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Fighting the Church May Lead You Right Out of the Church

 

I did not know until a Rod Dreher column this week that Catholic pugilist Steve Skojec is now ex-Catholic pugilist Steve Skojec. Dreher says Skojec is now an agnostic. He didn’t even slow down and join the Orthodox, like Rod did. He went right out the back door into disbelief. Skojec says he has not attended Mass in a year.

Skojec explains how he got a very raw deal at the hands of the Legion of Christ and its lay movement Regnum Christi. I have no way of judging his charges. But he was very involved at the same time the Legion founder abused boys, fathered children, and plagiarized. Such a culture can only result in the abuse of the rank and file. Skojec describes psychological abuse; he says he was brainwashed. When he tried to leave, he says the Legion went all Saul Alinksy on him: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy.”

Skojec spent part of his college years at Steubenville as a “Legionary counter agent.” Over the next several years, Skojec was quite obviously and seriously vexed about issues in the Church; sexual abuse by priests, the liturgy, changing of doctrine, Francis, the Bishops, Covid, and much else. He fought like hell. He fought and fought and fought. And then he left.

Long ago, I figured Skojec would leave the Church.

His story reminds me of Rod Dreher’s, who spent years looking into the abyss of priest sexual abuse. I have gone on record that Rod was right about all that and I was wrong. But maybe where Rod did go wrong was spending so long looking into the abyss and feeding his anger, which led him to question the theological claims of the Catholic Church. He left for Orthodoxy.

Their stories remind me of Joseph Sciambra, a man I deeply admire. Joe spent years living in the homosexual abyss and came out of it quite damaged. He looked for succor from the same Church he accuses of encouraging his behavior and abetting his abuse. Understand that Joe is the guy who tries to save gay men by going to the most sexually perverse San Francisco festivals wearing a “Jesus Loves Gay Men” tee-shirt and handing out rosaries.

Sciambra tried for years to convince various Churchmen that the Church was allowing the rise of homosexualism in the Church. He pointed to openly homosexual parishes in San Francisco and New York. He tried to convince Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles that Fr. James Martin ought not be featured at the annual education conference in L.A. No one would listen. I think the only Bishop who formally met with him was Cardinal Burke, a meeting that I arranged.

It seems to me that when you set yourself up to fight the institutional Church, you run the risk of walking out the door. Make no mistake, Rod’s fight was just. Joe’s fight was just. I am not sure exactly what Steve’s fight was because it seemed so immense and multi-faceted, but without a doubt, he believes it was just. Even so, when you set yourself up to fight the institutional Church and you never give up, you run the risk of allowing your frustration and anger to lead you right out of the Church.

I fear the ongoing strike by the Vatican against the Traditional Latin Mass may lead many into this kind of anger. Thirty years ago, I watched similar fights and similar anger lead men out of the Church. I knew Gerry Matatics and Tom Droleskey when they were still Catholic. There is a good chance most of you will not know their names, but both were deeply involved in traditional Catholic issues back in those indult days.

My friend Ken Wolfe believes this cannot happen in the current day because the efforts to defend the immemorial Mass will happen among friends and fellow parishioners. For most, this will certainly be true. But I know for a fact that anger over long periods of time can change people and drive them away from things they previously believed and loved.

My advice, for what it’s worth, is for people in these fights not to be so concerned about wins and losses. Do not care quite so much. Forgive this string of platitudes: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains. And then you keep trying but without the fretting over the box scores.

I know, I know. We are fighting over eternal truths that can save. True enough. But we must live to fight another day. We are made for the Beatific Vision but on this earth, we are made for fighting; maybe not so much that we are driven the wrong way across the Tiber.

Here’s the thing. Dreher is out of the Church. Sciambra is out of the Church. Skojec is out of the faith altogether. I just think it would be better if they were still here with us.

Cross-posted at Catholic World Report.

The Lies They Continue to Tell About Donald Trump

 

I knew instantly it was false when the news broke that a pro-life Catholic high school student from Kentucky had mistreated an elderly Native American veteran on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March for Life a few years ago. I knew it instantly. It did not smell right.

Sad to say, many major pro-life leaders immediately attacked the kid. But I knew it was false, and it was.

In precisely the same way, I knew instantly it was false when Cassidy Hutchinson told the January 6th committee that Trump tried to hijack the presidential SUV and, in the process, choked a Secret Service agent.

Keep in mind, Trump is the man his haters said could not walk down a short ramp at a graduation ceremony. He is the man they said was so frail he could not drink from a cup except by using both hands.

When it is useful for them, this frail man becomes Jason Bourne—able to leap a great distance from a seated position and at the same time lay hands on the throat of a Secret Service agent.

Hutchinson also told the committee she heard the president say he didn’t care if armed men were trying to get through presidential security because they weren’t there to harm him. The implication of Hutchinson’s charge is that he allowed armed men past security all the better to invade the Capitol and kill Vice President Pence. Since Washington, D.C., has severe gun laws, one wonders why these armed men were not arrested instantly; unless they never existed except in certain fevered brains.

Hutchinson said under oath that White House Counsel Pat Cipollone confided to her that the president going up to the Capitol that day would have broken “any number of laws.” I have known Pat Cipollone for years. He is a very careful man. It does not pass the smell test that Cipollone would confide in the likes of Cassidy Hutchinson. What’s more, one wonders what laws Hutchinson thinks would be broken by the president going to an impromptu rally at the Capitol?

The usual suspects fell all over themselves praising the bravery of Hutchinson. Former Prosecutor Andy McCarthy, usually extremely careful, jumped with both feet onto the claim that Trump tried to overpower his security detail and hijack the presidential SUV. The next day, he backed off and settled on the possibility that the story may be false, but Hutchinson was not lying since she was merely repeating what she had heard someone say.

The goofballs over at The Bulwark did yet one more in a long line of tap dances on the grave of DJT’s presidency. Mona Charen said Hutchinson was a heroine and hoped her courage would be as courageous as most Republicans’ cowardice. Gay vulgarian Tim Miller said, “This afternoon a 26-year-old former assistant showed more courage and integrity than an entire administration full of grown-ass adults who were purportedly working in service to the American people but had long ago decided to serve only their ambition and grievance.”

This is a pattern among the Trump-haters, believing the most incredible things they hear.

Remember the pee-pee tape? They were told Trump hired prostitutes to urinate on the Moscow hotel bed where Barack Obama once slept. They really believed this.

Remember when he supposedly quoted Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini? Trump retweeted an old saying—“better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.”

It was tweeted from a troll account @ilduce2016. Get it? Get it? Trump quoted Mussolini! Trump is a fascist! We have proof!!!

NBC newsman Chuck Todd said, “That’s a famous Mussolini quote. You retweeted it. Do you like the quote? Did you know it was Mussolini?” It turns out the quote is attributed by the Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs to the Sultan of Mysore circa 1799.

These guys will believe anything as long as it works against Trump.

Do you remember when Trump said he was “king”? In February 2020, Trump survived impeachment. The New York Times quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson, “When you strike at the king, you must kill him.” Trump retweeted this. The Executive Editor of Bloomberg opinion said, “When you say the thing out loud: I am a king.” Law professor and frequent MSNBC talking head Barb McQuade said, “This may be the most sinister tweet Trump has ever posted. He is comparing himself with the king and threatening to use his powers for revenge on those who questioned his abuse of power.” Even faded, nutball actress Mia Farrow joined the fun, “You are not a king.” This went on for days.

How about when Trump said he was “the chosen one”? In August 2019, as Trump walked toward the presidential chopper, he was asked about the impending trade war with China. He said no previous president had taken on China, then he glanced skyward, raised his arms, and said, “I am the chosen one. I am taking on China. I am taking on China on trade.” A writer at CNN said, “‘Chosen one,’ then, isn’t just rhetoric. It’s a deeply held part of who Trump is—and always has been.” Radical feminist Amanda Marcotte wrote at Salon, “Even for a bottomless pit of narcissism like Donald Trump, Wednesday was an exceptional day for self-aggrandizement.”

The very same day, a Christian radio host compared Trump to the King of Israel. The Daily Beast then wrote, “Trump Says He’s King of the Jews. The Bible Says Otherwise.”

One could go on and on about the lies they tell about Donald Trump. The Washington Post says Trump spouted more than 30,000 lies during his four years. Even that is a lie.

It is unfortunate that young Hutchinson has allowed herself to be used by the odious Liz Cheney and the unhinged folks on the J6 Committee. Maybe she didn’t lie, but the stories she told are false. In the end, she will probably become the conservative co-host on The View.

[Photo Credit: Getty Images]

Can a Sexual Revolutionary Save the West?

 

To what extent can a sexual revolutionary be counted upon to defend Western civilization, even a sexual revolutionary who believes he is quite conventional?

Douglas Murray is wicked smart. He can write and speak rings around the likes of me. He is witty, droll, dramatic, deadpan. Because of these theatrical attributes, and that he is good on a whole host of conservative issues, Murray is catnip to a plethora of important conservatives.

And now he is out with an excellent new bookThe War on the West, a look at those who want to tear down our past, all that is European, straight, male, and white.

In this new book, he turns to the Culture War on the West by those who want to tear down statues, ruin reputations, paint over art, even dig up or otherwise denigrate plants, yes plants, that are deemed too white and too colonial. Just like math and being on time, plants are now racist. The War on the West is an immensely satisfying book, and he hits every one of the right notes. It is highly recommended.

But one thing is missing, and it is a massive thing, a foundational thing, in defending the West. And it is Mr. Murray’s blind spot.

The great writer/thinker/teacher Michael Uhlmann used to say that every country has a sexual constitution. These are largely unwritten but widely understood. The sexual constitution encompasses what is allowed and what is not allowed. Divorce was a scandal. Adultery was condemned. Unwed mothers got married lickety-split.

Janet Yellen, yes, that one, published a marvelous paper on how shotgun weddings largely disappeared with widespread availability of the contraceptive pill and how this has been a detriment to women. The great project of the Left is to destroy this sexual Constitution. Indeed, all of this has been upended.

Besides divorce, adultery, and much else, the sexual constitution did not allow sodomy. Oh sure, boys lurked around dark places, as they still do, but it was frowned upon. It was even illegal in some places. And though some folks may have smirked at such behavior and looked the other way, it still fell outside what the sexual constitution allowed.

Mr. Murray does not look kindly on those who hold these views that he calls “niche.”

He was not happy that some of us “niche” holders spoke at the National Conservative Conference in Orlando last year. In a subsequent column, he bemoaned that some “thoughtful ex-liberals” might shy away from joining conservative ranks because of the likes of you and me, those who oppose abortion, no-fault divorce, same-sex marriage, and understand the pill has been among the Devil’s most masterful works.

He objects especially that such views may spring from religious belief. He says other than religion, he knows of no principled reason to oppose same-sex marriage. Murray recalled a previous conference in Europe where one of those smelly religious conservatives referred to homosexual couples “as being in a sodomitical relationship.”

Mr. Murray does not like that word. Sodomy is an ugly word for an ugly thing that Mr. Murray writes about downright poetically. I do not know what Mr. Murray does, but I know what he professes, in that he is downright evangelical. In his otherwise clever book The Madness of Crowds, he talks about sodomy as the great mystery that gives straight men a glimpse into something they obsess about, and that is what women feel like when they are penetrated. No kidding.

So blinded is Mr. Murray by his own revolutionary predilections, he thinks the war on the West started roughly on the day Jesse Jackson led a crowd down Palm Drive at Stanford shouting, “hey, hey, oh, oh, western civ has got to go,” which was an effort to eliminate core curriculum of dead white males. This was in 1987.

Mr. Murray does not recognize that the Culture War on the West began a few decades prior. Consider that in 1962 prayer was kicked out of government schools. The Bible was kicked out the next year. Consider that as late as the 1950s, fornication was illegal in at least 38 states. Adultery was illegal in all but five states. Sodomy was illegal in all the states. Even seduction was considered both tort and a crime. Contraception was forbidden in most places.

Each of these laws reflected fundamental aspects of Christian teaching. Striking all this down and much else was a genuine revolution in civilization. And what followed? Contraception was made constitutional, followed by legal abortion, followed by constitutional sodomy, followed by a redefinition of marriage. These were revolutionary moments, whether Mr. Murray sees them that way or not. Indeed, Mr. Murray cheers them. But what followed has been destruction to the West.

French author Olivier Roy calls this the “new faith of the desiring subject”—whatever we desire to do, we have the right and even the obligation to do. And Roy wonders if this may be a current too strong for Christian civilization to resist. The West is Christian civilization.

Douglas Murray may be quite good—he is quite good—on defending Western art and music, Western horticulture, Western history, and all the rest. Murray is good on these tactics. On strategy, he is bad, very bad. On strategy, in fact, whether Murray knows it or not, he is with the enemy of the West.

[Image Credit: Douglas Murray’s Twitter account]

Mass Shootings Are Not What You Think They Are

 

It is difficult to write about mass shootings in the shadow of the heinous acts committed in Uvalde, Texas. My wife can barely listen to talk radio right now because she cannot stand hearing about what happened to those precious children trapped mercilessly in that classroom.

The acts of that evil lunatic, however, are being used to advance certain false narratives. So, it requires us to understand what school shootings really are. Indeed, we need to understand what mass shootings really are. Examining the truths about school shootings and mass shootings is not to belittle what happened in Uvalde or anyplace else, but we must know.

The fact is that a crazy, amped-up white guy entering a school blasting away is not the typical mass shooting, not even remotely. Education Week has kept track of school shootings since 2018 and has found a frightening 119 since then. They say there have been 27 so far this year, 34 in 2021, 10 in 2020, and 24 each in 2019 and 2018. You may be led to conclude that each of these were school invasions similar to Uvalde, Sandy Hook, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas. You would be wrong.

Most of these shootings seem to be based on heat-of-the-moment arguments and not deliberate targeting.

  • On February 4, a 16-year-old was struck in the leg in the parking lot after a basketball game at Wenonah High in Birmingham, Alabama.
  •  On January 2, two people were shot while sitting in the Auburn High School parking lot in Rockford, Illinois.
  • On December 14, at Menchville High School in Newport News, Virginia, a 17-year-old was shot and killed in the parking lot after a basketball game. The shooter was from a rival school.
  • On December 8, gunfire erupted in the parking lot of Ewing Marion Kauffman School in Kansas City, Missouri, during a basketball game. Two were injured.

Almost all school shootings are like this. Again, this is not to downplay these tragic shootings, but these shootings are not invasions by killers set on Columbine-type mass murder. These are not the deliberate targeting of schools. They are the result of what appear to be rivalries or differences of opinion that turn violent; things that no amount of school hardening or teacher arming would necessarily prevent.

The panic about mass school shootings seems similar to the daycare sex abuse scare from many years ago and the ongoing stranger-danger scare. There was never an epidemic of child abuse in daycare centers. And most child abductions are carried out by estranged family members and not by drive-by strangers. Yet you still see parents driving their kids to the end of the block and waiting with them to catch the bus.

In the same way, mass shootings are not the story of public schools, even now. Most shootings in or around schools are arguments that turn violent. Though I would never send my kids to government schools, it’s not over fear of mass shootings.

Back to the question of mass shootings, according to Statista, “Between 1982 and June 2022, 68 out of the 129 mass shootings in the United States were carried out by white shooters. By comparison, the perpetrator was African American in 21 mass shootings, and Latino in 11. When calculated as percentages, this amounts to 53 percent, 16 percent, and 8.5 percent respectively.”

This is wrong in so many ways.

This vastly undercounts the number of mass shootings. If you define mass shooting as any that claims four victims, public reporting shows there were 637 mass shootings in 2021 alone. What’s more, 74 percent of them were carried out by blacks. Only 12 percent were carried out by whites. Latinos were accused of 12 percent and Asians only 2 percent. The numbers may be different since the overwhelming number of shooters go unidentified. Of the 637 mass shootings in 2021, only 227 perpetrators are known. I suspect the demographic breakdown would be similar.

The typical mass shooting does not comport with the dominant narrative. He is not a white guy invading a school or business, killing as many people as he can, and then killing himself. The perpetrator in most mass shootings aims wildly, mostly wounds rather than kills, then runs away.

According to mass-shootings.info, which relies exclusively on newspaper and television reporting, 20 percent of mass shootings in 2021 took place on a street or road, 19 percent at parties, 17 percent in parking lots, 15 percent at houses, 11 percent unspecified, 10 percent at bars or nightclubs, 5 percent at parks/playgrounds/beaches, and 3 percent at memorial vigils. Schools are not mentioned because, according to Education Week, the victim count is usually quite low and mass shootings, like Uvalde, are quite rare.

Among the many problems with undercounting and getting the race wrong is they ignore the fact that most victims of mass shootings are black, not white. Even the New York Times recognized this in a 2016 story called “A Drumbeat of Multiple Shootings, but America Isn’t Listening.” These are the shootings that take place practically every single day in America. The streets of Chicago, St. Louis, Baltimore, really any big city, are the scenes of bloody carnage that the Left does not want us talking about.

When the Left is driving a narrative, they almost always have us looking the wrong way. In this case, they want us looking away from the inner cities and toward the deliberate targeting of schools that are, in comparison, quite rare. The danger is that public policy made in the glare of tragedy and lies is almost always wrong.

Previously published in Crisis Magazine.

The Myth of the Boomer Bogeyman

 

How often the youngsters use the Boomer—sometimes, BOOMER!—when airing their grievances. Maybe they’ve created a keyboard shortcut to spit out “Boomer” with two strokes instead of six. Shift-plus-something or other. Perhaps one of them can show this Boomer how to work this consarn machine.

What you hear these days, and you hear it all the time, is that the Boomers are the root of all our ills. In January, when Neil Young demanded that Spotify defenestrate Joe Rogan or else lose the Young catalog, writer Declan Leary said Young made his announcement with “Boomer sincerity.” Maybe there is a unique Boomer form of sincerity, and maybe Young has it, but one thing Young is not is a Boomer. He was born in 1945. Neil Young belongs to the so-called Silent Generation.

“Boomer” is now an epithet for anything one does not like about the 1960s. In other words, “Boomer” now has practically no meaning whatsoever, assuming it ever did.

Creators and Consumers

The real issue is the decade of the 1960s. Someone must get the blame for the ’60s! But it isn’t the Boomers. To be sure, the first wave of the Baby Boom were the first consumers of the 1960s. But they did not create the ’60s. Those ghastly people were almost all born in the Silent Generation era and even all the way back to the Lost Generation, another essentially meaningless term.

In his otherwise masterful book, The Age of Entitlement, Christopher Caldwell argues that back in the Reagan ’80s, Boomers used resources taken from future generations to fund a “vision of an easy and indulgent lifestyle.” He says they outsourced labor and opened the door to massive immigration in order to make this easy life happen. But did Boomers play any part in that?

I am a Boomer, and I voted for Reagan, but I have no memory of voting for him in order to impose my bills on future generations. I voted for him to kill the Soviet Union, which he did, to cut taxes, which he did, and to reduce the size of government, which he didn’t. Caldwell argues Reagan made an unspoken bargain that would save the Great Society entitlement programs in exchange for lower taxes and increased defense spending that drove up the deficit and the debt, and massively increased the size of the federal government.

If the Boomers didn’t do this, then who did? Reagan’s commerce secretary, Malcolm Baldridge, was born in 1922. Donald Regan, then-secretary of the treasury, was born in 1918. The chairmen of Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers were born in 1927, 1939, and 1923, respectively. One Boomer was there, David Stockman. He was born in 1946, but he opposed what Reagan was doing.

Abbie Hoffman.

Helen Andrews wrote a whole book bashing Boomers. Boomers: The Men and Women Who Promised Freedom and Delivered Disaster argues that Boomers are “proud of what they did” and that their generation chalked up a number of successes. To whom did she turn? Three ’60s-era gasbags: Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, and David Crosby. Hayden said, “We ended a war, toppled two presidents, and desegregated the South.” Crosby said, “We were right about the war. We were right about the environment. We were right about civil rights and women’s issues.” Hoffman said, “We were young. We were reckless, arrogant, silly, headstrong—and we are right.”

The problem is that none of them—not Hoffman, Hayden, or Crosby—are Boomers. Hoffman was born in 1936, Crosby in 1941, and Hayden in 1939.

This is one of the fundamental flaws in this whole anti-Boomer mythology. The social, political, and cultural markers of the 1960s—usually blamed on the Boomers—came from those born before 1946 and, in many cases, long before.

Smut and the Sexual Revolution

Consider pornography. Andrews argues Boomer complicity in the spread of the porn industry. Certainly, Boomers consumed porn—usually a Playboy found in their dad’s stash somewhere in the basement. More than likely their inadvertent supplier dads were of the Greatest Generation, as was Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who was born in 1926. Without a doubt, the Boomer kids liked what they saw. But they were consumers, not creators.

Andrews cites the Fanny Hill case from 1966, where the Supreme Court decided a book could not be banned if it had any literary merit. This opened the door to much of the nastiness that came after. But Boomers played no part in this case. It was decided by two Supreme Court justices born in the late 19th century and three born in the early years of the 20th. The lawyer who brought the case was born in 1915, and the defendant was born in 1922. Not one of them were even remotely Boomers.

Andrews partially blames Steve Jobs for spreading online pornography because he created a global tech brand, including the iPhone, where even kids can access hardcore porn. She does give Jobs credit for making Macs relatively child-friendly with more robust parental controls. She considers that to be anti-Boomerish, though. I don’t know why. But Jobs did not invent the Internet. Donald Davies, born in 1924, did that, along with Paul Baran, born in 1926. Free-streaming porn was created in the mid-aughts by a trio of Canadian GenXers inspired by YouTube, also founded by GenXers. No Boomers around here.

Consider the sexual revolution. Perhaps the most significant disruptor of Western Civilization was the birth-control pill, first developed by Gregory Pincus (b. 1903), and synthesized by Carl Djerassi (b. 1923). Even the term “sexual revolution” was coined by psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, who was born in the 19th century. During the 1968 student riots in Paris and Berlin, students threw copies of his book The Mass Psychology of Fascism at the cops. Reich invented the Orgone Accumulator, later mocked by Woody Allen as the “Orgasmatron” in his movie “Sleeper,” wherein adherents sit inside and gather sexual energy. This was an utterly ’60s thing, but it was not a Boomer thing. Norman Mailer (b. 1923) sat in one. After Reich went to prison for his fraudulent claims about the Orgone Accumulator, Mailer built them in his garage. Saul Bellow (b. 1915) sat in one every day.

Andrews says, “Boomers didn’t just shake up the nuclear family. They broke it.” Certainly, the war on marriage and family blossomed in the 1960s. But the kids born between 1946 and 1964 did not cause the breakdown of the family: they were its first victims.

One of the most influential books that tore marriage asunder was The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, who was born way back in 1921. She convinced women—overeducated, bored, stuck in the suburbs without a car, the high point of their day hubby strolling through the door at 6:00 demanding his dinner—something was wrong. Friedan’s bestseller came out in 1963, when she was 42.

Jessie Bernard was among the most influential anti-marriage writers of the time (now largely forgotten), whose work has been cited in hundreds of scholarly works. She was considered a pioneer in sociological research on marriage, which she argued was created by men to the detriment of women’s happiness. Bernard was born in 1903.

Boomers didn’t even create no-fault divorce. Ronald Reagan, born in 1911, did that in 1969 as governor of California when the front edge of the Boom turned 22. This pernicious idea had swept through all 50 states within a few years, long before Boomers had any electoral or legislative influence.

Popular Culture

There is this image of Boomers forever entranced by the popular culture they grew up with and forever foisting it upon everyone else. This is undoubtedly true. But it was a popular culture they largely did not create. None of the members of the Beatles were products of the Boom. Neither were any of the Rolling Stones. Hardly any of the performers at Woodstock were Boomers. Ditto for Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Roger Daltrey, Jerry Garcia, Grace Slick, Paul Simon, Neil Young, and Steven Stills.

What about movies? Among the most influential movies of the day were “Easy Rider” and “The Graduate.” These quintessential Boomer movies are arguably the movies that changed the focus of Hollywood to an obsession with young ticket-buyers. Well, “The Graduate” was written by Mike Nichols, born in 1931, and Buck Henry, born in 1930, based on a novel by Charles Webb, who was born in 1939. It starred Dustin Hoffman, who was born in 1937. Even ingenue Katharine Ross, who played Mrs. Robinson’s daughter Elaine, was born before the Boom in 1940. “Easy Rider” was the fourth-highest-grossing movie of 1969 and is considered a Boomer classic. It was directed by Dennis Hopper, born in 1936, and starred Peter Fonda, born in 1940, and Jack Nicholson, born in 1937.

One of the truisms endlessly repeated by Boomer critics is that the Boomers inherited a remarkable economy and then proceeded to ruin it. Helen Andrews claims that Millennials cannot buy houses because the Boomers hoard property and cash. And maybe this is true. But, as it happens, the Boomers said precisely the same thing about the Silent Generation.

Writing in Terry Teachout’s 1990 book Beyond the Boom, conservative social critic Maggie Gallagher said she had “house lust.” Gallagher was miffed that young people could not afford houses because the earlier generation drove up prices in her then Brooklyn neighborhood. She said the Silents “came of age during the greatest continuous period of affluence in American history, got college educations, bought houses, could afford children and full-time mothers,” etc. In other words, arguments identical to Andrews’ complaints about Gallagher’s generation.

Did the Boomers inherit a booming economy and then ruin it? Consider that the Boomers entered the workplace between 1964 and 1982. The unemployment rate in 1969 was 6.9 percent. In 1970, the federal government enacted the Emergency Employment Act, which instituted wage and price controls. There were repeated recessions. They even invented a new term—“stagflation”—for the combination of slow growth, high inflation, and high unemployment. Remember long gas lines where you could only buy gas on certain days? What about Jimmy Carter’s “malaise speech?” Gas lines and malaise happened when the ’46ers turned 34, and the mid-Boom had just entered the workforce. The late Boom was still popping pimples.

Betty Friedan.

And who exactly was running the economy when the Boomers were in college, in their 20s, and even their 30s? Who delivered this supposedly amazing economy that the Boomers were supposed to have ruined? Largely the “Greatest Generation.” In 1968, General Motors, Exxon Mobil, Ford Motor, General Electric, and Chrysler were the top-five companies. Boomers were nowhere near the C-Suites of those companies. Nixon’s team of economic advisers were all born between 1905 and 1927. Jimmy Carter’s economic advisers were born between 1907 and 1931. (OK, he had one youngster who was born in 1940.)

Critics say Boomers forced women into the workplace. Yet it was Silent Generation feminists like Betty Friedan and Kate Millet, author of the landmark 1970 book Sexual Politics, who began the drumbeat for women to leave the home. Friedan was born in 1921, Millet in 1934.

What’s more, women had already begun migrating to the workplace. That trend had been rising steadily since the front edge Boomers were toddlers. In 1948, 17 million women worked. That grew to 29 million in 1968, when the first Baby Boomers were just leaving their teens. Granted, Boomers did nothing to stop the trajectory. If anything, they leaned into it. But they were only following the lead set by their parents and grandparents.

And what about politics? The Boomers are said to have been a revolutionary generation. Certainly, they provided the ground troops for much that happened on college campuses from 1968 to 1972. Understand, though, that the ’46ers entered college in 1964, which were then still fairly conservative. That was the year Goldwater ran against Johnson. And who were the political heroes of the New Left? There was the aforementioned Tom Hayden, who drafted the highly influential “Port Huron Statement.” There was Mario Savio, leader of the Free Speech Movement, founded at Berkeley because the administration would not allow on-campus political activity. He was born in 1942.

Not one of the Chicago Seven was born in the Boom. One of them, David Dellinger, was born in 1915.

Certainly, leftist young people helped take over the Democratic Party in 1972, and it has only become crazier since that time. But remember, Richard Nixon, that great devil, won 52 percent of the youth vote in 1972.

Absurd and Lazy

And this leads us to a central fallacy of those who would paint the Boom with one brush. The collapse of American society doesn’t have a single cause, much less an epicenter. Sure, many from the Boom marched against the war in Vietnam (though they stopped when Nixon ended the draft), but the Boom happily marched off to Vietnam, too. What’s more, the war in Vietnam had majority support across all age groups for almost all of the war.

This naming of generations is absurd and lazy. It seems to have started with Gertrude Stein’s off-hand quip to Hemingway about his “génération perdue.” Next came the Greatest Generation, a moniker coined by—good grief!—TV newsman Tom Brokaw. Then came the Silent Generation, which Time may or may not have coined in 1951.

There was a vast difference between the early, mid, and late Boom. I was born in mid-Boom, and I have never had much in common with those born 10 years before. Oh, sure: those of us in mid-Boom were envious of the college kids. In 1972, when Nixon began to bomb the supply lines from North Vietnam, my sophomore class in high school wore black armbands—along with the cool, 20-something Boomer teachers. In college, a few years later, we marched against the Shah of Iran. Ever heard of SAVAK? Look them up.

But the proposition that there is any meaningful commonality among those born in the 18 years from 1946 to 1964 is ludicrous. It is to believe my socially conservative Catholic wife, born in 1964, has anything in common with Rolling Stone founder, Jann Wenner, born in 1946. It is a proposition of marketers.

Jonathan Pontell recognized this essential Boomer dichotomy when he postulated “Generation Jones” for those born after 1954. These Jonesers missed the Vietnam War and much else so closely identified with the ’60s Boomers. Pontell said that Generation Jones fills “the space between Woodstock and Lollapalooza, between ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out’ and ‘Just Say No,’ and between Dylan going electric and Nirvana going unplugged.” Generation Jones never caught on, but the distinctions Pontell makes are pretty correct. You might say it is the difference between the demographic and what marketers call the “psychographic.” And this gets back to whether you accept all the ’60s nonsense.

Undoubtedly, something happened in the 1960s. Without a doubt, a considerable cohort of the Baby Boom joined up with the craziness. But then, so has some portion of every successive generation. The Sexual Revolution wasn’t cooked up by kids born in 1946. They liked it; they joined it; even in retirement, if reports are accurate, the Sexual Revolution rolls on for front-edge Boomers. But it was not their idea. Rock was not their idea. Heck, folk music was not their idea. Radical feminism was not their idea. They were the first enthusiastic consumers of it all, but they did not invent any of it.

I hate to put it this way, but we were the first victims. We were Patient Zero.

As one social critic noted, the vital thing to understand about the 1960s is this: It wasn’t the age of Mick Jagger, Abbie Hoffman, and Neil Young. He says it is not relevant that the ’60s came from the Silent or even the Greatest Generation. What’s relevant is that cultural transmission changed from vertical transmission (father to son) to horizontal transmission: sibling to sibling, Boomer to Boomer. Given that most of the cultural change visited upon the 1960s first came from Silents, maybe a better way to put it is that cultural transmission came from older brother to younger brother, from cool uncle to eager nephew. All of this could very well be true.

Even so, folks should ease off the keyboard shortcut blaming everything on the Boomer Bogeyman. He is a mythical creature.

Father Stu: A Flawed Story of Redemption

 

I cannot express how much I hated the new movie Father Stu, at least up to a point. Up to that point, I really hated it. I emailed friends how much I hated it. I railed at my wife and children how much I hated it. I shouted down the hallway how much I hated it. Down the stairs, too. I would have shouted from the rooftops if I had a way up.

I thanked my Guardian Angel that my plan for watching it with neighbors and children were, for technological reasons, dashed. Did I tell you I hated it, at least up to a point? Let me explain.

Like you, I noticed the movie because they are advertising everywhere, on practically all Catholic websites. We went to see the Tom Holland movie Uncharted recently (don’t bother), and they showed the trailer for Father Stu. My 16-year-old daughter turned to me and said something like, “Isn’t that against the law?” meaning, how did Hollywood let such a Catholic movie get produced? We looked forward to seeing it.

One of the things that crossed my mind was that at long last we were going to get something other than the usual, sappy, badly made “Christian” movie, the ones that I cannot stand. Here was Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson, and it was being released by a major studio.

The Catholic PR group was sending around promotional emails, and I responded. They kindly sent me a link so I could review it. I noted it was rated R. They said it was because of language. And language, oh boy, the language. Today we are used to a few f-bombs, but I was not prepared for the quite blunt vulgarity. I will get to that in a minute.

Father Stu is the unlikely story of a foul-mouthed, drunken ruffian who finds God through a woman and becomes the most unlikely of priests. What hit me sideways were two things: first, the relentless vulgarity; second, how badly much of it was written.

I will start with the unlikely dialogue that does not have the feel of reality but rather of a Hollywood screenwriter, and not a very good one at that.

The Wahlberg character is sitting in a bar next to a boozy blond. Wahlberg gazes up at a deer head mounted on the wall. The dialogue goes this way:

Woman: “Best kind of date. Bedroom eyes, keeps her mouth shut.”
Wahlberg: “I like a woman who prefers to say who she is.”
Woman: “Who do you want me to be?”
Wahlberg: “I want a menu; I go to a restaurant.”
Woman: “Sometimes I need help getting out of character.”
Stranger sitting nearby: “She’d f*ck that elk [it’s a deer], if it had a d*ck and a dollar.”
Wahlberg punches him and says, “A real man earns a win on his own damn merits.”

This is not only vulgar but patently phony. No one talks this way. It is phony, filmy patter.

At one point, Wahlberg is getting drunk in a bar. He falls into a conversation with a hippy-looking guy—turns out he is Jesus. Wahlberg looks him up and down and says, “I’d f*ck you up if you weren’t f*cked up already.”

Jesus says, “Someone beat you to it.” Get it?

Jesus tells the Wahlberg character, “Life’s going to give you a gut full of reasons to be angry, kid. You only need one to be grateful.”

Wahlberg says, “That’s the most f*cked ratio since the number of marshmallows in Lucky Charms.”

It is at least remotely possible that such a retort could come from the real Stu Long, who had a college degree in English, but never from the Wahlberg character. It is just a cringy thing the writer/director thought sounded witty.

This part of the movie is full of such unlikely dialogue, things folks never say in real life.

The Wahlberg character gets a job working the meat counter at a grocery store so that he can meet people in the movie industry. A-huh. In comes a comely Carmen, the doe-eyed Mexican love interest.

Wahlberg shouts at her, “I got beef.”

She gives him a meaningful look and says, “I can see that.”

She is looking for fish.

He says, “You can find fish in a can, and you can let me take you to dinner.”

“I don’t like being told my choices.”

“How about I take you fishing, we compromise.”

She walks away.

He says, “I didn’t catch your name.”

She says, “Not much of a fisherman then are you.”

Do real people have such corny, snappy dialogue?

The first half of the movie is full of such unlikely and even cringy dialogue.

And then there is the Catholic illiteracy. I will just mention a few points.

In order to get Carmen, a faithful Catholic, Wahlberg decides to get baptized. So, he goes to classes that Carmen teaches. The class is for little children. They all have ashes on their heads, so we know it’s Ash Wednesday, and they are talking about what they are going to give up for Lent. Wahlberg says he’s going to give up alcohol. A little boy says his dad is “giving up porn.” Wahlberg says the boy’s mom ought to give up “sex, because [porn] and sex are the same thing.”

When it comes time to get baptized, in Church, Wahlberg slowly pulls off his shirt. Yes, he pulls off his shirt, in Church…to get baptized. The camera pans lovingly over Wahlberg’s pumped-up frame, he leans down and gets baptized. Carmen is beaming. Have you ever seen anyone in a Catholic Church take off their shirt for baptism? Me neither. The writer/director, first-timer Rosalind Ross, loves Wahlberg’s body. In not one but two scenes she lovingly shows him in his skivvies. Why? You figure it out.

And then the language.

These days, you get used to a few f-bombs in the movies. The children know not to use them. No one in our Catholic crowd uses them. It is a sorry state that you hear f-bombs everywhere, but everyone knows everyday usage is wrong. Still, you get used to a few of them in the movies. What you don’t get used to is so very many of them. In this movie, f-bombs are relentless—from the Wahlberg character, from his mom, his dad, all the time. And not just f-bombs.

Consider the scene where the Wahlberg character is in the hospital and learns about the disease that will waste all his muscles and make him an invalid. The doctor tells him he will need help with everything. Wahlberg says, “You mean like taking a sh*t?” Then he tells the doctor to “take this sh*t out of my d*ck.” I had to watch this a few times to figure out he was talking about a catheter.

There is more. In the scene where he is talking to Jesus, Wahlberg says, “You want to have a big d*ck contest, bro?”

Jesus says, “I know how big your d*ck is, son.”

At one point, he must tell his mother that he has this disease. Foul-mouthed creature that she is, she says that he ought to ask God for a cure and “you can be his bitch.”

It was up to this point that I was railing against this movie to all who would listen. I had not yet finished it. After watching the rest of it, I became truly conflicted because the third and final act was quite good and quite moving.

Stu enters the seminary. He is a changed man and inspirational. His disease is wasting him. He walks with crutches. He can hardly feed himself. There is a scene where he and another seminarian, his nemesis, speak to inmates at a prison. Clearly, his nemesis cannot speak to these men. He loses them almost immediately. Stu pipes up. “You guys get one phone call a week. You can’t call your wife. She has another man. You can’t call your kids. They hate you. Only one you can call is God. He will never give up on you, and you should never give up on yourself.”

The problem is that Stu is crippled. Cripples can’t be priests. The seminary rector, played by uncredited British actor Malcolm McDowell, kicks him out. Stu enters a dark night of the soul. He comes to realize that his suffering is a gift from God. He comes to accept it. His father, played by Mel Gibson, becomes a changed man, too. He takes Stu back to Montana to care for him.

And then one day his father takes him to Church where he is surprised with ordination to the priesthood. His bishop has given in. Stu delivers a deeply moving sermon about his suffering, which brings his father to a 12-step program and to baptism. He even dances with his now reconciled wife.

Stu is assigned to the Big Sky Care Facility, an assisted living center. Outside the facility, the lines form down the block of people wanting to confess to him.

There is a lot of muck in this movie to get to this payoff. But there was a lot of muck Stu had to walk through on his way to the priesthood. This was the arc of his life, at least in the movie version. All the nastiness in the beginning makes sense given where he ends up: a holy priest changing lives. I hated this movie until the end when it kind of made sense.

Leftists Leaving the Left

 

A fresh raft of intellectual refugees is turning from the Left. Maybe they’re not washing up on the shores of conservatism or even Republicanism, but what’s clear is the Left they knew has left them. They are calling it “The Turn,” this experience of waking up to the new reality that the institutions and ideas they believed in, to which they committed their lives, have become utterly corrupted.

Walter Kirn was a huge deal in the rather small, insular, elite New York magazine and publishing world. He strode Manhattan like a colossus. Time MagazineVanity FairNew York MagazineNew York Review of BooksNew York Times Sunday Magazine. Hollywood made two of his novels into movies. I have no doubt he had his own table at Elaine’s. Maybe he sat at Woody’s.

Kirn’s essay at Substack last July was called “The Bull****.” Kirn remembered the time when Time Magazine “grounded the American mind in a moderate shared reality.” He said there was a time when “it was still possible to regard our product as unifying and, in its way, definitive.” All that has changed. He says, now, “every morning, there it is waiting for me on my phone. The bull****.”

Kirn’s complaint is the same as yours. Journalists are no longer journalists. Instead, they are propagandists for a political point of view. They have become cozy courtiers and chroniclers of the powerful. They are lap dogs happily kept on a short chain, eager to peddle their master’s lies—like Hunter’s laptop was a Russian plot.

Kirn has lost most of his income and all his old friends. He is unrepentant.

Liel Leibovitz was a fully credentialed denizen of the Upper West Side. Doctorate from Columbia. Professorship at NYU. Mainstream book contracts. Bylines in the smart magazines. Invitations to parties where one might sit next to Susan Sontag or Salman Rushdie.

He published “The Turn” last December at Tablet Magazine. He says “The Turn” is not a Damascene moment but starts as a twitch, then a few more twitches, “stretching into a gnawing discomfort and then, eventually, a sense of panic.” It is what happens when your world turns sideways. The Turn is when you cannot admit to your friends that even bigots ought to have free speech. The Turn is realizing you can’t express your doubts about lockdowns and school closures. The Turn is fearing the label “white supremacist” because you think burning cities is not necessarily “social justice.”

Leibovitz says, “You don’t get to be ‘against the rich’ if the richest people in the country fund your party in order to preserve their government-sponsored monopolies. You are not a ‘supporter of free speech’ if you oppose free speech for people who disagree with you. You are not ‘for the people’ if you pit most of them against each other based on the color of their skin or force them out of jobs because of personal choices related to their bodies.” He says the Left has become the party of the wealthy and state security agencies who preach racial division, state censorship, contempt for ordinary citizens, and for the U.S. Constitution. He has taken The Turn away from all that.

Alana Newhouse went to Barnard College on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and then took a master’s in journalism from Columbia University. She worked for legendary Democrat political consultant David Garth. She founded Tablet Magazine. In 2014, she gave birth to a baby boy, and she swore this boy lived in pain from the moment he was born. No one in the medical profession believed her. Finally, she came across a brain scientist named Norman Doidge, who helped her understand her son’s injury and how to proceed.

She asked Doidge why it took her and her husband “years to figure this out.” After all, both were children of doctors. And she and her husband were writers and researchers, with loads of health insurance. Doidge bluntly told her that the “medical system is broken.” Specifically, Doidge mentioned quotas for admission from emergency rooms, unnecessary operations, the monetization of illness vs. health, peer review run by Big Pharma, and many more maladies that have corrupted the system.

And then Doidge dropped the bomb on Newhouse. He asked, “How come so much of journalism I read seems like garbage?” At that moment, Newhouse realized Doidge was right. Journalism was broken. It had become garbage. And then she had the vertiginous realization that everything is broken.

She says, “For seven decades, the country’s intellectual and cultural life was produced and protected by a set of institutions—universities, newspapers, magazines, record companies, professional associations, cultural venues, publishing houses, Hollywood studios, think tanks, etc.” She says they are all broken. The cohort running these institutions now insist on sameness and purity. They have become “a mutually validating pipeline for conformists with approved viewpoints—who then credential, promote and marry each other.”

Newhouse made The Turn.

Leaving the Left is an old story.

The great novelist John Dos Passos turned on the Left when he realized the Soviets had murdered Spanish poet José Robles and that Fellow Travelers, including his close friend Ernest Hemingway, lied about it.

Arthur Koestler left the Communist Party over his disillusionment with Stalin. His book Darkness at Noon is one of the important books of this oeuvre.

Closer to our own time is the story of the neocons—Norman Podhoretz, Irving Kristol, and others—who moved Right after they were “mugged by reality.”

David Horowitz and his friends had “second thoughts” about their Stalinist youth. They produced “second thoughts” books and hosted “second thoughts” conferences. They still do.

Overreach always opens eyes. Pro-abortion advocate Frances Kissling, former head of Catholics for a Free Choice, said her movement lost “moderate pro-choice Catholics” over the radicalism of partial-birth abortion.

It is quite remarkable news that Kirn, Leibovitz, and Newhouse have opened their eyes. We can expect many more of them, as we are living through desperate times where the Left has the whip hand and are happily using it. Though a longtime man of the Right, even I have taken a bit of a Turn in recent years. The people and institutions I once respected—military leaders, the FBI, even the CIA—I now fear. In some ways, The Turn is liberating.

The good news is that in twenty or thirty years, there will be a plethora of books and articles from Millennials. These former nonbinary-commie-BLM-loving Millennials will have made The Turn.

Matthew Perna, Political Prisoner, Hangs Himself

 

On January 6, 2020, Matthew Perna walked through an open door in the U.S. Capitol. Two police officers manned the door. They appeared welcoming. For 20 minutes, Perna walked through the halls, took videos, and shouted “USA, USA.” Then he left.

Last Friday night, Perna went into his garage in little-town Pennsylvania and hung himself. Perna had become the victim of Joe Biden’s Justice Department and the FBI. He was hounded for two years, rejected by friends, lost his job, and was subjected to widespread ridicule. And he was on the cusp of receiving upward of six years in prison. All this for walking through an open door, not causing any damage, not threatening anyone, taking a few videos, and shouting patriotic slogans.

There is no other way to put this. Matthew Perna was a political prisoner. The FBI report shows that abundantly. The report notes ominously that he was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hoodie. He is seen on a video shouting “USA, USA.” Understand, these political acts are now crimes.

Two of his Facebook “friends” told the FBI Perna believed in “conspiracy theories;” which “conspiracy theories” we are never told. One of them told the FBI Perna “supported QAnon.”

The FBI drone helpfully explained that such people believe a global conspiracy led by “Satan-worshiping pedophiles” and that President Trump dedicated himself to stopping them. He also said that QAnon supporters believed “false and discredited theories of massive voter fraud” in the last election. These are now crimes, too.

Understand, this was based on assertions of people Perna might never have met but who cruised his Facebook page. One of them said he “had known Perna due to living in the same town and often saw Perna at a local business.” Oh yes, this person had seen on Facebook that Perna had purchased a handgun.

Did the crack FBI guy quote anything proving these assertions? Well, no. And anyway, where is the crime in believing global conspiracies, owning a handgun, or believing the 2020 election was fraudulent? Could it be these are new political crimes the Justice Department can use to torture you for two years and possibly send you to prison? One of the more laughable “facts” stated by the FBI is that Perna “tapped on a window of the Capitol building with a metal pipe.” Did he break the window? No. He tapped on it.

Perna faced years in prison for entering a “restricted” building. It was restricted because Vice President Pence and Vice President-elect Harris were in the building. But were they? Harris was actually at the Democratic National Committee headquarters a few blocks away. And it is unclear whether Pence was still in the building. The Secret Service is being cagey about his whereabouts. If neither were in the building when Perna entered, then it stands to reason the building was no longer “restricted.”

Perna faced years in prison for disrupting a government proceeding. Perna entered the building after the Congress went into recess. There were no proceedings to interrupt.

He faced years in prison for uttering “abusive language,” that is, shouting “USA, USA.” And he faced prison time for “parading.”

Perna pled to these charges. How could he not? No regular American can stand up to the might of the U.S. Justice Department. Inevitably, you must make a plea. He did. He expected a jail sentence. Any jail would have been an injustice. But he was expecting only a couple of months. And then it was revealed he could receive upward of six years because the vicious prosecutor named Matthew Graves was adding “enhancements” that could have led to six years in prison. Perna could take it no longer and hung himself.

Consider the unequal treatment Perna received compared to the rioters who burned American cities during the Summer of George Floyd.

Rioters laid siege to the Federal Courthouse in Portland. They tried to burn it down. It goes without saying that the government processes in the courthouse were disrupted.

A mob laid siege to the White House. Hundreds of rioters tried to break down the fence protecting the White House. Dozens of federal officers were injured from getting hit with bottles of frozen water. It grew so dangerous that the Secret Service evacuated President Trump and his family to a safe room. The Left and the media laughed at Trump and this disruption of government.

Some will say this is nothing more than “whataboutism.” The charge of “whataboutism” is a call to shut down debate, to block any mention of unequal treatment before the law. Indeed, “whataboutism” is a call for justice.

If Matthew Perna can be sent to jail for up to six years for simply walking into the Capitol Building and shouting “USA,” then where are all the six-year sentences for those who tried to burn down a federal courthouse? Where are the prison sentences for the rioters outside the White House? Where was the FBI’s “shock and awe” campaign to find all those people? There wasn’t one. In fact, they had a street in D.C. named after them, Black Lives Matter Plaza. It’s still there. Why is one side imprisoned for “parading” and the other sides skates after literally committing political arson? Politics, my boy, politics.

It very well could be that some of those who entered the Capitol did so with ill-intent. But the same net that captured those guys has also caught the innocent like antler man and this poor soul, Matthew Perna, who was hounded by the U.S. government for his political beliefs and now lies in a coffin waiting to be buried by his grieving family.

Something rotten has come to this country. We have every reason to be afraid of our own government.

A Painter Quietly Changing the Culture

 

Neilson

You see a knife drawn across the throat of the priest. Blood drips down the front of his white vestments. Vested for Mass, he holds the Blessed Sacrament and three white roses and five red roses. Purity and martyrdom. Satan VA! (Satan, Go!) frames his head and the halo surrounding it.

Abducted by Islamists while saying Mass only a few years ago at Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy, France, Fr. Jacques Hamel was made to kneel in front of the altar. The Islamists cut his throat.

The image is arresting and comes from the hand of artist Neilson Carlin, whose studio/atelier stands in a former mushroom factory in Kennett Square, an hour south of Philadelphia.

What does an artist look like? Not like Carlin, who more resembles a boxer or a New York method actor circa 1956. He says his nose was never broken, “it’s just Italian.” He speaks in a rat-a-tat-tat matter-of-fact way about how he got into fine art. He wanted to draw comic books. He wanted to be Walt Simonson, who worked on Thor, or Jack Kirby, who did the Fantastic Four.

Who inspires him besides comic book artists? Italian artists of the Baroque period like Guido Reni, Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, and Giovanni Tiepolo. Carlin says Barbieri’s “‛Samson Seized by the Philistines’” reminds me of every comic book action panel that I loved growing up; huge figures twisting and contorted, the way everything is cropped, all the energy in it, the color. The first time I saw it, I recognized it in every comic book I read growing up.”

Carlin went to art school, the degree he now considers almost a total waste of time and money. Art schools had gone off the rails by then. He took a degree in illustration. His education began to take root when he finagled a job at the Franklin Mint, the marketer of collectibles, plates, statues, coins, and much else. He started at the bottom, cutting and pasting images for Franklin Mint advertising, and ended up doing years of illustrating.

However, his education didn’t take off until he discovered a teacher, the painter and illustrator Michael Aviano, who taught out of his apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where Carlin would train one or two times per week for years. Carlin says the illustrators never went off the rails like much of the art world because they didn’t stare at their navels but had to communicate a message under contract for money.

Carlin first came to my attention when I saw an image of St. Gianna Molla wearing her doctor’s white jacket, holding a baby, surrounded by children, with babies flying into the air into the arms of the Blessed Mother. I asked on Facebook if anyone knew the artist and a few clicks later met this great artist.

The Gianna Molla image is one of Carlin’s enormous paintings for Cardinal Raymond Burke’s Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe on a hill outside La Crosse, Wisconsin. Four massive paintings—Gianna Molla, Bl. Miguel Pro, St. Peregrine, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux—in this remarkable sacred edifice were Carlin’s very first Church commissions. Before that, Carlin mainly painted still lifes and landscapes and sold them in galleries.

Baptized but not raised Catholic, Carlin came to the faith in his twenties, and besides illustrating and painting for galleries, he longed to follow his heart into sacred art. But unfortunately, there is not much of a market for that in the gallery world. But in one of God’s charming ways, Carlin went to a party one night in 2007 and saw a man he had met 15 years before. Anthony Visco, a painter and sculptor of sacred art, had been hired to direct all the art for Cardinal Burke’s shrine. An email later, Visco hired Carlin to paint two massive images and then four.

Since that time, Carlin has decorated many churches around the country. And he was commissioned to paint the image of the Holy Family for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in 2015.

What strikes you in Carlin’s work is how visually and emotionally arresting it is. It is even shocking—the knife across the throat of Fr. Hamel; the hatchet in the head of St. Peter Martyr; St. Lucy crying blood, her eyes fixed in red roses, surrounded by the bones of a lamb; a clearly starving Maximilian Kolbe at Auschwitz; Fr. Truong Buu Diep’s severed head raised above his body with the image of the Communist Hammer and Sickle, almost religious symbols framing his head. Even the Communist star sits atop Diep’s head. Diep gazes intently right into your soul.

Carlin says for sacred Catholic art to survive, it must be more than insipid images, more even than 19th-century realism. There must be something creative about it and not mere copying from something staged. Carlin says he does not work endlessly from live models but works from drawings and imagination, like Tiepolo on his back painting sacred ceilings.

He explains that what motivates him is not the perfectly staged photograph-from-life reproduction. What he finds interesting is something one shade removed from copying reality. He says if he has a model or a photo, he finds himself slavishly copying. This does not inspire him.

About the brutal nature of some of his images, Carlin says we go to church and see the suffering Christ on the Cross; so, in his work he wants to show how the saints endured for the faith just like Christ. He does not find the knife at the bloody throat or the decapitated head or St. Lucy’s eyes to be shocking. Without these real things, you take something away from what the saint endured. The image could be very sweet but more in the realm of holy cards. This is not to say that Carlin is a snob. He isn’t. He appreciates that even guys like Bob Ross and Thomas Kinkade could make careers in painting.

Carlin says he will be happy if he is known for three paintings at the end of his life: the starving Kolbe, the bloodied Hamel, and the decapitated Diep. Even now, as you read this, Carlin is working away in a former mushroom factory, quietly changing the culture.

Austin Ruse is a contributing editor to Crisis Magazine. His latest book, Under Siege: No Finer Time to be a Faithful Catholic, is now available from Crisis Publications. [Photo Credit: Supplied by author]

One Man Quietly Reclaiming Culture

 

Mehan

Voiced by Amazon Polly

Matthew Mehan is a large man with large ideas that sometimes pour forth in a gentle torrent. His central claim, that Western Civilization will not be reclaimed unless and until poetry and rhetoric are revived, has been the focus of his personal and professional life.

Mehan describes his life’s project as “recomforting my children, my students, my culture, and my Church with the truths and habits of nature, shot through with the grace of Christ.” He really talks like this, which I enjoy thoroughly; but—as I was miseducated in government schools and at the University of Missouri—I have a hard time following. I am the densest of his students. I do claim him as my teacher and my friend.

After a bachelor’s degree in politics, a master’s in English, and a Ph.D. with honors in Literature, all from the University of Dallas, Mehan taught for years at the quite remarkable Heights School in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. It is a powerful school that fully forms boys into men. He currently heads academic programs for the Hillsdale College Washington, D.C., program where he teaches the greatest books and biggest thinkers to D.C. movers and shakers and nascent movers and shakers.

St. Thomas More, Mehan’s hero, taught that “comfort” means “with strength.” Mehan explains that “to recomfort the world means not simply to give it pleasure or ease. It means to strengthen and encourage it.” He describes himself as “a sort of comical Gandalf, bringing strength to the age of men.”

By “comical” Mehan refers to his book published for precocious kids a few years ago called Mr. Mehan’s Mildly Amusing Mythical Mammals, which comes with enchanting illustrations by John Folley. Mehan started these poems under the example of Thomas More who had practiced the various forms of the arts—poetry, history, oratory, satire, dialogue—so that “he could communicate with anyone in the way they need.” Mehan says More practiced these “so that he could be a better friend and servant to all.” And that is how Mehan’s first mythical creature—The Dally, a dog-like creature who runs between the raindrops—was born.

Mehan says the book is a “genre buster.” He calls it a “family book” meant to be read aloud by middle graders for the littler ones. Note that Mehan has a whole platoon at home: five boys, three girls, ranging from 15 to 1. He is doing his part.

Each “chapter” begins with a letter block so that younger readers may use the book to learn their letters. This is followed by a poem about one of these mysterious creatures whose stories teach lessons. Take the letter K—The Kalondahres—a squid-like creature whose features are all jumbled up so you cannot tell his head from his tail. And that is Kalondahres’ problem; he does not know which direction to go.

Topsy-turvy in a flurry
Kalondahres spins around
Never knowing where he’s going
Whether up the hill or down

Without a doubt, there is a meaning to the word “Kalondahres,” which a smart sixth grader can suss out. Not me though.

He tells the story of the Tanglis, creatures with no arms or legs, only round bodies and heads. The female lives in icy mountains where she must dig a hole in the ice with only her mouth to provide a place for her pups to live. The legless, armless male was made for water, yet he climbs the icy peaks to be with her. See the lesson, children?

There is so much here. There is the Blug, the Dally, the Oominoos, gloriously on and on, stories that entertain and teach. There is in here the art of poetry, philosophy, and even Christological allegory. It is all beyond the likes of me, but your children will love it.

At the end, there is a glossary of what appears to be a few hundred words with the meanings taken from Webster’s Revised Unabridged, Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary, and from Mehan’s own “mythical arts.” Here are two of Mr. Mehan’s meanings:

Despair—despair is always a mistake because the despairing mind pretends darkly to know what it can never know, namely all that the future holds. 

Turn—from the ancient Greek, the word is protreptic, or the re-orienting—the turning—of one’s mind and soul from the cruel thorns of ignorance and fashion to the fairest fields of truth and goodness.

In recent days, Mehan has published his second bookThe Handsome Little Cygnetthe adventures of a baby swan born in the lakes of Central Park. Like the whole world, Central Park is both beautiful and potentially dangerous. (Note: never go walking in The Ramble after dark.) This far more accessible book explains the importance of family and how a young one may be blown off course by the seemingly colorful enchantments of the world. Again, John Folley provides simply beautiful illustrations.

Mehan says his project is important because of the parable of the seeds. Seeds grow best when cast upon good soil. How to get that soil? Mehan says, “The answer is human preparation, human virtue, prepared and tilled ground, ready hearts.”

Mehan says the 20th Century almost entirely forgot the great riches of humanitas that are only now making a comeback. He cites Cicero, Seneca, Chaucer, More, and Shakespeare properly taught. “It means,” he says, “a certain deep-seated moral and philosophic attention to the rest of the canon. It means a deep regard for political life and practical concerns as well, building up normal, regular, civic life with the liberal arts, the arts of liberty. It’s an enormous project, and we are longing for talented allies and recruits to this work.”

Mehan calls this the protoevangelium. “You have to prepare the soil for the seed. That’s what all my teaching is, in the end.”

Matthew Mehan has a lever and a place to stand and if you look closely you may see the world move.

OK, Maybe Controversial, But Trump Is Owed a Second Term

 

A friend of mine says, “Of course, the NeverTrumpers were right after all. Trump had so alienated suburban women by his personal behavior, he couldn’t possibly have won a second term.”

This person was Trump-resistant but voted for him nonetheless and was pleasantly surprised at all he accomplished. In the end, however, after he lost, my friend returned to type. Trump was icky all along and deserved all he got.

The recent indictment of Hilary Clinton lawyer Michael Sussman, and the even more recent arrest of Michael Steele consigliere Igor Danchenko, along with the naming of various other high ranking Democrat conspirators, including Jake Sullivan, who works in the State Department at this moment, revives in me deep anger, fear, and a certainty that Donald Trump is owed four more years in the White House.

What I tell my friend and what I will say to you now is that Donald Trump was the victim of the most significant political crime in the history of our country. He came under assault from this crime and these criminals every day of his four years. This assault was perpetrated by a criminal political class within our government and was nothing less than a coup d’état unlike we have ever seen in our history.

And yes, it is likely Trump won anyway.

Consider what has been revealed in recent days by the team surrounding prosecutor John Durham.

Michael Sussman was a lawyer with the Washington DC firm of Perkins Coie, a Democrat, and Bill and Hilary Clinton legal redoubt. Have you heard about the secret connection between a Trump organization computer and a Russian bank? Supposedly this was the backchannel of communication and cash that proved Trump was owned and even an agent of Vladimir Putin. It was all made up. It was totally false. Sussman cooked it up along with a top-ranking tech executive, a major American university, and others.

In a private meeting with the General Counsel of the FBI, Sussman presented this fabrication in hopes the FBI would investigate, which they did. Sussman et al. also peddled this lie to the news media, which happily reported it. Some of them still do. It was all a lie.

In even more recent days, a Russian national named Igor Danchenko has been arrested and indicted for making false claims to the FBI. Danchenko was one of the primary sources for the so-called Steele Dossier used by nefarious figures in the FBI and the Department of Justice to invade the Trump campaign, lie to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to spy on the political opponents of Barack Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton. The Steele Dossier was the report that roiled our politics for every minute of the Trump administration. Every minute of his administration was spent in fighting this complete fabrication.

Do you remember the Steele Dossier charge that Trump hired prostitutes to urinate on the bed in the Presidential Suite of the Ritz Carlton-Moscow? He supposedly did this because it was where Obama and his wife once slept. Danchenko totally made it up. It had no basis in fact. Of course, most of us knew that at the time. It made no sense. This alone should have been enough to stop federal agents from persecuting Donald Trump and his staff.

I will repeat that Trump and his team had to deal with this every single day for more than four years. Even now, a close friend of mine is convinced the Russians have something on Trump. And this person is highly placed in Washington DC circles.

Besides all the fabrications, it was the Clinton campaign that was hip-deep in Russians. Danchenko was a Russian national. Charles Dolan, identified at PR-Executive 1 in the Durham indictment, has been a longtime advisor not just to the Clintons and the Democrats but also to the Russian government.

Even though Donald Trump and his team had this millstone around their necks every day for more than a year, they accomplished a great deal. I covered this in detail in my book The Catholic Case for Trump.

Trump destroyed the physical ISIS Caliphate that occupied more land than Great Britain, something Obama could not do. Trump made the U.S. energy independent, an energy-exporting country, something frittered away in months by Joe Biden. Trump utterly remade the federal judiciary and the Supreme Court. It is irrelevant that he had advisors helping him. All presidents do. Trump was the most pro-life president the United States has ever had post-Roe v. Wade. He initiated pro-life policies that someone like George Bush never even considered. Instead, Bush sacrificed the pro-life issue for his forever war in the Middle East.

Trump did all this and more even though wicked men and women in and out of the federal government came after him with lies and fabrications that had to have occupied a great deal of his time and mindspace.

I understand that many conservatives may have Trump fatigue. Consider this, though. Much of that Trump fatigue had to have been related to the poisonous Steele Dossier and all that came from it. He was a man cornered by liars, and he reacted, sometimes badly. Imagine what might have happened if the FBI had done the right thing and recognized the Russian hoax for what it was? What might have happened if the FBI and the Justice Department had not acted like criminals? What might have been if Trump had been given an open field to lead the country? Sure, Trump would have been Trump, and a lot of folks do not like Trump. But at least he would have been given a chance.

My view after reading the Durham indictments of Michael Sussman and Igor Danchenko is that Trump is owed four more years. I know this will likely not happen. Nonetheless, we owe him that.

[Image Credit: Unsplash]

When the FBI Protects Moral Monsters

 

The members of the Fairfax County and Loudoun County School Boards here in Northern Virginia are little more than pipsqueaks and perverts (there is one good member of the Loudoun County School Board. There are none at Fairfax).

They are power-hungry, low-level bureaucratic hacks who don’t give two hoots for the children under their care except to inculcate these children into the mores of the radical Left, especially the sexual Left. They mandate all manner of sexual sickness and madness upon even the littlest ones. Their work is akin to grooming.

I hold these members in complete and utter contempt. I am aware they feel the same way about the parents of the children under their thumb. After all, they now make parents stand outside in the cold before they are allowed in, one at a time, and given 60 seconds to address their majesties.

These people are a clear and present danger to the children under their care.

I live in Fairfax County. I was born here. I have school-age children. Our neighborhood is full of kids who attend these schools. So, we have a stake in what happens in these sexual indoctrination centers. These school boards are little more than hard-Left sexual and racial buccaneers. These creeps insist that our children learn their new sexual and religious dogma, such as “sex is assigned at birth.” They insist that our children learn about masturbation, homosexuality, even anal sex.

“Oral sex” is introduced by these monsters to children as young as 12. They insist that children as young as 13 hear about “anal sex” 18 times in one year’s lessons. If an adult did this outside a classroom setting, rightfully he would be arrested. These folks do it with impunity.

Nothing illustrates the Stalinist nature of these bodies than a meeting we attended a few years ago. Called the FLECAC committee, it was made up of two dozen people appointed by the Fairfax County School board. Four kids were on the committee, chosen from the student LGBT clubs. Most of the other members were not parents but rather teachers and school bureaucrats.

Two regular citizens happened to be appointed by the one lone sane Board Member, Elizabeth Schultz, who was later voted out. One of these regular folks made a motion to change “sex assigned at birth” to merely “sex.” The larger committee voted 23-3 not to allow debate on the issue. A roll call was called so that the 23 would be on record stopping debate about this dangerous religious dogma of the sexual Left. This was killed by a voice vote. No debate. So, whenever the kids hear the word “sex,” it is accompanied by “assigned at birth.”

An attempt was made to ensure that kids were taught about health risks related to contraceptives. This was voted down 23-3. Again, they called for a roll call, which was shouted down. No debate. They tried to suggest that “transitioning” came with health risks. Puberty blockers for kids cause bone loss and much else. No debate. Voted down.

One county employee asked why there was no lesson on anal sex for seventh graders. There was oral sex in the lesson, why not anal sex? The chairman assured her that anal sex began in the 8th grade. The chairman actually apologized for using the phrase “anal sex” in front of the room of adults yet was quite adamant that the kiddies must hear it and plenty.

At a subsequent meeting of this committee, which was deciding the sex-ed curriculum, committee member Laura Murphy moved that the phrase “biological sex” come back into the curriculum. She cited numerous sources for this: the American Psychological Association, the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization. She demonstrated how doctors prescribe certain drugs differently based on biological sex. Murphy’s three minutes ran out and she requested 30 more seconds. Denied. The committee voted against her motion, 24-2.

I mention Laura Murphy because she has been in the news lately regarding the governor’s race in Virginia. Several years ago, she discovered pornographic material in her son’s reading assignments. Murphy went to the state legislature and through a bipartisan effort passed a bill that parents had to be informed if illegal sexual activity was in the students’ assigned reading. All they asked was that parents would be “informed.” This common-sense legislation to protect children passed both houses of the Virginia legislature with Democratic and Republican support. But then-Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed it. This is the Clinton hack who is running again to be pervert in chief of the Commonwealth of Virginia. In this campaign he has quite famously said that parents have no right to determine the education of their children.

As an aside, Murphy tried to send the pornographic passages to each legislator through the legislative email system, but it was blocked. Yet this is the stuff they want the kids to read.

I was going to write a conclusion to this column challenging U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to come and get me. After all, he has sicced the FBI onto parents who might “annoy” school board members. Indeed, FBI agents stalked the Fairfax County school board meeting last week. But I have toned the column down. I am not challenging Garland to “come and get me.” However, that I felt obliged to tone down my challenge means something terrible. I live in fear of my own government.

Only a few minutes ago I heard an FBI ad on talk radio asking people to report “hate crimes” against LGBTs. This includes so-called “hate speech.”

Am I going to get a phone call or worse, a visit from the FBI? Even to ask this question on matters of free political speech is chilling. And this is the purpose. This is what the Left wants. They want us to shut up. They are using the FBI for this purpose. But I won’t shut up. You shouldn’t either.

Crossposted at Crisis Magazine.

Are the Culture Wars Over? Have We Lost?

 

ChorusMany people look around our culture and society and see utter destruction. They see grade-schoolers being taught that the gay-sex drug PrEP is just peachy. They see kids being taught there is this thing called anal sex. Seventh graders in my local school system hear it 22 times—not 21, not 23, 22 times in a single year. It is for safety reasons, you dolt.

Kids can access the hardest of hard-core porn on the iPhones that they ought not to have. Most of what they are watching is prosecutable under federal law that has been adjudicated by the Supreme Court; but no one has done anything like that since the Reagan Administration.

In your place of employment, they are passing around gay propaganda; and there is nothing you can do about it. A lady who works for Alaska Airlines was canned because she asked if it was a good idea for her company to so vigorously support the Equality Act which will have the effect of making Christians second class citizens.

Most of the Fortune 500 score a perfect 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. To get a perfect score, a corporation must agree to every jot and tittle of the gay agenda, including insurance coverage for the lopping off of otherwise healthy breasts and penises, and going along with the strange sexual kabuki of “trans men” and “trans women.”

This started long ago, going on sixty years. They took prayer out of public schools. There was no groundswell of support for such a thing. In fact, when the Supreme Court struck down the Regent’s Prayer in New York, newspapers from coast to coast condemned the decision. The next year they struck down Bible reading in public schools. The Supreme Court said the government must be neutral in religious matters and the only way it could be neutral was to come down on the side of—get this—secularism, which even then meant without God, without religion. That was when the Federal Government took a side in the Culture Wars against us.

What followed? Hell followed.

A few years later, they said contraception was a Constitutional right for married couples. Not long after, contraception became a right for singles. Then came a right to abortion. Then a right to sodomy. Then a right to homosexual marriage. And they say we are obsessed with sex!

Want to know what we lost all across this land? Consider that as late as the 1950s, fornication was illegal in at least 38 states. Adultery was illegal in all but five states. Sodomy was illegal in all the states. Even seduction was considered both a tort and a crime. And contraception was forbidden in most places. Each of these laws reflected fundamental aspects of traditional Christian teaching.

And what has replaced these fundamental Christian teachings? The teachings of a new faith, a new Established Church. After all, where kids once prayed and read the Bible, they are now forced to recite “proper pronouns” and to believe that kids can be born into the wrong body.

The Pelvic Left laughs at us when we say there is a Culture War going on. They say we are paranoid conspiracy mongers. This is nothing less than gaslighting by those holding the whip hand. Make no mistake, the Culture War is real. It is a war of aggression by the progressive Left against the Christian people. For our part, it is a defensive war, and therefore it is not only a just war, but it is mandatory that we fight.

Sadly, young Christians laugh, too. They think the Culture Wars are so 1980s, so Jerry Falwell, and we ought to get over it and get to building little pockets of Christian orthodoxy in the woods of New Hampshire, or in the reclaimed gritty blocks of Pittsburgh. And hats off to them! But they ought to know the Culture Wars are coming for them even in the New Hampshire woods and in the neighborhoods of Pittsburgh.

The Culture Wars are real. You may not believe in the Culture Wars, but the Culture Wars most assuredly believe in you, and most especially your children. Recall the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus singing about how they are coming for our kids. They claimed later they were just kidding, or something. Do you believe them?

I see the exact same things as the defeatist conservatives. I have written about these atrocities for the better part of 25 years. What’s more, I have acted. My group has played a key role in stopping the Pelvic Left at the UN. They want a global right to abortion, and we have stopped them. They want to redefine the family, and we have stopped them. They want “sexual orientation and gender identity” as a new category of nondiscrimination in international law, and we have stopped them. We have gone up against all the powers of the earth and stopped them.

Sure, the Pelvic Left has the upper hand. They command the heights of power. So what! As my boss at Fortune magazine used to say, “If it was easy, they wouldn’t need [expletive deleted] like us.” T.S. Eliot said there are no lost causes because there are no gained causes. The fight that started in the Garden is not going to end any time soon, not until Jesus Christ himself comes down on a cloud. In the meantime, the fighting is good. It’s just. What’s more, it’s kind of fun. And as that great Culture Warrior Richard John Neuhaus used to say in bleak times, “We can turn this around.”

Austin Ruse

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