Dear Intelligent American,
Pardon: Maybe you’re reading this love-infused, every-Friday bundle of suggested readings, bad jokes, and rabbit-hole journeys, but are not formally subscribed. Fix that! Sign up for Civil Thoughts right here.
Next: To our brothers and sisters of the Old Testament, may Yom Kippur, mere days off, be as profoundly, spiritually renewing as Our Creator will allow.
And Then: Unless we have bats in our belfry, we’re certain you’ll find the fundraising story below (Number 12) . . . appealing.
Last (But Not Least): Yours Truly has been blessed to attend a gala or two in recent weeks. One was at the LT Michael P. Murphy Navy SEAL Museum on Long Island, where a bevy of true heroes were on hand to pay posthumous tribute to the Medal of Honor recipient. Murphy and his SEAL comrades, and others who came to their aid—nearly all of whom made the ultimate sacrifice that June 2005 day in the harsh hills of Afghanistan—may be best know from the 2013 movie Lone Survivor. It is a little troubling to have fun at a gala honoring a man who displayed epic heroism, but it was good to see his family find the best in this heartache, and to show all that there are indeed amongst us those who have the courage of giants. If you ever find yourself out thataway, visit the museum. Your soul will thank you.
This Sagging Smorgasbord of Excerpts May Host Too Much for Even the Biggest of Intellectual Gluttons
1. At City Journal, John Tierney investigates the charge that we abide in a time of misogyny and concludes it’s phooey. From the essay:
The most visible victims of the misogyny myth are male—the boys whose needs are neglected in schools, the men denied jobs, promotions, and awards—but their plight has never aroused much sympathy, even among men. Journalists and scholars have chronicled their woes in books like Warren Farrell’s Myth of Male Power (1993), Lionel Tiger’s Decline of Males (1999), Christina Hoff Sommers’s War Against Boys (2000), Susan Pinker’s Sexual Paradox (2008), Roy Baumeister’s Is There Anything Good About Men? (2010), Kay Hymowitz’s Manning Up (2011), and Richard V. Reeves’s Of Boys and Men (2022). But the diversity industry continues to rule public policy and shape public opinion.
The more real progress that women make, the more both sexes worry about imaginary misogyny. In Gallup polls a decade ago, a majority of Americans believed that women had equal job opportunities; today, a majority disagree. Support has also risen for affirmative-action programs for women, which enjoy support from two-thirds of Americans and are especially popular among younger adults. Opposition is dismissed as a “backlash” against women, and those who argue for equal treatment of the sexes are labeled (absurdly) “male supremacists.” In academia and at companies like Google (which fired an engineer who wrote a memo accurately describing gender research), blaming a gender gap on sexual differences is a bigger career risk than ever—unless the gap reflects badly on men.
“Misandry is not only tolerated; it’s actively encouraged,” Winegard says. “It’s become a form of claptrap: if you go on Oprah and blame men for any problem, the audience will automatically clap. There’s open hostility toward normal masculine behavior. We used to measure people on a masculine scale and conclude that women are failed men. Now men are failed women.”
2. More Men: At The American Conservative, Carmel Richardson, reporting on the pardoning of Northern Virginia dad Scott Smith, rallies behind the paternal instinct. From the commentary:
The wealthy suburb of Washington, D.C. was pursuing another charge against Smith, this time for disorderly conduct, prior to Youngkin’s pardon. Buta Biberaj, the top elected prosecutor of Loudoun County, whom the judge ultimately from Smith’s case due to public concern that she was biased against him, appears to have understood the situation perfectly. Biberaj released a statement this week in which she described Youngkin’s pardon as interference in the legal process “for political gain.” True: Political prisoners may only be released as a result of political maneuvering. Also true: The American justice system is far from neutral today. Youngkin, like Biberaj, has simply decided he won’t be a chump.
Smith, too, refused to be a chump. His reaction to the board’s indifference got to the heart of the parental rights battle in which the Loudoun County School Board kerfuffle would only be the first high water mark. The right of a father to shield his children from wickedness and to teach them good things are refinements of the more raw, natural, protective instinct witnessed in Smith’s reflexive and even physical defense of his daughter that day. It is a right that gives the lie to the progressive notion of relinquishing all parental authority to so-called experts and trusting, even when it goes against all reason, those educators’ false
In this sense, his pardon—though certainly good—is not the point in itself. It is good to see the law act in accordance with nature, but we should not imagine that the nature of things could have been changed by human law. In his newsletter this week, Aaron Renn that “the maternal instinct cannot be suppressed.” This observation was made in reference to a novel dealing with themes of 21st century feminism, but it is helpful here, too, because I believe we may apply the same framework to many men. The paternal instinct, that whole-body watchfulness, seems impervious to extinction.
3. Women’s Turn: At Comment Magazine, Margarita Mooney Clayton considers the Blessed Mother, the affirmation at the “Annunciation,” and the empowering “gift of dependence.” From the essay:
Celebrating Mary’s contemplative, hopeful obedience at the Annunciation helps us remember that the church she symbolizes and models is not a political organization focused exclusively on historical time, but a place that allows the divine to enter human history. The modern, activist mentality is in danger of rejecting our dependence on God. The church has an important social dimension, but it can never be restricted to that dimension, as if she were just an idea or a project whose purpose is to change the world. The church is meant to be a home of a people who listen for God’s word with hopeful expectation.
Mary’s yes at the Annunciation indicates that she is a woman who knows how to listen, and thus how to read signs. Recovering this Marian imagery is crucial to restore the church’s feminine dimension—the church as a home, a place of leisure, worship, rejoicing, and wisdom, where we can come together in darkness and sorrow.
But what precisely is the meaning of obedience in the context of Mary’s yes at the Annunciation? Many Christians—perhaps following John Calvin—have been taught to think that Mary was nothing more than a vessel, a passive, inert container for God’s grace. But a different understanding of Mary’s obedience held by the early church and reaffirmed by recent Catholic popes like St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, along with most Protestant thinkers past and present, is that humans have the freedom to cooperate with—or to reject—God’s grace.
4. At The Wall Street Journal, Daniel Akst refreshes the memory about the poetry of Wallace Stevens, in particular one piece about the Sabbath. From the article:
Sundays aren’t what they used to be, but then again when were they? The Christian sabbath was already losing primacy a century ago when an insurance lawyer by the name of Wallace Stevens published “Harmonium,” his first book of poems, and thereby unleashed on the world a set of eight extravagant stanzas titled “Sunday Morning.”
It’s hard to believe that anybody reading them in 1923 could ever look at Sunday mornings in the same light afterward. Stevens’s gorgeous meditation on the nature of divinity—and the human longing for “some imperishable bliss” in the face of mortality—is, among other things, a worldly rejection of the stringent Protestant sabbath of the poet’s youth.
Against the voluptuous sonorities and tropical paganism of Stevens’s iambs, the hard pews and tedious Sunday dinners of the 19th century never stood a chance. And the passage of time has done nothing to even out an unfair fight, or to blunt the unequivocal judgment of poet and critic Yvor Winters. “Sunday Morning,” he declared in 1943, “is probably the greatest American poem of the twentieth century and is certainly one of the greatest contemplative poems in English.”
5. More WSJ: Robert Woodson Sr. and Gregory L. Snyder discuss the downside of corporations engaging in ideologized philanthropy. From the beginning of the piece:
Activists accused HSBC Bank in the early 2000s of “predatory lending,” despite its record of helping customers. So the corporation joined with a national housing-policy advocacy group, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, to generate positive attention.
Appeasement didn’t stop the attacks. At an HSBC-sponsored banquet for the group, speakers, including former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, offered blistering diatribes about American corporations and the free markets that enable them to do business. At the end of his remarks, the NCRC leader who organized the event turned to Mr. Snyder—then a senior vice president at HSBC—and said, without irony, “And I want to thank HSBC for sponsoring this event.”
Another guest—the co-author of this article, Mr. Woodson—leaned over and asked Mr. Snyder: “Why does your company pay to get whipped like this?”
That question led to a partnership between HSBC and the Woodson Center that revitalized one of the poorest communities in the country, saving dozens of families from eviction and homelessness. Unlike the short-lived partnership with NCRC, HSBC’s work with Mr. Woodson has produced lasting results.
Ellul argued that the modern addiction to technology-as-panacea inevitably “causes the state to become totalitarian, to absorb the citizens’ lives completely. Even when the state is liberal and democratic, it cannot do otherwise than become totalitarian. It becomes so directly or, as in the United States, through intermediate persons. But despite differences, all such systems come ultimately to the same result.” The average American teen now spends up to nine hours a day staring at screens. That has psychological, and therefore social, and thus political, consequences.
In The Matrix, Neo’s awakening to reality involves literally unplugging from the machines and a painful, if salvific, recovery. Paul Kingsnorth has stripped away as much of today’s high-tech, narcotic cocoon as he can from his family’s daily life. (He still writes on his computer; he’s not crazy.)
And he’s happier for it—for good reason. We can’t be the creatures of dignity God made us to be; we can’t be leaven in the world; we can’t serve Jesus Christ and see clearly what needs to be done in the world, if we’re lumps of its sleeping debris. We’re meant to be better than that. As St. Paul writes, we’re meant to be sons and daughters of the light, so “let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” (1 Thess 5:6)
In other words: Take the red pill.
7. At First Things, Louise Perry confronts the consequential reality that society is repaganizing. From the essay:
Here’s the problem for the feminists busy sawing at the branch on which they sit: The same Christian ideas that grant feminism its moral force carry other implications. Though women are a vulnerable group by virtue of their being smaller and weaker than men, there is another group of human beings who are weaker still. A group with no ability to defend themselves against violence, or to proclaim their rights. The very smallest and weakest among us, in fact. Whether we like it or not, we cannot place the protection of the vulnerable at the heart of our ethical system without reaching the conclusion that the unborn child ought not to be killed.
This presents a problem for feminism, because a prohibition on abortion places on women burdens that it does not place on men. And given the widespread practice of both abortion and infanticide, even in Christian cultures, it’s apparent that people struggle to abide by a moral principle that causes huge practical problems. Christianity only ever blended with paganism, rather than fully replacing it, because Christian teachings do cause huge practical problems for followers of the faith. It is difficult to be a good Christian; it is supposed to be.
The legal status of abortion is at the center of the contemporary culture war because it represents the bleeding edge of dechristianization. When pro-life and pro-choice advocates fight about the nitty-gritty of abortion policy, what they are really fighting about is whether our society ought to remain Christian. Most people who describe themselves as pro-choice have not really thought about what truly abandoning Christianity would mean—that is, truly abandoning Christians’ historically bizarre insistence that “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” But there are a few heralds of repaganization who are willing to be confidently and frighteningly consistent.
8. More FT: Chris Caldwell puts the 1990s under the microscope, and sees a fateful decade. From the essay:
At the start of the nineties, Americans seemed to possess unique insight into the principles on which modern economies and societies were built. At the end of the nineties, Americans were stunned to discover that the person with the best insight into their own country and its vulnerabilities was Osama bin Laden. . . .
It was not as if nothing changed in the nineties—but almost all the changes seemed to make the position of the United States more secure. The country underwent the largest peacetime economic expansion in its history. The stock market boomed. Home ownership rose. The government showed more fiscal responsibility than it had in a generation, finishing the decade with annual budget surpluses. Government spending as a percentage of GDP fell to levels last seen in the 1960s. So did crime of all kinds.
Using computer networking technology devised by its military and refined by its scientists, bureaucrats, and hackers, the United States was managing the global transition to an information economy. The United States got to write the rules under which this transformation took place. That should have been a source of safety—but it turned out to be a source of peril. The Cold War victory, combined with a chance to redefine the economic relations that obtain among every human being on earth, was a temptation to Promethean excess. An exceptionally legalistic, hedonistic, and anti-traditional nation, the United States was poorly equipped to resist such a temptation. It misunderstood the victory it had won and the global reconstruction it was carrying out.
9. More Caldwell: At Claremont Review of Books, the great essayist delves into the recent ruling and wonders if the Supreme Court actually put an end to affirmative action in college admissions. From the essay:
The problem with affirmative action has not just been in this or that way of interpreting diversity, nor in this or that tradition of Supreme Court scrutiny. The problem has always been that it is armed with the terrible swift sword of civil rights law, which works to transform every area of American law into anti-discrimination law. It was thus that, in 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, meant to discourage immigration from Mexico by punishing employers who hired illegals, was hedged with language stressing the illegality of discriminating on grounds of national origin—and thereby wound up encouraging immigration. And it was thus that, after the riots of 2020, every single major corporation in the U.S. came to have a Diversity-Equity-Inclusion apparatus. Civil rights arrived promising to make race less important to our national life but has wound up racializing everything it touches.
Lewis Powell was trying to find a compromise between the best pre-civil rights traditions of freedom of association and the best post-civil rights traditions of racial inclusion . . . but the intervening decades have shown that only the latter has the power of law behind it. Civil rights have kept expanding their remit, to the point where, in the Students for Fair Admissions cases, almost any excuse for racial preferences seemed to suffice. Both Harvard and UNC defended their affirmative-action programs as a way of helping students “adapt to an increasingly pluralistic society.” Justice Sotomayor defends affirmative action on the grounds that it “drives innovation in an increasingly global science and technology industry.”
The recent decision promises limits on the most race-conscious parts of affirmative action. But the program has by now had more than half a century to remake the country in its own image. Many of its unfairnesses have become invisible to the culture, and thus inaccessible to the Court. Sonia Sotomayor, speaking for the status quo, believes not only that affirmative action is an efficient tool in the global marketplace, but also that diversity “is now a fundamental American value.”
10. Homeschooling, seeming again to be a cultural target, gets a strong defense at Front Porch Republic, courtesy of Nadya Williams. From the piece:
There is more. Until recently walking away from academia, I worked as a professor of History and Classics for fifteen years, teaching undergraduate and graduate students. Repeatedly, some of the best students I have taught have been homeschooled. What set them apart was precisely the spirit of bold curiosity that I see in my own kids: that bright light in their eyes, an interest in asking questions and in pursuing rabbit trails independently.
Public school curricula, with their strictly set state standards and increased emphasis on standardized testing, simply cannot allow this sort of flexibility. As a result, no matter how amazing the teachers are (and, believe me, many are truly amazing!), students do not get the opportunity to cultivate curiosity, wonder, and a genuine love of learning. More control and oversight is not helping American public schools, and it certainly would not help homeschoolers.
True, some homeschoolers may feel like their experience left them with educational gaps, but here’s the thing. In my fifteen years of teaching college freshmen, I have taught a lot of public schooled students. Guess what? Most of them came to college with a lot of gaps. The DFW rate (meaning, the rate of students who receive a D, F, or Withdrawal from the class) for freshman math and English at regional comprehensive state universities, like the one where I taught for most of my career, is through the roof.
Last but not least, the criticism of activities like baking as educational is remarkably short-sighted in a world where so many adults struggle with such basic tasks as cooking. I have been surprised time and time again to hear from students that they did not know how to make the most basic dishes to feed themselves.
11. At RealClearInvestigations, John Murawski reveals the muffled “climate dissent” critics. From the analysis:
In response last month, more than 1,600 scientists, among them two Nobel physics laureates, Clauser and Ivar Giaever of Norway, signed a declaration stating that there is no climate emergency, and that climate advocacy has devolved into mass hysteria. The skeptics say the radical transformation of entire societies is marching forth without a full debate, based on dubious scientific claims amplified by knee-jerk journalism.
Many of these climate skeptics reject the optimistic scenarios of economic prosperity promised by advocates of a net-zero world order. They say the global emissions-reduction targets are not achievable on such an accelerated timetable without lowering living standards and unleashing worldwide political unrest.
“What advocates of climate action are trying to do is scare the bejesus out of the public so they’ll think we need to [act] fast,” said Steven Koonin, author of “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters.”
“You have to balance the certainties and uncertainties of the changing climate—the risks and hazards—against many other factors,” he adds.
12. At TribLIVE in Tarentum, Joyce Hanz tells of a hum-dinger-donger of a Pennsylvania fundraiser. From the report:
A defunct church belltower in Leechburg will soon be operational again, thanks to the fundraising work of church volunteers the last five months.
“I had a Jesus moment,” said the Rev. James Arter of First Evangelical Lutheran Church of the moment last Tuesday when he opened the church mailbox and realized the church reached its $30,000 goal for reviving the silent belltower, quiet since last October.
“We had two $5,000 donations,” Arter said. “It’s very, very generous.”
The First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Leechburg Carillon Restoration Project kicked off in April.
Lucky 13: At National Review, Armond White, the great film and culture critic, gets satisfaction from the Rolling Stones’ new title, “Angry.” From the beginning of the piece:
The metaphorical male/female, star/fan love story alluded to in “Angry” tells us that in spite of an apparent uniparty, there’s still grievous social division. The prioritization of race and gender identities means that no one is happy. Mick Jagger sings about anger the way he once sang about war, race, and sexual liberation, the moral preoccupations of the ’60s.
However, the circumstances behind “Angry” are different from what inspired “Gimme Shelter” (the Vietnam War). Given our dystopic reality, the Stones question everyday displays of anger — the godlessness that makes claims of “holding accountable” and the hypocrisy of a “humanitarian crisis” outright laughable.
“Angry” seeks shelter from polarization and a world where people give little thought to defamation and punitive actions beyond achieving vengeance and political satisfaction. The world was also different when Public Image Ltd recorded their own “Gimme Shelter,” the timeless anthem “Rise” (1986) during the Soviet–Afghan war, and John Lydon memorably sang, “Anger is an energy!” to explain Punk’s disillusionment as distinct from the Stones opportunistic decadence. (Lydon’s piercing protestation was as powerful as Merry Clayton’s voice cracking on “Gimme Shelter.”)
Bonus. At the Charlotte News & Observer, Richard Stradling reports on two North Carolina amateur historians who are determined to save a Civil War battlefield from the fate of becoming a highway interchange. From the article:
They know precisely where Confederate and Union soldiers were over those four days in March 1865. They know where they dug trenches or hastily built bridges over creeks, where the lines began and ended and where men died and were buried in mass or unmarked graves.
Where some see only a soybean field or a tree line, they see regiments from distant places hunkering down or moving to attack.
“The 23rd Massachusetts was all in this place right here where the mobile homes are,” Harper said at one point as he drove a visitor around the battlefield.
The battle ranged over 4,069 acres, but these days Harper and Sokolosky are worried about one place in particular. The N.C. Department of Transportation plans to convert U.S. 70 into an interstate highway, I-42, through the battlefield and proposes building an interchange at Caswell Station and Wyse Fork roads.
That’s the spot where three regiments of North Carolina Confederates charged into a line of Union soldiers from Ohio, Indiana and New York on the final, decisive day of the battle. NCDOT’s initial plans for the interchange cover 55 acres where Union Maj. Gen. Jacob D. Cox repelled the Confederate attack.
“That one interchange literally wipes out a good part of Cox’s defensive line. It just wipes it out,” Sokolosky said. “Losing that very key piece of battlefield ground, where American soldiers fought and died, that’s what spurs me on.”
Late, but . . . Happy New Year!
To our brothers and sisters in Abraham who recently celebrated Rosh Hashanah, accept our tardy well wishes as Year 5784 commences. Here we recommend a classic piece by Merissa Nathan Gerson from Tablet Magazine about the holiday and . . . the birds and the bees (you will never think of honey in the same way). From the article:
It is not a coincidence that we talk about “the birds and the bees” in reference to sex and mating. Religious groups for centuries have looked to the bees, in particular, to learn about channeling and bridling desire. Monastic groups often kept bees—cohesive mass producers—as reminders and teachers of how to redirect unused sexual energy.
Chaz Mraz, who runs Champlain Valley Apiaries, and a beekeeper named Levi took me inside the hive and told me about the bees’ specific and organized sexual system that makes honey possible. Drones mate with the queen before splitting in half and dying, but all other honeybees are nonreproductive and work their whole lives tending to the larvae, collecting pollen, protecting the queen, or performing any number of other highly specific jobs. Sexual energy that might otherwise be used for mating is proactively engaged in the production of honey and the maintenance of a well-ordered and tight-knit bee universe.
I watched the bees as they emitted a loud and almost palpable hum together. Honey oozed from the cells of their manmade hives. Chaz took a spatula and asked me to lift my veil, a hood protecting me from being stung, and fed me raw honey straight from the comb. I realized it was the abstinence that created the flow of things in this hive. In this organized and tempered sexual order, the nonmating bee’s redirected sexual energy reorganizes itself around highly efficient production within the hive itself. Bees thrive because they have an ordered sexual world.
For the Good of the Cause
Uno. The clock is ticking! Register now for the forthcoming Center for Civil Society 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. At Philanthropy Daily, Eric Streiff encourages nonprofits to make their brands stand out. Get smart and read the piece.
Tre. If fundraising for nonprofits is your game, then you just gotta attend AmPhil’s forthcoming “In the Trenches” Master Class (Thursday, October 12th, via Zoom, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., Eastern) on “Integrating Direct Mail and Digital Outreach.” This session will be a goldmine of wisdom. Get your pick and shovel and sign up—easily done right here.
Quattro. And there’s another don’t-miss-can’t-miss Master Class scheduled for November 2nd (yep, via Zoom and from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., Eastern)—it’s titled “Why Planned Giving Can’t Wait,” and anyone who is involved in nonprofit affairs and has been waiting, well, find out why you need to knock it off and make up for lost time. Find out more, and sign up for this important webinar, right here.
Department of Bad Jokes
Q: What does a bee say after getting home from a long day at work?
A: “Hey, honey! I’m home.”
So, Milford has municipal elections this November. So, there is a position of City Clerk. So, someone needed to run. So, Yours Truly was nominated. So, there you have it. Oh yeah, there’s even a campaign website.
May the Author of All Things Write Beautiful Poems on Our Hearts,
Jack Fowler, who will accept requests for jumping the line for dog licenses sent to email@example.com.