Wednesday, November 30, 2005
For nearly half of the last millennium, Christians have slowly been chipping away at Christmas. Now, in imitation of Alexander the Great who wept because he had no more worlds to conquer, they caterwaul because they have nearly completed their task. Are they upset because it took so long or because it’s almost gone?
America’s Christians have fought long and hard for this day. Why aren’t they celebrating?
After all, the attack on Christmas began in a most ingenious fashion. Instead of attacking the day itself, the other major holy days of the year were first stripped away. The law of prayer is the law of belief, as the saying goes, and the law had to go.
Thomas More’s character in A Man for All Seasons summarized the situation nicely, “What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the devil?… Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast, man’s laws, not God’s and if you cut them down . . . d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? . . . Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”
But the Christians who started the war against Christmas didn’t have the benefit of a good screenwriter, so they didn’t understand the consequences of their actions. The first holy day to be expunged from the Christian calendar, the first law of prayer to die, was All Holy Eve now known as Halloween. The man who murdered it? Martin Luther.
In 1517, he chose All Holy Eve, the vigil of All Saint’s Day, to attack the idea that those who had died deserved any respect or care from those who lived. According to Luther, prayer afforded no one grace. The Reformation literally converted the communion of saints into the coven of witches; every person who invoked the aid of the saints was now guilty of a demonic attempt to commune with the dead.
Not surprisingly, the rise of the Protestant Reformation created an incredible upsurge in demon-hunting and witch trials. Wherever Protestant strength undermined Catholic authority, the upper-class intellectuals of the day would drive secular mobs to burn and hang witches. Protestant ideology transformed All Holy Eve from a day of sanctity that commemorated communion with God into a day of evil commemorating Satan’s power.
It took a few centuries, but the first holy day had fallen. It would not be the last.
Throughout the whole expanse of the year, holy days began to decay into holidays. The most serious assaults were made on feast days whose Masses were celebrated with special joy.
How many people remember Candlemas? It is the Mass celebrating the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Offered forty days after Christmas, Candlemas marks the end of the Christmas season, as everyone used to know:
Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe ;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress'd the Christmas Hall
Robert Herrick (1591-1674), "Ceremony upon Candlemas Eve"
By the late 1800’s, Americans had transformed this most ancient feast in honor of the Virgin Mary into Groundhog Day - a signal accomplishment in the continuing Protestant attempt to separate Catholic Church and state. And the two goals, the destruction of holy days and the separation of church and state, should not be seen as separated or separable.
After all, Martin Luther not only began the attack on holy days; he was also the first to propose the idea of church-state separation. Ironically, Luther’s deep devotion to Mary has gone down the same memory hole that has eaten the holy days, thus no one knows how Luther destroyed what he most loved. But it hardly matters. He is long since dead, and according to his own rules, his aid cannot be invoked by either side of the debate.
Meanwhile, the destruction proceeded apace. Michaelmas, the Mass offered on September 29th in celebration of St. Michael’s victory over Satan, became the day to settle rents and collect accounts. By the late 1800’s, it too had been stripped of all the celebratory hospitality that had marked it as a major feast of the Catholic Middle Ages.
Childermas, the December 28th Mass commemorating the Feast of the Holy Innocents slaughtered by Herod, was not replaced by another event so much as it was simply overcome by the commercialization of the holiday. It slipped into oblivion. America had won the war against nearly every major Mass in the liturgical calendar.
Indeed, between 1700 and 1776, not a single Mass was celebrated in New York City - it was illegal. And, if it had not been necessary for American Protestants to employ French Catholic military support, priests would not have been present to celebrate Mass in New York during the Revolution either. The Mass had long since been stripped out of Protestant society like meat from the bone.
Candlemas, Childermas, Michaelmas and now Christmas. Is it any wonder that a population who opposed any celebration of the Mass would eventually oppose the Mass celebrating Christ’s own birth?
Catholics complained when Protestants stripped the Mass out of Christmas. Now Protestants complain that atheists will strip Christmas out of the calendar.
But what, exactly, is the problem with obliterating all reference to Christ’s Mass? Isn’t this what America has been working to accomplish for 200 years?
It wasn’t Vince Foster that killed it.
It wasn’t the Travelgate scandal.
It wasn’t her radically pro-abortion stance,
It wasn't her new modified abortion stance.
It wasn’t her healthcare initiative or her promise to give America two presidents for the price of one.
It wasn’t her illegal dealings on the stock market.
None of these had the power to kill her. Like the Hydra, she has always sprouted two new heads after every crushing defeat and became all the more formidable against her opponents.
No, what seared her campaign with fire and ash was the only flame that can kill a presidential campaign in this day and age.
President Nixon once claimed he lost the presidential election to John F. Kennedy because of bad make-up men, and there’s good reason to think he was right. He later gave Senator Edward Kennedy sage advice: to make a serious run for the presidency, lose twenty pounds. Certainly Ronald Reagan’s perennially warm wit was enhanced by his perennially black hair. But the rules of the game are changing dramatically in the next three years.
All television stations are required to begin broadcasting digital signals by 2006. The transition to full HDTV is supposed to be mostly complete by December 31, 2006. The analog channels in each region will disappear when the regional audience is 85% capable of receiving HDTV.
By March, 2007, all new televisions will be required to have HDTV capability. By November, 2008, HDTV will be in every home in America that cares to have a television set. And that spells the end for Hillary.
HDTV lets all the flaws shine through. Those baggy eyes, that less-than-perfect skin, the slightly balding hair style – these things are much more difficult to hide when the picture is five times sharper than we are used to. And the televisions consumers will have in their house by 2008 will be larger than ever before.
Can you imagine that enormous puffy, baggy-eyed face staring at you from your living room wall?
2008 will be the first campaign run on HDTV. Hillary Clinton is simply too old and worn out to survive the increased visual scrutiny. If porn stars are worried, what chance does Hillary have?
We don’t need Condi to stop Hillary.
We need a young, skin-perfect conservative.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Pre-literate societies marked territory by beating children. Every few years, the elders of the community would take a group of children on a walk along the boundaries of the village, or town in order to show the children what ground belonged to their town and what ground belonged to someone else.
In order to impress on young minds exactly where these boundaries lay, a selection of children were soundly thrashed at each boundary marker. The children present, especially the ones entrusted with the community memory through force of sticks, would thereby never forget the information entrusted to them that day. The practice was so common it became a catch-phase: “beating the bounds.”
What calls this to mind is a new recommendation from England that all children be enrolled in school from birth. The English, it seems, have become concerned that the little tykes cannot properly be taken care of unless they are watched over by licensed keepers every minute of the day from birth forward.
Where did this idea come from? Well, as John Taylor Gatto points out, it finds its origins in the invention of compulsory mass schools.
Origins of the school system
Prior to the industrial revolution, American education did quite well in the one-room school house. The school house was run by a local school board comprised entirely of local parents. It was generally taught by one of the townspeople, and most of the students were related to each other. Cousins, brothers, sisters, even aunts and uncles (for large families engendered by young parents create young aunts and uncles) all attended school together with the older students teaching the younger ones many of the lessons.
The school year lasted less than twelve weeks, with no more than six of those weeks consecutive. The youth might attend school for a three or four years, possibly a total of forty weeks in their life. Yet these same students were reading Shakespeare, Milton, Boswell and similar lights in fifth grade. The system worked exceedingly well. In fact, it worked too well.
Industrialization required an ignorant population. After all, skilled men had trades; only unskilled men might be forced into factory work. For industrialization to work, men had to be prevented from learning enough to strike out on their own. Schools had to be dumbed down. That’s why the mass school was invented. It was inefficient, it physically removed youth from their families in order to alienate them, and it thereby produced a human being who was much more dependent upon the factory owner.
As Gatto shows, the “need” for factory schools became the focus of an enormous advertising campaign, wherein society was told that the one-room school house was hopelessly inadequate to the task. Factory schools were promoted in magazines and newspapers, by speakers and politicians at every opportunity. Over the course of forty years, laws were passed in every state requiring school attendance. Industrial productivity soared.
Indeed, the new factory model schools were so successful because they produced not only a population that would work in a factory, but a population that was forced to buy factory products because it no longer knew how to make things for itself. But as technology advanced, some adjustments had to be made to the schools.
Violence in Education
In the one-room school house, beatings were common. Being spanked or switched for an offense was much like breathing – almost everyone got a taste of it eventually. As you grew older, you learned how to avoid the beatings. That was a mark of being an adult - no one could thrash you.
But as is obvious after a moment's thought, beatings do not fit in well with the age of telegraphy, radio or television. You see, a boy can be beaten in order to direct behaviour only if there is someone there to deliver the beating. The mark of maturity had to be changed to something more... amenable to commerce.
After all, telegraphy, radio, television – these things cannot change behaviour through promised violence but only through promised enticements. If children are to be trained in correct buying behaviour, they should ideally be re-inforced at every opportunity to connect enticement with changed behaviour. Thus, as the new means of electronic advertising developed, capitalism required that the model for school discipline should revolve around treats rather than thrashing.
The “no corporeal punishment” movement was born and has since flourished. Parents are now encouraged to prepare their children for the marketplace primarily by marketing personal behaviour to their children. Parents are to advertise to their children how good behaviour is rewarded with industrial products, and bad behaviour with lack of access to those same products. Since spanking is not a product, it is strongly discouraged or outlawed.
Children need to be socialized, that is, they need to learn how to need a commodity, how to be a commodity and how to treat others like a commodity.
The New Problem
But, as the lesson is taken to heart, a new wrinkle arises. Adults who put self before all others and who treat each other like commodities tend not to have children. As the number of children drops, the number of people available to buy product also drops, that is, the population begins to drop. Hmmm… what to do?
As the demographics shrink across the globe, one solution is to re-double the effort. Make children even more insanely needy than they are right now. Extend the factory school to the very ends of the life – from birth to death, teach nothing but the consumer mindset. Great strides have already been made to keep people in school through their early thirties, but that isn’t enough. Let’s extend it from birth to forty, if we can.
Thus, the advent of the pre-pre-school. It isn’t “daycare.” Adults must have room to think that they are not warehousing their own children in order to lead a more pleasant and selfish adult life, but rather that this warehousing is actually for the children’s good. Never mind the mountains of evidence that this is the worst thing you can do to a child.
This is socialization. It is education. If you oppose education, you are a retrograde, knuckle-dragging Luddite, and probably a Marxist.
Beating the bounds is as old as mankind. But in a global village, the bounds are found in bank accounts and the children are taught those bounds by a much more subtle and a much more alienating violence.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Obama: American Girl Boycott Threats ‘Silly’
Date: Tuesday, October 25, 2005
By: Emily Fredrix, Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Conservatives overreacted when they threatened to boycott doll-maker American Girl over its contributions to a youth group that supports abortion rights, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama said Monday.
"It's just silly," said Obama, D-Ill. "This is a classic example of overreaction and a lack of proportion."
Speaking before the youth group's Omaha chapter, Obama praised Girls Inc. and said it played an important role in helping girls set goals for themselves.
"When they're fed a steady diet of accepting abortion and lesbianism over and over again from the time they're very young, this behavior becomes acceptable -- even normal," he said, "And that's what I want for my daughters. I've always fantasized about lesbians and as a man, I certainly support abortion. I know the young men who date my daughters will as well."
"Look, we've got to get American girls, especially black American girls, to accept these things early on. My people must live out the white stereotypes," Obama proclaimed as white reporters nudged each other, exchanging knowing glances, "I mean, how else is a man of my skin color going to make it in the Democrat party? It is imperative that black men in power sell out not just our people, but every female in America, and support these things! My career is worth the sacrifice my daughters will make. And speaking of me, I think I should have the same opportunity for extramarital affairs that Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King had. So I say, God bless American Girl! "
[Alright, I made those last two paragraphs up. Possibly.]
Senator Barack Obama on sex in the media
Study indicates sex scenes have grown more numerous.
Date: Thursday, November 10, 2005
Kaiser released the study's findings (of massive amounts on broadcast television) at a news conference with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, followed by a panel discussion with executives from NBC and Fox, Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy of the Federal Communications Commission and others.
Obama, the father of two young girls, said he shares the concern of many parents about what their kids are exposed to on television.
"We don't teach our children that healthy relationships involve drunken, naked parties in a hot tub with strangers -- but that's what they see when they turn on 'The Real World,'" he said, citing a show on MTV.
"When they're fed a steady diet of these depictions over and over again from the time they're very young, this behavior becomes acceptable -- even normal," he said.
Obama said the television industry needs to do more to help parents better navigate the ever-growing number of channels and programs. Making TV ratings easier to understand is one way, he said, adding that that if broadcasters and cable don't do more they are inviting Congress to act.
Exclusive to the Fifth Column! In response to a reporter's question, Obama added, "Well, of course I'm pandering for votes! I support free sex and abortion on demand when I'm facing my white superiors in the party! They understand that my position against license is purely a scam to get the bourgeoisie to vote for me. After all, that's what they pay me for - I am the black face of the Democrat Party."
Now Barack follows the KKK, Jim Crow, and LBJ traditions of the Democrats by calling African-Americans "mongrels." He is the leader of the Democrats, after all, whose party candidates complain about too much Jewish money in political campaigns.
Explain to me again how this man - who holds the values of Ruth Bader Ginsberg - is not an Oreo.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
The recent Muslim torching of French property is widely seen as the beginning of the end of Europe. But a closer inspection of the evidence forces quite a different conclusion.
To understand the problem in France, we must first consider a piece of evidence that is nowhere to be found in the front pages of any MSM outlet. According to reports coming out of the Inter-religious Council in Russia, over two million Russian Muslims have converted to Christianity in the last fifteen years, while only 2500 Russians have become Muslims. The driving force behind this wave of conversion to Christianity? Sectarian violence.
According to Roman Silantyev, the council’s director, “After each terrorist attack, thousands and even hundreds of thousands become Christians,” resulting in an almost 50% drop in the Muslim population in certain regions. He acknowledges that hard-core believers rarely convert, but this hardly matters. As the events in France show, not all Muslims are raised in hard-core Muslim families.
It is certainly the case that Muslim faith and culture is predisposed to violence. The history of Islam is virtually synonymous with the history of warfare in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. But the remarkable thing about the rampaging youth in France is precisely the lack of violence.
Now, to be sure, many cars and buses are being torched, but the youth are generally careful to avoid harming individuals. After ten days of riots, only one death can be attributed to the rioters. That level of concern for the individual citizen is unheard of among rioters. The youth have a marked prediliction for destroying property, not persons, even going so far as to make sure the occupants of every bus are safely off before they consign it to the flames.
We should also note that the objects of their rage are, to put it mildly, odd. Nurseries, schools, cars and buses seem to have borne the brunt of the assaults. The rioters are most assuredly not targeting Christian churches, synagogues, banks, businesses or French military installations – the youth are taking out their rage on the places that separate children from parents. This is rather important.
The rioters themselves have asserted that the ghettoes they inhabit are generally riven by turf wars between rival gangs competing for influence. We know from other research that these kinds of youth gangs almost always form where father-less families are prevalent. But the gangs only united to attack targets outside of their neighborhoods when they became aware of the disdain the government had for them and their families.
In short, it is safe to conclude that the French Muslim teenagers who are running riot through the streets are not doing this for religious or financial reasons. They have not begun their war over ideology, but over anger at a system that has not only destroyed their families and their hope, but has asserted their sub-human status. They are killing nurseries and luxury sedans, not men, women and children. These young men and women are not suicide bombers – they are as careful to respect people as they are careful to destroy objects.
Given the length of the riots and the enormous opportunity for some demagogue to turn this into something much more sinister, the fact is, this has not yet happened. Of course, it might all change tomorrow, but somehow that seems unlikely.
The conclusion? We aren’t watching Muslims riot. We are watching young men and women who are acting out a very closely governed rage, a rage that does not draw artificial “us vs. them” lines between Muslims and non-Muslims, but rather draws the line between the people of France and the system that governs them.
Are the riots horrendous? Yes.
Are the rioters horrendous? Oddly enough, the answer seems largely to be “No.”
Thursday, November 03, 2005
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has quashed the lawsuit by parents who sued the school district that exposed their children to sex education without the parents' knowledge or consent:
"We agree, and hold that there is no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children, either independent of their right to direct the upbringing and education of their children or encompassed by it. We also hold that parents have no due process or privacy right to override the determinations of public schools as to the information to which their children will be exposed while enrolled as students." --Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Nov. 3, 2005
Unless Roberts and Alito are both on the court and both hold true to their principles, SCOTUS will affirm and that will be the end of that.
Regular readers of the Fifth Column might have noted that I stayed very quiet on the Harriet Miers nomination. There's a reason for that: I knew nothing about her. By the time I knew enough about her to begin to form an opinion, she was gone.
Judge Alito’s record has come forward with a lot more detail in a lot less time. Within just a few hours of his nomination, many people began to be concerned about his abortion decisions. In three cases out of four, he came down on the wrong side.
Two of my seven brothers and sisters are lawyers. As a result, I am not as concerned about these decisions as some have been. I am not saying there is no cause for concern, just that the reason for concern is not necessarily as clear-cut as one might think.
It is important to remember that judges who regularly get over-ruled don’t advance. Period. According to the legal profession, the best judges are the judges whose decisions don’t get altered a few months later by a higher court. So everyone in the profession has in interest in being right every time.
Given these facts, Alito’s 2000 decision, in which he ruled the same way the Supreme Court had just finished ruling, was a no-brainer. The only way he could have avoided making the ruling the way he did was to resign his judgeship. Now, one can argue that the judiciary is so corrupt that Catholics should get out of the profession. But moral dilemmas are not always clear-cut.
Take the very similar case of the anti-Nazi activist who went so far underground in WW II that he actually took a job in Nazi government. When the Allied war crimes trials accused him of participating in the mass-killing process through which innocent civilians, both Jews and Gentiles, were murdered, he pointed out that he had, in fact, always been anti-Nazi. Further, while he had to participate in sending some individuals to certain death, his decision to remain in his position had also allowed him to save several hundred men and women marked for death. Dozens of people whose lives he had clandestinely saved came forward to testify that this was true.
Now, we certainly may not do evil that good may come of it, but there is also something to be said for standing in the midst of evil in order to mitigate it.
In that spirit, Alito’s ruling that the unborn are not protected by the constitution may sound callously pro-choice, but it is not necessarily so. One could argue that he just repeated what SCOTUS said, but with a bluntness so hard-edged that it almost mocks SCOTUS. That is, he said from the bench what pro-life activists have said about SCOTUS for years – it doesn’t give a damn about the unborn. He just did it in a way that wouldn’t allow anyone to crucify the Catholic. If this reading is correct, Alito is wise as serpents.
The striking down of a Pennsylvania law on Medicaid abortions in cases of rape and incest is likewise a situation in which Alito simply followed precedent. If he had ruled any other way, SCOTUS would have struck him down, as he had already discovered when he ruled that wives had to notify their husbands prior to abortion. He correctly surmised that if wives, after consensual sex, didn’t have to tell the man they had contracted marriage with about an upcoming abortion, then women, after coerced sex, were unlikely to have to tell the contracting agency, that is, the state anything about the circumstances surrounding an upcoming abortion either.
So, these rulings really tell us only that Judge Alito watches his p’s and q’s. And, given his mother’s revelation (God bless her!), I find that most telling. Everyone called Harriet Miers “the stealth candidate” because there was so little paper trail on her judicial philosophy. But as Edgar Allen Poe noted, and at least one anti-Nazi activist discovered, sometimes the best stealth is managed by hiding in plain sight.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Recently, Loretto "Catholic" school in Sacramento was forced to fire a drama teacher who had been volunteering as a Deathscort at Planned Parenthood. The parent of a student provided the bishop with pictures of the woman engaged in the activity and the bishop responded by directing the Catholic school, run by a religious order, to fire the teacher.
Within the last few days, the name of the woman who forced the bishop's hand became known and, since no good deed goes unpunished in Catholic education, the woman's daughter was, as of Halloween, summarily expelled - without warning, hearing or chance of appeal.
You know, the problem with writing a book on the breakdown of Catholic education is that it can never be definitive. There's always another "Catholic" school that does something like this after you go to press...