16 min read

Dear Intelligent American,


It is an underrated document, the Mayflower Compact. It has nothing much to do with Thanksgiving Day, but as it has everything to do with Pilgrims, its mentioning here and now, as we approach America’s annual de gustibusery, is deemed fitting. Signed by 41 of the Mayflower’s Puritan company, the document—the original lost, but referred to, short years later, by the leaders of the Plymouth Colony as the “Combinacon” (which sounds like a Cinnabon kiosk at a comic book convention, no?)—was a bold statement, a promise that we might consider the genesis of America’s (dare we say?!) exceptionalism. A slice:


. . . Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience.


This was no passing fancy. At the 300th anniversary celebration of the Pilgrims’ landing, the then-Governor of Massachusetts, Calvin Coolidge, remarked:


It was the foundation of liberty based on law and order, and that tradition has been steadily upheld. They drew up a form of government which has been designated as the first real constitution of modern times. It was democratic, an acknowledgment of liberty under law and order and the giving to each person the right to participate in the government, while they promised to be obedient to the laws.


Think about all that as you drift off to your turkey-induced nap.


Hope You Brought Your Intellectual Appetite . . . Because the Table Is Sagging with a Bounty of Wisdom


1. At The New Criterion, Anthony Daniels flays a new book imposing 2023 leftist racial views on the 1590s writings of one William Shakespeare. From the critique:


The essay reminds me of the state of intellectual life in the Soviet Union, in which obligatory citations from Lenin preceded the real work at hand, on the geology of Antarctica, for example, or the taxonomy of beetles—on both of which subjects Lenin had, ex officio, something important to say.


In this case it is rather a pity, since the author does have something interesting to say, contrasting the prince’s Erasmian intellectual pacifism with his father’s adherence to the violent old code of kingly honor, though of course the prince’s hesitations do end in an orgy of killing. Whether the author’s interpretation holds or not, it has nothing whatever to do with racism, but perhaps there is no possible career progression in universities without dragging racism in, like Lenin in the Soviet Union.


The same is true of the essay on the Henriad, in which the author, who has a doctorate in English, labors like a man with severe constipation to produce the desired result:


This chapter explores genealogies of English whiteness in Shakespeare’s second tetralogy . . . . These dramatic and monarchical deployments of genealogy attest to the persuasive force of natural and innate pedigrees . . .


One’s race, the author goes on to say, is hereditary (insofar as anything supposedly inexistent can be said to be hereditary). The Ku Klux Klan claimed to be defending the white race; therefore, there is a kind of apostolic connection between the Henriad and the KKK. “These genealogies are not distinct,” says the author. I cannot think he really believes it, but he is obliged to say something of the kind if he wants ever to be a professor.


2. At The American Conservative, Jeremy Carl reports that at Arlington Cemetery, a monument to reconciliation will not be abided in an era intolerant of forgiveness. From the piece:


While the Lee statue removal received a great deal of publicity ex post facto, another ongoing effort to erase U.S. history has drawn far less attention. The next monument on the chopping block is not of a Confederate general, nor is it on a courthouse square or city park. It is a memorial monument at Arlington National Cemetery whose creation was spurred by the reconciliation between North and South in the wake of the Civil War. Surrounded by more than 500 veteran and widow graves and erected in 1914, it was designed by internationally renowned Jewish-American sculptor Moses Ezekiel. Moses, himself a former Confederate soldier, was described by his biographer as “adamantly opposed to slavery”; he was so dedicated to reconciliation that he would be visited by Union commanding general and future president, Ulysses S. Grant, in his studio in Rome.


Indeed, Ezekiel himself called his masterwork New South a monument to this spirit of reconciliation, moving past the painful wounds the Civil War had inflicted on the country. Ezekiel, knighted by the King of Italy and the recipient of numerous European and American honors, produced many other sculptures, including Religious Liberty, currently in the American Museum of Jewish History. He also sculpted portraits of notables from Columbus to Jefferson to Edgar Allen Poe. Yet the memorial was broadly considered his masterwork, and he is buried at the foot of the memorial today, intending to be his mausoleum, marking his grave in perpetuity. . . .


Even conservatives who have mixed feelings about Confederate Memorials of any type should understand that the removal of such memorials is only the first step, nor that it will be confined to statues. Just a couple weeks ago, the American Ornithological Society announced that bird species named after “racists and enslavers” would now be renamed—if racism by the “enlightened” standards of 2023 is the standard, we might well dig up most of the graves in Arlington, who had the virtues and faults of their time and not our own.


3. At Tablet Magazine, Ani Wilcenski explains the reality of Jew Hate in the dorms of America’s Ivy League institutions. From the beginning of the piece:


A picture of a killing, shared proudly with a “heart eyes” caption. Who posted this on Facebook to revel in mass rape and torture, four days after Hamas slaughtered 1,400 people? A devoted member of Islamic Jihad? A commander of Hamas? Nope, this is a girl who graduated alongside me from Columbia University, a girl who was a regular guest in the house where I lived, a girl with whom I had several mutual friends.


She wasn’t an actual antisemite, these friends said. Scribbling Israel off any map she saw and vandalizing Jewish event posters with “f--- Israel” graffiti? No, she was simply voicing her legitimate objections to the Jewish state. The incident in sophomore year, when she crashed Holocaust Remembrance Day to chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” over the names of the murdered being read aloud? That’s normal, they said, in the arithmetic of decolonial theory and the higher math of relative oppression.


We don’t want to take sides, they said. Forget the screed she just posted on Twitter about annihilating the Jews—she might feel left out if we don’t invite her to come to our house party to glare at me over a Solo cup. Oh, and would I mind bringing her to my room so she could cool off from the sweaty dance floor in front of my AC unit?


I should stress here that these friends were not coming from some sort of radical activist Columbia scene. I was in arguably the most vanilla squad on campus. My friends were all in fraternities or sororities, the Moncler-wearing offspring of lawyers and bankers who financed their six-figure private high school educations. Nearly all of them moved along to work as investment associates or junior consultants (my favorite example is the wealthy, half-Lebanese girl from Greenwich, Connecticut, who constantly railed against Israel’s geopolitical evils before moving to Qatar to work for McKinsey Doha, presumably to participate in the firm’s renowned activism on behalf of the oppressed).


4. At Commentary, Gary Saul Morson and Morton Schapiro explain the “useful idiots” redux. From the piece:


This phenomenon is not new. Lenin supposedly called people of this sort “useful idiots” and, as the phrase suggests, he had utter contempt for them, especially the liberals of the Kadet (Constitutional Democratic) party. Although they did not themselves practice terrorism, the Kadets apologized for, even applauded, it. As with Hamas, Russian terrorists of the early 20th century reveled in cruelty. It was common to disfigure a person, often chosen at random, by throwing sulphuric acid in his face. Another favorite was to toss bombs laced with nails into a crowded café “to see how the foul bourgeois will squirm in death agony.” One group threw “traitors” into vats of boiling water. As the leading scholar of Russian terrorism, Anna Geifman, explained, “the need to inflict pain was transformed from an abnormal irrational compulsion experienced by unbalanced personalities into a formally verbalized obligation for all revolutionaries,” as it apparently was for ISIS and is for Hamas.


How could the liberals have stomached such cruelty? Paul Milyukov, the Kadet leader, declared that “all means are now legitimate… and all means should be tried,” much as apologists for Hamas favor decolonization “by any means necessary,” including, it would seem, burning babies alive. Another Kadet official, asked to condemn such terrorism, famously replied: “Condemn terror? That would be the moral death of our party!”


No sooner had Lenin seized power than the Bolsheviks proclaimed Kadets “outside the law,” which meant anything could be done to them. Right away two Kadet leaders were murdered in their hospital beds. Since Lenin made no secret of his plans—again, like Hamas—why did the liberals not oppose him? Even Russian capitalists contributed to the Bolsheviks and other parties sworn to destroy them!


5. At The Wall Street Journal, Arthur Levitt, the once SEC chairman, finds the time has come for more regulation—albeit now of American universities. From the piece:


Universities have lately seen a raft of scandals related to their fundamental mission of scholarship and teaching. Students are graduating unprepared for basic work and deeply in debt. Prominent scholars are found to be fudging their own research. Admissions officers and other officials are found to be engaging in pay-for-admission schemes. Athletic programs are regularly found breaking rules and laws. Universities have taken charitable gifts from questionable sources such as Jeffrey Epstein and Chinese military and Communist Party fronts.


Add the explosion of anti-Semitism. America’s campuses are the source of some of the vilest Jew-hatred America has seen since 1939, when the German American Bund held a pro-Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden. Not only do some faculty and students call for Israel’s destruction; they celebrated Hamas’s brutal massacre as an act of “resistance.”


If public companies featured such systematic failures, they would be visited by regulators and called before Congress. Universities, by comparison, are lightly regulated. There are accrediting agencies, and the Education Department focuses on enforcement of civil-rights laws. In the case of professional education, some membership organizations set curricular standards.


But these don’t constitute regulation in a comprehensive sense. Universities can pretty much set their own rules, and they answer to no one. They face no meaningful external pressure to tell the truth or honor their promises to students and others. They don’t need to report or punish fraud or corruption. They don’t set consistent standards for contributions or spending.


6. At National Review, Andrew Doran explains how long-dead Protestant missionaries have left their imprint on the Middle East’s current madness. From the essay:


In the decades that followed, thousands of Protestant missionaries were dispatched around the world. Some established missions in the Near East, most prominently in Beirut, where their religious zeal had to be tempered owing to Muslim and Christian sensitivities to proselytism. So the missionaries became teachers, and in 1866 the Protestant missionaries launched the American University of Beirut. The would-be preachers became professors. In time, their gospel message of liberation became political rather than spiritual.


In the 20th century, these missionary colleges, especially American University of Beirut (AUB), became hotbeds of Arab nationalism—an an ideology of Arab unity and liberation from colonialism. Arab nationalism, however tenuous its secular principles and incongruent its constituencies, persevered by rallying to the Palestinian cause—which then as now meant little more than anti-Zionism. In that time, the foreign-born descendants of the missionary-professors became an influential class of U.S. diplomats known as “the Arabists.” (Robert Kaplan’s 1994 book The Arabists is required reading for anyone who wishes to understand the history of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East or the State Department’s institutional antisemitism.)


The story of the Arabists began with Puritan idealism, fell into orientalist romanticism, then Arab nationalist ideology, and ultimately tragedy. The enlightened missionaries, with their gospel of political liberation, in the end became the victims of the ideological fury they helped create. Malcom, the president of AUB, himself the descendant of missionaries and professors, was assassinated on campus in 1984 by terrorists during Lebanon’s civil war.


7. At UnHerd, Ayaan Hirsi Ali explains her conversion to Christianity. From the essay:


As an atheist, I thought I would lose that fear. I also found an entirely new circle of friends, as different from the preachers of the Muslim Brotherhood as one could imagine. The more time I spent with them — people such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins — the more confident I felt that I had made the right choice. For the atheists were clever. They were also a great deal of fun.


So, what changed? Why do I call myself a Christian now?


Part of the answer is global. Western civilisation is under threat from three different but related forces: the resurgence of great-power authoritarianism and expansionism in the forms of the Chinese Communist Party and Vladimir Putin’s Russia; the rise of global Islamism, which threatens to mobilise a vast population against the West; and the viral spread of woke ideology, which is eating into the moral fibre of the next generation. . . .


But we can’t fight off these formidable forces unless we can answer the question: what is it that unites us? The response that “God is dead!” seems insufficient. So, too, does the attempt to find solace in “the rules-based liberal international order”. The only credible answer, I believe, lies in our desire to uphold the legacy of the Judeo-Christian tradition.


8. At The Spectator, Bill Kauffman, the observer of All Things Upstate New York, shares his fascination with cemeteries. From the piece:


Fran Striker, creator of The Lone Ranger, rests peacefully forty-five minutes south of us in Arcade. Admittedly, we’re not trespassing upon the belles lettres here, but as Huff points out, ole’ Franny sure knew how to mint pop-culture nuggets: “Hi-ho, Silver!” “Ke-mo-sah-bee,” “Who was that masked man?” and “silver bullet” dripped from his pen. And while we’re talking high art, when next you are in Madison County, you might pay homage to Walter R. Brooks, whose articulate animal stories were harvested to create Mister Ed, the talking horse of the 1960s TV series. Steve Huff, admirably eager to defend his fellow Upstaters against Hollywood vulgarization, notes that the idiot box not only moved Ed’s locale to Southern California but metamorphosed “the often tipsy Wilbur Pope to a more staid Wilbur Post, and his intemperate horse was made likewise more discreet.”


Anyone up for a reboot of Mister Ed?


I’ve visited a handful of these sites. I have burbled gratitude to the remains of Utica’s Harold Frederic, whose work I adapted for the feature film Copperhead, and I’ve stood mutely in Rochester’s Holy Sepulchre cemetery before Louise Brooks, the bobbed-haired beauty who wrote a wonderfully acerbic book (Lulu in Hollywood) about the silent-film era.


Each Memorial Day I leave a penny on the stone of John Gardner, my town’s contribution to American fiction. Gardner’s modest stone reads, somewhat immodestly, “All he spoke or cast was mysterious and holy.”


9. At Law & Liberty, Ronald Dworkin points a finger at the “New American Anarchists.” From the essay:


Abstract language began its most recent ascent in the 1980s, when elementary words such as “fat” and “dumb” lost favor in influential circles. Although bewildered by the reasons, many people stopped using these words; they hid their natural personalities behind a façade of decorum. Meanwhile, new words so broad and abstract as to be devoid of content crept into the nation’s vocabulary—words such as “triggering” and “inclusivity.” None of the new words were subject to precise definition. All of them had to be interpreted. Everyone who spoke the words played a game in their minds; they projected their own mindsets onto the words—that is, they created illusions—then, in any given situation, competed with others to see whose illusion would prevail.


A certain kind of intelligence expressed itself in the new words. It was the kind of intelligence that arrives at solutions to problems through abstract reasoning rather than through an instinct based on a profound knowledge of people and things. It is the difference between someone who believes in “capitalism” (or “socialism”) and tries to run a factory based on that belief, and an actual manufacturer who has grown with his plant, who knows every cog, and who has worked with his employees.


The new words ran counter to instinctual truths. The old words “dog” and “cat,” for instance, are clear of content and easy to define. When people see a dog or a cat they instinctively know what they are looking at; when thinking the words “dog” or “cat” they are at one with the object of their thought. The new abstract words, in contrast, are purposely vague—for example, “social change” or “oppressed person.” Many people came to believe it was wrong to dwell in the real, in simplicity, to know things through intuition and common sense, and to use simple, short, one-syllable words. They used the new abstract words, which must be carefully interpreted. And interpretation is the origin of illusions.


10. At The Free Press, Bari Weiss publishes her speech to the Federalist Society, a call to arms to fight for the West. From the piece:


What could possibly explain this?


The easy answer is that the human beings who were slaughtered on October 7 were Jews. And that antisemitism is the world’s oldest hatred. And that in every generation someone rises up to kill us. “They tried to wipe us out, they failed, let’s eat” as the old Jewish joke goes.


But that is not the whole answer. Because the proliferation of antisemitism, as always, is a symptom.


When antisemitism moves from the shameful fringe into the public square, it is not about Jews. It is never about Jews. It is about everyone else. It is about the surrounding society or the culture or the country. It is an early warning system—a sign that the society itself is breaking down. That it is dying.


It is a symptom of a much deeper crisis—one that explains how, in the span of a little over 20 years since Sept 11, educated people now respond to an act of savagery not with a defense of civilization, but with a defense of barbarism.


11. At The Blade of Perseus, Victor Davis Hanson finds that charges of “white privilege” can be found in an alliance with leftist antisemitism. From the piece:


After all, if Nazi doctrine about supposedly manifest Aryan “racial” superiority—Nordic looks and build, superior intelligence, stable disposition—were so persuasive, then why the need for Jews to identify themselves?


In contrast, the Star-of David IDs were prima facie proof that the entire bankrupt Nazi project was based on the unspoken fear that millions of Jews were indistinguishable in all respects from other Europeans.


In other words, on the fascist right, anti-Semitism was predicated on the pseudo-science that Jews were not European and thus somehow racially inferior. Yet currently, the entire industry of anti-Semitic hatred has flipped, from Jews as toxic non-whites to Jews as toxic whites. The two common denominators of racial obsession and hating Jews remain the same.


One of the key reasons leftwing anti-Semites have been so effective at galvanizing campus hatred of Israel, and by association of Jews in general, is their careful effort to brand themselves DEI victims why tarring Jews with the empty white supremacy slur.


Accordingly, Jews and Israel now supposedly enjoy toxic white privilege. They are libeled as veritable white supremacists illegitimately in the Middle East to colonize “Palestine,” and as European imperialists picking up the mantle of the earlier 19th century British and French—as if a prior 400 years of Ottoman imperialism in the Middle East never occurred.


12. At Planned Man, Guy Shepherd reminds us that young men need good parenting, which includes establishing red lines and high standards for those in loco parentis. From the article:


I also made a habit of introducing myself personally to those whom I trusted with my kids’ mental, moral, and physical development.


If my kids were in your care, you got a version of this:


I am entrusting my kid into your care and for a defined purpose. I expect you to stay focused on that purpose. What falls outside of it is my responsibility, not yours.


You have a hard job, and my kid is not perfect. No kid—or teacher—is. If he or she poses a challenge to you doing your job or not acting as a good example to my family’s name, call me and I will address it.


Please don’t take the following the wrong way: if, under your care and responsibility, any harm befalls my kids, I will respond mightily, intelligently, and without remorse. This is not a threat. Only my parental pledge and responsibility.


What would the world be like if all parents spoke this way to the institutions of mental and moral instruction that they entrust their kids—and our future—to? We would have more focus on what matters—why the kid is actually there, at the given activity—and fewer problems.


Lucky 13. Down Alabama way, the Clanton Advertiser’s Elisabeth Altamirano-Smith reports on a fundraiser that, well, went to the dogs. From the article:


The Humane Society of Chilton County recently raised $8,916 from the Howloween Fall Festival, which was held in Ollie Park on Oct. 21. Humane Society Board members and Howloween event organizers Lisa Jackson, Don Smith and Katherine Reece were pleased with the outcome and are already analyzing ways to make next year’s event better. A total of those that attended the event on Saturday is estimated to have been at least 1,500 people.


“We are thrilled with the fundraising total and nearly cried from the outpouring of support from the community,” said Reece. “When you are on the board, you usually hear from people who are not happy. At the event, our staff got to hear good feedback. Everyone commented on what a great time they were having.”


“This is the most successful fundraiser that the Humane Society has ever had,” said Reece. “We were supported by the Merchant’s Association (of Chilton County) and Mayor (Jeff Mims) office. Everyone came together to help the Humane Society. It was an amazing thing to be part of. We absolutely plan to have it again next year.”


Bonus. At Verily Magazine, Denise Makowski explains the small act of kindness that led to a lifetime of love. From the reflection:


I let out a nervous laugh as I hitched my backpack onto one knee and rummaged through my belongings. This was no easy feat, as I was balancing on one leg and trying to steady the umbrella above my head, while attempting to keep from dropping my loose school materials onto the wet pavement.


For the life of me, I couldn’t find my keys, and my embarrassment rose to new levels. Laughing, Mike reached out for my umbrella and ever so kindly held it over my head to offer me some coverage from the relentless rain.


All at once, everything seemed to stop as I looked up into his twinkling brown eyes. It was as if it were the first time we had met. I lost all sense of self.


Grinning, he continued to hold the umbrella above me. Not once did he complain and not once did he let out a sigh of exasperation. He just smiled his beautiful smile as the rain battered his own head and cascaded down his face.


My heart jumped as the light passing through the clouds seemed to shine directly on him. In that moment, I fell completely, madly, head over heels in love with my Michael.


For the Good of the Cause


Uno. The new season of Jeremy Beer’s always worthwhile “Givers, Doers, & Thinkers Podcast” kicks off with a terrific conversation with Coors Foundation CEO Carrie Tynan, who shares thoughts with JB about donor intent and local giving, the combination of human service and public policy grantmaking, and measuring the impact of initiatives. Lend an ear, right 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 Talk” 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.


Quattro. What’s a nonprofit to do if it needs to firm up its grant-writing chops? The answer: Take AmPhil’s “Elements of Grant Writing” Master Class, the one coming up fast and furious on Thursday, December 7th, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. (Eastern). You’ve been granted a wonderful opportunity! Take advantage of it: Get complete information right here.


Department of Bad Jokes


Q: Why did the Pilgrim’s pants always fall?


A: Because he wore his buckle on his hat.


A Dios


Let us give thanks for the blessings of liberty. And in true appreciation let us stand up for our Brothers and Sisters in Abraham who have seen the promise of George Washington—that “every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid”—be threatened. Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of our country and our Jewish brethren.


May We Be Humbled by the Bounty of Graces He Affords Us,


Jack Fowler, who knows a thing or two about humility, and is happy to know more on the subject, and will take all communications of such at jfowler@amphil.com.

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