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.

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 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.

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.

Rule by Corporations

Norman Jewison’s 1975 masterpiece Rollerball is set in a dystopia in the near future where governments have crumbled and corporations rule the planet.  Bartholomew, played by John Houseman,  is a corporation head that is alarmed by the individual effort of Jonathan E in his playing the sport of Rollerball, a sport that let’s the common man have an outlet for his life  by cheering for teams sponsored by corporations.  Bartholomew states to his fellow executives:

In my opinion, we are confronted here with something of a situation. Otherwise, I would not have presumed to take up your time. Once again, it concerns the case of Jonathan E. We know we don’t want anything extraordinary to happen to Jonathan. We’ve already agreed on that. No accidents, nothing unnatural. The game was created to demonstrate the futility of individual effort. And the game must do its work. The Energy Corporation has done all it can, and if a champion defeats the meaning for which the game was designed, then he must lose. I hope you agree with my reasoning.

Today, the corporations flexed their muscles to force Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia to veto a bill that would give limited amounts of freedom to people who wish to act on their convictions in terms of catering to the LGBT community.  Major corporations such as Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola and the National Football League indicated that if the bill were to become law, the state would take a major hit on its pocketbook due to corporations refraining from doing business with the state.   A similar measure was signed into law in North Carolina where the state is being threatened with withdraw of business.

It is apparent that corporations have tremendous power in dictating to government what to do and how to do it.  Progressives cheered this action today, but it is ironic that the same group of people they deride as the one percenters and evil corporate rulers now sings their praises to high heaven.   It is also apparent to the social conservatives and libertarians that corporations are no friends of theirs.  They are interested in only one thing and that is getting a buck.  They have long since used the government as a form of rent seeking, gaining favor for such things as the Wall Street bailout and the auto industry bailout several years ago.   Meanwhile, the common man gets nothing from the government as its businesses are not “too big to fail.”  Mark Crovelli stated in a March 31, 2014 post to Lewrockwell.com:

I am thus seriously perplexed and enraged to read about government “bailouts” occurring on a regular basis all over the modern world.  … Goldman Sachs, GM, and AIG were all effectively “bailed out” because their previous executives were so outstandingly incompetent and corrupt that they rendered their institutions insolvent by orders of magnitude.

So it is today, that the common man who yearns for a bit of liberty has been squashed again by the corporate junta who really calls the shots in our land.

Reformed Church searching

As I settle in into Wichita Falls, I have been settling into work and exploring the landscape around the area.   One thing that I have been searching for in earnest is a good church for my family.  There are plenty of churches that no doubt are full of Bible believers and preach the gospel.  It is my hope though that I can attend a church that holds to the Reformed faith.  I firmly believe in the doctrine of total depravity and that men are unable to respond to the Gospel call as they are all dead in their trespasses.   Ephesians 2:1-5 clearly states that we were dead in sins and must be made alive in Christ by God’s Grace:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.

Good reformed churches are few and far between in this part of the state.  I have attended churches in Lawton, Oklahoma, Gainesville, Texas and Weatherford,  Texas.  The church in Weatherford is over 90 miles away, but we feel that the preaching is sound and the music prepares our hearts for worship.    We are hopeful that God will keep providing us with the means to attend church there and that a good reformed church will come to Wichita Falls in the near future.

A welcomed online network

One of the greatest things that I have experienced in my forays in online listening was coming across the Mike Church Show which is now part of the new Veritas Radio Network.  Some of the archived material is available by paying for a Founder’s Pass, but at around five dollars a month, it is well worth it.  On the network, one can listen to Mike Church, Mark Kreslins and Kevin Gutzman give you the straight skinny on the history of our country’s founding and how it all went awry.    One thing is for sure; much of what is being proposed from Washington as solutions to make our nation great are rightly derided by these people.  Only a return to limited government with a base of morality can this country turn around.

Tragedy in Paris

As of the writing of this post, over 120 people were gunned down or were killed in explosions across Paris.  Apparently, this dastardly deed was done by members who are sympathetic to the ISIS group which has occupied vast swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq as well as small portions of the Mediterranean coast in Libya.   Little is known about the men themselves, but it is clear that events that led to this event have developed over many years dating back to the  unwise actions of the United States in Iraq beginning in 1990 and interventions from other nations  dating to the end of the First World War.

Ever since the end of the First World War, the Middle East has been a cauldron of instability with either leaders ousted in violent coups (Iraq and Syria) or emirs and their decedents holding power for decades (Saudi Arabia and Bahrain).   Some good books to read on the early years of this transition from Ottoman rule to countries ruled by strongmen are John Hulsman’s fine book To Begin the World Over Again: Lawrence of Arabia from Damascus to Baghdad”  which is a short book that explains how we got  to this tragic situation and “Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nationsby Georgina Howell.   The West’s refusal to heed the counsel of Gertrude Bell and Lawrence of Arabia with regards to post-Ottoman rule has led to unnecessary interventions by the West to stabilize that part of the world.    There is much more to this story on how events of a century ago led to the shootings in Paris, but suffice to say, it all began with the Sykes-Picot treaty which is mentioned in Hulsman’s book.