of Everything).

If materialist and consumerist America has always existed a little uneasily with the Church’s teachings, the Boomers – and especially some of the utopian paradise excitements that have riled Us during their tenure – have really got their issues with the Church. But nobody ever really said No to them; and after the domestic political experience of Vietnam they got the idea that nobody really had the authority or integrity to say No to them.

Nor have they learned to say No to themselves. To the contrary, they have erected Yes into a general philosophy of life. But one that has somehow morphed in the following generations into an instinctual (no philosophy about it) knee-jerk of Whateverrrrr.

But Carroll’s own experiences do hold some valid observations.

The downside of the Church’s 12th century plan was that if you were going to have a complex set of sacraments that would mark all of the important watershed moments in every believer’s life, dispensable only by your ordained agents, and yet you were a very large and widely dispersed organization, you were going to need a whole lot of agents.

And that would have quality-control ramifications. Where find consistently so many spiritually as well as personally mature adults, trained to ecclesiastical and sacramental competence?

In American history, especially as the pioneering immigrant Catholic flocks of the 19th century got themselves adjusted to America’s culture, the pool of candidates – raised in a misch of Catholic and ethnic tradition that then combined with American attitudes – to administer the extensive Catholic ‘establishment’ of parishes, schools, and dioceses faced a life not so far different from what is known in the military as ‘garrison life’.

It was not the life of the legions, enduring great physical hardship and danger yet experiencing the thrill of deploying self and commitment to duty squarely in the teeth of the remarkably concentrating and enlivening threat of death. Rather, life in garrison was prone to become a round of duties and formalities.

Garrison life attracts a certain type of recruit who might not have signed up for the legions. It’s just the way things are and for what it’s worth I don’t think that the simple addition of ‘women’ to the mix is going to make that much difference.

Unless, deducing from the work of the many ‘nuns’ who vitally sustained the work of the Church over decades, the female is naturally better equipped to ‘nurture’ and ‘nurse’ – which, in a way, is what the parish ministry is all about. But that – who can be surprised? – is not something that Correct thought will entertain in the present matter. Nor can I resolve it in a simple Post here.

And the garrison mentality – as opposed to the life of the legions – also brings its own insidious spiritual drawback: you get the idea that if you just get all the daily, weekly, monthly checklists checked-off, and keep the flag flying and fire the sunrise and sunset guns, then you’ve pretty much done your job and the rest of your energy is … ‘free’ (as in free-time or – in Latin – ad libitum).

So you either have to train the troops to define ‘free’ and ‘freedom’ in a way commensurate with their overall professional responsibilities, or else you’ll wind up with a 9-to-5 soldiery that, once the uniform is off, acts like just any other civilian.***

The postwar years – when the Boomers were just getting started - saw not just a loosening of cultural restraints (that had started at least as early as the 1920s, though tempered by the Depression and then World War Two) and a culture-wide settling down to a long-deserved (it was presumed) binge of peace and quiet and personal satisfaction.

It is the strength as well as the risk of the Church’s deep engagement with culture that anytime the culture ‘catches a cold’ the Church’s own human agents are going to start sneezing a little too.

And the confusing trumpet of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)didn’t help matters, sounding in this country in the midst of the confusing mid-Sixties civil rights experience (the Voting Rights Act followed in days by the Watts riots), the Vietnam experience, Liberation Theology’s concern for ‘oppression’ and ‘social justice’, an increasingly anti-male early feminism, on top of the general confusion of both elements of the Boomers’ excitements: the groovy, druggy Summer of Love ethos and the in-your-face ‘revolution’ ethos (so vividly-modeled by Mao’s Red Guard youth cadres).

The upshot was a general loosening of the traditional strictures, evident not only in the increasing number of priests who more frequently appeared in public without their traditional black-suit garb, but also weren’t so clearly held to the old strictures that governed deportment.

But then, the idea was to get ‘beyond the garrison’, so to speak, and get out among the people. (The French had tried that with the ‘worker priest’ movement of the immediate postwar era.)

And not to be underplayed (but also not to be overplayed) were the number of priests who were either clearly unbalanced (but accepted because they seemed able to keep up appearances and go through the daily round) or were accepted into seminary far too early in their lives. And there was also a residual dynamic among some ethnic groups where you either wanted your ‘best son’ to be a priest or you gratefully sent along your ‘different’ one.

A genuine kaleidoscope of pressures, influences, dynamics, and – as ever – complex human realities.

All things considered, I’m not about to say that the Church did a worse job navigating that era in America than did the national political establishment.

But to conclude on the basis of his own experience of organizational inertia and emotional confusion that there has been a) a huge and extraordinary amount of genuine and profound sexual abuse and b) an old-boy network cover-up that clearly indicts the Church’s entire concept of i) ordaining only males and ii) requiring them to be celibate … I don’t see it.

And, frankly, I can’t see how Carroll sees it.

Nor can I imagine from certain tensions I noticed as a kid among the tremendously impressive and dedicated ‘nuns’ who taught grammar school, that there wasn’t and would not be an awful lot of old-girl dynamics in a Popess or Goddess Church.

Carroll blames Paul VI, the Pope who followed John XXIII (he who decided in 1959 to call a Council in the first place). John was a marvelous peasant (I mean that in the very best sense) who had been an Army chaplain with the Italian forces during their profoundly horrific experiences, under truly awful senior leadership, against the Austro-Hungarians in the mountains of northern Italy; he had been in the Vatican diplomatic service during the interwar years, ranging Europe as it was wracked by all the tumults of aspiring social democracy, departing monarchy, vigorous Red agitation, and nascent Fascist reaction.

And Catholics were involved on all sides of everything, or were endangered by same.

John, a large man in all senses of the world, maintained his heart and mind, possessing his soul and ministering to the soul of Europe and of humanity.

Paul was a bird-like man, physically, but no dope. He gasped, as probably any more conventional person – or responsible official – would gasp, when his boss decided to shake things up with a world-wide corporate re-evaluation. Imagine the head of GM or IBM in 1959 ordering a general world-wide re-assessment of Everything.

John died before he could guide the complex forces that he had convened. Paul found himself elected to the hot-seat; the previous Ringmaster – a true master of the life forces – had put them all in the center ring and had no doubt expected to manage what he had set in motion. Paul was a far less confident and secure Ringmaster – and the whole zoo figured that out pretty quickly.

In a way, the Church experienced what this country experienced when Lincoln, who had formulated a vision for the future and had achieved the political and personal maturity to shepherd it through, was taken away just as the War ended, but long before its objectives and achievements were solidly anchored in a national consensus.****

Paul VI's solution – decently enough – was to slow down; since navigation and even command philosophy were now uncertain for the moment, the prudent thing to do was to slow down from Warp 6, make a respectable Warp 3, and get things a little clearer.

The American idea – sharing more than a little utopian impatience with the French Jacobin and 19th-century ‘revolutionary’ mind and heart – is to kick it up to Warp 9, see what happens, and que sera sera. Wheeeee! It worked so well in the movies, and up to that point (1965) had made and kept the country an actual (if not comprehensive) Number One in the world and in history.

Carroll speaks for the Warp-9 club that considered any prudent handling of the helm to be rank incompetence, cowardice, back-lashing, foot-dragging, and probably some things a whole lot darker.

It’s not sufficient to suggest that the Warp-9 bunch have been emboldened by the past quarter-century of American Sex Offense Mania to take a swipe at the Vatican, the Papacy, the hierarchy, the celibate priesthood, and men generally.

Their own ‘liberal’ credentials and their friendliness to all things Boomer and Correct enabled them to render encouragement and credibility to all the forces within American culture and civilization, on the Left and on the Right, that would rather not live in the presence of a Beyond that might Judge.

It also occurs that there is an extra benny MIRV-ed into this whole priest sex-abuse thing: you will wind up scaring off whatever decent potential priesthood candidates there are. In either of two ways: a) they simply lose hope in the possibility of a fulfilling and worthwhile life answering the call to ministry or b) they realize that no matter how blameless a life one might lead, the sex-offense laws and the mainstream media are so skewed now that just about anybody can lodge an allegation secure in the knowledge that you can't defend yourself and they will never be held to account in law for any mischief they deliberately wreak with a false claim.

This of course will yield the tactical and strategic result of weakening the Church's ministry as numbers of available priests shrink, and perhaps even render the Church more amenable to ordaining women or simply turning over more and more 'ministry' and 'governance' to laypersons. Neat.

And here We are today.

On top of which, the forces for ‘liberalization’ have convinced themselves that ‘religion’ as in the forces that pulled off 9-11 and ‘religion’ as in the people who shoot abortion doctors are pretty much the essence of ‘religion’, and that therefore the ‘liberal’ attack upon the Church is justified and Good because it will rid the country and the world of fanaticism. Thus the ‘New Atheist’ movement, which has been inspired to ‘get active’ and join the Cause against religion-terrorism.

Although if anything is true of the garrison-mentality it’s that it isn’t dedicated (not to say ‘fanatic’) enough.*****

It's a mug's game - taking the mis-application of something and claiming that the mis-application is its essence. The Church has spent long centuries trying to tame the wildness in the most profound needs and potentials of the human reality, seeking to Shape and channel the deepest human energies rather than choking them out.

But as I've said here, that requires a certain amount of saying No, and to both the Boomer and the revolutionary cadre, being-said-No-to is the most outrageous of oppressions.

And as I’ve said in a previous Post, it’s long past the time that the Church faced up to itself and yet also to its – I’ll indulge myself here – tormentors.

There’s more than enough work and space cargoed in that comment to keep ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’, hierarchs and laypersons, quite usefully, constructively, and (one hopes and prays) fruitfully engaged for quite some time.

As has always been the case with the Church and with humanity and with History.


*’Evolution’ was not formulated widely as a concept until the 19th century, but while they didn’t have the word for it, or a large conceptual understanding of its dynamics, earlier generations and eras intuitively grasped the power and complexity of the sexual urge.

**This is a problem not unknown to the ancients. The 'Ship of Theseus’ problem dealt with it: if you have a ship, and you replace its original planks one by one, at what point have you replaced so many of the original planks that you no longer have the original vessel at all? Nicely, the oldest commissioned warship in the US Navy – the frigate Constitution, now berthed in Boston – has at this point in Time had just about every single piece of her replaced several times over with the possible exception of the deep keel wood; so to say that you are taking a tour of the ship that did all that great stuff in the space of a few months in the War of 1812 is to deploy a bit of imagination. (It’s still a tour well worth taking if you’re up that way.)

So too with humans then: if you replace all the cells in your body every 7 or 10 years, say, then how is there still a ‘you’? (Assuming that 6 year-olds aren’t reading this Post.) What is it that keeps you You even though all the physical infrastructure present at birth has been replaced several times over at the cellular level?

Current science suggests, among other things, that a) there is a ‘mind’ or b) there isn’t anything and you’re not.

But (a) simply kicks the can down the road since you now have either a ‘something’ at your core that is not actually materially dependent on your cells or you do have something immaterial at your core – and why not call it a ‘soul’ and how can you be so sure that said ‘soul’ isn’t configured as the Church has always taught?

And (b) simply erases you as an individual extended in Time. And, by the by, raises all hell with the Constitutional vision of the individual person as Citizen. That is to say: if You today aren’t the same entity carrying your name and wearing your clothes that existed yesterday, and that You today aren’t the same entity that will be carrying your name and wearing your clothes tomorrow, then ‘You’ as a Constitutionally protected (and responsible) entity are merely a momentary flicker and could hardly have any ‘rights’; You are not sustained and are not sustainable as an individual being. Whatcha think about that?

I sit back sometimes and wonder if this is the type of stuff that they assure each other is ‘knowledge’ at elite Beltway and academic dinner parties, as the Chardonnay and Kool-Aid rain down like a tasteful and tasty flood.

***Let’s not even get into the fact that this, indeed, is precisely what the national approach to military life is sliding into.

****Contrary to current Advocacy thinking, I don’t think it’s first and foremost a matter of getting your ‘vision’ enacted into law, so as to force everybody to go along with you. Rather, the hard path of consensus-building, at which Lincoln was a patient and sober master, is the only way to profoundly change a democracy without ripping it off its foundations. Alas, in 1965 and subsequently, the vote-addled pols chose the low-road, the easier way, and We are hugely the worse for it as a national Community with a national Idea … meaning that We The People at this point have neither.

*****I don’t want to limit my vision of things to the somewhat military garrison-legion image, helpful as it is. If you imagine the parish priest as a ‘farmer’ in the best sense of that vocation, then surely that is a powerful image through which to imagine a disciplined dedication to assisting Life (including Spirit) that requires focus, concentration, competence, and unremitting effort in order to remain an efficacious servant of the Great Process of God’s life-giving work in the world and in history.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010


The Marines have a problem.

Their Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) is a 40-ton behemoth designed to transport 17 rufftuff Marines (which is a full rifle squad; and let’s not get into the gender thing here) from landing ship to shore. It has all sorts of great stuff like composite armor, a big German diesel engine that can power it at sea (25 knots) and land (30mph), more weaponry than the early-1970s vehicle it replaces, ethernet capability (presumably not for Facebook and Twitter) and – in order to offset some of the weight of all that stuff – is made of aluminum. It has a range of about 30 miles.

The Corps wants almost 600 of them at god-knows-what-cost each, although the program has already burned 13 billion dollars (which didn’t used to be much, but the party’s over and those days are gone).

The Marines want this thing because it will continue the tradition of their “signature” move: attack over the beaches from the sea.

Although it now appears that the increased range of missiles capable of destroying the things has now outpaced the 30 miles the thing can travel; so to avoid the missiles (at least while you’re launching these things) you’d have to be more than 30 miles offshore. But then the things wouldn’t be able to get to shore …. You see why generals and Pentagon staffers get paid the big bucks. And of course, once it did get within 30 miles, then the missiles launched by the putative defenders would become a concern.

Maybe those missile sites would be taken out by carrier-launched fighters, or by Air Force planes, or by drones.

But when these flat-bottomed babies hit the beach they won’t – it turns out – be sufficiently armored against road-side bombs (the infamous IEDs).

NO PRAHBLUM! Thus ejaculate the Pentagoons: we’ll add armor plating to the bottom and solve that. They hadn’t thought of the IED threat before?

But/and then: if you add several tons of armor (and to an aluminum hull) the thing isn’t going to be able to travel as far or as fast, on land or sea (at 40-plus tons nothing short of a nuke is going to get this thing into the air).

NO PRAHBLUM! The extra armor can simply be carried, and applied when the big babies have hit the beach. (Who’s going to carry the armor to the beach?) And you’re going to have mechanics available on a hostile beach to do such redecorating under fire? So your 17 riflepersons will be tied down defending the mechanics. Or else those 17 will be doing the redecorating themselves ( with even the females manhandling those heavy chunks of armor?)

You see how really not-so-simple the old blood-and-guts stuff really is. Anyone who gets their idea of war from movies … well, even if the uniforms and chatter are period-perfect, you see where there’s more to it than appearances.

I blame the Gulf War and Saddam.

He sat still like a total dork for all the months that it took the US to laboriously assemble the cash and supplies necessary to field a powerful field force (when a good general would have hit those forces while they were still trying to get set up and ensure a supply of AA and AAA batteries for all their stuff). And then, when everything was ready, he sat still and waited for the hit.

Which gave Americans the idea that they really did have – in the Year of Grace One Thousand Nineteen Hundred and Ninety One – a military qualitatively equivalent to the Wehrmacht in 1940. And worse: gave Americans the idea that ‘Americans always win’ because that’s just the way History is set up and that will never change.

(It also gave the feminists the chance to claim that since Americans will always win, and since the USSR is gone, then there won’t really be any fighting any more, the military will be nothing more than Microsoft with a tougher dress code, and that consequently there’s no reason why women shouldn’t be allowed such a ‘rich’ employment opportunity. Ach, those were ze happy times!)

More specifically, although little media attention was given to it, there was an amphibious force that set sail towards the end of 1990, and arrived in the actual waters of the Persian Gulf in mid-January 1991 after a leisurely passage. At just under 20 ships, it was the largest amphibious force the US (and the Navy-Marines) had sent forth since 1945.

Their mission was to create a ‘threat in being’ – posing Saddam with the possibility of an amphibious assault from the Gulf even as he faced the powerful land force that he had generously allowed over the course of months to put itself together on his other flank. This Gulf force never made a landing – although one of its ships did hit a mine while detached on a special assignment.

The Marine Corps now wants to beef up the credibility of its ‘threat’ with the EFV. No matter that it may have a few teething problems; the important thing is that ‘the enemy’ will be presented with a darned thorny defensive problem if they are ‘out there', ready to come ashore in these things, 17 guys (or gals) at a time.

It seems to me that the first and foremost strategic mistake the Pentagon has made is to assume that any enemy will react as Americans do to such Wonderland excitements: with a serious and straight face and much basso profondo hemming and hawing and that cheerible yet cocky assurance that America – whether in its Leftist or its Rightist dampdreams – makes History and the rest of the world simply stands by for its seating assignment on the gravy train. Ach, those were ze happy times!

With the exception of a tribal chief still in possession of blowguns and spears, situated on a choice piece of beach-front real estate, the prospect of a flotilla of these behemoths waddling ashore (or not quite, alas) isn’t going to seriously disturb the sleep of any modern potential enemy.

At best, the largest US amphibious ships can carry 1500 or so Marines – maybe 1800 – to be put ashore either by helicopters or the hugely techy Osprey aircraft (a disturbing tendency to fall out of the sky on their own and underarmored like their sea-going associate).

Of these 1800 only some will be combat troops (although, yes, every Marine qualifies with a rifle at boot camp – one way or another). There will be administrative types, medics, cooks, maintenance folk, supply types in several variants – and all this without factoring in whatever factors must now be made for the imponderables of … ummmm … gender.

So how many fighters are you actually going to get ashore, 17 at a time, in these monsters? How many of these beasts can the average amphibious ship carry? How big a force of amphibious ships will you need to carry a major assault force? How will you protect that force?

And if you have contracted out all the non-combat jobs to ‘civilian contractors’, then how do you get them where they need to be? And if they come later, after you have ‘secured the beach’, then you don’t have much time to do that ‘securing’ because you’re going to need all those civilians to do all the non-fighting stuff. So any delay – and such things do happen – and you have a big problem.

The whole World War Two approach probably went to everybody’s heads: even then, when the Japanese obligingly abandoned garrisons without hope of reinforcement or re-supply on ocean islands where the Americans had almost complete control of the sea and air … even then it took staggering casualties to ‘secure’ the islands.

And that was with troops who didn’t grow up in a victimist and entitlement and consumerist culture and with a country that didn’t expect war (or life) to be easy and fun. What happens nowadays?

Frankly, I think that if this country was ever faced with the old enemy-held-island scenario, the only thing anyone would stomach is to nuke it with a tactical thingie and congratulations all around for being so ‘efficient’ and ‘sensitive’ at the same time. Yah.

But there isn’t ever going to be such a scenario again. No natives, no enemy-held islands.

Hell, that was clear in March of ’65 when the Marines made their organizational debut in Vietnam from assault landing craft, even though the ‘beach’ was crammed with welcoming local lovelies carrying leis and a South Vietnamese Army brass band. No doubt the Corps wanted to remind the world and the taxpayers about the glory of twenty years before. But they were headed into ‘Vietnam’, and there came a time when no amount of happy-times remembering could change that.

There is a certain point where the laws of physics kick in: no matter how ‘optimistic’ and ‘can-do’ you are (or say you are) there is a moment when reality will reveal itself and say that you can’t move something this heavy over this much distance and at that much speed. You can cry, you can demonstrate, you can take it to court – but the laws of physics are what they are.

This is the type of reality that in Our modern American reality has been pooh-poohed as ‘essentialism’ and ‘backlash’ and such. If you just convince yourself, or if we all agree to agree, then whatever we have chosen to agree to will become the new ‘reality’. It’s democracy!

For the past 40 Biblical years, ‘laws’ that sort of let you know how the world is structured have gotten tossed out with the various ‘oppressive traditions’ that were masquerading as reality. We have gotten the idea that if you can hugely change the latter without consequence, then you can probably ignore the former the same way. After all, being American means never having to accept consequences. Left and Right both assumed that.

Well, the Pentagon seems to have drunk the same Kool-Aid as the cadres of the Left.

The same ‘traditions’ that allegedly kept the assorted Identities under some sort of oppression also apparently kept the government under some sort of control. Who knew?

And it’s Memorial Day weekend. Have you checked your local cemetery to see if the local vets’ Post missed a few graves with their flags? Maybe the WW1 and Spanish-American and Civil War graves that have no relatives or friends left? I did – and shelled out a C-note to get some extra flags; real remembering and real memorializing don’t come cheap.

But in doing so, and thanking each grave’s occupant for his service, I also remembered common sense and clear-thinking and the conduct of a life un-bolstered and un-befogged by Kool-Aid.

Make this a multi-level Memorial Day.

Or else we shall meanly lose what they who fought have thus far so nobly advanced.

Am I a Tea-Bag drinker rather than a Kool-Aid drinker? Not in the least. The first responsibility of the Citizen is to govern the government, not to get rid of it.

And for that duty you have to report with a clear head and a steady hand. And a mind and heart focused on the great unfinished work remaining before Us.

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Monday, May 24, 2010


Apologies for the delay in Posting. Two things happened over the past 5 days: first, computer connection problems – now solved.

Second, the latest series of ‘Miss Marple’ mysteries on PBS has shocked me. You may recall that this is part of a series of PBS mysteries set in an ‘old’ England that looks much like the Merchant-Ivory England of the 1980s, with charming country villages, bosky estates, tastefully attired Brits, and various old cars in all their shiny glory. Well, the recent installment chooses as its old car … a 1956 T-bird, which really doesn’t strike me as old at all!

That said, I came across a short piece in ‘The Atlantic’ this morning that merits a quick look.

The Republic of Central Africa has a ‘court problem’: its courts are currently jammed to overflowing with trials for witchcraft. This is especially true in the outlying districts, beyond the capital - where, if the country has any natural resources worth noting, there are probably scads of thoroughly modern US government types busily trying to deconstruct local culture and also secure rights (or at least functional control over) the resources. Such is our modern American reality.

The article estimates that a full 40 percent of trials are witchcraft prosecutions. And in some areas, for example in the local center of Mbaiki, Pygmies – who by conventional wisdom are well-known for “bewitching each other” – drive that up to 50 percent. Many American readers may quietly snigger, but the alert American observer of Our domestic affairs needs no enlightenment in this sort of thing. Such is our modern American reality.

A local judge, university-trained and exuding a French gentility, points to the section of the Criminal Code that requires for the crime of PCS (‘the practice of charlatanism or sorcery’) a decade or more in jail and a fine for engaging in witchcraft.

The ‘charlatanism’ recalls the ‘cottage industry experts and advocates’ that have sprung up like remoras around the great shark of the Sensitivity Revolution over here: dubious ‘numbers’, dubious ‘studies’, dubious credentials, dubious worst-case claims, a highly elastic definition of the ‘crime’ that could be anything at all.

The reporter (Graeme Wood) opines that while the judge admits things are a little extreme law-wise, and the township doesn’t have the money to maintain the jail that would have to hold all the convicted, yet he (the judge) sorta likes a law that gives him so much authority.

Apparently, especially among a certain tribe within the Republic (referring here to Central Africa), “a staggering range of misfortunes” are ascribed to “meddling by witches”. You don’t have to look very far over here to see the lists of claims as to what even the most minimal relational or sexual contact can do to a life. And helpfully so, explaining away with no responsibility accruing to the erstwhile ‘victim’, just about any failure or mis-step or unhappy outcome in a life.

Further, the ability of ‘witches’ to “cast spells” and to generally – well – ‘bewitch’ folks, is so widely and pervasively active there (according to the conventional local wisdom) that the government simply has to step in and do something about it.

Although just what a government can do about witchcraft … well, in the modern West (up to about 1970 or so) that lesson was learned the hard way: the Salem Witch-trials of the late 1600s left the Medieval Catholic heresy trials in the dust, drawing the coercive police power of the government into torture and execution merely on the 'allegations' of those claiming to be victimized (the professional term of the era was 'spectral evidence' - meaning evidence that nobody but the accuser-victim could know or see or - oy! - prove).

Which also dragged the newly-aborning court system that was emerging out of the Medieval morass back down into the awful swamps of innuendo, fear, accusation without evidence, and ‘victim’ assertions running as wild as kudzu.

But the Central African citizenry “demand that the law reflect the influence of witchcraft as they understand it”. Which gets me to thinking not about how un-modern the Central African folks remain, but rather how un-modern the American folks have become … all over again.

Nicely, it is not legally allowable to claim as a defense that the plaintiff suffered “an act of God”: the witchcraft apparently overrides any power God might have in the world as it is seen over there. In this sense, while the Central African culture accepts the actions of the Beyond in its daily affairs, yet that Beyond is somehow not responsible for the evil competencies of witches and sorcerers. And since such witches and sorcerers are very much in this world, then a government of this world must somehow use what powers it has to solve the problem.

Which is a curious mishmash of belief in a Beyond and yet a Flattened sense of what that Beyond can or does do.

Not that the government over there minds. Since you are going to start taking over the powers of God, then you will need the authority of God – and what government in human history has ever turned THAT offer down?

Well, come to think of it, that government Framed in Philadelphia in 1787 … but, as conventional wisdom now assures us – at least among the elites – that government is “quaint”*.

Interestingly, the Republic’s national government (Central Africa’s, not Ours) is thinking of striking witchcraft from the books. Perhaps – may I? – they figure that if they are going to be pressured into accepting assorted American legal ‘reforms’ associated with things like sex-offenders and ‘sensitive law’, then they really won’t need ‘witchcraft’ laws any longer; they’ll have more than enough chance to strut their authority going after sex-offenders and such.

Although if that is indeed part of what’s going on, then they need to be apprised of just how frakkulous a mess ‘registration’ regimes have created for States here and for the Federal-State ‘partnership’ in general.

Perhaps those distant legislators have already noticed that they too are now being offered a ‘partnership’ – and if so, then I can only hope that whatever residual fear of genuine evil they still retain might serve them well in warding off this most recent temptation masquerading as ‘humanitarian reform’.

Anyhoo, Wood reports that the lawyers over there whom he interviewed still wanted to keep the laws on the books, although “they admitted that it [i.e. witchcraft law] fits uneasily into a modern legal system”. And that’s true. Though hardly a new observation; the blood of many judicial executions paid for it in 1692.

Although the US no longer has a ‘modern legal system’: it has been ‘reformed back’ – or ‘regressed’ – to a pre-modern form, thanks to the ‘sensitivity law’ legal regime and its assorted related crazes, manias, philosophies, and claims. Apparently these members of the Bar over there were trained in ‘modern Western’ law and have not been familiarized with the back-to-the-swamps ‘reforms’ of the postmodern American legal cosmology. Multiculturalism, we hardly knew ye!

Western Law, we hardly knew ye! And now it’s gone.

Well, not quite.

Wood interviews one attorney who has recently defended (unsuccessfully) a bunch of Pygmies who had been accused of murder-by-witchcraft. Observes the defense counsel: “The problem is that in a witchcraft case, there is usually no evidence”.

Bingo. Precisely the swampy mess that the West was trying to grow out of in the 1690s when the Salem Trials tried to re-introduce the old addled screams and claims as sufficient ‘proof’ (along with any pressure that could be brought on the hapless defendant to ‘confess’ (or – nowadays – plea bargain)).

(And after reading Nussbaum, you will see precisely just how ‘the lack of evidence’ is now considered a ‘reform’, especially since the trial is expected not to find out if a crime has been committed but rather to demonstrate the State’s power by punishing someone already presumed to have committed the crime (if there is indeed a victim, there must indeed be a perpetrator … see, it’s logic and science!)).

Good blessed grief. This is progress?

It’s anticlimactic perhaps when the reporter then asks “how one determined guilt where the alleged witches denied the charges”. The attorney replies that “the judge will look them in the eye and see if they act like witches”. But of course. If you act “strange” or “nervous” in court (and who the frak wouldn’t, facing such a meat-grinder?) then clearly you are guilty. No Visigoth or Ostrogoth could find anything objectionable in such jurisprudence.

The attorney then, however, adds an interesting bit: the legal system (in Central Africa) “could not ignore a social fact as firmly embedded as witchcraft in the republic”. And I imagine that witchcraft is as firmly embedded there as in many other societies not deeply touched by the history of Western Law during its classic (now considered “quaint” by American elites) period.

There is, after all, a dark primal strain in all human beings; after all, we retain a complex layered brain structure that contains the old primitive sections, and then evolved more complex and advanced sections only more ‘recently’ (in evolutionary terms).

The kicker is that in the classic West, and in the government Framed in Philadelphia in 1787, the benefits of that evolutionary advantage were built into the political (and legal) system: it would be the reasoning competencies of the most advanced (but recent) parts of the human brain upon which the whole structure would be built. Hence, those more primitive legal practices based upon suspicion, fear, dark and unreasoning emotions generally, and especially upon impatient fear and revenge … those practices would be left behind.

But then came the awful resurgence of emotionalism that has accompanied the stampedes of the past 40 Biblical years over here, and almost immediately those stampedes began corrupting (and regressing) the hard-won legal developments that had put a stop to all the dynamics evident in the old witchcraft trials. And in the name of ‘reform’ and ‘progress’. And with the full connivance of a vote-addled Beltway.

This, I think, has not been a good thing.

And I don’t think it well end well. But that’s a quaint view, and hardly original. The Framers saw as much in 1787. The government in London saw as much even as far back as 1693.

I can’t see the ‘progress’ here. At least, not enough progress to justify the awful cost of unleashing the dynamics of witchcraft and the profoundly dark ‘witchcraft instincts’ deep within humans.


*I have recently completed reading two works: Robert Elias’s book “The Politics of Victimization” from 1986 and Martha Nussbaum’s 2007 Harvard Law Review 100-page article “Constitutions and Capabilities: ‘Perception’ Against Lofty Formalism”. I will be Posting on both shortly, just so you can get a sense of a) how far back and how serious was the threat posed as far back as a quarter century ago, and b) how even the most ‘elite’ and prestigious legal thinkers (and law professors) are now undermining any efficacious concept of ‘limited government’ (which phrase I use here to mean the limitations on the deployment of the sovereign police power against the Citizens).

Again, I think it is important for the Us to get a grasp on just how much these legal ‘deforming reforms’ are not simply some weird weeds that have sprung up in an otherwise well-tended Constitutional garden, but rather are just an initial few in a possible jungle full of seeds being developed by assorted elements among the various professional elites, and are being sold to the Beltway (eager buyers, all) as not only Necessary but as A Good Idea and as The Right and Only Way To Go.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I have a backlog of subjects and material for Posts and I don’t like doing a same-subject Post immediately after I’ve already done one.

But after putting up the previous Post yesterday, the course of my reading today brought a Garry Wills article (“Forgive Not”, in ‘The New Republic’, print edition of May 27, 2010, pp. 14-16).

The article is worthwhile in a negative sort of way.

Wills starts off with the wrong dates, and portentously so: “This early in the twenty-first century, the rulers of the Catholic Church have suffered an earthquake of crumbling credibility. Nearly ten years ago …” He’s going for the long-range ‘historical vision’ here, and considering that the Church has been around for all twenty-one of those centuries, it’s not a bad thing.

But “the rulers of the Catholic Church” strikes a sort of monarchical note that does not really capture the mode of governance that operates in the Church: the Vatican does not “rule” in the sense of a monarchy in the Middle Ages or in any pre-modern era. Though surely in a democratic (such as it still is) era the term “rulers” is going to strike certain chords in any reader.

It wasn’t ten years ago but twenty-five or so that the first focus on Catholic priests surfaced, about the same time that the ‘victim’ or ‘victim-rights’ movement was picking up steam, in Reagan’s first administration, not long after the Satanic Ritual Abuse School Day Care mania had gone through its first explosive phase. My own thought is that Wills uses the shorter time-frame to avoid giving ground for a reader wondering why this thing has been going on for a quarter of a century, and to preserve a sense of the ‘freshness’ of the issue.

He is falling into line with the thrust of this 4th phase (by my count) of the Catholic Clergy Sex Abuse matter, which is to go after the Vatican, the Pope and the rest of the Church’s leadership in Rome as well as in Europe. “At first, the Vatican rejected the measures taken [in 2002] by [the US bishops’ conference ] … as not being fair to accused priests, giving too much scope to lay panels of critics, and violating the confidentiality of confessions”. This, to Wills, constitutes evidence of collusion and cover-up.

But it seems to me that the observations made in Rome were perfectly consistent and precisely the type of moderation to be expected by a reviewing authority considering measures made by more local authority in the heat of a sudden situation that had arisen somewhere in the world.

And surely, the dynamics of the evolving victimist-‘sensitive’ jurisprudence (and media treatment) were unfair to any accused. In the evolving script dynamics, a) anyone who claims to be a victim is indeed a victim; therefore b) anybody accused must be a perpetrator simply because ‘there is a victim’; and further c) a victim cannot be questioned closely or skeptically about an allegation because that would ‘revictimize’ and ‘disrespect the pain’ of said victim; but there’s no need to worry about a miscarriage of justice (civil or criminal) because d) victims don’t lie.

You don’t need a law school education to see how such a set of assumptions – utterly fundamental to victim-oriented ‘justice’ – would, regardless of their ‘good’ theoretical intent, profoundly derange Constitutional principles of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, the right to confront and examine one’s accusers, and indispensable standards of evidence.*

Wills, however, wants the Vatican comments to be evidence of something much more sinister. This is not solid historical analysis; it is selective and seeks to move readers toward one specific (and negative) view, though the supposed ‘evidence’ clearly indicates that there are other less-sinister and even more plausible explanations.

Equally so, he quotes a Cardinal (Bertone) who opined to an Italian magazine that he didn’t think it a good idea that a bishop be required to forthwith “denounce” to the police one of his priests who “admitted the offence of pedophilia” to that bishop; if a priest could not confide in his bishop then the core of the bishop-priest relationship is cut away.

Bertone is right, from a purely conceptual standpoint. Although there is enough evidence that bishops did not hold up their end of the responsibility by taking forceful action (insisting on credible therapy, removing the priest from certain ministries, or from ministry altogether, or having Rome ‘defrock’ him).

Becoming aware of that, the Vatican now has to steer an even more difficult course: beefing-up the disciplinary and preventive elements of episcopal oversight and priestly training, while simultaneously not yielding to the excesses of the reaction that Rome’s own failures have ignited.

It also strikes me that Bertone’s reference to “an offense of pedophilia” is unhappily vague. Is he referring to a priest confessing what amounts to the clinical diagnosis of pedophilia – which itself is only ‘an attraction to’ prepubescent children? Is he referring to the confession of an actual pedophilic act? Or merely to that ‘attraction’ though it has not been acted-upon? And if it has been acted upon, in what degree was the ‘act’? Or is it a sexual attraction but not to prepubescents? Acted upon or merely the ‘attraction’?

To the conventional ‘script’ as it has now evolved and mutated, this is all ‘thinking too much’ and ‘evidence’ of collusion and cover-up; but to any administrator or manager or leader of a human organization (and not just a religious one) these are significant questions that must be addressed before a constructive and efficacious corrective policy can be formulated and deployed.

Similarly Wills quotes another Cardinal (Casado), not an American, who looks at American society from the outside (rather a multicultural sort of thing) and opines that the pedophilic scandal is attributable to “exaggeration, financial exploitation, and nervousness”.

To Wills this is evidence of more high-level cover-up. But Casado’s remarks are hardly inaccurate, though not a complete assessment of the matter. That from the point of view of social psychology there is some connection between America’s embrace of abortion and a greatly reduced family life on the one hand, and a simultaneous anxiety over the safety of ‘children’; that one of American feminism’s primary foci has turned out to be the sexual activity and proclivities of males; that the ‘reform’ (actually weakening and skewing) of both civil and criminal jurisprudence (see Note 1 below) has had as one of its consequences the opening of a highly lucrative opportunity for unscrupulous litigation; that the combined authority of both media and legislators has been deployed in the service of heightening this societal anxiety (or ‘nervousness’) … these are hardly inaccurate or irrelevant observations. It’s mostly sad that Americans as a rule can’t see these dynamics as clearly as non-Americans.

(And I suppose I’d best say this now: I hold no brief for sexually abusive priests nor bishops or any managers lax in their oversight. I say this here because I noticed in victimist matters decades before the reign of Bush-Cheney, that verrry disturbing simplification to the effect that in the matter of victim-sensitivity one is either ‘with us or against us’ and that any effort to think is nothing but evidence of ‘insensitivity’. And, Wills would like everyone to think, evidence of collusion and cover-up.)

I can certainly agree to some extent with Wills when he quotes disapprovingly the opinion of the dean of canon law at the Gregorian University that “the bishop and superior (of religious orders) are neither morally nor judicially responsible for the acts committed by one of their clergy”. The service of human beings generates a strong responsibility to ensure training and oversight of those who will serve; this is as true for the Church as it is of, say, the Pentagon, when it deploys combat troops into civilian areas where non-combatants might be harmed by the actions of those troops.

And I think that in that regard the Church has not taken its responsibilities seriously enough. And to the extent that the Church is now correcting that – and has – then things are progressing at least as well as, again, the military’s efforts to fine-tune its activities in the several current war-zones. **

Another Cardinal (Maradiaga) is quoted as observing that Cardinal Bernard Law (of the Boston Archdiocese, in charge there when the 3rd phase broke out in January of 2002) was subjected to “Stalinist processes against Churchmen”. As I say in Note 1 below, the similarity of dynamics between ‘revolutionary justice’ and the methodology of feminist-victimist law cannot be ignored. Which is not a cheap shot seeking to ‘trump’ everything else, but rather is an observation that warns of the presence of dynamics highly corrosive of the Constitutional ethos and is intended to stimulate serious deliberation about what is going on and the possible consequences (unintended, one must hope).

Another Cardinal (Rodriquez) is quoted as observing that the sustained nature of the media attention amounts to “an obsession [that] is a mental illness”. From the point of view of a social-psychology analysis, it’s neither an inaccurate nor irrelevant observation.

The same Cardinal observed in a press conference that Americans have become rather litigious, using the example of suing a homeowner for slipping on a banana peel on the sidewalk in front of the house. This is hardly an original or novel observation and is almost conventional-wisdom even among Americans. As is his further observation that such litigation has become “a kind of industry” in the United States. That Wills claims this as evidence of cover-up or avoidance is a stretch indeed.

The same Cardinal then perorates that he’d rather go to jail than “harm one of my priests”. As a statement of pure principle it is unobjectionable and even impressive – surely the example of Abu Ghraib, where the ‘little people’ among the guards were offered up as scapegoats while the higher-ups escaped consequences comes to mind.

But I have to say that if any prelate in episcopal authority or in the Vatican failed to take sufficient measures in the oversight and training of his priests, then he has indeed “harmed them” as well as made possible the harm to any genuine victims of such priests. And in that I concur with Wills’s anger.

Wills then asserts that although his own book – “Papal Sins” – was published in 2000, before what I would term the 3rd phase, yet he sees now “the same patterns of denial, evasion, defensiveness, accusation, and protestations of innocence and holiness that I had already analyzed”. I have not read Wills’s book, but the quotations he marshals in this article do not with any degree of clarity establish such “patterns”.

Indeed, I am reminded of nothing so much as the ant-aggressors in T.H. White’s “Once and Future King”: preparing for a war against another nest, the ant propagandists say of their intended targets that “they are attacking us by defending themselves”. This dynamic is a key element in the victimist methodology, sad to say: if you do anything less than totally and immediately accept and approve every claim that a self-designated ‘victim’ makes, then you are somehow ‘attacking’ or ‘re-victimizing’ the victim. This simplistic equation is a recipe for democratic and Constitutional catastrophe. And it is no coincidence that White’s novelistic characterization was a reflection of Hitler’s actual propaganda as he gobbled up one neighboring country after another claiming ‘national self-defense’ and characterizing any opposition to his invasions as ‘attacks upon the German troops and people’.

But then Wills goes in another and more extraordinary direction. He claims to have been moved by reading Lord Acton’s disapproving assessment of the first Vatican Council (1870): Pius IX had used low political pressure tactics to get the Council to approve his claim of ‘papal infallibility’, Acton said, but clearly a papacy that had gotten through the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (of the French Huguenots in 1572) and whose claims to near-imperial authority were based on forgeries (the ‘Donation of Constantine’, dating from the 8th or 9th century A.D.), “was just acting true to form”.

This gets Wills going on the idea that the Papacy itself is an “ahistorical” accretion, almost a parasite (my image, not Wills’s) that fastened itself upon genuine Christianity and upon “the people of God” (Wills’s term). In other words, there is, according to Wills, a genuine Christianity comprised of lay believers, and then there is this thing comprised of clergy and bishops and Pope that was not part of the “early history of the Christian community”. Nor, he adds, were “males the only ministers at the outset”.

I had mentioned in earlier Posts within the past month that among the ‘interests’ comprising the synergy driving the oddly sustained ‘crisis’ of Catholic clerical abuse was a congeries of primarily Western and American elements who a) want to ‘democratize’ the Church and b) want women to be ordained (as part of the feminist initiative). I had also opined that this 4th phase of the ‘crisis’ seemed even more specifically aimed at taking a big bite out of the Vatican and the Papacy itself, almost as a logical extension of the earlier phases, but more specific and, consequently, more revealing of its basic generating dynamics and objectives.

And here now is Wills’s article pretty much laying the whole thing out.

Wills recounts the history of the Papacy’s increasing monarchical trappings and power throughout the Middle Ages. He presumes that it is evidence merely of a parasitic organism’s deliberate attempts, with malice aforethought, to impose itself upon genuine and true Christianity, those “people of God”.

I would like to see more concern for the complexities of Western history after the Fall of the Roman Empire. The Bishop of Rome – now the only authority left in the City with the departure of the Imperial court – became the only temporal as well as spiritual authority in the City. And when the Western Empire collapsed, and the Byzantine Patriarch attached himself as a sort of Court Chaplain to the Eastern Emperor in Constantinople, the Bishop of Rome both became the only authority left in the West and also sought to gain some equal authority to the Patriarch of Constantinople in order to prevent the lands and peoples of the former Western Empire from simply being subsumed spiritually under the senior authority of the Patriarch and the Emperor in Constantinople.

In the process the Roman Church established itself as independent of secular and temporal authority (as the Orthodox Church in the East, as evidenced by the Russian Orthodox Church, did not do).

As the Dark Ages ended and the Middle Ages began, Western political structures began to develop into nascent monarchies, and the Papacy found itself now striving to preserve spiritual independence across a broad spectrum of grasping temporal powers. The Papacy wound up becoming something of a temporal monarchy itself in order to avoid being overrun, or being subsumed as the ‘court chaplain’ of this or that momentarily dominant monarch or ‘emperor’.

And it wound up not only remaining the fulcrum of spiritual authority but also struggling to retain itself against the temporal tumult of Medieval European politics.

You don’t operate in floods like that without getting wet – and the Papacy wound up as temporally befouled as the rest of the monarchies of the time.

But to characterize this as some sort of long-held conspiracy on the part of (pick one or several: power-hungry clerics, ‘men’, maniacs) to deprive God’s true people of their rightful authority in matters of Church governance ... that is indeed a stretch.

Indeed, absent a central fulcrum of identity, Christianity would have dissolved into the many variants that actually developed after the Protestant Reformation, including the queasy fundamentalist sects so repugnant to Wills and the ‘liberal’ interests with whom he shares such an aversion to the Vatican and the Papacy.

So his analysis here does not at all impress.

Especially when he refers, almost incoherently, to the Papacy’s “ahistorical and medieval roots”. In the first place, the Papacy is verrry much ‘historical’ and in the second place its roots go back further than the Middle Ages (although roots in the Middle Ages alone would still be a pretty hefty set of ‘historical’ credentials).

I see in Wills the feministical tendency, evident as well in Marxist thought, to see ‘history’ primarily as a ‘conspiracy’ of those currently targeted as being ‘successfully in power’; said ‘conspiracy’ to have somehow existed and been sustained and nurtured over long eons of human history. Marx actually was on to something – the natural tendency of humans to seek security but also to overdo it and greedily amass resources – but the ‘conspiracy’ bit as a fundamental driving dynamic of history was a serious derailment.

Ditto the feminist assertion of the all-powerful ‘patriarchy’ that was responsible for everything that they felt was wrong these days (and whose ‘defeat’ was, by the by, such a great achievement of the present cadres of the revolution): ‘men’ had evilly plotted and ‘oppressed’ for no reason but pure malice. (Yes, there is now a kinder, gentler branch of feminist thought that feels ‘men’ might simply have been ignorant, and will be rescued by the current cadres – but the essential presumption that ‘men’ are ‘the problem’, have always been the problem, and will continue to be the problem remains.)

This is the investigative paradigm that Wills brings to the Papacy, through the mechanism of this multi-phased, sustained ‘clergy sex abuse crisis’.

Thus he rails against “the mythical underpinnings of the priestly system”. I think he only means ‘male’ priests; I get the impression that if priests were women, his objections to ‘the priestly system’ would dissolve; perhaps also his objections to the Papacy if a woman were Pope.

He asks with an angry flourish: “What real change can occur when such myths are clung to with a blind ferocity?” I’m not sure that the Vatican is either ‘blind’ or ‘ferocious’, but certainly he has given no evidence to support such a characterization.

It is equally possible that in the Vatican they don’t quite see the value of what Wills (and his many compatriot ‘interests’) is seeking; or they don’t know if ‘revolution’ as practiced in America these past Biblical 40 years is a prudent way to go; or they realize that with the exception of the declining West the current Church structure (of which abuse is not an officially-approved component part) is doing rather well in the world; or perhaps they see what happened to the music when Protestantism deprived the orchestra of a conductor and a score and claimed that every player could play the music s/he sorta felt was best – and how THAT has worked out for ‘the people of God’.

There are many possibilities here – and Wills’s efforts to move the herd down the one path he favors smacks of manipulation.

“The reaction of the hierarchy has been to dig itself even deeper into the past”. Surely, an institution that has survived for twenty-one centuries is going to have a sense of its past. And by the same token, is going to be a little leery of those who suddenly insist that that entire ‘past’ has been nothing but an oppressive and malicious conspiracy.

The stampede game-plan worked with the vote-addled Democrats over here 40 years ago, and contributed to the deformative morphing of both Parties into the treacherous blob that the Beltway now is.

But it hasn’t worked with the Vatican and the Papacy. Which, I think, is gall and wormwood to the cadres and drives them to frenzy – and hence, partially at least, the sustained nature of this ‘crisis’ over a quarter of a century.

This is a matter not only of interest to Catholics but to Americans. Because the dynamics involved here are deeply corrosive of a deliberative politics and the Constitutional ethos.


*I have mentioned in a prior Post the statement of one Wendy Murphy, law professor and expert on ‘victim law’, who recently burbled that she was happy that a victim would not be denied ‘justice’ merely because of a lack of evidence. I am currently researching a far weightier expression of that principle by Martha Nussbaum, a top-tier philosopher of feminism, who gives clear voice to the basic feminist assertion that trials are not to establish the existence of a crime so much as to ‘provide justice’ to the (already believed) ‘victim’.

Thus, in her and feminist law’s vision, it is the outcome of the trial (punishing the already-presumed perpetrator) that must be the focus of expectation, rather than the process of ascertaining whether the defendant was indeed a perpetrator at all. In this scheme, the mere existence of the ‘victim’ is proof-positive that the crime was committed; the courts are simply there to provide official certification of that fact by deploying the sovereign police power of the state to punish the perpetrator-defendant and bring about (pick one or several: ‘justice’, ‘acknowledgement’, ‘closure’, ‘retribution’, revenge, prevention of further victimization).

Once you look at its core dynamics, it’s hard to distinguish the fundaments of ‘feminist’ and ‘victim’ law from the ‘revolutionary justice’ and ‘show trials’ of the Stalinist or Maoist or Hitlerite regimes, to name but a few more recent examples. And you don’t have to be a Pope-defender to see that either.

**In that regard, for that matter, the Church has never sent out the type of flyer to its agents that the USAAF sent to its bomber pilots during the fire-bombing campaign of Japanese cities: “for us, there are no civilians”. Nor have any priests or Church agents ever been assured, as American troops now report they were assured, that ‘command’ will ‘cover them’ if they kill civilians in the course of their actions. Thus, there has never been a Church document advising priests that it was ‘open season’ on children and they would be ‘covered’ by the Vatican if children (or anybody of any age) were sexually abused or raped in the course of ministry.

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Monday, May 17, 2010


James Carroll, in a not-always displayed acuteness that cuts against the grain of ‘liberal’ conventional wisdom, piques the imagination today with a column that touches – but doesn’t dig into – the following thought: the intensifying ‘liberal-secular’ assault on all things religious (especially the tremendously handy and assorted-interests-pleasing Catholic sex abuse crisis) is directly proportional to the secular-liberal fear that its own ‘paradise’ now so clearly reveals itself as cracked (and perhaps crackpot) that it must ‘go negative’ in order to distract everybody from its own failures.

“A focus on religious failures”, he observes, “can let the broader culture off the hook”.

Of course, things are helped along – in a neatly self-licking ice-cream cone sorta way – by the Pope recently speaking about “sin within the Church itself”. The Pope is on to something here. But it’s hardly evidence of his originality: the Church has been saying that about itself since the beginning (and it is, at this point, ten times older than the American republic and rather more experienced in matters of this world and of the Next).

The Church embodies (though not fully) God’s presence in human history, but while the pinnacle of its Ideals reach into that Beyond which infuses it with Spirit and Grace, the roots of its historical edifice – like the Vatican buildings themselves – drive into the mushy flatlands of that humanity and its history of which it is composed.

Nor does it help that while trying to move humans toward living life in God (which, like B-29s trying to fly in the jetstream, requires some advanced development of the individual pilot’s skills), the Church can’t get too far ahead of the stubbornly less-advanced elements of human-ness. For every first-rate saint who has matched the mastery of sailing his or her human vessel to the utter mystery of the Divine Wind, there have been so many thousands whose religious capability remained anchored in the darker and more primal human gropings toward the Unseen.

But when it comes to humans and their histories, God seems persistently willing to work with what’s available, and the Church can’t get too far ahead of God either.

But, Carroll notes, “we are living through the simultaneous breakdowns of the two great secular myths that have defined Western civilization for 200 years – the socialist idea of equality and the organizing ethos of nationalism”. If We imagine – and not wrongly – that the Left for so long has tried to bring about a paradise of Equality, and the Right a paradise of Order, then We might also imagine that both have gotten somewhat ahead of human history.

Well, what the hey? How can you get anything done if you don’t get ahead and lead?

But if you get too far ahead, or too excited, you might stop trying to lead and simply try to pull.

And you won’t only try to pull History along, although you’re perhaps too far ahead for any good that you might accomplish; you’ll start trying to pull human-ness along.

And that doesn’t often end well.

The Church learned that the hard way long ago.

The much much younger Enlightenment West hasn’t yet learned that. Indeed, it holds itself being far too knowledgeable and adventurous to be held back by ‘old’ knowledge (don’t trust anything over 200 years old, the Enlightenment and Romantic West might say – at least until the Boomers knocked it down to 30).

Funny, but in the vampire movies – especially the best of them – it was the older vampire that the younger vampire must learn – the hard way, if necessary – to respect. There was knowledge and power that emanated from a lonnnnng ability to survive. A two-thousand year-old vampire would be much more capable than a two-hundred year-old one, and the youngster would do well to bear that in mind.

Of course, neither the revolutions of the Left nor the nation-states of the Right are really willing to see themselves as vampires. Though in a way there is a vampiric strain in both, as there is in all things human, and in humans themselves. But it’s a useful metaphor, I think.

And it makes for a certain patience and humility that youth never really grasps until later, if not – alas – until sometimes it is too late.

And then Consequences kick in and Life takes one of its nasty, but helpfully corrective, turns.

Although, Consequences having a life of their own and not being simply the cuddly resolved-in-the-third-act plot problems of Hollywood, things can never be quite the same again. Think of how ‘un-American’ the end of “Casablanca” really was: the hero (no great shakes in the looks department) didn’t wind up getting the girl, and ‘the other guy’ (no great shakes in the personality department) turns out to be successfully dedicated to a demanding life of self-sacrifice in the awesomely threatening face of awesomely organized evil.

(And, face it, in this day of self-assured, bleating, butter-greasy Beltway slickies, who can’t cast a wistful eye at Inspector Reynaud’s refreshing candor: “Make it ten thousand - I’m only a poor, corrupt official ” … ?)

So the Church, drawing upon a wisdom drawn from the Greeks and the Romans, developed canon law. The word ‘canon’ does not derive from the artillery piece, but rather from the Greek ‘kanon’ – target or ideal. You make a law to embody the Ideal, giving people something to aim at and to grow toward, while knowing that they are certain to fall short from time to time or even a lot of the time.

This is an approach to Law different from the approach that presumes everybody will and must fulfill it all the time. The ‘kanon-ical’ approach requires both stern-ness and patience, and the humility to realize that in this world even the guards and judges have probably (perhaps most probably) committed their share of law-breaking. Thus the balky and unruly human circus column makes its pilgrim way through Time. If it is a ‘line of march’, it is so only in that marvelously and stubbornly human way once ascribed to Italian military operations generally.

Carroll warms to his thought as he goes along: “The hollowing out of US institutions, from a Congress in the grip of political paralysis to an extravagantly funded Pentagon that cannot defeat enemies whose bombs are made with fertilizer, to an economic regulatory system that has no influence, much less control, over financial predators – all of this suggests a breakdown not just of government, but of the national idea”. [italics mine]*

To which antiphon one can only respond: Bingo!

He names, accurately but without getting into the much more painful specifics as to how they came about, so fundamental a catastrophe as “the collapsed structures of meaning”, which has cut humanity (in the West, at least) “loose from all moorings”. Like my favorite image of the Ferris wheel, broken loose from its struts and careening drunkenly along the midway (one of Spielberg’s most telling images, in my book).

In this country, this is all the result of Congress ‘bipartisanly’ choosing to pander both to Big Pain and to Big Money.

The Big Pain is the organized advocacy against ‘oppression’, impossibly broadly defined if you are going to engorge and deploy the powers of a theoretically limited Constitutional government to assuage its every manifestation.

The Big Money is – as always – the big money. But now with a twist, and a monstrous one. Whereas in the pre-1970 era of US history, the money itself was made by huge corporately organized productive enterprises, since 1980 or so the money is simply ‘there’, and the ‘big money men’ (not intended in a genderist way) are financial managers, who produce nothing but paper and reeking ‘instruments’ … and large bonuses, which they share with the pols who in grateful exchange have deployed their public authority to cage the dogs of regulation.

In fact, you might say that at this point the only thing the country produces is money (printing the stuff at will) and ‘instruments’.

Oh, and military stuff – which it both sells to other countries and uses against them (increasingly), in the service of ‘humanitarian imperialism’ or ‘resource imperialism’ or – the wave of the future – both, with the former fronting for the latter.

After all you can’t eat all those paper ‘instruments’ – or even all those benjamins, and you can’t run your car on them. For the necessities of life, you need other folks’ stuff. That’s what the ‘national interest’ is becoming, and that’s what the military will have to go out and grab – for as long as the game lasts. Which probably won’t be another two thousand years. Or maybe even another two hundred. Or even a tenth of that.

But this started out about the Church, so let’s not digress.

The Church, Carroll’s own paper now uneasily reports, is getting ready to stand up against the decades-long sustained effort to paint it as an ongoing Nixonian cover-up of what is essentially an ongoing sex-abuse enterprise.

I can’t help but think of Audi, in the 1980s, after several years of an American soap-opera stampede claiming that its Teutonic-engineered, high-performance automobiles lumpishly accelerated when the brake pedal was depressed (so the embarrassed drivers claimed in their civil court filings). After a spell of the then-unfamiliar horror-stories from this and that telegenically posed driver, Audi decided that the customer cannot always be presumed to be right, especially when there’s a bundle to be made by said customer(s) through a successfully staged lawsuit.

(Whereas the type of European who would buy an Audi might not perhaps wish to embarrass him/herself by such a gambit, a new generation of Americans – Audi discovered - felt that Pain and its pecuniary assuagement was a perfectly respectable business undertaking.)

So now the Church is going to break the ‘script’; rather than stand conveniently still as all manner of opprobrium is heaped upon it, or mumble or fumble in an effort to assuage its tormentors and hope that they will be appeased, the Church has decided to stand up – both to face its tormentors and itself.

Good. Should have been done long ago on both counts.

As to whether the larger strategic purposes of this long torment have been achieved – that the Church’s moral stature among its adherents and in the public eye has been sufficiently weakened so that it can no longer offer credible resistance to this, that, and the other programme of the Left’s and the Right’s pandered constituencies – remains to be seen, but I’m thinking not.

And at this point, as might be inferred from Carroll’s piece, this country and its people – and The People – are in dire need of the Beyond: for meaning and for mooring, as individuals, as communities, and as the Citizens of a Constitutional Republic that has lost both its bearings and its very grounding.

The Church isn’t perfect, but then has never claimed that it/she was. Which is a bit more than the US government can say at this point (whether in its Leftish reforms or its Rightist wars or its bipartisan ‘humanitarian imperialism’ deployed both domestically and abroad). The Church has never claimed to make History, nor to be its Shaper.

But in a way far deeper and wider and higher than any contemporary faddist can assert, the Church does indeed ‘get it’, and has, and will continue to.

The best this country can hope is to continue to share Time and History with her.

But if that is to be, then it will take more virtue than a flat and shallow ‘optimism’.

The courage of patience and humility would be a good place to start.

Especially if We can impose it upon Ourselves before Time and History do it for Us.


*And you are welcome to give some thought to what is/was America's “National Idea”.

It seems to me that the Framers wanted to provide a reliable limited government that would create the stable ‘space’ wherein human energy, ingenuity and enterprise could flourish and the world would be able to see what a free people could accomplish when unhampered by despotism.

Beyond that they could not go without the government starting to take on the tasks and require the powers of God. Which would inevitably result in a ‘benevolent despotism’, which benevolence they mistrusted over the long run; it would morph into a mere ‘despotism’.

And that is precisely what has happened over time. Especially when, beyond the classic concerns for decent economic rights in the Depression that resulted in the New Deal of the 1930s, the hugely more intangible and questionable programmes of the late 1960s and early 1970s demanded a far more fundamental re-casting of the National Idea.

And then, of course, the revolutionizing advocates of that re-jiggering realized that their visions were sooo tenuous (if desirable, in a best-case outcome scenario at least) and questionable that any process of genuine public deliberation would quite possibly result in that re-jiggering being largely watered down. Thus their revolutionary play-book required that in the service of their visions the entire process of public-deliberation be side-stepped. Which was effected with the whole-hearted assistance of vote-desperate Dems, who enshrined their highly questionable ideas with the full authority of the Federal government.

Thus the paralysis of government which Carroll now sees. The Beltway is now so deeply indentured to the ‘revolutions of the identities’ for votes (and to the corporations for PAC cash) that hardly any pol is sufficiently ‘free’ to take any genuinely corrective and reformative action at this point.

Which is why I see the Beltway now as being in much the same mess as the Soviet ‘elites’ of the mid-1970s: they know they’ve made a hash of it and that things can’t go on like this, but they hope to just have their fun and then retire and get out of town; the new term for that – popular in elite circles – is IBGYBG: I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone.

In other words: let’s make our money now, and by the time anybody figures out what we did, IBGYBG.

But of course, one of the consequences of that approach was that by 1990, 15 or so years later, the whole government and its ‘National Idea’ collapsed.

I worry that this, now, is what is in store for Us.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010


In my recent Post “America’s Deficits: Then and Now” I discussed Andrew Bacevich’s article about how prior American efforts – self-interested, at that – in the Eisenhower years had failed, providing in the process numerous warnings for any future (now ‘present’) American government dabbling in that region.

I’d also like to follow up on another point of interest contained in his article.

Let me quote one of his paragraphs, in which he discusses the assumptions underlying (you don’t want to say ‘justifying’) the present American misadventures there:

The central assumptions are these: a) that the Pashtun way of life is defective; b) that the Pashtuns know this and yearn for something better; c) that United States officials understand where the problems lie and by mobilizing American resources and skill can repair them; d) that in doing so, the United States will both improve the lives of ordinary people and enhance America’s standing in their eyes and in the eyes of many others.” [italics mine]

There was something familiar about them, though at the time I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

But it’s come to me now: these four assumptions undergirded the Revolution of the Identities’ assault on American culture, society, and the Constitution for the past forty Biblical years. (I am going to shorten ‘Revolution of the Identities’ to ‘RevIdents’.)

Assumption (a) mirrors the RevIdent assumption that American life, culutre, society and the Constitutional ethos are and always have been fundamentally defective in one way or another, and that they are therefore outmoded, oppressive, and “quaint”.

Assumption (b) also mirrors that, though with a twist: not all Americans were presumed to realize this and desire change. Indeed, only the cadres of the RevIdent and their supporters (those who ‘got it’) were the ones with wits enough to see all that; but since their view was Correct and also promised the Right and Only Path to Perfection, and since there was such an ‘emergency’ of ‘oppression’, then theirs were the only ideas – “voices”, they like to say – that counted.

Assumption (c) – happily embraced by the Dems and then the Republicans as both Parties merged into the treacherous blob now known as the Beltway – presumed that not only the cadres but their willing government enablers (officially ‘hailed’ as those who did indeed ‘get it’) were in possession of that mysterious 'Wisdom'.

And further that they all knew just how to conduct a fundamental ‘deconstruction’ of American culture and the Constitution’s ethos without seriously deranging the functioning of a society and culture that had always (and accurately) held itself to be inseparably rooted in the Constitution and its ethos. (A callow and arrogant assumption that is proving as frakkulously wrong as its application in economics: that you can kill the Goose that lays the Golden Eggs without disrupting the Egg supply … a chunk of fatuous frakkulence that only revolutionary cadres, Boomers, and the Beltway Best and Brightest could possibly embrace.)

Assumption (d) mirrors the Kool-Aid claptrap that those who did ‘get it’ used as a substitute for ‘belief’ in any Larger Being that might stand in judgment (and in the way) of their programme: IF ONLY everybody went along with them, then after a while everything would work out just great. (Again, I recall Wimpy’s sempiternal promise: I shall gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today … which – the hellhot ironies! – is precisely the promise the US government is now having to make with reckless abandon to any sucker on the planet who looks capable of forking over cash for T-bills on the ‘promise’ of payback ‘one fine day’ in the not-too-near future.)

And furthermore, (d) mirrors the RevIdent assumption that the (oh-so-rare) best-case outcome would be the only possible outcome; that therefore, less ‘good’ outcomes, including partial or complete failure and the engendering of awful and perhaps irreversible damage and consequences were not only improbable but were almost mystically guaranteed not to happen.

(And in this, the cadres – otherwise so in-your-face ‘secular’ – were rendered into mushbrains far more destructively credulous than any ‘religious’ folk except the whackjob fundamentalists. Somehow, the Value-of-the-Revolution, like the Fundoozie ‘God’, would guarantee the utter ‘triumph’ of whatever its self-proclaimed Deputies tried to pull off. As best I can see, that ‘God’ – though not the Genuine Article – really does appear to be either dead or asleep at the switch.)

We have not only been sold a bill of goods, but the Beltway is now trying to forcibly unload those same defective goods on other peoples around the planet.

Nor is this ‘imperialism’ merely - or even primarily - of the Rightists and Jingoists. As Bacevich politely intimates in his article, you will now find yourself in the crosshairs of the American military urge to ‘partner’ and ‘liberate’ you if you are either (i) perceived to be ‘oppressive of women’ in the eyes of the Beltway feministicals (and just about every male and every tradition on the planet is already listed on their Axis of Oppression) or (ii) you are sitting on top of some resource-rich lode or located along the routes to same, or (iii) both.

The fact that the American soon to be cash-starved military now considers itself far ‘better’ (not to say 'more effective') for having moon-faced lesbian generals and lantern-jawed lesbian admirals simply adds that touch of through-the-looking-glass, costume-epic boffo to the whole repulsive, destructive, doomed enterprise of ‘humanitarian imperialism’.*

God, this generation has a rendezvous with being laughed-at by Destiny and by Posterity.

By Posterity, that is, until those yet-to-be Tire Kickers realize exactly how much We blew, and how much of that Much was theirs.

I suspect that when the Last Trumpet sounds, and everybody winds up at the great graduation-cum-class-reunion in the Sky, there are many of Us who will be well advised not to wear a ‘Hello, my adult years on earth in America included 1970-2020’ sticky badge. Definitely, you don’t want to have one on if you find yourself peeping over the rim of your plastic wine glass looking Washington or Lincoln in the face.

Or any Roman from the late Republic who had consoled him/herself with the thought that even if it was all going to imperial hell now, at least the wreck of your national life would provide an everlasting warning to those who came after and read the Histories and took careful note.

Boomers, I most clearly recall, didn’t take careful notes.

And it shows.


*As an example of feministically-inspired ‘humanitarian imperialism’ you can read Samantha Power’s recent book (“A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide”, 2003) in which she complains about multilateralism and international law and (may I say it? – “quaint”) concepts of sovereignty that get in the way of the US stretching forth its mighty (this was 2003) and oh-so-Correct arm to save ‘victims’ everywhere.

Not only does this mirror the feministical approach to the “quaint” constraints of the Constitution domestically. Which is to say: when victims are in pain or danger and when you are trying not only to save them but prevent further pain, then concern over the engorgement of government’s intrusive powers and such quibbling concerns as “evidence” and “due process” are horrible proof that you ‘just don’t get it’; in fact, steps taken to ensure that the guilty are punished and not let off should govern ‘procedural’ trials that are more concerned for (fuddy-duddy) due process than for ensuring that the (already-assumed) ‘guilty’ get what’s coming to them.

But also kindly recall that this is not stuff coming from the Law-and-Order Right and the old Nixonian ‘silent majority’ and ‘hardhats’ (those were the days!) but rather from the cutting edge of the putatively ‘liberal’ Left.

And of course, it screams to be noticed that just as happened here domestically, the ‘victim’ easily becomes the telegenic front for the engorgement of government power. Now it is not the domestic police power, but rather the overseas military power.

THIS is progress? THIS is a good idea? Do we actually have two Parties with substantially different but worthwhile approaches to national and international affairs?

AND AS ALWAYS, the ‘progressive’ Best and Brightest give no thought to ‘the big C’, i.e. Consequences. What about all the extra blood that is shed when you invade a country, even for ‘good’ reasons and with ‘good intentions’? What about the example you’re setting for other nations who might also like to have a ‘justification’ for stretching forth their military arms? What about the fact that before long We are going to run out of real money and Our benjamins are going to enjoy the status of Monopoly money? (Google that last if you have to.)

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