Articles and Posts by Tom Piatak:
Pope Benedict XVI: A Brief Reflection(0)
I have not had the time or the inclination to wade through the commentary on Pope Benedict’s unexpected resignation, but I assume that much of it is angry, vituperative, and dismissive, because such commentary is one of the hallmarks of our degraded age. I wanted instead to offer a brief note of gratitude for Benedict’s service as Pope. Benedict is transparently a decent, gentle, humble, and holy man, and I have profited greatly by reading his works and listening to his words. May his successor build on his example.
A Band of Brothers No More(0)
Yesterday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the Pentagon was largely eliminating restrictions on women serving in combat units. This is perfectly consistent with the egalitarian ideology to which the Obama Administration is committed. However, it ignores the reasons why Western armies have never included women in combat units, apart from a few exceptional circumstances. There was the laudable desire to spare women the horror of combat. There was the pragmatic recognition that the vast majority of women were physically unsuited to combat, because men are physically stronger than women. And there was the desire to preserve the psychological conditions that make for effective fighting units. In many different wars and in many different armies, the reason soldiers have given for what keeps them going in combat is the same: they fight for their comrades. Excluding women from combat meant excluding sexual tensions and jealousy and enhancing unit morale and cohesion. It meant creating bands of brothers who will fight for each other and win wars. By contrast, as Steve Sailer notes in his trenchant post on the topic, the Obama Administration’s decision to allow women in combat units “is like gay marriage: a symbolic war on the realities of biology.”
A Christmas Miscellany(0)
Peter Brimelow has written a discussion of the War on Christmas for VDARE.com that is well worth reading. In it, Peter puts me in the unusual role of optimist. There are still many people in this country who want to suppress the public celebration of Christmas, and the situation in the schools, where culture is formed and transmitted, remains terrible. But it is true that I see more public manifestations of Christmas than I did in 2001, when I first wrote about the War on Christmas for Chronicles.
In this uncharacteristic role of optimist, I’d like to share a few positive items related to Christmas. One is a blog whose author was persuaded to at least think about his position that there is no War on Christmas as a result of reading the speech on the subject that I had the good fortune of delivering at the Rockford Institute on December 6. It is, of course, very gratifying to see someone thinking about a topic I care about as a result of something I wrote. The second is this fun article about Russian exchange students in America enjoying the American Christmas, which Wayne Allensworth kindly brought to my attention. The third is something that happened to me a few days ago. Walking to lunch, I saw two mounted policemen whose horses were wearing Santa hats, an unexpected sight that was enough to make me smile. Then, at lunch, I got another pleasant surprise, the opportunity to listen to Christmas music being sung by a very talented quartet in a small downtown arcade. The quartet sang both secular Christmas music and Christmas carols, but the highlight was clearly Silent Night. The quartet sang the first two verses in English, and then concluded by singing the first verse of Joseph Mohr’s great poem in the original German. People stopped what they were doing and listened, and I even noticed one of the restaurateurs in the arcade quietly singing along. We all returned to work a little happier because of this unexpected encounter with beauty.
I wish all Chronicles readers a very Merry and Blessed Christmas. And here, in a small effort to make your Christmas merry, is the great choir of St. Thomas in Leipzig singing Stille Nacht.
Robert Bork, RIP(0)
Today brings the sad news that Robert Bork has passed away. The sadder news for America, though, came in 1987, when the Senate unjustly rejected his nomination to the Supreme Court. There is no doubt that, had Bork been confirmed, Roe v Wade would have been overturned in 1992 when the Supreme Court decided Planned Parenthood v Casey. Unlike Anthony Kennedy, whom the Senate ultimately confirmed and who voted to reaffirm Roe in Casey, Bork possessed the fortitude to stand up to the pressures that exist in the Beltway to move to the left.
Interestingly, in view of recent disparaging comments made here about Americans who vote for Republicans, a principal reason Bork lost in the Senate was that Southern Democrats, who were still a formidable force in the Senate in 1987, voted against Bork. Howell Heflin, Richard Shelby, Dale Bumpers, David Pryor, Lawton Chiles, Bob Graham, Sam Nunn, Wyche Fowler, Wendell Ford, John Breaux, John Stennis, and Terry Sanford all voted against Bork. Today, most of those Senate seats are held by Republicans, including that of Richard Shelby, who has subsequently switched parties. If those Senate seats had been held by Republicans in 1987, we would today be mourning the loss of Justice Bork and remembering all the good he did on the Supreme Court, rather than all the good he might have done there.
The War on Christmas(34)
The desire to efface Christmas that lies behind the elevation of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and all the rest is illustrated by the New York City schools, which ban Nativity scenes but regularly display menorahs and Moslem crescents.
The Power of Christmas(0)
The power of Christmas (and Christianity) shows through even in unexpected places, such as Saturday Night Live. When the producers of the show, in the wake of the horrific school shooting in Connecticut, were looking for something with beauty and emotional depth, they chose a song about the true meaning of Christmas, not a secular Christmas song or an ersatz “holiday” song. Last night’s show began with a choir singing Silent Night, a fact widely commented on in the media. Even many of those who no longer believe in Christ recognize that Christianity at least attempts to provide answers to the most profound questions, something today’s secular culture either miserably fails at or does not even attempt.
A Daughter of Mary and Target for Herod(0)
Last night, my wife and I attended the vigil Mass for the Immaculate Conception at our parish. We sat immediately behind a family I had often seen but never sat by before, a woman in her forties with Down syndrome and her father. I could not help being moved by what I saw. During Mass, the woman held her father’s hand and they both smiled at each other. As people processed up for Communion, a young girl turned and smiled at the woman, who returned the smile and then shared the joy the smile caused with her father. Homilies often talk about love, but here was a very powerful homily on love unfolding right before me: there could be no doubting the deep love the father and the daughter shared for each other. After Mass, my wife told me the woman’s name. It is Mary, the same name given to the woman chosen by God to be the Mother of the Word Made Flesh.
Driving home, I was reminded of one of the finest things I ever read on the Internet, the story of Anne de Gaulle as told by the blogger the Western Confucian and those he linked to in that remarkable post. Just like the father who sat before me at Mass, God gave to Charles de Gaulle a daughter with Down syndrome. And just like that father, DeGaulle accepted his daughter as a gift from God, and he surrounded Anne with a fierce, protective love.
And then I had a more disturbing thought. Over 90% of children diagnosed with Down syndrome while in the womb are murdered before they can be born. It is not difficult to discern what Charles de Gaulle would have thought of this, and what his adversary in Nazi Germany would have thought. Sadly, that seems to make no difference at all.
No Halos, Please, We’re Eurocrats(0)
Slovakia’s plan to issue a two Euro coin commemorating the 1150th anniversary of the arrival of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Great Moravia, of which Slovakia was a part, has run afoul of Christophobic Eurocrats. It seems that the Slovaks want to show the Apostles to the Slavs with halos, and wearing pectoral crosses. The Eurocrats say no, since some sensitive souls might be offended by coins with halos and crosses. The patriarchal cross associated with the saints can remain, but only because it is the Slovak national symbol. Give the Eurocrats time, though: I suspect that soon they will be trying to strip crosses from flags and coats of arms. The Eurocrats’ hatred for Christianity, which is the wellspring of European civilization, continues to astonish and appall.
Too Old, Too White, Too Male(0)
After the election, Al Cardnenas, head of the American Conservative Union, complained that the Republican Party was “too old and too white and too male.” One wonders what Mr. Cardnenas would say about the Continental Congress or the Constitutional Convention. Of course, if Mr. Cardenas is upset at the thought of living in a country founded by old white males, there are plenty of other places untainted by white men for him to choose from. Maybe Burkina Faso would be more to his liking.
Something of the same spirit animated John Boehner’s comment yesterday supporting “comprehensive immigration reform,” otherwise known as amnesty. Boehner’s comment should be seen as the first significant result of Obama’s victory. House Republicans have been stalwart against amnesty, defying both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, but panic is starting to set in about the fact that the GOP is “too old and too white and too male.” This panic would not exist if Romney had won. Of course, the notion that giving amnesty to illegal immigrants will help the GOP politically is nonsense. As Heather MacDonald patiently explained in an excellent post at National Review, Hispanics support the Democrats because they support big government, and this will continue whether Republicans foolishly follow the likes of Cardenas and Boehner or not.
As Boehner’s remark brings home, winning is better than losing, especially losing to a leftist presdident who ran unabashedly as a leftist for reelection. Despite what some have been saying for months, Romney’s defeat was not a good thing. Unfortunately, this point will be brought home repeatedly over the course of the next four years.
Why Romney Lost Ohio(0)
Four years ago I wrote, “if Republicans want the joke to be on them, they can listen to [Rich]Lowry [of National Review], line up to damn the American auto industry, and look forward to losing the Great Lakes states year after year after year.” Tonight, I am sure that Mitt Romney regrets writing the op-ed piece the New York Times titled, perhaps unfairly, ”Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” On September 29, the Cleveland Plain Dealer published a poll showing that 62% of Ohio voters felt that the auto bailout had been a success, and Ohio Republicans certainly understood the danger that this posed to Romney. On September 30, former Senator George Voinovich had a piece in the Plain Dealer arguing that George W. Bush deserved substantial credit for saving the American auto industry, and current Senator Rob Portman argued in the October 26 Plain Dealer that Romney’s op-ed had been misunderstood, and that Romney had in fact supported aid for the American auto industry. But Voinovich and Portman were too late: a blizzard of Obama ads stressing Romney’s record at Bain Capital and appealing to economic patriotism had already convinced enough Ohioans that Romney was unconcerned about the fate of American manufacturing.
Four years later, Rich Lowry has conceded the political potency of appeals to economic patriotism. But his magazine is urging Republicans to stay the course and continues to argue that dogmatic adherence to free trade always makes sense, even when other nations use protectionist measures against us, and even though our trade policies have brought us to the point where 97% of jobs now being created in the United States are being created in sectors of the economy not subject to foreign competition. Voters in the industrial Midwest know, from decades of personal experience, that what National Review is peddling is a destructive fantasy. The sooner Republican politicians also come to realize this, the better off they will be.
UPDATE: Here is an interesting Associated Press story making the same point, and noting that the auto bailout even helped Obama win votes from people sympathetic to Republicans on social issues.