La Marseillaise and Defiance to Tyranny One Person at a Time

A while back, I posted a blog entry on the Marseillaise scene in the movie Casablanca.  I feel compelled to run this entry again as we contemplate yesterday’s terrorist attack on Paris.  Whenever we forget that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, we lose.  Let’s never forget that, as well as the fact that our little acts of resistance add up, even if they may seem in vain.  As Vaclav Havel pointed out in “The Power of the Powerless,” these acts of resistance have an illuminating effect. This is also very relevant as we contemplate the full frontal attacks on the First Amendment happening on college campuses these days.  Below is my post from February 28, 2014:

After entry of the US into WWII, Warner Brothers released the classic Casablanca (1942) starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.  One scene in Casablanca offers a magnificent juxtaposition with the Bavarian pub scene from The Mortal Storm (1940) discussed in the last post.  The place is similar:  another restaurant– Rick’s Cafe Americain.  Also similar is a cast of Nazi officers, stirring up song (this one “Die Wacht am Rhein.”)   But the similarities end there, when one man, Victor Laszlo, tells the orchestra to play the “La Marseillaise.”  A thrilled and grateful clientele all rise spontaneously and triumphantly, drowning out the Nazis’ song.

Watch here:

If Laszlo hadn’t done what he did, what then?  Chances are everyone would just sit around sulking.  The Nazis would then stir up enough folks to sing along with them to the point that the Nazi narrative would seem the majority view.  Morale would continue to plummet.

It’s the little acts of resistance that add up to make the biggest difference.  These acts plant seeds in others, creating a cascade effect.  Sad to say, it’s the power mongers of the world who seem to know this better than the rest of us do.  That’s why they insist on our silence as a way station on their road to total control.  So let’s not hide our light.

Militant Atheists Target an Old World War I Memorial

The Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial, or “Peace Cross.”

One of the latest targets of militant atheists is the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial Cross pictured here.  In my latest Federalist article, I discuss the lawsuit filed by the American Humanist Association that demands the removal of this monument which is also known as Peace Cross.  I wrote it in anticipation of Veterans Day and I hope many in the Washington, D.C. area will attend the wreath-laying there on Wednesday. You can read my article here:  Killing the Dead:  Atheists Attack World War I Memorial.

It’s been standing there — at the crossroads of Annapolis Road, Baltimore Ave, and Bladensburg Road just outside Washington, D.C. — for 90 years. Two mothers of fallen soldiers broke ground for it back in 1922.  On a bronze plaque at the base are the names of the 49 local soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.  The monument is massive, but its size accurately and appropriately reflects the feelings of people in the aftermath of a war that was unimaginably massive and tragic (total casualities — dead and wounded, both civilian and military — was about 38 million.)

There are two basic themes in my essay: the impact of World War I and the symbolism of crosses.  World War I was a cataclysmic event in human history that really set the course for so much of the violence of the 20th century, and the violence that continues to this day all over the world. And yet WWI is woefully neglected as a subject of study both in K12 public education and in higher education.  So more than ever, we ought to preserve and respect our memorials to World War I, not tear them down!  Second, the cross is basically a symbol of self-sacrifice.  It has been recognized as a symbol of sacrifice in war memorials for a very long time.

We honor the fallen because of their self-sacrifice. If you are able to grasp that reality, then you understand the need for an effective symbol to express it. More than anything else, the Bladensburg Peace Cross is a symbol of self-sacrifice in keeping with the enormity and the calamitous history of World War I. No other symbol so efficiently communicates self-sacrifice and suffering. No other symbol serves also to signify the hope that the dead did not die in vain, that they laid down their own lives so others would live in peace and freedom.

Understanding the history and the purpose of memorials is key here. If the plaintiffs thought this through in a meaningful and sincere way, they wouldn’t be doing mental gymnastics with the First Amendment’s establishment clause in order to tear down the 90-year-old Bladensburg Peace Cross.  Obviously, they have another agenda, which is to empty the public sphere of any and all religious imagery.   In the end, this is not just a war on religion.  It’s a war on history and memory.

 

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” RIP, Yogi Berra

Rest in Peace, Yogi Berra.  From the day I launched this blog, I’ve kept a Yogi Berra quote permanently up on the right sidebar: “You can observe a lot by watching.”  I analyzed this “yogism” in my previous post: “A Yogi Berra Translation.”  But now that Yogi has passed from this world, I want to write a few words to honor him on this blog.  And post this video:

And this one:

Even if Yogi was not famous — and even if he was not a ball player —  his goodness and humor would have still made an enormous difference in the lives of those whose paths he crossed.  But luckily for the rest of us, he was a rare sort of celebrity.  Which means that we are all enriched by the memories he built for us not only in the ballpark, but through the strength of his unassuming and cheerful personality. And his loyalty to family and country:  He was married to his wife Carmen for 65 years; and he fought on D-Day at Normandy in WWII.

But it’s likely Yogi Berra will be remembered by most folks for those “yogisms,” his unique and pithy expressions that make us laugh and think a bit harder about life and language.  No doubt you’ve heard several, including:  “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  That rings so true these days, doesn’t it?  But perhaps that’s because: “It’s deja vu all over again.”  Here’s another beaut: “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

A few folks dismiss yogisms, and think Berra should be remembered primarily for his incredible record as catcher for the New York Yankees.  Well, if yogisms upstage his statistics, that’s not such a bad thing. Because Yogi was so much bigger than baseball.  Sure, his amazing stats will live on in the record books.  In fact I’ll bet his yogisms will actually help keep them alive in more conversations. But it is Yogi’s personality and his words that will have far greater staying power in real life all across America.  And on another level, that is the case for each and every one of us.  We may accomplish great things, but how we treat others and give of ourselves is what makes the biggest impact in the lives of others.

You can read my tribute published last Friday at The Federalist: “Yogisms: Essential to Yogi Berra’s Legacy.”  Here’s an excerpt:

Ultimately, good legacies are always about how people have touched others’ lives. Their accomplishments and skills are part of that picture, to be sure, but how someone connects with others—as in the case of Berra—is an even bigger piece of that picture.

In the same vein, I think for most our connection with Berra as a legend has to do more with how we relate to him as a human being through the power of his personality than through the power of his swing. That makes his legacy all the bigger and brighter.

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking the Deadly Spiral of Silence

Mary Cassatt. Young Mother and Two Children (1905)

I’ve added another mother-child painting by Mary Cassatt to accompany my post today because I find her work so beautiful and inspirational. It also serve to remind us that this is the most basic of all human relationships.  Without healthy family bonds — cultivated through the mother-child bond — a lot goes haywire in the world around us. With family breakdown we get community breakdown.  And now we’re dealing with whole scale communication breakdown.

This post is a re-cap of several pieces I wrote this week on how to break the PC-cultivated spiral of silence. Isn’t it crazy how much we are expected to police our speech — and therefore our thoughts — in everyday life?  One example is how the media schools us in how to use pronouns, assuming we are all draftees into its scam of transgenderism.  We also read about how millennials on college campuses have developed such delicate sensitivities to any non-PC expression that they get “triggered” into emotional meltdowns.  As we walk among the eggshells, we can all use a few pointers in navigation.

I’ve been trying to provide a little bit of a primer this week in my five-part series at the British web magazine The Conservative Woman.  We can not address the breakdown in communication until we understand the root causes of it.

On Monday I wrote about how little we seem to be aware of the power of traditional mothers.  Through their work behind the scenes they have the power to put communities of goodwill into motion:  “Traditional Mothers are the True Subversives: That’s Why the State Wants to Gag Them.”

Tuesday’s headline was:  “PC Propaganda is intended to Divide and Rule.”  The one critical fact to remember about political correctness is that separates people. The intended effect is to prevent you from having personal relationships and personal conversations that could get in the way of a PC agenda.  In fact people are excessively policing their own speech when talking to folks who could be their friends: neighbors, co-workers, classmates.  We need to push back hard against this sort of meddling.

On Wednesday I wrote “Fear Powers the PC Machine.”  Hollywood, Academia and the Media fuel it.  It’s so important to become self-aware, and recognize our weaknesses as human beings.  Our fear is ultimately about being separated from others if we step out of line.  How ironic then, that we actually perpetuate this cycle by feeding the PC Machine with our fear — separating ourselves even more from others.

Today’s headline is:  “Only Connect to Fight Back Against the PC Tyranny.”  This means, basically, what we must do in order to help unravel the tyranny is create the ripple effects of trust and openness in your daily life by connecting one on one with others.  Trust and friendship have a powerful effect in a age that’s becoming increasingly devoid of those things.  Friendship, in fact, is inextricably linked with freedom.

Tomorrow’s post will include a few rules of engagement as we go about breaking the ice with our neighbors, co-workers, and others we meet in daily life.  I hope you’ll check www.conservativewoman.co.uk to read up.  It’s critical that we engage.

To the Mass State, Traditional Mothers are the True Subversives

Mary Cassatt, Breakfast in Bed (1897)

What is it about traditional mothers that moderns find so offensive?  Is it really all about “submissiveness” to something they call “the Patriarchy?”  Do they really believe traditional mothers reinforce something so-called feminists call “gender roles?”  On the surface it may seem this way.  But I’ve been digging a little deeper and I think there’s something else at play here.  Because the elites who keep feeding us that hype are usually big promoters of political correctness.  And political correctness is nothing more than a silencing tool.  It’s used to prop up the power of elites who push self-serving agendas that would never withstand real scrutiny.

In a very real sense, traditional mothers are probably the ultimate barrier to the consolidation and centralization of power of the Mass State.  Think about it.  Mothers who cultivate virtue and a sense of uniqueness in their children are the ultimate de-centralizers and distributors of power in a society. They set virtuous communities in motion.   Behind the scenes.

I explore this idea in a series I recently wrote for the British web magazine, “The Conservative Woman.”  You can click here to read the first installment:  “Traditional Mothers are the True Subversives: That’s Why the State Wants to Gag Them.”   It’s part of a conversation Leslie Loftis started at that publication with her essay “Conservative Women are a Deadly Threat to Liberal Elites.”  Here’s a review of my series:

In this first part I’d like to give you the lay of the land as I see it: How and why the agents of political correctness target any independent thinker, but particularly conservative women.  And what happens when we give in to self-censorship.  In the second part, I’ll talk about something called “the spiral of silence.”  In Part three, I’ll dig a bit more into the mechanics of political correctness and how it works and why I believe the only way out is through the “Hidden Sphere.”  In Part Four, I explore a bit about the inextricable link between freedom and friendship.  Finally, in the final installment, I offer a few prescriptions on how conservative women can resist getting sucked into the PC machine – and make friends (and, sure, some frenemies) along the way.

Here’s another excerpt:

Statists are forever trying to coax us into giving up being the hand that rocks the cradle so that they can take control of the cradle for themselves. If there was so little power in what we do and what we believe, why ever would they seek to do such a thing?  Why would they even care?

They care not only because we have the power to express our views and values to the next generation, but that we are actually inclined do so.  Not only that, but if we are stay at home mothers with a steady source of income independent of the State, they see us as dangerously free agents in our private lives.”

In a previous post I discussed how Soviet era Czech dissident Vaclav Havel referred to our private lives as the all powerful “hidden sphere.”  I see the attack on the family, and mothers in particular, as an attempt to disrupt and destroy the power of the hidden sphere.

Our Gordian Knot, Part VI “The Hidden Sphere”

Vaclav Havel, 1936-2011 author of “The Power of the Powerless”

I often write and talk about how power elites have pretty much taken over all of the outlets of communication.  I’ve assigned an acronym to the main three outlets: “HAM”– for Hollywood, Academia, and the Media.  Today I want to recommend to you a major essay that focuses on a vastlly more powerful outlet of communication:  the “hidden sphere.”  The hidden sphere is basically private life, which is outside the realm of HAM.  This means the activities and exchanges that happen in your personal relationships and your private conversations.  And it is these interactions which are actually considered the biggest prize of power elites.  If you think what you say as “just one person” is not important, think again.  The entire point of political correctness is to shut you up as “just one person.”  Being “just one person” makes you extremely powerful because what you freely say to others who like you and trust you — whether a neighbor, classmate, co-worker — has the power to shatter the fragile narratives of PC elites.

In the upper right hand corner of this blog, you can see a quote that’s been there from the beginning:

” . . . his action went beyond itself, because it illuminated its surroundings, and because of the incalculable consequences of that illumination.”

That’s from Vaclav Havel’s extraordinary essay “The Power of the Powerless.”  In it he speaks of the hidden sphere as the nucleus of freedom because it is that place in which people have one-on-one interactions that allow for the cultivation of trust and the cross pollination of ideas.  It might start very small, but as the ideas are pollinated by those who are influenced, there is a ripple effect of truth that becomes irresistible.  Here’s another excerpt:

The singular, explosive, incalculable political power of living within the truth resides in the fact that living openly within the truth has an ally, invisible to be sure, but omnipresent:  this hidden sphere.  It is from this sphere that life lived openly in the truth grows; it is to this sphere that it speaks, and in it that it finds understanding.  This is where the potential for communication exists.  But this place is hidden and therefore, from the perspective of power, very dangerous.”

Havel was an independent thinker and a lover of truth and freedom in communist Czechoslovakia.  This made him dangerous to the totalitarian regime.  Indeed, one could say he spearheaded the “Velvet Revolution” that ended communism in Czechoslovakia after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Havel then served as president of the Czech Republic.   His essay can be a bit difficult to plow through – and it’s very long — but it’s fascinating because it reveals to each of us our immense power as individuals.  Please get familiar with it, at least its basic premises.  From it we can learn how our decision to speak truth in love is an action that goes beyond itself.  It illuminates its surroundings and the consequences of that illumination are incalculable.   The Hidden Sphere is the sword that can slice through the Gordian Knot of totalitarianism.

Vin Scully and the Idea of Community

Vin Scully, national treasure.

I just want to post a little something today about Vin Scully.  I was so happy to hear over the weekend about his decision to continue announcing Dodger Baseball for another season.  His 67th season!  The sound of Scully’s voice reaches into the deepest recesses of my earliest childhood memories.  My father was a devoted Dodger fan from Brooklyn who moved to Los Angeles a few years before the Dodgers did.  So I grew up hearing the sound of Vin Scully’s voice — a constant and comforting sound of summer.

For me Scully embodies the stuff that true community is made of:  an awe of creation and the energy of life; deep interest in the stories of the lives and trials of others; a strong sense of loyalty and devotion to friends and family; team loyalty; cheerfulness; a depth of kindness and empathy; and playing by the rules. He always seemed to understand that without strong families and personal friendships, there can be no sense of community.  Last year I wrote a tribute to Vin Scully, which was published in the Federalist (after Scully announced his 66th year!)

You can click here to read “Vin Scully and the Soul of the Crowd.”  But here’s an excerpt, which is about the idea of community:

Vin Scully has another difficult-to-describe quality that makes him so appealing and iconic. His fascination with the “roar of the crowd” represents something I think we all want and which is unattainable on earth: the chance to converse with all of humanity at the same time. It represents a desire to be in community—or in communion—with others. It’s like being in a grand conversation in which no one can predict what will happen next. A community like that is held together through mutual respect and the anticipation of joy.

The illusion of transcending time always feels reassuring to mortals, so longevity is an obvious part of the Scully mystique.

Whether we know it or not, I think Scully’s relationship with the Dodgers and fans is a reflection of what true community should feel like. It means reaching out to all in good will. Being honorable, loyal, and dependable. Playing by one set of rules, rules that everyone agrees upon in advance and in good faith. Recognizing that everybody brings something of value to the community. Giving our best to one another and respecting the dignity of each and every human being. It means speaking truth, in love. And, of course, it means listening.

Vin Scully and My Take on Baseball and Life

Vin Scully

If you’re not a baseball fan, or if you’re not familiar with Vin Scully, just think about the impact of nostalgia on your life and the importance of relationships in it. I wrote about legendary Dodger baseball announcer Vin Scully in my latest Federalist piece, not because I know much about baseball.  I don’t really. But he is now in his 65th year announcing for the Dodgers, and I believe his story says something big about how our lives intersect with so many others.  If you read my essay “Vin Scully and the Soul of the Crowd,”  you may well connect with what Scully says he felt as a child listening to “the roar of the crowd” on the radio:

His fascination with the “roar of the crowd” represents something I think we all want and which is unattainable on earth: the chance to converse with all of humanity at the same time. It represents a desire to be in community—or in communion—with others. It’s like being in a grand conversation in which no one can predict what will happen next. A community like that is held together through mutual respect and the anticipation of joy.

This is a feeling that I think reflects in part what C.S. Lewis meant in his essay “The Weight of Glory,” a universal human longing to “bathe” in a glory we can hardly put into words. Lewis notes that we often mistake this for a sense of “nostalgia,” but it’s so much more than that.

Nostalgia can overwhelm us with a sense of wistfulness.  When that feeling takes hold, we find ourselves looking back with longing, hoping to find something “close to home,” something permanent to hold on to.  Nostalgia is triggered by any one of our senses. The sight of a memento, the sound of a voice, the touch of a fabric, a frangrance, a taste.  It comes to us as a  reminder that we feel lost in time and we ache for a sense of connection in relationships with others through all of space and time.

The sound of Scully’s voice brings back memories of my father listening to his beloved Dodger games.  It brings back echoes of my childhood  — as it does for so many baseball fans who grew up hearing Scully call the plays while telling us stories. The idea of his career ending brings us sorrow.  We’ll miss him.  And the feeling is mutual.  In his words, “It’s the relationships I’ll miss most.”

 

Proclaiming the Resurrection: Freedom Through Song, Part IV

Christ is Risen!

This video is from a Beirut shopping mall in 2011 when a group of Christians coordinated the sudden singing of the “Jesus is Risen” song to the surprise of many passers-by.  As we remember and pray for all Christians persecuted in the Middle East and throughout the world, we can take heart through their witness.  The joy and the fearlessness of these singers is contagious and beautiful.  Take in the English subtitles as you hear gospel truth proclaimed in the Arabic:   “Jesus is risen from the dead, defeating death by death . . .”  What a tribute to the power of Love over hate and death.

Indeed, He is Risen!  Alleluia!

 

 

Faith of the Whos: Freedom Through Song Part II

whos

Since 1966, an annual TV tradition at Christmastime is Dr. Suess’s beloved animated story “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”  Watch what happens after the Grinch steals all of the Christmas stuff from the Whos down in Whoville:

I’m going to digress a little bit.  Bullies always try to control others.  One way to do this is by theft, or by cultivating scarcity.  This is virtually a matter of policy in totalitarian societies run by dictators.  Scarcity breeds discontent.  The idea is that if you take people’s stuff,  they’ll be dependent on you.  Scarcity also divides people so that they can be made to fight like dogs for any scraps.  But that’s not so possible if people are allowed to bond together freely in autonomous families and communities.  When they have the strength of personal relationships based in trust, people learn from one another and pool their resources.  They can build faith, goodwill, and real trust, the best defenses against tyranny.

Singing is a timeless way of spreading that goodwill. When it’s joyful and spontaneous, it stirs the soul and creates an irresistible urge for human fellowship.  That’s why some thugs — like the Taliban in Afghanistan — actually ban singing altogether.  They see it as a threat to their control over others.

The Whos were industrious, happy, prosperous, and friendly.  The Grinch couldn’t stand them and especially hated the sound of their singing on Christmas morning.  So he devised a classic plan:  just steal all of their stuff while pretending to be Santa Claus!  He took the Whos’ food, their presents to one another, their decorations, everything.  Then he looked forward to hearing their sobs as they woke up to the desolation.

But it turned out the Whos had a song in their hearts that couldn’t be suppressed.  As we deal with the tyrannies of everyday life, it’s good to remember this.   Our unique voices, when shared, are the basis of all that we can create, give, and love.  Sharing that song means reaching out and speaking truth in love so that others can discover their voices too.  Even the grinches.