This past December 16, 2018, was a special anniversary, a significant one in the continuum of our Western Christian civilization, but one that went largely unnoticed or uncommemorated by the vast majority of our fellow citizens….but should not be forgotten.
On that date, 248 years ago in 1770, the great musician and composer Ludwig van Beethoven was born in the city of Cologne (Koln) in the Rhineland in what is now the Federal Republic of Germany, then part of the Holy Roman Empire. Traveling to Vienna as a young man, he spent much of his life there as one of the greatest composers of music of all time. His compositions and his persona continue to resound through the ages—as long as there is a Western and Christian culture to admire and celebrate.
Biographies of Beethoven abound, and I will not spend time recounting facts and events that are easily obtainable via the Internet or in hundreds of books written about him.
The late scholar Mel Bradford once used the wording “remembering who we are” as a title to a book of finely-honed essays about his beloved Southland. It seems to me, as Bradford so artfully and gracefully suggested in his writings, that it is memory, both individual and collective, which is essential not just to the passed-on heritage of any culture, but to the very existence of that culture. We remember the deeds, the sayings, the handed-down lore, the usages, and the faith of our fathers and grandfathers (and mothers and grandmothers). Their lessons, their admonitions, their successes (and failures), their examples, even their everyday customs inform us and our actions, and, indeed, help shape our lives and view of life. Historically, these are in many respects the very same accoutrements that give definition and offer the earliest structure to our existence, that define us, and that also provide an inheritance which we, in turn, impart to our offspring and descendants.
The new witch hunt has begun...
Three-hundred and twenty-six years ago several towns in Massachusetts were beset by what some historians and observers have termed a form of mass hysteria: the 1692 Salem Witch Trials remain seared in our public consciousness, and, even more, have occupied a prominent place in our literature and popular culture. Some 200 people—mostly but not all women—were accused of necromancy and black magic, and nineteen were found guilty and hanged.
Those trials, so engraved in the popular imagination, are illustrative of what occurs when corrupted religious sentiment, faulty ethical and moral thinking, and the power of suggestion on a mass scale have free rein in society.
As we celebrate the 242nd anniversary of this nation’s declaration of independence from Great Britain, perhaps it is useful and productive to reflect on some issues that continue to deeply affect us as a country in 2018.
Between the late 1940s—the beginning of what we call the “Cold War”—and the fall of Soviet Communism in 1991, America and its allies were engaged in a worldwide military, economic, and ideological defense of what our political leaders variously called, somewhat nebulously, “freedom,” “the democratic way of life,” or, better said, “our Western Christian civilization.” Although we were not totally agreed on just what we were defending, we did know, or at least most of us knew, what we were defending against: international Communism, a tyrannical system of government and of life antithetical to everything we considered noble, worthy, and sacred.
This year and last celebrate three epochal hundredth anniversaries marking our modern age: November 11, 1918, will mark the end of World War I. But the other two are, in many ways, far more important in significance and meaning for us today. During the period May 13 to October 13, 1917, Our Blessed Lady appeared to the children at Fatima, Portugal. Later that year, on Tuesday, November 7, 1917 a much more ominous event occurred: the Bolshevik Revolution, when the Soviet Communists took possession of the Russian state and began their real efforts at world conquest.
It seems on an average we hear about a mass shooting or attempted shooting every couple of months—and those are just the significant attempts, the ones reported by the news media. There are other, countless accounts of individuals bringing weapons to school or to the workplace, showing them off, and threatening classmates and co-workers: incidents which don’t make the national news and elicit little surprise from a calloused citizenry who now seem to react to such events as if they are normal, part of everyday life, to be expected in our society.
I was in Raleigh, North Carolina, on January 20th to join over 350 North Carolinians gathered in the old House of Representative chamber of the historic 1840 State Capitol to celebrate North Carolina’s 29th annual celebration of Robert E. Lee Day. It was an impressive ceremony that reminded the attendees of the precious historical legacy and cultural inheritance that we have received and that is so gravely endangered these days. I came away encouraged: there were men, women, and children, various members of the military and surviving veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm, with their families, all joined in memory of veterans—not just Confederate soldiers but all veterans—who went before us, those who selflessly defended their homes, their land, and their faith, so that we might enjoy and experience those gifts…and pass them on to our children.
Christmas, along with Easter, it is one of the two most significant days of the calendar year for Christians, and, indeed, for ALL men worldwide. At this time of year we turn our thoughts to the Holy Feast "In Nativitate Domini Nostri Jesu Christi," as the ancient Latin liturgy announces to us. What happened in Bethlehem a little over 2,000 years ago, and our memory and commemoration of that oh-so-critical event that forever changed human history, and its implications and clarion call to us now twenty centuries distant, demand our attention...and action.
I find it fascinating to watch the praxis of our politically-correct multiculturalist establishment when it comes to Islam. You would think that those PC elites would be, at the very least, offended by the tenets of the Muslim religion, if not very wary of how orthodox Muslims have conducted themselves across the globe in recent years. Their insistent response to Islamic terror and violence has been, almost uniformly, to declare repeatedly that “Islam is a religion of peace,” and that such manifestations as ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Syria, North Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere are aberrations which don’t represent the true doctrines of that faith.
Sometimes I think back four decades to my college years. Between grad schools, I served as assistant to conservative writer and philosopher Russell Kirk in Mecosta, Michigan. Being a Southern boy, the one significant thing I recall about the climate up there was that we had snow on the ground—and lots of it—from around Thanksgiving all the way until April. So, other than my secretarial duties for Dr. Kirk I had I plenty of time to read (the Kirks had no television). And with Russell’s library of over 30,000 books I had a bibliophile’s cornucopia at my fingertips. Not only that, he was one of the most widely read of “teachers” a young grad student could ever have.