Cynical About Cynicism

 

 

 

During the upcoming 4th of July weekend I will likely re-watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), one of my favorite films.  My favorite scene in that movie is the video clip above.  It is easy to give way to weary cynicism when one contemplates all the evil in the world.  However, history is replete with examples of men and women who fought the good fight and won.  Even those who fought and were defeated ennobled all of us by their stand.  Let us ever be cynical about cynicism and let us ever be ready to pick up the gauntlet, no matter the odds, so that, in the ringing phrase of Lincoln, truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land.

Published in: on June 30, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Cynical About Cynicism  
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Winter and Civilization VI Are Coming

As faithful readers of this blog know, I like to play complex computer strategy games.  One I am eagerly anticipating is Civilization VI which is coming out in October.  The video above is an overview of the game narrated by actor Sean Bean who somehow manages not to die during his voice over.

 

Published in: on June 29, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Winter and Civilization VI Are Coming  
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National Suicide

 

 

Prophetic words of warning for us today from a young Mr. Lincoln:

We find ourselves in the peaceful possession, of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them–they are a legacy bequeathed us, by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors. Their’s was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves, us, of this goodly land; and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys, a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; ’tis ours only, to transmit these, the former, unprofaned by the foot of an invader; the latter, undecayed by the lapse of time and untorn by usurpation, to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task of gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.

How then shall we perform it?–At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?– Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!–All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838

Published in: on June 28, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on National Suicide  
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Major Andrew McClary

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I occasionally encounter people who claim that freedom is an abstraction, and that they would never die for an abstraction.  That has never been the case in my family.  McClareys have fought in all the nation’s wars down to the present, and we have attempted to remember them beginning with the first, Andrew McClary, a man who has fascinated me since my father told me about him so long ago.

He is memorialized in the  above section of a painting  by John Trumbull and depicting, with artistic license, “The Death of General John Warren.”  The Major is shown raising his musket to brain a British soldier attempting to bayonet the dying Warren, a warlike action quite in character for him, and one which warms the cockles of my heart.  My wife has noted over the years how much I resemble Major Andrew, and it is intriguing how his facial features have been passed down through the generations of my family.

Born  in 1730 in Ireland, at an early age he emigrated to New Hampshire with his family.  He grew to six feet, a giant of a man for his time, jovial in disposition but always ready to fight if need be to defend his rights or the rights of those he loved.    The colonies were fortunate that quite a few men, like George Washington, who had served in the French and Indian War, were still in the prime of life and constituted a potential officer corps with, in many cases, combat experience, at the time when the Revolution began.  Major Andrew McClary was typical of these men.  After serving as an officer in Rogers’ Rangers during the French and Indian War, and singlehandedly throwing six British officers out of a tavern window during a loud “discussion” on a memorable evening, he had settled down as a farmer outside of Epsom, serving as a selectman of that town,  a member of the New Hampshire legislature, and, always, as an officer of the New Hampshire militia.  When news of Lexington and Concord reached him, he abandoned his plow, told his young family he was off to fight the British, and immediately marched off with a company of 80 militiamen to the siege lines around Boston. There he met up with his old friend from Rogers’ Rangers Colonel John Stark, who made McClary a major in his regiment of New Hampshire militia.

At the battle of Bunker Hill, Major McClary led the regiment onto Breed’s Hill, where the battle was fought on June 17, 1775.  The advance of the regiment was momentarily blocked by a gaggle of Massachusetts militia standing about on the road doing nothing.  That obstruction was removed when McClary yelled out that New Hampshire would like to borrow the road, if Massachusetts was not using it. (more…)

Published in: on June 27, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Major Andrew McClary  
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Free Speech Is So Eighteenth Century!

 

“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

George Washington, 1783

Published in: on June 26, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Free Speech Is So Eighteenth Century!  
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Summertime

 

Something for the weekend.  Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong team up to give an unforgettable rendition of Summertime.  Composed as an aria in 1934 by George Gershwin for the play Porgy and Bess, it always conveys to me memories of the various hot summers of my boyhood when home air conditioning was rare and a luxury.

Published in: on June 25, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Summertime  
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Laura Secord

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Completely unknown to the public at large in the US, Laura Secord, ironically a daughter of a man who fought on the patriot side in the Revolution, is a national heroine in Canada. In 1813 during the War of 1812, American troops were quartered in Secord’s home.  Learning of a plan to attack the British installation at Beaver Dams, she walked from Queenstown twenty miles to warn the British.

Forewarned, the British with 400 Indians and 50 regulars surrounded the American force of some 600 regulars as it advanced on Beavers Dam on June 24, 1813.  After some fighting the British commander, Lieutenant James FitzGibbon,  convinced the American commander, Colonel Charles Boerstler, that he was vastly outnumbered and that unless he immediately surrendered, FitzGibbon would not be able to control the Indians.  The gullible Boerstler surrendered.

Secord’s role in all this remained virtually unknown until she sought a pension for her poverty stricken family after the War.  The Canadian public did not pay much attention until the visiting Prince of Wales in 1860 heard of her long ago heroics, and sent the 85 year old Secord one hundred pounds.

laurasecord

Published in: on June 24, 2016 at 5:00 am  Comments Off on Laura Secord  
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Catholic Priests of Dachau

 

A very brave man has died:

The last surviving Catholic priest imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp has died at the age of 102, more than 70 years after surviving a Nazi death march.

 The Rev. Hermann Scheipers died on June 2 in Ochtrup, Germany, the Catholic website Aleteia said.

 He spent more than four years at Dachau after being arrested in 1940, reportedly for supporting Polish forced laborers. “Here, you are defenseless, without dignity or rights,” Scheipers recalled being told on arriving at the Nazi camp.

Go here to read the rest.

2,579 Catholic priests, seminarians and brothers were thrown by the Nazis during World War II into Dachau.  1,780 of these were from Poland.  Of these, some 868 priests perished, 300 in medical “experiments” or by torture in the showers of the camp.

The remaining priests, seminarians and brothers came from 38 nations.  Besides the Poles the largest groups were 447 German and Austrian priests, 156 French priests and 46 Belgian priests. (more…)

Published in: on June 22, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Catholic Priests of Dachau  
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Book Haul: Thirty-Eight Dollars

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My bride and I enjoyed going to a used book sale last Thursday that we have been attending for about the last fifteen years.   We spent $38.00. As usual Don the spendthrift purchased most of the books:

1.  My bride purchased A Guide Through Narnia by Martha G. Sammons (1979) (Essays on C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” – but it was with the travel books, so I was expecting more of a Narnian gazetteer for travelers), The Bride Wore Pearls by Liz Carlyle (2012) (Historical romance novel set in the Victorian era; our Anglo-Indian heroine’s costume in the cover art is late Regency, though, and she hops into bed with our quasi-Masonic hero about half a dozen chapters in; not worth finishing), Lose 200 Lbs. This Weekend by Don Aslett (2000) (Another of his “de-clutter your life” books) and Schroeder’s Antiques Price Guide (1999) (The most recent they had there — presumably the collectors are hanging onto anything more recent; what I really needed was a print version of info I’d already found online about the collectible figurines I’m selling on eBay, plus tips on how to pack them for shipping).

I purchased all the rest:

2.   The Battle:  A History of the Battle of Waterloo by Alessandro Barbero (2003)-I like the fact that the author begins his book with quotes from Wellington indicating what folly it was to attempt to write the history of this battle.

3.   Ivory Vikings by Nancy Marie Brown (2015)-Speculation on the origin of nine medieval chess pieces.

4.   The Arms of Krupp (1968-paperback 1970)-William Manchester’s history of the German family of weapons manufacturers.

5.   The French and Indian War by Walter R. Borneman (2006)-The French and Indian War has been attracting more attention recently by scholars, which is a good thing.  The various French wars of the seventeenth and eighteenth century had an enormous impact on the colonies that would become the United States.  Our first steps toward a unified nation were taken as a result of these conflicts, and many of the men who led our forces in the American Revolution learned the trade of war in the greatest and last of these struggles.

6.   The Achievement of Samuel Johnson by W. Jackson Bate (1955)-A look at the writing and thought of one of my favorite literary curmudgeons.

7.   Bomber Offensive by Noble Frankland (1970)-One of the myriad Ballantine buck books on World War II that I gobbled up as a teenager.

8.   Abraham Lincoln by Thomas Keneally (2003)-One of the brief Penguin Lives where established authors write a short life of some famous individual.  The authors usually have no special expertise as a biographer of the subject they are writing about.  As one might expect, this experiment has produced mixed results.

9.   Leadership in War by Sir John Smyth (1974)-A look at British generals in World War II by a Brigadier General and holder of the Victoria Cross. (The Brit equivalent to the Medal of Honor.)

10.  Patton:  A Study in Command by H. Essame (1974)-A well written look at Patton by a British Major General who commanded a brigade in World War II.

11.  Aristotle For Everybody:  Difficult Thought Made Easy by Mortimer Adler (1978)-I have long been a fan of the work of the late Mortimer Adler.  A leader of the revival of interest in Saint Thomas Aquinas in the twenties, he founded the Great Books Program.  He spent his life explaining to moderns in the West their intellectual heritage.  A non-observant Jew, he long was attracted to Catholicism.  Baptized as an Episcopalian in 1984, the faith of his wife,  he was baptized into the Faith in 1999, two years before his death. (more…)

Published in: on June 20, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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June 18, 1815: The Noblest Cavalry in Europe–And the Worst Led

(I posted this yesterday at The American Catholic and I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

 

The charge of the Scots Greys scene from the movie Waterloo (1970), one of the greatest of war flicks.  Rod Steiger as Napoleon and Christopher Plummer as Wellington gave bravura performances.   My favorite section of the film: (more…)

Published in: on June 19, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on June 18, 1815: The Noblest Cavalry in Europe–And the Worst Led  
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