Becoming America

I am one of those people who doesn’t get along with her body. Or, as my son calls it “inadvertent suicides” by which he means in his work at the emergency room he sees many people come in who are at or almost near the point of death but who put off coming in because they were convinced that their symptoms were “nothing.”

I add another layer to that in that I don’t trust my body further than I can throw it, and at the current avoir du pois I can’t jump that far. I.e. I expect my body to be influenced by my mind and my mind is full of iniquity. It wouldn’t be the first time I tried to write something that I darn well DIDN’T WANT to write, and my body did the good ol’ shut down and “we’re going to turn off in five minutes.”

Well, maybe that wasn’t true. Because you see, there’s always another way to look at it. That’s what I assumed the problem was at the time, but it now seems fairly sure I was actually in horrible shape, and could sort of force myself to write books I really wanted to write, but the others just let the body win, because the body was all screwed up.

In fact, in view of recent discoveries, it’s a miracle I’ve functioned as well as I have for the last 15 years or so, and not a surprise at all it came to near total shutdown these last two years.

That’s not the subject, here, but it is important to know that every time we find out there was a reason behind behavior I had trouble combating, I am relieved: it wasn’t my fault after all. I’m not trying to avoid work, and I’m not very lazy. There is a physical root to all these troubles, and the route can be taken care of.

Even if the route couldn’t be taken care of, it would be a relief to know it wasn’t my fault. And I probably could fight it better knowing it was “real.”

Maybe I’m peculiarly put together (No duh, Sarah?), maybe not. Even if I am peculiarly put together, we all know our country is peculiarly put together too.

(Yeah, I heard that “What?” Bear with me. I haven’t had Percocet since last night having reached the point the pain is preferable to the nausea, but it takes a while to clear from the system.)

Part of the problem with self government is that we each of us blame ourselves for the mess we’re in. Actually what is really funny for people my generation is that we tend to blame ourselves for pretty much everything.

The problem with taking a snapshot of the country as it is in this position in time and seeing all the problems is that we tend to despair. You hear all the variants “Oh, look, the thing is, the country isn’t the same it wasn’t at the founding, and so…”

No, and that’s a given. Fortunately humanity, technology and the world aren’t what they were at the founding, either. (Trust me, you wouldn’t like it.)

And the US IS change. We’re an engine of change in the world, which is why someone either Bill Whittle or Ed Driscol, (can’t remember. Percocet) coined the phrase that “the future comes from America.”

We are the scary-serious kid who not only comes in and takes the lead in the class, but who is always inventing new things no one would have thought of without him.

The problem is this: the ideas of our founding, that grand resounding poetry of the declaration of independence are so new, so strange, so revolutionary that it couldn’t come to fruition in the world as it was now.

I’ll let CACS talk about it some time, but the more I study, the more I see those grand ideas honored more in the breach.

Becoming America is a job of retreat and stumble, of standing up and of crawling, of moving by inches towards being what we said we were, and of being buffeted almost all the way back.

You can read the history, it’s there. From the Alien and Sedition act, to situations as dire as the Woodrow Wilson Admnistration. And then the interesting vortex of soviet propaganda and population glut of the sixties which seems to be destroying our culture from within.

But it isn’t. Or not really. It’s just another step on the road to becoming America. Okay, maybe it’s the baseball bat to the face and set back six feet. But the game started LONG before anyone now alive was born. And it will go on long after we’re dead.

Think of it as sort of my relationship with my body. By all that’s right and holy, born at home, in the middle of winter, extremely premature, I shouldn’t have survived the night. I certainly shouldn’t have functioned enough to finish elementary school, much less advanced studies. I spent the greatest part of my childhood on bed rest, though that’s not the part I remember (Though it’s why I’m bookish, I think. Otherwise I’d never have stopped long enough to learn to read.) And most of my life has been negotiated against the perpetually breaking down body.

But if you don’t know that, if you don’t see, as I do (and despair of) the long periods of silence and illness, it seems like I’m always on the go.

Because there’s things I must do to be me. So I do them. When I can. The hardest thing being to have patience and to take it slow with the down periods.

America is like that too, because it’s such a huge idea it has trouble fitting in with the human condition.

Which is why we go through some pretty dark periods.

It might look like the end, but it’s not, because our founding is one of those ideas that once unleashed on the world can’t be put down. We just have to figure out how to bring reality in conformance to it. And a great part of the despair is that we (my generation in particular) feel guilty. We weren’t taught. We didn’t know. We collaborated with the enemy unknowing.

But all that is small, in the spread of time from the founding and the spread of the time to the future. And we were just picking up the standard where it lay, and now we’re carrying it. The game will go on a long time. We shouldn’t try and can’t expect to win it all today.

The patient has been sick a long time. We must be tolerant of relapses and naps.

Teach your children well!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Don’t despair. You’re not supposed to do all of it today. It doesn’t all rest on your shoulders. Be patient with the foibles of humanity. Be patient with our occasional crawls in the mud. See where the standard bearer last fell. Pick up the flag and run with it.

America comes from the future, and that’s where we’re headed. That future where we’ll finally figure out how to live up to our founding.

Lift that flag. We’re becoming America.

160 responses to “Becoming America

  1. All Right Thinking™ people have always been horrified by the idea of America.

    (funny how the Political Left is always so involved in Right Thinking, and I use the word “funny” quite wrongly…)

    America is, at its core, a denial of the principal that the vast majority of people exist to be ordered around by their Betters. And as technology makes it harder and harder for those self-nominated Betters to bar the gates against the Great Unwashed, America can really get rolling.

    The next century will be crucial. Just like the last century.

    I’m making popcorn.

    • William O. B'Livion

      The problem is that a significant number of the Great Unwashed want their better to boss them around.

      • No. A significant number of the Great Unwashed don’t want to be bothered with thinking, and that plays into the desires of their self-nominated “betters”. Only a very few want to fawn, to be toadies.

        • William O. B'Livion

          They don’t want to be toadies, or to kiss ass, and it’s not that they don’t want to think, it’s that they don’t want to be *responsible* for anything. Thus kings and priests.

          And the thing is they’re about half right–they aren’t competent to run their own lives.

          The other half they’re wrong about is that anyone else is competent to run their life for them.

  2. When they diagnosed my thyroid problem, I cried with relief. After years of being told I was crazy, lazy and stupid, I finally had an answer. Relief is normal when you’re used to just carrying on in the face of pain and then suddenly someone acknowledges it and begins to help you fix it.

    • Sometimes it’s just a relief to know, even. I know a lot of adults who are lightly on the autism spectrum, and the thing they all describe is the immense relief they had when they finally figured it out. (Not in the least because there are certain strategies that help people on the spectrum cope, and knowing where to look for them is so much easier than just wondering why you’re broken.)

  3. Yeah, what y’all said. When I was finally diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, it proved to me I really WAS hurting, and that I wasn’t just faking it to get drugs.

  4. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Say it sister!

    In general, the eternal quest for America, which cannot be killed so long as one of us fanatics continues to draw breath.

    In health also. If I knew my remaining problems were character, maybe I could just accept my lot in life. If I knew the remaining undiscovered problems were medical…

  5. The biggest problem with American history is recognizing that our low periods have been low indeed, and we’re still the best hope of humanity. I’m often amazed that our system survived Wilson–and Grant, Jackson, Polk, Buchanan, etc. Heck, every president has the worst of it in one way or another. We’ve managed to muddle through despite wannabe dictators, genocide, religious persecution, racial discrimination, slavery, war, and (sometimes even worse) peace. Sometimes when I read history I think that the hard times are necessary to humble and reset certain portions of our populace, and that the prosperous times are the ones to be wary of. Men like Obama are possible through lives of ease and comfort. Men like Washington and Lincoln are forged by their failures.

    Just my two cents.

    • I’ll give you Wilson and most certainly Buchanan. Jackson was, um, interesting.

      Grant himself was not so bad, but was overwhelmed by the intrenched government that had arisen post the unpleasantness and that was definitely not so good. At that time the Congress had done much to contain the power of the Presidency to neuter Andrew Johnson, who directly preceeded Grant.

      Many regard Polk as one of the better Presidents. One thing in his favor, when he ran he said he only intended to serve only one term, and did so.

      • Jackson was certainly interesting. And I included Grant and Polk precisely because they aren’t necessarily thought of as bad men, or even bad presidents–but Grant had one of the most corrupt administrations in history, and Polk… well, it’s hard to respect a man who will not stop the persecution of a religious group, but will ask that same group to supply a battalion to his war effort. After they had had already left the states and were headed to settle in Indian territory, outside the US jurisdiction.

        • At the time, was it the job of the Federal Gov. to stop the persecution, or was it the job of the State? Stoping the persecution might have been the right thing to do in general, but was it Constitutionally permitted for the Federal Gov. to do it? On the other hand, war is certainly a Federal responsibility.

          • Good questions.

            Was it the Federal Government’s job to stop religious persecution in a state? Probably not at the time. Yes the First Amendment limited the power of the Federal government with regards to religious practice. The Tenth assigned all powers and ability to regulate not given to the Federal government by the constitution to the various states. The 14th Amendment had yet to be passed — it prohibited any state from making or enforcing …any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States….

            • Good point. Things usually have to be judged in context, and it is true that when Joseph Smith met President Van Buren, the latter supposedly said, “What can I do? I can do nothing for you,—if I do any thing, I shall come in contact with the whole State of Missouri.” and Missouri was already a touchy subject, politically. It seems callous to us now, but the distinction between Federal and State powers was much clearer and more distinct then than now. It still doesn’t absolve the Federal Government’s demand for 500 Mormons to fight against Mexico when that same government would not even guarantee them safe passage out of the sovereign states.

            • If taken as the Constitution was interpreted then (Barron vs. Baltimore was the precedent case, IIRC), your rights as a resident or citizen of a state were enshrined in that state’s constitution. So if Illinois decided it had an established church, it could set one up. If it decided that it didn’t want neo-pagans, Roman Catholics, Latter Day Saints, or Baptists muddying the theological waters, well, there’s the border. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the Supreme Court held that the national Bill of Rights applied to the states as well. (In fact, the so-called Slaughterhouse Cases put that initial idea into legal writing, more-or-less, from the 1870s- Brown et al in the 1950s.)

        • Given the general narrative about Grant, I kind of doubt that his administration was anywhere near as corrupt as, say, Wilson’s. Or FDR’s. Or LBJs. Grant was a Republican, and historiams have, for the last century or so, had a personal interest in undermining the Republican party.

          • Perhaps I should have said the most blatantly corrupt up to that time. Since then, well, we’ll be sorting out the current administrations scandals for years to come.

            • Oh, and may I suggest for consideration Harding’s administration, which, among many others, had Teapot Dome?

              • Boy, talk about a slow scandal. It took about 3/4 of a century from Harding, until Al Gore finally managed to wrestle that gem from the Navy’s strategic reserve and hand it to The Kronies ™.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              That was totally the fault of the Democrats. Bring back Ironclad Loyalty! Death to the Mugwumps!

              Seriously, when the Democrats took themselves out of power, it wasn’t a good thing. Effective single state party status did not do the Republican Party any good.

              One of my contentions is that spending too much time in that status has flavored Democratic Party institutional culture for the worse.

              As for the current administration, there is no and never will be any scandal. No one should have ever expected better of a Democrat in the first place. 🙂

            • Well, you know, it is likely that ere that nobody had thought that corruption could be used to create a scandal and many people were shocked, shocked to discover it going on.

              They all thought of it as business as usual, as one handing washing the other and all part of the spoils system.

          • Grant had an ineffective presidency, rather than a rotten one.

            The company Credit Mobilier had been formed during Lincoln’s Presidency. When it came to light during the Grant administration a number of serving Congressmen and the Vice President were found to be involved, Grant was not.

            I am not sure that the gold release to stop Jay Gould and James Fisk’s attempt to corner the gold market that lead to a precipitous drop in the price of gold, referred to as Black Friday – 1869, should be classified under scandals.

            One does carry some weight against Grant. That was the Whiskey Ring. While Grant condemned those who were involved and stated he wanted their prosecution he took steps to protect his own private secretary.

          • Grant had many enemies and few friends — and many of his enemies owned printing presses. IIRC, the real hits to his administration started about the time he attempted to enact Lincoln’s post-war plans rather than enable the punitive looting of the enemy.

      • “Jackson was, um, interesting. ”

        That about sums it up, Jackson had his good points but was a flawed man (I know, we all are, but his flaws would make him considered unfit for office today). He definitely had some positive aspects to his Presidency as well as the negatives, however.

        • In March of 1818, While Jackson was off fighting Seminoles in Florida, there was a raid on the border of the Creeks and Georgia settlers that resulted in one settler killed, another scalped alive, and more casualties in the ensuing skirmish where the Indians routed a militia force half their size. Gov. Rabun of Georgia asked Jackson to release some of the militiamen under his command to protect the border, and Jackson ignored him. Using what forces he could muster, Rabun had cavalry patrol the border, and sent a reprisal raid on the town supposedly responsible. In route, the militiamen received word that another town was responsible, found cattle taken in the raid on the outskirts, and a rifle of one of the militiamen killed in the skirmish. They attacked the town and burned it to the ground.

          When Jackson interrupted his own town burning long enough to take notice, he had a running fit. Now, this town had given him aid before he left Georgia, so naturally he was partial, and, if the town wasn’t playing both sides and picked up the cattle and rifle from the guilty parties, had a point. But Jackson went on to berate Georgians as ignorant frontiersmen who lacked the wit to understand his operations, and claimed a governor had no right to command the militia when a Federal officer was in the field. Rabun wrote back that he counted himself fortunate that he was no longer be required to court Jackson’s smiles, and away they went.

          Jackson ordered the arrest of the militia captain who burned the town, which was interesting. Militiamen on duty were subject to military court martial, but since the unit wasn’t Federalized, Jackson had no jurisdiction. Apparently that didn’t matter.

          Such a man was Andrew Jackson.

    • And now, several words and a catchy tune on behalf of James K. Polk.

      Not that a good song redeems a bad presidency, but it is important to evaluate events in the context in which they occurred and not according to our later, more enlightened* tenets.

      *By which I mean, more arrogant and self-satisfiedly judgmental. It is difficult to evaluate roads not taken, and too many are prone to imagine them paved with yellow-bricks, ambling through scenic parkland.

      • If a song would do it, the William Howard Taft song from The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday would have made Taft a rock star.

    • Men like Washington and Lincoln are forged by their failures.

      Leave us just say that opinions on the greatness of Lincoln (or even on the manner in which he achieved his ends) tend to differ greatly … and let us tiptoe lightly away from the unexploded device.

  6. I’ll let CACS talk about it some time, but the more I study, the more I see those grand ideas honored more in the breach.


    Well! Seeing that certainly helped convince me it was time to crawl on the floor and get those dust bunnies under the desk. Hey, you know what? I can crawl on the floor again! Not bad.

    I even got up again. Not bad at all.

    Let’s see what other long postponed house hold chore is calling me… 😉

  7. Even if the route couldn’t be taken care of, it would be a relief to know it wasn’t my fault. And I probably could fight it better knowing it was “real.”


    Uncertainty is a killer; uncertain guilt, or undeserved guilt, ditto.

  8. There is one major difference between all the other low points and the one now: In all the others, we had not turned our back on God.

    • Do you REALLY believe that?

      • I think the New York Times wants you to believe that. I hope that it is the loud complaining of the mean-spirited atheist dastards over the more restrained turn the other cheek types. We clearly need more foxholes, as there are no atheists in foxholes. But also remember that while many complain about the commercialization of Christmas, the number of celebrants exceeds the number of Christians. ” ‘Tis better to give than receive.” That is the essence of America.

        • Yes. BUT … well, I just posted in a group on FB, and I’ll repeat it here:
          There was someone — might be one of you — saying on the blog that now we’re truly lost because we’ve turned our backs on G-d.
          Let’s talk. If you grew up in Europe and studied the middle ages, the lip service given to G-d including in the arts was STULTIFYING. How much of it was real? Bloody nothing. If you read the actual lives of people, their sins were much like our sins and often much worse, because it was a hard life. But religion was a social marker. All the RIGHT people talked about how devout they were. People like Henry VIII (AND Anne Boleyn) often listened to 10 mass/services a day. It was the equivalent of hosting a dinner for the democrats today. Only the rich could do it. And it marked you as special.
          WAS all religion a sham? Oh, my. No. There were people who were genuinely devout, just as there are now, and people who were “complicated” with G-d and spent a lot of time and thought on the relationship (me.) BUT I suspect that the impulse to be devout is a constant in humanity. There’s a percentage. Remove religion as an outlet, and they will go to dolphins or the Soviet state. BUT the percentage is about the same (PFA I’d say the real and naturally interested in a relationship with G-d, self included, are probably 25 to 50% of the population.)
          Now, were people more religious at the founding? Sure. Actually more religious in a LOUD manner. And public. Positional good. Whatever you had to express, you had to express that way. In the minds of most of us, not just Catholics, they were, mostly, ranging from heretic to severely misguided, though. And I’d say the level of interest in religion is/was about the same. The real level.

          • I remember one of C.S. Lewis’s essay’s talking about “the decline of religion”. One of the factors mentioned was the decline of chapel attendance in his college. He pointed out, it didn’t decline, it plummeted, as soon as chapel attendance stopped being mandatory.

            • You can say the same for public tolerance for the current shenanigans, and how it’s deemed good and proper.

              • Humans are social creatures. He created us on that basis, He KNOWS that. EVERYONE moves for approval. OTOH how much is toleration and how much the fact that none of it is really reported. how many people do you think KNOW Obama doesn’t attend church?

                • “how many people do you think KNOW Obama doesn’t attend church?”

                  I would say anyone with the slightest interest in politics… so not many.

                • Reagan didn’t attend church, either, though supposedly he said as he left the White House for the last time. Two of the things I’m referring to are the new restrictions on chaplains in the military and the general mutilation of the 1st Amendment to justify purging Christianity from the public sector.

                  On July 9, 1776, General Washington issued the following general order:

                  “The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger — The General hopes and trusts, that every officer and man, will endeavour so to live, and act, as becomes a Christian Soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country.”

                  Can you imagine what the response would be if a general issued such an order today?

                  • Again, I ask you — how many people do you think KNOW about it?

                    • My rule of thumb is that if a redneck like myself knows it, then it’s hardly a secret. The chaplain issue isn’t much of a secret, either. It’s not front page news, but the info is out there.

            • I just finished Eric Metaxa’s Amazing Grace (audiobook) (well recommended) and can assure you that we have nothing on Regency England when it comes to showing G-d our backsides. Remember, back then the Clergy was viewed as a sinecure for second sons and actual belief in the object of their worship was deemed highly declasse. Frankly, being of Judaic descent I think History reveals we humans are far more comfortable with our backs turned on Him than any other posture.

          • Since I’m no on Facebook, it wasn’t me. Can you name, though, a nation where there has been a concerted effort to remove all references to God and to call it good where ill has not come from it?

            • Yes. Many nations have changed gods and ill didn’t come.
              I’m sorry — the G-d I believe in does not visit retribution for this sort of petty offense by masses, or at least not without giving a chance to change. The G-d I believe in knows the power of mass stupidity and of humans running with ideas.
              AND let me tell you, the US is still VERY MUCH a Christian nation. You want to see nations that aren’t? Go to Europe.

              • France during the 1st Republic came to mind, as did Spain during it’s civil war, and the USSR. Besides which, the measure isn’t how we compare to Europe; the measure is how we compare to the standards of God.

                This isn’t a matter of “God’s going to get you for that.” The whole point of punishment is to correct behavior, for God Himself said he takes no delight in the destruction of the wicked. Even so, there have been times when God removed the greatness of nations, or nations entirely.

                This this really such an abhorrent thing to consider? Lincoln, when someone said that God was on the Union’s side, said he rather that the Union be on God’s. He had a point.

                • Timid1 — this is not something you should be discussing with me, but with your own conscience and your religious advisers.
                  I can give you examples of nations turning from G-d and prospering, but I can’t do it without falling into sectarian name calling.
                  And the USSR? It wasn’t JUST the turning from G-d. It was the communism. Communism works like this even when religious — see the Puritans first attempt at establishing themselves.
                  Look — if you want to believe He hates us now and we’re all d*mned go for it. It’s not a G-d I’d bother believing in, but to each his own.

                  • It’s not an issue of hate – nowhere have I claimed that God hates the US. – but I’ll take the hint to drop it.

              • Thing is, our God doesn’t have to retaliate, any more than my daughter getting shocked when she shoved a hairpin in the outlet was me retaliating. Doesn’t make her in any less pain, or it any more worrying when she starts actively working to bypass my ability to stop her– at least, the ability that won’t conflict with what I am willing to do.

                I could tie her hands or lock her in a box or something to stop her from making those bad choices, but I’m not willing to take those kind of steps.

          • Don’t worry about cross-posting from Face Book. As I mentioned to Jeb last week, the sole purpose of my FB account is to house my avatar (2005, Antarctic Peninsula, Chilean outpost. Probably the happiest time in my life).
            I foolishly suggested my Nephew send me a ‘friend’ request. Once FB got it’s ‘hooks’ into 3 or 4 persons I knew, the number and variety of people I might know was truly frightening. Fortunately, they still aren’t as good as Amazon, but they are a close 2nd.

      • It’s interesting how both the First and Second Great Awakenings were at times when the conservative religious groups seemed to have been driven wholesale from the places of power.
        It is also interesting that both came but a generation before great wars.

      • Depends on what “that” means; in the simplest, broadest meaning of there being active, knowing attacks on what’s usually called our “Judeo-Christian” cultural basis simply because it is “religious,” and with denial of the religious nature of anything they currently don’t wish to attack? From positions of power?

        That the majority of the country isn’t recognizably Christian? Nope. That’s a pretty dang broad category, but even most of the atheists accept a lot of Christian assumptions, at least to the point of trying to define those they wish to dehumanize as literally not human, rather than just inferior persons.

        We’re eating the seed corn. It’s happened before, but one of the risks of success is that you can avoid the consequences of really bad decisions for a long enough time that when you get hit, you don’t learn so well. To stick with the metaphor, you keep eating your seed corn and buying new the next year, and not storing up enough for both seed and food, until the year there simply isn’t any left for sale.

      • If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t have written it. There has been periods of religious revival, and periods of apostasy, but there has never been a time as now when our nation has, as a matter of belief and national policy, turned from God.

        We have gone from a nation who’s leaders were not ashamed to publicly call on God to one that forbids its chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus. We have gone from a nation that held worship services each Sunday in its capitol building to one that forbids mention of God on public lands. We gone from a nation that considered rights to be inalienable, granted by God, to one where it’s called “bizarre” for a man to think such a thing.

        When has this ever happened before in our history? If we believe there is a God, and that He has blessed America – even the Deists believed as much – will we also think that this same God, who judges nations, will make an exception in our case?

        This is what I believe. Call it whatever.

        • No. Most of the “religious” in public was what it is now — only now it’s global warming and “science” which is the approved of religion — the devout were about the same number they are now. It’s not being approved in public… is something else.

    • I probably shouldn’t say this, but the good news is, God has not turned his back on us.

      • He sort of doesn’t? Not while there is one righteous man… we have precedents.

        • Indeed. But sometimes I kinda wonder if He ever sighs, looks at the Heavenly Host waiting to take His dictation, and says, “I get so tired of having to repeat myself.”

        • More than one. How many righteous were in Jerusalem when it fell to Babylon?

          If we want to take heart, remember than God stayed His hand when Nineveh repented. Yet there was repentance. And if you want to be uneasy, read the books of the prophets.

          • He’s got a lot more children, now– He said it made a difference. He does have a tendency to get nicer over time, as it doesn’t do us harm– and it’s not like He’s lacking in patience or a sense of humor, so what harm we’ll come to (and there’s always harm, because people are broken like that) will serve to bring us around to the good.

            I don’t agree with Sarah about the number of folks who really believe being the same, because I think people have been denied the foundation to really believe– but I know that He’s delightfully stubborn about trying to get those lost lambs, rather than just saying, pardon the turn of phrase, “to hell with them.”

            • “to hell with them.”


            • Fox, you’re imagining these people of other years were wonderfully catechized. Some were. Others, oh, my. People are very much people in every era. You start reading unexpurgated bios and you realize how much we think we know is a glossy veneer.

              • No, I’m imagining they weren’t deliberately misled.

                I know some 80 year old, well educated by religious, etc persons who are poorly catechized in spite of their education; they turned out OK (although annoying) because they weren’t sabotaged. Permutations of natural law can cover a lot of gaps in catechist– but not when folks pushing a theory of their own have altered the information that, otherwise, would draw people to conclusions.

                Example, the long-running rant here about how the Middle East is so confusing for the modern West in part because we mistake large chunks of our culture for the way people are. And folks have a heck of a time figuring it out, because the theories they’ve been fed mean they keep trying to figure out what they’ve done to make the looting thug angry, rather than going “hey, acting all civilized and stuff isn’t an inborn thing for humans. Sometimes people are really, really nasty because they want to be, not because someone really wronged them.”

                • Fox — sometimes they WERE deliberately misled too. Even in Catholicism. The pope was faraway and most people weren’t really lettered, even those that COULD read.

                  • I’m not even thinking Catholicism– I’m thinking more like basic human nature– the thing with bad theology is that it doesn’t get dangerous until it gets to where it interacts with real life, and when it’s set up to counter people being people.

                    I think that Tom/Supeversive posted a Lewis quote the other day, from Screwtape, about how encouraging the target to hate the Germans was pretty useless if he was forming the way he actually is so that the first time a German got shot down out his back door, he’d give the guy a smoke and some water.
                    Imagine that folks really did think the earth was flat– does it matter? Vs if their notion of “how people work” is massively flawed.

                    For heavens sake, we have people who actually think it’s rational to argue that the solution to crime is to teach people not to do it– and actually believe it, as best I can tell, exactly the way that they’re saying it. Normal people!
                    Either they’ve never been the target for any act of aggression, and don’t really know folks who have, or they’ve got some reality-proofing.

                    *grin* Don’t have to tell me the Pope didn’t have as much power as folks like to think; one of the most headache inducing discussions I’ve ever had was trying to explain that the Pope doesn’t really have that much power-power, he’s got some authority…. and so do a lot of other folks.

                    • Oh, that. There was always that, too. Go read the Gods of the Copybook headings. He dealt with the same issues…

                    • *wry* Be more reassuring if the UK hadn’t had exactly what I fear we’re going for happen to her…but without anybody to grab an arm when they stumble.

                    • “For heavens sake, we have people who actually think it’s rational to argue that the solution to crime is to teach people not to do it”

                      If you consider 158 grain hollowpoints a teaching tool, this is even rational.

                    • Unfortunately, these are the loons that consider self-defense to be Evil.

                    • For heavens sake, we have people who actually think it’s rational to argue that the solution to crime is to teach people not to do it

                      Dang!!! Why hasn’t anybody tried that before???

                  • True. For centuries there was a shocking lack of available copies of the Scriptures, or any other books, even if you could read.

                    Amazing what the printing press did. Yet possessing a copy of a book is not the same as reading it. Further, reading a book does not necessarily mean comprehending it. And comprehending does not always result in following and doing.

                    • I pass along cryptic instructions from my grandfather of predominately Irish descent to his children: “Never call yourself Protestants. We never protested a thing. This is what we always believed.” I wondered if that was a legacy of the Troubles, even though his ancestors were here prior to the Revolution, but just a couple of weeks ago found one of my grandmother’s ancestors may have been a disciple of Patrick. One of those things that makes you go “Hmmm . . .”

                    • For centuries, the first step in creating a book was to calculate how many ewes you had to breed.

                      They didn’t chain down books because they were cheap to make.

                    • “Never call yourself Protestants. We never protested a thing. This is what we always believed.”

                      This is a common thread among Protestants, who want to believe that they were merely practicing the original, early Christianity, not some innovation.

                    • Some of them reach back further; the Puritans got their name, at least partially, because they wanted to look back to the Old Testament Hebrew to “purify” the Scripture of distortions that had arisen in translation.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Nit, the Puritans also paid strong attention to the Greek New Testament to purify Christianity of what they considered to be Catholic distortions

                      Note, I’m not going to argue with the Catholics here about “Catholic distortions”.

              • I don’t if you are correct are not on the percents of believers (full, part-time, or not). I believe in the common human spirit… which means that when people in charge tell you not to do something (like the dems are saying don’t believe in god) the more people will do the opposite. the more the dems forbid worship (in school, in government buildings, in where ever they can) my great hope
                tell me not to do something, and that is what I now want to do… even whitewash someone elses fence.

                • You’re a lot like me, and there’s a percentage of us in every population.

                • The problem with that is it is just as much following the crowd as the inverse. You need to get outside and judge by other standards to be free of it.

                  By, say, the Copybook Headings.

            • The number of church-goers vs those who really believe, regardless of denomination, is an open question. I do know there’s always a problem of “virtual atheism:” those who claim God but live like they don’t. But we also live in a time when Christians themselves don’t seem to take this seriously.

              Not all that long ago, it was not unusual for a church to turn out members of the congregation for unseemly behavior. This is apparently how my family left the Quakers, the unseemly behavior being taking up arms during the American Revolution. Now? Let clergy suggest withholding communion for politicians who refuse to follow church doctrine, and people are shocked because such things are so rare these days. Has it become rare out of compassion, or has it become rare because Christians no longer think it’s important?

              How does this compare to Judea, who had the temple and had those who called on the name of the Lord, and thought that was sufficient, for they were God’s chosen people? Yet all the while there were those who worshiped other god right at the gates of the temple itself, and they thought nothing of it.

              • Sigh. Timid, I can’t answer your question because it’s the thing that can’t be discussed. I will note however the great flourishing of England came after they did the unthinkable and turned their backs on the Catholic church. And if you say it’s because the Catholic church is the red whore of Babylon, you’ll have gone your length and I let Mary eat you.
                Which is why I CAN’T discuss this. But please trust me, you’re relying on your own faith in this and there are other interpretations possible.

              • Religion matters when it makes it easier to go after what they already want to do– I was horribly upset because the National Catholic Register recently joined with three heretical “catholic” sources to attack… the death penalty.
                A prudential judgement about what is needful or not, and they decided it was OK to work with groups actively support things that are against binding teachings.

                But hey, it was easier than making the argument from the ground up.

                Maybe that’s it– like with the public charity stuff. It’s easier.

                • The National Catholic Register is against the death penalty?

                  Admittedly I am not Catholic, but there seems something seriously flawed with that stance.

                  • You’d be surprised what the Catholic Hierarchy gets up to. I know I was when I married one. The one that still floors me is that they can’t send the priest on down the road when he annoys the little old ladies. The Baptists, where I was raised, one burned lunch and he was gone.

                    • For folks who aren’t:
                      the NCR isn’t part of the Hierarchy, just this issue they’re pulling the same as a lot of loud members of the leadership.
                      I’m always wondering how on earth folks got the idea that the Pope has direct power over the local priest– it takes a ton of work to get the Bishop’s attention, and he has to seriously fail before it goes to the next level up, and it’s never as simple as whatever the issue is. For starters, they don’t want to drive out anybody who may mistakenly agree with the person who’s a problem, assuming it’s something as simple as “they’re definitely wrong.”

                    • Under most circumstances, Baptist ministers are “called”. I’m assuming Catholic priests are “sent”. (They might have a different term for that.) That’s a totally different process. And mindset.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Plus it is a matter that in Baptist churches, the congregation rules. A pastor may be called to a certain church but the congregation votes to accept him as pastor. The congregation also has the authority to fire the pastor as well.

                      Even in groups like the American Baptists and the Southern Baptists, the group has no authority to make a congregation accept a given pastor or keep a given pastor.

                    • That sounds confusing since of course the very word “vocation” means “calling.” Perhaps you should clarify what you mean in terms of the congregation.

                    • Would someone please explain this to a non-Christian? To be a Rabbi one is ordained and then either is hired by a congregation or establishes his own. There are a number of very Orthodox Jewish men who obtain ordination purely as a sign of piety without any intent to practice.
                      It has been explained to me that a calling is from G-d.

                    • Em, I’ve told you this story before.

                      My father actually went to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville KY, and got his degree. Then (in 1958) the seminary basically sends out the CV of the graduates to any church in need of a pastor, and after much prayer they “call” the pastor to the church. It is felt that the one selected is the one God meant to be there. They invite him to visit, and then decide.

                    • I think it’s an attempt to explain the distinction between the preacher being mostly selected by the local area, vs mostly selected by the greater church.

                      I say “mostly” because I’m pretty sure that some of the non-hierarchy groups still have…certifying agencies, I guess you’d call them? That crazy lady who declared she could be an Imam and I think some flavor of baptist was finally laitcized. In contrast, priests are sometimes removed from parishes because they don’t fit.
                      The only examples I can think of are rather scandalizing, but that’s because most of the parishes I’m familiar with are in the middle of nowhere and anybody who gets sent there already pissed someone off pretty seriously, or it’s a training wheels parish. Some of the cultural differences can be pretty big. Still, they’re actually removed by the…chain of command, call it.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      The case of the woman who thought she could be Christian and Muslim at the same time didn’t involve a Baptist Minister as she had a Bishop of her own Church “call her out” on it. Baptists don’t have Bishops. [Smile]

                    • It’s my experience that the process of a Baptist church acquiring a new pastor goes something like this: One or more hopefuls come and preach one or a few sermons to let the congregation get some idea of their qualifications. This is followed by a meeting of the congregation, where a vote is taken. When a pastor is selected, it is customary for a motion to be made to change the minutes so that the pastor was chosen by acclimation, i.e., a unanimous vote. While it is not formal in any sense, in fact the older ladies of the congregation control the process, and generally are involved when a pastor is asked to leave.

                    • Emily,
                      This can be a little confusing, and I am going to be intentionally vague on details, because there are a lot of different variations on Christians, and they tend to have differences in the finer details. But generally a pastor/preacher/priest is ordained (what they have to do to be ordained varies by denomination) although there are ‘itinerant preachers’ who just start preaching without any official credentials (and their ‘real-life credentials’ tend to vary…umm, widely). Usually they become a minister (I’ll use that as the generic term, for all denominations) because they have a calling; well actually I’ve never heard of any church who recommends people go into the ministry who don’t have a calling, but I’m sure individuals do, and in history it was a common way to get rid of junior sons to encourage them to “have a calling.” Then the difference comes on whether that denomination, believes in the minister being “called” to a certain church or congregation, or in there being a hierarchy who “sends” ministers to certain churches. Almost always (always, in my experience) those who believe in the minister being “called” have the minister come to the church in question and go through a ‘trail’, usually preaching a few sermons. Then the congregation decides whether they want that minister, or whether they would prefer another, oftentimes they may have several ministers come and preach over a period of time, before they decide which they prefer. Often but not always those denominations where the hierarchy “sends” the ministers to the congregation also have a period of time where the congregation decides whether they want the minister or not.

                      Of course this isn’t always black and white, because the “sent” ministers often can choose to decline a church in an area, or with a congregation where they do not want to go; just as “called” ministers will have certain churches ‘suggested’ to them, or ‘brought to their attention’, after all, how would they possibly have a calling to a church they didn’t know was in need of a minister?

                    • The woman who thought she could be both a Christian and a Muslim “minister” simultaneously, lived in The Peoples City of Seattle. What more needs to be said?

                    • One can be both a Christian and a Muslim “minister” simultaneously, just as one can simultaneously be a roaring baboon, a crashing boar, a laughing hyena and a horse’s ass (as distinct from an ass who is property of some other member of the zoo community.)

                      For the Christian/Muslim combination, it helps if you ignore the actual theology of each faith and just make up your own as things go along. What matters is helping people feel more in touch with their inner godliness, after all, which means running the gamut from Asutrans to Zoroastrians.

                    • For the Christian/Muslim combination, it helps if you ignore the actual theology of each faith and just make up your own as things go along.

                      That is a significant portion of the loudest of those in my area.

                    • Foxfier, I can’t speak for anyone but Baptists, but there, local churches can issue a “license to preach” based on satisfactory delivery of a number of sermons. In my brother-in-laws case, I believe it was three, but I wouldn’t want to have to swear to it. I’ve never heard of a Baptist minister having his license revoked, but such a thing would probably be kept quiet. A minister with a bad reputation simply won’t get called by any churches.

                  • You mean like a minimum of two thousand years of binding teachings, solid theology, and that’s before you even look at the Old Testament stuff?

                    Like how it’s basically slapping Cardinal Ratzinger in the face, with about as much actual rational support? (look for Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; please note, this is an appeal to a valid authority)

                    That kind of ‘something seriously flawed’?


                    In fairness, they even published one of their own guys arguing very strongly against it.

                    Still going to result in subscriptions dropping, or simply never being started.

  9. “But all that is small, in the spread of time from the founding and the spread of the time to the future.”

    65 years is about 25% of the time from the founding. I would not call that small.

    • The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nations lasted from the 950s to 1804. When you step back a ways, the US is barely a toddler. Even the Swiss Confederation (a semi-Republic or sorts) can trace itself back to 1291. Compared to the rest of the world, it’s a small span of time.

      • One of the reasons all the Right People despise us, we’re young upstarts who don’t know The Way Things Are Done. Worst of all, we’re wildly successful in spite* of it.

        *of course the reality is that we’re sucessful precisely because we ignore their way of doing things.

        • Left field thought:

          You know how we keep pointing out that various techniques only work with a group of motivated students who are able to join or leave at will?

          What if American gov’t is kind of like that? We actually wouldn’t work for everyone– we’re the relief valve for some of the other forms, and they’re the relief valve for us.

          Note: I don’t mean any specific one around at the moment, because there’s just too much external supporting and shaking-out-the-issues going on right now, so I have no clue what the complementary gov’ts would be.

          • I’m sort of getting that, Fox, in the Earth Revolution series.

          • One of my biggest grievances with the left is that pretty much every other nation is to the left of the US. Democrats have pretty much every option in government/economic theory available, from the social democracy in Europe through fascism in China to communist monarchy in North Korea, yet rather than moving to where they’re sure things are better they insist on eliminating the one nation that be lives in individual liberty and personal responsibility. We have nowhere else to go. I just don’t get it*. If I had my way, I’d replace all of the welfare systems with the Hawaii option: The US government will ship you, your family, and your stuff anywhere in the world. One way. Think that the system is arrayed against you and somewhere else would be more fair? Go try it. We wish you luck. Heck, well even throw in a set of Rosetta disks.

            *I do get it. They know their system won’t work and that it will always look terrible in comparison, so they must destroy any potential comparators. Too bad for them that we don’t destroy easy.

            • In fairness, they want to stay here because the starting point is so much better.

              The idea that the place that already does what they want sucks *because* of that fact doesn’t register. Remember? Nothing before Now matters, unless it’s a handy weapon?

              • I think that some people believe that the world starts with their birth and ends with their death.

                • House cats certainly do. And it exists solely for their comfort and pleasure, but the two-foots keep messing things up. Or so I was informed this morning. Breakfast was .031 seconds late.

                  • Those cats that I have lived with were all quite happy to embrace the ‘Spring Forward’ move to Daylight Savings Time, but never ever did they accept the ‘Fall Back.’

  10. check

    • Oh, No Sir! No need for smething as archaic as that! Your check was automatically charged to your credit card on file when we read the MasterVisaExpress chip implant as we took your order. That’s why the waitress brushed along your arm when she was giving you your salad, and again when she was clearing your table – she was reading your implant code.

  11. Solomon once said “Why were the old days better than these?- it is not wise to ask such questions”. Heck, the ink was hardly dry on the Constitution when the Whiskey Rebellion began.

  12. Many of the near-misses are obscured by Leftist hagiography, because they were generally acting with the support of the “progressives” of their day,who were impatient with the limitations of the musty old Constitution. The most flagrant of these was Woodrow Wilson,who re-segregated the Federal Government, ending the last remnants of Federal attempts to enforce the Constitution on the South for almost a half-century (in line with the progressive understanding that racial superiority and inferiority were scientific facts); criminalized dissent against American involvement in the Great War (after having pledged to keep us out of it) and enforced it with government-sponsored vigilante mobs; and finally started the Great Scare first against German saboteurs (with some slight justification, as there really were German covert action teams on US soil), then against anarchists and finally against Communists. This was the real Red Scare — the one in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s was orders of magnitude smaller,and had more justification. This is the man whose name has become an adjective meaning “admirable” and “idealistic” to the US Democratic Party.

  13. ” From the Alien and Sedition act”

    Was that penned at Roswell?

  14. “By all that’s right and holy, born at home, in the middle of winter, extremely premature, I shouldn’t have survived the night.”

    So should we be calling you Helen, since you are born of winter?

  15. I do hope your optimism is warranted.

  16. Dr. Benjamin Franklin: … what would posterity think we were? Demi-gods? We’re men, no more no less, trying to get a nation started against greater odds than a more generous God would have allowed.

    One of the problems with History is that, like a good novel’s plot, in hindsight it all seems to have been virtually inevitable. Too easily we forget that in the moment the dangers all look magnified and the outcomes all too improbable.

    Think about a typical American 17-year-old in 1943, growing up in the Depression and immersed in a war against apparently unbeatable foes. Or look back to the youngsters enlisting in the fight to preserve the Union (or, contrariwise, to preserve the liberty and independence of their states.)

    We today have far more of everything than any generation ever has — except guts, and frankly I think many of us have plenty of that, its just that the whiners get all the attention. Of course, if you look about you will see that even staunch Lefties are getting fed up with the SJWs and their passive/aggressive trigger-warning demands.

    The MSM did a terrible job of telling the History of the Boomers during their heyday and afterward, ignoring that the majority of them in the 60s didn’t tune in, turn on or drop out. Most served their tours in Vietnam and did it with honor; those protesting the war or dodging the draft were a minority and a not terribly committed one at that (attendance at anti-war protests tended to vary directly with the ambient exterior temperature and the nearness of finals — meaning it was much better to schedule the rally in late April than in the middle of October.)

    America is very like Tolkein’s King Theoden, heeding too much the counsel of Grima Wormtongue. We remain a strong capable nation if only we focus our will to face down our challenges. National depression is not simply an economic condition, after all. Those of us remembering the 70s recall the professional hand-wringers fretting that the nation had become ungovernable, that one term presidents were the new normal … only to be proven wrong by Reagan’s three terms — and every president since Reagan has served the full eight years.

    Like a kidney stone, this administration will pass in time and we’ll be back on our collective feet pissing off the naysayers in no time.

    • “only to be proven wrong by Reagan’s three terms — and every president since Reagan has served the full eight years.”

      Did you have New Math, in school?

    • The MSM did a terrible job of telling the History of the Boomers during their heyday and afterward, ignoring that the majority of them in the 60s didn’t tune in, turn on or drop out. Most served their tours in Vietnam and did it with honor; those protesting the war or dodging the draft were a minority and a not terribly committed one at that (attendance at anti-war protests tended to vary directly with the ambient exterior temperature and the nearness of finals — meaning it was much better to schedule the rally in late April than in the middle of October.)

      In my opinion, the treason of the academic Left during the Vietnam War will be remembered as such, once the Boomer historians with a personal stake in defending their own treacherous actions are mostly dead or retired.

  17. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    One thought on religion. C. S. Lewis talked about the danger of “easy religion”. It didn’t put “demands” on you to change and “made you feel good”.

    • Buddy Christ. *shudder*

      • We saw Dogma in the theaters. I think we were the only Catholics there, since we were laughing at a lot of points where everybody else wasn’t. Like the blessed golf clubs; we know that priest.

        • I really wish whoever did all the good jokes in that would do a different movie… it’s like an Eminem song; even while I admire the skills and thought, I’m about ready to cry at the sheer waste involved. It’s like having a great painter use a roller on your walls.

  18. I was dragged by concerned friends into the emergency room with what I insisted was ‘just gas’. It was ‘just organ failure’. I am entirely guilty of an inadvertent suicide attempt.

  19. Mark French

    For about fifteen years I lived in NYC and worked in an investment bank. Looking back on it, I was lost, yet had a confessor that came to know me well. He was very patient, yet unyielding.

    One Saturday after confession, I told him how incredibly beautiful that one particular fall sunset had been on Friday night before, and how I couldn’t believe how much beauty there could be in one moment. He told me, and I say this to you, “you can only see beauty if you have it in you.”

    Thank you for a beautiful post, Sarah.