Editor & Publisher of the St. Croix Review.
Letters from a Conservative Farmer —
Photos on My Wall
I have photographs and printed cuttings and a couple of reproductions of paintings by Eakins and Sheeler on the wall beside my desk. The photos are of Jo Ann, our children, old friends, nothing surprising there. Nor, if you know my literary and historical interests, do the photos of Whitman, Cummings, Thoreau, William Carlos Williams, or the many photos of Lincoln surprise. A verse by Richard Burton which begins “Do what thy manhood bids thee do, from none but self expect applause,” and Paul Horgan’s “Credo,” which ends “Work to the limit/Submit with courage” — these present no mysteries. There are, however, four photos whose presence is inexplicable. I have had them on the wall beside my desk wherever I have lived for the last 50 years. I know nothing of the people or the scenes beyond what I can deduce from their appearance. My guess is that they date from the 1880s to the 1920s. I do not know how I acquired them, but I can guess. I have been a haunter of second-hand bookstores and old curiosity shops since I was a boy, and I imagine I found them in used books or in trays of miscellaneous papers and trinkets.
One is a postcard. It has a title—“The Mill”—written in small white letters down in the left foreground, and in the opposite corner it says “J M Perry Madison Wis.” I must have picked this up as long ago as the mid ’50s when I was a graduate student at the University. In the left background there is a dam, 20 or 25 feet high, and next to it, filling the center background, is a large dark building, obviously the mill. Besides a loading dock on the right side of the mill stands a white horse hitched to what looks like the sort of closed wagon once used to deliver bottled milk. All this is at a distance of at least 50 yards. The foreground is the dirt road to the mill, intervening ground, and the millstream. It is the horse that makes the picture live, that gives it a reality it would not have without it, that makes the scene seem poignant to me, well over a century since the picture was taken.
That was a postcard, but the rest are simply photographs. The next one is the jolly one, as I always think of it. On top of a wide pile of dirt, characters are arranged from left to right: a teenaged boy holding a spaniel on his lap, a man ditto, two little boys, another man with a spaniel sitting up so he partly hides the man’s face. Standing some 15 feet behind them are two men. Everyone except one little boy is smiling. All are dressed in work clothes (one of the men in the rear wears a tie), the rough working class garb of the late 19th century. The little boys wear shorts and long, disheveled socks. Behind everything there are buildings indicating a street, and in the left background there is an open building such as one would see in a park as a bandstand.
The good humor of the characters in this photo is manifest; even the posing of the dogs is part of it. The whole thing seems impromptu, and I shall never know more about it than I can deduce from its appearance. But I like it — I like its spirit.
The third picture is of a man in his late 30s or early 40s and a boy in his mid- to late teens, both unsmiling, standing on top of a grave: a stone structure several feet long, two feet high and three broad. From the near end there is a raised stone five feet high with an unreadable inscription. The man is standing on its base, holding on to it, while the boy stands on the stone base behind it. Father and son, it seems, and from the clothing I would guess the time to be the early ’20s. There is a slight air of shabbiness about the man with his badly scuffed unpolished shoes, but with their ties and jackets and the boy’s high collar they have middle class pretensions. The boy makes a good impression, standing straight and tall, but the man — ah, I wouldn’t trust him for a moment.
The last picture is of a woman and a man sitting together a few feet from a wall with tall flowers in front of it. The woman, with an elaborate coiffure, wears a long dress and is sitting in a chair with a slight smile on her face. The man, wearing a suit, must be sitting on a high stool because the top of her head is only level with his bow tie. He sits relaxed, hands loosely clasped on his knee, and he gazes at the camera without expression. With his neatly combed dark hair, he seems younger than the woman.
So that is my little gallery. “The Mill” is no mystery, and perhaps because of its composition with the horse, it is my favorite. But the others are a mystery: Who took the pictures and why? What are their stories? They were caught on film in long ago moments, and all that remains now are their images and my inadequate impressions.
I guess that most of us, if we think about our lives, imagine them as narratives, continuous stories with some ups and downs, generally gathering coherence as we mature. Some of the story, we think, is vivid and dramatic, some is humdrum, but if we concentrate we are sure we can make a coherent narrative, a sort of memoir. I do not think so. I rather think that our lives in retrospect are a series of snapshots like those on my wall, each containing moments of our lives that are, in those instants, fully lived.
It is a mistake to think of the pictures on my wall as insignificant byblows, as chance occurrences beside the real flow of those lives — no, there is as much of their lives in these pictures as in any other record. We know that they live, that the scenes were real, that the horse stood patiently beside the mill, that the dogs struggled in the grip of the boys, that the flowers against the wall behind the couple would bloom. Those lives are caught for a moment, but life flows on around them, and they, too, will join the flow as soon as the picture is taken. Meanwhile, I honor those moments by their presence on my wall. *
The following is an excerpt from a satirical novel currently being written by Ray Sinneck, which he hopes to publish later this year. In this chapter, a fictional Sunday morning talk show host, Jesse Gutwell, conducts an interview with a transsexual named “Jo.”
We’ll be back in a minute with our next guest, Josephine Joseph, a transsexual who has found herself embroiled in four simultaneous lawsuits. But first let’s hear from our sponsors.
The broadcast cut to a sequence of three commercials. Then Gutwell came back on, seated with his next guest, who was dressed in a somewhat tight fitting skirt and with a copious layer of facial make-up. Gutwell began: “Good morning Ms. Joseph,” He thought his guest had the general appearance of a woman, but with a certain indefinable twist about her facial expression.
She quickly responded in a voice that came from a slightly lower register than might be expected for a woman:
Everyone calls me Jo.
OK Jo, why don’t you tell us how you became involved in all these lawsuits. It sounds like you have become a rather litigious force of nature.
Well, for most of my life I’ve identified with girls and women, and I eventually came to realize that I am a woman trapped in a man’s body. So I decided to transform into the woman I was meant to be in the first place. I am part way into the process. I’ve been taking hormones and working on my appearance, and I plan to have the sex-change operation to become fully female when I am ready. I also became a born-again Christian while all this was happening. I found Jesus, and He has helped me with all the challenges I have been facing.
Gutwell asked a clarifying question:
So you still possess male genitals, but in time you will have those surgically removed, is that right?
Yes, that’s right.
OK, then tell us about this first lawsuit against a baker who refuses to bake a cake for your planned wedding.
Well, my partner and future husband, Billy, and I, were excited to start planning our wedding, even though it is about a year off. We went to a bakery in my hometown and after hearing the story of our relationship, the owner said he could not in good conscience bake the cake we wanted. We asked for a cake with a plastic Jesus on top. He said he is an atheist and feels it would be a violation of his beliefs to provide such a cake. We have sued him on the grounds that he is discriminating against us because of our sexual orientation. He claims it is a religious liberty issue, but we don’t believe him. We think he’s just another intolerant bigot who won’t recognize that other people with alternative lifestyles deserve the same considerations as anyone else.
And is this because you would be considered a lesbian couple when you get married?
Yes and no. You see, Billy was born a female, but plans to have a sex change operation in the other direction and become a man. So after that occurs, we will be just another heterosexual couple, much like you and your wife, Mr. Gutwell.
“I see,” Jesse replied, his right eyebrow tickling his hairline.
On the date of our marriage, I guess we would technically be a lesbian couple, since I will look even more like a woman than I do now, except I will still have male genitals, and Billy will have begun the process of transforming into a man, but will still probably look more like a woman and will still possess female genitals. Nevertheless, the law of the land protects our rights even if we are considered a same-sex couple. So we should be entitled to the service anyone else might receive. You know, we could certainly buy a plastic Jesus ourselves at the dollar store and put it on the cake, but the owner refuses to provide the cake at all.
Gutwell probed further, “And what about the second law suit?”
We are also suing the church we joined, the Magisterium, because the priest there is now refusing to conduct the wedding ceremony. He says that same-sex marriages are not condoned within the prescripts of their church doctrine. I pointed out at that in reality, we would be a heterosexual couple, based on our genitalia at the time of marriage, and after we both complete our surgical procedures we would continue to be a heterosexual couple. But he is objecting to marrying a couple who both wish to wear wedding gowns at the time of marriage. You see, Billy wanted this to be his last fling as a woman.
Gutwell rolled his eyes:
Wow, this is getting a bit confusing, Jo. But I understand your dilemma. And the third lawsuit, what is that all about?
Well that one is a gender discrimination suit against Poldies Gym. I’ve been a member there for several years. You know, I like to work out on the elliptical to stay in shape. Recently, I made the switch to the ladies’ locker room and when I went in to use the showers, all the women in there ran out screaming when they saw my penis. I tried to explain that it was just a temporary condition, but it was no use. Then a rather burly looking woman came into the shower and threw me against one of the benches and I ended up needing to get some minor stitches in my forehead. She was so butch — let me tell you. The bottom line here is that we still have many sexists, bigots, and misogynists in this country and I’m trying to take a stand against all the injustice.
Well good luck with that one. It could be a tricky case — male genitals in a female shower and all that. OK, let’s turn to the last of your legal actions. What is the basis of the final lawsuit?
This one is really the tricky one. I’m suing my surgeon for racial discrimination. I think he’s clearly a racist. He originally agreed to do the sex-change operation, based on my timetable, and my progress with becoming a woman in my day-to-day life. I wanted to get comfortable being accepted as a woman first. I asked the surgeon if he would also do Billy’s operation. He initially said he would. You see, our plan was to have my penis surgically removed and attached to Billy, who would become a complete man with my help. And Billy would have her breasts removed and surgically attached to me, so that I could become a full-bodied woman. But when the surgeon found out Billy was African-American, he said he would not do the operation. His excuse was that he didn’t think a white penis against a black body and black breasts on a white body would be aesthetically acceptable. Billy and I just don’t agree with that. If we’re OK with the result, then he should be as well. We think he’s just another racist and we plan to bring him to justice also.
Gutwell was trembling slightly as he grabbed for his coffee cup.
That certainly is an interesting story. But aren’t there problems with tissue rejection and that sort of thing?
No, we have the same blood type and it should work just fine. Of course Billy will have to also have some sort of implant to make his newly acquired equipment more functional, if you know what I mean, but I was told it is all possible.
Gutwell wrapped it up by saying:
We’ll have to follow the progress of your legal battles. I hope you’ll come back to our program and give us an update.
As they switched to another commercial break, Gutwell couldn’t shake the thought of his guest and her partner in bed together after their operation. Images related to an old Oreo cookie joke briefly danced in his head. But he quickly dispelled the thought. He knew the Thought Police were probably watching the show, and they could tell from a person’s facial expression if someone was having a racist or sexist or homophobic thought. Then he’d be in big trouble. Even though he was a staunch Liberal, he knew he had to be careful. *
Our Mission Is to Reawaken the Genuine American Spirit . . .
Organizing Communities for Republicans
Barry MacDonald — Editorial
Going Red — The Two Million Voters Who Will Elect the Next President — and How Conservatives Can Win Them, by Ed Morrissey. Crown Forum, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York, ISBN 978-1-101-90566-1, pp. 230, $24 hardbound.
From where will the revival of self-confident patriotism come?
Maybe it would be helpful for the Republican National Committee (RNC) to employ people to be in communities and become a presence at local gatherings — creating relationships between the Republican Party and local individuals.
Local Republicans, employed by the RNC, could pinpoint the issues local voters care about so much better than a national presidential campaign whose only point of contact with voters is the repetition of thirty-second ads through mass media.
Why shouldn’t Republicans mount voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote operations similar to the efforts of Barack Obama and Acorn-like organizations, as Democrat success at the local level is undeniable?
And it is a good idea to reach out to young people, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians because they don’t know who Republicans are, and so they tend to believe the nasty stories the Democrats and the media spin about Republicans. Better communication between young people and minorities, who are presently strangers with Republicans, would certainly improve mutual understanding.
The RNC should be well funded and never idle, because candidates come and go but the contest between Democrats and Republicans is ongoing.
Ed Morrissey has written some good ideas in Going Red, but some of his conclusions are questionable, as he seems to have surrendered to progressives on certain issues.
Morrissey does share a message of hope. The RNC, under the leadership of chairman Reince Priebus, is building a presidential turnout machine independent of presidential candidates. He told Morrissey:
At the end of 2014, I think we had over 4,200 paid employees. When I walked in the door here, we had less than eighty. [We hire] people from the communities that we want to influence, from the community to stay in the community, to then meet the metrics that we set. . . . That means not just necessarily sitting around talking about fracking and clean coal; it means having a pizza party, bringing a band in, once in a while giving hot dogs out and talking to people, and then going to community events. . . . If you’re not in the black and Hispanic communities hardly at all for four straight years, and then you go in and try to saturate those communities, certainly you’re going to do better than you did before. . . . [but] a level of trust that is built over time in order for things to change for your future election results to the positive. . . . [To counter dishonest attacks] if you don’t represent the community . . . you have no one that is there at the church festival on Sunday or the community event to say, hey wait a second, hang on — this is what Republicans believe.
Chairman Priebus is running a national presidential campaign and promoting the Republican Party as if these were local enterprises. If he can meet his goals with only 4,200 employees he will be creating a marvelously efficient organization. And he will be training the next generation of Republican politicians, activists, and strategists.
Morrissey’s passion for public affairs led him to blogging and to getting up daily early in the morning for years and commenting on events. He’s become a well-respected radio talk-show host and a columnist for daily newspapers. He’s skillful at taking complex data and doing analysis.
His goal in Going Red is to understand what went wrong for Republicans in 2008 and 2012. He analyses
. . . communities where Republicans went from winners in 2004 to losers in 2008 and 2012, focusing on one key county in each of seven states that lost Republicans the last two elections. . . . each state has counties that are stubbornly Republican or Democrat — but each one also has counties that either party can win. These handfuls of counties serve as bellwethers for the state, demonstrating the reach of national campaigns across the country. And in close elections, these battlegrounds become the difference in delivering their states’ votes to the victor.
The seven counties he examined are Hillsborough County, Florida; Hamilton County, Ohio; Wake County, North Carolina; Prince William County, Virginia; Brown County, Wisconsin; Jefferson County, Colorado; and Hillsborough County, New Hampshire.
The counties are broken down by history, family income, ethnicity, prevailing attitudes and community characteristics, employment characteristics, and the shifting inflow and outflow of people. Population shifts in these swing counties have transformed Republican bastions into “diverse microcosms of the U.S. electorate.” He writes that for Republicans to succeed they must adapt better strategies and messages.
In writing Going Red,Morrissey went to each county and interviewed more than a hundred activists, elected officials, and voters, including Republicans, Democrats, and independents. He used Karl Rove’s extensive data gathering operation, and relied on party officials and radio talk show hosts to make the introductions he needed for the people he interviewed.
But regardless of his careful methodology, I don’t believe Morrissey got a good sampling of Republican voters. I believe the opinions advanced in Going Red, are more in line with what Karl Rove and Washington strategists think.
Many of the people Morrissey heard from wanted to hear economic solutions to America’s problems. He talked to a businessman who had gone door-to-door during elections in support of Republican candidates, but he’s become disgusted with the Republican Party. He wants the Republican Party to stay out of American bedrooms. This attitude is common in Going Red.
Morrissey talked to one hundred people but couldn’t find anyone who supported Republican positions on “social issues” — the people who did mention social issues said they were deterrents to winning elections.
It’s frustrating and puzzling that Morrissey never specifies which “social issues” he means. Does he mean abortion or same-sex marriage? We don’t know. His refusal to be clear seems to be an embarrassed avoidance.
Also it’s remarkable that Morrissey never met a supporter of Donald Trump or a Republican who feels betrayed by the Republican leadership in Washington, as recent polls show a majority of Republican voters do feel betrayed by leadership in Washington.
To make connections in neighborhoods Morrissey also relied on representatives of LIBRE Initiative, a nonprofit organization that describes itself as a
. . . grassroots organization that advances the principles and values of economic freedom to empower the U.S. Hispanic community so it can thrive and contribute to a more prosperous America.
LIBRE seems an admirable organization, but the problem is Morrissey discounts how ordinary Republicans feel about the ongoing violation of our southern border by illegal immigrants. Ordinary Republicans want the southern border secured: we believe in assimilation and American traditions — such as free speech — which are threatened by masses of people entering the country illegally who for the first time in American history may not want to assimilate into America.
There are good suggestions for reaching out to Hispanics who are U.S. citizens in Going Red. E. J. Otero is Hispanic and a retired air force colonel who ran for Congress in 2012 in Florida. He points out there are five or six different issues Republicans could use with Hispanics. For example, Venezuelans will respond to economic arguments because they understand how dreadfully socialism functions in Venezuela. And Puerto Ricans have also come to America to escape socialism.
Otero recently arranged for a Republican candidate to address a meeting with Hispanic voters in West Tampa. Morrissey describes Otero’s observation:
The candidate’s message of competent governance, reduced red tape, and economic empowerment began to inspire the crowd, Otero says . . . right up to the moment when the candidate shifted to the attack and began lashing out at Democrats. Otero watched the crowd’s reactions, seeing plainly that they had rejected not just the messenger but also the message. One angry audience member told Otero that when the candidate was trashing Democrats, “He was talking about us.”
Reince Priebus and the RNC should take note, train RNC operatives not to alienate potential converts, and to take the time necessary to get to know them and practice persuasion — the effort will take time and persistence.
The problem is Morrissey doesn’t seem to like Republicans voters very much. He wrote:
Peter Wehner, a former adviser to George W. Bush, put it in harsher words . . . writing that “the message being sent to voters is this: the Republican Party is led by people who are profoundly uncomfortable with the changing (and inevitable) demographic nature of our nature of our nation.” . . . But if this view doesn’t necessarily reflect the leaders of the party, the more troubling issue is that it does reflect a not-insignificant number of its voters, who are worried that appealing to Hispanic, African American, and young voters will require an abandonment of conservative principles.
I believe Morrissey is uncomfortable with how he perceives ordinary Republicans react to Hispanics and African Americans.
Does Morrissey believe, much like the Democrats, that too many Republicans are bigots? I don’t know. In the entirety of Going Red the issue of illegal immigration is not acknowledged as worthy of discussion, as if we should resign ourselves to open borders.
There is a consistent refrain running through Going Red about the negative “tone” Republicans supposedly project:
Sometimes, though, the Muñozes feel betrayed by the tone Republicans use on immigration and other issues. . . . “You don’t tell a girl she’s ugly, and then ask her to the prom.” The problem between conservatives and the Hispanic community became especially acute in 2007, when Prince William County passed an ordinance that allowed police to check on legal resident status when detained — a move that humiliated legal residents. It was later repealed, Deborah notes, but the damage was done.
Has Morrissey internalized and validated progressive opinion? Has he surrendered the view that Americans have a right to defend our traditions in the management of legal and illegal immigration?
Let’s clarify the issue of “tone.” For sixty years our culture has been under assault from progressives. Republicans and conservatives have been smeared as racists, sexists, bigots, homophobes, and “Islamophobes,” a newly coined term.
Progressives are very good storytellers. They rise up a parade of victims and accuse white Americans of racism.
I believe too few Americans recognize the power of revolutionary narrative. There’s the myth of Michael Brown being shot by police while trying to surrender in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown’s shooting represents the supposed racism of the American justice system. The myth of Brown’s innocence inspired the rioting, the looting, and the burning of Baltimore. The myth of Brown’s martyrdom inspired the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
And the Black Lives Matter movement has been raising revolutionary mobs throughout the nation. And the influence of the narrative is not narrowly focused on black/white issues: A stigma attaches to all of American culture. The momentum created by Black Lives Matter contributes energy to the “war on women,” the war on fossil fuels and coal, and to the war on the “one percent” and the “capitalists” who rig the economy. All these “wars” share a common villain — constitutional America.
And Morrissey worries about the “tone” of Republican voters.
The progressives are engaged in revolution; perhaps Morrissey hasn’t noticed. The progressives have been creating myths for decades (Tawana Brawley comes to mind) and filling their followers with furious intensity. Progressives conjure movements based on fear, anger, and hatred, and once these passions are aroused and directed by astute operatives they are extremely difficult to mitigate.
Morrissey super-analyzes everything, but he’s lost perspective. Until the Republican Party can figure out how to counter operations like Black Lives Matter, and the narratives they promote, the Republican Party will be on the defensive, and America will be mired in bitterness.
Surrendering to progressives on social issues is a mistake. There are generations of American children growing up without fathers. How do we solve fatherlessness? And as families disintegrate in America, is it plausible that restricting Republican messaging to economic arguments is good enough? Can we preserve the free economy and private property rights once we allow the government to take the father’s place in the home as breadwinner?
Using the RNC as a vehicle for improving communication between Republicans and neighborhoods is a good direction. We do need to reach out to young people and minorities. And if the RNC employees can muster up some humility they might discover effective methods and winning issues for the future
But the problem is not one of Republican “tone,” as Morrissey believes, but of Republican morale.
The Republican leadership has stood by perplexed and paralyzed for sixty years as the left has assaulted one American institution after another. The fear of being called a racist has silenced too many Republican politicians for too long.
Ronald Reagan was an exception. He was not afraid to advance the full spectrum of conservatism. Our current Republican leadership seems intimated by polls — as if there’s no possibility of changing anyone’s mind. Ronald Reagan cheerfully and forcefully made his case — and the polls changed!
The rise of Donald Trump coincides with the failure of the intellectual leadership of the Republican Party and the conservative movement to connect with Republican voters and good-hearted, open-minded Americans throughout the nation. Our thought leaders don’t inspire — they over intellectualize — and they don’t know how blunt the vicious attacks of the left.
Donald Trump has been successful because he’s shrewd and fearless, and he has an intuitive grasp of the average American’s morale. He has a simple message that works: making America great again. People are hungry for such a message, and the Democrats, with their decades-long disparagement of constitutional America, are ripe for a fall.
I believe Donald Trump has a good chance to beat the Democrats in November. He’s the counter-revolution to the revolutionary left.
Donald Trump isn’t conservative, and he’s an unreliable partner in the advancement of decorum. But I don’t believe he represents the ruination of American culture either — though perhaps conservatives will be busy cleaning up the messes he creates.
One final thought — of the seven counties Morrissey writes about, Donald Trump won most of them by wide margins in the Republican primaries. Yes, winning a primary election is not the same as winning a general election, but unless the Republican leadership can figure out how to win a general election without the enthusiastic support of Republican voters, it’s important to pay attention to the morale of Republican voters, as Donald Trump has. *
The following is a summary of the June/July 2016 issue of The St. Croix Review:
Barry MacDonald, in “Organizing Communities for Republicans,” looks at the strengths and weaknesses of Going Red, a book written by Ed Morrissey about what’s necessary for Republicans to win critical counties within swing states in the coming presidential election.
Ray Sinneck serves as a reincarnation of Jonathan Swift in “Transfiguration,” in which a T.V. personality interviews “Jo,” who is transitioning from being male to becoming female.
Paul Kengor, in “Western Civ in the Crosshairs — and a Glimmer of Hope,” exposed the vast ignorance of college students and their purposeful mis-education perpetrated by progressive professors who want students to remain ignorant; in “The Communist Party Feels the Bern — U.S. Communists Couldn’t Be Happier About the Democratic Party’s Direction,” he shows how the Sanders campaign is the continuation of the leftist revolution that Barack Obama has begun; in “Having a ‘Trump Talk’ with Your Kids,” he proposes a way of handling children and Donald Trump.
Allan C. Brownfeld, in “Identity Politics Is Eroding the Integrity of American Universities,” smashes the silly “reasoning” of the students at Stanford University who demand the school’s next president be “nonwhite and either transgender or female”; in “Another Attack on Free Speech: Should It Be a Crime to Want Open Discussion of Climate Change?” he responses to the attempts by seventeen attorneys general from fifteen states to criminalize disagreement with liberal scientific notions; in “Seeking to Reverse His Corruption Conviction, the Former Virginia Governor’s Strange Defense Is: Everyone Does It,” he takes note that many prominent public officials of both parties are coming to the defense of the convicted former Governor Bob McDonnell, showing that both parties are comfortable trading access for favors.
Mark W. Hendrickson in “Barack Obama’s Bathroom Overreach,” considers President Obama’s recent decree that public schools nationwide must prepare restrooms for transgender people; in “The Democratic (Party’s) March Toward Socialism,” he describes in detail the Democrats’ comprehensive predation on private property rights; in “True Reagan: A Fascinating Up-Close Look at the Fortieth President,” he reviews a new book about Ronald and Nancy Reagan, written by a close aide who served during the White House years; in “A Liberal College Professor Freaks Out That His College Invited a Republican to Be the Commencement Speaker,” he examines a letter from his wife’s alma mater in which a professor laments that House Speaker Paul Ryan has been invited to speak, and he lists the professor’s juvenile comments; in “The Black Hole of Debt,” he writes: “The world is caught in a black hole of debt, and it’s hard to picture any way to get out of it”; in “The Increasingly Incestuous Ties Between Google and the Democratic Party,” he reports an ominous instance of big-government cronyism.
Herbert London, in “Trump’s Foreign Policy,” evaluates Donald Trump’s foreign policy speech and, though he cites flaws, he sees good points too; in “Saudi Arabia: U.S. Foe and Friend,” he takes a hard look at a strained relationship; in “Civilizational Conflict,” he describes the conflict between militant Islam and Western culture as a confrontation that may be impossible to avoid.
Reuben Larson, in “My Name Is Johan Larsson — This Is My Story,” gives an account of his Grandfather’s life as he emigrated from Sweden to America in the nineteenth century to build a family and establish a homestead.
In “Letters From a Conservative Farmer — Photos on My Wall,” Jigs Gardner considers the meaning of photos.
As civilized as a sword can make us —
Hasn’t it a cultural achievement
To fold the steel in layers and forge it
With a hammer and anvil and hone the
Blade to lethality to inscribe it
With vows of victory and to wield it
Requires a warrior’s training to
Surpass the enemy’s might in battle
And all to no benefit without a
Supporting ethos infusing courage
In the warrior? As civilized as
We may be in the midst of savagery
Haunting the human animal forcing
A defense of gentle accomplishments.
And there are methods
for instilling compassion
in the midst violence
in the human dilemma.
Light and leaf — sun and sky — mind and sky — with
My eyes open I see the natural
Cooperation composing this world
And I wonder at the magic of it
That my skin absorbs the light just as a
Leaf absorbs the light just as the sun fills
The space surrounding the earth with light and
Somehow turns it blue — and have you noticed
How we live subject to the natural
Drama of the sky ceaselessly moving
With clouds and rain and wind and light and have
You noticed how the mind ceaselessly moves
From happiness to discouragement to
Confusion and also astonishment?
Too seldom do I see
too infrequently notice
the churning magic
and ceaseless transformation.
It’s a modest dining room a smallish
Round table and in the morning I make
Coffee and have a bowl of cereal.
Maybe a conversation an email
Or an expression on someone’s face from
The day before has left an impression
With me and so I consider what they
Are thinking and how they are coping and
What I should do — I didn’t understand
How to direct my energy when young
How to discover what needs attention —
I come to my breakfast table as to
A reliable sanctuary and
Continuously find intuition.
Solitude is good
for the cultivation of
There is music before dawn as the birds
Have returned and though the grass is crunchy
With frost underfoot the deep freeze will be
Lifting from the earth precipitously
And already there are eagles skimming
Currents of air and soon there’ll be swallows
Cutting the air and when I see bees buzz
In summer I will wear as little as
Possible — imagine seeing the earth
From the vantage of the moon with God’s eyes
As it circles the sun and revolves on
Its axis — wouldn’t the dawning light be
So much like a wave ceaselessly cresting
With night receding and blue sky surging?
because it’s a gift
to be lost in wonderment
and to ponder why we’re here.
There are some people crazy enough to
Put on a wing suit at the top of a
Mountain and jump with the fabric between
Their legs and arms and body so they do
Fly by the precipices inches from
The rock so like a gliding eagle the
Miles of air and the ins and outs of the
Alpine shadows passing far beneath how
Like a God it would seem to be part of
Living a spectacle of gigantic
Proportions finding within a human
Form a capacity for soaring with
Excitement and with the experience
Discovering perhaps such joy and peace.
Perhaps a crazy
fellow was inspired by
a flying squirrel
so he made a wing suit and
climbed a precipice and plunged?
[Google “wing suit” for videos.]
November compared to the memory
Of August is bleak as much of the light
Seems drained away and the day is rounded
With a lengthening darkness portending
A season of night and snow but even
On an overcast November day there’s
A glowing through the clouds of light through the
Twiggy branches of the trees a softer
Emanation of the sun a milder
Assertion of life but also there is
A clarity and crispness in the air
When venturing out and walking briskly
Circulating my blood and breathing the
Cold clean air I am rejoicing this day.
It’s not the season
that’s determinate of my
always I may generate
With the family inside and the world out
I so happily locked the door at night
Because it felt safe and even though the
Children were quite disruptive somehow we
Became accustomed to the noise — and we
Reasoned with them and I had to learn what
Patience was that as tired as I became
There were necessary chores to do — but
Now we’ve all transformed and our small home was
Left behind and it’s not necessary
Anymore to be protective because
My son and daughter wouldn’t care much for
Continuing instruction as they have
Grown — though I’ll never stop being a dad.
It is a turning
of the wheel of parentage
that children require
and careful relinquishment.
As if I were trying to sneak a look
At his cards to see what he’s doing he
Holds back and won’t communicate how he’s
Considering his options what he wants
To do what he thinks he’s capable of
Becoming — it’s time that he makes his way
That he determines a direction and
I know he doesn’t have to get it right
There’s wide latitude — it’s not a lifetime
He’s planning just the first few steps and then
He may reconsider readjust and
Change course but how can he know what’s best for
Him without testing his abilities
And discovering how the world responds?
Because he’s done it
because he’s reconnoitered
a father may guide his son —
but the son may be stubborn.
So I was in the square in Paris just
Before Notre-Dame Cathedral after
A year of schooling at Oxford having
Scored well with the teachers and being a
Young man with prospects for success who was
Free of responsibilities and yet
I couldn’t be happy — now here you are
Accomplished graduated prepared to
Be an engineer a young man with no
Obstacles except that you’re unhappy —
Is the world to come so threatening so
Imponderable it’s hard to begin
Or is misery merely a habit
You must overcome? You will find a way.
I’m not able to give you
exact guidance as
in matters of the spirit
we each have our own puzzles.
I believe so and I feel so and the
Two cannot be separated — belief
Fires emotion instantaneously
If circumstances so align that I
Am triggered by events — I believed from
Childhood I was unlovable and so
I was disappointed hurt resentful
And couldn’t be otherwise because I
Believed a lie I had taught myself — a
Child jumps to conclusions about himself
About people without knowing and he
Misperceives — how could it be otherwise?
Because a child is only a child and
It’s an adult’s job to reconsider.
So I ask myself
what do I really believe?
Is it factual?
And if I’m deluded
can I believe differently?
A kid is open to believing just
About anything and so giving care
Has lasting implications and even
Love may not be enough to save him from
Unhappiness if there is chaos or
Bitterness within a home — even in
A warm home it’s possible for a kid
To form handicapping beliefs — so he
Will come to conclusions about whether
He’s good lovable capable heading
For a bright future or not and the most
Loving parents may foster a healthy
Kid or maybe it’s his destiny to
Struggle and remember his parent’s love.
They don’t come without
and propensities —
even while wearing diapers
It happened suddenly our cat George died
And I miss him so because there’s not a
Cat as sweet as George in this world — and so
I told my friends of the loss and so Jane
Remarked she let one into her home when
The winter was bitterly cold enough
For the tips of his ears to freeze away —
And he’s been passed among friends because Jane
Has three others but he was returned to
Her — so now we have him and I’ve named him
Henry — he may not understand me yet
Or he may be stubborn independent
But I’ll keep trying when he comes to me
By repeating Henry Henry Henry.
He may not accept
his name yet but he’s chosen
as a cat will choose
all the best places to sleep
and whom to curl up besides.
When the native peoples walked for water
This same valley was here resonating —
They called a section “Stillwater” because
The water spread between limestone bluffs —
Iced-over river and overcast sky
Slopes of bare trees and snow the clean cold air
The quiet settling among the bluffs
Prepare this place for reverberations —
Sioux and Ojibwa fought in a hollow
Lumberjacks floated rafts of logs down steam
A frontier prison held the Younger Gang
And steamboats plied the townsfolk with supplies.
Pioneer Park has a southward view
For sunrises and sun speckled water.
In Pioneer Park
A name is a sacred gift for a life —
To give a name to christen a baby
Is to bestow an intention and a
Wish for joyful life — May you be Kristine —
A parent’s love accompanies a child
Throughout her passage with her name meaning
May you be wise good and loving like Christ
May in all your days you be moved with love —
Kristine is a lovely name a woman
Should cherish because of her parents’ wish
For her but a name is only a word —
The essence of spirit is ours to choose —
May she remember her parent’s wishes
May she do her best to honor their gift.
Each object we touch
is just temporarily
so — it’s transforming —
each thing eventually
vanishes into nothing.
I heard of a child left behind at a
Gas station — she was forgotten — later
Her parents left her at a swimming pool —
In a big family assertion is
Necessary — abandoned — worthless — these
Thoughts created a foundation so she
Can never get enough attention to
Undo the expectation she will be
Forgettable — how easy it is to
Damage a child and how difficult
To heal a mind once the poison has been
Digested — is she exceptional or
Do many carry such burdens? Stories
Reveal the layered depth of suffering.
Childhood traumas are
so easily forgotten
effects may permeate a
lifetime with painful thinking.
Do you remember your first friend beyond
Your family the first intimacy
When you discovered there were secrets to
Share and with innocence you gave such trust
And you discovered how much fun it was
To delve and roam about the neighborhood?
My family moved to Minnesota — that’s
How I lost my first friend — so we do find
New friends many come and go but along
The way come betrayals disappointments
So that we acquire a measuring
Facility for how much trust to give —
We each have layers of experience —
Some preserve a gentle sincerity.
cannot be preserved
but we can be circumspect
and also practice kindness.
A rascal put a
snail shell in a
rumble has rattle
curlicue in curves.
Today Matt’s a six-foot banana on
The sidewalk. He’s standing still but moving
Along the roads of Fridley attempting
To make commuters laugh — he’s driving a
Segway — a T-shaped stick with wheels — sometimes
He’s Gumby Spiderman a Coke bottle —
He was a soldier in Afghanistan
Was shot in the head suffers from headaches
Memory loss and can’t work so he wears
A costume looking ridiculous and
Tries to impart happiness to people
Passing by — he wants to turn around a
A bad day a stranger may be having —
His sense of humor has the best of him.
What do you give your
attention to? How do you
use your energy?
Is there something you can do
To turn bad luck to laughter?
[Matt Burr lives in Fridley, Minnesota.]
He was moved with compassion for the slaves
Declared the nation must choose slavery or
Freedom when none wanted to see the truth
He knew the choice could not be evaded —
Thoughtful and grave with a far-away gaze
Burdens settled on him so he became
The master of himself and of many
Hot-tempered men contesting Civil War —
The north fought to preserve union and law —
Not to free slaves — Lincoln understood the
Temper of his people knew not to waste
The slaughter of soldiers so he waited
Until emancipation could succeed —
He was the only one fit for the job.
Sadness troubled him
compassion moved him to lead
strength sustained him through
thousands of battlefield deaths
may he be honored always.
Before they have leaves again notice the
Branches of trees — some hang limply others
Beseech the sun with rising limbs — naked
Branches have a barren look contrasting
With the greening grass but soon the budding
Leaves emerge again and what today is
A twiggy multitude will be a profusion
Of leaves attuned to the sun and swaying
In the wind — sunlight and warmth and the earth
Persevere— from my childhood the trees have
Communicated to me peacefulness and
Stability — they stand resonating
With the wind creating soothing voices
Succoring my too human frailties.
does undulate through the trees
does resonate through the leaves —
New leaves emerging are like a baby
Absorbing light — we may appreciate
Their new connections but we’re observing
Not experiencing — leaves and babies
Crossing a threshold joining us in life
From roots to leaf from parent to baby
We multiply being consuming light —
What is happening in a baby’s mind?
A warming face a swirl of colors but
When do distinctions emotions emerge?
What comes first emotions or perceptions?
How soon does the baby begin to choose?
A parent loves being holding taking
Care — the tree and leaves simply absorb light.
Along a spectrum
of living beings people
are quite proficient
in seeing comprehending
but we do have our limits.
Words not said are inaudible yet there
Was an impulse — anger not expressed is
Invisible though there was the urge — how
Should I behave when I want you to do
Well but I don’t see you trying? You have
So much talent — why aren’t you moving? Do
Something — I can’t remove the fear myself
Can’t make you move don’t want to compel you
As I’m not God — I don’t see the subtle
Expressions of my face when I’m with you
So maybe my frustration comes across
In minute gestures — I do what I can —
You are so much like I was at your age
And then I didn’t want anyone’s help.
It’s a mixture of
memories and emotions
complicated — balancing
is so important today.
He rests his head on the piano leg
Turns his brown eyes to me — George the house cat —
He yawns and gives me a quivering chirp
A friendly utterance from slouching George —
George is not a kitten anymore though
He doesn’t seem a grown-up either — it’s
Nonchalance and innocence — he really
Has no duties and I impose no chores —
He knows my habits in the night and leads
Me to the necessary room but he
Leads more slowly than I would choose so I
Slow down to his pace — hard to go around —
Because George is large and doesn’t hurry —
He’s much too charming to be upset with.
George hasn’t a mane
isn’t on the savanna
doesn’t have a pride
but he is brown and does have
a complacent majesty.
Again Thomas Lincoln led the oxen
Caravan traveling the fourteen days
To a fork on the Sangamon River —
He hewed a cabin with a saw and ax —
Thomas was a poor carpenter — once he
Scraped a “half-faced camp” a shed with three sides —
They lived no better than bears in a cave —
Abraham’s mother died of milk sickness —
Abraham Lincoln learned arithmetic
By doing sums on a wooden shovel
He shaved off the surface by the fireside
To renew his labor — perhaps he had
A year’s schooling altogether but he
Read the Bible and Robinson Crusoe.
spoke the truth and
told it precisely.
Editor’s Note: The information in these two poems was recorded by John T. Morse, Jr.; he gathered his record of events from many sources. John Morse was the editor of the American Statesmen series published by Houghton, Mifflin and Company, The Riverside Press, Cambridge in 1899. Mr. Morse wrote Abraham Lincoln, volumes XXV and XXVI; the relevant chapter is: “The Raw Material” in volume XXV.
Is there a triter subject than a rose?
They are mostly just stems and little leaves —
Yes their velvet petals are enchanting
But the contrast with their thorns? Overdone —
As common as the sun or moon in verse
Who hasn’t read poetry belabored
With roses? I’d rather see some other
Flower — peony or chrysanthemum —
Yet I adore the resonance of “rose”
And the certainty that every human
Has beheld the sun and moon and roses
So to become one with humanity —
What everyone has beheld I behold
Too what everyone has loved I love too.
Yellow rose petal
Within this sheet of paper are raindrops
And also the clouds from which rain came
Reside now within this white form that was
Once a tree that has become a poem —
Without the rain drops to nurture the tree
The expression of the tree paper and
Poem could not be — the minerals in
The soil also live within this paper
Because without minerals soil has no
Potency — the magic of the sunshine
Rises off this paper to warm your face
While I communicate to you with words —
The logger the road maker and the mill
Worker each have labored for this paper.
is a fact and the magic
is a mystery
and the mystery is deep
though it happens everyday.
Such things too
take part in
the bloom —
and vine roses.
My mind is a bowl pondering a response
To a friend who has gone missing who said
He has no friends whom he can rely on —
When we meet again what will I say?
My mind is a bowl containing tension
Between a zeal to persuade a woman
To submit to my arrangements while also
Measuring my own too frequent breath —
My mind is a bowl receiving the sun
And amidst the blue sky are moving clouds
But there suspended is the moon
A faint white crescent in the morning —
My mind is a bowl and an offering
Of my best intentions for the day.
Crescent moon in the
blue sky of morning —
a hole in the day
You burst before my eyes and snatch my sight
Swallow swooping rising diving turning
Turning as if you were a whirling blade
Turning and then vanishing into sky —
But you humble bee lumber in the grass
So plodding ponderous and purposeful
Wanting to get your nectar and go home
Serving the manufacture of your hive —
I can’t resist the urge to grab a toad
To turn it over and gently squeeze it —
Is it frogs or toads that give the girls warts?
I suppose it’s either but I don’t care —
I’ve spent an hour playing in summer
And so escaped a dreary winter day.
Cold winter days
and frozen toes and
constantly frozen toes —
a thaw and warmth again.
tastes like banana
only a tongue
can taste banana —
I have the joy.