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A marvelous essay in First Things by Joseph Bottum.

This is a long and thick essay. My suggestion, allow yourself a good half-hour to read it all at once. Read it with the discipline of trying to understand Bottum, and not allowing your mind to take off in arcs of thought inspired by his comments or allusions. Then, after thinking about it for a while, read it again slowly, in parts, with periods of silent contemplation, allowing your mind to reflect and critique.

Good stuff. Especially to those of us who think the turn away from metaphysics was bad, and who think that reflection upon traditional practice and literature is good.
This story from the Washington Post on the efforts of Archbishop Raymond Burke in St. Louis to enforce doctrinal norms.

These United States have been a challenge for Roman Catholicism since our founding. People living in a society of participatory government tend to move that assumption into church and want a voice. People living in a modernizing, and now postmodernizing, culture tend to bring that culture into church. People living in a society glorifying individualism tend to bring that attitude into church.

Of course, Roman Catholics are not unique in this. Christians around the world say that there is a reality called "American Christianity." We just have trouble seeing it here for the same reason that fish do not notice water.
My Great-Uncle Elmo was a WW1-era veteran. Armistice occured before his unit shipped from the States. Each Memorial Day he made it his mission to place small American flags by the grave of each veteran at several cemeteries near his rural home. (He was active well into his 90s.) As he grew older, he worried about who would place the flags after he was gone.

This weekend the American Legion Post in the county seat of his home county had its annual breakfast meeting at Hardees. Over coffee the men divided up cemeteries among themselves, then left in their cars and pick-ups to place flags by the veterans' graves.

I am not aware of any connection between my great-uncle and the current practice of the Legion Post, but I like to think he rests easier.

I call these people the Armies of Memorial Day. Citizen volunteers who see to it that local veterans are honored, not forgotten. Like so much of what is good about America these are not government employees doing a job; these are citizens doing what needs done.

America will be great so long as this spirit of citizenship is strong. My great-uncle did not sit back and complain that someone should do something--he simply, without fanfare, got it done. The Legion members traveling the streets and roads of their county, without reimbursement, are not waiting for a government program, they are getting it done.

Next time you think, "Why doesn't someone do something?", just get it done.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Arlington Cemetary is too far away for most of us to visit in person this Memorial Day Weekend. But, thanks to the internet, we can make a virtual visit. Official Arlington Cemetery Site.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
My Grandfather Taylor called Memorial Day, Decoration Day. He, like most of his generation, visited local cemetaries where relatives were buried, taking flowers and checking on the condition of the graves. Rural cemeteries in north Missouri like Owasco, Bute, Baker, and Mt. Zion.

Although my grandfather probably had never heard of Simone Weil, he would have understood her assertion that one of the great needs for modern life was for Roots. Modernity cuts one off from the roots of family, place, and nature. Decoration Day reaffirmed Roots past, and Roots present. (Various relatives dropped by the house as they visited cemeteries, or were encounted among the graves as they laid flowers. Neighbors too.)

This past week I visited these cemeteries with my father: Owasco with its abandoned church and view overlooking a small creek; Bute small on a ridge over a mile off the paved road; Baker, nearly twenty miles from any town with a population over 1000; and Mt. Zion, across the road from home, animals living under the decaying former church and peonies blooming among the graves. I stood at the graves of my mother, my grandparents, my great-grandparents, and my great-great-grandparents. Numerous great and great-great aunts and uncles. The headstones in these small cemeteries gave evidence of community inter-relatedness through marriage over the last century-and-a-half. Birds sang and flowers bloomed.

I heard stories and history from my father, whose 80th birthday was a week ago. Once more I reconnected, with family, with the land, with my roots.

Don't let your children grow up rootless; don't be rootless yourself. Happy Memorial/Decoration Day.
Drudge today links to this article critical of a new trend--women choosing plastic surgery on their genitalia. Three thoughts from this excerpt:

Patients who sought genitoplasty "uniformly" wanted their vulvas to be flat and with no protrusion, similar to the prepubescent look of girls in Western fashion ads, they found.

"Not unlike presenting for a haircut at a salon, women often brought along images to illustrate the desired appearance," say Creighton and Liao. "The illustrations, usually from advertisements or pornography, are always selective and possibly digitally altered."

First, notice that these women want their genitalia to have a "prepubescent look." Can anyone maintain that it is healthy for society to make the standard of feminine beauty the prepubescent girl? No real woman can look like she is eleven. The only non-surgical ways to attempt this are self-starvation, and shaving the genitalia. Once more the media are messing with women's heads, telling them they are inadequate.

Second, this surgical trend testifies to the disturbing reality that our society is sexualizing young girls. The prepubescent look in "advertisements or pornography" trains men to arouse sexually at the sight of younger and younger females. We rightly punish those men who prey on young girls, but I think we should punish those who facilitate their crimes as well.

Third, one of the evils of pornography is that it trains men to have unrealistic expectations regarding the female body. Pornography provides a fantasy such that some men are rendered incapable of appreciating reality. "The illustrations, usually from advertisements or pornography, are always selective and possibly digitally altered."

Farmer, we need to revisit the expansion of the "free speech" guarantee to cover anything and everything.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
One of my favorite contemporary thinkers is Cardinal George Pell of Australis. I have posted from his thought several times. (search this site for Pell) Here are excerpts from his address on Muslim immigrants in Australia.

All those who choose to come to Australia come as immigrants, not as colonists i.e. they should be committed to freedom and democracy, refrain from advocating violence or indulging in hate speech, while their political allegiance must be to Australia, not overseas. All immigrants, Christians, Muslims, non-believers should meet these criteria.
. . .
Obviously I speak as a Christian and a Catholic, committed to one version of the principle of reciprocity. Not an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but commitment to the principle that the rights we justly offer to all citizens here, including Muslim minorities, should be rights that are enjoyed by non-Muslim minorities in the Muslim world. This is not the case as I believe this conference could not be held in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia! In fact Christians are being harassed and even persecuted in many countries ranging from Nigeria, through Sudan, where some are being sold as slaves, and the Middle East to Pakistan and Indonesia. I would like to know where our friends stand on these matters.
. . .
In a pluralist and free democracy every group is criticized at some time or other. As Prime Minister Howard remarked last year, if Catholics rioted every time they were criticized there would be regular riots! It is not appropriate that Muslims regularly reply to criticism with insults, denigrations and evasions, while avoiding the point at issue. We have seen too much of this from some Muslim personalities.

Within a secular democratic society harmonious integration of minorities is achievable because all citizens, belonging to the majority culture, or minorities, are acknowledged to be equal in the eyes of the law. Equal rights, however, carry with them equal responsibilities. Problems arise when minorities demand special consideration that places them outside the law as it applies to all other citizens. Flexibility and adaptability are called for when refugees and immigrants arrive in a host country. But there is a limit [in adapting to minority demands] beyond which a democratic host society cannot go without losing its identity.

Here, Here. Immigration must not be allowed to become colonization, in Australia or in the United States. By any group.

The media portrayal of the recent May Day protest and police response has tended to blame the police for the violence. A counter-portrayal here. I do not accept the MSM picture.
This essay, from the current Chronicle of Higher Education, points to one of the great challenges facing our nation, the loss of civil cohesion.

But, more and more, I think the student culture of incivility is a larger impediment to their success than anything they might fail to learn about Western civilization or whatever it is I am teaching.

I often hear a lot of talk about the academic weaknesses of new freshmen. Even at a relatively elite college, it's not uncommon to find 18-year-olds who have problems with reading -- so much so that almost no incentive can persuade some students to spend an hour with Shakespeare, Kant, or Gibbon.

Writing is an even bigger problem for many students. Most have never produced anything longer than a few pages. A serious research paper -- involving sources, citation, and maybe eight pages of thoughtful analysis -- has become almost entirely unknown before college. The fundamental skills that used to qualify students for admission have been eroded to the point that nothing can be assumed anymore.

But those deficiencies don't bother me all that much. I am here to help them become better readers and writers, as well as to learn the particular content of my courses. Even more than that, I want to cultivate in them a sense of pleasure in learning that will enrich their lives.

Of course, I think it is a serious problem that many public schools -- and private ones -- have just about given up teaching many of the academic skills that were once considered basic for every high-school graduate, not just the ones going to college. But what really troubles me is that schools -- no doubt, mirroring the broader culture -- have given up cultivating the ordinary courtesies that enable people to get along without friction and violence.

Emphasis mine.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Tocqueville draws our attention to an article that compares and contrasts two important figures in the modern conservative movement: Francis Schaeffer and Russell Kirk. Worth a read.

I must confess that neither speaker and writer was much of an influence on me, due in part to my ignorance I'm sure. I've never read Kirk. Twenty-five years ago I read a bit of Schaeffer. Perhaps some of you (Farmer, you paying attention?) could comment on these two and their influence on you.