Editor & Publisher of the St. Croix Review.
June is a memory in November
As I remember the roses and the
Lilacs blooming and the persistence of
The rain the fresh air and the insistence
Of the sun coaxing the season of growth
Along and all the leaves are pristine the
Birds are melodious with the dawn and
The roots of the grass are absorbing the
Rain but now a bitter wind surges through
The trees that stand starkly bare a frosting
Has hardened the ground and the night has grown
Wings and is overshadowing daylight
But none of it matters to me because
Your ebullience overcomes the darkness.
The overcast sky
in November is glowing
because the sun is
always dispensing light and
every day you’re radiant.
There are moments of awakening that
Aren’t altogether enjoyable in
The winter months of Minnesota and
When walking on the asphalt or concrete
After a drizzling that froze into
An almost invisible layer of
Ice we learn to look for a glint of light
Reflecting off the walkway because a
Second’s carelessness leads to a quirky
Jerk to discombobulation to an
Impactful connection with a very
Hard surface after which we’re completely
Awake realizing penetrating
Insight into the quality of now.
Because I’m spry I
jerk discombobulate but
sometimes I’m able
to catch myself before the
fall discovering balance.
Circumstances coordinate outcomes
Not always to my satisfaction as
I encountered the invisible ice
While driving down a sloping street and if
Only I hadn’t tried to turn I’d have
Been OK but I did and the car slid
As my frantic gestures with the steering
Wheel were operatic but quite useless
So I smacked into a parked car leaving
Minor damage on both vehicles and
Though it’s not catastrophic I’d rather
Have nothing to regret but that’s life as
Once in a while I fall through a trap door
Of an uncontrollable circumstance.
The spitting freezing
rain is no excuse said the
as the fact remains I lost
control of the vehicle.
Like a basset hound with droopy skin and
Ears baying so mournfully at the moon
And disturbing my sleep I’ve tossed about
With worry and during the day the hound
Gets his teeth into a rag and won’t let
Go no matter how I pull to free myself
From cogitating over offensive
Words and it’s useless to ruminate with
Sad eyes with my hound’s head between outstretched
Paws on the floor because wherever my
Thoughts go my paws are sure to follow so
I’ve learned to throw the dog a bone to let
Myself chew joyfully on projects that
Channel enthusiastic energy.
When I’m searching for
the appropriate words and
images to fit
an emerging line of thought
I don’t know my tail’s wagging.
The Jogging Birder
I was jogging,
and the push had
was hanging onto my heels
and croaking like a frog,
and while I was begging the uphill
to pull me
to greater heights
(where near the crest
I could see a grassy bank
that looked more and more
like a bench)
over the hill flew a
beaky and goggled biker
with shoulders hunched and arms
akimbo — buzzard
on bicycle wheels —
and a bubble of laughter
carried me over the hill
headed for home.
—Bev Bonn Jonnes
Letters from a Conservative Farmer — Varieties of Religious Experience, Part II
Next spring Angus R. turned up. I had a question for him.
“Someone told me you once built a sawmill by yourself — is that true?”
“Well, gosh, yes I guess I did, yes.”
“Not quite, no. I bought the pulleys, and maybe one or two other things.”
“How’d you do it?”
“Oh, gosh, that’s a long story, don’t you know, yes, that would take a long time to tell.”
Angus R. was sitting on the chest just inside the kitchen door, pork pie hat held carefully on his knee. He looked thoughtfully at me for a long moment.
“I’m not sure this is quite right, don’t you know, but I’ll make a bargain, yes, a bargain. I’ll make a bargain with you. I’ll tell you about the sawmill for as long as you like, yes, and then you let me give you Bible talk for just as long.”
He smiled broadly, his little eyes disappearing among the wrinkles.
“It’s a deal. Come sit down at the table and have a cup of warm milk. Then tell me all about the sawmill.”
It was not so easy, though. Angus R. couldn’t manage a connected narrative so I had to question him, and that took time.
“One hour and twenty-five minutes, yes, that’s how long it was, yes, and the next time I come I’m going to give you a Bible talk, don’t you know, a Bible talk, for one hour and twenty-five minutes, yes. Don’t you forget!”
He was exultant.
When we moved to the farm, there was an ancient lilac bush by the kitchen door, a rhubarb plant stranded in the weeds, and a clump of daylilies near the porch — not much to begin with, but we went to work, and within two years there were flower and vegetable gardens, shrubs, fruit trees, and bushes all around the house. Among the flowers, Jo Ann planted herbs, and before long she was selling herbs, and herb teas, and as she grew more, she learned more, and soon she was writing articles for an herb magazine back in the States, and that led to more curiosity, more study, and greater knowledge. One day, reading a compilation of old herbals, she chanced on the remark that on one knew what the bitter herbs of Passover were. She was astonished. She knew what they were, and so must everyone who had ever taken part in a Seder — they were, or rather it was, horseradish. As soon as she said it to herself, she knew that something was wrong beyond the plural-singular problem, because horseradish lacked the essential quality of bitterness. She had never thought about it before. Now began a quest to identify the bitter herbs, and because of her remote situation, it took her more than a year, studying Middle Eastern flora, Jewish ritual, folklore and history, even the Talmud, and she corresponded with herbalists and rabbis, and finally with botanists in Israel. It fascinated her, and when she and I worked together in the woods, or spread manure on the snowy fields, or milked the cows in the lantern-lit stable, she told me what she was learning. Of course I was interested, but I was a little uneasy, too. I asked her, in a puzzled way, “Does this mean you’re going to be Jewish?”
She smiled. “I’m already Jewish.”
“Yes, but I mean religious Jewish.”
She kissed me and said, “Don’t worry, dear; we’ll still have ham and bacon.”
That spring we celebrated Passover with a Seder, the first since Jo Ann was a girl. Although it was a dark and huddled affair — not enough candles, the Maxwell House Haggadah was unfamiliar, and I was impatient throughout (“When do we eat?”) — she began to think, as soon as it was over, of how she would do a better job next year.
Angus R’s religious talk, when he finally came to collect his time on a rainy Sunday morning, turned out, despite a nearly disastrous beginning, to be an occasion of great enlightenment. He began well, but as with the sawmill story, he was soon lost in a jumble of unrelated sentences, straining with desire to impart the knowledge he felt but could only incoherently speak. I tactfully relieved him the same way as before: I asked questions. It was much more difficult to find out what Angus R. knew about the Privilege of Holiness (“For we which have believed do enter into rest.” Hebrews 4:3) than sawmills because both of us were used to the language of the material world, and neither of us knew much about holiness. But we worked at it together; Angus R. relaxed and in the end he was rather pleased with himself.
It was noon, and Angus R. stayed for lunch. As I was reaching for my glass of milk, Angus R. said, with his broadest smile, “Should I say the grace?”
“You say grace?” I asked holding my glass.
“Well, I’m no animal!” he exclaimed. Bowing his head, clasping his hands on the table, he said, “Let us now give thanks for the food we are about to receive, in the name of the Creator.”
I watched him in silence. Jo Ann said, “Amen.” Angus R. smiled.
After he left, Jo Ann said, “Jews have a name for holiness — ‘kidusha,’ the Law of Sanctity.” She went to her desk. “Look at this. I thought of it when he said ‘I’m no animal!’” She pointed to a passage:
“Judaism attempts to elevate to the God-like those activities that people and animals do alike. The more we share an act with animals, the more laws there are in Judaism to sanctify it, elevate it, to the God-like. . . . Eating should be an act of kidusha. . . . Does an animal thank God . . . before eating?”
I sat down and read the whole article, and when I gave it back, said, “Very interesting. I learned more from it than from that hour and a half with Angus R.”
One evening a couple of weeks later, when we were milking, Jo Ann announced that she thought she’d go to the Yom Kippur services at the temple in Sydney.
I was astonished. “Why?”
“It’s the holiest day of the year for Jews, the Day of Atonement, and I haven’t been to a service since before we were married. I’d just like to go.”
I felt my heart beating, chest tightening, blood mounting to my head. Relax. Relax. I took deep breaths. Speaking slowly, casually, I said:
“We’ll have to make arrangements for a ride, or maybe you can take the train the night before.”
We discussed, canvassing possibilities, and there it ended. But not for me. I wondered about myself, about the jealousy and self-pity that had almost overwhelmed me. Didn’t I admire and respect religious people? Didn’t I admire Jo Ann’s interest in Jewishness, and didn’t I recognize that she had thereby enriched my own life? Yes, yes, and I liked her independence of mind, too, the way she had mulled over Yom Kippur and made up her mind about it. I could not oppose her; I knew it meant too much to her, and then where would I be? I might lose her love. Reasoning with myself took me only so far — I was still upset, uneasy at the unsettling of the old dispensation.
Jo Ann got a ride back with an old man she’d met in the synagogue who, back in the 1920s and ’30s, had been a peddler with a horse and wagon, and he’d slept in this house more than once.
“It’s vild now,” he said sadly, waving inclusively at the woods. Completely gone to vild. They was farms all along the Backlands road. Now nothing but forest. Not brush in the fields, forest.”
“Just since we’ve been here the Backlands have emptied. The bootlegger at the Cove was the last to go, and now there’s hardly any traffic at all, just what comes here.”
The man smiled. “There was a bootlegger at the Cove fifty years ago, too.” He talked about the vanished farms, enumerating each one with a vivid sketch of the people, and he hadn’t finished when Jo Ann called us in for tea and cake.
When the old man sat down, he looked reflectively at the table for a moment. “You know something? Wherever I went in those days, all over the island, around the Trail, over in Richmond Country, wherever I went people invited me in for a meal. You know Cape Bretoners never turn away a hungry man. And every place I ate, the people said grace. Everywhere! It was unheard of not to say grace in those days. Now — a thing of the past. People were different then,” he finished wistfully.
I looked at Jo Ann. “We say grace,” I said. Jo Ann’s eyes widened. I bowed my head and clasped my hands on the table. “Let us now give thanks for the food we are about to receive, in the name of the Creator.” Both Jo Ann and the old man said “Amen.”
Time moves swiftly for modern man in briefer and briefer units firmly marked by unambiguous signals in a precise procession of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. The deep rhythms are there but overlain by so many counter-rhythms, so many more obvious and clamorous noises, that they are ignored. We, too, had our minutes and hours, but embedded as they were in the deliberate wheel of nature’s round, they lost most of their imperious character. Time moved just as swiftly for us as for townsmen but we thought of it in longer and vaguer units, and within those spans, conducive to a reflective life, all manner of possibilities could come to pass, could ripen into conviction from surmise, could be pondered and rejected or set aside or, finally, accepted as part of a natural continuum. Events, remarks, incidents dwelt in our minds to be thought about, turned this way and that until they became part of us or faded away like the last reverberations of a sound.
One Sunday afternoon in the following July, I was hauling a wagon load of sawdust from the mill on the other side of town, and as I entered the deserted winding street I heard a strange, booming voice echoing unintelligibly over the housetops. What could it be? When the horses swept around the last curve, I saw someone standing at a microphone in front of the post office. The team slowed to a walk on the grade, and now I could distinguish the words.
“ . . . sun was burning me up. It was hazy, and the sky was milky, and I looked up — the sky was as brass, and I fell on my knees . . .”
Fred was standing in front of the mike, Betty was by his side. Two men from the old folks’ home were sitting on a bench next to the post office. A sign was propped against the curb: “GOD IS LOVE.” As I slowly passed, I raised my cap and smiled at the MacIsaacs, but they looked through me. One of the old men raised his hand and faintly waved. The voice bloomed on over the still and lifeless town.
We were looking forward to a quiet day, but there were customers in the afternoon, and then Angus R. appeared. We hadn’t seen him for a long time, and we were worried: We had heard that he was no longer a Witness; he had quit or been expelled — something like that.
We were relieved to find him the same as ever, sitting squarely on the chest beside the door in his shiny black suit, pork pie hat on his knee, smiling, talking in his nervous way.
Jo Ann, who had had this on her mind for years, said, “I hope you don’t mind my saying so, but there’s a problem with your tie.”
“Well, gosh, I. . . .”
“There’s a moth hole in the middle of the knot, so it looks like you spilled milk there.”
“Oh, my,” he said, unsnapping the ready-made tie and looking at it with surprise.
“Here: I can fix it.” She got a bottle of indelible ink and made the hole invisible.
Angus R was so amazed and delighted — he kept peering at the tie in the mirror — that he was persuaded to stay for supper. As we sat down, I said, “I’ll say the grace. It’s yours, Angus. We like it so much we took it over.”
When the “Amens” had been said, Angus R. tucked his napkin into his collar and said, “Well, yes, isn’t this nice, don’t you know. We have a Jew (nodding to Jo Ann) a Christian (tapping the napkin) and, and Mr. Gardner.” We laughed and laughed, and Angus R. beamed, scrunching up his eyes in a mass of wrinkles.
“Whatever we are, we believe in one God, yes. As the Lord God said to Jacob — Genesis 28:14 — ‘and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth; and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south; and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of earth be blessed.’”
When, as she was going to bed, Jo Ann kissed me, I asked her if she’d had enough of Christianity lately?
“How could I ever object to Angus R.? Especially after his performance tonight. That was perfect!” she kissed me again and left me to my pipe.
I sat on at the kitchen table, my feet propped on a chair, thinking about the day. After a few minutes, I fetched the large Bible, kept now on a shelf over the flour barrel. Genesis 28:14. Oh, the Jacob’s Ladder incident. I read the chapter, and then another, and then some more before I knocked the ashes from my pipe into the stove and went outside. A beautiful night, I thought, watching the moon rising, just clearing the trees, as I walked out to the compost heap behind the privy. Peering at the brush along the pasture fence, I wished I’d brought the flashlight; two nights ago I had seen a wildcat, its eyes shining fiercely red in the beam before its ghostly gray form vanished in the woods. There were always wildcats in the woods, but I had never seen one near the buildings before. The next day I moved the turkeys from their open pen into the shed.
The place was going back to the “vild,” as the old man had said. I had seen moose tracks by the pond a few weeks ago; a bear had been shot at the cove. I couldn’t see the Backlands road from the porch anymore, not even the train, only the reflection of its headlight above the trees. Much was made of tropical jungles inexorably obliterating the works of man, like those Mayan cities, but the North has its jungles, too — not so dramatic, but no less certain.
Walking back, looking up at the stars, I thought of Jacob’s Ladder, and then of God, the stars, Leviathan, and the love spoken only in the heart.
The moon shone down on the farm. There was the farmhouse, its tin roof shining, and there was the dog lying on a grain bag on the porch, his head on his paws. The cows were lying under the old apple trees in the pasture, their methodical chewing stirring only an occasional tinkle from their bells. The horses stood full in the light in their pasture, heads bent, tirelessly cropping the grass. A silvery mist lay on the pond. Beyond the small fields of the farm the dark woods extended for miles in every direction, the moon moved across the sky, the vague shadows shifted, a barred owl hooted across the valley, and we lay beside each other in our bed in the small farmhouse and slept. *
Kengor Writes . . .
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).
Rating the Presidents — and Obama
I’ve been getting emails from bewildered colleagues asking about a survey of presidential scholars that determined that Barack Obama is the twelfth best president in the history of the United States, putting him near the top quartile of our presidents.
How can this be? I, too, was mystified, especially given that I participated in the survey.
The survey was conducted by the impeccably fair C-SPAN. Few sources do their job like C-SPAN does. If you want truly unfiltered news, C-SPAN is unrivaled for its ability to simply place a camera in a room and let reality speak for itself.
When it comes to surveys of presidents, C-SPAN likewise has no peer. I remember the nauseating presidential surveys in the 1980s and 1990s. They were mere measurements of the liberalism of the academy — that is, liberal historians and liberal political scientists expressing their liberalism by their liberal rankings of presidents. It was a farce.
C-SPAN, fortunately, has endeavored to provide a valuable corrective. In 2000, 2009, and 2017, C-SPAN set out to do its own survey and has indeed assembled a more rounded group of scholars. (I was among those surveyed for the 2009 ranking, as well.) To be sure, most (if not the vast majority) of the scholars surveyed are clearly on the left, but there are a decent number of conservatives: By my estimate, over a dozen, possibly as many as twenty. Of course, that’s still far out of proportion with the population at large, where self-identified conservatives have outnumbered liberals for decades (usually in the range of 35-40 percent self-identified conservatives vs. 20-25 percent self-identified liberals). C-SPAN needs to do better next time around. A field of 10-20 conservatives among 91 participants isn’t good, albeit better than the nonsense we used to see in biased surveys.
Likewise befitting C-SPAN’s fairness, the ranking criteria for the presidents are commendably nonpartisan. The criteria are obviously intended to remove ideology from those doing the judging. Here are the ten criteria:
Relations with Congress
Vision / Setting an Agenda
Pursued Equal Justice for All
Performance Within Context of Times
For each of the ten criteria, a president received a scored ranging from one (“not effective”) to ten (“very effective”). I’d like readers to pause and look at those criteria carefully. Imagine if you were doing the judging.
Given these criteria — again, essentially non-ideological criteria — I personally had no choice but to score very highly presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and Lyndon Johnson, all of whose presidencies I either did not approve of or outright despised or found destructive. But facts are facts: These presidents were extremely effective. No, I personally didn’t like how they were effective, but they were effective nonetheless. Did Wilson have an agenda and vision and get it through? Oh, yes. You bet he did. So did FDR and LBJ.
And yet, those same criteria prompted me to rank Washington, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Reagan, and Eisenhower very high. I will not here share exactly how I tallied each, but I will say that those presidents in my top ten were very similar to those in the overall top ten. Here’s the top ten that C-SPAN compiled:
Following at eleven and twelve, respectively, were Woodrow Wilson and Obama. (For the record, I gave Kennedy a decent rating, but to place him in the top ten, and ahead of Reagan, is just plain stupid. Gee, the guy wasn’t even president three full years.)
But what about Barack Obama at twelve? I’ll say this as nicely and professionally as I can: I find this utterly perplexing. Do the exercise yourself. Go through those ten categories. Ascribe Obama a score of one to ten, and do so relative to other presidents you’ve ranked. Where would you give Obama a ten? How many (if any) scores above a five would you give Obama? For that matter, how would you not score Reagan so much higher than Obama? Yes, Reagan finished with an overall ranking of nine, which is better than Obama, but his total composite score wasn’t much higher than Obama’s.
Seriously, are even liberals that happy with the Obama presidency? Try to remove your ideological lens, whether left or right, and assess these questions:
What did Barack Obama accomplish? What is the Obama legacy? What was the Obama vision/agenda and (more important, since we’re measuring effectiveness) how successful was he in implementing it? In 2012, at the Democratic National Convention, Obama’s promoters could do no better than come up with silly placards about how Obama “got Osama” and “saved GM.” Unlike the vast majority of two-term presidents, Obama’s re-election numbers were much worse. In fact, Barack Obama was the first president ever re-elected with fewer popular votes, fewer Electoral College votes, a lower percentage and percentage margin of victory, and winning fewer states. He never had a sustained period of high favorability. He couldn’t elect a successor to carry on his legacy. To the contrary, Donald Trump plans to repudiate any Obama legacy.
Where is the list of signature domestic achievements by Obama? Obamacare maybe? It was a disaster from the rollout, and it’s going to be repealed and replaced.
What were Obama’s defining moments of crisis leadership? Where’s his Cuban Missile Crisis? Did he even have a crisis to lead? How about Benghazi as a candidate?
Where was Barack Obama’s Camp David? What did he do for the Middle East, for Arab-Israeli relations, for relations with Russia, the EU, NATO, and the G-20? Where’s his NAFTA? Where’s his summit with the Russian leadership? Where’s his missile-reduction treaty? Where’s his chemical weapons ban?
As for Obama’s economic record, it was colossally bad. My economist colleague Mark Hendrickson calls it a “shocking historically weak economic performance,” as many others have shown. During the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, the average annual real GDP growth was 1.5 percent, notes Hendrickson, “the weakest economic performance of any post-WWII president, and the fourth worst ever.” And to try to still blame that failure on George W. Bush after eight years is ludicrous. Obama’s GDP growth in 2016 (eight years after Bush) was a terrible 1.6 percent.
Bush’s economy grew better than that, and he inherited a recession and was hit with 9/11 his first year, which devastated the economy. In fact, not only was George W. Bush’s economic-growth rate better than Obama’s, but so was Jimmy Carter’s. Yes, Carter — typically upheld as the dubious yardstick of economic incompetence — actually had more than double Obama’s GDP growth (3.3 percent)!
Any deficit reduction under Obama (after he exploded the deficit to unprecedented record highs in the first two years of the Pelosi-Reid Congress) is attributable in large part to the Republican Congress that liberals excoriated for spending cuts (and now want to take responsibility for the subsequent deficit reduction). The Obama debt exploded way worse than the debt under Reagan and George W. Bush.
So, where would you score Obama on Economic Management? I can’t imagine anything beyond a three.
In what way was Obama a master at public persuasion? What new constituencies did he generate? Where are the Obama Republicans, akin to the Reagan Democrats? How were his relations with Congress? Did you observe stellar “administrative skills” in Obama? His notorious lack of meetings with his NSC and intelligence and security staffs were breathtaking in their lack of any administration. As I reported here in 2012, Obama attended only 44 percent of his Daily Briefs in the first 1,225 days of his administration. For 2012, he attended a little over a third. This was totally contrary to Bush and other predecessors. Reagan and Ike both had hands-off leadership styles, but at least they attended meetings.
Who gave him a ten for that category?
And if you’re extolling Obama’s attempted fundamental transformation of America’s public-school toilets via executive order, or his illuminating the White House in rainbow colors to celebrate the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, or his suing the Little Sisters of the Poor via the HHS Mandate, sorry, but those are not among the categories for evaluation.
I want to see the case made by the guy or gal who thinks that Barack Obama merits being listed near the top ten presidents in history. Actually, some must have rated him in the top five, because I guarantee my score for Obama (low as it was) surely dropped him a few pegs.
In short, I’m stunned. Based on the criteria we were given for ranking these presidents, I cannot conceive how Obama could possibly score well. I don’t see how Bill Clinton didn’t rate higher than Obama.
As noted, there were some conservatives on C-SPAN’s list. I’m wondering if the conservatives didn’t send in their surveys. The liberal historians must have gone bonkers in merrily giving Obama the highest scores in every category. But forget about that. This shouldn’t be a liberal-conservative thing. That’s the point. Literally half of my top ten or twelve were Democrats, and I’m no Democrat.
Clearly, the liberal scholars were not able to separate their partisanship when it came to objectively judging Obama. There’s no way that Barack Obama should rate the 12th-best president in U.S. history. Not a chance.
Women’s Marchers, Unite!
“The most important task,” said Communist dictator Kim Il Sung in October 1971, in his address to the Democratic Women’s Union of North Korea, “is to revolutionize and working-classize all the women.”
Kim hoisted the torch blazed by glorious female comrades such as Alexandra Kollontai (the Eleanor Roosevelt of the Bolshevik Revolution), Bella Dodd, Rosa Luxemburg, Ethel Rosenberg, Elizabeth Bentley, Lillian Hellman, Betty Freidan, Kate Millett, Angela Davis, and a bevy of true believers. Friedan and Millett were pioneers of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Millett, author of Sexual Politics, her dissertation at the ideological insane asylum known as Columbia University, became a cultural juggernaut when published in 1969. Time magazine hailed Kate as “the Karl Marx of the Women’s Movement.”
They were marchers for the revolution. And this past weekend, their ideological sisters lent their support to the Women’s March on Washington, an event that sources like CNN gave maximum publicity — a level of attention that absolutely will not be granted to this week’s March for Life in Washington, where the goal will be to preserve life.
A list of the sponsors for the Women’s March is illuminating. The two lead organizations, highlighted as the March’s “premier partners,” were Planned Parenthood — America’s preeminent abortion factory — and the Natural Resources Defense Council. As for the latter, if it confuses you why a group of climate comrades would march in lockstep with women whose highest priority is abortion, then you don’t understand the American left. Go to the website of the Women’s March, where “environmental justice” is featured among the leading “Unity Principles,” right up there with “reproductive rights” (read: abortion) and “worker’s rights” and “LGBTQIA rights” [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Intersex, Asexual].
But that was just the start. Arm in arm with the sisters at the Women’s March were two touted “Social Justice Partners,” namely: Emily’s List and NARAL. For these girls, too, “women’s rights” means one thing: abortion. Abortion, abortion, abortion. The holy sacrament in the feminist church.
The next major level of sponsors for the Women’s March was an eclectic cabal of fellow travelers and usual suspects: the ACLU, MoveOn.org, the Human Rights Campaign, the American Federation of Teachers, the AFL-CIO, and SEIU, the worst of the government unions.
And then there was a longer list of March “partners,” a Who’s Who of the left: AFSCME, the toxic National Education Association, the National Organization for Women, National Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Occupy Wall Street, the NAACP, the Council on American Islamic Relations, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Watch, People for the American Way, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Sierra Club, the National Urban League, the YWCA, the Center for American Progress, Code Pink, and a litany of Religious Left dupes such as the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, the Unitarian Universality Association, and the heretical Catholics for Free Choice.
And there was a wider panoply of perversity: novel organizations like Free the Nipple, Got a Girl Crush, Pussy Hat Project, and the Georgetown University College Democrats.
But alas, most enlightening was another curious collective of sponsors for the Women’s March, one that brings me full circle to the start of this article. The Communists and Socialists came out: Communist Party USA and the Democratic Socialists of America.
Yes, Communist Party USA was a proud sponsor of the Women’s March on Washington, and the ladies were evidently proud to have them.
Ain’t nothing too left-wing, apparently, for the Women’s Marchers.
Among the Bolshevik element, consider some of the high-profile individuals who lent their names. Listed first among honorary co-chairs at the March website was none other than the delightful Angela Davis, where the glowing, lengthy bio somehow avoided mentioning even one word of Ms. Davis’s most notable bona fides: Davis has long been, of course, one of America’s most infamous Marxist-Leninists. Comrade Angela was so high-ranking that she not only met with the worst Communist despots in the Soviet Bloc, but actually twice ran on Communist Party USA’s presidential ticket. The celebrated recipient of the Lenin Peace Prize, much appreciated by the Kremlin for her advocacy of the Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan, ran as vice president of the United States on the Communist Party ticket, alongside longtime CPUSA party secretary and hack Gus Hall. (As I noted in a recent piece for The American Spectator, among those who voted for the Hall-Davis Communist Party presidential ticket was none other than John Brennan, Barack Obama’s CIA director.)
Davis was one of many tragic academic byproducts of Herbert Marcuse, the leading Frankfurt School cultural Marxist. Marcuse was guru to the 1960s New Left. Davis is arguably Marcuse’s most long-lasting success. He took her under his wing at Brandeis University in the early 1960s. In 1965, she honored her professor by retracing his steps to the University of Frankfurt. He sent her to West Germany to study at his old haunt, the hideous “Institute for Social Research.” She returned in 1967, coming back to America to continue studies with Marcuse as her doctoral adviser. The blooming Bolshevik formally joined Communist Party USA the next year.
Like any good Communist, Davis’s road to the revolution included breaking a few eggs along the way. She was soon pursued on charges of kidnapping, murder, and conspiracy for her suspected role in the August 1970 murder of a prison guard. Like Weather Underground terrorists and Obama buddies Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, she landed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. And like Ayers and Dohrn, she escaped jail-time (“guilty as hell, free as a bird!” Ayers boasted), and then spread her wings in academia.
Today, like her late mentor, Herbert Marcuse, Angela Davis is (naturally) a professor. She lists among her expertise the field of “critical theory,” the formal academic front-name for cultural Marxism. She holds forth on “LGBTQIA” issues to the wide-eyed freshmen whose duped parents hand over their children and lifetime savings to the universities to indoctrinate them.
One might think that today’s left would shy away from figures like Davis. But again, anyone who thinks that doesn’t know the left. The likes of Angela Davis are not embarrassments to today’s left; they are heroes. In June 2016, the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum feted Davis with its 2016 Sackler Center First Award, “honoring women who are first in their fields.”
Among Angela Davis’s firsts, of course, was to be the first female comrade to run on a Communist presidential ticket.
And this past weekend, Davis was listed literally first among the female comrades who were the poster-girls to the Women’s March on Washington. She and her cronies at Communist Party USA and the Democratic Socialists of America must have gotten quite a kick at the legions of oblivious ladies and splendid dupes who joined them in solidarity last weekend — all marching for “women’s rights,” of course. Forward!
Barack Obama’s Fundamental Transformation
“We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” So declared Barack Obama in Columbia, Missouri on October 30, 2008, on the cusp of his historic presidential election.
It was a stunning statement, boldly revolutionary, surpassed only by the response of those in attendance, who, rather than pausing to reflect upon such an audacious assertion, wildly applauded. To be sure, these Obama enthusiasts would have ecstatically cheered anything he said at that moment. There was a full-fledged Obama personality cult in motion at that time. He could’ve promised a box of “Lucky Charms” cereal in every home and gotten a giddy reaction. Obama himself admitted to serving as a kind of “blank screen” upon which Americans desiring some warm and fuzzy “hope and change” could project whatever they wanted.
But even then, the words “fundamentally transform” should have alarmed everyone. We Americans generally don’t do fundamental transformation. We make changes, yes, small and large, but who among us — other than the most radical revolutionaries — actually want to fundamentally transform the nation? Many people think that America has many problems, but those can be addressed without a fundamental transformation. Ask professors who teach history or political ideologies (as I have for two decades) and we will tell you that totalitarianism is the ideology that fundamentally transforms. Indeed, the textbook definition of totalitarianism, which I’ve scribbled on the chalkboard every fall and spring semester since 1997, is to seek to fundamentally transform — specifically, to fundamentally transform human nature via some form of political-ideological-cultural upheaval.
So, that being the case, I winced when Barack Obama said that, and then felt sick to the stomach when I watched people blissfully and blindly applaud without question or objection.
But now here we are, at the end of Obama’s presidency, a two-term one, and the question begs to be pondered: Did Barack Obama fundamentally transform the United States of America, as he promised?
The answer is absolutely yes.
That fundamental transformation, however, has not happened in areas where many might have hoped (or feared) in 2008. It has not been a fundamental shift in the attitudes of the vast majority regarding the role of government, taxation, regulations, economics, education, or even healthcare, where Obama had his signature legislative achievement. It hasn’t happened in foreign policy, though Obama has made a seriously detrimental impact in regions from Eastern Europe to the Middle East.
The reality is that the true fundamental transformation has been in the realm of culture, notably in matters of sexual orientation, gender, marriage, and family. The shift there has been unprecedented and far beyond anyone’s imagination eight years ago. Looking back, that was where Obama’s heart was, and that was where his deepest impact will be felt. Changes there, more than anywhere, seem irreversible by anything other than the miraculous, than anything short of a religious revival or dramatic shift in spiritual-moral thinking.
Obama’s cultural revolution on the sexual-gender-family front is all around us. We see it in the culture of fear and intimidation by the forces of “diversity” and “tolerance” who viciously seek to denounce, dehumanize, demonize, and destroy anyone who disagrees with their brazen newfound conceptions of marriage and family, even as our position (not theirs) has been the prevailing position of 99.99 percent-plus of human beings who have bestrode the earth since the dawn of humanity. Instead, in the Obama era, we are the ones portrayed as the outliers, as abnormal, as extremists, as “haters.” If you dissent from this new vociferous breed of human-nature re-definers, they sue you, they jail you, they smear you, they boycott you, they harass you, they ruin you — and they do so (with no sense of their hypocrisy) in the name of “tolerance” and “diversity.” Whether you’re a Baptist grandma who bakes cakes, or a Catholic photographer who takes wedding photos, or a Mormon florist who arranges flowers, they refuse your appeals to your conscience; they steamroll you. Changes by Obama and his allies here have constituted a major attack on religious liberty, where two-century-old First Amendment guarantees have been torched by modern culture warriors discerning heretofore unknown higher rights like “marriage equality” and co-ed toilets.
That is a fundamental transformation of a culture and a nation that did not exist prior to Barack Obama’s ascent.
The manifestations of this are so ubiquitous that laying them out here isn’t necessary, but I’d like to offer just a handful of brief illustrations and images:
The first was the Newsweek cover from May 2012 showing Barack Obama with a rainbow halo over his head above the words, “The First Gay President.” This was in response to Obama coming out for same-sex “marriage,” which for five years he had claimed to oppose. This public shift occurred as Obama was ramping up his reelection campaign, just as Hillary Clinton would do later that year when she announced her 2016 campaign. After that announcement, Obama went wild with an aggressive agenda of fundamental transformation on the sexual-gender-family front, one that picked up speed, depth, and arrogance throughout his second term.
The second is another image, more profound than the Newsweek creation/coronation because it was real. It was from June 2015, when the Obama White House, the nation’s first house, was lit up in the colors of the “LGBTQ” rainbow [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (and/or questioning) individuals/identities] on the day of the Obergefell decision, when a Catholic Supreme Court justice, Anthony Kennedy, led the liberal bloc of the court in redefining marriage and imposing this non-existent “Constitutional right” on all fifty states. If ever there was a picture of Obama’s fundamental transformation of America, that was it.
Third was the bathroom fiat, when according to Barack Obama’s word, all public schools were ordered to revolutionize their restrooms and locker-rooms to make them available to teenage boys who want to be called girls (among other gender novelties). It is hard to conceive a more surreal example of executive overreach. Truly, George Washington is rolling over in his grave.
Fourth is an ironic moment of Obama’s own doing, one that got virtually no press coverage. It occurred at a townhall meeting in London last April, where Obama was scolded by a young man for not doing enough to “recognize non-binary people” such as himself. This young man wanted the British government to “respect pronouns” — using not words like “he” or “she” but rather “hir” or “ze” — in addition to “commit to gender-neutral toilets.” “I really, really wish that yourself and [British Prime Minister] David Cameron would take us seriously as transgender people,” pushed the student.
“. . . And perhaps you could elucidate as to what you can do to go beyond what has been accepted as the LGBTQ rights movement, in including people who fit outside the social norms.”
It was almost hilarious to observe Barack Obama, of all people, reprimanded for inadequacies in this area, which brings me to my final example.
That London incident might have prompted a remarkable action by the Obama White House a few weeks later, which also got virtually no news coverage: The White House press office released two extraordinary fact sheets detailing Obama’s vast efforts to promote “LGBT” rights at home and abroad. Not only was it telling that the White House would assemble such a list, and tout it, but the sheer length of the list is striking to behold. It is hard to find any similar roster of such dramatic changes by the Obama White House in any policy area. The list runs page after page.
In short, what we see here is the true Barack Obama legacy, the genuine fundamental transformation. It has occurred not in economics, government, or foreign policy, but in culture. When we look back at Barack Obama’s eight years, we should visualize not Obamacare or something in foreign policy but the White House illuminated in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015, or a rainbow-haloed Obama coronated as the “first gay president.”
George W. Bush: Deadlier Than Stalin? Our Profound Ignorance of the Crimes of Communism
“Many Millennials Think Bush Killed More Than Stalin.” Such was the surreal subject head sitting in my email box one morning. “Holy @#$%!” wrote a colleague in response. “This is mind-boggling. . . . This is scary, scary, scary.”
It sure is. It also isn’t surprising. Such profound, disturbing ignorance is a direct result of what Americans have learned about Communism in our horrid system of education, from high schools to colleges. The failure is massive.
According to a stunning new report by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, one-third of Millennials (32 percent) “believe more people were killed under George W. Bush than under Joseph Stalin.” And it isn’t just those silly Millennials that we like to view as clueless. One in four Americans generally (26 percent) believe more people were killed under Bush than Stalin.
That is breathtaking. Truly incredible.
That rather sickening finding was just one by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which has the noble objective of trying to correct America’s ignoble ignorance of the crimes of Communism.
Among the basic facts that every American should know: At least 100 million people have died under Communist governments. That ghastly number, tabulated two decades ago by The Black Book of Communism, the seminal work on the subject by Harvard University Press, is actually conservative. For instance, the Black Book recorded merely 20 million dead in the Soviet Union. Alexander Yakovlev, one of Mikhail Gorbachev’s top aides, was given the official task of trying to quantify the victims. In a 2002 book published by Yale University Press, A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia, Yakovlev estimated that Stalin alone “annihilated . . . sixty to seventy million people” — figures consistent with those estimated by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, among others. Similar levels of bloodshed were wrought by China’s Mao Tse-tung, who was responsible for the deaths of 65 million, according to the Black Book, and possibly more than 70 million, according to more recent biographical studies. And then there were the killing fields of North Korea, Cambodia, Cuba, Ethiopia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and more. Really, the death generated by Communist governments over the last 100 years is likely closer to 140 million.
For a sense of proportion, Hitler’s mad genocide against Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, the mentally disabled, the elderly, the handicapped, and others he deemed “misfits,” was approximately 10 million (six million of them Jews). The combined dead from World Wars I and II — the most destructive conflicts in human history — was 50-60 million. Communism’s body count surpasses both world wars combined and probably doubled.
And yet, Americans’ knowledge of this vast sea of destruction is atrocious, which brings me back to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
The foundation is seeking to document this ignorance on a regular basis via its first “Annual Report on U.S. Attitudes Towards Socialism.” According to the report, the vast majority of Americans (75 percent) underestimate the number of people killed by Communist regimes, and a strong majority (68 percent) believe that Hitler killed more people than Stalin.
Death tallies aside, not only do they not see Stalin for the killer he was, but their views on Communism are not terribly negative.
Just 37 percent of Millennials had a “very unfavorable” view of Communism. One quarter (25 percent) of Millennials have a “favorable” view of Vladimir Lenin, namesake of Marxism-Leninism, the vicious architect and godfather of the Bolshevik totalitarian state. And 42 percent of Millennials are flatly “unfamiliar” with Mao Tse-tung.
It gets worse: 64 percent of Americans agree with Karl Marx’s classic credo that underpins Communist philosophy: “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”
Thus, it’s not surprising that close to half (45 percent) of Americans aged 16 to 20 (first-time voters in this presidential election) said they would vote for a socialist, and 21 percent would vote for a Communist. Of course, that’s reflected in what happened in 2016, as Bernie Sanders, a lifelong self-professed “socialist,” received 13 million votes in the Democratic primary. To give you a sense of that number’s significance, Donald Trump got 14 million votes in the Republican primary, and that was a record for a Republican primary.
This is not a failure to teach history; it is a failure to teach Communist and socialist history. We haven’t neglected to teach that Nazism was evil, that Hitler was a mass-murderer, that fascism is bad. We long ago failed when it came to Communism, Marxism-Leninism, Bolshevism, the USSR, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Che, Pol Pot, North Korea’s crazy Kims, and on and on.
Importantly, that failure is often the result of ideological biases, especially among leftist teachers and professors. Liberals and progressives do not suffer the same historical negligence when it comes to teaching the crimes of fascism and Nazism. They do a bang-up job with Hitler’s crimes, but not Stalin’s.
And the result is seen in this study. You reap what you sow.
More death under George W. Bush than Joseph Stalin? Good grief, comrade.
Remembering Two Christian College Presidents—Charles MacKenzie and Michael Scanlan
The story of Christian higher education in America is a sad saga. Once upon a time, the nation’s premier universities were run by religious people or founded with religious missions, or at least were respectful of the Christian faith. That sharp reversal has been a painful long march, with a marked turn early in the 20th century. I’m often reminded of the sardonic words of Thomas Merton, who at radical Columbia University in the 1930s became a Communist. He ultimately escaped the god that failed, instead becoming a Trappist monk. Columbia had become a toxic environment where Dewey-ism rather than Christianity was the prevailing zeitgeist. Merton wrote:
“Poor Columbia! It was founded by sincere [Christians] as a college predominantly religious. The only thing that remains of that is the university motto: In lumine tuo videbimus lumen — one of the deepest and most beautiful lines of the psalms. ‘In Thy light, we shall see light.’ It is, precisely, about grace. It is a line that might serve as the foundation stone of all Christian and Scholastic learning, and which simply has nothing whatever to do with the standards of education at modern Columbia. It might profitably be changed to: In lumine Randall videbimus Dewey.”
That last sentence was a reference to John Dewey and to John Herman Randall, another influential Columbia philosophy professor. For Merton, he found God in spite of Columbia. And that was the 1930s. Merton and Randall and even Dewey would be stunned by the secular/leftward lunge of our universities in just a few generations. By the 1970s and 1980s, even colleges that were explicitly Christian by charter and mission enthusiastically separated from those moorings, led by administrators and faculty who fled the faith.
And yet, amid all the chaos, a few jewels held firm to the foundation, keeping the faith and holding true to or reverting to their missions. Two colleges that did just that, preserving and actually heightening their commitment, are Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania, one Roman Catholic and one Protestant. The period when the two institutions successfully struggled to retain their commitments came in the 1970s and 1980s under the long-term leaderships of two particular presidents: Father Michael Scanlan and Dr. Charles MacKenzie.
My occasion for mentioning this now is a quite moving development: both Father Scanlan and Dr. MacKenzie were called to be with their Maker this January. Scanlan died on January 7 at the age of 85. MacKenzie died, on January 26, at age 92.
Michael Scanlan had stepped down as chancellor of Franciscan in 2011. He had been chancellor since 2000, and before that was president for 26 years. MacKenzie had been president of Grove City College from 1971 to 1991. He was the college’s (mere) fifth president.
In reaction to Scanlan’s death three weeks ago, the Catholic press was filled with glowing tributes. Tributes to MacKenzie likewise have now begun. Current Grove City College president Paul McNulty describes MacKenzie as a man of “courageous leadership” who had an “extraordinary impact” on the college, strengthening its “core values of faithfulness, excellence, community, stewardship, and independence. . . . He inspired us to serve God with energy and integrity.” Right up until his death, said McNulty, MacKenzie “continuously prayed for Grove City College and our distinct mission.”
Among the many remembrances of Scanlan and MacKenzie, I want to report an interesting but unseen ecumenical item related to their efforts — a joint effort. Faithful Catholics and Protestants alike will appreciate it, and it was first told to me by Scott Hahn, the famous Catholic convert and Franciscan University theology professor who, ironically, had been a student and then special assistant to President MacKenzie at Grove City College. Only Hahn could have observed what I’m about to relate.
During some very trying days when the two colleges were seeking to hold true to their Christian missions, Hahn several times overheard phone calls between MacKenzie and Scanlan, as the two men alternately advised and encouraged one another. Somewhat akin to the excellent ecumenical work of the late Chuck Colson and Father Richard John Neuhaus, here were Protestants and Catholics working together, united by a common foe: secular relativism, in this case in the academy.
Those phone calls, said Hahn, an eyewitness, were very important to MacKenzie. Hahn observed this first-hand in the president’s office at Grove City College. Hahn later heard more about the calls from Father Scanlan. When I met Scanlan, he confirmed the relationship with MacKenzie.
Back in 2011, when I heard the news of Scanlan’s retirement, I emailed MacKenzie to inquire about their relationship. He was eager to go on-the-record. “During my twenty years at Grove City, Father Scanlan and I had several conversations or communications,” MacKenzie confirmed to me.
“He and I were on the same wavelength as we sought to lead our schools back to the roots of the Christian faith. We were very careful what we said to each other, but I personally benefitted from his encouragement.”
MacKenzie hastened to add that he wasn’t free to share everything from their conversations. That isn’t a surprise. Recounting the faculty battles alone would be enough for a book. MacKenzie simply summed up by emphasizing that he and Scanlan “were on the same side on many of the issues.” He called Scanlan a “man of courage and faith, and in that regard, he was a blessing to me. . . . I thank God for him.”
And so do the folks at Franciscan University, which, today, like Grove City College, is a shining light amid the darkness of higher education. Both Scanlan and MacKenzie ensured that those lights were not extinguished under a bushel of secular relativism, as has happened at countless erstwhile Christian colleges. They wanted that light to shine before men, and they sought to do so cooperatively, not as antagonists from opposing Catholic and Protestant trenches, but as allies and partners working together in a shared vision.
It’s a tale of two Christian colleges that both Catholics and Protestants alike can learn from and emulate. *
Allan C. Brownfeld
Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. vice president, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
America Is Exceptional — But Now There Is an Effort to Make It Ordinary
Our society is unique in history — in other words “exceptional.” Ronald Reagan described it as a “City on a Hill.” Now, we confront an effort to make it ordinary, to build walls, promote fear of strangers, and promote a narrow nationalism. Perhaps those who would make America small and narrow do not understand what generations of Americans, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, have meant by the term “American exceptionalism.”
America has never simply been another country. From the very beginning, its vision of Liberty attracted people of every ethnic background and religion. At the time of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine wrote:
“If there is a country in the world where concord, according to common calculation, would be least expected, it is America. Made up, as it is, of people from different nations, accustomed to different forms and habits of government, speaking different languages, and more different in their modes of worship, it would appear that the Union of such a people was impracticable. But by the simple operation of constructing government on the principles of society and the rights of man, every difficulty retires and the parts are brought into cordial unison.”
In Redburn, (1849), Herman Melville spelled out a vision of America which is as true today as it was then:
“There is something in the contemplation of the mode in which America has been settled that, in a noble breast, should forever extinguish the prejudices of national dislikes. Settled by the people of all nations, all nations may claim her for their own. You cannot spill a drop of American blood without spilling the blood of the whole world. Be he Englishman, German, Dane or Scot: the European who scoffs at an American . . . stands in danger of judgment. We are not a narrow tribe of men. . . . No: our blood is as the flood of the Amazon, made up of a thousand noble currents all pouring into one. We are not a nation, so much as a world.”
To make America simply another country, concerned only with its narrow self-interest, is to reverse our history. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote:
“France was a land. England was a people, but America, having about it still the quality of an idea, was harder to utter — it was the graves at Shiloh, and the tired, drawn, nervous faces of its great men, and the country boys dying in the Argonne for a phrase that was empty before their bodies withered. It was a willingness of the heart.”
Today, our country is the most powerful and most prosperous in the world. We defeated Communism, Fascism and Nazism. Of course, there are always challenges to be confronted. ISIS threatens the West with terrorism, and it is important that it be defeated. But the promotion of fear by some in Washington is irrational. In his first Inaugural Address, in the midst of the Great Depression, as democracy was collapsing in Europe, Franklin D. Roosevelt told the country that:
“. . . the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Now, our new administration stirs fear with no basis for doing so. Scholars of the subject say they can think of no previous president so enamored as Mr. Trump of scare tactics. Historian Robert Dallek says, “If he frightens people, it puts him in the driver’s seat. These are what I think can be described as demagogic tendencies.”
There is nothing conservative about what we are hearing from the White House in recent days. Of the catchphrase “America First,” the antecedents of which go back to keeping the U.S. out of the war against Nazism, which many who now use it do not understand, conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer writes:
“Some claim that putting America first is a reassertion of American exceptionalism. On the contrary, it is the antithesis. It makes America no different from all the other countries that define themselves by a particularist blood-and-soil nationalism. What made America exceptional, unique in the world, was defining its own national interest beyond its narrow economic and security needs to encompass the safety and prosperity of a vast array of allies. A free world, markedly open trade and mutual defense was President Truman’s vision, shared by every president since. Until now. . . . For seventy years, we sustained an international system of open commerce and democratic alliances that has enabled America and the West to grow and thrive. Global leadership is what made America great. We abandon it at our peril.”
The people around presidential adviser Stephen Bannon and the “alt-right” philosophy he promoted on the Breitbart news website, have more in common with the right-wing racial nationalism to be found in European parties such as Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France than anything in our own history. To what degree President Trump has embraced such views, remains less than clear. But many traditional conservatives see all of this as a dramatic departure from American exceptionalism. New York Times columnist David Brooks notes that:
“We are in the midst of a Great War of national identity. We thought we were in an ideological battle against radical Islam, but we are really fighting the national myths spread by Trump, Bannon, Putin, Le Pen and Farage. We can argue about immigration and trade and foreign policy, but nothing will be right until we restore and revive the meaning of America. Are we still the purpose-driven experiment Lincoln described and Emma Lazarus wrote about: assigned by providence to spread democracy and prosperity; to welcome the stranger. . . . Or are we just another nation, hunkered down in a fearful world?”
In 1866, Lord Acton, the British liberal leader, said that America was becoming the “distant magnet.” Apart from “the millions who have crossed the ocean, who shall reckon with the millions whose hearts and hopes are in the United States, to whom the rising sun is in the West.”
America has been a nation much loved. Germans have loved Germany. Frenchmen have loved France. Swedes have loved Sweden. This, of course, is only natural. But America has been beloved not only by native Americans, but by men and women throughout the world who have yearned for freedom. America dreamed a bigger dream than any nation in the history of man. Now, in Washington, that dream is being replaced with something far different. The Republican Party, which always embraced the idea of American exceptionalism, one to which Ronald Reagan and conservatives were particularly committed, now has a choice. Will it abandon its vision of America as exceptional and adopt the very ordinary nationalism that now is manifesting itself in the White House, or will it maintain its belief in an America that is, indeed, something new and positive in history? All of us will be losers if the vision of America embraced by the Founding Fathers and generations of Americans is abandoned by those whose notion of America is narrow and completely ahistorical.
The Strange Assault on Thomas Jefferson at the University He Founded
At the University of Virginia, its founding father, Thomas Jefferson, is under attack by some students and faculty.
After the November presidential election, university president Theresa Sullivan wrote a letter in which she quoted Jefferson in expressing the hope that students from the University would help our republic. Sullivan wrote:
“By coincidence, on this exact day 191 years ago — November 9, 1825, in the first year of classes at the University of Virginia — Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend that U.V. students ‘. . . are not of ordinary significance only; they are exactly the persons who are to succeed to the government of our country, and to rule its future enmities, its friendships and fortunes.’ I encourage today’s U.V. students to embrace that responsibility.”
Almost immediately, a response was drafted by Noelle Brand, an assistant professor of psychology, who declared that Thomas Jefferson “was deeply involved in the racist history of this university” and he noted that:
“We would like for our administration to understand that although some members of this community may have come to this university because of Thomas Jefferson’s legacy, others of us came here in spite of it. For many of us, the inclusion of Jefferson quotations in these e-mails undermines the message of unity, equality, and civility that you are attempting to convey.”
Approximately 500 students and faculty signed the letter, with more adding their names later. President Sullivan responded that:
“Quoting Jefferson (or any historical figure) does not imply an endorsement of all the social structures and beliefs of his time, such as slavery and the exclusion of women and people of color from the university.”
Sullivan acknowledged “the university’s complicated Jeffersonian legacy.” She pointed out that:
“Today’s leaders are women and men, members of all racial and ethnic groups, members of the LGBTQ community and adherents of all religious traditions. All of them belong to today’s University of Virginia whose founders most influential and quoted words were ‘all men are created equal.’ Those words were inherently contradictory in an era of slavery, but because of their power they became the fundamental expression of a more genuine equality today.”
What President Sullivan’s critics are doing is applying the standards of 2016 to 1787, when the Constitution was written, and finding our ancestors seriously deficient. They are guilty of what the Quaker theologian Elton Trueblood called “the sin of contemporaneity,” of applying the standards of our own time to those who have come before. It is possible to look at the colonial period from both the vantage point of the period that preceded it as well as the period which has followed. This is instructive when considering the question of slavery.
Slavery played an important part in many ancient civilizations. Indeed, most people of the ancient world regarded slavery as a natural condition of life, one that could befall anyone at any time, having nothing to do with race. It has existed almost universally through history among peoples of every level of material culture — among nomadic pastoralists in Asia, hunting societies of North American Indians and sea people such as the Norsemen. The legal codes of Sumer provide documentary evidence that slavery existed there as early as the 4th millennium B.C. The Sumerian symbol for slave in cuneiform writing suggests “foreign.”
When the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in 1787, not a single nation had made slavery illegal. As they looked back through history, the framers saw slavery as an accepted and acceptable institution. It was not until 1792 that Denmark became the first Western nation to abolish the slave trade. In 1807, the British Parliament passed a bill outlawing the slave trade — and slavery was abolished in British colonies between 1834 and 1840. France freed the slaves in its colonies in 1848. Spain ended slavery in Puerto Rico in 1873, and in Cuba in 1886. Brazil abolished slavery in 1888.
The respected British historian of classical slavery, Moses L. Finley, writes:
“The cities in which individual freedom reached its highest expression — most obviously Athens — were cities in which chattel slavery flourished.”
The same is true of Ancient Rome. Plutarch notes that on a single day in the year 167 B.C., 150,000 slaves were sold in a single market.
Our Judeo-Christian tradition was also one that accepted the legitimacy of slavery. The Old Testament regulates the relationship between master and slave in great detail. In Leviticus (XXV: 39-55), God instructs the Children of Israel to enslave the heathen and their progeny forever, but to employ poor Jews as servants only, and to free them and their children on the year of Jubilee. There is no departure from this approach to slavery in the New Testament. St. Paul urges slaves to obey their masters with full hearts and without obfuscation.
What is historically unique is not that slavery was the accepted way of the world in 1787, but that so many of the leading men of the American colonies of that day wanted to eliminate it — and pressed vigorously to do so.
Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton were ardent abolitionists. John Jay, who would become the first Chief Justice, was president of the New York Anti-Slavery Society. Rufus King and Gouverneur Morris were in the forefront of opposition to slavery.
One of the great debates at the Constitutional Convention related to the African slave trade. George Mason of Virginia made an eloquent plea for making it illegal. He said:
“Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of heaven on a country.”
In his original draft of the Declaration of Independence, one of the principal charges made by Thomas Jefferson against King George III and his predecessors was that they would not allow the American colonies to outlaw the importation of slaves. When Jefferson was first elected to the Virginia legislature at the age of twenty-five, his first political act was to begin the elimination of slavery. Though unsuccessful, he tried to further encourage the emancipation process by writing into the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” In his draft of a constitution for Virginia, he provided that all slaves would be emancipated in that state by 1800, and that any child born in Virginia after 1801, would be born free. This, however, was not adopted.
In his draft, instructions to the Virginia delegation to the Continental Congress of 1774, published as “A Summary View of the Rights of British America,” Jefferson charged the British crown with having prevented the colonies from abolishing slavery in the interest of avarice and greed:
“The abolition of domestic slavery is the great object of desire of these colonies, where it was, unhappily, introduced in their infant state. But previous to the enfranchisement of the slaves we have, it is necessary to exclude all further importations from Africa. Yet our repeated efforts to effect this by prohibition, and by imposing duties which might amount to a prohibition, have been hitherto defeated by his Majesty’s negative.”
Thomas Jefferson and the other framers of the Constitution were imperfect men and it is not difficult to discover their personal flaws. But these imperfect men did an extraordinary thing in creating a new nation, which now has the world’s oldest continuous form of government. Professor Forrest McDonald points out that:
“The framers were guided by principles but not by formulas. They understood that no form or system of government is universally desirable or workable; instead, if government is to be viable, it must be made to conform to human nature and to the genius of the people — to their customs, morals, habits, institutions, aspirations. The framers did just that, and thereby used old materials to create a new order for the ages.”
While the majority of the framers of the Constitution were opposed to slavery, a small minority supported it and if it were outlawed the union never would have come into being. Thus, they compromised. What they did do was outlaw the slave trade as of 1808 and Congress, in 1787, outlawed slavery in the new territories by passing the Northwest Ordinance. It was, we must remember, the framers of the Constitution who were the first duly constituted authority in the Western world to act decisively against slavery.
One wonders how much of this history is known by those who wrote and signed the letter calling upon University of Virginia President Theresa Sullivan to stop quoting Thomas Jefferson. To her credit, President Sullivan understands the distinction between intrinsic principle and historical personality. To hold leaders of the past to the standards of the present time is to be guilty of missing the larger message of our history. Jefferson and our other Founding Fathers set in place a system of government that permitted growth and change. While they may not have shared the views of today, neither did Socrates, Plato, Dante, or Shakespeare. Shall we only be able to quote those from the 20th and 21st centuries who share the standards we only ourselves came to accept a very short time ago? This would be “contemporaneity” gone mad.
Thomas Sowell Ends His Column, But His Intellectual Legacy Will Only Grow
Thomas Sowell, one of America’s foremost public intellectuals and most outspoken black conservatives, submitted his final column in December after 25 years in syndication. At 86, he said, he thought the time had come to retire from this enterprise. Hopefully, his other literary pursuits will continue.
For more than 50 years, Sowell has published books and journals on race, economics, and government policy. He grew up in Harlem and was the first member of his family to go beyond 6th grade — eventually graduating from Harvard. A self-proclaimed Marxist in his 20s, he received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago, where he studied under Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economic advocate of free markets. Sowell slowly lost faith in the ability of government to effectuate positive change in our economic life. He taught economics at Cornell and UCLA and has been a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University since 1980. (Shortly after he moved into his office at Stanford, I visited him there. I remember having dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Palo Alto, and putting a tape recorder on the table, and engaging in a lengthy interview, which was subsequently published in Human Events).
Thomas Sowell examined the history of race relations in America, and throughout the world. He questioned much of the orthodoxy to be found in intellectual circles and asked — and tried to answer — the most difficult questions. Do certain groups advance in society at varying rates because of the attitude of society toward them? Does discrimination against a given group cause it to do less well economically and educationally than those groups that do not face such external barriers?
In a landmark study, “The Economics and Politics of Race: An International Perspective”(1983), followed by an impressive succession of important books, Sowell uses an international framework to analyze group differences. Examining the experience of different groups in more than a dozen countries, he seeks to determine how much of each group’s economic fate has been due to the surrounding society and how much to internal patterns that follow the same group around the world.
The Italians in Australia and Argentina, for example, show social and economic patterns similar in many respects to those of Italians in Italy or in the United States. Chinese college students in Malaysia specialize in very much the same fields that they specialize in American colleges — a far different set of specializations from those of other groups in both countries. Germans have, similarly, concentrated in very similar industries and occupations in South America, North America, or Australia.
Analyzing the successes of each group, Sowell points to the group’s culture, which rewards some behaviors over others, as the determinant of skills, orientations and therefore economic performance. “Race may have no intrinsic significance,” he writes, “and yet be associated historically with vast cultural differences that are very consequential for economic performance.”
In Southeast Asia, for example, the overseas Chinese have been subjected to widespread discrimination. Quota systems were established in government employment and in admission to universities in Malaysia, and a “target” of 30 percent Malayan ownership in business and industry was established. In Indonesia, a 1959 law forbade the Chinese to engage in retailing in the villages. Chinese-owned rice mills were confiscated. In the Philippines, it was decreed that no new Chinese import business could be established, and Chinese establishments were closed by law.
Despite all of this, Sowell points out, the Chinese thrived. As of 1972, they owned between 50 and 95 percent of the capital in Thailand’s banking and finance industries, transportation, wholesale and retail trade, restaurants, and the import and export business. In Malaysia, the Chinese earned double the income of Malays in 1976, despite a massive government program imposing preferential treatment of Malays in the private economy. In the U.S., as in Southeast Asia, writes Sowell, “The Chinese became hated for their virtues.” Despite discrimination, the Chinese advanced rapidly in the U.S., as did the Japanese, who met similar forms of racial bigotry, including special taxes and job restrictions.
In Europe, Sowell points out, precisely the same story can be told with regard to Jews. Anti-semitism was a powerful force in many countries, yet Jews continued to advance. Although Jews were only one percent of the German population, they became 10 percent of the doctors and dentists, 17 percent of the lawyers, and won 27 percent of the Nobel Prizes awarded Germans from 1901 to 1975. In the U.S., notes Sowell:
“Although the Jewish immigrants arrived with less money than most other immigrants, their rise to prosperity was unparalleled. Working long hours at low pay, they nevertheless saved money to start their own small businesses . . . or to send a child to college. While the Jews were initially destitute in financial terms, they brought with them not only specific skills but a tradition of success and entrepreneurship which could not be confiscated or eliminated, as the Russian and Polish governments had confiscated their wealth and eliminated most of their opportunities.”
In the case of blacks in the U.S., Sowell shows that West Indians have advanced much more rapidly than native born American blacks because of major cultural differences. In the West Indies, slaves had to grow the bulk of their own food — and were able to sell what they did not need from their individual plots of land. They were given economic incentives to exercise initiative, as well as experience in buying, selling, and managing their own affairs — experiences denied to slaves in the U.S.
The two black groups — native-born Americans and West Indians — suffered the same racial discrimination, but advanced at dramatically different rates. By 1969, black West Indians earned 94 percent of the average income of Americans in general, while native blacks earned only 62 percent. Second generation West Indians in the U.S. earned 15 percent more than the average American. More than half of all black-owned businesses in New York State were owned by West Indians. The highest-ranking blacks in the New York City Police Department in 1970 were all West Indians, as were all the black judges in the city.
It is a serious mistake, Sowell believes, to ignore the fact that economic performance differences between whole races and cultures “are quite real and quite large.” Attitudes of work habits, he argues, are key ingredients of success or failure. The market rewards certain kinds of behavior, and penalizes other behavior patterns — in a color-blind manner. Blaming discrimination by others for a group’s status, he states, ignores the lessons of history.
Political efforts to address the “problems” of minorities, such as race-based affirmative action programs, usually fail, Sowell reports, because they refuse to deal with the real causes of such difficulties:
“. . . political ‘solutions’ tend to misconceive the basic issues. . . . Black civil rights leaders . . . often earn annual incomes running into hundreds of thousands of dollars, even if their programs and approaches prove futile for the larger purpose of lifting other blacks out of poverty.”
Crucial to a group’s ability to advance is the stability of its family life and the willingness to sacrifice:
“. . . more than four-fifths of all white children live with both their parents. But among black children, less than half live with both parents. . . . What is relevant is the willingness to pay a price to achieve goals. Large behavioral differences suggest that the trade-off of competing desires vary enormously among ethnic groups. . . . The complex personal and social prerequisites for a prosperous level of output are often simply glided over, and material wealth treated as having been produced somehow, with the only real question being how to distribute it justly.”
If we seek to understand group differences, it is to “human capital” that we must turn our attention, Sowell declares. The crucial question is not the fairness of its distribution but “whether society as a whole — or mankind as a whole — gains when the output of both the fortunate and the unfortunate is discouraged by disincentives.”
It is Sowell’s view that many black leaders have not served their constituencies but themselves. Instead of expressing concern over the decline of the black family, the increasing out-of-wedlock birth rate, the rise of inner-city crime — they speak only of “discrimination.” Instead of calling for an end to such government licensing laws as those that limit the number of taxicabs in cities such as New York and Philadelphia, they call for more government “make-work” jobs.
While many blame all problems within the black community on the legacy of slavery, Sowell points to the fact that more black children lived in two-parent families during slavery, Reconstruction, and the years of segregation than at the present time. He writes that:
“In reality, most black children were raised in two-parent homes even during the era of slavery, and for generations after, blacks had higher rates of marriage than whites in the early 20th century, and higher rates of labor force participation in every census from 1890 to 1950. The real causes of the very different patterns among blacks in the world of today must be sought in the 20th century, not in the era before emancipation.”
Tom Sowell has been telling the hard truth for many years, and has received much abuse for doing so. He has been a strong advocate for a genuinely color blind society, in which men and women would be judged on their individual merit, not on the basis of race. All Americans who believe in such a society, and believe that one’s view about economic, political, and other matters should be based on the facts as one sees them — not on race, religion, or ethnicity as the promoters of today’s “identity politics” would have it — should recognize what a champion of freedom Sowell has been. We will miss his regular column, but hope he will continue to share his wisdom with us. It is certain that his intellectual legacy will grow for it is based upon scholarship and a search for truth, not upon the changing needs of our political class for convenient and popular responses to the complex challenges we face. Sadly, there are too few such people among us. For a free society to thrive, we need more Thomas Sowells. We have been lucky indeed to have him with us.
Washington Once Again Shows Us That “Congressional Ethics” Is an Oxymoron
On the very first day of the new Congress, House Republicans met in secret. Their very first order of business was to vote to eliminate the quasi-independent office that investigates House ethics. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) was the architect of the attack on the Office of Congressional Ethics, known as O.C.E. The rules change would have prevented the office from investigating potentially criminal allegations, allowed members of the House Ethics Committee to shut down any O.C.E. investigation, and silenced staff members in their dealings with the news media.
The O.C.E. was created in 2008, after a series of bribery and corruption scandals involving members of both parties. Three House members were sent to jail. Among those joining Rep. Goodlatte in calling for the end of O.C.E. were Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), who had been investigated by the O.C.E. for sexual harassment, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), who was investigated after he and his wife took a $24,000 trip to Taiwan, which appeared to have been improperly paid for by the Taiwanese government, and Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), who was ranking member of the House Committee on Small Business in 2009 when he invited expert testimony on the renewable fuel industry from a representative of a renewable fuels business in which his wife had a financial stake, a potential conflict of interest. Another advocate of ending O.C.E. was Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM), who last year tried to eliminate the entire O.C.E. budget after it investigated one of his staff members. Or consider Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), another supporter of eliminating O.C.E., who has used campaign funds for personal expenses, which is illegal. Among his reported expenditures: $1,400 for a dentist, $2,000 for a Thanksgiving trip to Italy, and $600 to take his children’s pet bunny on a commercial airplane. (After these expenses were exposed, he reimbursed his campaign $62,000). The list of those supporting the elimination of O.C.E. who have been the targets of investigation is not a short one.
President-elect Donald Trump quickly weighed in, questioning the priorities of Republican members of Congress. Shortly after, lawmakers were summoned to the basement of the Capitol for a meeting with Republican leaders. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the majority leader, asked his fellow Republicans whether they had campaigned to repeal the Affordable Care Act or to eliminate the ethics office? Shortly after this, the idea of eliminating the O.C.E. was scrapped.
This was not the first time that House lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — had tried to curtail the powers or budget of the O.C.E. In 2011, Rep. Melvin Watt (D-NC), who later left Congress to join the Obama administration, tried to cut the agency’s budget by 40 percent, a proposal that failed on a 302-102 vote. The Republican effort, just after the election of Donald Trump, who promised to “drain the swamp” of Washington, was viewed as tone-deaf in the extreme. The vote to eliminate the O.C.E., noted The Economist, “showed those lawmakers to lack self-awareness to an amazing degree.” Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) said:
“Mr. Trump campaigned that he was going to drain the swamp, and here we are on Day One trying to fill the swamp. . . . I just could not believe that the Congress does not understand that, if anything, we need to bring sunshine in.”
Many years ago, Mark Twain pointed out that Congress was our only “native born criminal class.” The evidence in recent years would fill many pages. In 2009, Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) was convicted of corruption charges in a case made famous by the $90,000 in bribe money stuffed into his freezer. Federal jurors found Jefferson guilty of using his congressional office as a criminal enterprise to enrich himself, soliciting and accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to support his business ventures in Africa. While the Jefferson case is an extreme example of congressional corruption, his attorney’s defense that, in effect, “everyone does it,” is not as far fetched as it may appear. Other members of Congress may not have $90,000 in their freezers, but too many are guilty of questionable activities.
Just as Jefferson’s trial began, we learned of Sen. John Ensign’s (R-NV) affair with an aide and the subsequent payments to her family by his parents. Also at that time, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), then chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was the subject of several ethics investigations over matters ranging from his occupying four apartments at below market rents in a Harlem building owned by a prominent real estate developer, and his admission that he had neglected to pay some taxes by failing to report $75,000 in income in rental income earned from a beachfront villa in the Dominican Republic. The Wall Street Journal commented: “Ever notice that those who endorse high taxes and those who actually pay them aren’t the same people?”
There is, of course, the larger question of the ethical standards of the Congress, beyond activities that are clearly illegal. Members of Congress subsidize, in one form or another, a host of special interests — farmers, businessmen, Wall Street, universities, welfare recipients, labor unions — and each group has a special Political Action Committee (PAC) that contributes to members’ campaigns. Cuts in subsidies to these groups will provoke cuts in contributions. The result: every group gets what it wants, and the budget deficits skyrocket. Added to this business-as-usual subsidization are the bailouts of failed banks, Wall Street firms, and auto companies — turning traditional ideas of free enterprise on their head. This is the “crony capitalism” now embraced by both political parties.
We have created in America a permanent political class that has an interest in ever-expanding government. The party out of power always says government is too big — but once it comes to power, it makes it even bigger. Republicans accuse Democrats of being supporters of “big government,” which is true enough, but government power has also grown dramatically under Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. When will voters finally understand that both of our political parties are co-conspirators in the growth of both government power and our huge deficits? This is something the Founding Fathers sought to prevent — and would have been sorry to see. But they wouldn’t have been surprised.
Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Edward Carrington, observed that:
“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. . . . One of the profoundest preferences in human nature is for satisfying one’s needs and desires with the least possible exertion; for appropriating wealth produced by the labor of others, rather than producing it by one’s own labor. . . . In other words, the stronger the government, the weaker the producer, the less consideration need be given him and the more might be taken away from him. A deep instinct of human nature being for these reasons in favor of strong government, nothing could be a more natural progress of things than for Liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”
It was because of their fear of governmental power that the Framers of the Constitution limited government through the Bill of Rights and divided its authority through our federal system. By establishing the executive, legislative, and judicial branches — and by dividing authority between the state and national governments — the Framers hoped to ensure that no branch of government would ever obtain so much power that it would be a threat to freedom.
The kind of activist government we have now — involved in every aspect of people’s lives, even running an automobile company — is the opposite of what the Founding Fathers had in mind. From the beginning of history, the great philosophers predicted that democratic government would not long preserve freedom. Plato, Aristotle and, more recently, De Tocqueville, Lord Bryce and Macauley predicted that men would give away their freedom voluntarily for what they perceived as greater security. French political philosopher Bertrand De Jouvenel noted that:
“The state, when once it is made the giver of protection and security, has but to urge the necessities of its protectorate and over-lordship to justify its encroachments.”
Voters say that they are against big government and oppose inflation and deficit spending, but when it comes to their own particular share, they act in a different way entirely. Walter Judd, who represented Minnesota in Congress for many years, once recalled that a Republican businessman from his district:
“. . . who normally decried deficit spending, berated me for voting against a bill which would have brought several million federal dollars into our city. My answer was, ‘Where do you think federal funds for Minneapolis come from? People in St. Paul?’. . . My years in public life have taught me that politicians and citizens alike invariably claim that government spending should be restrained, except where the restraints cut off federal dollars flowing into their cities, or their pocketbooks.”
If each group curbed its demands upon government, it would not be difficult to balance the budget and restore health to the economy. But as long as we allow politicians to solicit virtually unlimited amounts of money from those special interests with business before Congress, this is unlikely — and both parties are in it together. Human nature leads to the unfortunate situation in which, under representative government, people have learned that they can secure funds for themselves that have, in fact, been produced by the hard work of others.
This point was made more than 200 years ago by the British historian Alexander Tytler:
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury — with the result that democracy collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by dictatorship.”
The Founding Fathers never envisioned the creation of a permanent political class such as the one we have now. They believed that men would be farmers, businessmen, doctors, lawyers, teachers — and would devote several years of their lives to public service and then go home to their careers. Today, however, we have professional politicians — men and women who support their families by holding public office and intend to do so for many years. When they do leave public office, most do not go home and many remain in Washington as high-priced lobbyists. Their motivation, it seems, is clearly whatever will permit them to do so, not the long-run best interests of the country. Incumbents running for re-election in one-party districts raise millions from special interests that they do not need for their campaigns, and can keep it when they leave Congress.
The incoming Trump administration promises to “drain the swamp.” It will be interesting to see how — and if — this proceeds. Still, we must keep in mind that Members of Congress respond to our demands. As long as we — whether individuals, farmers, Wall Street banks or any other special interest, seek to be subsidized by government, and this is the price they must pay for our support, the politicians of both parties will comply. In this sense, our own selfishness, as well as theirs, is the culprit. The term “congressional ethics” may indeed be an oxymoron. But the ethics of the rest of us may not be far behind. In a sense, then, we have the kind of government we deserve — one that indeed represents our values. A brazen effort to eliminate the independent ethics office by a secret vote of House Republicans shows us how far we have gone down this path. *
Our Mission Is to Reawaken the Genuine American Spirit . . .
The Story of Dino Casali
Editor’s Note: Dino Casali was a long-time subscriber and supporter of The St. Croix Review. He died several months ago at the age of 87. This biography was sent to The St. Croix Review by Dino’s friend Thomas F. Wall who wrote: “I enclose a short biography of Dino’s life prepared, by his home city’s Torrington [Connecticut] Historical Society, which is most inspiring and shows how many older U.S. citizens accomplished so much in the old-fashioned way of working for it.”
Thomas Wall writes of Dino Casali: “He had a distinguished career, although his quiet demeanor would not indicate this. He made a deep impression on me.”
It is the mission of The St. Croix Review to reawaken the Genuine American Spirit of Living in a Good, Great, and Growing Nation as Free Individuals. The writers — and the subscribers — of The St. Croix Review cherish our American freedoms and we are ingenious and industrious people who are capable of solving whatever difficulties we encounter. We find strength in our families, in our neighborhoods, and in our faiths.
The bond that holds America together is a belief that ordinary people of whatever ethnicity or faith can accomplish extraordinary feats as long as American freedom is preserved. To preserve America as the land of opportunity it is necessary to oppose and reverse the growth of the federal government, including the onerous bureaucratic regulations of the various agencies, intended to render individuals subservient to the state.
America was founded as a nation of immigrants who arrived in America legally, who wanted to become Americans, and who were willing to play by the rules. That Dino Casali was a long-time subscriber to The St. Croix Review was not an accident — his story embodies the ethos we promote. Indeed, Dino Casali’s father immigrated to America from Italy, just as my father, Angus MacDonald, came to America from Australia following W.W. II — Angus founded The St. Croix Review in 1968.
Immigrants who come to America, and who want to become American, are able to see America with fresh eyes — they are able to appreciate this nation as a land of opportunity — because they can compare America to wherever they came from.
I would never have learned of Dino Casali’s story if his friend Thomas Wall hadn’t sent me Dino’s biography. I’m grateful for Thomas Wall and for the Torrington Historical Society. And I’m grateful for all of the subscribers of The St. Croix Review. I haven’t been able to meet very many of you — though I have been typing your names over and over again in thank you notes year after year. I suspect we all have much in common.
If you, the subscribers to The St. Croix Review, would send us memoirs or biographies we will reserve a place for you within our pages — we’d like to foster a sense of community among us. —Barry MacDonald
Carlo Casali emigrated to the U.S. in 1907 after hearing stories of great opportunity there. Upon his arrival in 1907, he was refused admission because of a hernia. He returned to Italy, had the hernia corrected and promptly returned to the U.S. [and was admitted into America].
He had to return to Italy in 1914 because of World War I.
After arriving in Italy in 1914, he married and established a family. Carlo Casali and Giovanna Guarnieri Casali were born in the province of Piacenza, Commune (town) of Mofasso in 1885 and 1890, respectively. Morfasso at that time had a population of about 3,000, now about 6,000. They were married in Morfasso on February 13, 1915 and made their home in a section of Morfasso called Sperongia. They farmed the land in an area owned by Carlo called Brandolino. To this day, the heirs may still own the title to this property, but they have allowed their relatives to occupy the property, farm it, and probably have title to it.
One night while sleeping in their home with their two children, August and Domenica (Mae), [Carlo and Giovanna] were frightened by a loud crack in the walls (which was a continuing problem). An investigation determined that the house was unsafe. Having had a favorable experience in the U.S. during his 1907-1914 residence, Carlo decided to return with the objective of paying off debts accumulated in the building of the house which was now a big liability. He, therefore, decided to return to the U.S. in 1919. From 1919 to 1928, he worked in the construction industry and worked for Perini Bros. in Framingham, Massachusetts, for about seven years. He was able to earn enough to pay his debts in Italy and move Giovanna and the two children to the U.S. in 1928. They rented a home on Laurel Hill in Torrington, Connecticut, where Dino was born in 1929. Then in a typical display of courage and confidence for the future, Carlo built a large two-family house at 250 Hillside Avenue in 1932, at the depth of the Great Depression. It was a struggle to maintain the house and provide for his family, but Carlo and Giovanna lived there until their deaths in 1950 and 1974, respectively. His search for permanence was completed on Hillside Avenue but not until the children, August and Mae, were required to leave school at early ages, of necessity, to work and contribute vitally to insure that the house would not be lost. The home is now owned by Carlo and Giovanna’s grandson, Alfred Bonvicini.
Dino went to the East School grammar school (now the Glass Building) where his classmate was his future wife, Corinne Zoli. Starting at age seven he delivered the Torrington Register six days per week door to door to the residents of Hillside Avenue. This early experience of dealing personally with customers, keeping track of their payments and paying the Torrington Register weekly for his newspapers introduced him to the basics of business and laid the foundation for future business achievements. At age fifteen he got a break that would forever change his life. He was hired by Fahnestock & Co. (now Oppenheimer & Co.) by Bob Bligh, manager of the Torrington office and future mentor, as an office boy. His duties varied from marking a blackboard holding 120 stock abbreviations, whose price changes he had to mark with every quarter point change (no computers) to washing and waxing the floor every Friday afternoon. However, in this environment he became fascinated with the stock brokerage business and he decided rather quickly that his life work would be dedicated to this business, a decision that he has never regretted.
Having saved his earnings, and, encouraged by his family and Bob Bligh and his wife, Alice, he was admitted as a freshman to the School of Commerce and Finance of New York University in 1947. He went to daily class from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and walked the ten blocks to the Loft’s Candies store off Union Square where he worked from 2 p.m. Because of this grueling schedule, and because NYU had no dormitories, he enrolled at Babson College in 1949, and was graduated in 1951. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force (during the Korean War) and served until February 1956. On March 5, 1956, he started work (thanks to Bob Bligh’s influence and efforts) with the New York office of Fahnestock & Co. as a security analyst. He learned about the securities industry in depth, but he yearned to be back in Torrington with his new family (he married his childhood classmate, Corinne Zoli on April 30, 1955, and their first child, David, was born on July 26, 1956). They eventually had three more children: Paul, Dina, and Carla. With Bob Bligh’s encouragement, and subsequent help, he made the move [to Torrington] and has never experienced any doubts. As proof of this, not counting his high school employment with Fahnestock, he has, as of March 5, 2014, been continuously employed by one company: Oppenheimer and its predecessor Fahnestock for 58 years. Upon his discharge from the Air Force, he realized that he was eligible under the GI Bill for further education and proceeded to enroll at NYU for the MBA program and completed the requirements in 1961. In accomplishing this feat, he drove to New York from Torrington three nights a week for classes and made a late night return to Torrington, all while working full time for Fahnestock.
Looking back on his 84 years of life, as the sole surviving member of his original Casali family, with appreciation and gratitude for his parents’ dedication and sacrifice, it is evident that whatever success Dino has had in life can be largely attributed to his parents. Their courage in starting a new life in a foreign land with a different culture and customs, with a strange language, in successfully confronting unforeseen challenges and financial difficulties, inspired in Dino an indestructible faith of optimism and confidence for the future. *
The following is a summary of the February/March 2017 issue of The St. Croix Review:
In introducing “The Story of Dino Casali,” a biography of a long-time subscriber of The St. Croix Review, Barry MacDonald points to American liberty as the foundation of the American dream.
Allan Brownfeld, in “America Is Exceptional — But Now There Is an Effort to Make It Ordinary,” presents historical visions of American Exceptionalism and questions whether the Trump Administration has gone astray; in “The Strange Assault on Thomas Jefferson at the University He Founded,” he describes the disparagement of Thomas Jefferson by campus progressives who judge historical figures by present-day standards; in “Thomas Sowell Ends His Column, But His Intellectual Legacy Will Only Grow,” he presents a sample of Sowell’s excellent scholarship on the correlation of race, behavior, and economic success, using international data; in “Washington Once Again Shows Us That ‘Congressional Ethics’ Is an Oxymoron,” reveals the first action taken by House Republicans was to eliminate an office that investigates ethics.
Mark Hendrickson, in “Obama’s Shocking Historically Weak Economic Performance,” sizes up the former president’s overall performance; in “President Obama’s Parting Economic Shots,” he faults his removal of millions of acres from energy use, and his taking of millions of acres as a national monument; in “A Salute to Thomas Sowell,” he congratulates a “brilliant economist, erudite scholar, prolific and wide-ranging author”; in “Why Bashing the MSM Is a Win-Win for Trump,” he applauds President Trump’s feisty approach to the media; in “Six Surefire Ways Trump Can Unleash the American Economic Machine,” he identifies stupid government policies and points to solutions; in “Trump on Trade: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” he reveals where our new president’s policies are counterproductive.
Paul Kengor, in “Rating the Presidents — and Obama,” he struggles to explain President Obama’s high ranking in a C-SPAN survey of presidential scholars; in “Women’s Marchers, Unite,” he reveals the hard-left sponsors of the Women’s March in Washington D.C. in January, including the Communist Party USA and the notorious Angela Davis; in “Barack Obama’s Fundamental Transformation,” he writes that President Obama succeeded in revolutionizing sexual orientation, gender, and family issues in America; in “George W. Bush: Deadlier Than Stalin? Our Profound Ignorance of the Crimes of Communism,” he documents American ignorance of and the failure of our schools and universities to teach the murderous history of Communism; in “Remembering Two Christian College Presidents—Charles MacKenzie and Michael Scanlan,” he relates the successful defense of Christian heritage at two universities, by Catholic and Protestant presidents, amidst a radical onslaught.
Herbert London, in “The Swiss Handshake and Muslim Disapproval,” asserts the necessity of Western nations to defend Western culture when confronted by Muslim immigrants who are imposing Sharia law within Western countries; in “Considering the Real Russia Under Putin’s Authority,” he reveals Vladimir Putin’s real character through a detailing of his brutal deeds; in “The Indefensible Obama Policies,” he reviews the many failings of President Obama’s foreign policy; in “The End of Liberal Internationalism: Reductive Materialism and the Will to Power,” he depicts the emerging economic chaos of Europe and the greater assertiveness of China and Russia as post-W.W. II arrangements are disintegrating.
Thomas Drake, a long-time subscriber of The St. Croix Review, in “Why I Am Supporting Donald Trump,” explains his reasoning.
Jigs Gardner, in the concluding half of “Varieties of Religious Experience,” describes the people of faith he encountered in the “Backlands” of Cape Breton.
Jigs Gardner, in “The Forgotten President,” presents the biography of Warren G. Harding by Francis Russell, who reveals a good but flawed person betrayed by officials in his administration.
When the trees are naked again winter
Has already arrived and sixty years
Of watching is enough for me to be
Intimately familiar with the change
As if I were walking between rooms and
Leaving softening light and holiday
Colors and entering a space of stark
Contrasts where the bare branches form a wild
Tracery under an often cloudy
Sky and even the slightest coating of
Snow on grass and roofs of homes transforms the
Entire landscape into a study of
The variety of shades white assumes —
Sometimes glowing sometimes within shadows.
I see sparrows and
blue jays and crows sometimes
I will spot chickadees
struggling against the wind.
Nothing is like an onrushing cold for
Grabbing attention as I felt it in
My throat in my voice when I tried to speak
Especially in my nose which began
To run and mostly in my noggin which
Became seasick and then there were the times
When I rose from bed once the congestion
Had taken hold and my back and shoulders
Felt sore my head throbbed as I went to the
Rest room but there is a lighter side to
Getting sick as it took me out of my
Daily routine separating me from
The hamster wheel of doing the same things
Day after day exertion without thought.
quite like returning from a
vacation but it
is a rediscovery
of marvelous energy.
A word carries a meaning and a string
Of words make a sentence carrying a
More composed meaning making a point that
May be worth remembering and saying
Hippopotamus makes me wonder why
This pell-mell collection of syllables
Is stuck to that creature because the word
Hippopotamus can’t be said primly
Or lackadaisily without losing
Dignity and if you’re serious when
You say hippopotamus you have to
Use a neutral inflection and also
The cadence should be a bit quicker than
An ordinary word — so be careful.
don’t have to enunciate
or also rhinoceros —
But when I do I’m ready.
Imagine a crystal glass of water
Holding the glass and seeing the water
Lifting swallowing and following it
In your mouth throat and chest and isn’t the
Cool water transparent and isn’t it
The taste of no taste but doesn’t it taste
Like nourishment like the essence of health
And while attending to the water it’s
Easy to take a breath to draw the air
In your nostrils feel it in your throat and
Enjoy the swelling of the chest and the
Dissipation of the breath through your nose —
The simple rhythms of life resemble
The wind in the leaves the waves on the sand.
I need to know words
because I need a worthy
direction but then
I want to go further and
live in the place of no words.
I’d rather have asphalt than gravel to
Clear because I’d be throwing away my
Driveway bit by bit with the snow if it
Were loose stones and I’m really grateful for
The hefty snow blower plodding along
Tossing even the heavy snow but when
The temperature is about freezing
The snow is moist and heavy and clogs the
The machine and then it’s amusing to
Thrust away with a loaded shovel and
See the snow sticking to the metal as
My back is bent inharmoniously
So if I could choose make it a cold day
For a storm because the snow’s movable.
Trusting up and out
with the snow rake and pulling
snowy loads off the roof is
When the wind blows through the bare branches of
The trees on a morning in December
When there’s a chill rising from the snow on
The ground when the sky’s predominately
Cloudy with scattered stretches of blue there’s
A bleakness about the moment as the
Trees epitomize the absence of the
Sun as in stark nakedness they’re swaying
In a fierce wind that’s not leavened with the
Soothing sound of the leaves and yet there’s a
Warmth in my heart and a kind of austere
Beauty about this day that reminds me the
Sun’s not really absent life endures and
I discover fortitude in winter.
Suddenly there’s a
on the cottonwood
Striking the tree with its beak —
its scarlet head is lovely.
A Tribute to Terry J. Kohler
Editor’s Note: Terry Kohler has been a long-time supporter of conservative causes, and a generous donor to the St. Croix Review, for many years.
Terry J. Kohler, 82, of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, passed away Tuesday afternoon, September 20, 2016, at his residence.
Born May 14, 1934, in Sheboygan, Terry Kohler was the only son of the late former Governor Walter J. Kohler, Jr. and Marie Celeste McVoy Kohler. In 1952, Terry graduated high school from the Admiral Farragut Academy. He served his country in the U.S. Air Force from 1955 to 1959 where he earned his pilot’s wings and flew T-33 fighter jets and also B-47 bombers with the Strategic Air Command, including missions over Russia. Kohler achieved the rank of Captain.
In 1962, he received a Bachelor of Science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, majoring in industrial management. A year later, he earned an MBA in the same field from the MIT Sloan School of Management.
On January 2, 1981, Kohler was united in marriage to Mary Stewart Simpson at St. Boniface Church in Mequon, Wisconsin. Together, they were active members of Grace Episcopal Church in Sheboygan.
Kohler started working in the family business, The Vollrath Company, in 1963. In 1976, he became the seventh President of the company. He became Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer in 1982, and under his leadership the company expanded dramatically. In July 1984, Kohler purchased North Sails, a leading global manufacturer of racing and cruising sails, from its founder, Lowell North. In January 1989, North Sails and The Vollrath Company became separate corporations under Windway Capital Corp., a holding company. Kohler was President and Chairman of the Board of Windway Capital Corp., Chairman of The Vollrath Company, and past Chairman of North Technology Group.
Kohler loved the outdoors and was a sports enthusiast, racing sports cars in the mid 1960s, and spending six years on the National Ski Patrol. Kohler was a life member and supporter of Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, the National Rifle Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, and the International Crane Foundation. Kohler and his wife Mary were instrumental in the ultra-light led Whooping Crane Recovery Project between Wisconsin and Florida. In 2009, they were awarded the Charles Lindbergh Award, which is given annually to individuals whose work over many years has made significant contributions toward Lindbergh's concept of balancing technology and nature.
Following his service in the U.S. Air Force, Kohler continued his love of flying by owning and piloting many types of aircraft, including helicopters. He was also a founding member of the Aviation Heritage Center of Wisconsin. Kohler and his wife Mary have been advocates for strong families and started several organizations including Great Marriages for Sheboygan County.
Kohler was passionate about conservative politics, and was Wisconsin’s GOP candidate for Governor in 1982, and a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1980. He and Mary helped craft the “Contract with America” with Newt Gingrich and other Congressional Republicans.
Kohler was a man known to many — sailors, aviators, entrepreneurs, leaders of industry, politics and economics. Traveling in these circles of influence he was able to recognize and follow God’s plan for him. “My purpose is to share my wealth by taking an economic role in helping others less fortunate or in need,” Kohler once said.
Kohler is survived by his wife of 35 years, Mary Stewart Kohler; his children, Leslie Kohler, Michelle Kohler, Danielle (Bob Buckley) Kohler, Charlie (Anne) Ferrell, Doug (Mindy) Ferrell, Chris (Isolde) Ferrell and Joseph (Kari) Simpson; 13 grandchildren, Hilary (Nathan Imfeld) Hawley, Winter Kohler, Torri (Charlie Bowe) Hawley, Kashon Kohler, Lilly Kohler, David Kohler, Laura (Grant) Riedesel, Cack (Doug) Wilhelm, Jack Ferrell, Peter Ferrell, Alan Ferrell, Mary Ferrell, and Grace Ferrell; four great grandchildren, Walter Jacob Kohler Imfeld, Freddy Riedesel, William Riedesel and Tobias Ferrell; cousins, other relatives, and many friends around the world. Besides his parents, he was preceded in death by his sister, Charlotte Nicolette “Niki” Kohler.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 27, 2016, at Grace Episcopal Church, 7th & Ontario Avenue. The Rev. Fr. Karl C. Schaffenburg, Rector, officiated.
A memorial fund has been established in his name for the Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan SEAS and Nashotah House Theological Seminary.
“I try to live my life faithfully, quietly doing the job the Lord assigned me. I am not worried or afraid of dying because I am just an instrument. I will be here until my work for HIM is finished.” — Terry J. Kohler
I am standing by the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, “There, she’s gone!” Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spans as when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to their place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There, she’s gone!” there are other eyes that are watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “There she comes!” — and that is dying. *
Our Mission Is to Reawaken the Genuine American Spirit . . .
Thank You, Donald Trump
Barry MacDonald — Editorial
The Left derives energy and force through accusation. The Left advances their agenda not by winning rational debates but by delegitimizing and dehumanizing people who oppose them. The Left intimidates and silences people.
The Republican Party is the original party of civil rights as it began with Abraham Lincoln’s compassion for the plight of the slaves. If you want a sampling of heartlessness, look at the lengths the Democrats went to justify slavery prior to the Civil War — they resemble heartless Democrats who justify partial birth abortion today.
There is no reason for Republicans to be lectured to about race. When protestors from Black Lives Matter agitate for the killing of Police Officers they should be denounced by leading Republicans, but usually, elected Republicans keep quiet because they are afraid of being called racist.
The Left wins through force of will and ruthlessness: they will jettison any professed principle, turnabout, and vilify their opponents when they see an advantage to be gained.
If the Republican Party had confronted the Left, had sufficient courage to fight back, perhaps the steady erosion of American liberty could have been mitigated.
One of the most frustrating periods of recent history was the second Bush Administration when the Democrats disowned the support they gave to the invasion of Iraq when it became advantageous to accuse George Bush of “lying” the country into war. Democrats claimed President Bush lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. George Bush and Karl Rove didn’t defend themselves, and thereby they abandoned everyone who supported them.
It’s one thing to make a mistake — in hindsight it appears we might have been better off not invading Iraq — but to allow the idea to take root among large numbers of the American people that Republican leaders purposefully lied about the reasons for going to war was an egregious dereliction.
It’s important not to minimize the power of the Left: Leftists are able to muster an army of propagandists from cultural battlements. Leftists are organized and in a day a multitude of Hollywood know-nothings, Democrat politicians, and media “wise” people will be chattering from the same song sheet. The current accusative narrative is that “fake news” and “Russian hacks” swung the election to Donald Trump — nonsense.
We cannot expect the Left to give up the will to power, and the power of accusative narrative. We will always need to oppose the Left with sufficient energy and courage.
Donald Trump has done America a great service. He has shown everyone how to fight back. The Left could not silence or intimate him. Ted Cruz might be his equal in courage, but could Cruz have gathered the widespread support Trump did?
We can measure the success of the Left and the pusillanimity of the Republican establishment on the issue of immigration. Democrats spin tales of Republican heartlessness and Republicans abandon the need for managed assimilation in a rush to please big donors.
We can measure the success of decades of Democrat narratives in how Republicans poll. Republicans have been on the defensive for too long, and they have adopted too much of the Democrat’s message. Too many elected Republicans believe it’s necessary to craft separate appeals to different segments of the American population — at the expense of neglecting core principles, such as the free market, free expression, property rights, the rule of law, the separation of powers, etc.
It is necessary for Republicans to consider how different segments of the American people are suffering — such as the working class who are losing ground, and the middle class who can’t pay healthcare premiums — but Republicans need to rely on Republican principles — such as free enterprise, freedom from excessive regulation — in crafting solutions to problems.
Who can argue against prosperity? The Democrats. They create accusatory narratives about inequality and climate change. Republicans need to remember their principles and promote prosperity for everyone — it’s a winning issue.
Leftists have painted themselves into a corner; they are becoming more and more obviously perverse. Their narratives are noxious arguments disparaging and despising America. It is against human nature to persuade people to despise themselves.
Donald Trump has seized on the vulnerability of the Leftist message: Americans want to take pride in America. Let’s hope Republican politicians learn from his example. *
The following is a summary of the December/January 2016/17 issue of The St. Croix Review:
Barry MacDonald, in “Thank You, Donald Trump,” writes about why we should be grateful.
Allan C. Brownfeld, in “Why Did Fidel Castro, a Brutal Dictator, Attract So Much Western Support?” presents the reality behind the myth; in “By Opposing Charter Schools, the NAACP Would Harm the Black Students Whose Interest It Claims to Support,” he shows how progressive organizations are opposing the hopes of black parents for their children’s education; in “The Latest Target of Political Correctness on Campus: America’s ‘Melting Pot’ Tradition,” he explains how “America dreamed a bigger dream than any other nation in history. . .”; in “‘Cultural Appropriating’: A Growing Political Correctness Tactic to Silence Free Expression,” he answers a progressive assertion — that white artists shouldn’t expropriate the insights of people of color.
Paul Kengor, in “Death by Fidel,” reveals the maniacal role Fidel Castro played during the Cuba Missile Crisis — he sought martyrdom for Marxism; in “Hillary’s Faith: In God and Roe She Trusts,” he looks at how Hillary Clinton, and countless progressives, reconcile support for unlimited abortion with Christian faith; in “How Mother Teresa Challenged Hillary Clinton on Abortion,” he reveals a long and involved relationship between the two women that serves to highlight their differing views.
Mark W. Hendrickson, in “What Is Gold Saying About Trump?” shows how the falling price of gold signals cautious optimism in the presidency of Donald Trump; in “Thoughts on the Passing of Three Sports Legends,” he considers the impact Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali, and Gordie Howe had on America; in “Trading Votes Across State Lines Is Another Assault on Our Constitutional Order,” he reveals a scheme whereby people in different states collude to undermine the integrity of elections; in “Early Missteps in Attempts to Reconcile Blacks and Police,” presents a comprehensive view of last summer’s racial strife; in “Ten Things You Won’t See the Mainstream Media Talk About in the Last 100 Days of Obama’s Presidency,” he sums up the presidency of Barack Obama.
Herbert London, in “Leadership and National Unity,” looks to American history for instances when unlikely leaders rose to guide America in the right direction in the midst of chaos; in “The New World Order,” he considers Russia’s and Iran’s ascendency in the Middle East, and America’s diminishment; in “Michelle Obama and Political Correctness,” he compares Donald Trump’s indiscretions with the language used by rap “artists” invited to the White House.
Robert E. Russell Jr., in “Remembering the Missile Crisis and the Recognition of Civil Rights,” takes the occasion of Fidel Castro’s death to recall pivotal days in America’s history.
Timothy Goeglein, in “Citizenship, Faith, and Patriotism,” tells the story of Norman Prince, one of the founders of the Lafayette Escadrille, a squadron of volunteer American flyers in France during W.W. I — the squadron eventually became the U.S. Air Force.
Jigs Gardner, in “Varieties of Religious Experience,” describes the people of faith he encountered in the “Backlands” of Cape Breton.
Jigs Gardner, in “Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural,” writes about the difficulty and consummate skill required of a writer to make a reader feel fear.
In “A Tribute to Terry J. Kohler,” The St. Croix Review marks the passing of a steadfast enthusiast of conservative causes.