Dear Intelligent American,
Once upon a time, on a place called “Capitol Hill,” there was a caucus that . . .
Well, maybe some day this story will have an ending.
Let Us Belly Up to the Buffet—It’s All-You-Can-Eat!
1. At The American Mind, fan favorite Daniel J. Mahoney takes on radical relativism and finds it fostering ideological fascism. From the essay’s conclusion:
Let us give the final word to the wise and discerning Raymond Aron. Like realists old and new, he was suspicious of abstract moralism in foreign policy. In Peace and War, he took aim at the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 which vainly attempted to outlaw war once and for all. Aron acerbically wrote about this effort that, “Anyone imagining he was guaranteeing peace by outlawing war was like a doctor imagining he was curing diseases by declaring them contrary to the aspirations of humanity.” An anti-totalitarian thinker of the first order, Aron was sensitive to the inescapable moral dimensions of the Cold War while opposing a crusading spirit in foreign policy. Rather than calling himself a realist, which came with a crusading spirit of its own, Aron defended a “morality of prudence” against a unilateral “morality of struggle”—which was in truth a false realism—and a “morality of law” that too readily collapsed into utopia. The morality of prudence that he advocated and embodied does not eschew high principle, nor does it ignore that a statesman has a moral and political obligation to calculate forces for the sake of the freedom and independence of his country and the cause of civilization. But, Aron added, this complex morality of prudence “satisfies completely neither the moralists nor the vulgar disciples of Machiavelli.” Here we see an approach that can get us beyond the sterile opposition between realism and idealism, and that can look at statecraft from the perspective of the responsible statesman.
In the concluding paragraphs of his other great work on international relations, Clausewitz: Philosopher of War (1976 for the original French edition), Aron took “run-of-the-mill professors” to task for lacking “a sense of history and tragedy.” They go back and forth between bloodless realism and the Wilsonian “crusade for peace,” with many even succumbing to the “great illusion” that men and states could once and for all say “goodbye to arms.” Aron strikingly concluded that “as a Frenchmen of Jewish origin,” he could never “forget that France owes her liberation to the strength of her allies and Israel owes her existence to arms and the chance of survival to her resolution, and, if need be, to American willingness to fight?”
2. More TAM: David Schaefer warns that “integralism” attacks our constitutional order. From the piece:
While the Founders aimed at a system of government that afforded far greater freedom to the individual, and hence demanded far less of the sort of heroic or self-sacrificing virtue than ancient republics (as depicted, for instance, in Book V of Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws), let alone medieval theocracies, they were emphatic that the sort of republic they were establishing required a certain level of moral virtue on the part of its citizens. James Madison, for one, concludes Federalist 55 by remarking that “republican government presupposes” the existence of moral virtue among its citizens to “a higher degree” than any other form—since in a republic, it is the citizens who do the governing, albeit indirectly, and must exhibit patriotic loyalty in their personal conduct.
America’s Founders did not think the presence of such virtue could be left to chance. In his Farewell Address George Washington, a partisan of religious toleration, nonetheless stressed the dependence of civic morality on the perpetuation of religious belief among the populace. Like their colonial forebears, the founding generation also saw public education as having a moral as well as an intellectual function. . . . In sum, the Founders and those who followed them until well into the 20th century were neither moral relativists nor extreme libertarians.
Contrast the Founders’ vision with what we see around us today: the legalization (and state-backed sale) of marijuana, to the point where players in the U.S. Open complained about the odor of pot permeating the courts from the stands; state lotteries, casinos, and legalized sports gambling, ads for which always contain a small admonition to “bet responsibly” and an 800 number for “free help” with your gambling problem (imagine the return of cigarette ads accompanied with a number to call in case you’ve developed cancer); and the “decarceration” movement funded by billionaires like George Soros, which has generated a drastic uptick in violent crime and organized theft throughout America’s cities.
3. At Law & Liberty, Jonathan Leaf refreshes the memory about Israel’s Declaration of Independence. From the article:
Doubtless, nearly all of us know the resounding concluding lines that Jefferson provided to America’s Declaration: “We mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” For the signers of that document knew that all of them might be hanged. But in many respects, the circumstances under which the Israeli version was produced were even more treacherous. Not only was another war raging—one which would take the lives of one percent of the country’s population—but the Israeli pronouncement was made in a small Tel Aviv building chosen in part because it was believed that it was sufficiently inconspicuous that it would not serve as a target for Egyptian air force pilots. Moreover, the copy that Israeli leader David Ben-Gurion held before the press was blank as there had not been time to print it, and that the name of the country would be Israel was unknown even to many members of Ben-Gurion’s government.
Five complete drafts of the declaration were prepared. The first three of these were entirely different from one another. That partly reflected the fact that the numerous Jewish factions in Palestine had radically divergent ideas of what Judaism was and what the new state should be. Even so, the Zionists seeking a formal status of nationhood had organized themselves into an umbrella organization that functioned under the name of the Yishuv. The term literally means “settlement” in Hebrew, as it reflected the fact that Jews who sought to recreate a Jewish state had been returning and settling in Palestine since the early nineteenth century, and it was these Jews—rather than those who had remained as an oppressed minority under centuries of Ottoman rule—who guided the fight for a Jewish state.
4. At Tabet Magazine, Maggie Phillips explains how non-Jews can stand by their brothers and sisters in Abraham at this terrible moment. From the piece:
- Israel seems far away, but for a lot of Jews, it doesn’t. That’s either because they consider the entire Jewish people to be their family, or because they have literal friends and family living in Israel. With that in mind, it’s not hard to see how a little empathy could go a long way in a time like this.
- Jews can (and do!) have complicated feelings about the State of Israel. Don’t make assumptions about their politics or their Zionism. Right now, the main thing that matters is that there are people chanting “gas the Jews” en masse in major cities. Do we mean what we’ve been saying about being against racism and Nazis?
- Put politics to the side, and check in with your Jewish friends and acquaintances. Let them know that you’re thinking about them and (if it’s your thing) praying for them, for their friends and family—by name, if possible.
5. At National Review, Noah Rothman contemplates a world sans Pax Americana. From the article:
6. At The American Conservative, Auguste Meyrat ponders America’s Shantytown epidemic. From the piece:
The real answer to this question will ultimately come down to how Americans respond to these new arrivals. If the American government continues on the current course where it simply allows foreign nationals to come and squat on American territory, then it’s a slow invasion that will gradually dissolve the nation. If the American government takes action to secure the border and require these new residents to assimilate and become citizens, then this invasion can transform into enrichment.
Making this distinction is crucial to the future of the U.S. As Jens Heycke argues in his recent book , history shows that civilizations rise or fall based on how well they incorporate new people. On one side is the “melting pot” model, exemplified by the Rome’s Republic and early Empire, which were able to assimilate conquered societies by offering pathways to citizenship and opportunities for social advancement and economic integration. This allowed the Roman civilization to both expand rapidly yet retain its territorial integrity for over a millennium despite constant foreign entanglements and periodic political dysfunction.
7. At The Spectator, William Jacobson explains how Hamas is already on the American campus. From the piece:
How did we get to the point on campuses where any unwanted sexual contact, even if intended only as a non-violent romantic approach, is denounced as a crime against women and can lead to expulsion, yet student protesters celebrate the mass rape of Israeli women, including rape victims still bleeding from the violation or killed and stripped naked, being paraded through the streets of Gaza as howling mobs defiled and abused their bodies?
How did we get to the point that universities where demands for universal free pre-K are supported, the kidnapping of babies and children as hostages is considered a legitimate tactic?
How did we get to the point that at universities demanding “land acknowledgments” recognizing Native American claims, Jews are called colonizers and occupiers of their own ancestral homeland, to which resistance by any means is justified?
8. At The Public Discourse, Jennifer Lahl suggests that “assistive reproductive technologies” can have complications that are not only medical. From the piece:
Like egg donation, surrogacy is harmful to both the woman who carries the child and to the child. The health risks to the woman, who must take powerful synthetic hormones to prepare her body to accept an embryo, are real and serious. Most surrogacy contracts require that the surrogate mother already have children as proof that she is able to carry a child to term. However, no one has done any studies on these existing children who observe their mothers keeping some babies and giving others away. The message surrogacy sends to these children seems both clear and dangerous: mommy keeps some of her babies, and mommy gives some of her babies away to nice people who can’t have babies of their own. And often mommy is paid to do this.
Women who decide to become surrogates are often motivated by the financial gains they are offered. Even the promise of “just” living expenses can be an enticement for a woman of low income with children in the home. Make no mistake: it will not be wealthy women who line up to make themselves available to gestate babies. It will, however, be wealthy individuals or couples who seek to buy such services. Surrogacy takes something as natural as a pregnant woman nurturing her unborn child and turns it into a contractual, commercialized endeavor. And it opens the door for all sorts of exploitation.
9. At City Journal, Naomi Schaefer Riley and James Piereson critique state efforts to protect historically black colleges. From the piece:
The HBCUs, founded before most other private and public universities were desegregated, have in more recent decades struggled to find a purpose and remain financially viable. Even the most prominent among them have seen enrollment fall. In 1976, 18 percent of black college students went to HBCUs. Today, the proportion is about half of that. The shrinking number of students has hurt the schools’ public funding, as well as private gifts. Many students are choosing to go to other public or private universities or community colleges. One report found that six-year graduation rates at 20 HBCUs stood at 20 percent or lower in 2015. This is not the kind of record that makes students flock to a school.
Race-based affirmative action policies of the past few decades drew many students away from HBCUs and into other institutions that wanted to diversify their student bodies. HBCU advocates didn't object to these measures at the time. It is true that many of these institutions do a better job of graduating black students with degrees in STEM fields (because they are less prone to the academic “mismatch” problem), but one wonders whether that will continue now that the Supreme Court has barred racial preferences at other schools.
In any case, HBCUs must figure out how to survive in the current environment. One way has been to demand more public funds. Advocates sued Maryland in 2006, claiming that the state had treated HBCUs unfairly by offering state support at predominantly white institutions that duplicated programs at HBCUs. The state settled the case for more than half a billion dollars. Recently, the Department of Education sent a letter to governors in 16 states claiming that they, too, had underfunded HBCUs, to the tune of $12 billion over 30 years.
10. At American Storylines, Daniel Cox finds the “friendship recession” impacts and weakens American civic life. From the analysis:
Making friends is a natural human inclination and a byproduct of associational life. We make friends in the places where we spend time. On average, Americans who attend church regularly have more friends than those who attend rarely or not at all. Work friends require a workplace. A recent study found that the office is a critical source of new friendships—for many Americans, it’s one of the few places they can count on for a social outlet. As adults, we have fewer opportunities to make friends simply because we are less likely to be thrust into new places or pushed to participate in new activities. . . .
We spend so much time worrying about the quality of our relationships that we neglect the number of social connections we have. Quantity matters. In a previous post, I wrote that Americans who have a larger group of close friends feel lonely less often, are less likely to experience depression, and generally have more positive feelings about their own health. Americans with larger friend groups are better off. In fact, “Nothing more strongly predicts the frequency with which we feel isolated from others or lonely than the total number of close friends we have.” As an antidote to loneliness, nothing is more effective—not church membership, marriage, or parenthood—than a generous collection of friends. But it’s not just our social life that suffers when we don’t have enough friends. Our civic life becomes poorer, our institutions weaker. Friendship creation needs to be a lifelong pursuit, not only because of what these relationships provide us personally, but for the society they help create.
11. More Cox: At The American Enterprise Institute, he delves into the coupling of religious worship and partisan affiliation. From the piece:
This story has been told before. I’ve played a small role in helping tell it. But there is another side that has only recently received attention. More conservatives are looking for religious communities that also affirm their political beliefs. New research by Shay Hafner and Audre Audette found that politics has become a more salient consideration for conservatives when choosing a church. The authors point out that political considerations are especially important for evangelical Christians who are less concerned with denominational differences and more comfortable with overt political appeals.
These findings are consistent with recent polling. A 2022 Lifeway Research survey of Protestants noted the growing appeal of politically homogeneous congregations. Fifty percent of Protestants interviewed said they preferred that their congregation reflect their own political views while 41 percent disagreed, a modest increase from a few years earlier. . . .
The problem of politicized churches is obvious. It represents a clear challenge to the political system. The regular use of apocalyptic language in political arguments discourages compromise and reduces the possibility of finding consensus. Even if churches have been historically segregated by race and ethnicity, they have long been places where people of differing economic and political backgrounds could come together.
12. At The Indianapolis Star, Dana Hunsinger Benbow reports on Colts owner Jim Irsay, a man feeling blessed, and intent on sharing his blessings. From the story:
A hotel housekeeper named Karen, a hard-working, sometimes struggling mother of two sons, was in the middle of her shift at a Jacksonville, Fla., hotel Saturday night—the hotel where Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay happened to be staying for the team's Sunday game against the Jaguars.
As Karen stepped out into the hallway after cleaning a 17th floor hotel room, wearing black scrubs with her cart of supplies at her side, Irsay approached her with a drawstring bag filled with wads of cash.
He handed Karen a few stacks of $100 bills, thousands of dollars in all. Irsay was in Jacksonville handing out $10,000 "tips" Saturday night.
“God bless you for your hard work,” Irsay said to the housekeeper, as she broke into tears in a video he shared with IndyStar. “Just sending love to you.”
Lucky 13. At The Giving Review, Michael Hartmann casts a light on the Deep State within the “nonprofit industrial complex.” From the piece:
“Well—nonprofits are the deep state of American political activism,” according to [Fredrik] deBoer. Supported by philanthropic elites, “[t]hey have influence beyond their numbers, they can direct the course of broad movements that should rightfully be led by volunteer organizers, and they pull those movements toward incrementalism and working within the system regardless of the radicalism of their employees.”
In How Elites Ate the Social Justice Movement overall, deBoer explores why recent idealistic progressive movements—Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and for economic justice among them—have failed and how they could succeed in the future. Risking oversimplification, he blames the failures on those elites deeply rooted in America’s upwardly mobile, educated class who fund, organize, and purport to speak for these movements. Albeit from deBoer’s decidedly left-of-center worldview, it is a populist book.
In his harsh analysis of the nonprofit industrial complex and its failures, deBoer offers several specific criticisms. He categorizes them as: 1.) ones “that anyone might agree on, regardless of political leanings;” and, 2.) ones from those on left, like him, in particular.
Bonus. At First Things, Cindy Hernandez Mathis reports on Catholic artists finding venues for their faith and talents. From the article:
The poems of Fr. Joseph Michael, who serves as chaplain to the Arthouse2B community, are meditations on vocation, virginity, and the intimacy of the Eucharist. Standing adjacent to Erin’s In Persona Christi (2023), an abstract depiction of a vestment stained by Christ’s bloody embrace, his poem “Choices” was fitting: “On the back of my white door / A high hook. / Two habits are hanging there / Desiring a body / I think of You.” After the performance, Fr. Joseph spoke to me about the vulnerability of reading such personal work, especially in front of people he shepherds: “Reading poems is more like you’re proposing of yourself to people who may or may not want to hear it, and the benefit of entering these friendships is that they brought this out of me, and they asked me to share. I didn’t have this conviction.”
Claire Kretzschmar, a ballet dancer and former soloist with the New York City Ballet, was staged with McAtee’s Fiat Mihi, a wall-sized tulle tapestry depicting the blood stains of Christ’s burial shroud. During her dance, Kretzschmar entwined herself in the tapestry, its material familiar as that of a ballerina’s tutu, and spun and leapt, as if into the imprinted wounds. But before she began her dance, she waited in stillness for a prompting of the Spirit. “I was indeed waiting, like in the silence of a prayer, for the Holy Spirit to inspire my movement,” she told me. “I intentionally structured the dance to include improvisation, so in the moments of silence—particularly in the beginning—I let God fill me up with ideas for the movements, and I then poured out what God had given to me.” Dalmazio’s harp performance accompanied her movements. To prepare their performance, Kretzschmar and Dalmazio studied McAtee’s installation together and selected the chant they felt best evoked its meaning. The process, of course, centered prayer. “We both focused on prayer to the Holy Spirit to breathe through us in order to bring the beauty of this music to unite with Erin's artwork,” said Dalmazio.
For the Good of the Cause
Uno. OK, we mean it this time: Last Call! Register for the Center for Civil Society’s quickly upcoming conference on “Rise of the Nones: How Declining Religious Affiliation Is Changing Civil Society.” It takes place on November 7–8 in glorious Scottsdale, AZ. The line-up is super: Speakers include Shelby Steele and Mary Eberstadt. Get complete information right here.
Due. You’ll have digested the turkey by then—the afternoon of Tuesday, November 28th, is the “then”—so you’ll have no excuse for not attending (via Zoom) the important Center for Civil Society “Givers, Doers, & Thinkers” webinar on The Future of Christian Higher Education. Jon Hannah, boss of C4CS, will be joined by Pepperdine University’s Pete Peterson and Malone University’s David Beer for a frank and illuminating discussion. Make sure you register—do that right here.
Department of Bad Jokes
Q: What are the rules for zebra baseball?
A: Three stripes and you’re out.
Point of Personal Privilege
National Review endorses Yours Truly for Milford City Clerk. Read the editorial here.
Your Humble Correspondent, also at fowlerformilford.com, has been prompted, by that aspiration, to mail many a missive and plea, which makes him a constant visitor to the counter of the local post office, where many a stamp has been purchased in the hopes of wooing the governeds’ consent. Stamps. My word, we do create many an odd series nowadays—like this. And this. And that. Geesh.
May We Earn the Right to Be Called Sons of God,
Jack Fowler, who can be found nightly at firstname.lastname@example.org.