How Many Millions of Lives Could the “Purists” Cost Us?

I used to be a Pat Buchanan fan. His willingness to question received orthodoxy and to advance conclusions that made sense, even though they set everyone on edge, impressed me. As wicked as Hitler surely was, how could his tally of carnage be said to rival Stalin’s or Mao’s? Were the tens of millions of additional victims claimed by the latter two to be excused because communists always “have their hearts in the right place”? And in any case (another Buchanan proposition), why could we not have left Hitler and Stalin to duke it out rather than so quickly and decisively siding with Papa Joe? Was Churchill really so admirable for selling out Eastern Europe at Yalta in his monomaniacal loathing of Hitler? (Stalin, he would explain in Chamberlainesque terms, had to be “appeased”.)

Where Pat and I suffered a definitive parting of the ways was over his “demography is destiny” comments. The notion that our genetic material determines the kind of citizens and neighbors we will be flies in the face of American idealism, Christian ethics, and indeed any operative concept of human free will. In an age when the word is so grossly abused as to be practically senseless, this notion is genuinely racist: it renders us prisoners of our DNA.

Yet I remain willing to accept Buchanan’s testimony about certain historical events in which he played a part or had a ring-side seat. In a column about a month ago, he detailed how Nixon’s preoccupation with the Watergate scandal so weakened America’s hand internationally that the Viet Cong recovered their flagging spirits and eventually (under Ford) forced our disorderly retreat. There followed such slaughter of innocents as no Westerner can imagine… ah, but Tricky Dick the Tyrant had been deposed, and journalists and the political Left generally were in such a celebratory mood that, if “high fives” had existed in the early Seventies, ER’s would have overflowed with sprained wrists.

Hundreds of thousands of people were butchered… but the American intelligentsia had bagged its “tyrant”!

Now we are witnessing both Russia and North Korea ramp up tensions as our crusading, utopian Fourth Estate again seeks to topple a “tyrant” by whatever means possible, ignoring real news while sensationalizing one nugatory gaffe or out-of-context utterance after another. We may be plunged into World War III—the inhabitants of Seoul may be obliterated and Japan may grow so soaked in nuclear fallout that Hiroshima will look like a stubbed toe; but the important thing is to “get Trump” at all costs, regardless of how much this may incite a genocidal psychopath like Kim Jong Un.

I didn’t vote for Donald Trump and am not a member of his marching band… but there comes a point when the greater good demands a closing of the ranks. If the slavering hounds chasing after that thin but expensive red brush get their trophy only as radioactive ruins glow in the distance, I hope they will live to realize that their obsession has spoiled the planet a helluva lot more than climate change on steroids could have done.

 

The Fanatical Cultists Among Us

There’s a good chance that people aspiring to murder those who disagree with them about politics are, among other things, fanatical cultists. We tend not to view them as such because they espouse no traditional religion, and indeed often profess atheism; but an immovable conviction in the existence of a universe that bears no resemblance to the realities before us isn’t just metaphysical in nature, but fanatically so.

If you believe that everyone deserves state-of-the-art health care and that politicians who stand in that initiative’s way should be executed as murderers, then you’re a fanatical cultist. What you desire is a real-world impossibility. We must all die in the flesh of something someday, and most of us—alas—will be ill on many days along the way to our last one. It’s the human condition. Miracle drugs may come along occasionally, but they are so expensive to concoct in their early stages that not everyone can afford them. A triage of some sort is inevitable. Maybe it shouldn’t be based on degree of wealth… but should it be based on degree of poverty? Maybe the young should go first—but is it not more sane to appeal to the community for charitable donations that a child might be saved than to legislate that the older guy has to get the ticket to the next world?

You’re not living in any world possible within our given dimensions if you refuse to weigh any of these questions, plug your ears, and keep droning, “All for everyone! All for everyone!”

If you believe that anyone who opposes the complete disarming of society is an accomplice to every murder that occurs and hence deserves execution himself, then you are a fanatical cultist. If only cops have guns, then Black Bart can drop a brick on a bypassing cop, steal his revolver, and inaugurate an irresistible crime wave. If you disarm even the cops, then the brick itself becomes a highly effective assault weapon… or a pitchfork or baseball bat or steak knife. A 98-pound female can currently chase off a 250-pound male just by waving her Smith and Wesson. Once we return to the Stone Age, her assailant will not need any weapon at all to do with her as he pleases. Your insistence that things would not degenerate to this point is childish and, beyond a certain point, lunatic. A responsible adult has no right to walk around with a kindergartener’s estimate of human nature. Your lunacy is probably attributable to a cultic belief system… which makes you yourself a potentially dangerous quantity in any society that allows you to vote.

If you say that anyone who obstructs the complete dissolution of national borders is impeding beleaguered people from finding food, shelter, and freedom and hence deserves to be executed as a passive mass-murderer, then consider yourself a fanatical cultist. Among other things, we must consider what diseases an alien population might introduce among us if not screened. Particularly in societies that offer an extensive net of social services, we must realize that thousands will rush our cities to gain access to free food, free police protection, free education, free medical attention, and so forth. Such resources are not inexhaustible; on the contrary, they must be doled out very carefully to those most in need and in a manner that encourages eventual self-sufficiency. Along with the poor and oppressed, as well, a criminal element will be sure to cross any unenforced border to a wealthier community. The situation is a goldmine for evil-doers: gather loot where it proliferates, then skip back across to another territory that will not pursue criminal acts committed “over there”.

If, in spite of all these liabilities, you really believe that we can and must exist as one big happy family in one great house—and that naysayers should be shot like mad dogs because of the obstacle they pose to “real progress”—then you are seriously delusional and a menace to yourself and others. You are a fanatical cultist who has no use for the world as it was made and must ever be.

How many of these are out there, I wonder? And why are we preoccupied with ISIS when our own society is nourishing a variety of fanaticism at least as dangerous and—now, it seems—homicidal?

 

Why I Cannot Be Catholic (In a Nutshell)

I had another topic on my mind… but, after hearing a remark made on Greg Gutfeld’s show last night, I lost my original train of thought. This is more important to me.

Gutfeld had assembled three representatives of major world faiths on his cozy stage: a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi, and an Islamic imam. The segment was more shtick than discussion—more SNL than Firing Line. (Actually, I recall now that my original intent was to explain why I just can’t adapt myself to “tweeting”—the electronic trail of splattered bodily fluids left after careless collisions. The Gutfeld Show is to William F. Buckley what Twitter is to The Critique of Pure Reason.) In a dangerously close approach to seriousness, Gutfeld dared to inquire of the priest if Pope Francis were… um, maybe just a shade… um, naïve. The prelate (whose name I cannot recover from the Internet, for some odd reason) responded, “Well, what’s so bad about that? What’s wrong with being a little naïve? Would you rather he be bitter and cynical? Isn’t it a good thing to have a world spiritual leader who believes in the possibility of peace?”

I paraphrase, but the response was of this nature. I wanted to tear my hair out.

No, Father! It’s not a good thing! Naiveté is not productive or benign! It’s unbecoming in an older man of any station in life; but in an international leader—and especially a spiritual leader—it is grotesque and potentially lethal on a massive scale. Gandhi was with some justice faulted in certain quarters for staging “peaceful” demonstrations in places and at moments when he ought to have known that a match would ignite the whole ammunition dump. Fools who naively “believe in peace” have a pronounced tendency to draw us into war. They underestimate the duplicity of the Machiavellian tyrants with whom they negotiate. They exhort their followers to overlook alarming signs of imminent hostility in deference to “keeping the faith”. They may even end up offering themselves (and a host of others) to the slaughterhouse in a conviction that their martyrdom will blaze future trails to conflict resolution.

At some point, such reckless gambling with innocent lives and insouciance to the dark side of human nature becomes a squalid ego trip. “Sure, you have your martyrdom, Holy Father. Great. I wish I had my two sons back that were killed in the invasion you declined to notice as it massed on our borders.” I can imagine many a believing Catholic having some such thought at key moments throughout history.

I almost became a Catholic myself in my youth. I worked at two different Catholic schools (one Jesuit and one Benedictine). I was disturbed at how the bad actors on campus were always able to shift into confessional mode and convince a priest that they were just little lost lambs… but I was naïve myself at the time, and I would psychically smack the back of my hand for having bad thoughts.

What really bothers me about the Gutfeld interview is not the Pope’s personal naiveté, but its public and energetic defense by a prominent member of his clergy. The Catholic equation of seeing the world through rose-colored glasses with spiritual elevation is a potential life-ruiner. How does it differ, may I ask, from lighting up a joint or having a lobotomy? Or permitting a chip to be inserted into one’s brain with CorrectThink Update 3.4? For that matter, as we approach a world where lasting peace might really come to pass—because we will all be computer hybrids, and our programming will preclude violent behavior (as defined by the programmer)—how will the Catholic braintrust resist that Nirvana? For doesn’t it offer everything that the rose-tinted glasses foresaw?

The first words out of the mouth of Sophocles’ Teiresias when he appears on stage are, “What a frightful thing is thinking, when thoughts are of no profit!” And Oedipus does indeed pay a fearful price for his pursuit of truth… but Sophocles eventually celebrates him as a hero, I believe, precisely because he chooses the anguishing misery of full truth over the flattering delusions of ignorance. Doesn’t God demand such dedication to truth of us?

Final word: yes, I know that the Protestant denominations have mucked up their glasses and decided to call the color “rose” in much the same way as has Catholicism. There’s nothing much to separate them any more. The name of the only real church is in your heart, not in your checkbook.

Cutting Cards to Determine the Start of World War III: A Good Idea?

As determined as I am not to use this space to talk politics, I’ve been asked repeatedly over the past 48 hours about the missile strike on the Syrian airbase… and, frankly, with a son who’s just turned twenty-two and memories of our nation’s Vietnam days still prominent, I’m thinking a lot about asinine military moves and their consequences.

Actually, nothing I want to say is really political. I leave that to others. Trump-apologists are spinning away at their media looms, while Trump-haters are studying with equal ingenuity how to represent the strike as a disaster. (The ingenuity is required because most of them, as a matter of record, have long wanted Assad removed.) For myself, I’m content to make a few observations.

I’ve never been a fan of “putting Putin in his place”. This line of reasoning seems childish to me almost beyond belief. We’re not talking about Wrestlemania here. Putin is no choirboy, but we should be courting him away from an alliance with the Chinese. His cardinal sin of “invading” Ukraine followed upon a violent and illegal coup staged by pro-European West Ukranians–and he was actually invited into East Ukraine by a regional majority whose petitioning for basic concessions from the new government (e.g., being able to teach their children in their own language) was arrogantly ignored. Virtually all of the people who are now screeching, Putin est delendus, were warning after the Crimean plebiscite (and it was a legal plebiscite, by the way) that Putin would forthwith move in on Poland, Finland, and so on. Didn’t happen. Why is anyone still listening to them?

I’d be happy to put Bashar al-Assad on my “drop dead” list… somewhere well below Kim Jong Un. The Hannity brigade is trying to represent the elimination of the former as somehow leading to that of the latter. Wish I could understand how that works… hope it does. I guess the Chinese are supposed to be so unnerved at the sight of this drunken U.S. cowboy wandering the streets with sticks of dynamite that they hustle their own drunken punk, Kim the Kid, back into the stable with his Derringer. That, too, doesn’t strike me as a very adult way to address problems which could erupt into World War III.

With whom will Assad be replaced? With another Morsi, democratically elected by the local equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood? Are we really eager to firm up an alliance with the House of Saud and Erdogan–doesn’t this suggest that our definition of “intolerably repressive dictatorship” is rather too well lubricated?

Trump claims that seeing video of poisoned children altered his resolve to hold aloof. Does anyone remember Madeline Albright’s making almost identical remarks about seeing photos of mass graves in Bosnia before our involvement there? Turned out that those photos were faked. Are we so sure that we have all the facts in the present case?

And if the murder of children is the “red line”, then haven’t Bush and (especially) Obama killed enough children in drone strikes–at least a thousand by some estimates–to qualify as an atrocity? Or is being shredded by shrapnel below “red line” threshold because death by sarin gas is so much more agonizing?

My inclination is to call crap on all this. I do hope it ends well, since the first dominoes have already toppled… but I really, really don’t like the sense of being manipulated and fed loads of garbage. There’s enough of that coming from leftwing media without the further contributions of neo-con Machiavellians. B.S. is as toxic to aging civilizations as sarin is to children.

Nazis, Judgment, and Picky Details

The Netflix documentary, What Our Fathers Did: The Nazi Legacy, follows EU administrator Philippe Sands on a strange odyssey as he persuades Niklas Frank and Horst von Wachter–both sons of high-ranking Nazi officers–to join him in revisiting the past.   Frank eagerly embraces a wholesale condemnation of his father as a vicious animal.  The son indeed seems to have much axe-grinding to do against his father for deserting the family and chasing sycophantically after Hitler’s will and whimsy.  It’s not a great leap to suppose that at least some of Niklas’s righteous indignation at his father’s active participation in the Holocaust is a Freudian resentment.  He admits to a tinge of sympathy when sitting in the cell from which his father was led to be hanged after the Nuremberg Trials; yet even here, he inclines more to believe that Hans (a.k.a. “The Butcher of Poland”) was staging a religious conversion in his final reported words rather than preparing to meet his maker.  That’s a pretty hard verdict to pass on any man, but especially for a son to dish out upon his father.

Sands is the agent provocateur of guilt and resentment throughout the doc, rather like a tormenting angel of vengeance who demands that facts be recognized in their bare truth.  Perhaps he has a right to that role, up to a point: his family was virtually exterminated in the Warsaw ghetto.  He and Franks grow progressively peeved with Horst for seeking to whitewash the memory of his father Otto.  I find these sequences of the film particularly difficult to watch at times.  I want to shout at the screen, “Okay, so Horst wants to believe the best about his father!  Otto von Wachter really did regret much of what he was doing, in all probability, yet really did tell himself that he should continue doing it rather than be replaced by a more ruthless executioner.  And you two are right that such equivocation really is a pretty weak moral defense for the man.  In a way, it’s an additional indictment; for having recognized the evil of rounding up Jews for slaughter, von Wachter is even more guilty than some of his psychopathic comrades.  But why do you insist that the man’s son join you now in spitting on a long-gone father’s grave?  What exactly is the son to gain from that–and what do you gain from it?”

Otto von Wachter, as a historical figure, raises some fascinating moral issues.  He reminds me of Amphinomos, the one suitor of Penelope’s many in the Odyssey who seems to be a genuinely decent human being.  Yet as his name (“split-minded”) suggests, Amphinomos can never quite motivate himself to leave the bad company he’s in, even though Odysseus himself–disguised as a beggar–pleads with him to do so shortly before taking a deadly vengeance.  There’s a point in most of our lives when we have to stop trying to make lemonade out of lemons, and concede that the fruit is not only bitter but–in the case at hand–rotten.  Even if von Wachter had supposed himself to be facing execution should he refuse to obey orders (and very few Nazi officers ever suffered consequences for such resistance, as Hannah Arendt has observed), he should nevertheless have accepted execution.  He should have, that is, if he were a moral hero, or anything other than a moral coward.  Passive surrender to unjust punishment can give very eloquent and influential testimony.

Sands and Frank didn’t appear to be much interested in introducing the younger von Wachter to this perspective, however.  He needed to say the magic words, “My father is burning in Hell…” and he never did.  I’m not sure on what authority the other two are trying to force him into the judgment seat.

And Horst does have a ghost of a point when he says that the circumstances were complex–that you had to be there.  It remains a quibble in this case; but what about the surprising celebration he receives from Western Ukrainians near the film’s end when they find that he is von Wachter’s son?  Decked out in Nazi uniforms themselves for a commemorative event, these men see the swastika as a symbol of their struggle against Stalinist domination.  Today, right now, we’re supposed to be embracing their struggle against Putin’s efforts to revive the evil Soviet empire… and yet, the same voices in the pro-Ukrainian EU denounce anyone who criticizes their open-door immigration policy as a Nazi!

It doesn’t hurt to know some of the picky little details… or rather, it hurts a lot–but it’s good for the soul.  Horst von Wachter needs to face facts about his father; but those who would deplore his “father fantasy” might consider plucking the beam from their own eye on occasion.

Some Grim But Necessary Observations

One reason I’m very much in favor of simplifying our lifestyle, even though I perceive “climate change” as a boondoggle veiling a power grab, is the ever-lurking, apocalyptic EMP.  We depend far too much on electricity.  It’s probably not good for our bodies.  (I might detail my own physical discomforts after extended exposure to computers at some later date.)  At this point, electric utilities pump our water and operate our refrigeration.  In most homes, they supply heating and cooling to structures designed without a second thought having been given to efficiency.  Automobiles have depended in computerized systems since about the mid-eighties: if everything electrical were suddenly fried… no more transportation.  Even if you could walk to the grocery store, the trucks that deliver its merchandise would cease to run.  And if you were retrograde enough to own a vintage car with minimal electrical dependency, it would still need to be gassed up after a few days… and the pumps at the filling station wouldn’t work.

Defense experts have estimated that 90% of the U.S. population would die within a year if our power grid were destroyed.  In other words, the loss of that grid would equate to a surprise trans-continental nuclear attack, minus the lingering contamination–and with the addition of lethality at peak levels even in rural areas.

Books like Peter Pry’s Blackout Wars: State Initiatives to Achieve Preparedness Against an Electromagnetic Pules (EMP) Catastrophe consequently make for grim reading.  (I’m currently working through this one on my Kindle–using electricity, of course!)  The title of this volume actually hints at a source of optimism not visible in Pry’s earlier books: preemptive action by state governments to secure their section of the power grid.  This can apparently be done legally; and the federal government, while confronting the crisis with all the energy of a deer staring at headlights, has at least not intervened (in the manner of its contribution to border security) to ensure that our pants stay down and our hands remain tied.  Nevertheless, only four or five states have taken effective action at this point.

The kind of pulse at issue need not be administered by a nuclear weapon exploding thirty kilometers above ground, by the way, or by the domino effect begun when certain key power stations are overloaded.  The pulse may be entirely natural.  Solar flares occasionally create major surges.  We haven’t seen a big one since the so-called Carrington Event in 1859, which turned all the telegraphs of New England into smoking ruins.  We’re overdue another such burst–and we have far more than the telegraph at stake now.

Besides equipping all power stations with surge-arrestors (WHY was that not done in the construction phase, as a matter of course???), our leadership should send a very clear message to Kim Jong Un, whose nuclear trials and dry-run nautical missions have left little doubt that he has an EMP attack in mind.  This little lunatic must be reminded that our nuclear submarines will survive even after the continent is plunged into darkness; and he must be warned, publicly and with grim clarity, that a devastating nuclear response directed at all of his hideaways will follow, instantly and irrevocably.  I know what a gruesome remark I have just written.  The prospect of 300 million American casualties, however, requires a strong deterrent.  Mutually Assured Destruction worked in the Cold War, but we were dealing with comparatively sane despots.  Maybe, in this case, the little lunatic’s entourage would pull his cord if it became apparent that he was about to pull theirs.