A Giant in Bravery and Courage

This is a review of a book that I just posted on Amazon on the experiences of Witold Pilecki, a Polish army officer who volunteered to go to Auschwitz:

In an era where the word “hero” is bandied about a little too much, one can go back to an era where bravery and heroism was done by people who went above and beyond the call of duty.  In this book, the report of Captain Witold Pilecki on his experiences in the Auschwitz concentration camp in what is now western Poland is told with stunning clarity and anguish. 

By intentionally involving himself in a roundup by SS officers, he undertook a mission to go inside Auschwitz to see how the camp was being run and to buildup resistance among the Poles who were detained there. Throughout the report, he told of great hardship where “capos” and SS men were extraordinarily cruel to the prisoners where men were put into “commandos” and essentially worked to death (finished off).  Pilecki survived in part by conserving his energy during the ordeal and using his wits to obtain better jobs in the camp that involve lighter labor.

He recorded all of the great horrors of the camp including Soviet prisoners being exterminated all at once with gas and men and women being given phenol injections to procure agonizing deaths.  Others were given too little of the drug and were burned alive in the oven.  Jews were the main targets of these atrocities, but Poles, Ukrainians, Czechs and to a certain extent Catholic priests had a share in this horror.

After being informed that he might be sent to a harsher camp where he might not survive, he planned his escape in April 1943 and accomplished it with a large amount of suspense and drama.  He escaped to the “General government” area east of Krakow where he met men of the Polish Home Army and reported his findings.   The final tragedy was to come several years later at the hands of his own countrymen who embraced the Soviet government and tried him as a spy.  Nonetheless, this story which is contained in this book should be read by all who look for men who were giants.   A brilliant book with a short introduction and informative appendices.

 

The South

I looked forward with great anticipation in traveling with my son to some memorable places in the South, an area rich in culture and history that is fast being forgotten in an era of mass consumerism and living for the moment.  The South is different place.  It is a place where things are slower and the people seem to be more laid back.

My travels took me through the upper deep South with stops in Vicksburg, Tuscaloosa, Chattanooga, Nashville and areas of western Tennessee before coming back home.  It was here that we went to various sites where major Civil War battles took place.  Vicksburg, Chickamauga, Stones River and Shiloh ring in the memory of many down here where even 150 years after the fact, the scars are still present.  The remnants of trenches are still seen at Vicksburg where Union troops dug in for several months of siege before the confederates surrendered the town on July 4, 1863, a date which was the beginning of the end for the Southerners.

Chickamauga and Shiloh were bloody affairs where thousands died in the battles and the massive rows of graves are prominent in those areas as well as Stones River.  It is my firm belief that while the Union was saved, the Republic that we have read in the history books was shattered forever. One need only to watch the inane acceptance speeches of both parties during the past few weeks to see that even the ghosts of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Clay, Calhoun and Webster are fast leaving us.

The South still has the magic of past in it with folks saying “Sir” and Ma’am” to each other, listening to country music on stations such as WSM out of Nashville and folks gobbling up hash browns at Waffle House along the interstate.  The weather was hot and humid, but the sounds and the winds of the night air seem to impress my mind with memories that will last the rest of my lifetime.

Good ole Rocky Top indeed.

Russell Kirk: American Conservative–a review

Here is my review of Russell Kirk: American Conservative that I posted on Amazon: 

In a few short days, I journeyed through the 75 years that Russell Kirk lived on this earth from his humble beginnings in rural Michigan to his final home going at Piety Hill in 1994 by reading this very enjoyable biography by Bradley Birzer, a professor of history at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan.

The strengths are many in this book including the fact that much of the research came through retrieval of the personal correspondence and diaries of Prof. Kirk.  There are also other written letters from people dealing with Kirk and that there was much citing of journals and magazines dating back to the 1950s.

Kirk is shown to be a staunch stoic who bared up to the monotony of being stationed for four years during World War II at the Dugway Proving Grounds 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah.  It was here that he saw the expanse of the West and the desolation that was ingrained into his memory for the rest of his life.  It was a world totally different from where he grew up in the forested areas of Michigan.

There is so much more that can be said for the man, but the main points that I took away from this book include the fact that he was his own man who had a unique personality almost to the point of being called an eccentric.  He walked with a sword cane and wore a cape wherever he went.  He also despised modern technology that included the automobile, the radio and most especially the television where he threw a fit when his family watched several programs on the tube and proceeded shortly thereafter to throw the device out of the window.   He felt that technology made people less human and robbed people of imagination and opportunities for introspection.

Kirk was also a man who felt that politics was not the way that men should solve problems.  He departed from this belief in the early 1960s through his support of Goldwater and in the early 1980s when he tried to give advice to Ronald Reagan in terms of promoting conservatism.  By the end of his life, he was very critical of the massive growth of government and especially the military industrial complex and came out vehemently against the Gulf War.

Kirk’s conversion shortly before his marriage in 1964 was another highlight of this book.  The author contended that Kirk’s embracing of the Catholic faith was not instantaneous, but rather developed over the course of many years.  He was in the end a man of faith who had a very Stoic life and instilled that philosophy in his children with the help of his wife Annette.

Also, Kirk was not a man that believed in programs.  No ideology could change the hearts of men, for such things could only do more damage to civilization and mankind.  Kirk strived to return to the “permanent things,” those things that came by tradition and by Faith over the course of centuries.  He was very wary of the novel and the unproven which tended toward radicalism.  Kirk was not a libertarian by any stretch but by the end of his days he sought to form a rare alliance with men like Murray Rothbard who was his bitter enemy back in the 1950s.  Kirk also helped libertarian flavored candidates like Lawrence Reed who now heads the Foundation for Economic Education.

I could go on about the fiction he wrote which was very substantial and the numerous trips he took to Scotland, but suffice to say, you all must read the rest to get an idea on what a great man Russell Kirk was.  We need more giants like him…well not exactly like him or he might come from the grave and give us a knock on the head.

The FBI…in craven color

No, I was not named for Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., the actor who played Inspector Erskine on the Quinn Martin produced TV series The FBI from 1965 to 1973, but I do remember watching the show when I was a kid almost every week where Erskine would get his man at the end of every episode and the safety of America was assured.

Having entered into my mature years and actually reading about the FBI’s unconstitutional formation and its attempts to abuse the liberties of the people, I have grown more skeptical that most law enforcement agencies in Washington actually have the best interests of the American people at heart.   I have read books on how the FBI created fake terror plots to get more money for its agency and how the agency spied on war protesters during the 1960s without warrant and its drive to collect data on every person who might have caused trouble for the federal government no matter how many laws it needed to break.

Yesterday, the FBI reached a new low in terms of double standards where they let Hillary Clinton off the hook for her careless handling of classified e-mails in spite of the fact that such actions have been the basis of prosecutions against people of lower stature as Glenn Greenwald stated so eloquently in his Intercept column yesterday.  So whenever I hear about talk about “equal justice” from these progressive Hillary worshipers, I laugh them to scorn.

When it comes to people like David Koresh or the ranchers in Nevada, the FBI flexes it muscles like a steroid drenched wrestler, but when it comes to people in high places, it cowers like a little scream queen in countless b-movie horror flicks.  There is not much to say other than the FBI is not your friend and it is merely a branch of the warfare-welfare state ready to cater to its overlords while we the common folk are impaled on pikes to ensure Washington remains powerful.

It is time for our own Brexit?

Orlando, the way it used to was

Much has happened in the City of Orlando and all of it has not been good.  Shootings and a child towed under by an alligator has given the city a black eye that has tarnished its image as the City Beautiful.  The city has grown into an entertainment mecca with theme parks and a clubs all over the place.  Such modernity might be the in thing now, but it seems that the city lost a bit of its magic from the good ole days.

When I went to Naval Nuclear Power School in Orlando back in 1982, the city was still a sleepy southern town with a county population of just under 500,000 people.   There was Walt Disney World, but that was pretty much about it as far as theme parks were concerned until the opening of Epcot in October of that year.  Wet n’ Wild was the major water park where you could get in for $10 and the only nightlife in the town was Church Street Station which consisted of a few bars and from what I have read closed its doors almost 20 years ago.  I took the bus a couple of times around Orlando, but the bus service ended around 7:00 p.m. as most people stayed at home to spend their evenings cooking meals and listening to country music on WHOO radio.   Yes, there is so much more to do there now, but the hectic pace of going from one park to another and dancing the night away seems inadequate to filling the void left in the soul of man.

Perhaps it is time for people to set back and reflect on the meaning of culture and taking a break from the hustle and bustle or the rat race.  Yes, the past might be somewhat silly according to this video, but it seems that families played together and stayed together and the pace was slow.  Hopefully, places can once again become communities where people can associate with each without other things crowding out the natural growth of relationships.  As Robert Nisbet said in his book “The Quest for Community” :

Other and more powerful forms of association have existed, but the major moral and psychological influences on the individual’s life have emanated from the family and local community and the church. Within such groups have been engendered the primary types of identification: affection, friendship, prestige, recognition. And within them also have been engendered or intensified the principal incentives of work, love, prayer, and devotion to freedom and order.

The Orlando of the past is gone and we cannot go back.  However, it is not too late to preserve what’s left of the old culture where family, church and community was paramount.  Let’s choose the right future.

The wisdom of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

The stage is now set for the General Election in November with Donald Trump going against Hillary Clinton in the Presidential race.  Once again, many people on both sides of the ideological spectrum are proclaiming this election the most important election in our lifetimes.  This line is bandied about because the office of the President is a very powerful position that decides how the executive agencies are run and what nominees are named to the Supreme Court and the lower courts.  Many are fearful that actions by such a powerful person would lead to the diminution of their liberties.

The question we should ask ourselves is how could just one person have so much power over our lives.  The answer shockingly enough lies within the voting public that elected people in the past that amassed power to themselves.  Among this group of people were many Presidents.  This trend is not new.  Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddhin wrote various books on the dangers of democracy in three books, Liberty or Equality, Menace of the Herd and Leftism.    In them, he excoriates democratic rule which he calls very unstable and leads to tyranny and centralization.  He notes that Revolutionary France was the wellspring of many of the problems that faces people today as the result of government power.  No doubt Kuehnelt-Leddhin would have agreed with Lord Acton that democracy generally monopolizes and concentrates power.    The wealth of quotes from this man are full of wisdom and eye opening.  They include the following:

Even 51 per cent of a nation can establish a totalitarian and dictatorial règime, suppress minorities, and still remain democratic; there is, as we have said, little doubt that the American Congress and the French Chambre have a power over their respective nations which would rouse the envy of a Louis XIV or a George III were they alive today.

Democratism and its allied herd movements, while remaining loyal to the principle of equality and identity, will never hesitate to sacrifice liberty.

Fifty-one percent of a nation can establish a totalitarian regime, suppress minorities and still remain democratic.

Indeed, it seems that the more we vote, the less freedom we have.  We should wake up and call for mass de-centralization of power and abolition of many of the central agencies like the CIA, FBI, ATF, NSA and TSA that have corroded our liberties.   Perhaps the upcoming Brexit vote in Great Britain will give us a ray of hope.

The Centralized State

Last Friday, the United States Department of Education gave out a directive to all of the public schools across America with regards to certain segments of the population who identify as persons of the opposite sex to use the restrooms of the sex they identify with.  With such a directive, it is clear that the federal government has amassed to itself incredible power to dictate policy to every school district and its 50 million children that go to K-12 schools here.   With the North Carolina situation, there is talk of pulling education funding from the Tarheel State unless HB-2 is repealed.

How did we get to this situation?  At the time of the Constitution’s creation in 1789, James Madison specifically stated in Federalist No. 45 that:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected.

For the next 70 years, the federal government had little influence in the course of affairs inside America.  It was well understood that the States, which were closer to the people, understood what their citizens needed and past the modest laws to maintain order.  Unfortunately, with the arrival of the Civil War and the subsequent Reconstruction, state’s rights were obliterated and more power was concentrated in Washington.  This fact was all apparent during the Great Depression when Franklin Roosevelt created numerous federal agencies that were wholly without constitutional warrant, yet it thrived by bribing voters into voting for centralized government.   Today, we see the evil fruits of such centralization.  Joseph Sobran said several years before his death that the Civil War actually made it possible for cases like Obergefell and Roe v. Wade to be imposed on the nation for the states were unable to fight back without armed invasion and the states had no check on the  power of the Supreme Court.    Now comes the word from on high that funds will be withheld and decrees issue on behalf of a group that was the subject of curiosity just a few decades ago in films like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Freebie and the Bean and Dressed to Kill.  

To have policies dictated to 320 million people en masse is evidence that the old republic has long since vanished and a progressive empire is now dominant.  Men like Donald Livingston and Kirkpatrick Sale have long warned that centralization of power would eventually lead to an utter despotism.

During the 1970s, women like Gloria Steinem thought that the Equal Rights Amendment was necessary to bring, in their minds, equality for women.  With its deadline for ratification expiring in 1983, many thought that the issue was dead.  Steinem and Eleanor Smeal need not have worried, for the Magic 14th Amendment was all that was needed to make their dreams come true.   The Constitution and federal government was great while it lasted.  That 1789 document is now merely a totem that is on display at the National Archives.

Inclusion, Fairness and Equality…or Death

The continuing battle over bathrooms took a turn as the State of North Carolina and the United States Department of Justice took turns at suing each other over the right to enforce House Bill 2 which would provide guidelines for restroom facilities in public areas as well as businesses and supersedes any local ordinances.  In the meantime, various public figures such as Ringo Starr, Bruce Springsteen and the Blue man Group have cancelled appearances in North Carolina citing discrimination concerns.  Loretta Lynch, the Attorney General, stated, in part, that:

…we are seeking a court order declaring House Bill 2’s restroom restriction impermissibly discriminatory, as well as a statewide bar on its enforcement. While the lawsuit currently seeks declaratory relief, I want to note that we retain the option of curtailing federal funding to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina as this case proceeds.

In summary, the government is threatening to withhold federal dollars from the the state unless it complies and repeals the law.  AG Lynch stated that the motivation behind the suit was to summon” our national virtues of inclusivity, diversity, compassion and open-mindedness.”  I dare say that there was another group of people who tried to impose top-down virtues several centuries ago.  In the name of liberty, fraternity and equality, the Jacobins of the French Revolution  imposed their Reign of Terror on the nation that led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and led to the autocratic rule of Napoleon.  Since that time, many nations have envisioned places where all could live in peace and happiness where virtue could be achieved if only if the populace could be educated and the dissenters and troublemakers dispensed with.   Paul Gottfried has noted in a review of Emilio Gentile’s book “Politics as Religion” that the left has created a new civil religion that has taken the place of a weakened Christianity.   Gottfried stated:

Nation-states have been latching onto religious symbols since early-modern times: the frontispiece of Thomas Hobbes’s magnum opus Leviathan features an exalted personal sovereign towering high above the lords temporal and ecclesiastical and over the symbols of their authority. It was not Mussolini but Hobbes who first opined that the Leviathan, understood as the sovereign state, is man’s admirable approximation of divine handiwork.

So it goes that any attempt to question the wisdom of the central state is akin to blasphemy and a monstrous sin against the virtues of inclusivity and so on.   The central State is supreme over family, church and community and is the instrument that will be bring heaven to earth and give us the secular millennium.   Who knows where our government in Washington will go with so much power, but if past experience is a guide, it will lead to great sorrow for the people.

Tornadoes are no fun

Moving to Wichita Falls a few months ago, I was greeted with cold weather and dreary skies that lasted into March.  A few weeks ago, I was greeted with a few nasty thunderstorms that produced a lot of hail that was bouncing off our windows in our apartment.   Yes indeed, the weather is interesting here, but of course the most worrisome things here are the notorious tornadoes that dance across the southern plains mostly during the springtime.   Wichita Falls is no stranger to these events.  The city suffered great damage in April 1964 tornado where seven people were killed.  Of course, while not as powerful as the 1964 tornado, the monster that struck Wichita Falls in 1979 killed 42 people and destroyed hundred of millions of dollars in property.

Life is full of risks in any area of the world. Earthquakes, hurricanes and blizzards occur world wide, but the tornado seems to be the most frightening of all events.  We take our lives for granted every day and we must thank God for His provision and protection.  It is my hope that my stay here in North Texas will be a blessed one for many years to come.

Chronological Snobbery

“Barfield never made me an Anthroposophist, but his counterattacks destroyed forever two elements in my own thought. In the first place he made short work of what I have called my ‘chronological snobbery,’ the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also “a period,” and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them.”

C.S. Lewis made this comment in his 1955 book Surprised by Joy where he was taken to task for his thinking that the age that he lived in was superior to all of those that existed in the past.

Today, we have been constantly bombarded with such terms as “progress” and “moving forward” as if we are marching to some goal in the future where the “sins” of the past are forsaken and that we are marching to some secular Zion where all men will love each other and that the world will finally live in peace.   In the past few years, many progressives have called on the state to make sure that man is perfected by a set of laws that would eliminate discrimination from the face of the earth.  There has been some pushback from some of the Southern states in the form of “bathroom bills,” legislation that is designed so that people can go to the bathroom with those of the same sex and mandates transgenders to use those facilities that identify with the sex that they were born with .  Critics of the bill howled and derided the bills as fascistic and an affront to “open-minded” people every where and that such bills would lead to future discrimination against them.   Progress is being hindered and that we are regressing to the dreaded “dark ages” in these people’s opinion.   To this I say “So what?”   Groups of people should be free to associate with whomever without the State forcing them to hire people or serve people against their will.   The liberty and the freedom enjoyed by people in the past  is now being eroded in the name of “progress.”  All that came before was evil and that those who defend the past are called neanderthals, knuckledraggers, closed-mind or “out-of-step.”  They pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves for being far superior to those folks of the past.    Today’s pundits state that we must be united and that we must be as one.

Butler Shaffer is not a believer, but he sees that people who identify themselves not as individuals, but rather as members of groups as a sign that civilization is fast being destroyed and that the individualistic spirit is being crushed.  Here is what he had to say about the group mentality:

“It should surprise no intelligent mind that elevating the presumed interests of abstractions over those of living individuals, is bound to be destructive of life, and of the cultures around which life organizes itself. Historians have told us how the stabilization of social and economic conditions that appear to promote the permanency of institutions actually frustrate the processes of adaptation upon which life depends. In using their political influence to standardize and make human behavior more uniform, institutions have, without intending to do so, contributed to the stifling of the creative forces that keep a culture vibrant. This has relevance not only to the depletion of material values – what Carroll Quigley referred to as a civilization’s “instruments of expansion” – but, as Toynbee noted, spiritual values as well.”

Indeed, the push to become united by force is now destroying us as a free people.  We must think and act alike in the name of “tolerance” or we will be cast into outer darkness.  Let us take back the reins of TRUE liberty as persons and not as groups.