Late in the previous century, when the Toronto Star spiked my column debunking Kwanzaa — the editor scolded me for wanting to “ruin other people’s fun” by telling the truth, which in hindsight would make for an apt if ungainly personal motto on my (non-existent) coat of arms — I sent the piece to Canada’s only conservative magazine, the (since defunct) Alberta Report.
Link Byfield, the magazine’s publisher and editor, snapped it up, and asked for more.
I’d been a professional writer for years, but now my career as a right-wing writer had begun.
Byfield died of cancer this week, at 63.
My fellow AB contributor Colby Cosh was and is a libertarian (some might say craggily contrarian) atheist who was nevertheless embraced right out of grad school by the unabashedly Christian so-con Byfields.
Cosh — today, like many former Report writers, a star columnist at a national publication — quickly composed an obituary of Byfield that is, not surprisingly, insightful, elegant and stringently unsentimental.
(The Byfields have a keen eye for talent, if I do say so myself…)
Another longtime colleague, Peter Stockland, attended a tribute to Byfield last September, an event arranged after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Stockland explained Link Byfield’s influence on recent Canadian history with this succinct formula, one that resembles the mnemonic verse British schoolchildren used to learn to keep their kings and queens straight.
No Byfields, no Alberta Report. No Alberta Report, no Reform Party as it was formed. No Reform Party, no [Progressive Conservative Party] collapse. No PC collapse, no [Conservative Party] Harper government.
Some perspective for American readers:
My husband and I attended a lecture about Israel by Melanie Phillips a few years back.
Phillips, while correct on so many issues, remained convinced that Europe’s “fringe” “right-wing” populist political leaders, while anti-sharia, were also racist, anti-Semitic losers and therefore unwelcome allies in the counter-jihad.
Afterwards, my husband took her aside and explained — to her visible surprise – that Canada’s “fringe right wing” populist Reform Party had once been condemned as backward, bigoted and doomed, too; yet one of its founders, Stephen Harper, was now the staunchly pro-Israel prime minister of Canada, having just won a second federal election.
Non-Canadians are, presumably, more familiar with our “free” “healthcare” system, as I call it.
On that topic, Mark Steyn once quoted a fictional Canadian — OK, Quebecois — character’s decision to die a principled death:
Sébastien wants his dad to go to Baltimore for treatment, but Remy roars that he’s the generation that fought passionately for socialized health care and he’s gonna stick with it even if it kills him.
“I voted for Medicare,” he declares. “I’ll accept the consequences.”
But Link Byfield was a real man, not an imaginary one.
That makes what follows all the more notable.
Yet what truly mattered to [Byfield] was having lived out, as far as possible in the midst of a train wreck, a principled reality.
I mentioned an e-mail he sent last summer explaining his choice to forgo chemotherapy because it would not save him, yet would cost taxpayers $100,000.
I said I could not imagine other Canadians who would factor such public policy considerations into their personal health care.
“But that would have been standard thinking among politically literate citizens 50 ago,” he said. “People wouldn’t even articulate it. It would just be something they would think.”
When I asked his source for thinking that way, he said: “Thou shalt not steal.”
“Black” has become an idol. Oddly enough we learned that lesson through the making of Selma, a film focused on the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who boldly declared, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Director Ava DuVernay defended the rewriting of history into what amounts to a black power narrative (mythical kneeling blacks before white cops and all), stating, “This is art; this is a movie; this is a film. I’m not a historian. I’m not a documentarian.” The mainstream media jumped on the bait thrown out by the film’s star David Oyelowo, who declared that ”parallels between Selma and Ferguson are indisputable.” The fact that neither the Academy nor filmgoers fell march-step in line only acted as further proof of the conspiracy against “black and brown people” in Hollywood.
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) December 7, 2014
The race war fomented in the rise of the Black Power movement (the nasty “alternative” to King’s civil rights movement) continues unabated. In fact, it has opened on a new front, one that ties racial strife with national security and even international relations. Playing on strong ties to the Nation of Islam, Black Power now has its eye set on the Palestinian territories and places like Ferguson, Missouri, and the like are set to become the next battleground in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, making way for the planting of hotbeds of radical Islamic terror.
But, to tell the story of Ferguson and Florida’s black activists traveling on solidarity missions to the Palestinian territories is to exact the same kind of indecent omissions as DuVernay. There are blacks out there who support Israel and who, in fact, draw inspiration from the civil rights movement in doing so. The primary difference between these black Zionists and their Black Power counterparts: They are motivated by Jesus, not Islam.
…in 2006, Cornetta Lane an African American at Wayne State University, even went as far as expressing this support by singing Hatikvah in front of an anti-Israel protester who claimed that Israel was a racist state.When Jewish students asked at the time why she sang Hatikvah, Cornetta replied that her pastor, Glen Plummer, explained that Jews significantly helped out African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, and that Jews contributed significantly to both the NAACP and the Urban League, and were advisers to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Thus, when she saw that there was going to be an anti-Israel rally, Cornetta decided to take this step.
Much like Cornetta Lane, Chloe Valdary has drawn on her uniquely Biblical Christian upbringing and study of the civil rights movement to develop her own brand of Zionist activism. Dubbed “the Lioness of Zion,” Valdary started a pro-Israel student group on her college campus that garnered national attention, turning the college student into a speaker for a variety of Zionist organizations, including CAMERA and CUFI:
The parallels’ between the black struggle during the civil rights movement and the Jewish people today insofar as the legitimacy of Zionism is concerned is staggering. Martin Luther King Jr. [was] a Zionist but more importantly he realized that we must advance our duty when advancing the cause of human rights today. If he were alive today, he would surely be pro-Israel. This is one of the reasons why I am such a staunch Zionist.
Valdary is not alone. Dumisani Washington, a pastor and music teacher in Northern California, has formed the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, an organization “dedicated to strengthening the relationship between Israel and the Jewish people, and people of African descent through education and advocacy.” Raised a Christian, Washington had a strong interest in the Old Testament and Hebrew history at a young age. Growing up in the segregated south, he drew inspiration from the Exodus as well as Martin Luther King:
Dr. King was a staunch supporter of the State of Israel and a friend of the Jewish people. Many who know of his legacy know of his close relationship with Rabbi [Avraham] Joshua Heschel as well as the Jewish support for the Black civil rights struggle. Many are unaware, however, of the negative push back Dr. King got from some people. Particularly after the 1967 war in Israel, international criticism against the Jewish State began to rise. Dr. King remained a loyal friend, and made his most powerful case for Israel almost 1 year after the Six Day War – and 10 days before his death.
Both Valdary and Washington have raised the ire of pro-Palestinian organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an organization that misappropriates black history and depicts black supporters of Israel as the Uncle Toms of the 21st century. Contrary to the Black Power impetus forging the Ferguson-Palestine relationship, Washington has outlined the differences between the Palestinian liberation and civil rights movements, and in an open letter to SJP, Valdary condemned the organization, writing:
You do not have the right to invoke my people’s struggle for your shoddy purposes and you do not get to feign victimhood in our name. You do not have the right to slander my people’s good name and link your cause to that of Dr. King’s. Our two causes are diametrically opposed to each other.
Americans remain blind to these modern day civil rights/Zionist activists because, contrary to the preaching of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we have been made into a color-centric society by the Black Power movement and its contemporary descendants. Race has become an idol. Black Power has created the mythical “black and brown faces” to be honored through tokens of affirmative action while sacrificing living human beings on the altar of ghetto culture because of the color of their skin. To remain blind to the idolatry of race is to remain blind to the real struggle for civil rights in America, the struggle to be viewed as a human being instead of a race-based demographic or a color-based “minority.” This is the struggle that unites rather than divides us on issues of economy, quality of life, and yes, even national security and the threat of terrorism.
Editor’s Note: This is a much longer-than-usual essay than we normally publish, but it’s a very thorough dissection of Marxist ideology well-worth your time. To make it more accessible we’ve decided to experiment with publishing it “Netflix style,” meaning as the streaming internet TV service has developed the practice of releasing whole seasons of its new shows at once, allowing viewers to consumer at their own pace, we’ll publish this first as one long article before serializing its points daily over the next 2 weeks.
1. In its essence Marxism, the core ideology of modern Socialism, is an irrational, utopian and coercive perversion of human equality.
Marxism seeks equality where equality does not exist, demanding legal enforcement of equal social outcomes, including those related to economics, higher education, athletics, religion and human sexuality. This ideology even extends to international relationships whereby no nation is allowed to excessively prosper or achieve greatness, i.e.: all nations must be “equal.” Never mind that when people are free their human nature leads to inequality of outcomes – some are hard-working and some are lazy – some are more intelligent and some are less intelligent – some are stronger and some are weaker – some are tall and some are short. Unequal results occur naturally without force when people possess rightful liberty. Based on their degree of truly Free Enterprise nations similarly divide themselves unequally into various degrees of prosperity or depravity.
As last week’s epically embarrassing “James Taylor” fiasco demonstrated, the Western establishment acts like the Sixties never ended.
All that “peace and love,” “soixant-huitard” stuff comprised but a slender slice of the 1960s, and much of that was bogus, a cynical scam that ruined millions of lives.
“OK,” some of you have said in the comments, “but at least that decade had a hell of a soundtrack!”
Yeah, about that…
Editor’s Note: This is a much longer essay than we usually publish at PJ Lifestyle but by the time you finish the first page it should be more than clear that you’re going to want to take the time to read the whole thing. Tom Weiss is an extraordinary emerging writer you should start following. Here he delivers an inspiring rebuttal in defense of America’s military heroes.
Early on a Sunday morning in late January, 2008, the last members of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division arrived back in the United States after spending almost sixteen months in Iraq. We landed in Bangor, ME just as the sun was coming up and groggily prepared to disembark for a couple hours while the aircraft was re-fueled and serviced.
I was one of the first people off the plane that morning and as I walked down the jet-way I didn’t expect much of anything. I assumed the terminal would be deserted and hoped, at such an early hour, that something would be open so I could grab a cup of coffee and maybe a little breakfast.
I was completely unprepared for what was about to occur.
At first, I saw just a couple people on either side of the corridor some fifty meters ahead of me. My tired mind paid them little attention until their numbers began to swell. A couple turned into a dozen. Then two dozen. Then four. By the time I reached them well over a hundred people were lined up – half on one side of me, half on the other – and every single one of them wanted to shake my hand, and the hand of every other soldier on the plane, as we walked past. Even now I get emotional just thinking about this moment.
I had landed that Sunday morning in the midst of the Maine Troop Greeters, a group devoted to greeting service members upon their return from overseas. “As long as there are U.S. armed forces serving overseas,” their web site declares, “we will be here to greet them.”
My second return from combat in Iraq wasn’t as pleasant. I flew in on a stretcher and spent the next month in the hospital at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas enduring one surgery after another. Once I was released from the hospital, I spent a few months living at the Fisher House on the hospital grounds and working with the physical therapy team at the Center for the Intrepid. One afternoon, sitting out on the patio following a grueling therapy session, I was approached by a Fisher House volunteer. She asked whether I had, on my way to Iraq, flown through Bangor.
When I told her we did stop in Bangor she told me to stay put, she’d be right back. I joked that I wasn’t going anywhere quickly in my wheelchair and when she returned she handed me a t-shirt, which I thought strange until she explained its meaning.
She was from Bangor and also volunteered with the Maine Greeters. She told me that since I didn’t get the opportunity to return with the rest of my unit, I owed Bangor, ME a visit. She then showed me that the shirt had exactly that phrase embroidered on the front, “I owe Bangor, ME a visit.”
I was born in 1971 and have no memory of the Vietnam War itself, only its aftermath. I learned of the anti-war protests in school and read news stories about how Vietnam vets were greeted upon their return. I’ve returned from overseas combat tours three times, but never had to endure treatment like this.
Gary Rodd, describing the reaction to his Marine Corps unit marching in a parade to honor the Apollo astronauts, said “As soon as you marched out, all you could hear from the crowd was, ‘Baby killers!’”
And here is the experience of Edward Kenney:
Demonstrators were marching outside Travis Air Force Base in California “in the wee hours of the morning” when the plane bringing him back to the states landed, said Edward Kenney, who served with the Marine Corps in Vietnam.
“And they put us in a reception hall and said, ‘If you don’t have civilian clothes, buy them. You will not leave this facility in your uniform,’” he recalled.
Back in Glens Falls, Kenney agreed to speak to a class at St. Mary’s Academy.
“What I was surprised about, I thought I was going to go there just to maybe relay what kind of life I had lived and how it was,” he said. “They didn’t want to know that. They wanted to know how it was that I would support the politics of the current administration and the previous administration that would send us over there to kill us. I almost backed out of that place.”
In 2014, the year before the murder rampages at the Charlie Hebdo offices and the kosher supermarket in Paris, about seven thousand French Jews (out of a community of about half a million) emigrated to Israel.
With Muslim and other antisemitic harassment and violence constantly intensifying in France, that was twice the number of the previous year, and a record high.
Even before this month’s terror attacks, a higher number of French Jewish immigrants to Israel was expected for 2015. Now, after the attacks, a higher number yet is expected, possibly fifteen thousand. There is even talk of the Jews leaving France—mainly for Israel—altogether.
Meanwhile it’s reported that:
An unprecedented 15,000 soldiers and police officers have been mobilized in France to protect potential sites from terrorist attacks, of whom one third have been stationed at Jewish schools and synagogues for 24-hour-a-day supervision.
Five thousand police officers will guard 717 Jewish institutions, in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks that killed 17 people, including four Jews at a Paris kosher supermarket.
And in a speech after the attacks, French prime minister Manuel Valls said:
How is it possible to accept that France…how can it be accepted that we hear on our streets “Death to the Jews”?… How can one accept that French people be murdered simply because they are Jewish?
…We must say to the world: without the Jews of France, France would no longer be France. And that message is one that we all have to deliver strongly and loudly. We did not say it in the past. We did not show our indignation in the past.
On the one hand, one can ask whether sending one’s children to a school that has to be guarded round-the-clock by seven or eight soldiers and police officers is much of a way to live. On the other hand, one could ask, in light of the protective measures and Valls’s words: should France be given another chance, before Jews give up on it?
I lit Shabbat candles this past Friday night for the first in a very long time. I made the decision somewhere between learning that the Grand Synagogue of Paris had closed its doors on Shabbat for the first time since the end of World War 2 and the starling fact that 15 Jewish patrons of the kosher supermarket in Paris huddled in a storage freezer to avoid being executed by terrorists.
Roger L. Simon wrote a compelling piece in the wake of last week’s barbaric attacks perpetrated by radical Islamists in Paris. Reading his article I observed with irony that he writes about America’s need for a Churchill. Perhaps, pray to God in His mercy we have one, as we are now surely England with a Neville Chamberlain at the helm. Europe, on the other hand, does not have a Churchill in sight. Europe’s Churchills and their children have fled and are fleeing, some at a breakneck pace. The only Churchill I see on the world horizon is Bibi Netanyahu, which is why he will no doubt be elected to another term as prime minister in Israel, regardless of the deals he may or may not cut with the ultra-religious. Internal politics have to be placed on the back burner when international enemies are this bloodthirsty.
Remember after 9/11, when all kinds of bloggers posted that clip from Raiders of the Lost Ark?
You know: The one in which, bored with an Arab swordsman’s show-offy moves, Jones pulls out his pistol and shoots him dead?
Seeing all those posts really cheered me up back then.
“Wow,” I thought. “America is gonna go kick some ass!”
And then those same bloggers and pundits — many of whom I respect mightily — kept repeating the words of some Iraqi guy during the invasion, who was gleefully shouting, “Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!”
Those bloggers and pundits were certain that this meant millions of Muslims had been dying (literally) for the good guys to rescue them.
They wanted the same things we wanted. George Bush said so in his Second Inaugural.
I wanted to believe. But I wasn’t so sure.
Any more than I was as certain as these bloggers that the future lay in the latest cool gadgets, and how cameras and computers were getting cheaper all the time, and Bush just got reelected and hey, Who’s going to the Rose Bowl this year?
Maybe because I’m Canadian.
Maybe because I’m a girl.
Maybe because I was raised Catholic.
Maybe because I’m naturally contrarian.
For whatever reason, all this boyish bluster, I thought, didn’t bode well.
Don’t let the stereotypical G.I. lunks distract you with their butt-smacking, “don’t you need to file something” portrayal of 1940s masculinity. Marvel’s Agent Carter is far from your oh-so-played-out second wave feminist portrayal of manhood – and womanhood, for that matter. Which is why it’s the best show going on television for feminism today.
For every lunk there’s a hero, Carter’s colleague Agent Sousa being one of them. One brilliant expository exchange sets the tone, demonstrating exactly how appealing real men find Carter’s fearless independence:
Carter: “I’m grateful. I’m also more than capable of handling whatever these adolescents throw at me.”
Sousa: “Yes, ma’am. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
Carter: “Well that’s another thing we have in common.”
Carter is a fully empowered female. Sousa knows it, respects it, and likes it. And Carter likes him for it. This kind of His Girl Friday exchange gets equity feminism the screen time our culture so desperately needs. Unlike her Avengers’ counterpart the Black Widow, Agent Carter isn’t squished into slicked up body suits and forced to perform gymnastic feats in order to intrigue her male audience. And unlike gender feminists, Carter draws authority from her sex and uses it to save the day.
— Magnificent (@Ironyisfunny8) January 8, 2015
Ahmed Merabet, the police officer who first responded to the terror attack at the Charlie Hebdo offices only to get shot to death at point-blank range by the attackers, will inevitably become the poster boy for both sides of the Muslim debate. His truth was that of a Muslim who integrated into French society and professionally defended Western values resulting in his untimely murder at the hands of Islamic radicals. That truth is already being manipulated by multiculturalist news outlets bent on defending universalism despite its deathly consequences.
The Atlantic is using Merabet’s story to drum up what they believe to be obvious anti-Muslim sentiment in France, obvious only because news agencies scrambling to cover the Charlie Hebdo story didn’t jump on Merabet’s paragraph to defend Islam against radical Islamic terrorists. (Priorities, people.) Joining with The Atlantic crowd, Max Fisher opines at Vox:
Here is what Muslims and Muslim organizations are expected to say: “As a Muslim, I condemn this attack and terrorism in any form.”
This expectation we place on Muslims, to be absolutely clear, is Islamophobic and bigoted. The denunciation is a form of apology: an apology for Islam and for Muslims. The implication is that every Muslim is under suspicion of being sympathetic to terrorism unless he or she explicitly says otherwise. The implication is also that any crime committed by a Muslim is the responsibility of all Muslims simply by virtue of their shared religion.
First, let me say that I come here to mostly praise Bill O’Reilly’s Killing series, not to bury it. This is not another history snob sniffing that there is “nothing new” in the books. While I can’t say that I have learned any Major New Truths of history from reading the books—and it is a fair statement to say that the heavy lifting of original research has been done by others—I am still very happy these books exist, and the history snobs should be, too.
Why? Because these books all contain Big Truths that those of us who love history all sit around and say, “What your high school history teacher should have told you is…”
Nor am I going to snipe that the books are filled with little details—like the pattern of the tablecloth at Potsdam—that scream “look at all my cool research”? If you really are a history buff that makes them kind of fun.
I actually picked up Killing Patton, because this is the one time that O’Reilly and his coauthor Martin Dugard (whose books on David Livingstone and Captain Cook are among my all-time favorites) propose to make a Big Revelation in their new book: That General George S. Patton was killed by the NKVD at Stalin’s orders.
Early in the book, O’Reilly and Dugard bring up the forced suicide of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, Patton’s famed nemesis. The German commander of the defense of Normandy was a sympathizer of the German Resistance that nearly killed Hitler.
But while the authors inform us of the color of Rommel’s mucous after he ingests cyanide, this dismissive sentence of an actual Big Truth drove me nuts.
The book states that the attempted assassination of July 20, 1944 was, “engineered by members of the German military who no longer believed Hitler was fit to rule Germany.”
While this might be true of Rommel, to blow off the rest of the heroic circle of conspirators — which included labor leaders and clergy — in this way would be like saying the Founding Fathers “thought British taxes on tea were cutting too far into their profits.”
Good grief, Bill, even Tom Cruise got this one right.
Next: Why FDR Wanted Hitler Alive
Last year I read three books that challenged the mainstream view of the 1960s.
(Herewith I’m employing the folk definition of “The Sixties” as that stretch between the Kennedy assassination in November 1963 and the May 1975 fall of Saigon.)
I say “mainstream” because I haven’t entertained many illusions about what really happened during that overlong Baby Boomer idyl since I was a kid.
In the first place, I grew up “soaking in it,” in the dishwashing liquid commercial catchphrase of the era, and I hated almost every minute.
In the second, as an adult, I discerned certain disruptions in the official “peace and love” narrative.
Being a bratty pest by temperament, I’ve made a minor career out of helping debunking the myth of the selfless hippie, the noble white liberal, the enlightened radical, the powerless housewife and the era’s other stock characters.
(I’m also rather fond of rehabilitating the laughingstocks of the age.)
This year, I read three books that, to various degrees, reinforced my view that what we call The Sixties — an allegedly Edenic era that canny progressives continue to evoke when crafting 21st century policy — was a Potemkin village of the imagination, or, in the words of the narrator below, “a mass hallucination”:
Take one look at Mic’s list of feminist triumphs for 2014 and you’ll get the feeling that most of us have over the course of this rather petty year: American feminism doesn’t know what to do with itself. Sure, it pays lip service to international women with its only PC figurehead, Malala Yousafzai, taking the list’s lead. And yes, the editors made sure to include a proportional number of women of color on the list, even if they included Ferguson protestors, leading one to ask why the feminist movement would want to associate itself with the kind of race riots we haven’t seen in this nation in nearly 50 years. But when your greatest triumphs include hashtag activism, conquering “manspreading,” and harassing Bill Cosby over decades-old alleged rape accusations, you illustrate how pathetic you’ve become.
A few of these so-called feminist triumphs were listed among the top feminist fiascos of 2014 in the L.A. Times, along with some real head-hanging, shame-filled moments stretching from #ShirtStorm to #BanBossy. One item on the list, however, strikes a sobering note: Rotherham. The complete lack of American feminist response to the sex trafficking of women in this British town for over two decades should be enough to shame feminists into pursuing a new direction in 2015. Feminism as a biblically grounded, non-sectarian movement for women’s independence can once again play a vital role in American and global culture, as long as its gaze is redirected from the navel to the critical issues facing women today.
Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson, two wannabe-famous New York twenty somethings, teamed up to talk sex via their “running soap opera,” “almost reality TV show” podcast Guys We F*cked. Broadcasting under the “anti-slut shaming” banner makes Guys We F*cked appealing to the contemporary feminists at Salon who never turn down the chance to normalize twisted sexuality. Salon assistant editor Jenny Kutner sat down with the comedy duo more commonly known as “Sorry About Last Night” who, as they enter season 2 of their famed podcast, are looking to crowdsource funds from fans while noting that their careers are “…getting better because of the podcast, which is really exciting.”
Performing an editorial feat, Kutner defines the duo’s narcissism as “comedy with a purpose” in her attempt to define the two as feminists. In doing so, the assistant editor at Salon exposes exactly why contemporary feminism is failing 21st century women: Today’s feminists have worked to sever feminism from its historical roots as a biblically-grounded movement for women’s independence. What they’re replacing it with, a “social media feminism” as artist and feminist April Bey has dubbed it, is a mere mask for narcissistic, death-obsessed, goddess worship.
We all need help. We need strength, courage to do the things that need to be done on a daily basis. There are many sources for that strength and courage. I get mine from my relationship with God. In Joshua 1:9 it is written,
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Knowing that God is with us wherever we go is an amazing source of strength. Many times throughout my military career I was tasked to perform something that was very dangerous, but I could do it without fear knowing that God would be with me.
During Desert Shield and Desert Storm, I was the executive officer of a cavalry regiment. We were stationed in Doha, Kuwait, and were the last American presence in Kuwait. Everyone else had returned home, and we were still there. Concerned that Saddam might come back into Kuwait, we kept our ammo close by. One day I received a call that the motor pool was on fire, and hopped in my HMMWV with my driver to investigate. Soon I realized that a vehicle had caught fire, and was about to explode. I ordered the evacuation of the motor pool, which was completed about the time the vehicle exploded, and detonated thousands of pounds of ammunition along with it. For six hours I remained in that motor pool with my driver, helping people who had remained in there. Unexploded ordinance was all around. I was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for my actions that day, the nation’s highest award for heroism outside of combat. People ask me how was I able to perform that task. It was easy: I knew God was with me.
In Iraq on one of my tours, I was tasked to negotiate with the insurgency. It was important that we talked with them to understand their issues. Routinely I would meet in a room with numerous armed insurgents. They hated all Americans, and they viewed us as occupiers of their country. The tension in the room was high. At any moment one of the insurgents could have easily taken out an American general. Again, folks asked whether or not I was afraid. The answer is no. God was with me.
I am not the only military leader who turned to our God for strength and courage. During the Civil War, the Confederate general Stonewall Jackson said,
My religious beliefs teach me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time of my death. I do not concern myself with that, but to always be ready whenever it may overtake me. That is the way all men should live, and all men would be equally brave.
So, when times look bleak, and you find yourself afraid, go to God for strength and courage. God will be with you. Seek out those difficult tasks that everyone else seems afraid of performing. As it is said in Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said Here am I. Send me!”
And remember, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
image illustrations via shutterstock / Blaj Gabriel
Joseph Bottum is my favorite among Christian writers; I read him religiously, as it were, for a decade before we met, and before he asked me to join the masthead of the monthly magazine First Things in 2009. The fact that he is a close friend, therefore, has nothing to do with my admiration for his work; I have several close friends who write badly, and admire any number of writers whom I abhor as human beings. His Christmas meditation “Angels I Have Heard on High” was a holiday delicacy to be savored. Jody has heard angel voices singing, “high in the wind, across a western meadow frozen stiff and covered with the fallen snow.” I wish him many more such blessed encounters.
Jody is now writing Christmas carols, and we’ve been corresponding about the form, from an aesthetic vantage point, to be sure. The great poet of Spain’s Golden Age, Lope de Vega, wrote a marvelous song in which the Virgin Mary responds to the glory of angels ruffling the palm trees by asking them to hold onto the branches and quiet down; her child, she explains, is already exhausted by the world’s suffering and needs to rest. The juxtaposition of maternal ordinariness and supernatural splendor is a successful poetic conceit. Christian poets work wonders with angelic encounters, and Lope’s famous Christmas meditation is sublime. One really must read it in the original: with its Romance meter (comparable to our ballad meter) and unrhymed alliteration, the poem bestrides the divide between sublime and secular in technique as well as content.
By pure coincidence, the conversation around the Shabbat table last week at Hong Kong’s modest Israeli synagogue, Shuva Israel, centered on angels as well. Jews sing “Peace onto you, ministering angels” before Friday night dinner, on the basis of an ancient homilectic that two angels accompany a Jew home from synagogue on the eve of Shabbat:
Peace upon you, ministering angels, messengers of the Most High,
of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
Come in peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High, of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
Bless me with peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High,
of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
May your departure be in peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High, of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
Note that the appearance of the angels is a scheduled weekly occurrence, to be welcomed, but nothing to get excited about. The odd thing, though, is that the angels are asked to leave. One hears many explanations for this, but I like best the one proposed by the Chafetz Chaim, the leader of observant Jewry in Eastern Europe during the interwar years, and recounted last Friday by a young Israeli rabbi. When the high priest entered the Temple’s Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, he went in alone–not even an angel dared accompany him into this most holy place. The recreation of the Temple in the Shabbat table of a Jewish home is so holy that even the holy angels cannot abide there; after they have done their job of accompanying us home from synagogue they are politely asked to go away.
The Holy of Holies in Judaism is found in the most ordinary things of life once they have been dedicated to the Holy One, blessed be he. The Shekhinah (the Indwelling of God) resides on the Shabbat table, and in marital relations between husband and wife. Such things surpass the holiness even of angels.
The holiness of the sanctified ordinary, to be sure, doesn’t always make for compelling poetry; as a latecomer to Jewish observance I tend to sniff at the poetic merits of the classic songs sung around the Shabbat table, although some of them, drawn from the Psalms, are hauntingly beautiful.
Everyone has limitations, but we cannot allow them to determine who we are. The key is being self-aware. I am convinced that the most important piece of furniture in our homes is our mirror. We should routinely look in the mirror and do an honest self-assessment to determine our strengths, weaknesses and limitations. We should aggressively pursue candid feedback from our peers, colleagues, bosses, and subordinates. This is termed a “360 assessment.”
Once aware of our limitations, we have many ways to transcend them. One way is to get some additional education or experience that will allow us to improve those weaknesses. We should always seek ways to improve ourselves.
Another way is to surround yourself with folks who have strengths in those areas where you fall short. Allow them to compensate for your limitations.
Another way is reliance on God. I believe a key is faith. There really isn’t anything we can’t accomplish, if we do it with God.
Jesus looked at them and said, with man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God. (Mark 10:27)
These days Hollywood has brought Moses back to the minds of many in the recently released movie Exodus: Gods and Kings. Now is a perfect time to stop and think about how Moses’ life can relate to today’s challenges.
It is easier to advise than to have or to retain a sense of proportion, especially when it is most needed. I have never known anyone genuinely comforted by the idea that others were worse off than he, which perhaps explains why complaint does not decrease in proportion to improvement in general conditions. And he would be a callow doctor who tried to console the parents of a dead child with the thought that, not much more than a century ago, an eighth of all children died before their first birthday.
Still, it is well that from time to time medical journals such as the Lancet should carry articles about medical history, for otherwise we might take our current state of knowledge for granted. Ingratitude, after all, is the mother of much discontent. To know how much we owe to our forebears keeps us from imagining that our ability to diagnose and cure is the consequence of our own peculiar brilliance, rather than simply because we came after so much effort down the ages.
A little article in the Lancet recently was written by two historians who are in the process of analyzing the results of 9000 coroners’ inquests into accidental deaths in Tudor England. It seems astonishing to me that such records should have survived for more than four centuries, but also that the state should have cared enough about the deaths of ordinary people to hold such inquests (coroners’ inquests had already been established for 400 years at the time of the Tudors). In other words, an importance was given to individual human life even before the doctrines of the Enlightenment took root: the soil was already fertile.
I have no interest in seeing Ridley Scott’s epic IMAX 3-D meisterwerk Exodus: Gods and Kings. Why would I want to spend money on a “gloriously junky” movie that turns my history into a collection of high-tech special effects laced together by a biased, biblically-inaccurate script? Yet, for however lousy the movie itself might be, it has inspired some interesting commentary on Jewish peoplehood from Emma Green over at the Atlantic. For Green, the film inspired a polemic that highlights the seemingly eternal struggle Jews have with the idea of being called out, that is to say “chosen” by God.
I’ve always found this to be rather asinine as far as ideological burdens go. Most people struggle to find their purpose in life. Jews are born into it. We are here to bring God’s teachings into the world in order to make this earth a better place. This chosen status, this calling doesn’t make us any better than anyone else. It simply gives us a job to do, a role that manifests itself through every aspect of existence, every academic discipline, every profession we’ve ever encountered. Whether we’re religious or not, or politically Left or Right, we (for the most part) are bent on doing our part to make the world a better place. Which is probably why those who hate us the most love to rub our chosenness in our face, intimidating the Emma Greens among us into second guessing our God-given responsibility.
One of my husband ‘s favorite sandwiches is peanut butter and a pickle on rye. Elvis Presley liked his peanut butter sandwiches with banana and bacon, and Hemingway liked thick onion slices in his. Ninety-four percent of American households have a jar on hand. The stuff lasts forever, so in a nuclear war situation you can always rely on it for sustenance. It can be stored safely unrefrigerated for two years.
I, on the other hand, have a love/hate relationship with it, and if I do ever eat it, I do so in the traditional manner, as a solo spread or with its mate, jelly! At other times, I abhor the stuff and, even when scrounging around for something to eat, will bypass it.
I had always thought that peanut butter was as American as apple pie and mom and was never eaten before we Americans took over from the British. Not true. It was actually an Aztec dish, but eaten as a paste, not a spread. I bet they didn’t eat it with jelly either, or put it into their kids’ lunch boxes.
The modern form of peanut butter was invented by Canadian Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal. According to Wikipedia, he was the first to patent peanut butter, in 1884. Peanut flour already existed. His cooled product had “a consistency like that of butter, lard, or ointment,” according to his patent application. He included the mixing of sugar into the paste in order to harden its consistency.
It’s fairly obvious that we Jews just don’t get Christmas. Don’t believe me? Check out BuzzFeed’s attempt to get Jews to decorate Christmas trees. (“Who’s Noel?” “Is that like, ‘grassy knoll’?”) Yet, every year we Jewish Americans wrestle as a people over whether or not to incorporate Christmas traditions into our own Hanukkah celebrations. It’s tacky. It’s trite. And it’s really, really lame. Here are five Hanukkah/Christmas hybrids that all Jews need to avoid this holiday season.
Now that the pixel dust has (mostly) settled, we can begin trying to glean some lessons from the sudden crack up of The New Republic.
Since its inception 100 years ago, TNR has positioned itself as the journal of American liberalism, when that word was still synonymous with patriotism, freedom and even a hawkish foreign policy.
The magazine cheer-led for Stalin longer than was seemly and opposed the Vietnam War. However, it was also critical of the New Left’s excesses and, under contentious editor Martin Peretz, became largely pro-Israel.
It may have been “the in-flight magazine of Air Force One” during the Clinton administration but that didn’t prevent TNR from being highly critical of his (and Hillary’s) policies.
So it wouldn’t be entirely fair or accurate to describe The New Republic as a “liberal” magazine, although that’s what a lot of conservative commentators have been doing since this week’s Chernobyl-level meltdown.
In a magazine landscape in which The Nation is unmistakeably far-left, and National Review and the Weekly Standard are clearly “right wing,” The New Republic sometimes seemed… confused — a reflection of the particular passions of whoever happened to be editor at the time.
And many of those editors over the years have been quite young.
That’s why it’s likely that the prospect of having a 28-year-old owner didn’t immediately strike fear into the hearts of New Republic stakeholders.
Editor’s Note: See the first four parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” “Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone,” “The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power,” and “Should You Trust Your Gut or God?“ Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts here. Warning: some spoilers about season 3 discussed in this installment.
Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God. Her officials within her are roaring lions; her rulers are evening wolves, who leave nothing for the morning. Her prophets are unprincipled; they are treacherous people. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law.
Our culture has a seemingly natural distrust of people in power, but that wasn’t always the case. Before November 1963 we put great faith in our political and spiritual leaders. Those pre-’63 figureheads like JFK, Ike and FDR, Fulton Sheen and Billy Graham are still heralded as role models of moral society. Today’s faith is different. We look for hypocrisy and mock it intensely. All spiritual leaders are televangelists skilled in chicanery. Our politicians are now supposed to be our messiahs, and when they fail we as a nation fall into despair and chaos. When did we forget God, and why does it matter that we’ve left Him out of the equation?