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Real Clear Politics featured a Victor Davis Hanson essay yesterday (Thursday, July 27), "The Fragility of the Good Life," which should be read by all.

Noting that we have come to view "the good life" as an American birthright, completely oblivious to the tumultuous world just outside our gates and ignorant of our own modern history.

How is it, Hanson wonders, that we have "forgotten the 1970s"? (I wrote a similarly themed piece earlier this month, "Alarming History," which fretted that a "perfect storm" of events, similar to the events of the late-1960s and early-1970s, might coalesce to thrust us back into violent economic distress.) Hanson asks if we are unconcerned with our current budget deficits, trade deficits and Chinese ownership of our national debt?

Our culture, now anchored on middle class luxury and affluence, worships consumerism and high tech gadgetry at the expense of traditional values and skills.

Hanson notes: "By historical standards, they are pretty helpless. Most of us can't grow our own food, don't know how cars work and have no clue where or how electricity is generated. In short, few have the smarts to survive if the thin veneer of civilization were to be lost, as it has been from time to time in places like downtown New Orleans."

Hanson's sobering conclusion: "The good life sometimes can be lost quite unexpectedly and abruptly when people demand rights more than they accept responsibilities, or live for present consumption rather than sacrifice for future investment, or feel their own culture is not particularly exceptional and therefore in no need of constant support and defense.

"We should tread carefully in these challenging days of our greatest wealth - and even greater vulnerability."

To reiterate: The entire essay is well worth the read.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I was taught flag etiquette by my Grandfather Taylor, a WW1 veteran and life-long member of the American Legion. (Also a protestor against the Vietnam War, but that is another story.) I remember helping my Grandfather erect a flagpole in the rural cemetery near our home where many of our family were buried. For several years I had the job of mowing the cemetery, and taking care of the flag. Every morning I would raise the Stars and Stripes, and every night I would lower it. Sometimes I would forget, or be busy when the sun set. That would mean a trip in the dark to the middle of the cemetery to get the flag. My grandpa had instilled in me a rigid code of respect for the flag; even after he died I would not allow the flag to hang at night.

This link gives proper flag etiquette. Note the rules for nightime display of the flag: "The flag should be raised briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. Ordinarily it should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at night."

More and more I see flags left up day and night, without illumination. Businesses as well as private individuals not bothering to lower the flag at sunset. This bothers me. I know that lowering the flag each evening and raising it each morning takes work, takes care and attention. But, how do we show respect, really? Is it not by giving care and attention? Respect the flag. Give it the care and attention it deserves. Raise and lower it each day, or at least each holiday. If you want to fly it all night, put up a light.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few Wednesday nights ago, as one installment of a summer-long series at church addressing Faith and Reason, the extremely versatile scholar Thomas Hibbs spoke to us regarding the medieveal background of the Galileo affair. Hibbs, Baylor University Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Culture and Dean of the Honors College, brought his expertise in Thomas Aquinas and Augustine to bear on this subject.

My Confession: the discussion of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and Thomas (much like classical music) often races ahead of my capacity to comprehend. I am an American history and country music sort of fellow. Having said that, Professor Hibbs offered a crisp presentation, and I walked away mulling over several provocative notions.

In a nutshell in re FAITH & REASON:

1. Affirm truth wherever you find it. Offering Aquinas's treatment of Aristotle as a model, Hibbs encouraged us to engage and learn (even from unlikely sources). Understand before you refute. Ultimately, Faith and Reason cannot conflict, but that does not mean that faith can immediately detect falacies in reason.

2. "Distinguish and then Unite." Distinguish in order to unite. Study biology on its own terms. Be wary of fitting all knowledge together too quickly. Wherever truth is, we ought to pursue it. Christians are people of hope. We hope that all of our knowledge comes together someday in some way.

Crunchy Cons and Community: Hibbs is also a prolific writer and commentator. A few months ago, in re the ongoing discussion on this blog and myriad other places, TBB friend, "Tocqueville," recommended Professor Hibbs's review of Rod Dreher's book, as the "best he had seen."

The review, originally penned for Crisis Magazine, is accessible on this link from DECLARATION FOUNDATION. I concur with "Tocqueville" and recommend the essay; it is brief and well worth the read.

The title of the review offers a succint preview of Hibbs's line of inquiry: Do the crunchies want to save America or the Republican Party or, having acknowledged the short-term irreversibility of civilized decay, do they plan to “retreat behind defensible borders”?

In the end, Hibbs finds no satisfying answer to his question, but offers a friendly analysis of the phenomenon, nevertheless:

"Dreher’s book details a kind of awakening of many Americans from a certain naïveté about the market and popular culture. There is a disconnection, or perhaps a hidden connection, between the material prosperity of our culture and our inarticulacy about what matters. Perhaps there was a time when that inarticulacy did not matter as much; now, it does. Dreher mentions the regular occurrence of well-intentioned parents who hand their kids over to public or private schools and to our popular culture and then end up shocked at the results. The objection is not to the market in all forms, only to the market as infiltrating all spheres of human life, particularly marriage, the family, and the rearing of children."

Hibbs on NRO: I also want to recommend Hibbs's sporadic column (click here for "author archive") in National Review, (although the column appears curiously dormant since March of this year).

Friends and Seinfeld. This comparison of two blockbuster sit-coms caught my eye. I have long argued that Seinfeld represented a brilliantly dark and cynical commentary on American life; Seinfeld seemed in on the joke. On the other hand, Friends offered a vapid and shallow series of endlessly unconnected vignettes, opting for laughs over substance or character development or fidelity to its own history. The joke was on Friends; it was a commentary on modern life, only if viewed from the outside in the context of its own impotency. Hibbs offers his own analysis, which is cogent and compelling.
Yesterday I bought a box of shells at a Wal-Mart. When I got home and opened the box, one of the shells looked like it should have been rejected by quality control; out of curiosity I tried to fit it into the chamber but it would not fit in. I tried another shell into the chamber, and it went in, sort of, but did not feel just right. So this morning I took the box plus receipt back to the Wal-Mart to exchange or get my money back. No dice. The person at the firearms desk said their policy was to do no refunds or exchanges on shells. I then spoke to her manager. Same story. Even when I showed both of them the defective shell, their answer remained unchanged. Sam Walton is dead. I think that years ago Wal-Mart would have refunded my money, and taken up the issue with the manufacturer. Several times in the last 5 years I have sworn that I'll never set foot again in a Wal-Mart, and then like a battered spouse I go back. But I don't think so this time. For another opinion, see this post by Farmer.
Imagine that you are a contractor responsible for demolishing a building using explosives. Even if you've never watched the Discovery Channel you can imagine the steps. As you prep the building for demolition you erect fences to keep out trespassers. You post Keep Out signs. After the explosives are in place, you do one last sweep of the building to check for vagrants, children, anybody. Then, when you are certain the building is empty of human beings, you detonate. (You probably would hold up detonation in order to remove a stray dog.) As a demolition contractor you would take your responsibility not to kill accidentally very seriously. If someone came running up to you moments before you set off the explosives and told you they thought they had seen someone sneak onto the site, you would postpone the demolition until you were absolutely certain no one was in the building. You would want to know that the building was empty. And the owner of the building certainly would want you to behave responsibly. Our culture, through mores and through the legal system, mandates that we try very hard not to kill someone accidentally.

Think about abortion. The abortionist is the demolition contractor. Does the abortionist know that no human being is killed by abortion? Does the mother (the building owner)? The pro-abortion lobby turns the burden of proof around from where it ought to be. They challenge the anti-abortion side to prove that the fetus is a human being. Wrong. By the logic in the example above of the demoltion contractor, the abortionist must be the one to prove that the fetus is not a human being. The burden of proof is on those who would commit abortions. Prove that you are not killing a human being.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Wizbang has a post linking various Independence Day items. Readers are encouraged to add their own links. Here
This post from the Daily Kos has been attracting some negative attention from the conservative blogosphere. For example LGF and OpinionJournal Best of the Web Today.

The Daily Kos post is entitled Red, White and Blue Idolatry & Why I Walked out of Sunday Morning Service. Here is an excerpt:
"Today I walked out of church about a third of the way through the service. A soloist was performing "God Bless the USA." I have always found that song to be especially cloying, but when I noticed it listed in the bulletin I decided to attempt to tolerate it. And I might have managed to do just that had not one or two individuals prompted the entire congregation to stand.

At that moment I felt as though I'd been punched in the gut. And it was a double whammy - not only was I offended politically, I was deeply offended spiritually. I would never under any circumstance stand in tribute to a performance of that particular song. As far as I'm concerned asking me to stand in a sanctuary bordered on blasphemy. How could I in good conscience stand to embrace the lyrics "I'm proud to be an American" in the very same week we learned U.S. soldiers raped an Iraqi woman then murdered her and her family to cover up the crime? What spiritually unwise person planned this nonsense?"

(An Okie Gardener again) As a patriotic Christian, I also have problems with Red, White, and Blue Idolatry, though for different reasons. (read more)

» Read More

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
There are so many great books to recommend that any list will be only suggestive, not exhaustive. These are books I have read recently, or am reading.

Currently I am reading two books from the Founding Era, and finding them fascinating accounts of the establishment of our nation: Witnesses at the Creation by Richard B. Morris tells the story of John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison as they pushed for the adoption of the Constitution; Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis uses a series of vignettes to illumine Madison, Hamilton, Burr, Washington, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson and their times. Within the last year I have learned from A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic by John Ferling, and from 46 Pages: Thomas Paine, Common Sense, and the Turning Point to Independence by Scott Liell.

Perhaps, though, the book which moved me most was Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865 by Steven E. Woodworth, a brilliant account of the major army of the west in the Civil War. The courage, endurance, and sacrifice of the men who fought for the Union beggar description. The writing is brilliant. An excerpt :

". . . The time was about 6pm, and the first day's battle at Shiloh was over. As the guns fell silent, somewhere along the Union line a band struck up ' The Star-Spangled Banner.'
It had been a beautiful spring day, and some men had complained of the heat. That night, however, a cold rain poured down in torrents. The cabin Grant had designated as his headquarters was in use by a surgeon diligently amputating and tossing the severed limbs out a window to join a growing pile outside. The steamboats at the landing were likewise full of wounded men. So the commanding general fared as his soldiers did, without shelter under the pitiless downpour.
Sherman found him that night, standing under the scant shelter of a tree lantern in one hand, smoking a cigar. "Well, Grant,' Sherman quipped, 'we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?'
'Yes,' Grant replied between puffs on his cigar. 'Lick 'em tomorrow, though.'"