Sunday, November 17, 2019

November 17, 2019

MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey

Fascinating Review of THE LAND WE LOVE

As often as not when I come downstairs to my computer in the morning I already have an idea of something I want to write in the MY CORNER series, something I wish to share with you. I archive daily dozens of files and news articles for future reference—I have them strewn all across my crowded Desktop for (mostly) easy reference when I might need them.

But then, after a cup of strong coffee and reading the usual 100 new messages that have come in overnight, something unsuspected may hit me across the face, something that causes me to rethink what I’ve intended to do.

That happened today. Once again my planned installment on “hate crimes” and who is really responsible for them will be postponed.

Distinguished author Jerry Salyer teaches in Kentucky and writes frequently for Chronicles magazine, where occasionally my byline will show up as well. He has been a staunch defender in print of those Covington Catholic boys who were so pilloried and attacked by the Mainstream media and, stunningly, by such Neoconservative publications as National Review—see its outrageous  coverage, January 20, 2019:  “The Covington Students Might as Well Have Just Spit on the Cross,” another confirmation of the precipitous and ugly slide of once “conservative” journals and journalists into a foul and fetid Leftist bog.

I just discovered that Salyer has written a probing review of my book, The Land We Love, at the Web site of the respected online journal, “The Imaginative Conservative.” Salyer’s approach is different in large part from that taken by other reviewers in that he examines the religious emphases and concentrates on some of the deeper theological connections and links which appear in the volume. Using that perspective he is able to draw both certain historical and philosophical insights which others might miss or overlook.

As I attempted to do in The Land We Love, Salyer recognizes that the “Confederate cause” became for European traditionalists a cause they could fully comprehend and, also, embrace. They understood, at least intuitively, that the cause of the Confederacy was in many ways the cause of traditional Western Christian civilization. And fighting for the Confederacy was to fight for that “outpost of Christendom,” to defend that two-Millennia inheritance, its richness and fullness, against the agents of a radical progressivism that aimed to undo and overthrow it. Liberalism, modern democracy, egalitarianism, statist centralization, the attack on traditional religion—these were common enemies, even for figures as diverse denominationally as staunch Presbyterian Robert Lewis Dabney or Catholics Father Abram Ryan and Admiral Raphael Semmes.

And thus the specter of the ultra-traditionalist Catholic Prince Camille de Polignac, Major General of the Confederate Armies, leading thousands of hardy Texas Protestants at Mansfield in 1864—They loved and respected him, and according to accounts, could not pronounce his name, so called him affectionately, “Gen’ral Polecat.” He earned and kept their affection.

I pass on Salyer’s review:

The Imaginative Conservative Logo

By Jerry Salyer|August 2nd, 2019
Under advanced liberalism there is an expectation that anybody who so much as dares to speak civilly to or about any figure associated with the Confederacy is to be deemed persona non grata. For Catholics as Catholics, such sweeping and absolutist expectations are simply unacceptable.
Forth from its scabbard, high in the air
Beneath Virginia’s sky;
And they who saw it gleaming there,
And knew who bore it, knelt to swear
That where that sword led they would dare
To follow—and to die.
—“The Sword of Robert Lee”
by Father Abram Joseph Ryan
Chaplain, Army of Northern Virginia, CSA
That the revolutionary left seeks to purge the Southern legacy from America is obvious. Less obvious is why this ongoing purge should be a topic of interest to my fellow Catholics. No doubt some might ask me whether we do not have plenty of uphill battles already. Is it not enough to support the countercultural Latin mass, and declare the perennial albeit unpopular truths of Church teaching, without getting embroiled in rancorous debates about the real causes of the War Between the States or the personal virtues of General Lee? While I appreciate such reservations, the truth is that we all have a dog in the fight over the Southern legacy, whether we admit it or not. It is no coincidence, after all, that the bishop who cheers the loudest for the tearing down of Confederate memorials is the same one who recently issued an LGBT prayer card in honor of Gay Pride Month. For those leftists who most fervently hate the South also hate the Church—and largely for the same reasons. And let us be clear: They hate the South not so much for its failings, real or imagined, but because they (correctly) see its various cultures as embodying a deep-rooted resistance to the egalitarian-utopian project. Moreover, I would also point out to my fellow communicants that Southern heritage and Catholic identity are not only analogous, but connected—at some junctures, even inseparably intertwined.
That, at least, is the conclusion one might draw from select passages of The Land We Love: The South and Its Heritage, a recent collection of essays by Boyd Cathey. To be sure, this wide-ranging book deals with many compelling subjects, from the thought of Presbyterian theologian Robert Louis Dabney, to the rise of neoconservatism, to the formerly positive relationship between the South and Hollywood. It is safe to say, though, that the book’s most unusual feature is its emphasis upon Dixie’s relationship with Christendom. Dr. Cathey holds a doctorate from the University of Navarra in Spain, so his book contains a lot more references to Spanish traditionalists than we might normally expect from a work of this sort.
Indeed, the section entitled “Secession and Catalonia” deals in no small part with the troubled yet inspiring history of Catholic Spain, a history which the author sees as pertinent to his own North Carolina. Historically the Spanish king was “not actually the absolute king of a unitary, centralized royal state, but rather the monarch over a collection of fiercely regionalist states, each with its own traditions, history and parliaments,” explains Dr. Cathey. This loose patchwork of a kingdom was rocked by wars of succession during the early modern period, which pitted mechanistic liberal ideology against the old regime of fueros, or regional rights:
During those several civil wars in the 19th century, Catalonia stood, by and large, with the traditionalist defenders of the ancient regime, the Carlists. It was the Carlists who defended the fueros and who advocated the return of a strong king who actually had power, but whose powers were also circumscribed by the historic regions and traditions of the country. It was the Carlists… who understood [that] 19th-century liberalism, despite its slogan of “liberty and equality,” would actually do away with and suppress those old regionalist statutes and protections, those intermediate institutions in society that secured more liberties for the citizens.
So far, so good, and nothing surprising to the historically-conscious Christian, Catholic or otherwise, who is well aware that the Spanish Carlists were among the most tenacious opponents of that modernism so stridently condemned by Pope Saint Pius IX (of whom more will be said shortly). But what does all this have to do with the American South?
Catholic intellectuals such as Marcelino Menendez y Pelayo and Juan Vazquez de Mella have much in common with the agrarian-minded, piety-oriented Southern patriot, argues Dr. Cathey, noting that one of the Spaniards he befriended as a doctoral student went so far as to characterize the Confederate soldiers of yesteryear as “paladins of Christian civilization.” (As a personal aside, I can attest to the curious affinity certain Spanish traditionalists have for Dixie, having had on some occasions the honor of sharing drinks and cigars with a gallant Cuban who served the Tridentine mass and was wont to profess his high regard for Stonewall Jackson.)
Given the common misconception of the South as monolithically low church evangelical, many will be inclined to scoff at romantic phrases about medieval paladins, but here the romance is backed up with at least a few cold hard facts, as Dr. Cathey relates:
In Spain I discovered as many as 1,000 Spanish Traditionalists, or Carlists, who rose up against Liberalism in their own country under the motto, “God, Country, our Regional Rights, and our King,” and then came to Texas to volunteer for the Confederacy. They came by way of Mexico and fought in Confederate ranks at Sabine Pass and at other battles. According to Spanish military historian, David Odalric de Caixal, some enlisted in the Louisiana Tigers. Others found their way as far afield as the 34th and 41st Tennessee regiments. A few even ended up in the Army of Northern Virginia, where General A.P. Hill called them his “rough tattered lions sent by Providence.”
Nor were Spanish Carlists the only Catholic Euro-Confederates. Following the destruction of the Neapolitan monarchy at the hands of masonic revolutionaries, several hundred former Bourbon guardsmen likewise crossed the Atlantic to fight on behalf of the Davis government, and to this very day Confederate banners fly in Naples to commemorate the South’s “Italian Brigade.”
As Dr. Cathey rightly points out, neither the Louisiana Tigers nor the Bourbonists in grey fit tidily into the common conception of the war as a noble Northern crusade against wicked slavedrivers—and whatever we may think of this Richard M. Weaver Fellow’s account, let him not be mistaken for some isolated crank. There have been many Catholic writers and thinkers who would more or less agree with the historiography of yet another Catholic, the poet-scholar Allen Tate, who wrote that “in the South the most conservative of the European orders had, with great power, come back to life,” even as the antebellum North, “opposing Southern feudalism, had grown to be a powerful industrial state which epitomized in spirit all those middle-class, urban impulses directed against the agrarian aristocracies of Europe after the Reformation.” Whether we ourselves concur, there is no denying that the 19th century was indeed the era of liberal nationalism in Europe, as proponents of the consolidated, urbanized nation- state usually succeeded in imposing their vision upon champions of traditional agrarian order. There is also no denying that around the same time, the Know-Nothing movement enjoyed vastly more support in the urbanized and Puritan-rooted North than in the South. From there, it is not hard to see why many European Catholics identified with Dixie during the fratricidal American war.
Another concrete historical episode to which Dr. Cathey alludes deals with the arch-Confederate himself, Jefferson Davis, who was educated at a Dominican priory in Kentucky, maintained throughout his life close and warm relations with a number of individual Catholics and Catholic religious communities, and eventually embraced a number of Catholic practices, such as the scapular. In contrast to Lincoln, whose interest in God remained mostly confined to speeches, Davis took with him after the war into his prison cell a Bible, a prayer-book, and a copy of Thomas a Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ. Were Davis’s personal spirituality the whole story, perhaps it would not be worth mentioning, but what must also be fished out of the memory-hole of inconvenient truths is his correspondence with the pope.
Writing to Blessed Pius IX, Davis lamented “the ruin and devastation caused by the war which is now being waged by the United States against the States and people which have selected me as their President,” and thanked the pontiff for his efforts to broker a truce, or at least mitigate the ferocity of the conflict. “I pray your Holiness to accept on the part of myself and the people of the Confederate States, our sincere thanks for your efforts in favor of peace.”
“We attach you to us by a perfect friendship,” Blessed Pius IX replied warmly:
It is particularly agreeable to us to see that you, illustrious and honorable President, and your people, are animated with the same desires of peace and tranquility which we have in our letters inculcated upon our venerable brothers. May it please God at the same time to make the other peoples of America, and their rulers, reflecting seriously how terrible is civil war, and what calamities it engenders, listen to the inspiration of a calmer spirit, and adopt resolutely the part of peace.
Let us admit that the pope’s express wish for peace does not quite constitute the full-throated endorsement for which Davis might have hoped. At the same time, what is also quite clear is that neither Pius IX’s clearly expressed desire for a negotiated settlement, nor his acknowledgement of a plurality of disparate American peoples, nor honorifics such as “illustrious and honorable President” can be reconciled with the 21st-century politically-correct sensibilities. So should we be embarrassed on behalf of Blessed Pius IX for his not having denounced the vile rebellion, for his not having seized the chance to align himself with “the right side of history”? Shall we perform the hallowed ritual dance of white liberal guilt because in 1863 pro-Southern articles authored by Bishop Martin J. Spalding appeared in the papal newspaper Osservatore Romano?
Although I myself find Dr. Cathey’s position persuasive in many respects, for Catholics how we assess his argument is almost irrelevant. It makes little difference how much weight we give to the factors various thoughtful, rival historians have presented as the true cause or causes for the American “Civil War”—slavery, states’ rights, tariffs, the industrial-agrarian cultural divide, and so on. So far as I am concerned Yankees—Catholic or otherwise—are quite welcome to keep busts of President Lincoln on their desks and roll their eyes whenever they hear someone whistling “Dixie.”
There is one point I must insist upon, however. As I mentioned at the beginning, no honest person can deny that The New York Times, National Public Radio, and other organs of globalist liberal orthodoxy despise the South and characterize it as the land of racist hillbilly rednecks. The journalists and bureaucrats who run such organs take for granted that all decent people distance themselves as far as possible from anyone who ever fought for the CSA. For that matter, under advanced liberalism there is an expectation that anybody who so much as dares to speak civilly to or about any figure associated with the Confederacy is to be deemed persona non grata. For Catholics as Catholics, such sweeping and absolutist expectations are simply unacceptable.
They are unacceptable not because the antebellum South was necessarily a quasi-Catholic ideal, but because no serious member of a serious body allows outsiders to dictate to him where the pale is, or who is to be within or without it. When the Catholic totally condemns Confederates, he is not merely guilty of uncharitably condemning men who sought to do their duty to their respective home states. Rather, he is in many cases condemning men who were his co-religionists to boot; Euro-Confederates aside, during the war the overwhelming majority of Catholic sons of the South remained loyal to their native region, such that a notably high percentage of Confederate leadership came from Catholic ranks.
These Catholic Confederates may not have been saints, true, and just for the sake of argument we will grant for the moment the Unionist assumption that they were politically misguided. Even then, the fact would remain that such Catholic Confederates seem to have been at least as devoted and earnest parishioners as are many of us today. Were we to disavow such bygone brethren of ours simply because the shrill voice of political-correctness tells us to, for their having worn the gray, I am not sure how different we would be from those quislings who obediently scurried to disavow the Covington Catholic students for having worn MAGA caps.
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Thursday, November 14, 2019

November 14, 2019

MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey


AMERICA – New Abbeville Institute Essay


On November 3, 2019, I offered a commentary titled, “What the Historic South has to Teach America: Readings from Conservative Scholar Russell Kirk,” as an installment in the MY CORNER series. Originally, I had included at the end of my comments a long section of an essay that Dr. Kirk wrote in the fall of 1958 as a preface to a complete issue of the scholarly quarterly, Modern Age, dedicated to the South. I have since gone back and rewritten my commentary, integrating portions of the article which the late Dr. Kirk penned back sixty-one years ago into what is now essentially a new piece. And today it has been published by The Abbeville Institute.

I offer it to you now:


What the Historic South has to Teach America

By Boyd Cathey on Nov 14, 2019

Many present-day Southerners—indeed, many of those Americans who call themselves “conservatives”—find it difficult to envisage a time when Southern and Confederate traditions (not to mention noble Confederate veterans like “Stonewall” Jackson and Robert E. Lee) were acknowledged with honor and great respect. Today it would seem so-called “conservative media” (in particular Fox News and the radio talksters) and Republican politicians would rather praise “Father” Abraham Lincoln or the radical black Abolitionist, Frederick Douglass (whose extra-marital liaison with German-born socialist and feminist Ottilie Assing certainly influenced him and should raise eyebrows among contemporary conservatives, but seldom does). These and other revolutionary zealots have been incorporated into the pantheon of “great conservative minds,” dislodging such figures as Jefferson Davis, John C. Calhoun and John Randolph of Roanoke, all of whom possessed towering intellects and an acute understanding of the history and nature of the American republic which Lincoln, Douglass, and those like them lacked.
It is far too common in 2019 to witness the historical ignorance of a Dinesh D’Souza or the meandering narration of a Brian Kilmeade in the godawful Fox series, “Legends & Lies: The Civil War,” in which he accuses the South of “attempting to rewrite history by denying slavery was the root cause of the Civil War,” and parrots the far Left template on racism.
And what of distinguished Southern writers who defend the South like historians Drs. Clyde Wilson or Brion McClanahan? Or literary luminaries such as James E. Kibler? Or Emory University scholar Don Livingston? When was the last time you saw their byline in the current, Neoconservative-edited National Review, once the “conservative magazine of record” in the land? They are, to use a Stalinist metaphor, “non-persons” among establishment conservatives and the contemporary “conservative movement.” One must not, under any circumstance, mention their names among Neocon intelligentsia circles, lest suspicions of “racism” or “Neo-Confederate tendencies” be exposed.
Perhaps the worst event symbolizing this exile was the unceremonious expulsion—the political defenestration—of arguably the South’s greatest essayist and author of the last quarter of the Twentieth Century, the late Mel Bradford. Tapped originally in 1981 to be President Ronald’s chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Bradford was a staunch defender of the original American Constitution, an acerbic and powerful critic of Lincoln and his legacy—and a defender of the South. According to chronicler David Gordon: “Bradford rejected Lincoln because he saw him as a revolutionary, intent on replacing the American Republic established by the Constitution with a centralized and leveling despotism.”
Although supported by such notable figures as Russell Kirk, Jeffrey Hart, Peter Stanlis, and Jesse Helms, Bradford was forced to experience an ugly, defamatory and underhanded campaign by the Neocons George Will, the Kristols pere et fils, and others to halt his nomination, in favor of Democrat Neocon, William Bennett. And, tasting blood, the new rulers of the conservative movement were successful.
Yet, it was not always so. A half-century ago Southern writers of distinction, defenders of our traditions and heritage, including of our revered historical figures and champions of the Confederacy, were welcomed in national conservative publications like National Review. And in Russell Kirk’s scholarly quarterly Modern Age, that acknowledged “father of the conservative revival” of the earlier 1950s, dedicated an entire issue to the South and a defense of its traditions, including its Confederate history. Kirk had authored what became in a sense the “Bible” of that revival, The Conservative Mind (1953), and his words carried tremendous weight.  That he would publish a whole issue celebrating the history and essential role of the South in America [Modern Age, Fall 1958], right on the cusp of the radical “civil rights” movement of the 1960s, almost in defiance of it, was a measure of the importance older conservatives attached to the Southland and their embrace of Southern traditionalists.
In the prefatory essay to that issue, “Norms, Conventions and the South,” Kirk authored, as only he could, a stirring and profound defense of the traditional South, its virtues, and its critical significance in the survival of the American confederation. In it he declares that the South represents “Permanence”—the “permanent things,” the norms and conventions handed down for generations which moor and have stabilized the American Republic, and without which the country would be adrift and subject to demagoguery, decay and dissolution.
But Kirk also—sixty-one years ago—had a warning and an admonition for Southerners:
How much longer the South will fulfill this function, I do not venture to predict here. I am aware of all those powerful influences, material and intellectual, which are changing the South today. It may be that the South, in the end, will be made homogeneous with all the rest of the nation, and that its peculiar role as conservator of norm and convention will be terminated. But if this comes to pass, the South will have ceased to exist: it will have lost its genius.

What would Kirk, “the Sage of Mecosta,” that superb word-smith and Olympian man-of-letters say today he if were to return to our Southland? What verdict would he cast on those guardians of our heritage and our inheritance…and the actions we and our fathers have taken, or not taken, during the past six decades? How would Kirk—who saw before he passed away in 1994 the poisonous infection of the Neoconservatives—evaluate the willingness of far too many Southern “conservatives” to forego serious investigation into and defense of their history and accept the “mess of stale porridge” offered up by a Brian Kilmeade, or a Dinesh D’Souza, or a Senator Lindsey Graham?
In his essay Kirk employs the great Virginian John Randolph of Roanoke to bring home his message:
…John Randolph is the most interesting man in American political history, his wisdom and eloquence curiously intertwined with vituperation, duels, brandy, agriculture, solitude, and tragedy. Through Calhoun, [Langdon] Cheves, and many others, Randolph’s opinions were stamped indelibly upon the South…. A fervent Christian, a champion of tradition, the principal American expounder of Burke’s conservative politics, Randolph of Roanoke abided by enduring standards in defiance of power, popularity, and the intellectual climate of opinion of his era.

In his oratory in the U.S. Congress and his eloquent speeches to his constituents in Southside Virginia, Kirk continues, Randolph explained that,
There are certain great principles…which we ignore only at our extreme peril; and if those principles are flouted long enough, private character and the social order sink beyond restoration. In this, as in much else, Randolph was the exemplar of the Southern society. For the South has long been the Permanence of the American nation. Strongly attached to Christian belief, bound up with the land and the agricultural interest, skeptical of the visions of Progress and human perfectibility, imbued with the tragic sense of life, the South has not been ashamed to defend convention and continuity in this great, swelling, confusing Republic: to abide by ancient norms of private and public life. The problem of the races informed Southerners that society’s tribulations are not susceptible of simple abstract remedy; the rural life kept the South aware of the vanity of human wishes, the existence of Providential purpose, and the immortal contract of eternal society; the political and literary traditions of the Southern states endured little altered by the nineteenth- and twentieth-century passion for innovation. Military valor, courtesy toward women, and the pieties of community, home, and family persisted in the South despite defeat and poverty and the intellectual ascendancy of the North. So it is that in our time of troubles the South has something to teach the modern world.

And this recognition extended throughout Southern culture, and most especially in the richness and profundity of Southern literature:
…Southern writers still recognize those enduring elements of human nature, including the splendor and tragedy of human existence that are the stuff of which great poetry and prose are made. Belief in normality, and defense of convention, have not lain like lead upon Southern thought and life; on the contrary, these have been the foundations of Southern achievement….In its taste for imaginative literature, similarly, the South has chosen for its favorite authors the champions of norm and convention…. [and] a spirit of courage, of chivalry, of loyalty, an expression of ancient truths, that was congenial to their instincts. 

For those on the Left, for those Dr. Kirk calls “doctrinaire liberals, the zealots for Progress and Uniformity,” the South continues to represent all of the worst and most hated aspects in American history: racism, slavery, misogyny, white supremacy, religious fundamentalism and bigotry. But, as Kirk explains, that hostility is rooted in a deeper prejudice that “the South still stands resolute in defense of norms and conventions. To the ritualistic liberal, the South is what [George] Santayana called ‘the voice of a forlorn and dispossessed orthodoxy,’ rudely breaking in upon the equalitarian dreams and terrestrial-paradise schemes.” It is the Left’s own form of poorly concealed bigotry.
For the contemporary post-Marxist revolutionary Millennial, the fanatical indoctrinated student brandishing a “Black Lives Matter” placard, the loony feminist demanding an end to masculine oppression, and the LGBT zealot pushing transgenderism, the South and its traditions are major impediments to the realization of a dreamed of Utopia that is in reality a dystopian nightmare far worse than any vision ever entertained by Comrade Stalin or Chairman Mao.
The convictions and customs of the South perpetually irritate the radical reformer, who is impatient to sweep away every obstacle to the coming of his standardized, regulated, mechanized, unified world, purged of faith, variety, and ancient longings. Permanence he cannot abide; and the South is Permanence. He hungers after a state like a tapioca-pudding, composed of so many identical globules of other-directed men….he flail[s] against the champions of norm and convention, endeavoring in the heat of his assault to forget the disquieting voice of a forlorn and dispossessed orthodoxy that prophesies disaster for men who would be as gods.

And in one of those memorable passages for which Russell Kirk is remembered and celebrated, he closes his essay in striking form—a remarkable tribute to the traditional South, its heritage, and its pivotal role in the creation and sustaining of an America which seems to be passing away now before our eyes:
My argument is this. Without an apprehension of norms, there is no living in society or out of it. Without sound conventions, the civil social order dissolves. Without the South to act as its Permanence, the American Republic would be perilously out of joint. And the South need feel no shame for its defense of beliefs that were not concocted yesterday. 

So, I repeat my question: What would that Northern champion of the South and its role of Permanence in our confederation say today?  Can that South that Russell Kirk so lauded and defended survive, even in our dark times? And what is our obligation, our solemn obligation to our native land, to our ancestors, and to those who follow us?

About Boyd Cathey

Boyd D. Cathey holds a doctorate in European history from the Catholic University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, where he was a Richard Weaver Fellow, and an MA in intellectual history from the University of Virginia (as a Jefferson Fellow). He was assistant to conservative author and philosopher the late Russell Kirk. In more recent years he served as State Registrar of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History. He has published in French, Spanish, and English, on historical subjects as well as classical music and opera. He is active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans and various historical, archival, and genealogical organizations. His book, The Land We Love: The South and Its Heritage, was published year by the Scuppernong Press.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

November 12, 2019

MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey

Veterans’ Day and One-Hundred and One Years of the Suicide of the West


Last year I penned an installment in this series about the Great War and how it ended and what it continues to mean for us, and my wish today is to refashion that essay with additional commentary.

Yesterday we commemorated Veterans’ Day, one-hundred-and-one years after the proclamation of an Armistice on the Western Front, November 11, 1918. I don’t think there are any veterans of the First World War still alive: the last American, British and German soldiers having passed on within recent memory, although it is possible that there still may be an odd Japanese or Russian centenarian who survives….

Even though for most of us with some age the memory of those men is still somewhat fresh, the conflict in which they fought and suffered incredibly is now mostly a receding chapter in the history books, and most high schoolers and, yes, college-aged students cannot even locate the correct century in which World War I occurred, much less who were the combatants.

The older I become and the more I reflect on past history, the more gruesomely critical to our present history and historical situation I see World War I. The proper word should be “tragic,” for that war should never have happened, should never have occurred. Europe, after the signing of the Treaty of Paris (May 30, 1814) ending the Napoleonic Wars, experienced a century of virtual peace and general prosperity. There were, of course, regional conflicts and localized revolutions (1830, 1848, and 1871); the Austrians briefly fought the Italians, and then the Prussians, who also fought briefly the Danes and the French; the Russians fought the Ottoman Turks; and there were conflicts in the Balkans. But none of these were generalized, European conflicts on the scale of Napoleon’s campaigns engulfing the entire continent in which he attempted to redraw the map of Europe and march to Moscow.

July and August 1914 would change all that. And the entry in 1917 of the United States into what had become a world conflagration, an entrance motivated largely through an insane Messianic quasi-religious fervor “to make the world safe for democracy,” shaped all subsequent history, the horrendous consequences of which we continue to experience today.

Europe in 1918 witnessed the unleashing of world Communism and the fall of three essentially conservative and traditional monarchies each of which had deep roots in the history of their respective nations. The millions of men under arms killed and maimed, the immense loss to civilians, the huge (and unpayable) economic costs, the near total political upheaval, and, lastly, the incredible destruction culturally, abruptly and rudely ended that “century of peace” and stability, ushering in arguably the most devastating, the most brutal, the most vicious seventy years in all human history.

There is of course ample blame to go around, although increasingly the fingers of responsibility, once so punitively pointed at Germany and Austria, now need to be turned, sternly, to the British Foreign Office, the French foreign desk, and the inept Russian general staff, not to mention the conniving Serbian government. This is abundantly and completely demonstrated in the most recent and most detailed and scholarly accounts: Cambridge University Professor Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (Harper Books) and Sean McMeekin, July 1914: Countdown to War (Basic Books). With full access to hitherto unexamined archival materials, both authors come down hard on the Brits, French, and Russians—whose leaders had ample opportunity to avoid the conflagration.

Woodrow Wilson has even less of an excuse. And, indeed, the essential role of the American president and our nation—without which very likely the war might well ended in a stalemate, with a return to “status quo ante bellum”—can and must be seen for what it was: a completely misguided wallow in fanatical Messianism, which was, in fact, in its results diabolical.

Back in October of 1917 Professor Walter A. MacDougal authored a critical examination, “The Madness of Saint Woodrow: Or, What If the United States Had Stayed out of the Great War?”, in which he quoted Wilson’s declaration of war: “America is privileged to spend her blood…to make the world safe for democracy…God helping her, she can do no other.” And MacDougal adds: “Wilson’s optimism concerning the power of humankind to do good hailed not from his Reformed heritage but from liberal theology, the Social Gospel, progressivism, and, ultimately, the romantic spiritualization of religion.”

The results forever changed the course of history, not just of Europe, but for us as well. And for echoes today all we have to do is listen to the Siren calls of those, especially the Neoconservatives, who wish to continue that futile and disastrous global campaign.

Anyone who has had the opportunity to view the classic film, “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930), starring Lew Ayres, based on a classic novel by German World War I veteran Erich Maria Remarque, will begin—but only begin—to fathom the barbarity of the First World War, the suffering, the slaughter, and the mangled bodies, a whole generation of young Englishmen and Frenchmen, forcibly wrenched from their societies, lives extinguished. And in Germany: a nation and an historic and noble culture, with millions dead and maimed, held up as irremediably guilty of the immensity of “war guilt.”

But, Austria-Hungary and Russia suffered even more severely. Austria, once one of Europe’s great empires and the center of much of Western culture, the land of Beethoven and Mozart, was literally castrated, huge swathes of its historic fatherland sliced away arbitrarily and turned overnight into quarrelsome petty states, none of which was satisfied with the treaties and boundaries that followed the Armistice: a powder keg for future war. The ancient and revered Habsburg dynasty, the inheritor of the old Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne, was summarily dispossessed, and Austria was left as a small rump state. As English Lord Curzon described it: “A major European capital [Vienna] ruling over a minor state, like Constantinople in the latter days of the Byzantine Empire.”

And the effects on and in Russia were even more incalculable. The world’s largest country, the seat of the 300 year old Romanov dynasty, the land of Peter the Great, of Dostoyevsky, of Tchaikovsky, of Tolstoy, the Third Rome, the shield and buckler against the Mongols and the Tartar hordes, in eight short months fell to a fanatical clique, a monstrous cabal of violent Marxists intent of remaking that country, subjugating the Russian Orthodox Church, and spreading the Communist virus across Europe and the world. The vicious and criminal execution of Tsar Nicholas II and his family at Yekaterinburg (July 17, 1918) brought home in chilling detail the unparalleled brutality that the war had unleashed.

After the conclusion of World War I various historians began to examine and sift through the records, the correspondence, the documents regarding the war and its origins. And what became readily apparent was that perhaps unlike World War II, the First World War was a conflict that did not have to happen, indeed, it should not have happened.

Back in 2014 the distinguished historian, the late Dr. Ralph Raico (Professor at Buffalo State College), authored an excellent examination of the origins of the war that anyone interested in how that war began should read [“And the War Came,” June 30, 2014, at:]. In his conclusion Raico, echoing the conclusions that Professors Clark and McMeekin would also arrive at, concluded: “Britain’s entry into the war was crucial. In more ways than one, it sealed the fate of the Central Powers. Without Britain in the war, the United States would never have gone in.”

The German historian Ernst Nolte [d. 2016] has made the case [in his unfortunately yet untranslated volume, Der Europaische Burgerkrieg (1987) – The European Civil War] that in a certain manner the Second World War was a continuation of the First, that it was, in some ways, a justifiable reaction to the extreme injustice and unresolved crises produced by the imposed “peace” of 1919. While in no way legitimating the concentration camps or executions committed by the Nazis, Nolte has argued that the German reaction in the 1930s was both predictable and understandable, and that the crimes perpetrated were comparable, perhaps even pale in comparison, to those that can be laid at the door of Josef Stalin.

Be that as it may, over 117,000 American “dough boys” died during the First World War and another 204,000 were wounded (figures that pale, however, in comparison to losses suffered by Russia: nearly four million dead, another five million wounded; and the United Kingdom, over one million dead, with another 1.7 million wounded).  

Europe—and the world—would never be the same, and in so many ways historic European, Western Christian culture, would never really recover. After surviving the French Revolution and the various violent upheavals of the nineteenth century—after the assaults of scientific  and social Darwinism—after the challenges of industrialism and tremendous social dislocation—after absorbing the effects of triumphant political liberalism—after all these hurdles, in a real sense, World War I effectively dismantled the fragile remaining scaffolding, the structures in those nations, those empires, where something of the older framework of  what had been “Christendom” still remained.

The “total war” devastation of the Second World War completed that process, smashing to smithereens the remnants of the old order, and more ominously, freeing triumphant and victorious the unfettered spirit of universalized Progress. Sure, the Communists participated in this triumph, but their interpretation of victory was at odds with that of what became known as “the West.” For forty-five years the forces of NATO looked wearily across the demarcation lines, across the Iron Curtain at the forces of the Warsaw Pact.

We had defeated one form of ferocious tyranny, but had replaced it with another just as bad, and maybe even worse. Yet, both the West and the Soviet Bloc proclaimed their progressivism and their belief in equality and democracy, albeit with vastly different interpretations of that progressivism.

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the virtual defenestration and final defeat of the KGB commissars in August 1991 (for which Vladimir Putin, then vice-mayor of Leningrad, deserves our eternal thanks, but won’t get it from American mainstream media) should have signaled the real end of the Second World War, but it only opened a new phase of world turmoil in which the forces of global progressivism now proclaimed their inevitable triumph: the Communists, you see, had become “old fashioned,” “reactionary,” “too stodgy and not revolutionary enough.” But international progressivism, with its handmaidens of “world democracy” and “global equality,” was only emboldened by the whimpering disappearance of the Communist bureaucracy.

Neoconservative writer, Francis Fukyama, in his book The End of History and the Last Man (1992) argued that the worldwide spread of liberal democracies and free market capitalism of the West and its lifestyle could signal the end point of humanity's sociocultural evolution and become the final form of human government.  Fellow Neoconservative Allan Bloom, in his The Closing of the American Mind (1987), counselled the “imposition” of “American democratic and egalitarian values” on the rest of the world; after all, we had won the war, so it was for us to dictate the universal peace, indeed, “to force those who do not accept these principles to do so.”

But is this futile and never-ending quest what the millions of American men went off to battle for in 1941-1945, and why over 400,000 died in remote places like on the beaches of Anzio or in the Hurtgen Forest? To impose American-style democracy and values over the far-off desert oases in Libya or in the jungles of South Sudan, for what in effect has become “perpetual war for unobtainable peace”?

I don’t think so. 

Years ago in 1992, back when I was chairing the Buchanan for President campaign in North Carolina, I recall that a major supporter (whose name eludes me) declaring that what we were fighting for was “to repeal the Twentieth Century.” Of course, that was said metaphorically. But surveying the ruin and devastation inflicted on our civilization over the past century, that sentiment is a completely understandable one.

Better yet, on this bloody anniversary, perhaps we should shout from the rooftops: “Time to remember the reality of Original Sin and the deceptions of human progress.” Would that not be a truly significant manner in which to memorialize our veterans and their unpaid-for sacrifices?

Saturday, November 9, 2019

November 9, 2019

MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey

Charlie Kirk, Young Conservatives, and the Destruction of Western Civilization


Throughout the 360 plus installments in the MY CORNER series I have argued and maintained repeatedly that the Modern Conservative Movement, along with the Establishment Republican Party in general, have not been, as they purport to be, actual defenders of the traditions and beliefs of Western Christian civilization. On the contrary, there is, tragically, ample evidence that “movement conservatives” have become enablers, the tacit allies—unindicted co-conspirators, if you will—of those on the Left that they claim to oppose. And, then, after the latest Progressivist aberration is foisted off on the American citizenry by Leftist lunacy, they normalize and canonize it as “conservative,” and repel any criticism of their new-found convictions as “extremist” or “far right,” or perhaps, joining their implicit allies over on the further Left, “fascist.”

The examples and documentation for this are ample and abundant, and increasingly is not even disputed by those so-called conservatives we might see on Fox News or hear via radio.

The most visible, the most palpable, the most critical surrender by the “Movement” has come in questions concerning the actual moral basis, the moral norms that have governed our society and which have created and protected the social framework of Western culture for nearly two millennia.

Some of you may recall only a few years ago, when the US Supreme Court in its infamous Obergefell v. Hodges decision (June 26, 2015), held by a 5–4 vote, “that the Fourteenth Amendment requires all states to grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states.”  [The Court at that time overruled its prior decision in Baker v. Nelson, which the Sixth Circuit had invoked as precedent.]

Previous to that stunning judicial fiat, thirty-three states had conducted popular votes over whether to include amendments defining state-recognized marriage as between one man and one women, and thirty-one had overwhelmingly voted “yes,” thus affirming not only the constitutionality of traditional marriage and that same sex marriage was not guaranteed by the respective constitutions of the states, but implicitly affirming a critical and essential firmament of our society.

In North Carolina, for example, the vote to approve a Marriage Amendment was by an overwhelming 61% to 39% (including a majority of black voters). Even Leftist California voted 52% to 48% to maintain traditional marriage.

Before Obergefell it seemed that the country had spoken loud and clear. Movement Conservatives and Republicans were thought to be defending traditional marriage, after all much of their base was composed of traditional Christians, both Catholics and Protestants who opposed same sex marriage.

Yet, almost as if by legerdemain, following the Court’s outrageous decision it seemed that the once, supposedly-staunch opposition, simply melted away, disappeared—and we beheld nightly on Fox and elsewhere, horribile dictu, amongst “conservative opinion makers” and leaders of the Republican Party not just the counsel that we “had to accept the Court’s opinion,” but that perhaps it was in fact “conservative” for us to do so: indeed, we were told “having stable same sex couples, legally married and recognized by the State” was a “good thing.” And a parade of “authorized” spokesmen belabored the point: George Will, Charles Krauthammer, George W. Bush, Guy Benson, Jonah Goldberg, Ben Shapiro, and so on—the list is quite lengthy.

Despite what we were promised just four years ago, that this—same sex marriage—was the limit and that those “authorized” conservatives would not permit further attacks on our moral traditions to go answered—despite that assurance, the desultory defeatism and supine acquiescence by those media and journalistic elites has continued unabated, even heightened in intensity and enthusiasm for the latest assaults on the very moral foundations of our society.

Case in point: the unashamed embrace (no pun intended) by prominent “conservatives,” including self-promoted “leaders” of conservative youth, of transgenderism and, yes, the glorification of what I would call “drag queen kultur.”

Frequently Fox News will have as a guest Charlie Kirk, head of a campus group, Turning Point USA. As one of the most prominent “college-aged conservatives” who supposedly counters Leftist arguments among collegians and millennials, Kirk has assumed an important role, we are informed, in the “war of ideas.”  Yet, at the very outset he has, as it were, thrown in the towel, surrendered on the essential and critical moral foundations that actually give cultural conservatism its motivation and ability to respond to and repel the assaults mounted by those who would pervert and destroy what is left of our Western civilization and the inheritance we have received.

Recently, Charlie Kirk and others in his group attended an event, Politicon, where he consorted and praised a creature, a drag queen, who calls himself “Lady Maga,” and who advertises himself as “America’s conservative drag superstar.” Photographs show Kirk yucking it up cheerfully with Lady Maga, as well as Michael Knowles, a chief reporter for Ben “Never Trumper” Shapiro’s The Daily Wire, arm-in-arm embracing the drag queen. When online right wing journals, including Big League Politics, criticized Kirk, Glenn Beck and other “movement” figures eagerly jumped to his defense, smearing those who would criticize the Turning PointUSA honcho as “white nationalist, homophobic ‘trolls’.”

Although perhaps this should not come as a surprise to close observers of our rotten political process given the history of the Neoconservative-dominated “conservative movement,” it still should shock those “deplorables” out in fly-over country who somehow believe that watching Fox News or reading The Wall Street Journal will save us all from impending doom.

It won’t.

As recently as this past May that once standard bearer of the American conservative message, National Review, recommended “Time for a Compromise on Transgenderism.”   Beginning with the phrase, “the country’s conversation about gay rights is far more mature and considered than it was two decades ago,” the article continues its precipitous decline in logic and its broadside against the very religious culture, founded on Natural Law and the Divine Positive Law, that created our civilization: “Americans, especially conservative ones, should reflect on our culture’s honest and fair attitude toward homosexuality and acknowledge that the most sensible path out of the present acrimony will probably require similar compromise….acts like ostentatiously calling people by pronouns they don’t want, or belittling their personal struggle, are boorish and petty. It means acknowledging that arbitrary discrimination against transgender people is a cruel bigotry like any other.” And if we criticize transgenderism, author J. J. McCullough claims, we “let loose [our] inner reactionary.” And that must not be permitted.

Thus we have the specter of “Drag Queen Reading Hours” for pre-schoolers at an increasing number of public libraries, with National Review Senior Editor, David French, calling such displays “a blessing of liberty.”

So, follow the logic: first, there was “easy” divorce—just shack up if it feels good, then split if it doesn’t please you. Then, abortion, now the law of the land. In 2015 came same sex marriage (and previous to that sexually mixed armed forces and the end of most unisex colleges). And now the fanatical #MeToo Movement and transgenderism, and the “authorized” conservatives tell us that we must “compromise,” that we must accept this—it’s a fait accompli, and, maybe even conservative to do so! After all Charlie Kirk and his groupies and the Ben Shapiro gang think so, and they are the ones who present themselves to students and millennials as conservatives.

With such champions, with such defenders of our civilization, we are lost. For they are not on our side, they are not our defenders. In fact, they are a Fifth Column, insidious minions of those who wish to obliterate and destroy our Western Christian civilization—whether they understand that or not.

I have quoted the Southern writer Robert Lewis Dabney as he described such “conservatives” during the debates on womens’ suffrage 130 years ago, and his quotes on the suicidal mission of  establishment conservatism are, I think, familiar.  But today let me quote another prescient prophet and superb thinker, the great Spaniard Juan Donoso Cortes (1809-1853):

“There is no man, let him be aware of it nor not, who is not a combatant in this vicious contest; [there is no one] who does not take part in responsibility for the victory or the defeat. The king on his throne, the prisoner in his chains, the poor and the rich, the healthy and the infirm, the wise and the ignorant, the old man and the child…share equally in the combat. Every word that is pronounced is either inspired by God or by the World, and necessarily proclaims, implicitly or explicitly, but always clearly, the glory of the One or the triumph of the other. In this singular warfare we all fight through forced enlistment; no one escapes; exceptions of sex or age are unknown. In this warfare all men are soldiers.  And don’t tell me you don’t wish to fight…or that you don’t know which side to join, for while you are saying that, you have already joined a side [and it is not God’s side]…that war is extended as far as space, and prolonged through all time. In eternity alone, the country of the Just, can you find rest, because there alone there is no longer combat.” [from Donoso Cortes, “Ensayo sobre el Catolicismo, el Liberalismo y el Socialismo,” my translation]

The Charlie Kirks, the Ben Shapiros, the Jonah Goldbergs, the David Frenchs of this world have chosen sides, and it is not ours

November 17, 2019 MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey The IMAGINATIVE CONSERVATIVE’s Fascinating Review of THE LAND WE LOVE Friends...