Editor & Publisher of the St. Croix Review.
While waiting for a train in Amsterdam
While traveling as an American
And sensing the depth of history and
Culture of Europe while reading Shakespeare’s
Sonnets I was filled with admiration
Because I loved the way he weighed the words
Within a line for resonation and
How the meaning flowed and turned and how the
Florid language presented the world with
The lens of Elizabethan England
And so I acquired a direction
But admiration and ability
Are different and I required years
To distill a healthy emulation.
But I must comment
on the crazy rhyming scheme
of Shakespeare’s sonnets —
I don’t see the need to do
a Houdini trick with words.
If I were discovering my body
As I was growing I’d jump onto the
Top of the Refrigerator too and
Just for fun I might push the boxes of
Cereal off to watch them fall and hear
Them plop on the floor and thus to measure
Distance and then I’d gallop joyously
Around the rooms just because I could and
I’d strut out on the narrow ledge and knock
The knick-knacks down one-by-one just to see
Them go and I’d be curious about
The human and the funny noises and
The motions she’s making with her arms and
I’d flop on my back and ask to be rubbed.
to be emphatic to be
noisy and grandma
isn’t enough to impose
her will on the new kitten.
Ben Hur 1887 - 1916
It’s a day of celebration drawing a
A good crowd to the river and the dock
For a ride on the steamboat Ben Hur and
Perhaps as a part of the festivities
The photo captures the moment and so
I may see everyone facing me on
The three levels a hundred years ago
And each is distinguishable in the
Differences in age in attitude
In fashion in status revealing in
A relaxed and happy presentation
Engagement and eagerness for the day —
So I gaze with curiosity at
An alluring familiarity.
The postures and the
features of the faces in
the vanished moment
present a wide array of
Clearing the River
Each detail is rough hewn in the photo
Of 1886 from the boards of
The flat bottom boat to the steam engine
And the brimmed hats and the tough working clothes
Of the several lumber jacks with their beards
And mustaches because there’s no use for
Delicacy as the river is clogged
With logs in a tangled pile twenty feet
High and the scrawny men in their resting
Postures seem unequal to the task but
It was their business with steel hooked pikes and
Thick cords of rope to clear the river and
Raft the logs downstream as they must have known
How to take advantage of leverage.
Their faces are blurred
but the chosen postures
hints of personality —
irreverence and bravado.
Once the apex of summer is past the
Intensity of the sun lessens and
The light becomes golden gilding the leaves
Of the trees and the grass and the air is
A medley of cool and warm and in the
Late afternoon though the sun may burn with
Summer fierceness it doesn’t last long and
As the sun sets earlier a chill comes
With the night — and it’s so much easier
To sleep under covers with the windows
Open with a chorus of crickets in
A breeze and instead of tossing in bed
In a muggy atmosphere late summer
Is the absolute best time for dreaming.
A clear sky comes in
every season but the earth’s
on its cooperative
revolution with the sun.
Not only the plunge in temperature
And having to scrape a frosting from my
Windshield with the dawn for the first time but
Also the prominence of red orange
And yellow leaves on the trees I pass the
Swirls of leaves in gusts of wind I see as
I’m driving on the streets and a morning
Sun noticeably lacking the fire of
Summer all point to the necessity
Of taking cover and bundling up
For a coming winter again as the
Wheel of the seasons is turning again —
The trees emulate the flowers and bloom
And then they stand twiggy in the winter.
It’s ironic how
the autumn leaves resemble
before dissipation and
I do want to celebrate.
Our Mission Is to Reawaken the Genuine American Spirit . . .
Clinton Cash and Washington Corruption
Barry MacDonald — Editorial
Clinton Cash, the Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, by Peter Schweizer. HarperCollins Publishers, 195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007, ISBN 978-0-06-236929-1, pp. 243.
Politics has evolved into an elevated art of deception in America: the truth is often beyond the reach of law-abiding Americans, as the doings of the insiders in Washington, D.C., are concealed by layers of complexity.
The bureaucracies create rules and act politically, free from effective Congressional oversight. Even when the bureaucrats are caught in the act of abusing power, there is little Congress can do to control them.
The IRS was caught abusing Tea Party groups, preventing the Tea Party from organizing before the 2012 Presidential election. There were years of Congressional hearings to no effect. Lois Lerner was identified as one of the corrupt officials — she refused to testify before Congress, and was allowed to retire with her bonuses and benefits, without being justifiably prosecuted.
The complete story of the abuse of the Tea Party may never be discovered because the bureaucracy was impenetrable, the Democrats provided cover, the Justice Department wouldn’t investigate, and the media didn’t report the story. Consequently the American people are uninformed of how the IRS was politicized.
The media are mostly in sympathy with big government ideology and serve as effective partners in American politics by ignoring some stories and by promoting narratives in the service of big-government activism.
Through the years the media have become well trained by the left. Like a game of fetch between a spaniel and its owner, when a Democrat creates a talking point and tosses it onto the field of play, reporters exuberantly romp away fetching the narrative and bringing it back for another toss. This is a game of misdirection between the media and Democrats: it keeps the American people focused and agitated on certain issues and directs attention away from other issues.
Within days of the shootings of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, the news narrative was shifted away from the admitted motives of the shooter, his expressed allegiance to ISIS and Islam’s well-established antipathy towards homosexuals, and onto his choice of weapon — the narrative became about the need for more gun control laws.
After the first Presidential debate the media was cued by Clinton’s closing remarks that Trump had verbally abused former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, and the media dutifully launched the takeaway narrative: Trump’s sexism is over-the-line.
Of course the narrative diverts public attention from Hillary Clinton’s scandalous behavior and her brutal complicity in her husband’s serial abuse of women.
Americans who care about the goodness of America should take heart. We have people, like Peter Schweizer, who are dogged researchers, who use public records and financial statements to ferret out the truth about Washington insiders and corrupt government.
In his book, Clinton Cash, the Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, Peter Schweizer has revealed the Clinton’s lust for power and greed.
"Any serious journalist or investigator will tell you that proving corruption by a political figure is extremely difficult. Short of someone involved coming forward to give sworn testimony, we don’t know what might or might not have been said in private conversations, the exact nature of a transaction or why people in power make the decisions they do."
Schweizer writes it’s been a “Washington parlor game” among insiders to speculate about the Clintons:
". . . either the Clintons are utterly shameless, cynically assuming they will survive whatever scandal comes their way, or they are so convinced of their own virtue and benevolence that they are able to excuse whatever they have to do in pursuit of their noble ends, no matter how low or unethical."
". . . who else in American politics would be so audacious as to have one spouse accept money from foreign governments and businesses while the other charted American foreign policy? Or would permit one spouse to conduct sensitive negotiations with foreign entities while in some instances the other collected large speaking fees from some of those same entities?"
Before she was appointed Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton signed a memorandum of understanding with the Obama administration.
". . . the Clintons agreed to submit all future paid speeches to the State Department ethics office for review. They also committed to disclose publicly on an annual basis the names of any major donors to the Clinton Foundation and its initiatives. Finally, the Clintons said they would seek preapproval from the Obama administration on direct contributions to the Clinton Foundation from foreign governments or governmental owned businesses."
". . . the claimed commitment to transparency was fleeting. The Clintons violated it almost immediately. As we will see, the Clinton Foundation failed to disclose gifts amounting to millions of dollars from foreign entities and businessmen who needed Hillary’s help as secretary of state to approve a transaction with serious national security implications. The Clinton Foundation also collected money from foreign government-owned businesses without getting prior Obama administration approval."
". . . How did the Clintons amass so much wealth in such a short period of time? The answer makes for fascinating reading."
". . . the Clintons have operated at the fringes of the developed world, often appearing to assist in facilitating huge resource-extraction deals that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The era of globalization has opened up a Wild West bonanza where profits can be made on a scale not seen since the height of nineteenth-century colonialism. The Clintons’ most lucrative transactions originate not in places like Germany or Great Britain, where business and politics are kept separate by stringent ethical rules and procedures, but in despotic areas of the developing world where the rules are very different. Money also comes from foreign businessmen in Europe or Canada who have amassed their wealth in parts of the world where corruption and payoffs are simply a part of doing business."
How much money have the Clintons made? Schweizer writes:
"The Clinton’s confirmed income between 2001 and 2012 was a least $136.5 million according to the Washington Post. . . . According to financial disclosures, since leaving the White House, Bill has been paid an annual average of over $8 million for giving speeches around the world. The fees he collects are enormous and unprecedented, sometimes as much as $500,000 or even $750,000 per speech."
Which countries courted the Clintons and what did they want?
"The issues seemingly connected to these large transfers are arresting in their sweep and seriousness: the Russian government’s acquisition of American uranium assets; access to vital U.S. nuclear technology; matters related to Middle East policy; the approval of controversial energy projects; the overseas allocation of billions in taxpayer funds; and U.S. human rights policy, to name a few"
". . . tens of millions of dollars had flowed to the Clinton Foundation from the foreign governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as from dozens of foreign financiers."
Peter Schwiezer’s book is full of details about foreign financiers who created shell companies for the transversal of money and for the concealment of the sources of money. Schwiezer describes dozens of nefarious characters with whom the Clintons have dealt — some were charged and convicted of crimes, others remain high officials in adversarial nations, such as Russia, and others are African warlords accused of war crimes.
Apart from well-informed experts, Americans don’t knows with whom the Clintons have dealt with — and the American news media isn’t going to report the story with the emphasis it needs.
The Clintons’ operation is like a game of pick-up-sticks: it’s an intimidating pile of interconnected dealings too complex to untangle — except for the most determined truth-seekers like Schwiezer and his team of researchers.
This brief essay provides an overview and Clinton Cash conveys the details. As Schweizer writes, the Clintons are clever lawyers who know how evade the law, but the revealed pattern of behavior is damning.
Americans should take heart, because as long as Americans like Peter Schweizer are able to expose brazen behavior by people who believe they are above the law, law-abiding Americans will have a chance to become informed. There may come a time when such information is pivotal.
Schweizer focuses on the Clintons but he also exposes the government that allows corruption. Hillary and Bill Clinton were selling Hillary’s ability to influence laws while she was a senator, and her ability to implement policy while she was Secretary of State.
How could Americans who are busy with their lives have any idea what the Clintons were doing?
But the same cannot be said of Hillary’s colleagues: her fellow senators, fellow Democrats, fellow bureaucrats, and the journalists in Washington, D.C. The Washington insiders may not have known details, but, surely, they have a much better understanding of the Clintons than law abiding Americans do — and they have chosen to look the other way. *
The following is a summary of the October/November 2016 issue of The St. Croix Review:
Barry MacDonald, in “Clinton Cash and Washington Corruption,” provides an overview of Peter Schweizer’s book Clinton Cash, the Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.
Paul Kengor, in “Hillary Clinton, Saul Alinsky and . . . Lucifer? What Was Ben Carson Talking About?” reveals Hillary Clinton’s admiring association with the left’s premier community organizer; in “When the Left Liked Conscientious Objection,” he cites the example of Daniel Berrigan — a Jesuit priest who burned draft cards during the Vietnam war, and who also protested abortion — with the left’s present-day intolerance.
Allan C. Brownfeld, in “The 2016 Election Campaign Shows the Dramatic Decline in American Politics,” puts America’s republican form of government in historical context, showing its preciousness and fragility; in “Growth of Executive Power Has Exploded Under President Obama — Altering Our System of Checks and Balances,” he cites the executive actions, new regulations, and war powers of Presidents Barrack Obama and George W. Bush; in “Looking at Race Relations Beyond the Overheated Rhetoric in the Political Arena,” he cites statistics showing undeniable progress for blacks in America and he points to persistent problems: family breakdown and high crime; in “Kaepernick’s Protest: A Look Back at the Patriotism of Black Americans in Difficult Times,” he points out the black Americans choose to stay in America because they learned better than anyone else the value of freedom.
In “Justice Clarence Thomas: The Duty of Citizenship,” Timothy Goeglein describes a commencement speech given by Justice Thomas reminding students that liberty requires virtue.
Mark W. Hendrickson, in “The Fed Seeks to Postpone a Federal Government Default,” speculates on what a repudiation of the national debt by young Americans might look like; in “The Great Ty Cobb,” he reviews a biography on an unjustly besmirched baseball player who is among the greatest ever; in “The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan Repeats Leftwing Propaganda about Capitalism,” he details how the American free market system has been hijacked by government intervention during the last two presidencies, and laments that writers for The Wall Street Journal have forgotten how to promote free enterprise.
Herbert London, in “On-going Middle East Scenarios,” he exposes Russia’s strengthening influence with the government of Turkey, endangering a component of U.S. nuclear deterrent; in “Obama’s No First Use Proposal,” he asserts President Obama is foolishly undermining the protocols of nuclear deterrence that have prevented the use of nuclear weapons since W.W. II.
In “Birth of Compassion,” Paul Suszko tells a story about his encounter with Emily.
In “Where Are We Heading?” Al Shane sees how our governance has been moving leftward for more than 30 years, and he stresses the importance of the free economy.
Robert L. Wichterman, in “Memories of the Fun Years in Small Town America,” shares childhood memories of living in Pompton Plains, New Jersey, during the Depression and W.W. II.
Jigs Gardner, in “Letters from a Conservative Farmer — Work,” describes his first working experience during high school that helped to make him the person he is today.
Jigs Gardner, in “Writers for Conservatives, 61: A Man of the West,” presents Bernard De Voto (1897-1955) as a fabulous writer of three historical volumes describing the evolving America character from the time of exploration to settlement of the continent.
Just wisps of clouds are drifting along and
Could any image be more opposed to
Concentrating on the second hand as
It ticks across the numbers of a watch?
And I may choose either method to mark
The passage of time and whether I look
Up or down depends at the moment on
How much pressure I allow myself to
Feel — the numbers represent the need for
Organization as nothing worthy
Gets done without the efficient use of
Time and yet when I see the clouds I do
Remember in the midst of bustle I
Want to embody a cloud’s deportment.
To emulate a
cloud’s deportment is perhaps
a bit beyond my
present capacity but
I want less frenzied thinking.
Of the things to notice on a sunny
Day by the river I see the swallows
Flitting along the bank and above the
Water encountering no obstacles
Within a wide expanse of air and each
Is turning acrobatically in a
Hunt for bugs they must be swallowing on
The fly and they seem so tiny above
The broad river in the valley of the
Limestone bluffs and so inconsequential
To me they’re just a curiosity
That they do hunt together and they do
Return to the river in the spring and
I may open my eyes and see swallows.
As the swallows flit
along the surface of the
river the eagles
linger in lazy circles
up within the sunny sky.
It’s the irascible caw of the crow
Communicating intelligence and
A warning to trespassers it’s not a
Joke to linger in its territory
And I know it’s not alone a cohort
Of black eyes are watching from the trees and
If I were small enough the menace of
The caw would be terrifying but as
It is I just register the sound and
Think of its sharp beak and remember crows
Stabbing and cutting carcasses of the
Squirrels and rabbits they didn’t kill but
Came upon already dead to feast on
While hopping and watching with piercing eyes.
The menace of its
caw the blunt strength of its beak
the enforcement of
make the crow formidable.
Of all the things to do she has chosen
To befriend the crows of the neighborhood
By offering chicken or beef to them
And when she emerges from home there is
Recognition and communication
Welcome anticipation in the trees
For her as a small place has become a
Sanctuary from separateness
For a bird people ordinarily
Dislike has moved her to offer the crows
The nurturance every creature needs and
There is no telling how simple goodness
May manifest before it’s exercised.
to the irascible crows
turned the universe a bit.
Is all of this necessary or just
A little superfluous for the game
Of flirtation as ordinarily
Aren’t subtle gestures and hints sufficient
But there’s inspiration in the design
In the mixture of the colors with the
Popping of the incandescent green on
The breast the regal crown and the frilly
Fringy sinuousness of the feathers
Made to be displayed as one flicks open
A folding Japanese fan and who could
Look away from the flouncing ensemble?
There isn’t an Italian designer
Capable of creating the peacock.
with such superfluity
of beauty — the most
couldn’t dream up the peacock.
Patriotism and Freedom — A Libertarian Defense of National Sovereignty
Philip Vander Elst
Three quarters of a century ago, when Britain was fighting for her life and the freedom of Europe, no important body of opinion would have questioned the value of patriotism or the importance of preserving and cherishing our nationhood as a focus of resistance to Nazi totalitarianism. Pride in our heritage, our sense of connection with the past and with the achievements of our forebears, were not only second nature to millions of people in the Britain of 1940, but were widely shared throughout the English-speaking world and helped to mobilise opinion against Hitler. Men and women in the United States and the British Dominions drew strength and inspiration in these years of crisis from their common historical and cultural roots, and these were celebrated in literature and song, on the screen and printed page, from one end of the world to the other. Penguin Books, to cite a typical example, published two anthologies during this period — Portrait of England and Forever Freedom — which are a treasure trove of prose and verse celebrating our Island story. They sing the praises of our countryside and institutions, our traditions and people, in the words of Shakespeare and Milton, Emerson and Whittier, Burke and Jefferson, and countless others.
Today, however, such sentiments strike a jarring note and are generally ridiculed by so-called “liberal” opinion as outdated, narrow-minded, and even (in the eyes of some) “racist.” We are told, instead, that the nation-state is an anachronism, and that truly enlightened people should embrace, as a long-term objective, the supranationalist vision of world government. In the meantime, it is argued, rather than clinging nostalgically to the idea of national sovereignty, the preservation of peace and international co-operation requires, in the case of Europe, continued progress towards the establishment of a single supranational European State. To quote the words of Philip Kerr (Lord Lothian), written in the 1930s, and prominently displayed in the Visitor Centre of the European Parliament building in Brussels:
National sovereignty is the root cause of the most crying evils of our time and of the steady march of humanity back to tragic disaster and barbarism. . . . The only final remedy for this supreme and catastrophic evil of our time is a federal union of the people.
This paper accepts none of these assertions. It will argue, on the contrary, that the drive to abolish national sovereignty and create a European State, and the ideal of world government, represent a betrayal of the liberal internationalist tradition and are a serious threat to the long term survival of freedom and democracy. True internationalism does not, like the European Union, seek to create new structures of State power to rule over previously independent nations. Rather, it embodies and expresses a spirit of generous sympathy and co-operation between sovereign countries, based on mutual respect for each other’s traditions, institutions, and liberties. Far from requiring the destruction of patriotism, liberal internationalism recognises the vital role it plays in binding together and sustaining free societies. This paper will also argue that the widespread belief that nationalism is the “root cause” of war and “the most crying evils of our time,” is historically inaccurate, philosophically confused, and politically naïve. And finally, to counter the common charge that “Brexiters” and other opponents of European integration are anti-European xenophobes, this paper will argue that contrary to decades of propaganda from the E.U. and its supporters, the true glory of Europe, and the secret of her creativity and dynamism as a civilisation, has lain in decentralisation and diversity rather than in size and empire.
The Link Between Patriotism, Nationhood, and Internationalism
To begin to understand the libertarian internationalist case for patriotism and national sovereignty, travel back in time to a political meeting on an autumn day in late Victorian England. There, in a speech at Dartford, in Kent, on 2nd October 1886, Lord Randolph Churchill emphasised the liberating role Britain had played in European history since the 16th century:
The sympathy of England with liberty, and with the freedom and independence of communities and nationalities . . . is of ancient origin, and has become the traditional direction of our foreign policy. . . . It was mainly English effort which rescued Germany and the Netherlands from the despotism of King Philip II of Spain, and after him from that of Louis XIV of France. It was English effort which preserved the liberties of Europe from the desolating tyranny of Napoleon.
And, “In our own times,” he concluded
. . . our own nation has done much, either by direct intervention or by energetic moral support, to establish upon firm foundations the freedom of Italy and of Greece.
Had he not subsequently died at such a tragically young age, Lord Randolph could have completed his 1886 summary of Britain’s liberating role in European history by noting that together with her allies, and under the leadership of his own son, she freed the European continent from the scourge of Nazism and Fascism in 1945.
Some years before that speech of Lord Randolph Churchill’s in Dartford, a similar note was struck by an older Victorian contemporary, J. R. Wreford (1800-1881), who wrote a famous poem containing these memorable lines:
Lord, while for all mankind we pray,
Of every clime and coast,
O hear us for our native land,
The land we love the most. . . .
Here, then, we have two typical expressions of 19th century British patriotism — a speech and a poem — both of which testify eloquently to the fact that love for one’s own country in no way implies a lack of regard or sympathy for the cultures, institutions, patriotic loyalties or interests of other nations, just as our love for our families does not prevent us developing good relationships with our friends and neighbours, or indeed with strangers. That this should be the case ought not to surprise us, despite all the politically correct globalist and pro-E.U. propaganda about the supposedly “selfish” and “bigoted” nature of “nationalism.”
Whilst it is true that human sympathy and feelings of solidarity are naturally strongest when they reflect a sense of common interest and identity rooted in shared values and a common heritage, it does not mean that they remain confined within those limits. We first develop our sense of connection with others within those “little platoons” about which Edmund Burke, the father of British Conservatism, waxed so lyrical in the 18th century — that is, within our families, localities, and regions. But then, by a natural process of experience and discovery, we go on to perceive our links with a wider community and learn to identify with the country and nation whose language and culture plays such a key role in shaping our minds and lives. If, in addition, we have grown up in a liberal democracy like Britain, we also learn to identify with other societies which share our commitment to liberty and the rule of law — especially if, like Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the United States, they are linked to us historically as former colonies. Human sympathy, in other words, grows naturally out of a widening circle of association, and the very fact that we love our country and are proud of its achievements and traditions, helps us to appreciate the patriotic sensibilities and feelings of other nationalities, and can bring out the best in us rather than the worst.
Patriotism Is a Noble Sentiment Compatible with Other Loyalties
As British Conservative philosopher and statesman, Arthur Balfour (1848-1930), put it long ago in his 1913 lecture on “Nationality and Home Rule”:
The sentiment of nationality is one of a group of such sentiments for which there is unfortunately no common name. Loyalties to a country, a Party, a constitution, a national sovereign, a tribal chief, a church, a pact, a creed, are characteristic specimens of the class. They may be ill-directed; they often are. Nevertheless it is such loyalties that make human society possible; they do more, they make it noble. To them we owe it that a man will sacrifice ease, profit, life itself, for something which wholly transcends his merely personal interests. Therefore, whether mistaken or not, there is in them always a touch of greatness. But it has to be observed that the kind of loyalty we call patriotism, though it expresses a simple feeling, need have no exclusive application. It may embrace a great deal more than a man’s country or a man’s race. It may embrace a great deal less. And these various patriotisms need not be, and should not be, mutually exclusive.
It is therefore no coincidence, that this Scottish and British patriot should have felt a generous sympathy for the national aspirations of the Jews after centuries of suffering and exile. It is not strange that he should have lent his name to that famous declaration of 1917 (the “Balfour Declaration”) promising British support for the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.[i] Nor is it surprising, as that quote from Lord Randolph Churchill revealed, that patriotic 19th century liberal England openly defended and supported the emerging liberal and national movements in Italy, Greece, and Belgium, as an earlier England had fought side by side with the Dutch against the imperial armies of Philip II of Spain in the latter half of the 16th century. It was patriotic empathy, a belief in liberty, and a sense of reverence and gratitude for her matchless heritage, which moved the poet Lord Byron (1788-1824) to participate in Greece’s struggle for independence from the tyranny of the Ottoman Empire. That was the spirit which inspired such famous lines as these, from his poem, “The Isles of Greece”:
The mountains look on Marathon –
And Marathon looks on the sea;
And musing there an hour alone,
I dreamed that Greece might still be free;
For standing on the Persian’s grave,
I could not deem myself a slave.
Not only, then, is it absurd on a theoretical level to regard patriotism and loyalty to the nation-state as the chief cause of hatred and conflict between peoples and countries, but it is also historically illiterate. With the exception of tribal conflicts within primitive communities and continents, more wars have been caused by religious and ideological divisions and by the dynastic ambitions of powerful monarchs and princes than by the forces of popular nationalism. The wars of the Middle Ages in Europe, for instance, were usually either family quarrels between contending monarchs related to each other by blood or marriage, or struggles for power between these monarchs and their rebellious barons, or between the Pope, representing the Church, and the Holy Roman Emperor or some other secular ruler. Later on, the earthquake of the Reformation ushered in a century and a half of bloody religious strife between Catholics and Protestants, whilst Central Europe and the Balkans were the scene of a recurring conflict between Islam and Christianity, echoing in its fierce intensity the costly battles in Palestine between Christian and Saracen during the early Crusades.
It is therefore not only untrue to portray nationalism as the inevitable or principal source of division and armed conflict in the world; it is also unfair, since some wars have actually been provoked by attempts to suppress rather than advance the cause of national self-determination. As one modern historian and critic of European integration, professor Alan Sked, has pointed out:
. . . nationalism has many advantages: it reconciles classes; smoothes over regional differences; and gives ordinary people a sense of community, pride, and history. European nationalists are themselves seeking precisely those benefits from “The European Ideal.” It is therefore ironic that they should blame nation-state nationalists exclusively for war. For a strict account of modern European history would show that it was largely the refusal of supranational, dynastic states — the Ottoman, Habsburg and Napoleonic empires — to allow for national self-determination which brought about wars. Likewise, in the 20th century, it was the Kaiser’s bid for world power . . . and Hitler’s racial mumbo-jumbo which led to world conflict. In short, it has been the apparent redundancy of the nation-state and the yearning for continental power-bases which in previous centuries has more than once led to the negation of “European Civilisation.”[ii]
Tyranny, Not Nationalism, Is the Common Factor Behind Most Wars
Here we come to the real heart of the matter, which is that the chief cause of hatred and war is not the existence of national diversity and sovereignty, but what the Bible describes as “fallen” (or in secular language, imperfect) human nature. “Out of the heart come evil thoughts,” said Jesus in the New Testament (Matthew 15:19), so when flawed human nature is tempted and corrupted by excessive concentrations of power, the inevitable results are as disastrous for international relations as they are inimical to peace and freedom within individual countries. What this suggests, then, is that the true lesson of history, as professor Sked’s analysis implies, is that it has been the appetite for power and dominion of tyrannical rulers and oligarchies, which has been the common factor behind so many wars. Furthermore, the bloodiest of these conflicts have been those where that predatory desire for power has been reinforced by intolerant and aggressive ideologies that have had nothing to do with patriotism or nationalism in the ordinary sense.
The millions who died, for instance, in the great European and world conflagrations of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and in those of our own more recent and terrible 20th century, were the victims of revolutionary Jacobinism, Bonapartism, National Socialism and Communism — of movements and ideologies which transcended ordinary national loyalties and appealed instead, or as much, to race, class, hero-worship, or utopianism. Consequently, the second great lesson they teach us is precisely the opposite one to that drawn by European federalists and other advocates of supranationalism and world government. Far from being the key to opening the Pandora Box of war, national sovereignty and loyalty to the nation-state is one of the essential pillars of a free and peaceful international order, since it represents an institutional structure and a focus of sentiment which is decentralised, and therefore an effective obstacle to the construction of transnational totalitarian power blocs and ideologies. Moreover, by inculcating a love of country in the hearts of men and women, patriotism and a sense of shared nationhood helps to motivate people to defend their inherited rights and freedoms, and so mobilises powerful emotional forces against actual and potential oppression. What else saved Britain in 1940, motivated the Resistance movements in Nazi occupied Europe, and eventually defeated Hitler? What else motivated the people of Poland to resist Soviet and Communist tyranny when their country lay imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain during those long and dark years between 1945 and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989?
Whilst it may be understandable that many sincere advocates of the European ideal of “ever closer union” fail to see the link between patriotism and freedom, and pride themselves on what they believe to be their superior motivation and knowledge of history, it is nonetheless ironic that they seem unaware of the degree to which their supranationalist vision of a European State disregards the insights of one of the greatest of all European political philosophers, Charles de Montesquieu (1689 – 1755), who drew attention to the way in which, unlike Asia, the geography and topography of Europe erected natural barriers to despotism because they favoured the physical dispersal of nations, and therefore the decentralisation of power. As he put it in his famous treatise, “De l’Esprit des lois”:
In Asia they have always had great empires: in Europe these could never subsist. Asia has larger plains; it is cut into much more extensive divisions by mountains and seas . . . in Europe, the natural division forms many nations of moderate extent, in which the ruling by laws is not incompatible with the maintenance of the state. . . . It is this which has formed a genius for liberty, that renders every part extremely difficult to be subdued and subjected by a foreign power.
It is hard to imagine, reading those words, that Montesquieu would have failed to welcome Britain’s historic 2016 Referendum vote to leave the European Union, with its encouragement to other European citizens to resist the illiberal goal of ever closer European integration.
Sovereignty, Liberty and the Problem of Mass Immigration
The connection between national sovereignty and liberty is highly relevant to the perennially vexed and controversial issue of immigration. Politically correct “liberals” always imply that the desire to restrict immigration is morally suspect or reprehensible because it supposedly stems from a xenophobic dislike of foreigners, and is therefore bigoted and racist. Even when political pressures force them to acknowledge people’s legitimate concerns about the impact of mass uncontrolled immigration on schools, hospitals, housing, and transport, they do so reluctantly, always wanting to change the subject to the need for more government action to create jobs and improve public services. Yet whilst it is obviously important to combat racists and welcome the positive contributions made by so many immigrants to our economies and societies, there is a strong and principled moral and libertarian case for acknowledging the right of individual countries to control their borders and the flow of migrants seeking to cross them.
In the first place, it should be obvious that a country’s right to control its borders and restrict immigration is an essential component of its national sovereignty. If it is not allowed to determine who is or is not permitted to cross its frontiers and settle within them, or become one of its citizens, it cannot maintain its distinctive national character or preserve its political independence. Consequently, if we value an international system in which political power is decentralised, we should recognise that mass uncontrolled migration threatens its institutional and cultural foundations, and should therefore be curbed.
A second and related argument is that liberal democracies cannot preserve their sovereignty, cultural unity, political institutions, and liberties, if they open their doors to too many migrants whose cultural affiliations, beliefs, and values are fundamentally at variance with those of a free society. This truth is particularly relevant to the vexed and politically sensitive question of mass migration from the Muslim world, especially within the context of the global rise and spread of radical militant Islam.
As the annual reports of international human rights monitoring organisations like Freedom House (based in New York) regularly reveal, most of the Islamic world is blighted by religious intolerance, sectarian violence, and political tyranny. Despite some welcome progress in some countries in recent years, women remain largely second-class citizens, freedom of thought and speech is non-existent or heavily restricted, and the rights of religious and ethnic minorities are generally trampled under foot. Some two million Christians, for example, have been driven out of their Middle East homelands over the past 20 years [iii]. But the greatest victims of all, of Muslim violence and intolerance, have been other Muslims. According to a 2007 study by American Harvard-trained scholar and Middle East expert, Daniel Pipes, and Professor Gunnar Heinsohn of the University of Bremen (where he heads the Raphael-Lemkin Institute for Comparative Genocide Research):
. . . some 11,000,000 Muslims have been violently killed since 1948, of which 35,000, or 0.3 percent, died during the sixty years of fighting Israel, or just 1 out of every 315 Muslim fatalities. In contrast, over 90 percent of the 11 million who perished were killed by fellow Muslims. [iv]
To highlight these facts, and the difficulties they pose for European countries struggling to control immigration from the Muslim world, is not to indulge in “Islamophobia,” but to draw attention to a genuine problem widely acknowledged by liberal Muslims and human rights activists.
In March 2007, for example, a brave group of Muslim writers and intellectuals came together at a “Secular Muslim Summit” in St. Petersburg, Florida, U.S.A., and issued a freedom manifesto called “The St. Petersburg Declaration.” This declared amongst other things that:
We see no colonialism, racism, or so-called “Islamophobia” in submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights. . . . We demand the release of Islam from its captivity to the totalitarian ambitions of power-hungry men and the rigid structures of orthodoxy. . . . [v]
In a similar vein, the liberal Muslim Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society declares in its mission statement that:
We believe that Islamic society has been held back by an unwillingness to subject its beliefs, laws, and practices to critical examination, by a lack of respect for the rights of the individual, and by an unwillingness to tolerate alternative viewpoints or to engage in constructive dialogue. [vi]
Against this background, is it really “racist” or illiberal for Western governments to seek to limit the entry into their countries of large waves of migrants which, because of the places and cultures so many of them come from, will inevitably include a potentially growing minority of Muslims who advocate sharia law, do not recognise freedom of conscience or speech, treat women as inferior beings, and feel no loyalty or attachment to their non-Muslim host communities? Even if one ignores the growing threat of Islamist terrorism, and the ease with which its practitioners and supporters can now enter Europe in the guise of economic migrants or asylum seekers, are not existing and settled Muslim immigrant communities as threatened by the rise of radical Islam as the rest of us — especially young liberated Muslim women seeking higher education and a choice of husband and career?
The Link Between National Sovereignty and Personal Freedom
The libertarian case for national sovereignty concludes, finally, with the observation that since peace, harmony, and wealth creation primarily depend on the voluntary co-operation and enterprise of private individuals, organisations, and businesses, that is, on all the myriad relationships, activities, and institutions of civil society outside the State, a peaceful and harmonious world requires that the coercive power of government be kept to a minimum, and maximum scope be given to personal initiative, effort, and creativity. That may seem a utopian dream given the frailty of human nature and the prevalence of so many false ideas and ideologies, but such a world is more likely to become a reality (at least in part) if its existing free societies retain (or regain) their sovereignty and independence, trading freely with each other and co-operating, on an inter-governmental basis, in defensive alliances and the pursuit of common solutions to regional and global problems. In such an international environment of competing tax systems, centres of power, and legal jurisdictions, connected to each other by free trade and travel, and all the panoply of modern communications, private individuals and independent institutions will always have more room to breathe, and greater freedom of action, than if they are imprisoned within a world of monopolistic supranational regional power blocs, or worst of all, some monopolistic system of global government.
The single most important historical fact about the 20th century is that more people, 170 million of them, died in internal repression under tyrannical rulers and governments, than in all its wars combined.[vii] Bearing this in mind, no true friend of liberty should have any hesitation in opposing the misguided idealism of those who believe that abolishing national sovereignty will lead to a better world.
[i]Readers who may question the moral legitimacy of the Balfour Declaration and Zionism in general, should read my web paper, In Defence of Israel: key facts about the Arab-Israeli conflict (32 pp.), available at http://www.themoralliberal.com/topics/authors/tml-contributors/philip-vander-elst.
[ii] Professor Alan Sked, Good Europeans? (London: the Bruges Group, Occasional Paper 4, November 1989).
[iii] For more details see: op cit, In Defence of Israel, p. 26.
[iv]For full details go to http://www.danielpipes.org/4990/arab-israeli-fatalities-rank-49th.
[vi]Ibid for further details.
[vii] For fuller details, see: R. J. Rummel, Death by Government (Transaction Publishers, USA, 1996), and The Black Book of Communism (Harvard University Press, U.S.A., 1999).
Our Mission Is to Reawaken the Genuine American Spirit . . .
Donald Trump the Scrapper
Barry MacDonald — Editorial
It’s not a fluke that Donald Trump became the nominee of the Republican Party. He’s an opportunist who took advantage of a separation in loyalty between Republican voters and elected Republicans. Republican voters have stopped trusting elected Republicans.
Eric Cantor is the quintessential example. He rose to the second-highest position of leadership in the House, but he seemed more attuned to lobbyists than constituents, and so he lost a primary election. And Eric Cantor proved the voters correct by cashing in. He didn’t wait to finish his term. He immediately became the vice chairman of the investment bank Moelis & Company with a salary of $3.4 million.
It’s not obvious how his lawyer’s training fits him for such a position. Apparently the bank is interested in using his connections within Congress and his knowledge of how the system works — he’s become a lobbyist.
As the Obama administration went on, and as the midterm elections continued to swell the number of Republicans and deplete the Democrats, Republican voters watched as elected Republicans made a pretense of opposition. The telltale surrenders always came during the budget battles. Republicans caved because they were afraid of being blamed for a government shutdown.
Every “wise” political observer in the elite media, including conservatives, always said the Republicans couldn’t avoid being cast as cold-hearted villains. The national debt has risen to almost $20 trillion because President Obama has pushed for increased spending and the Republicans have failed to restrain him.
Republican accommodations on illegal immigration allowed Donald Trump to rally voters to him. Republican voters are frustrated that “sanctuary cities” exist.
Trump was the only candidate brash enough to raise the issue.
I believe many elected Republicans are afraid of being called racists if they dare to oppose illegal immigration, and I suspect they are also acquiescing to wealthy donors who benefit by depressed wages for unskilled and semi-skilled labor.
Jeb Bush’s comment that entering America illegally was “an act of love” was probably fatal to his campaign for president, as its appeasing quality is obvious.
It’s necessary to understand the constant pressure and the daily harassment Republicans face from an army of hostile media and the debased and unscrupulous methods of Democrat operatives. Too many Republicans in Washington have lost heart. They don’t believe they can win, so they make the most of their circumstances and become comfortable with the perks of office.
There’s been a failure of Republican leadership. Too many Republicans have surrendered before the aggression of grievance politics.
Even in Stillwater, Minnesota, in a social group I’m a member of — a group that has nothing to do with politics — the pervasive influence of grievance politics can be felt. In the Twin Cities there have been two shootings by police of black men that Black Lives Matter has protested.
The leader of our group spoke to us about “white privilege,” implying that the justice system is pervasively racist. I opposed his comment but was hard-pressed, as the most recent victim, Philando Castile, appears completely innocent and had previously been stopped by police while driving many times. I persevered, but I don’t believe I changed anyone’s mind.
Later I remembered the purpose of “stop and frisk” police policy is to protect the vulnerable in high crime areas, and it’s effective in suppressing violence. The police should be aggressive in high crime neighborhoods. Of course Black Lives Matter isn’t protesting the shooting deaths of black children who innocent bystanders of the drug warfare in black neighborhoods of Chicago.
With the recent assassinations of police officers across the nation it’s understandable how the officer in this instance made the wrong split-second, life and death decision, but the sympathy rightly goes to the victim.
The left is very good at presenting victims, and the media cherry-picks stories that feed the grievance narrative. The idea is easily introduced that the police are oppressing blacks, and too many Americans agree. The answer to the charge is complex and must rely on facts that aren’t easy to convey in a heated argument.
The issue devolves to the question of crime and violence in black neighborhoods. The left blames social injustice and racism. The right points to failed social policy, fractured families, absent fathers, and self-aggrandizing black leaders, such as Al Sharpton, who would rather inflame grievance than encourage reconciliation.
The left stokes furious emotion, while the right replies with reasoned argument. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to the self-righteous, browbeating assault of Democrats using grievance arguments.
Donald Trump’s success among Republican voters is not hard to understand. He has been courageous. He’s not afraid of being called a racist.
Donald Trump is not a perfect candidate, but he is the nominee. As we conservatives advance our principles and arguments we should emulate his courage. The dreadful prospect of Hillary Clinton becoming president should be clarifying. *
The Program of Our Annual Dinner Has Been Set
Jigs and Jo Ann Gardner will give a PowerPoint presentation based on their book Gardens of Use & Delight, which is about their transformation of a derelict farm in the wilds of Cape Breton Island into a beautiful farm and landscape, concentrating on the way the practical problems they faced changed them from socialists into conservatives.
The dinner will be held at the Lowell Inn in downtown Stillwater on Thursday, November 10. We will be gathering together at 6:30 p.m. I will be sending a letter to our membership soon with a more detailed announcement.
The date has been set with the occasion of the presidential election in mind — we will be able to celebrate or commiserate as the case may be.
We have a wonderful time year after year with each other. Please consider coming. *
The following is a summary of the August/September 2016 issue of The St. Croix Review:
Barry MacDonald, in “Donald Trump the Scrapper,” considers how a division between elected Republicans and Republican voters led to the nomination of Donald Trump.
Herbert London, in “The Road to War,” points out that the West is already in a world war with radical Islam and that only America has the ability to lead; in “The New America,” he writes that the director of the FBI’s decision not indict Hillary Clinton’s obvious transgressions has diminished the rule of law in America; in “Brexit Revisited” he sees the British vote to leave the E.U. as a positive assertion of “sovereign will, independence, and democratic zeal.”
Allan C. Brownfeld, in “Orlando Highlights the Failure of Government to Identify and Monitor Potential Killers,” points out that the FBI has repeatedly failed to act effectively even though they identified and investigated men who later carried out a terrorist attacks — he questions whether FBI procedures are adequate; in “Free Speech Is Under Attack — Both at Home and Abroad,” he makes the case that if we lose the right to free speech other rights are sure to be lost also.
Paul Kengor, in “The Preferred Enemy Is Always to the Right,” shows that the radical Left in American blamed Christian Conservatives for the shooting in Orlando, not militant Islam; in “Hillary Clinton’s Church Problem,” he points out that the United Methodist Church — Hillary Clinton’s Church — has recently reaffirmed traditional marriage and discouraged abortion; in “Trump vs. Reagan: What Is a Conservative?” he provides a good definition of conservatism and applies it to Donald Trump’s professions.
Mark Hendrickson, in “Signs of the Times: Telling Statements and Factoids,” gleans items from the news which epitomize why the nation is such a mess; in “Nineteen Freedoms Fraying Away,” he cites egregious instances of government arrogance and abuse; in “Why Should Ethan Couch Get a ‘Mulligan’ for Manslaughter?” he explores the discovery of a novel legal defense: “affluenza.”
In “What Has the Great Society Wrought? — Poverty and Broken Families,” Timothy S. Goeglein compares the vision and rhetoric of the presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson with the dismal reality of big government intervention.
Philip Vander Elst, in “Patriotism and Freedom — A Libertarian Defense of National Sovereignty,” makes the case that — in the context of the vote by the British people to leave the E.U. — far from being the principle cause of war, nationalism has been the primary bulwark for peace, freedom, and civility.
David Hein, in “Ronald Reagan and George C. Marshall: A Cold War Affinity,” shows how President Reagan’s foreign policy added to the Marshall Plan proposed by President Truman’s secretary of state. Both Reagan and Marshall put their faith in fostering in postwar Europe liberty, market freedoms, democracy, strong property rights, and the rule of law as a means to check the Soviet Union.
In “Letters from a Conservative Farmer — Rituals of Hospitality,” Jigs Gardner reveals the quirky social strategy behind the courtesy of serving guests tea and cookies as practiced by old-time Cape Bretoners.
In “Writers for Conservatives, 60: A World War II Trio,” Jigs Gardner presents three histories that read like novels by the novelist/historian Len Deighton.
The whole expanse of the blue sky mixes
With the trees in the park where the people
Come for these few days of the season as
This is the time of the cherry blossoms
It’s the singularity of the pink
Flowering that touches the heart with a
Color that points the year because now is
When we celebrate the lifting of the
Winter cold and the returning of warm
Breezes and the stirring of growth with a
Strengthening sun and it’s natural to
Rejoice and cherish the moment of the
Cherry blooms because it may rain and the
Blossoms may separate and so vanish.
It’s quite natural
when the sun strengthens again
when the cherries bloom
for people to rejoice and
create a ceremony.
It’s ornate on the hill overlooking
The valley just below the historic
Courthouse and the memorial for those
Of the First Minnesota who died at
Gettysburg with its thick layering of
Brown paint on its carriage and with its dense
Coating of black the cannon seems a bit
Unreal but I’m impressed by its size and
Its design because there’s nothing graceful
About it because it’s meant for slaughtering
Soldiers and perhaps it’s the distance in
Time and from a battlefield that creates
A ceremonial vibe but to me
It represents ruthless brutality.
The bronze statue of
the union soldier with his
bayonet fixed is
advancing and concealing
the terror he must have felt.
The blooming crabapple tree is peaking
And its blossoms are streaming in the wind
While other flowering trees and hedges
Are opening and creating such a
Captivating sight as I’m driving in
Town and I’m wondering why this slice of
Nature affects me so as mosquitoes
And wood ticks are as natural as the
Cherry blooms as common as a bout of
Frenzied thinking my mind endures and so
Maybe it’s better not to question but
To appreciate the periodic
Appearance of beauty on the earth as
It blooms and then vanishes in the wind.
I can do without
the mosquitoes and wood ticks
but it is my choice
to overlook the pests and
be enamored with beauty.
Supposedly a dog’s nose is hundreds
Of times better than ours and when looking
About I see the people who’ve mastered
Their dogs walking together side by side
While other pairs aren’t so harmonious
And I wonder how the walk would go with
The dog in charge because he’s not wedded
To straight lines going from here to there he’s
Nosing the delectable enticements
Of the earth and we’re oblivious and
We require such pitiful restraint of
Our creatures — how well would you do if we
Put a leash on you and dangled tempting
Aromas out of reach and marched on home?
Are we really the
bestest of friends or are we
and parsimonious as our
doggies obey commandments?
His smile and youth are very appealing
As the uniform and the cocked hat could
Indicate anyone going to a
World War and his name is Billy Spargo
And he looks like any teenager does
Though I know on a bombing raid over
Germany he was killed because my dad
Told me as they were friends in Australia
And the burst of tears surprises as dad
Said he died because the Allies needed
A show of strength — the smile disintegrates
Distance and time and decades later my
Dad mourned and as my dad has also died
The story of the photo is passing.
Once the people go
the stories of their photos
go along with them —
we are left with artifacts
but the memories are gone.
The eagle sways and drifts in currents of
Air skimming and unconcerned about the
Direction of the wind as it’s hunting
And following the movement of fish in
The water as the buffeting of wind and
The adjusting of wings and tail feathers
Comes as naturally as breathing and
If it chose instantaneously it
Would drop and strike with its talons to crush
And tear with a mighty grip and so death
Happens suddenly in the world and as
A symbol for comprehending eyes the
Eagle is a magnificent image —
Everything I know could instantly end.
There’s night and day and
spring summer fall and winter
there’s youth and aging
and my preoccupations —
just temporarily so.
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. *