Witches, and Devils, and Spells – Oh My!

(This is a re-post of a story I wrote a few years back. In the “spirit” of the season, I hope you enjoy and share it.)

I don’t mean to spook anyone with this story, especially at this time of year, but it’s something I need to write about. I also don’t want to enter into the ad nauseam discussion about Halloween. You know, whether it’s okay for Christians to celebrate such a pagan holiday, or if it’s not because of the obvious references to witches, demons, and Elm Street horrors that scare the bejesus out of us and are anticipated with such delicious relish every October, like hot dogs slowly roasted over an open fire.

So, let me cut to the chase: celebrating Halloween is okay. Even though it may be totally un-PC knowing and sympathizing with the feelings of diabetics who cannot partake in the sweet fun, like Washington Redskin fans who can no longer take pride in tribal – I mean team-spirited enthusiasm.

But, on one waning-crescent moon night something very scary happened.

It was June 21st, in the early morning hours of the summer solstice. My wife and I were camping near Ricketts Glen State Park. A 13,000 acre national and natural landmark in Pennsylvania, known for its twenty-four waterfalls and breathtaking mountainous hiking trails; a wonderful forest filled with lore of Native-American tribes: Iroquoian-speaking peoples like the Susquehannock, who were a matriarchal society that honored and worshiped the female because of her life-giving capabilities. We didn’t know it, my wife and me, but our lives were about to be intertwined with mother earth and with spirits diabolical beyond description.

It all started innocently enough. We had booked our camping site a few weeks ahead of time as we usually do. We were looking forward to a great camping experience. I had checked out the state park’s website and was anticipating fishing for large-mouth bass, perch, and maybe some trout in nearby creeks. My wife was just looking for some down-time. She had been working so hard at her job. All she needed was a glass of wine and a good book, reading on the shore of the lake while I would bait and cast, catch and release. You know what I’m talking about, when you dream to get away, you just want to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, stretch out a little, and let the tension work itself out of your body. It’s just you and nature doing wonderful things together.

And, everything was going according to plan. We took in all the sights, especially the waterfalls, where we saw people doing yoga, communing with nature’s god and meditating. Reaching perfect bliss while paying homage to the trees and the water that cascaded down and over the brown-crimson shale, perhaps like the Iroquoian tribesmen centuries ago.

And while nature is a sure sign of God’s providence, His undeniable footprint on this earth, it is not worthy of homage. This belongs only to God and God alone. Nature is not, no matter how beautiful the vista of falling waters, Crayola-colored canyons, majestic mountains, or the simple serenity and tall-awesomeness of Pennsylvania pines to be worshiped. Only the creator is worthy of worship, not His creation, not His creatures.

Enter the Witches of Ricketts Glen

 We were fast asleep in our hybrid camper: our “Shamrock” that sported hard sides, a nice, little slide-out, and drop-down bunks like a pop-up trailer has – perfect outdoor Murphy beds with heated mattresses. It’s, as my daughter used to call a warm quilt on a cold night: comfy-and-a-cozy.

Anyway we were zombies in our sleeping bags when, at three o’clock in the morning I heard this loud scream. It was the type of noise that jerks your head upright even though you were in a sound sleep.

Then, another scream, but this time more piercing and prolonged. Okay, I said to myself, my wife is still out cold and there’s no need to panic. Maybe it will go away. After all we’re camping in the middle of the woods and strange sounds happen all the time. But, then other stuff happened.

I knew that the camper next door had three occupants: a man and a woman somewhere in their thirties and a young man, perhaps twenty-years-old. Yet the din now emanating and echoing around my “Shamrock” seemed to be coming from a hundred voices. I got up, without disturbing my wife and took a peek outside the window. I saw the two men dancing – no, not quite dancing, but stomping on their campfire. Yes, that’s right. They were in the fire pouncing up and down, yelling something unintelligible with their hands raised. They must be drunk, I thought. It’s three in the morning. They’ll stop soon and crash.

They didn’t. The fire got brighter. The men took turns banging their way into and out their camper. The woman screamed and four-letter-words barked and howled like a pack of wolves before my very door. But, the voices and guttural groaning were not of this world. I couldn’t and didn’t want to see it, yet I was also concerned if some kind of rape was going on. Was the woman being ravished without her consent? Were these weirdoes committing a sexual crime? And, if so, should I now, as I felt in every sinew of my body go into action to stop an atrocity?

That’s when my wife woke up.

“What the hell is going on?”

“Hell on earth,” I said, with a bit of sarcasm, but also with a nervous tremor in my voice.

My wife joined me sitting at the window. She was shaking.

“I think they’re part of some kind of cult,” I said, trying not to reveal the distress building inside of me. “Honey, I thought those guys were raping that woman, but by the sound of it, I’d say she was in on the whole thing. I think it’s an orgy or something.”

“You’re not going out there,” she stated flatly, in that tone of voice only a husband of thirty-three years can understand.

But then my John Wayne kicked in. “Oh yes I am. Where’s my baseball bat?”

“You haven’t used one in twenty years.”

“And, I don’t have a gun,” I lamented.

“What would you with that?”

“I’d scare the hell out of them like their scaring the hell out of us. For God’s sake, honey, we just can’t sit here all night listening to this.”

She wouldn’t let me go out and confront them, especially after we heard the sacrifice. I don’t know what kind of animal it was, but I heard one of them say “if it has to die, let it be merciful.” Strange, I didn’t know witches or Satanists cared about mercy.

By that time my wits were at an end. I was no longer scared. I was downright pissed off.

No, I’m not a violent person. I would never hurt a fly – well, unless it was in my camper and then I would swat away. But this whole thing just made me sick.

There were times in my own life where I wish somebody would have slapped a cold hand across my face. You know, when you’re doing something so wrong that only a two-by-four across the head can make you wake up and smell the coffee. When you’re totally out of control yet just don’t know it. But, these people were beyond the pale. They needed more than a good kick in the butt –they needed prayers and lots of them. I got out the only weapon I had, and the best one there is, my rosary.

After about two hours, things started to quiet down.

The only comment I heard from the camper next to us when the sun finally, thankfully, welcomed a new morning, and when their ritual was finally over was “I never felt such power as I did last night.”

Power? Listen pal, I’ve got power, too. So, I took the bottle of holy water I always keep in my truck and spritzed and sprinkled it all over my campsite, sending of few drops airborne over to my neighbor’s trailer as well.

I’m not an expert on the occult. I don’t want to be. I’m a sailor and I want as wide a berth as possible from those who practice black magic, witchcraft, and satanic rituals. Those who have fallen into the evil disorder of the universe are to be prayed for and not sympathized with or legitimized as our military has done.

On this Halloween, pray that you and your loved ones have that same safe berth. Far away from the demons and the poor souls who conjure them up from the depths of hell in order to experience the “powers” of the underworld.

As I said, there’s nothing wrong with Halloween. But there is definitely something wrong, sinful, scary, and ugly with communicating with the dark side. Why can’t common sense, or what used to be common decency, separate us from the evil powers that are so prevalent in our world and dominate our mass media. Is it because of mere curiosity? Or does the “power” or success one gains by communing with demons act like a drug, so that one’s soul is enslaved, forever dependent and chained to the wiles of the wicked. And at what a price!

In any event, if you plan to go camping this Halloween weekend, pay attention to the trailer or tent next to you. And, for God’s sake, make sure to bring along some holy water.

Happy Halloween.

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Meeting a Saint

(This is a re-edited article I wrote a few years back. St. John Paul the Great was an extraordinary priest, prelate, and human being. My memory of him is as strong today as it was on the day I met him. His feast day occurs this month. I ask him to send his blessings and prayers on all those who read this story. Enjoy)

I hadn’t seen Father Kelty in years. The last time was on a picket line in front of an abortion clinic on a crisp, breezy November morning in southeastern Pennsylvania. I was just out of high school and involved with our county’s pro-life organization. Father Kelty had enthusiastically joined our efforts to close the clinic. I had known him through my father when Kelty, before his ordination, was a legislative aide to a democratic state representative who was sympathetic to the pro-life movement. Through prayer, protest, and the help of like-minded public officials, the clinic was closed only weeks after it had opened. It was 1978. A new pope had been elected and a fresh, youthful wind was beginning to blow from the ancient, eternal city.

Although it had been over two decades, Ed Kelty hadn’t changed a bit. He met us at Leonardo da Vinci Airport wearing a black cassock and a big smile. Somehow, and I can’t recall the details, he had gotten a job as a liaison for the Vatican, working with the eastern churches who acknowledged the Bishop of Rome as the Supreme Pontiff. When my wife, Cathy, had earned enough frequent flyer miles traveling and telecommuting on her job from Philadelphia to St. Louis, we decided on a family vacation to Rome. I contacted Father Kelty who insisted we make our pilgrimage in the middle of June. He said he might have a nice surprise for us if we acceded to his request. We altered our travel dates and, in doing so, ended up changing our lives.

Throughout the next week, Father Kelty was our mentor and our guide. He spoke fluent Italian which came in handy, especially when ordering meals at the out-of-the-way trattorias in and around the city. Unlike the more formal ristorantes, the trattorias were small mom-and-pop eateries that Kelty preferred because of price and quality. Often, there were no menus and wine was sold by the decanter, not the bottle. Father would furiously bicker with the waiter (usually the papa) over the choice of cuisine. Thankfully, our pastor, Father John Foster, from St. Joseph the Worker Church, who was traveling with us as our guest, my mother, my wife, and my children did not understand any part of these gastronomical discussions, as there were more than a few spicy comments between papa and priest.

As true pilgrims, we had mass said at all four great patriarchal basilicas: St. Peter’s (we celebrated mass at the very tomb of the fisherman), St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls (where Father Kelty took us to Tre Fontane to see the grotto of the “Virgin of Revelation”), and St. Mary Major. Fathers Foster and Kelty con-celebrated the masses in Latin, and I read from the lectern in English. We visited the coliseum and said a rosary honoring the many nameless martyrs who were butchered there. At La Scala Sancta, my son, Patrick, on his knees, made his way up the twenty-eight marble steps (enclosed in wooden planking) leading up to the Holy of Holies and the praetorium of Pontius Pilate where Christ was judged.

Father Foster and I, my daughter, Mary Kate, who was nine-years-old, and my mother made a special excursion to Assisi. I have never in my life felt such peace. While gazing upon Francis’ crypt underneath the basilica, even though there were many pilgrims, not a whisper could be heard. The site breathed tranquility and blessed my soul with an indescribable gift of quietness. I smiled when I saw Brother Leo’s tomb lying so near to the remains of his sainted friend and confessor who taught him the meaning of “Perfect Joy”.

It was after this side trip when Father Kelty informed us his hoped for surprise had materialized. There was to be a meeting of the eastern churches with the pope. It was an annual event with a lengthy presentation on the affairs of the churches loyal to the magisterium. Somehow, Father Kelty managed to have us invited. We were to meet at the Vatican in front of the iron gates of the apostolic palace the next morning. Cathy and my mother had suitable black dresses to wear for the meeting. The boys had dark suits. Mary Kate, however, only had a little yellow dress. Nobody knew the protocol about children’s attire. We just assumed it would be okay.

After breakfast at the hotel we jumped into cabs and were immediately swept into the helter-skelter, bumper-to-bumper traffic nightmare that is part of everyday Roman existence. As we were driven over the Tiber, I remember thinking about the appropriateness of my daughter’s dress. She sat in the back of the cab chatting away with Cathy as mothers and daughters do everywhere. She had a finger twirled up in her long, brown hair, talking and looking at the other cars and mopeds, seemingly within touching distance. A plain, gold necklace with a simple cross adorned her neck. “Too cute” was the phrase used at the time in America, and it described her exactly. No need to worry, dad.

The cab driver pulled up in front of the palace where Father Kelty met us and introduced his departmental boss, an American bishop from the Midwest. Among the other guests were bearded clerics from the eastern churches, ambassadors of state, even royalty – everyone dressed to the nines. Mary Kate was the only child.

We were escorted into the palace with Swiss Guards snapping to attention as we passed. An elevator took us to a floor upstairs and we were led into one of the Raphael reception rooms with its magnificent frescoes lining walls and ceiling. We were seated in the very last row because we had no diplomatic standing. Suddenly, the majordomo opened the doors and tapped his staff on the tiled floor. Everyone stood. John Paul II, now an aged pontiff, slowly made his way into the room with a bent back and an unsure stride. He took his seat upon a cushioned throne and gazed at the fifty or so attendees. His eyes rested upon Mary Kate, standing out in all the finery of the room in a simple yellow dress.

The meeting took almost an hour. The entire time, the pope never took his eyes off of Mary Kate. When we first assembled outside the palace that morning, the American bishop told us he did not know if the pope would be able to greet us personally because of his suffering. Happily, however, John Paul nodded to his steward after the meeting had concluded and, one by one, the guests lined up in front of the throne. We were, of course, last in line. Mary Kate, who was understandably tenuous, took hold of my hand and looked up to me for guidance. I had instructed her to genuflect and kiss the pope’s ring. She didn’t. She just walked up to him and stood there beaming a winning smile. John Paul couldn’t resist. He gently placed his shaking and powerful arthritic hands over her shoulders and took her to him. The pope’s Mary-blue, Polish eyes danced delightedly. He kissed her on both cheeks. One of the cardinal’s standing on the right of the throne laughed repeatedly “bambina, papa … bambina!” It was Cardinal Ratzinger (soon to be Pope Benedict XVI). My turn was next. As I kissed his ring I felt the man’s strength. I have met many famous people in my life, from presidents to screen stars. All these meetings put together do not come close to the way I felt in the precious seconds I spent greeting this holy priest. The feeling has stayed with me ever since.

In his book Our Lady of Fatima, William Thomas Walsh, who interviewed Lucia extensively, wrote of how the children could not speak for some time after one of their encounters with the Mother of God. Karol Józef Wojtyla, Pope John Paul the Great, now recognized as a saint, had a similar effect on us, although, I’m sure he wouldn’t countenance such a lofty comparison. About an hour after our meeting, we sat down for a mid-day meal at a small trattoria just off Vatican Square. Father Kelty ordered for us (without argument). We just couldn’t speak.

 

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The Case for Columbus

 

 

Jim Lovell (played by Tom Hanks): “Imagine if Christopher Columbus had come back from the New World and no one returned.” Apollo 13 (1995) Universal Pictures.

They’re tearing down statues now. And history. And memory. The purveyors of political propriety who dictate the latest of whose in and whose out may swing around in any direction, at a moment’s notice, and point bony fingers at past heroes and declare them anathema. So who will be next? Who will be the latest victim of our past who cannot muster the madness of the new norms of societal acceptance? And, what test must they pass in the eyes of the pretended proletariat who falsely claim to be champions of justice?

Columbus, I think. He doesn’t stand a chance.

He’s been under attack in academia for years. Are there reasons for this? Yes. Of course there are, as anyone does who we put under a microscope and see for the first time through the eyes of modernity. But, that’s no reason to discount the historic victory Columbus achieved. He prevailed where the Vikings failed. He transcended ordinary thinking and centuries of legitimate doubt that said no one could sail west to reach the prize of the Indies because there was no port to replenish and re-provision ships on such a long voyage. This took guts. It was a unique vision of how the waves and winds acted in concert. And it required a brave and extraordinary man to not only sell this idea to the courts of Europe, but to actually do it.

But, this is not what modern man remembers. He knows only that Columbus brought destruction on an innocent populace. Search any Common Core web site and find that, surprise! Columbus was actually a very bad actor in a very bad play that brought nothing but misery and disease and slavery to the innocents of the western world. Ergo, he must not be emulated, esteemed, or, God forgive, remembered in granite as a hero for Americans of Italian heritage to honor and respect. Trust me. This is coming to a town near you. But, why?

For the very same reasons they uproot statues of Robert E. Lee. Like Columbus, and Washington and Jefferson and you name it in American history, these people had their faults and were a product of their times. Yet there are those today who cannot countenance any sins whatsoever that do not yield to their righteous indignation. Much like a preacher who only sees someone else’s sins and not their own, they clamor for popular acceptance thereby alleviating personal culpability. Case in point is Quinn O’Callaghan, who wrote a commentary piece published in the Philadelphia Inquirer last week. In his diatribe against the anticipated Philadelphia Columbus Day Parade he says this:

“The truth is that the defenders of Columbus Day and Confederate statues are the ones committed to rewriting history”

NO! The ones committed to rewriting history are those who ignore or dismiss it like an annoying fly or gnat who gets in the way of enjoying themselves at a family picnic. Or, diabolically, by deliberately skewing historical evidence in order to achieve a political agenda. Most Americans, I trust, are of the former persuasion only because we really don’t teach history any more. Just agreed upon garbage carefully sorted through sifts of universal sand where the bad guys are always what used to be called western civilization. Remember courses in college called Western Civ?

Although, it has become evident in recent years that forces (I mean money) have been provided to certain groups to alter the balance of power. Nevertheless, you can’t deny history with every whim that seems popular today and you can’t ignore truth when it faces you square in the face. You can, however, dismiss it if that suits your fancy. O’Callaghan continues:

“Monuments and holidays celebrating Columbus extol the Schoolhouse Rock edition of a conqueror and killer.” And, and this is really grist for the mill, “the iteration of Columbus we give a federal holiday to is born out of antiquated textbooks and bad junior high social studies classes.”

Having taught junior high school, I can agree with O’Callaghan on at least one thing, we should never have digressed to teaching “social studies” at all. We should have stuck to the time-honored liberal disciplines of history and geography. If we did, perhaps such nonsense would never be published in a major American newspaper.

Today, well, for the last fifty years or so – we’ve been looking at history through opaque lenses. Tinted so that we can only see what we’re told to see. It’s been a history lesson in optical illusion where facts are replaced or dismissed or ignored to make room for a triumphant exposition of progressive clarity.

When my kids were younger – I’m sorry, even to this very day, I always told them to look at the big picture when witnessing and evaluating current events. Because anything current has happened before whether we like it or not. Our culture dictates us to view ourselves, each other, and those who came before us with a new morality that is anything but transparent. In doing so, we fool ourselves. Nothing that much has really changed in the past millennium or two. We’d like to think that it has and that’s a comfort to us. But, human nature, whether it was Christopher Columbus’ or ours hasn’t changed that much at all. And, that’s the big picture. You can call Columbus a killer, blame him for genocide against innocent people, even say he began slavery. If it makes you feel good. But, it won’t come out in the wash.

I think Rodney Stark said it best in his book How the West Won (2014, Intercollegiate Studies Institute):

“Perhaps the primary conclusion to be drawn from these historical episodes involves the fundamental similarity of human nature. Just as there is nothing surprising about the fact the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas imposed great empires on those unable to resist them, so too it was to be expected that Europeans would impose empires on the people of the New World, especially since those indigenous peoples lacked metal weapons but were not short of precious metals. It surely is an instance of moral progress that colonialism has become unacceptable – at least in most Western societies. But it is pointlessly anachronistic to suppose that sixteen-century Europeans, Aztecs, or Incas should have known better.”

Christopher Columbus was and is an icon of modern civilization. He ushered in the Age of Discovery. He personally found a way west to a new world. He should be honored for his great deeds. Let parades march in Philadelphia for as long as we can honestly appreciate history and those who made it.

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Jˈaccuse…! D’Souza’s Big Expose

There were times while reading Dinesh D’Souza’s new book The Big Lie where I was reminded of Emile Zola’s famous letter of 1898 to the French newspaper LˈAurore accusing President Félix Faure of antisemitism. Like Zola’s historic, combative and wide ranging defense of Captain Alfred Dreyfus involving false accusations of espionage, D’Souza launches an all-out attack upon the Democratic Party in America and its progressive allies. The “big lie” to both Zola and D’Souza is a carefully laid out conspiracy to cover up the sins of the past and accuse the innocent in order to distort the truth. The bulk of D’Souza’s work mirrors my own in the study of Social Darwinism[i] in that it chronicles its diabolical and bloody march through most of the 20th century, and its iniquitous implications for today. But, first a quick synopsis.

Let’s start with D’Souza’s true intent on writing his book:

“My goal is to produce a genealogy in the sense of the term that Nietzsche wrote in his Genealogy of Morals.[ii] Nietzsche hopes, by giving an account of the origin of Christian morality, to discredit it by revealing its allegedly base roots. My goal is to show the base origins of fascism, not so much to discredit it–it should hardly be necessary in our time to do that–but to put to bed once and for all the big lie that makes fascism a phenomenon of the Right. Without this lie, the claim that Trump and the GOP are fascists simply crumbles.”

And what a genealogy. D’Souza traces the roots of the Democratic Party from its inception in 1828 to the present day. Throughout his well-researched and well cited work, the author meticulously documents the political party’s poisonous footprint on American history starting with Andrew Jackson signing the Indian Removal Act in 1930. Because of this heinous legislation members of the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations were forced to move west of the Mississippi River. Thousands perished in the “Trail of Tears” along the way.

D’Souza then details the Democratic Party’s fight to make slavery an institution guaranteed by law. In the Dred Scott decision, the seven democratic justices declared blacks not people but property. Through the Plantation Period or Antebellum Era, Democrats strove to legalize slavery in newly arriving states and established territories. The American Civil War was an inevitable clash of national consciousness brought on not by the firing on Fort Sumter, but by the intransigence of a political party that could not recognize “that all men are created equal.

D’Souza pursues the democrats in the decades following reconstruction, and into our previous century with its Jim Crow laws, lynching’s, and the history of the Ku Klux Klan (a de facto militia organization utilized by the Democratic Party to enforce its racist agenda).

Where D’Souza’s research and mine dove tail is in uncovering the history of euthanasia and eugenics. We agree it has its genesis in Europe and America as part of the theory of Social Darwinism. We diverge a bit in that D’Souza concentrates solely upon the sins of the Democratic Party and conveniently omits mention of the culpability – indeed, the orchestration of the eugenics movement both as a racial and radical pseudo-scientific movement by republican stalwarts Theodore Roosevelt, Alexander Graham Bell, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie. In England supporters included Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, and Lord Balfour.

D’Souza implicates, with justification, the role of academia in pushing the progressive ideas of eugenics. Still, despite support from Ivy League professors, there began, in the years leading up to World War II, a wave of dissention because the zeitgeist and early euphoria eugenics and euthanasia enjoyed began to crumble around the edges. Not so much because of Nazi programs (read pogroms) but because many scientists were becoming outraged at the lack of scientific methodology and they started to speak out.

Sustained intellectual opposition, very early in the discussion of eugenics, included American sociologist Lester Frank Ward,[iii] anthropologist Frank Boss,[iv] G. K. Chesterton,[v] and Pope Pius XI.[vi] Yet D’Souza fails to credit these credible adversaries of eugenics, possible because it doesn’t follow his genealogical narrative.

Additionally, D’Souza is remiss in following the money trail throughout the post-WWII period. Rockefeller funding continued to pour into organizations espousing eugenics and euthanasia, and, to an even greater extent, pro-abortion advocates. Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s republicans turned a deaf ear to prolife pleas for help. This continues with liberal and moderate republicans today.

Yet, the overwhelming evidence compiled correctly in D’Souza book is that the Democratic Party is guilty of gross injustice to the most vulnerable in our society: minorities, the poor, the aged, those with mental and physical disabilities, and, of course, the unborn. This is indeed a collaborative effort from the Left that has re-resurrected socialist hegemony. Hear D’Souza’s reasoned opinion:

“I am also referring to what the Nazis called Gleichschaltung. The term itself means “coordination” and it refers to the Nazi effort to use intimidation across the cultural institutions of society to bring everyone into line with Nazi priorities and Nazi doctrine. Progressives in America are using their dominance –-actually their virtual monopoly–in the fields of academia, Hollywood, and the media to enforce their own Gleichschaltung. They do this not merely through the type of blatant propagandizing and outright lying that would do Joseph Goebbels proud, but also through the relentless battering and forced exclusion of dissident voices from their cultural institutions, so that there is only one point of view that is communicated to the vast majority of students and citizens.”

Today, unfortunately, there is a convoluted interpretation of what fascism (Benito Mussolini), National Socialism (Adolf Hitler), and international communism (Joseph Stalin) really mean. And, this is the “Big Lie” D’Souza is constantly alluding to. Fascism, Nazism, and communism all find their genesis on the Left of the political spectrum; not on the Right as is commonly misunderstood today.

D’Souza quotes Mussolini in his Autobiography:

“The foundation of fascism is the conception of the State. Fascism conceives the State as an absolute, in comparison to which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State. For us Fascists, the State is not only a living reality of the present, it is also linked with the past and the future, and thus transcending the brief limits of individual life, it represents the immanent spirit of the nation.”

This flies in the face of our constitutional guarantees of individual liberty which is sacrosanct in our nation’s history. There is no room for fascism, Nazism, and communism within the parameters of our constitutional republic. It would be beneficial for all Americans to look back at where we have come from, what we have fought and died for, and what our country’s flag truly stands for.

Emile Zola’s letter forced France to look within itself. It not only saved Captain Dreyfus from the perdition of Devil’s Island, it eventually helped bring down the government. Zola never extolled the virtues of violence in order to accomplish this. He used a weapon rarely tolerated today: the truth. D’Souza thinks he has done likewise. Give The Big Lie an unprejudiced read. Our system of government and our very way of life in America may depend upon your conclusions.

Notes:

[i] https://en.widipedia.org. (2017). Applying the evolutionary concept of natural selection to human society

[ii] Nietzzsche, Friedrich. 1887.

[iii] Ward, Lester F. 1913. Eugenics, Euthenics, and Eudemics. Chicago: American Journal of Sociology.

[iv] Boas, Franz. Eugenics. The Scientific Monthly Vol. 3 (July-December, 1916).

[v] Chesterton, G. K. 1922. Eugenics and Other Evils: An Argument Against the Scientific State.

[vi] Encycl. Casti Connubii. Dec. 31, 1930.

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Our Sacred Honor

Maybe it’s not in the current vocabulary of today’s world with the exception of many of our military and law enforcement personnel. It’s rarely mentioned in the media, hardly ever in modern literature, never in today’s movies or television, because it’s not even thought about or taught about or even alluded to in our grade schools, our high schools, and our universities. It’s called honor.

I’m not talking about egotism or the scratches upon one’s vanity that led to duels in previous centuries. That’s just the sin of pride. True honor is virtuous, just, and bespeaks wisdom. It evokes and demands upon our consciousness a sense of fidelity. It can never be contradicted by those who actually internalize its meaning because that would mean self-destruction. The person who lives by its code is duty bound to abide by divine dictates and must lead a life of pious contemplation which can often conflict with the status quo. There simply is no other way.

In this there is truth. St. Thomas Aquinas put it succinctly in his Two Precepts of Charity: “There are three things necessary for the salvation of man: To know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; to know what he ought to do.”

The brilliance of this quote lies not in secret but in the obvious. It’s all about being honest with yourself. It speaks of duty and obligation. Aquinas’ words of instruction kindle within our souls a sense of concrete destiny.

Despite current theological and philosophical arguments, especially concerning gradualism in the reception of Holy Communion (as if this had any standing in Catholic teaching which it does not), and the politically correct dictates of moral and cultural relativism, there is and always has been the pang of innate and supreme wisdom instilled in all of us to do the right thing. Of course this is sometimes never easy. We seek, like water, our way to lower ground. Driven by gravitational forces for the easiest path. Downhill we may go for a while but there is something in us that propels us to greater things, greater pursuits, greater knowledge and wisdom. And this greater inclination is God’s voice, sometimes subtle yet always real and compelling and stringent. It’s what “we ought to do.”

Today, we struggle for meaning in our lives. We search for promise in a world devoid of hope and rife with promises broken. This is because the world offers us little in the way of true happiness and satisfaction. It cannot deliver what it claims. Since it is not God-centered it can never do so. And, since it dismisses the “honor” of God, it drives us into an oblivion of dissatisfaction and eternal remorse. It compels us to obliterate faith in a higher power and stake our claims on the state as our lord and savior. No wonder we wander in a desert of “fake news” and rumors of things which hold no truth. No wonder we seek pleasure in fleeting experiences and popular, but not well-grounded, illusions that the world would be a better place without any religion at all.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

It certainly wasn’t for our Founding Fathers. Whether they believed or not in an all-encompassing and hands-on God who directly did intervene in the lives of mankind (like George Washington), or who passively let things go as they may after the act of creation (like Thomas Jefferson), they certainly referenced sacred scripture on a daily bases and in our most important and historical documents.

Let’s not get into the separation of church and state thing, please. For anyone knowledgeable, and that’s an understatement, on American history, there is no question about the impact of biblical authority on both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. These men knew this and knew it intimately. The bible was their mainstay. It spoke to them as it speaks to us now. Our republic was founded upon it, no matter what they teach in schools today.

Our founders did, without question, a heroic and historic deed. When they signed the Declaration they knew it was a death warrant. They knew that their homes and property would be forfeited. They certainly knew the impact it would have on their families. They accepted, somehow, the fact that everything they had worked for would be compromised, destroyed, ruined, and annihilated because of one signature on a document. Eleven of them did lose everything. A few lost their lives.

Yet, there is one thing they never lost: their sacred honor. Because they knew and had internalized the code of Aquinas. They knew what “they ought to do.” They did it. And that’s what we celebrate with parades and banners and marching bands and hot dogs and ball games and fireworks today.

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On Dads, Stick Ball, and Ice Cream

I read an article recently on the dangers of obesity in children and how this threat is growing not just in American culture but throughout all first world nations. I know (you do, too), this is not news. It’s been endemic in developed countries for the last thirty years or so. But, the author of the story seemed to suddenly discover it amid the controversy about taxing sugared drinks in some major American cities. Of course, it had nothing to do with a new source of revenue only about the health of our children.

If my father was alive today he would probably have had a conniption fit (people back in the day used to have conniptions, in fact it was quite commonplace especially after your team lost in overtime). Dad would have said that government had no place taxing a beverage, any beverage, just because elitist community and municipal planners, who know better than the helots that populate this planet, deigned to protect the ignorant masses out of the benevolence of their own hearts. Yes, dad would have said that because he saw the coming intrusions of dictatorial social engineering as far back as the sixties. Sometimes, I’m glad he is not on earth today to see the havoc that has ensued in our schools, our military, in our places of work, in our neighborhoods since the advent of Orwellian master planning and the devastating effects it has had on our lives and how it has brainwashed our children to believe, no longer in a higher power, but on governmental largess. He would have been sickened by the consequences of politically correct mind control. Dad would have been crushed to see this even penetrate our church and be championed by a pope named Francis.

He always maintained that, given their own imaginative resources, kids could pretty much take care of themselves, as long as they were instructed and disciplined enough to eat their vegetables at dinner, attend to their religious obligations, obey the law, respect elders, and come home when the streetlights came on.

Unlike today, where our children eat what they want, have no idea who and what God expects them to be, and are slaves to electronic devises that keep them inside four walls, deprive them of social skills, increase inertia (if that’s possible), and cause corpulence unimaginable just a generation ago.

Yet, we (if you were part of the baby boomers) had sugar, I mean real sugar, and plenty of it. And ice cream and Italian water ice and Coke and Pepsi, not to mention pizza and French fries and hot dogs and potato chips and popsicles and candy and carbs galore! What changed?

A lifestyle changed.

Case in point is stickball. Mind you, dad introduced this to us when we were very young. Like most kids growing up in the northeast, especially in an urban setting, stickball (in its many variations) was an ideal sports activity which occupied our time over sultry summer days. Ideal, because it required limited space when a spacious ballfield was not conveniently located just down the street. In fact, you could and did play it in the street. What better place? That’s where all your friends were anyway. And when nobody had any money to spend on expensive sports equipment or uniforms, it was the perfect antidote to what the nuns taught us about idle hands and minds being the Devil’s playground. It also taught us a sense of discipline.

Now, here’s the Philly version:

It’s called stickball because you would play it with the broom or mop handle you stole out of your mom’s cleaning closet. You’d saw off the broom or mop, then wrap some electrical tape (“Stickum” really, before “Stickum” became illegal in the NFL in 1981) around the stick handle. This gave you a firm grip on the stick (bat) and we used it because nobody had any rosin that I knew of. Then you’d take a simple pimple ball and cut it in half. I know they really don’t sell these anymore, but they were abundantly available at any drug store or five-and-dime in the sixties. In a pinch, you could use a tennis ball and cut that in half, it would go farther, too.
My dad taught me how to pitch the half-ball (which some people called the game). You could toss it underhand hoping that it would be a flat saucer when it came to the plate, or you could wing it side-armed and curve it like Kent Tekulve did in the seventies with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Either way it was effective.

Because it was cut in half, the ball, after contact, never went that far, never broke a window or dented a car. You didn’t want to over swing, because one strike meant an out. You simply wanted to make contact. This taught us to be patient and choose judiciously. But there were other ways to occupy your time if the guys on the block weren’t available to play.

If you were by yourself with nothing else to do you could invent your own game playing curb ball. Throwing the ball against the curb and having it ricochet, hopefully, into your glove and causing an out. You could do this for nine miraculous innings all the while playing the major league game in your head. It was all about using your wits, your fantasies, your imagination, and thoroughly enjoying and entertaining yourself on an otherwise hot and boring summer afternoon. It was also about using your muscles. Every day, and I mean every day, this was a child’s routine, along with hopscotch and jump roping for the girls.

I know this might be pure nostalgia, perhaps even wishful thinking: that children today could revert and revel in the joys of my own past that has always brought me fond memories of stickball and curb ball and riding a banana bike seat searching for adventure without a penny in my pocket but with full expectations of a glorious day ahead of me.

Perhaps the days have gone when dads used to play “pepper” with their kids using only a bat and a ball and glove, where your father would challenge you with a ground ball, a line drive, or a pop up, and always directing his bat to surprise you with which way the ball was going; perhaps kids can’t exercise their imaginations anymore without the use of artificial stimuli to spark preconceived notions not embellished in their own minds, but placed there by manufactures of a false and cruel unreality that robs them of their innocence and their very childhood. By violence. By seductive and sexual innuendo if not overt corruption.

For all the Little League dads (and moms for that matter) who cherish every game and encourage their young ones on to persevere despite adversity, I congratulate you on a job well done. But, remember, victory for your children is not in winning anything. It is in the freedom you give them to exercise their innate potentials they have been blessed with, possibly from the beginning of time, by Our Lord and Master; in the potential to express themselves with imagination and exuberance. Maybe even with just a stick and a half ball.

And, oh, treat them to an ice cream cone with jimmies and a cherry on top.

Happy Fathers’ Day.

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Reagan’s Memorial Day Question

Perhaps, like you, I’ve always enjoyed hearing again President Ronald Reagan’s speeches (you can hear them over at You Tube, please treat yourself to find out what political speeches are really meant to be).

In 1976, when Reagan ran against the incumbent, Gerald Ford (really the constitutional successor of Richard Nixon since Ford was never elected to the presidency), my family of blue collar democrats cheered Reagan as we heard him deliver a speech in support of Ford at the Republican National Convention. We cheered because we knew, as everyone attuned to politics did at that time, Reagan should have been the nominee. He spoke to our hearts. Ford was not the right candidate for the times. And we felt the farmer from Georgia was not either. The world was changing, certainly not in a good or holy way. Catholics clamored for a return to normalcy the church refused to grant us. We were in the midst of the “spirit” of post Vatican II. We didn’t like it. It was forced upon us like a thunderstorm with cloudbursts which certainly dovetailed with the times but left the faithful like a ship without an anchor.

Like us, millions of hard working Americans anticipated the campaign of 1980 and the return of “the Gipper.” After four painful years of Jimmy Carter, America was ready to express, not its collective “malaise” but a new and energetic sense of patriotism. Reagan, with a sparkle in his eye and conveying an unmitigated certitude of nationalistic pride provided us with the raw materials to make that happen.

I know, an actor he might have been, but even Tip O’Neill, the crafty and astute democrat and long-time Speaker of the House from Massachusetts, knew Reagan could and would communicate his opinions with a homespun Midwestern voice that stretched across our Continental Divide and reach both coastlines with ease and a magnetic message, comforting to the listener, of enduring values and time-tested virtues. In the lifetimes of those that had experienced the uproar of the sixties, political assassinations, a presidential abdication, and vast changes in our national mores and morality, Ronald Reagan was a tonic much needed and very much a balm applied to and alleviating our country’s aches and pains.

But, it was his voice which made all the difference.

And, it was something he said in a Memorial Day Speech on May 31st, 1982 that opened up this, at that time, young democrat’s mind. It was a question. It was the way he subtly put it. It was a question not of Reagan’s making, he did not write it, nor any of his speechwriters, who he really didn’t need any way for he was, himself, like Lincoln, a great writer. He was only quoting the lyrics of our national anthem. Yet, I’d never really thought about it before or even given it any credence whatsoever.

Me, who has written two novels based on the War of 1812. And I thought I knew everything about that time in our nation’s history, even to the last stich on the magnificent flag of our great “Old Glory” flying proudly over Fort McHenry, in Baltimore Harbor as the sun finally broke through a perilous night and revealed to a young Francis Scott Key that our flag was still there.

Remember, Ronald Wilson Reagan was born in 1911, in Tampico, Illinois. He was young, but old enough, perhaps, to remember the “Great War,” (1914-1918) supposedly “the war to end all wars.” World War I surely would have come to have an influence on him and had an effect upon his family and Tampico residents in general as it did everywhere in the world, especially among the “Doughboys” and their families in the Midwest. Much more so would be the influence World War II had upon all Americans, including Reagan, who had to endure stateside service because of his failing eyesight. Add to that, he lived through the so called police actions in Korea and Vietnam. Through all of this turmoil, Reagan never forgot the price to be paid for our freedoms. It was instilled in him and forever would peal out like a church bell on Sunday morning. Certainly, his magnificent Memorial Day speeches both in 1984, where he dedicated his thoughts to courageous Vietnam veterans, and 1986, when he singled out three American veterans buried at Arlington: Joe Lewis, Audie Murphy, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, were more than fitting and decidedly memorable. But, it was his 1982 speech at Arlington which caught my attention and imagination. Listen to this in your mind’s eye and hear his voice:

“The willingness of some to give their lives so that others might live never fails to evoke in us a sense of wonder and mystery. One gets that feeling here on this hallowed ground, and I have known that same poignant feeling as I looked out across the rows of white crosses and stars of David in Europe, in the Philippines, and the military cemeteries here in our own land. Each one marks the resting place of an American hero, and in my lifetime, the heroes of World War I, the Doughboys, the GI’s of World War II or Korea or Vietnam. They span several generations of young Americans, all different and yet all alike. Like the markers above their resting places, all alike in a truly meaningful way.

“Winston Churchill said of those he knew in World War II they seemed to be the only young men who could laugh and fight at the same time. A great general in that war called them our secret weapon, “just the best darned kids in the world.” Each died for a cause he considered more important than his own life. Well, they didn’t volunteer to die; they volunteered to defend values for men have always been willing to die if need be, the values which make up what we call civilization. And how they must have wished, in all the ugliness that war brings, that no other generation of young men to follow would have to undergo that same experience.

“As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation. And let us also pledge to do our utmost to carry out what must have been their wish: that no other generation of young men will have to share their experiences and repeat their sacrifice.

“Earlier today, with the music that we have heard and that of our National Anthem – I can’t claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the world, but I don’t know of any other that ends with a question and a challenge as ours does: Does that flag still wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave? This is what we must all ask.”

Think about it. Every generation must ask this question. The question at the end of the first stanza of Francis Scott Key’s poem. Key didn’t put in an exclamation point, he put in a question mark I’d never noticed before. But it makes sense doesn’t it?

This Memorial Day we must, for it is our duty to do so, ask this question of ourselves and of our nation. We must answer it honestly as if our country’s future depended upon it. Because it does.

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