14 min read

A Dozen-Plus Stimulants, Gathered for Your Edification and Inspiration…

Dear Intelligent American,

Asking for an insatiable friend: Since months are being named after deadly sins (or, if you are a Thomist, “capital sins”), when is Gluttony Month? He’s also curious as to the whenabouts of Lust Month.

In these parts, pride exhaustion set in about June 2nd. And then there’s this observation, which surely many a much-smarter (who isn’t?) commentator has commentated on: “pride” being the lauded moniker, since theologians for ages have taught that it is deadliest of the deadly. Indeed, it’s the one from which all others emanate. Why, its essence is even, well, satanic. Just ask Satan.

In a little more than two weeks we’ll be on to other moments, and all the logo’d onesies (said to already be on the “CLEARANCE” and “DISCOUNT” racks at your favorite local megastore) will be shipped en masse to poor nations—as retailers are accustomed to do with expired-fad garments—whose locals will look on aghast at another round of shocking American exports.

Patience (that’s a virtue): Soon enough there’ll be July 4th to celebrate—or, if you are a typical university professor, bemoan.

Maybe we in the Northern Hemisphere can all happily agree on what next week will bring: the summer solstice. Yes, let’s do agree. And let’s take to heart the hopes sung by Mr. Cole, that what awaits us are lazy, hazy, crazy days of soda, pretzels, and beer.

Well, probably not Bud Light, eh?


Warning: There’s Nothing Light about the Excerpts Coming at You


1. At Law & Liberty, Rachel Lu contemplates J.K. Rowling’s “moment of truth.” From the essay:

Rowling’s fans feel like she tricked them with a bait-and-switch. A lifelong liberal, she led her readers into what felt to them like a “safe space,” one whose characters grew with them throughout their childhoods. Then, as adults, she shocked them by articulating perennial truths that they preferred not to believe. The hysterical rage was especially fascinating given that the points Rowling was making had always been central to the Harry Potter series. Rowling is a gender complementarian; this has been clear from the earliest Potter books. Further, she very obviously believes that things have natures. Though it is impressive how she personally has been willing to defend her views publicly, instead of cowering before the cancel mobs, there is some level on which this reckoning was bound to happen given the unstable mutations of twenty-first-century gender ideology.

People crave epic stories, meaningful life pursuits, and courageous figures who appear to stand for something. Those goods are only attainable when words mean things, and when we accept certain aspects of the world as fixed, not compliant with our revisionary whims. Progressive activists have for some time been cheerfully torching large portions of American history and Western Civilization more broadly, which is upsetting to some of us, but perhaps just good fun for people who were never taught to value those things in the first place. Eventually though, iconoclasts find themselves standing, wood bundles and torches in hand, at the foot of something they genuinely love. For this group, Harry Potter turned out to be that thing.


2. At The Human Life Review, Jason Morgan profiles a “Calligrapher of Life.” From the piece:

And it’s true. Kanazawa Shoko does calligraphy with an effortlessness that comes as naturally as her breathing. Watch for yourself and see. She has complete freedom as she works. Intense concentration, yes. Hard work, absolutely. She is light years ahead of the rest of the field.

And yet there are some who might be tempted to say that Kanazawa Shoko lags far behind the world. At one point in the documentary, a man named Tamai Hiroshi notes that people have long tended to consider people like Kanazawa Shoko “slow.” Mr. Tamai is the head of the Japan Down Syndrome Society. He wishes to emphasize that there is much, much more to people with Down syndrome than many at first assume. Kanazawa Shoko, he argues, is a splendid case in point. 

That’s right. Kanazawa Shoko, the greatest living calligrapher, was born with Down syndrome. And that’s not the only curveball life threw at the Kanazawa family. Shoko’s mother, Yasuko, raised Shoko alone after her husband died suddenly at age fifty-two. Shoko was just fourteen years old. Her father had adored Shoko, calling her a “miracle.” Yasuko was not so sure. I interviewed Yasuko and Shoko a few years ago for JAPAN Forward. Yasuko told me that she had thought, often, of committing suicide and taking Shoko with her.

She also prayed that Shoko would be cured of Down syndrome. “I saw her only in a negative way,” Yasuko says in the documentary. But the more Shoko interacted with people, the more Yasuko began to realize what a gift she had been given. Shoko is infectiously happy. When I went to the Kanazawa home for our interview, Shoko showed me her Michael Jackson dance moves. She loves to ham it up for the camera. She loves to make people smile.


We Interrupt These Excerpts . . .

. . . to encourage you to join the Center for Civil Society on Thursday, June 29th, for its free webinar on why “The Right to Association Needs Help.” Duquesne University’s Luke C. Sheahan, expert on that subject of the associative right (you know—the one that’s smack dab in the middle of the First Amendment; a.k.a the profound “Assembly Clause”) will join Yours Truly to discuss and explain why civil society is weakened when empowered entities (such as the federal courts) fail to protect this essential right. It will take place from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. (Eastern), and yes, an enlightening experience is guaranteed! Do register, right here.

. . . We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Suggestions


3. At The Wall Street Journal, Barton Swaim lays into Patrick Deneen’s new integralist call for “Aristopopulism.” From the review:

“Regime Change,” unlike “Why Liberalism Failed,” appears to be written exclusively for people who already agree with its contentions. Rarely does Mr. Deneen anticipate a counterargument. Caricatures abound. In a discussion of American conservatism, the only proponents of classical liberalism he mentions are the “objectivist” weirdo Ayn Rand and a posse of “Never-Trumper” journalists. Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek are nowhere to be found.

Mr. Deneen’s habit of misrepresenting beliefs he dislikes doesn’t prevent him from borrowing from them when the need arises. Consider the point about reconnecting with an “older tradition” of conservatism that esteems the insights of ordinary people. His account leaves the impression that no serious conservative writer in the past hundred years defended the values and habits of unlearned people. “Common-Good Conservatism,” he writes, as if announcing a new doctrine, “aligns itself in the first instance with the ‘common sense’ of ordinary people especially because they are the most instinctively conservative element in a social and political order.”

Of course, if you’ve read Michael Oakeshott’s “Rationalism in Politics,” say, or the essays of Irving Kristol or Thomas Sowell—or even if you’ve heard William F. Buckley’s quip that he would rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard—you were already aware that this theme is basic to the conservatism Mr. Deneen ridicules as “right-liberalism.” He has, in fact, read Oakeshott’s famous book, which he cites on page 205 in “Why Liberalism Failed.” And it is inconceivable that he hasn’t read Kristol and Mr. Sowell and scores of other conservative intellectuals who’ve defended the mores of the uncredentialed against their cultured despisers. Forgive me if I begin to suspect that Mr. Deneen is not entirely on the up and up.


4. At The Free Press, Lisa Selin Davis reports on the “social-justice warrior” M.O. of increasingly ideologized mental-health therapists. From the analysis:

I spoke to new therapists, some still in training, who describe a profession that teaches the ascribing of oppressor or victim categories to patients, based on their innate characteristics, instead of seeing them as individuals. Several sources said their applications to graduate schools required them to make a written commitment to anti-racism. Some said they’d been penalized for asking the “wrong” questions in class, detailing how this ideological encroachment damages their own mental health.

I reviewed mission statements and other documents released by professional organizations in recent years, revealing how this revolution has transformed the central tenets of the therapeutic process.

And I talked to psychologists and others fighting back. They described their alarm at how the very people who are supposed to help ease trauma become the source of it, as therapy sessions transform into ideological struggle sessions. British psychotherapist Val Thomas told me “the reason this happened is that activists captured the institutions and professional bodies of counseling and psychotherapy.”

At a time when as many as 90 percent of adults believe there’s a mental health crisis in this country, parts of the mental health profession are in crisis too.


5. At The American Conservative, Declan Leary considers the UFO mania. From the piece:

It has become fashionable among UFO theorists and fellow travelers to argue that most of the enchanted stories of the past—of creation, of spirits, of man’s encounter with something beyond this realm—have been misunderstandings of extraterrestrial encounters. From the pyramids to the Bible to man’s genetic code, these people ascribe the wonders of history to alien influence, and the whole religious impulse to primitive man’s wonder at the otherworldly gods.

Such fringe ideas have been laughed away by the great mass of society, but the evidence that there is something to the so-called alien phenomenon is reaching critical mass. What if crackpots have stumbled on the truth, but managed to get it backwards altogether?

It makes sense chronologically, if nothing else. In the last years of the 19th century, as man turned his eye for conquest toward the skies, the dark things that had always lurked at the edge of human knowledge moved in the necessary direction. With fewer forests and less of man’s mind directed into them, fairies and the like essentially vanished from the field of industrial man’s perception. Extraterrestrials popped up conveniently in their place.


6. At The Blade of Perseus, Victor Davis Hanson remembers D-Day, the horrors of battle, and the mindset of the GI. From the piece:

In a word, they “believed” in the United States. 

That generation had emerged from the crushing poverty of the Great Depression to face the reality that the Axis powers wanted to destroy their civilization and their country. 

They were confident in American know-how. They were convinced they fought for the right cause. They were not awed by traveling thousands of miles from home to face German technological wizardry, veterans with years of battle experience, and a ruthless martial code.

The men at Omaha did not believe America had to be perfect to be good—just far better than the alternative. 

They understood, like their predecessors at Valley Forge, Gettysburg, and the Meuse-Argonne, that nothing in the United States was guaranteed.


7. At National Review, Rich Lowry makes the case for the now-besieged Anglo-Saxons. From the piece:

It’s official. The Anglo-Saxons are getting canceled. 

The move comes more than 1,000 years too late for the previously ascendant Romano-British who couldn’t resist these Germanic peoples who showed up on the shores of England beginning in the fifth century, but surely, they would appreciate the gesture.

As part of an effort to make its instruction more “anti-racist,” Cambridge University is going to teach students that identities such as Anglo-Saxon are “constructed and contingent.” The school’s Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic is hoping to “dismantle the basis of myths of nationalism,” and also is keenly aware of “recent concerns over use of the term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ and its perceived connection to ethnic/racial English identity.”

To be honest, the Anglo-Saxons have been living on borrowed time for a while now.


8. At The Spectator US, Teresa Mull wonders if America’s future is really one of electric cars. From the article:

“Range anxiety,” as it’s known, “is alive and well,” adds Boyd, “and that’s the number-one question and concern I hear about EVs.”

Andy Campbell knows more about range anxiety than possibly anybody in the US. As the head of PR and marketing for DiamondBack Covers, a truck-bed cover manufacturer Andy describes as “early adapters at heart, techy and forward-thinking,” he volunteered to test out the company’s electric truck (a 2022 F-150 Lightning Lariat) with a family road trip from Pennsylvania to California with his wife Rebecca and three-year-old son Oliver.

“It was going to be a twenty-six-day trip,” Andy tells me from the passenger seat of the Lightning. “Within an hour, we thought about turning around and me dropping [my family] off. I offered Rebecca a flight home multiple times.”

Crossing Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands, the Campbells watched the Lightning’s range deplete in real time. “The range would drop by three miles, and you only went a quarter-mile uphill,” Andy recalls. “If you have a high resting heart rate, this truck will drive you over the edge.” He offers as an analogy the feeling of seeing your iPhone’s battery turn yellow. “Imagine that, on your car, but in the middle of the desert.”


9. At Providence Magazine, James Rowell directs traffic at the intersection of Star Wars, religion, and Tolkien. From the commentary:

In Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the One Ring clearly represents a power analogous to Original Sin. Joseph Pearce in Tolkien Man and Myth, cites Tolkien: “This Catholic theology, explicitly present in The Silmarillion and implicitly present in The Lord of the Rings, is omnipresent in both, breathing life into the tales as invisibly but as surely as oxygen.” Personally, this was hard at first to see as a young man reading Tolkien, when the most salient things were dragons, Nazgul, Orcs, and ring magic. As an adult, one appreciates the deeper level of religion and myth that permeate both Tolkien and Lucas.

Christ’s salvific sacrifice is symbolized clearly in both Tolkien and Lucas as well. When Palpatine thinks he has converted Luke to take his father’s place, Luke instead mercifully and defiantly throws down his lightsaber, telling the emperor he has failed, and that he is a “Jedi like his father.” Luke defeats Vader’s evil not with force of arms, but with a more primal and basic force: the power of love and the appeal to mercy in Vader. Luke’s wager is Christ-like: to gamble that love is a power even stronger than the power of Palpatine’s deception, and he was right. Lucas completes his mythic tale of good and evil with a classic religious lesson.

Frodo’s march to Mt. Doom also parallels Christ’s last footsteps to Golgotha. Joseph Pearce described it well in Tolkien: Myth and Man: “The parallels with Christ’s carrying of the Cross are obvious . . . Frodo’s burden may even lead the reader to greater understanding of Christ’s burden. All of a sudden, one sees that it was not so much the weight of the Cross that caused Christ to stumble but the weight of evil, symbolized by Tolkien as the Eye of Sauron.” The power of the ring, and the need to vanquish it runs throughout the story: the perennial temptation of original sin pulling mankind to grab that power which will delude us into thinking we are equal with God. Tolkien understood myth was the true power of a story calling to the deepest niches of human psychology, what Carl Jung might call the “archetype.”


10. At First Things, Carl Trueman explains that blasphemy just ain’t what it used to be. Ditto for comedy. From the piece:

Some weeks ago, John Cleese, one of the film’s stars, announced that he was working on a stage adaptation of Life of BrianHe came under huge pressure from significant and influential members of the artistic community to omit a certain scene from the production, but refused to cut it. In the scene in question, a man named Stan claims to be a woman called Loretta and expresses the desire—and demands the right—to have a baby. Anyone watching the scene today can see the contemporary madness of our current “trans moment” being played out in all of its self-evident incoherence and contradictions. Humankind cannot bear very much reality, as T. S. Eliot opined, and that seems especially true of the progressive political class and its commissars among the creative types. In 1979, the scene was a cause for laughter. Collective madness today makes it a cause for lamentation.

The incident is significant in at least two ways. First, it is a sign of how comedy has lost its way. Comedy is traditionally a means by which the weak can check the power of the powerful by pointing to their vanity, self-regard, and absurdities. So Aristophanes mocked the Athenian rulers of his day as later Erasmus and Luther used humor to prick the pretensions of the Renaissance papacy. Yet things have a tendency over time to turn into their opposites. 

Technology promised liberation from fear by allowing us to control nature, but then delivered the Holocaust and the nuclear bomb. The internet aspired to democratize information, but then fostered ideological silos where individuals can happily avoid being challenged by any views with which they disagree. And comedy, predicated on offering a healthy check to the powerful, has ironically become a tool of the powerful by which they can keep dissenters disempowered and on the margins.


11. At Front Porch Republic, John Klar shares his beef with cow haters. From the piece:

Comparing cows to V12 Hummers with flamethrowers and claiming they are waging an “existential war against humanity” is absurd. Indeed, so too are the various claims made about their impact: the opposite is the truth.

Beef’s “carbon footprint” in CAFO [“Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation”] is much higher than rotationally grazed cows on grass. CAFO cows are fed a diet of grains produced using large amounts of fossil fuels; their waste is mechanically collected into huge mounds or lagoons, then spread using more tractors. Even hay is harvested and delivered to them mechanically, all increasing fossil fuel consumption. But critics focus on their farts (itself a skewed slander, inflating the impacts of methane relative to carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas).

Comparing chickens and pork to cow flesh is ridiculous. Cows are ruminants and can be raised wholly on grass. Blades of grass are solar panels, directly capturing energy from the sun for cows to create healthy meats. Chickens and pigs are monogastric, create manure far more toxic than cows, and are dependent on grains farmed using conventional destructive industrial agricultural methods that compact the soil, increase soil erosion and water loss, and are dependent on fossil fuel energy and massive quantities of chemical additives.


12. Lou Woulda Been Proud: At the Bonner County Daily Bee, Max Oswald reports on an Idaho-down that raised some goodly dollars to battle ALS. From the beginning of the story:

Hundreds came out to fight against ALS at the first annual “All in for ALS” fundraiser at Travers Park on Saturday. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as ALS, is a nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. 

The event, which included a tennis tournament, walk-a-thon, and raffle, brought the community together in its shared fight against ALS.

Most of the walk-a-thon participants were finished by the late morning, but the tennis tournament went into the afternoon and finished up just before a thunderstorm rolled into the area. Competitors of all ages came out to play—some played for fun and some gave it their all.

When all was said and done, over $12,900 was raised for the ALS Evergreen Chapter to provide support to those in the community suffering from ALS.


Lucky 13. At The Imaginative Conservative, Michael De Sapio reminds us of the birthplace of American art—the “Hudson School.” From the reflection:

The Hudson River painters—there were well over a dozen of them, all taking their lead from the English-born Thomas Cole—fostered a distinctly American spiritual imagination. To quote the art historian James F. Cooper, “the spiritual imagination—which sees the sacred in ordinary life—was part of the American experience from the beginning.” The Hudson River painters depicted the local landscape in a way that suggested the majesty of God dwelling just beyond the visible universe. They did this in their handling of receding space, suggesting the infinite and transcendent, and the dramatic interplay of darkness and light. The result was a distinctly American interpretation to the Romantic sublime and America’s first real artistic movement. At a time when intellectual Europeans scoffed at the very possibility of America producing art or beauty, the Hudson School created an outpouring of beauty worthy of any country. It was an aesthetic uniquely American, based on hope in a bountiful land blessed by Providence but also aware that our world below is dark without the inspiring light of Heaven.

One of the many scenic spots along the river, the village of Hastings-on-Hudson, became the home of one of the Hudson School’s leading lights, Jasper Francis Cropsey. Cropsey’s gorgeous and spiritually charged depictions of the surrounding landscape—such as Autumn on the Hudson River—are among the Hudson School’s finest works. Not satisfied with landscape alone, Cropsey branched out into pictures of allegorical and moral import such as The Spirit of War and The Spirit of Peace. So did Thomas Cole, the founder of the group, who lived much further up the river at Catskill; his famous allegorical cycle of paintings The Voyage of Life has immense visionary power. Both Cole and Cropsey showed that landscape and the beauty of nature could be more than a “pretty picture” but could also express symbolic and moral meaning—could teach and instruct. The same went for Asher B. Durand, Frederic Church, and the other painterly inhabitants of the Valley: skeptical of material progress and the industrial revolution, they celebrated the purity of unspoiled nature.


Bonus: At City Journal, Adam Kirsch considers the poetry style of W.H. Auden, and how it reflected the 20th century’s turmoil. From the essay:

In “September 1, 1939,” the “destruction” has finally arrived. It was impossible to know, on the day Germany invaded Poland, that the war would last for six years and cost some 50 million lives, turning the names of Auschwitz and Hiroshima into symbols of unprecedented horror. But the title of the poem alone makes clear that Auden knew the magnitude of what was coming. Most occasional poems use the title to explain their occasion—Oliver Cromwell becoming the ruler of England, the Spanish Civil War. By using just the date, Auden suggests that every future reader will know what September 1, 1939, signifies in history. More than 80 years later, we still do.

For Auden, 1939 was a personal turning point, as well. In January, he moved from England to New York, which would be his primary home until near the end of his life. The timing of his expatriation received bitter criticism back home, especially once the Blitz and wartime austerity began. In 1940, a member of Parliament denounced Auden (and Isherwood, who moved to California at the same time) for “seeking refuge abroad” and proposed that their British citizenship be revoked.

More important, in literary terms, was the way moving to America removed Auden from the communal and generational experiences he had channeled in his early poetry. Indeed, that is exactly why he chose to leave: he was tired of being a spokesman and a celebrity. In America, he would be a free agent, responsible only to his own conscience and imagination.


For the Good of the CauseGoething Before the Fall

Uno. Where do you want to be when the heat wave strikes? In Denver, the Coolio Colorado City, where from Monday, July 10th, through Wednesday the 12th, AmPhil’s Center for Civil Society will host a Major Gifts Training Seminar for development professionals looking for intensive training and buffed-up knowledge in the critical art of dealing with key prospects and generous givers. This is an opportunity to gain consequential knowledge, so don’t miss it. Get more information, and sign up, right here.

Due. Mosey on over to Philanthropy Daily, you development professionals, to gather sage advice from Eric Streiff on why you need to be planning now (in June) for that important December fundraising drive. Actually, don’t mosey . . . run! Right here.

Tre. You think maybe that America’s skyrocketing irreligiosity has something to do with the problems affecting this nation? This critical issue demands your attention. Show it at the forthcoming C4CS conference—“Rise of the Nones: How Declining Religious Affiliation Is Changing Civil Society.” It takes place on November 7–8 in glorious Scottsdale, AZ. Get complete information, right here.


Department of Bad Jokes

Q: How do you know the ocean is friendly?


A: It waves.


A Dios

Double wow: Is there anything more fascinating than a European starling putting on a show?

May He Who Made Their Tiny Wings Watch Over Us,

Jack Fowler, who when he is not hunting for worms can be found at jfowler@amphil.com.

P.S. In case someone forwarded this missive to you, know that you can subscribe at www.civilthoughts.com, and view missives past right here.

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