16 min read

Dear Intelligent American,

A delusion of our current moment is that all is unprecedented. Granted, there is no question the conviction of a former POTUS is that. But monkey business on the part of prosecutors and flip-side nullification by juries—hey, gloves-not-fitting and acquitting, the ugly stuff that To Kill a Mockingbird portrayed, etc.—gives credence to the cliché that everything old is new again. Quite worrying nonetheless.

Could the wheels be coming off the bus of America’s Greyhound Scenicruiser? Yep. But: This side of the ballot box, one can do something about it. Such as? Engaging in civil society. Listen closely: There’s a voluntary association calling your name.

Put down the iPad, stop scrolling through Instagram reels, and answer. Getting involved is good for the soul—yours, and the nation’s.

Speaking of which: Your nation has a flag, and that flag has a day, affixed by law—the 14th of June, which is next Thursday. Our historic pennants—especially the An Appeal to Heaven drapeau (also know as the “Pine Tree” and “Washington’s Cruisers” flag)—are much in the news of late, the importance of these banners sullied, if one is entitled to an opinion, by ideologues who think little of the Stars and Stripes and its many predecessors. Pooh on them. This being a nonpartisan missive, seek distraction in President Jimmy Carter’s 1977 proclamation celebrating Old Glory’s bicentennial.


The Buffet Is Open; Load Up


1. At The American Mind, fan favorite Daniel J. Mahoney comes to the defense of George Orwell, the new big target of the cancelling left. From the commentary:

But who would have thought George Orwell would become a target of the ideological mob? He was a self-described “democratic socialist,” and the anti-totalitarian Left never disowned him. He, of course, made them nervous with his deep and abiding hostility to communism, his contempt for “smelly little orthodoxies” and the ideological corruption of language, his distrust of left-wing intellectuals, his cultural conservatism, and his unapologetic English patriotism (for all of this, see Orwell’s still relevant 1941 essay, “The Lion and the Unicorn”). From time to time, though, the Left would misappropriate him for their own contemporary purposes. Walter Cronkite once wrote an introduction to 1984 claiming that Richard Nixon was the new incarnation of “Big Brother” who would usher in totalitarianism, a ridiculous assertion not uncommon to liberals and radicals at the time. And after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, 1984 became a momentary bestseller as the Left prepared themselves for an inevitably “fascist” future.


The Left’s attitude toward Orwell himself, however, is in the process of changing dramatically. As John Rodden reports in an important if alarming article in the May 2024 issue of the New Criterion, Orwell is under sustained and systematic attack by leftist activists, academics, and ideologues throughout the Anglophone world. Unease has been replaced by zealous hostility and open mendacity toward the great anti-totalitarian English writer and consummate defender of political decency.


2. At Comment Magazine, Nathan Beacom proposes that monasticism holds a solution to the problems affecting the modern male. From the essay:

In the rubble of a decaying empire, the lost young men of Italy and beyond found a path to meaningful manhood in the monasteries. The Rule of Saint Benedict, which became a key reference point for the tradition of monkhood that flowed from it, contains sharp and enduring psychological insights into the process of taking the raw material of masculinity and shaping it into good manhood. The Rule lays out what I identify as three key developmental strands that are lacking in our culture today: fatherhood, brotherhood, and discipline.


First, fatherhood. Manhood is passed in only one real way: from man to man. Young men are full of extravagant impulses: ambition, sexual urges, a desire for glory. Their wills tend to be unruly, leading to destructive consequences. Like malamutes on a sled team, men need to be yoked to a lead dog who can unite their wills and impulses in the right direction. Without good leaders, young men will find bad ones.


“As soon as any order has been given by a superior, as though it were the order of God, the brothers can make no delay in carrying it out,” says the Rule of Saint Benedict. “Therefore, these brothers, at once relinquishing what they are doing, desert their own will and quickly freeing their hands by leaving unfinished what they were about, proceed with the foot of ready obedience to carry out the order given.” This is not an arbitrary power grab on behalf of an elder; rather, it is an acknowledgement that novices need direction, and the monks elect the man they believe to be the wisest director. It is a recognition that our wills get us into trouble and that a man further down the road knows the way better than we do. There is a world of difference between tyrannical domination and willful obedience. The first is mere imposition; the second is a voluntary acknowledgement of good leadership.


This Info Is Worth the Interruption . . .

Hey you Givers, Doers, and Thinkers: The Center For Civil Society, mother ship of this missive, announces formally its consequential conference on K to Campus: How the Education Reform Movement Can Reshape Higher Ed. The shebang takes place at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA, from October 23-24, and just about every bit of info you want/need to know can be found here, including that the kick-off event will be Yours Truly interviewing the great Victor Davis Hanson. The agenda is super, and yes, besides the what’s-wronging, there will be plenty of inspiration on tap. Be there.

. . . Now You Can Once Again Strap on the Feed Bag


3. At The American Conservative, Peter Tonguette kicks sand in the face of summer vacation. From the piece:

If I sound unusually censorious about summer vacations, maybe it’s partly because I seldom experienced them myself. From the third grade onward, I was homeschooled, and henceforth the traditional distinction between the school year and the summer collapsed. My parents tried to approximate summer vacations—our school assignments generally ended in May and began again in September—but, as a practical matter, there was little to distinguish the summer from the rest of the year. The months tended to blend together.


To start with, the anticipation of being home all day is diminished when you are already home all day. For homeschooled kids, there is no particular novelty in eating a hot lunch prepared by Mom, having the television or radio on in the background while reading textbooks, or getting the mail as soon as it arrives. There is also no novelty to going to events or on outings during the daytime hours, since that happens during the homeschooled school year, too.


More importantly, homeschooling encourages a certain catholicity that carries over into the summer months: During the school year, I was working within the curriculum, which, in my case, included such unexpected subjects for a third- or fourth-grader as Greek mythology and French. But, beyond the planned coursework, I also had the luxury of pursuing my own interests, which included contemporary American literature, classic movies, and even classical music.


4. At Law & Liberty, Titus Techera finds America cinema flagging in its ability and desire to tell big military stories. From the essay:

War movies shape public memory—and our remembrance of World War II most of all, since it was the moment America ascended to its current eminence among world powers. The memory we have of WWII, to the extent we have one, is formed by Saving Private Ryan and especially Band of Brothers. Peaceful liberals like Steven Spielberg, the all-American wizard of the end of the twentieth century, and Tom Hanks, who acted as the moral conscience of America, are our guides. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their public spirit.


One strange aspect of the national memory is the almost exclusive focus on Europe and the Nazis. This is in one sense understandable—Germans are much closer and more understandable to Americans than are the Japanese; to say nothing else, the two peoples are connected by Christianity and immigration: Germans were the most populous minority in majority English America. Ultimately, this focus is justified by one important truth, that the world wars were primarily the wars of the European empires, regimes where democratization came through terrible bloodshed.


5. At The Pipeline, Steven Hayward finds a growing menace in the highly funded world of leftist nonprofits. From the piece:

Hence what we have seen in recent weeks over the “Palestine” issue is an ominous case study. Observers stunned at the campus-based protest movement on behalf of Hamas have come to learn that this protest movement is far from spontaneous, but has in fact been lavishly financed and developed for years by leading left-wing philanthropies along with Arab states in the Middle East. Park MacDougald reports the architecture of the effort in detail at The Tablet. It includes all of the usual suspects, including George Soros, the Tides Foundation, but also many lesser-known donors and activists.


For many years Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and their main demands—an academic boycott of Israel, divestment of university endowments in any companies that do substantial business in Israel, and sanctions against Israel similar to the South Africa sanctions of the 1990s (or BDS for short)—made little headway, but leftist movements are always patient and like perennial growths spring back to life regularly.


In recent weeks the pro-Hamas campus protests have seen concession after concession from weak or allied college administrators (are there any other kind?), offering to “review” investment positions of college endowments and, in the case of Northwestern University, expanding scholarships for Palestinian students and the hiring of additional pro-Palestinian faculty. Given that universities are the brain trust of the Democratic Party, we should not be surprised to see the Biden administration’s slow tilt away from Israel.


6. Hemlock One: At Public Discourse, Mehmet Ciftci poses the question, is the fight against “assisted dying” a lost cause? From the analysis:

First, we need to reject the view that treats the entire matter as a lost battle. Stock is not the only one to say that more and more countries will inevitably legalize assisted suicide. The British journalist Matthew Parris, in an article tastelessly published on Good Friday in the Times, wrote approvingly that societies burdened with too many old people will have to drop an absolute taboo against ending the life of the sick or aged if they want to survive and remain competitive. In 2015, he wrote with an even greater sense of fatalism: “I do not therefore need to campaign for assisted dying. . . . My opinions and my voice are incidental. This is a social impulse that will grow, nourished by forces larger than all of us. I don’t exhort. I predict.”


This is rhetoric intended to weaken any opposition through sheer demoralization. There is something particularly paradoxical about reading Parris, a former Conservative member of Parliament when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, using Marxist rhetoric. I remember when I read the Communist Manifesto as a teenager, being intrigued by its intoxicating language: “What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.” But what I did not realize (until I became a lapsed Marxist years later) is that this would make politics, or even any human action, pointless and superfluous before the unstoppable march of history. In Orwell’s 1984, the protagonist’s torturer tells him: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.”


That would be a good image of our situation if the course of history were predetermined, and politics set to go in just one direction. But we do not live in an iron cage of determinism, and that is partly what makes 1984 preposterous as a novel about totalitarianism. The rhetoric that treats what is wished for as a foregone conclusion is a standard trope of prophetic literature, and there is no shortage of false prophets with us today. It is vital then that we dispel the language of inevitability that misleads and demoralizes us into treating the battle as a lost cause before it has even begun.


7. More Hemlock: At UnHerd, Ian Birrell reports on a Canadian cancer patient who was offered euthanasia as treatment. From the beginning of the piece:

Two years ago, over the Thanksgiving holiday, Allison Ducluzeau started to feel pain in her stomach. At first, she assumed she had eaten too much turkey, but the pain persisted. A couple of weeks later, she saw her family doctor who requested CT scans, although none were sorted. Soon after, as the agony worsened, her partner insisted she went to the emergency unit at their local hospital on Vancouver Island. Finally, doctors confirmed the couple’s worst fears: she was almost certainly suffering from advanced abdominal cancer.


Allison, then 56, later learned that she had stage 4 peritoneal carcinomatosis, an aggressive condition. By the time she saw a specialist early last year, he warned that she might only live a few months longer: chemotherapy tended to be ineffective for her cancer, buying a bit more time at best, and she was inoperable. Instead, she was told to go home, sort out her papers, and decide if she wanted medical assistance in dying.


8. At Claremont Review of Books, the esteemed Lee Edwards celebrates the 50th anniversary of the publication of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s epic work, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation. From the essay:

For Solzhenitsyn, writing The Gulag Archipelago became an inescapable duty. He began it in longhand in 1958, much of it in “a hiding place” in Tartu, Estonia. He relied heavily on the eyewitness accounts of 257 camp survivors. As recounted by David Remnick, The Washington Post’s Moscow correspondent, Solzhenitsyn traveled “widely and furtively, visiting friends from his own [years] in the camps.” He was a man with a memory, Remnick wrote, in a country that lied about its past and present in the name of Utopia. Solzhenitsyn finished the book in 1968 but kept hidden a handful of copies typed by assistants and photographed for safekeeping.


Life became more complicated for Solzhenitsyn in 1970 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Afraid that he might be exiled from Russia, he decided not to travel to Stockholm to accept the award. Instead, he wrote a provocative speech to be read at the awards ceremony in which he asserted that “it is within the power of writers and artists . . . to defeat the lie.” He insisted that “one word of truth shall outweigh the whole world.” He called on all Nobel Prize winners to recognize that the day of the Nobel presentations coincided with Human Rights Day. “Let none at this festive table,” he said, “forget that political prisoners are on hunger-strike this very day in defense of rights that have been curtailed or trampled underfoot.”


When the KGB obtained a draft version of The Gulag Archipelago in 1973, Solzhenitsyn delayed no longer and gave his Paris publisher permission to publish. The book shattered liberal assumptions about a “democratic” Lenin, the godfather of the Gulag, and exposed the chain-gang existence of the millions who had lived and died in the archipelago. Some reviewers described the Gulag as another holocaust.


9. At The Imaginative Conservative, Joseph Pearce hearkens back to Virginia Wolfe to consider the “sisterhood” crafted by the Bard of Avon. From the piece:

In this foundational feminist critique of the plight of women, Woolf contrasts the presentation of powerful women in literature with the lack of powerful women in history, focusing particularly on Shakespeare’s time. It is intriguing that the literary icons from Shakespeare’s corpus whom Woolf singles out for praise as empowered women are Cleopatra, Lady Macbeth, Desdemona and Rosalind. Let’s look at this Shakespearean sisterhood, examining what Woolf might have seen in them as representing strength or what might now be called empowerment.


Cleopatra forsakes her responsibilities to her family and people in her destructive and self-destructive lust for Antony, and she commits suicide in spite of Caesar’s warning that he would have her children killed should she kill herself. Lady Macbeth is so intent on political empowerment that she proclaims that she would be willing to violently slaughter her own nursing baby to become queen. Desdemona is so deluded by Othello’s boastful lies that she elopes with him, knowing nothing of Othello’s true character, his jealous rage and ultimately murderous anger. Rosalind is presumably chosen by the sexually confused Woolf because she disguises herself as a man. Unlike the other characters whom Woolf admires, however, Rosalind displays Christian virtue and is not deluded by the self-destructive quest for either political or sexual self-empowerment. Instead, she offers timeless wisdom about the dangers of erotic passion in her description of Cupid as “that same wicked bastard of Venus that was begot of thought, conceived of spleen, and born of madness, that blind rascally boy that abuses everyone’s eyes because his own are out”. Cleopatra and Desdemona are blinded by their cupidity and stumble to their deaths. Rosalind marries her true love, embracing self-sacrificial marital responsibility, and presumably lives happily ever after. This, one suspects, is not the aspect of Rosalind’s character that Virginia Woolf admires.


10. At Modern Age, Christopher Sandford explains how the powerful works of Franz Kafka exist because his literary will was defied. From the piece:

Max Brod has a lot to answer for. As the closest thing Franz Kafka had to a best friend, and more pertinently also his literary executor, Brod was given clear instructions that he was to destroy all Kafka’s unpublished work following his death, which came on June 3, 1924. Brod ignored this, and we can thank him for bringing all three of Kafka’s full-length novels, The Castle, The Trial, and Amerika, into print as a result. English translations by the husband and wife team of Edwin and Willa Muir started to appear in 1930 with The Castle, the book Kafka had labored over and then abandoned not long before his death at the age of forty, a victim of tuberculosis that in time made the act of swallowing so painful that it now appears he succumbed to starvation.


Brod often warned Kafka that he would refuse his instructions and said that had he truly been serious about wanting his manuscripts destroyed in this way he would have appointed a different executor. We can argue the merits of the case one way or another, even while deploring some of its broader consequences when applied to other authors and their posthumous works. Earlier this year, Knopf published the late Gabriel García Márquez’s novel Until August, many years after he had unambiguously told his two sons, “This doesn’t work. It must be burnt.” Now the sons have not only brought out the book but also have concluded in a preface that their father’s “then fading facilities [sic] that kept him from finishing the novel also kept him from realizing how good it is,” a view that appears to be at odds with the critical consensus.


11. At Verily Magazine, Jaclyn Hoselton, American expat, tells what it’s like to be a mom in Germany. From the article:

And then there were harder things to accept, like the young age at which children are trusted with independence, such as going to the bakery alone to buy bread or walking without parents to school. What is an expat to do in this situation, but adapt? It was stretching, but I learned that I needed to sacrifice some of my own culture-based ideals for the good of my family.


Being both a parent and an expat is hard. A single individual can experience foreign cultures selectively on her own terms, but as a parent, I am responsible for the flourishing of my children. My level of cultural engagement and integration directly affects theirs. While it is okay to make decisions with my own culture in mind, it’s also essential to engage with the culture around me.


I didn’t just wrestle with the education system. There were many aspects of life—relational, culinary, economic, political—into which I struggled to integrate. They all challenged my American mindset in more ways than I’d like to admit, which surprised me. I didn’t expect to wrestle with the “superiority” of my own cultural ideals; I thought I was ready for international living.


12. At National Affairs, Howard Husock declares that public-policy graduate schools have failed. From the essay:

As political scientist Aaron Wildavsky—founding dean of the Berkeley School of Public Policy (now the Goldman School)—wrote in The Public Interest in 1985, “schools of policy were designed to be organizations that would do for the public sector what business schools had done for the private sector: produce students to colonize the bureaucracies, to criticize what those bureaucracies were doing, and, in a modest way, to set things right.” There had long been minor schools of public administration at the university level, but Bok’s and Wildavsky’s visions went far beyond accounting and personnel training.


Princeton already had just such a graduate school, founded in 1961 with a special focus on international affairs. Other universities—Berkeley, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California, Indiana University, the University of Chicago, and many others — established their own graduate schools of government around the same time as Harvard. But if Bok envisioned something akin to the French École Nationale d’Administration—established by Charles de Gaulle in 1945 both to staff the upper levels of France's powerful and centralized civil service and to democratize the civil service by making that pipeline more public—the task proved vexing from the start in an American context.


Whatever their other value, such schools are now falling short in their mission to prepare students for, and steer them toward, government roles. They are simply not serving as a pipeline into the upper echelons of government. This raises two important questions: What is the role of public-policy schools today? And can they, or anything else, serve as that important link between higher education and public service?


Lucky 13. At the Wausau Daily Herald, Erik Pfantz reports on a high-school fundraiser that didn’t need a presidential executive editor to cancel student-lunch debt. From the story:

Yauo Yang, a Schofield pastor and parent of six Wausau School District students, raised over $26,000 via a GoFundMe campaign to pay off student lunch account debt in both the Wausau School District and neighboring D.C. Everest Area School District. In mid-April, when the campaign began, Wausau School District students held $10,925 in lunch account debt.


Students typically gain lunch account debt in two ways, Karen Fochs, the district’s nutrition services director, said during a May meeting of the district’s Education/Operations Committee. One way is students who are eligible to receive free or reduced-cost lunches do not complete the paperwork to receive the cost relief, and the other way is from a two-night stay at the school forest that includes seven meals and two snacks.


The stay at the forest includes two breakfasts, three lunches, two suppers and two snacks and costs $23.05 for a fifth-grader and $11.50 for a fifth-grader who is eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches, according to White.


Bonus. At Commentary Magazine, Joseph Epstein may be lonely, or, he may just be seeking solitude. From the reflection:

The first distinction that needs to be made in connection with solitude is the one between it and loneliness. This comes up near the onset of Solitude: The Science and Power of Being Alone, a new study by three authors that considers the vast deal of recent research on the subject (so much so that the book sometimes reads as if it were a study of studies). The book attempts to get beyond the quantitative and into the qualitative aspects of solitude, chiefly by quoting from many of the subjects of its research. There is, for example, 68-year-old Brian from England, who speaks soothingly of “peace, quiet, on your own, like you’re fishing, nobody else around, lovely river, lovely location, fishing away. Peace, quiet, babble of brook maybe. Just being with nature, lovely, being on your own.”


The authors of Solitude recognize how painful loneliness can be, but argue that solitude, far from causing pain, “is not a shift away from others but an intentional move toward our best possible selves.” They believe that “time well spent in solitude is critical to embracing an insightful, meaningful, and peaceful life.” Solitude, for them, “is not the absence of anything, not really, but rather the presence of everything.” They define the word as “a state in which the self is placed in the center of one’s attention and, if not physically alone, then mentally distanced from others.”


Solitude breaks down the phenomenon into four types: complete, private, companionate, and public. Complete and private are obvious enough, but “companionate” entails sharing solitude. The authors of Solitude quote the poet Rainer Maria Rilke assigning his wife as “guardian of his solitude.” Rilke wrote: “I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other.” My own marriage is a variant of Rilke’s. My dear wife allows me all the time I require to read and write, and for my mind to wander off to the land of solitude. Public solitude features enjoying solitude even when out in the world: dining alone, walking in a crowd, at a classical music concert, or even a sporting event.


For the Good of the Cause

Uno. “We need to do a capital campaign. By the way, what is a capital campaign?” Good question, one among many that will be answered at the Center for Civil Society’s “In the Trenches” Master Class scheduled for Thursday, August 8th, via Zoom from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. (Eastern). If you’re a nonprofit worker bee, or even trustee, that is noodling the idea of a capital campaign, you’ll regret not attending. So sign up. Do that, and learn more, right here.

Due. At Philanthropy Daily, Carter Skeel reinforces the idea that when it comes to fundraising, a nonprofit has to find its voice. Read it here.

Tre. Hey! Subscribe to the Philanthropy Daily newsletter. Do that here.


Department of Bad Jokes

Q: Why is longitude smarter than latitude?

A: Because it has 360 degrees.


A Dios

A note: This missive is light on the politics—there are plenty of other places to get a bellyful of that. Another: Please know your recommendations for suggested readings are happily accepted and possibly even shared. One Final: The person who sweeps up after this newsletter’s elephant is Lorna. Philanthropy Daily’s Managing Editor is as adept with the eraser and pen as she is with the broom and shovel. Without her, Yours Truly is lost.

May We Be Blessed to Know When to Hold Tongues,

Jack Fowler, who awaits correspondence, even from Nigerian estate lawyers, at jfowler@amphil.com.

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