15 min read

Dear Intelligent American

More than the typical day of bloodshed, nearly 11,000 men were killed, wounded, or went missing on the last day of the First World War. The armistice agreement signed at 5:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918, would not go into effect until 11 a.m.—the excuse being that communications with the front lines dragged. Still, many commanders knew the approaching hour and pressed their men on for one last go at slaughter.

In those early-hour decisions are gathered many of the pathologies of humanity. The head shakes.

This same day we have formally chosen—Armistice Day until 1954—as Veterans Day. Late-May’s Memorial Day deserves its special distinction, for those who made the ultimate sacrifice. But all who fought or served, wherever and in whatever capacity, to defend freedom, to pass or to use the ammunition, rightly deserve recognition and honor.

Yours Truly, as a youth (pronounced on occasion, locally, “yoot”), spent his every Sunday morning at the old Bronx Veterans Administration Hospital on Kingsbridge Road, serving as altar boy for the Catholic Mass. There were interactions with many a World War One veteran—who knows, maybe even with someone who served in the Spanish-American War. All told, this was a blessing.

God rest all their souls, now long gone, while we offer our gratitude for all, living or dead, who served in uniform on earth, sky, or sea.


A Fourteen-Gun Salute


1. At First Things, Mary Eberstadt, worshiping Catholic, decimates antisemitism. From the essay:

Since October 7, many universities in the United States and elsewhere have disgraced themselves. Some students sided openly with the murder of innocents. Some administrators stayed mute out of cowardice. As is more visible with each passing day, it is not the atheists or agnostics of the world who can be counted on to have the backs of Jews, or others, needing aid and solidarity. Rather, it is other people of the Book.


We want Jews inside and outside the United States to know that Catholics are stepping up to stand with them, to spurn moral equivalence, and to be that refuge when it is needed. It is faithful Catholic institutions that can harness and ride moral energy into the future with the creative, confident leadership absent in today’s non-Christian and anti-Christian schools. . . .


The newly founded Coalition of Catholics Against Antisemitism is the spearhead of that new cause. A Statement of Solidarity and Action stating the aims of this group is now making the rounds. Catholics in public life and from private life are signing on, from academia to government to think tanks, to Catholic colleges and universities, and Catholics of every vocation to come.


Hamas and the other enemies of the Jewish people who revel in killing often say, scornfully, “the Jews love life.” So they do. And so do we. To love life as Catholics do is to love the Jews from whose roots we grew. Many people these days ask where the pro-life movement is now. The answer is, where it’s always been: fighting against the destruction of the innocent, from conception to natural death.


2. At National Review, the editors condemn antisemitism’s worrisome spread. From the editorial:

We are not so naive to believe that antisemitism in America began on October 7. Jews have often been viewed with suspicion by a certain portion of the population; subjected to accusations of divided loyalty and false rumors about their religious practices; and well into the 20th century excluded from living in certain neighborhoods, working for certain businesses, and joining certain clubs. Despite composing just 2 percent of the population, Jews have consistently been victims of a majority of the anti-religious hate crimes since the FBI began publishing data in the 1990s.


But the explosion of antisemitism we’ve seen in the past several weeks is on a different scale from anything we’ve experienced in contemporary America.


The current surge started almost immediately after news broke of the Hamas attacks. On U.S. college campuses, antisemitic students and activist professors, protected by a legion of DEI administrators, jumped in to either excuse Hamas’s attacks or to argue that Israel had it coming. The rhetoric quickly moved well beyond what could be reasonably categorized as mere criticism of Israeli policy, and into calls for mass slaughter of Jews.


Last week, an angry mob of students calling for the murder of Jews stormed into a building at Cooper Union in New York. As Jewish students were locked in the library for their own safety, the mob started banging on doors and windows. Eventually the Jewish students had to be escorted out the back. No arrests were made, and there were no serious consequences for any of the students participating in the mob scene.


The Cooper Union incident, sadly, was not an isolated one.


3. At The American Mind, fan favorite Daniel J. Mahoney explains that we are witnessing the liberal death wish. From the essay:

By 1970, the great English writer and journalist Malcolm Muggeridge could write with eloquence and biting wit about “The Great Liberal Death Wish” in a seminal 1970 essay by that name. Muggeridge saw in the decayed liberal mind a perverse preference for nihilistic self-flagellation that led to the systematic “depreciating and deprecating” of “every aspect of our Western way of life.” God and all moral certitudes were dethroned even as “a Praetorian Guard of ribald students, maintained at the public expense,” were “ready at the drop of a hat to go into action, not only against their own weak-kneed bemused academic authorities, but also against any institution or organ for the maintenance of law and order still capable of functioning, especially the police.” These words could have been written in the summer of 2020 amidst the violence, mayhem, and grotesque self-flagellation that followed the death of George Floyd, or in the hours and days after the savage Hamas assault on Israeli innocents on October 7, 2023. Muggeridge went on to opine that if, and when, the West fell, it would not be the result of a barbarian invasion, not because of the murderous enmity of communists, fascists, and Nazis, but because of the suicidal death wish of a liberalism gone badly awry. It is hard to say that Muggeridge was wrong.


The better liberals, humane and decent people, are rightly shocked by professors, students, and activists who celebrate or apologize for the savage nihilism of Hamas or who think that these cruel ideologues and terrorists, heedless to the lives of their own people, whose deaths they relish for the propaganda value, somehow represent the legitimate interests of the Palestinian people. But what reason do we have for being surprised?


4. At Acton Institute’s Religion and Liberty, Caleb Whitmer wonders who is doing the overlooking when it comes to “overlooked” rural America. From the beginning of the piece:

With magnifying glass in hand, a budding naturalist can learn a great deal about ants scuttling around the driveway. Were the ants to glance upward, however, they might learn even more about the eager eyes—blown up from the ant’s perspective to enormous proportions—looking down at them.


In The Overlooked Americans: The Resilience of Our Rural Towns and What It Means for Our Country, social scientist Elizabeth Currid-Halkett—a member of our country’s coastal, meritocratic elite (her words, not mine)—raises a magnifying glass over middle America and looks for signs of economic optimism and cultural hope among “ordinary Americans.” Unfortunately, the book too often reveals more about the observer than the observed. . . .


The case Currid-Halkett makes for rural America’s economic resiliency is unfortunately vague, surprisingly short, and ultimately unsatisfying. She devotes just one chapter (“You’d Be Surprised How Well We Are Doing”) out of eight for a concentrated discussion on how “rural America” is and is not keeping up with the 21st-century economy. Her conclusion? “Rural America has problems … [but] it also has a lot more prosperity and greater economic and social contentment than the headlines might imply. People in America are suffering, but not everyone is.” Admittedly, this argument is hard to dispute. But then again, it’s not really saying anything, is it?


Part of the problem is how vague the term “rural America” is. Currid-Halkett admits as much and writes eloquently on the continued importance of regional identity. Though both might be lumped into the broad category of “rural Americans,” Midwesterners have much better economic prospects than do Southerners, for instance. After making the regional distinctions, however, Currid-Halkett continues to use terms like “rural Americans,” “middle America,” and “ordinary Americans” interchangeably, and expresses surprise—or treats as revelatory—every time a “rural American” does not conform to the stereotype of an angry, bigoted, and disaffected Trump supporter. The diversity of “rural” American life and opinion could only be this surprising to someone who hasn’t spent much time there.


5. At Tablet Magazine, Jamie Betesh Carter explains that, in the face of horrors, some in the Jewish community are finding comfort in Shabbat. From the beginning of the piece:

It all started with a photo. It was Friday, Oct. 13, and while I was doom-scrolling on Instagram to distract my mind from the news, I stumbled across a photo of a Shabbat dinner table. It was set so beautifully. This is how I wish my Shabbat dinner table could look, I thought to myself. The challah was golden. The wine was corked. The tablecloth was crisp white. The calla lilies stood perfectly in their vases. The children’s plates and sippy cups looked just like ours. Everything on this perfectly crafted table sat untouched. And that’s when I realized that no one would be eating Shabbat dinner at this table. It was set to honor the 200+ hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7. On the back of each chair was the name and photo of one hostage. My eyes filled with tears, understanding that these hostages don’t get to have Shabbat dinner with their families.


But we do.


That’s when my mindset shifted. I love Shabbat dinner. And as a busy working mother of two toddlers, it’s work, sometimes hard work. But when we put in that work, it’s so worth it. We feel fulfilled as a family. My kids proudly reveal the challah they baked in school that day. They fight over who gets to help set the table. My daughter compliments my food. Sometimes I thank her profusely, and sometimes during weeks when I was extra busy, I pretend that I did indeed cook the food, even if I ordered it. We have Shabbat dinner a lot—but not all the time.


After seeing the photo of the empty table set for the hostages, I understood how much we needed Shabbat dinner right now.


6. At The American Conservative, Peter Tonguette shares his thoughts on a “different” horror film, Richard Fleischer’s 1971 masterpiece, 10 Rillington Place. From the piece:

The abortion scene is filmed by Fleischer in a flat, uninflected style that emphasizes the fear and indignity of an illegal abortion of that era. “There’s no cutting, is there?” Beryl asks, pitifully.


Yet Fleischer is not merely making another exposé of so-called “back-alley abortions” as a way of advocating for the procedure’s legality. Instead, without ever drawing a false equivalency between a confused mother and a conniving murderer, Fleischer shows us a society in which life has become devalued and degraded in all its forms. Death hangs over this scene: Both its participants are present in the name of the taking of a life or lives. Tragically, Beryl wishes to end the life of her unborn child; horrifyingly, Christie means to end the life of Beryl to satisfy his own sick compulsions. (Whether Christie considers her unborn child to be a living being—whether he thinks of her child at all—is debatable.)


Then comes a remarkable moment: As Beryl is inhaling the gas given to her by Christie, she has a kind of awakening. Before she succumbs, she realizes that he is trying to do her harm and tries to resist; in her last seconds of consciousness, she sees him for what he is—a murderer. The insight is fleeting. Christie manages to subdue and then strangle Beryl; her unborn child expires with her.


Anyone who watches the movie would find it impossible to believe that, had Beryl somehow escaped Christie’s clutches, she would have remained so indifferent to life as to simply find another abortionist. Having nearly lost her life, she would have been bound to feel differently about her child’s; Geeson’s wholesome, appealing qualities as a performer convince us this is so.


(Related: You can watch 10 Rillington Place here.)


7. At Catholic World Report, Sandra Miesel catalogues the many faces of Satan in art and literature. From the essay:

During the European Dark Ages, inherited images of Satan mixed with remembered scraps of classical and barbarian paganism to give the Fiend new features. He acquired the goatish hooves, horns, and shaggy fur of the Greco-Roman nature god Pan. And by mimicking Nordic monsters, Satan grew huge as a giant, serpentine as a dragon, finny as a sea monster, or hairy as a wild man of the wood.


As the Middle Ages wore on, demons’ wings became scaly or leathery instead of feathery. They could turn into animals of every sort: beasts, birds, reptiles, fish, insects and especially dragons, goats, apes, pigs, cats, or dogs with glowing eyes but seldom lions and never lambs, oxen, or asses. Like today’s science fiction monsters, they hybridized more and more animal features—wings, claws, fangs, horns, tails, tusks, and stingers. Humanoid devils carried extra faces on their bellies, knees, rumps, or crotches and rarely wore as much as a loincloth. Red or black was the commonest color for infernal bodies but they also came in yellow, blue, gray, ghastly white, or faery green.


A popular topic that challenged Northern artists’ skill at demon-building was The Temptation of St. Anthony, where the patient old Desert Father endures diabolical attacks first in the air while levitating in ecstasy and later on the ground beside his hut. Nine uniquely designed theriomorphic devils lay hold of the floating monk in Martin Schongauer’s influential engraving (1470-75). Hieronymus Bosch devoted an entire triptych to the subject to illustrate the whole ordeal (1501). St. Anthony is dropped from the air, harassed at prayer, and disturbed while reading. His tormentors include lascivious women as well as the usual throng of bizarre kcomposite creatures and ominous structures. One panel of Matthias Grûnewald’s Isenheim altarpiece (1512-16), which was painted for a plague hospital, shows a pack of animal-headed demons looming over the fallen saint to pull his hair, claw, peck, and beat him while a man covered with sores watches.


8. At The European Conservative, Bridget Ryder spotlights the excuse of mental disabilities for “mercy killing” on the continent. From the piece:

According to the Dutch government’s euthanasia review committee, 60,000 people were killed by their doctors between 2012 and 2021. The committee publicly released documents related to more than 900 of those cases to demonstrate how the law was working.


Irene Tuffrey-Wijne, a palliative care specialist at Britain’s Kingston University, and her colleagues reviewed the documents and published their findings in the journal BJPsych Open in May.


They found that among the 900 cases made available publicly, in 39 of them a person with an autistic and/or intellectual disability was euthanized. In this group, a minority of those killed by their doctors were elderly, but 18 of them were younger than 50. Of those, eight were younger than 30.


Almost all of those who requested to be killed—thirty out of 39—cited loneliness as one of the causes of their unbearable pain. Most of the patients cited a combination of mental problems, physical suffering, and diseases or aging-related difficulties as their reasons for requesting euthanasia, but eight said the only causes of their suffering were emotional and social factors related to their intellectual disability or autism–social isolation, a lack of coping strategies, or an inability to adjust their thinking.


9. At Law & Liberty, Theodore Dalrymple listens to the voice inside the progressive noggin. From the commentary:

Australia recently held a referendum on a proposed race-based amendment to the constitution. The amendment proposed something called “The Voice” to be inscribed in the constitution: an advisory body composed of Aborigines who would advise parliament on matters specifically affecting Aborigines. The details of the proposed body—how it was to be chosen or appointed, its purpose, its powers, its duties, its emoluments—were not specified, and those in favour of it, up to and including the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, were either unwilling or unable to specify further, relying entirely on the Australian emotional equivalent of Noel Coward’s famous song, “Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans.” The latter was not much of a policy.


Australian voters, initially favourable to the proposal, rejected it by a large majority, suspecting, rightly in my view, that they were being sold a pig in a poke. They also suspected, I surmise, that what was being proposed was a corrupt and corrupting bureaucratic pork barrel that would reward a small class of Aboriginal Al Sharptons. Far from improving the situation of Australian Aborigines, which is sometimes but not always tragic, the Voice would permanently raise the ideological temperature and prevent measured debate about practical improvements. Benefits would be received without gratitude and, would never, virtually by definition, be sufficient. And of course, the Voice would be the end of the ideal of racial equality. Australia would join the old South Africa in its inscription of race in its constitution.


10. At Public Discourse, Rachel Sheffield contemplates the “War on Poverty” as it turns 50. From the piece:

Part of the reason the poverty rate is nearly the same today as it was fifty years ago is that most welfare spending is not accounted for when measuring poverty. Measures of poverty exclude benefits from governmental assistance programs. Thus, the government’s poverty measure is not a good indicator of material living standards. However, it does provide a good indicator of the number of Americans reliant on government for subsistence. The poverty measure clearly shows that the rate of self-sufficiency has remained virtually unchanged since the beginning of the War on Poverty.


What have declined since the 1960s are the culture and institutions that guard against poverty by helping individuals succeed and families thrive. The two main defenses against poverty—work and marriage—have declined markedly in the past five decades.


The incentive structure of the welfare system has tended to make things worse when it comes to work and marriage. The vast majority of welfare programs fail to require work of able-bodied adults. Work requirements serve as a deterrent from getting on welfare in the first place and assist those who do need help to get back on their feet more rapidly. In addition, too many welfare programs include a marriage penalty, discouraging the strongest protector against child poverty.


11. At The Free Press, David Josef Volodzko tells the story of Seneca Scott, the Oakland black activist intent on saving his broken city from those breaking it. From the piece:

In the past few years, Scott has become the city’s own version of his Roman philosopher namesake—speaking truth to power—for a growing number of Oakland residents sick of crime and a smug political class that has not only failed to do anything about it, but ushered it in.


You might think a black activist and union organizer in the Bay Area would be a progressive who supports Black Lives Matter and defunding the police, but Scott rejects both movements. In fact, he says the defund debate is split along racial lines.


“The black people who live in the impacted neighborhoods were pretty much united in the fact that they did not want to cut the police budget,” he says. “The white people in affluent neighborhoods were pretty much united in that they did want to.”


Scott calls himself a “post-partisan solutionary.” Though he used to be a leftie, he now unabashedly calls out “phony” progressives on Twitter (now X) for being “dismissive towards Black and Brown people.” He says he doesn’t do left-right politics and told me that both parties now cater to elites.


That’s why Scott has started the nonprofit Neighbors Together Oakland.


12. At The Spectator, Fraser Nelson discusses with Jonathan Haidt how smartphones have played havoc with young minds. From the piece:

He argues that the tools of social media are just too sharp for young minds. On digital platforms teens parade themselves, often to an audience of strangers, and this is leading to addiction, paranoia and despair. For girls, the effect is especially acute. “What we’re seeing is a very sharp, sudden change in girls’ mental health all around the Anglosphere and the Nordic countries,” he says. A big change was evident from 2013, when physical friendship groups started to be supplanted by smartphones and online chat. “But you cannot grow up in networks. You have to grow up in communities.”


It is striking that boys who have religion in their lives seem to be less susceptible. “If you’re a kid who’s a religious conservative, on average, your mental health is not really much worse than it was ten years ago. But if you’re a secular liberal girl, you’re probably more than twice as likely to have a mental health problem.” He cites a University of Michigan survey into “self-derogation”—i.e., how likely teenagers are to say they are “no good” or “can’t do anything right.” Figures had been stable for years but started rising sharply ten years ago—except for among boys who identified as conservative and said that religion was important to them.


Faith, it seems, does not help girls as much. Why not? One theory is that girls simply use social media more. But Professor Haidt also thinks they are more likely to buy into what he calls the “three great untruths” of social media. The first is that they are fragile and can be harmed by speech and words. Next, that their emotions, and especially their anxieties, are reliable guides to reality. And finally, that society is one big battle between victims and oppressors. All this, he says, is the subtext to social media discourse.


Lucky 13. At The Daily Iberian in New Iberia, Louisiana, Don Shoopman reports on a nonprofit fundraiser that went just ducky. From the beginning of the article:

A highly successful annual fundraising event prompted a satisfied smile from a local duck hunter who put beaucoup time and effort into it, as so many others did leading up to the New Iberia Ducks Unlimited Chapter Banquet held Oct. 26 at the Isle of Iberia Resort.


Jason Foster’s 11th banquet as chapter chairman saw more than 125 outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen, young and old, attend the fundraiser held on the last Thursday of October. He said several of the chapter’s banquet committee members accepted his challenge to recruit new major donors and to fill the seats with people who never attended the event before.


Foster proudly pointed out the chapter gained one extra major sponsor and the turnout doubled that of last year’s event. Corporate sponsor for this year’s fundraiser was the Musson Patout Automotive Group, a Platinum Sponsor ($2,500). There were seven Gold Sponsors ($1,000), six Silver Sponsors ($600) and 32 Bronze Sponsors ($350), including Gov.-elect Jeff Landry, who was born and raised in St. Martinville.


The NI DU Chapter raised an estimated $65,105 based on preliminary reports. Major donors contributed more than $26,000; raffle sales generated $9,860; the live auction brought in $24,825, and the silent auction raised $4,420.


Bonus: At The Wall Street Journal, Katie Roiphe steps up to reveal her particular fanaticism. From the piece:

What is seductive about counting steps is that there is a purpose scaffolded into your day.


Even walking from your bed to your coffee maker, you are pursuing a goal. You are achieving. I am simultaneously attracted and repelled by this brisk efficiency—the clever use of the downtimes, the errands, the dreamy in-betweens of life.


There is a kind of go-getter existential philosophy to it. As one steps fanatic told me, little failures or setbacks can be repurposed into steps. You forgot an ingredient at the store? Yay! More steps! You can’t get an Uber? More steps! In some sense this is kind of brilliant: You’ve turned popping out to get scallions into an accomplishment.


There is, of course, a kind of walking that is lost. The dreamy aimless wandering through a summer night, pausing to eavesdrop on an interesting break-up; the drifter who stumbles on a man playing cello on the street and stops. It is impossible to imagine Baudelaire’s flâneur, taking in the Paris scene, merging with the street and its crowds, checking his Fitbit.


For the Good of the Cause


Uno. Nonprofit worker bees need to get a grasp on planned giving, which Stephanie Conway provides at Philanthropy Daily. Read it here.

Due. You’ll have digested the turkey by then (the afternoon of Tuesday, November 28th) so you’ll be ready to attend (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.

Tre. Break out the tumbler, the ice cubes, and the favorite libation, because a new “Scotch Talks” is in the offing—on Wednesday, December 6th, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., Eastern)—in which AmPhil founder Jeremy Beer and Walter Coughlin of Coughlin & Company will discuss cutting-edge ways that nonprofits can save money through the intersection of fundraising and finance. Find out more, and register, right here.


Department of Bad Jokes


Q: Why was the veteran battery embarrassed?


A: He left the military with a dishonorable discharge.


A Dios

Hannah, daughter of a reader and friend, left for her eternal home, the strife now o’er—remember her (and family) please in prayers. And the Good Book remains ever relevant: At Catholic Mass this weekend past, the “responsorial psalm” concluded with this from Psalm 131: “Oh Israel, hope in the Lord both now and forever.”

May Our Hearts Be Tempered by Love, Justice, and Mercy,

Jack Fowler, hiding in plain sight at jfowler@amphil.com.

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