Wayback Wednesday: Memorable Monday: Veterans’ Day 2018, Commemoration of the Great War, and Poppies

While preparing a separate post on hymns (which I will likely post Friday), it occurred to me that today is Veterans’ Day in the United States, the observance formerly known as Armistice Day.  I’ve never thrown back to past posts on a Wednesday before, but it seemed fitting to recognize our fallen heroes on the day.

Last year I looked back at a Veterans’ Day post from 2018.  The post itself was originally delivered as remarks to the Florence County (SC) Republican Party, and was the most affecting of my old “Historical Moments” I’ve ever delivered.

It’s hard to believe that the centennial observance of the Great War has already passed, yet we’re still dealing with the fallout from that terrible war just over a century later.  The more I’m learning about the great Baroque, classical, and Romantic composers of Europe, the more the senseless loss and nihilistic destruction of that conflict weighs on me—and that the shimmering, confident civilization that fostered those composers also destroyed itself.

Read More »

SubscribeStar Saturday: 9-11

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Yesterday I launched Five Dollar Friday, a series of 2020 election series posts for $5 a month and higher subscribers.  Just another perk for my subscribers.

Nineteen years ago yesterday, Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger airliners, crashing them into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and—thanks to the bravery of Americans aboard Flight 93—a field in Pennsylvania.  2977 Americans lost their lives that day, with another 25,000 injured in the aftermath.

I was a junior in high school when the attacks occurred.  My classmates and I first heard about it during trigonometry class with our ancient math teacher, one of those public school double-dippers who was pulling a pension but still teaching (to her credit, she was a good math teacher).  The psychology teacher from across the hall—a large, red-faced woman—burst into the room, blubbering, “They’ve attacked the Pentagon!”

To my shame, the class erupted in laughter.  We weren’t laughing because we thought it was good news—like those Muslims partying on rooftops and those public school kids in New York cheering at the destruction.  We laughed because it was so absurd (it didn’t help that a very rotund, hysterical woman shouted it hysterically).  America, attacked?  Who would do something so foolish?  It was so beyond our comprehension, we couldn’t believe it.

As the day wore on, we realized pretty quickly that something terrible had happened.  I don’t remember if we watched news footage during the day, but we were not sent home early.  Indeed, we had marching band practice that afternoon.  But there were real fears:  would terrorists attempt an attack on the Savannah River Site, where we used to process tritium for nuclear weapons?

My dad was in Pennsylvania at the time at a work conference.  Of course, Flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania, and all air travel was shut down (my German teacher commented on how it was probably the first time since the rise of commercial aviation that no aircraft were in the skies).  Fortunately, he was safe, and road the rails back to South Carolina.  My grandparents were out in the Southwest, and rented a Toyota Camry to drive cross-country (they went on to purchase the vehicle).

In the coming days, we came to find out it was the work of radical Islamic terrorists.  I recall a conversation with friends in which I suggested we ban any travel and immigration from any countries with a majority Muslim population until we got this terrorism threat worked out.  It wasn’t long after that President Bush started in with the “Islam is a religion of peace” nonsense, but there was a brief, albeit very mild, nativist flare-up (when the French refused to join us in the Iraq War, restaurants changed French fries to “freedom fries” on their menus).

It felt like our Pearl Harbor.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Donate to The Portly Politico

Support quality commentary on politics, education, culture, and the arts with your one-time donation.

$5.00

Memorable Monday III: Memorial Day 2019

It’s Memorial Day 2020!  We’re still in The Age of The Virus, but even Blue Staters in Maryland are hitting the beaches.  People have had enough of sitting around in fear.  It’s summertime, baby!

It’s fitting that the day when Americans remember those who gave their lives for our freedom, we’re going out in droves to enjoy it.  I don’t wish The Virus on anyone, and prudence is warranted, but it’s time to get on with our lives.

I’m spending time with family, then am going to take in some of our great State on a leisurely drive home.  There’s not much time for fresh material, so today I’m looking back to last year’s Memorial Day tribute.

Here is 2019’s “Memorial Day 2019“:

It’s Memorial Day here in the United States, which marks the unofficial start of summer.  More importantly, Memorial Day is a federal holiday set aside to remember veterans who have fallen in combat.  The United States observes two other days dedicated to veterans:  Armed Services Day, which honors those men and women currently serving in the armed services; and Veterans’ Day, which honors all American servicemen and women, living, dead, retired, active, etc.

We often hear encomiums this time of year about the numbers of men and women who have died to preserve our freedoms.  These tributes are, of course, true (and, one hopes, heartfelt), and are worth reiterating.

I end every year of my American history courses urging my students to remember how precious their patrimony is, and that liberty is a fragile thing that must be preserved.  I, too, mention the “men and women who gave their lives so that we might be free.”  I then follow that up with noting that, while they hear that sentiment expressed often, they now know (having completed a year of American history) how true it is.

Nevertheless, it’s easy to forget the magnitude of that sacrifice.  In an age where wars are so distant and remote they barely register for us anymore (remember:  we’re still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan), it’s easy to take our soldiers for granted.  It’s easier, still, to forget the sheer number of combat deaths—750,000 in the American Civil War alone.

To that end, I’ve elected to spare you any further pontificating, and present instead this Wikipedia entry on “United States military casualties of war,” which breaks down the numbers succinctly.  Yet even dry statistics and bar charts speak volumes.

God Bless America!

–TPP

Remembering Ravi Zacharias

On Tuesday this week—19 May 2020—the great Christian apologist and evangelist Ravi Zacharias went Home to Christ.  The obituary on his ministry’s website details the story of his radical conversion to Christianity in a hospital bed in India, where he heard the Gospel while recovering from a suicide attempt, and then on through his remarkable ministry.

Ravi Zacharias brought intellectual heft to Evangelical Protestantism; even his radio program was called Let My People Think.  Zacharias recognized that emotional appeals alone would not always win people to Christ; there had to be compelling reasons for what made Christianity True, not just one religion among many.  The knee-jerk response among Evangelicals (one I have been guilty of many times) is not the bold, intellectual defense of the faith, but denunciations of other faiths in a sort of Truth-by-elimination, something Zacharias warned against in an address in 1983.  From the obituary:

In front of 3,800 evangelists from 133 countries, Zacharias opened with the line, “My message is a very difficult one….” He went on to tell them that religions, 20th-century cultures and philosophies had formed “vast chasms between the message of Christ and the mind of man.” Even more difficult was his message, which received a mid-talk ovation, about his fear that, “in certain strands of evangelicalism, we sometimes think it is necessary to so humiliate someone of a different worldview that we think unless we destroy everything he holds valuable, we cannot preach to him the gospel of Christ…what I am saying is this, when you are trying to reach someone, please be sensitive to what he holds valuable.”

Zacharias profoundly shaped my own walk with Christ.  I am very thankful for my Pentecostal upbringing, which bathed me from the time I was a child in God’s Word.  But Southern Pentecostalism in the 1990s tended to be extremely emotive—I would say, at times, even performative.  The emphasis of the (often agonizingly) long church services of my youth were more about creating an atmosphere of worship—at worst, attempts to tempt the Holy Spirit to move, at best sincere responses to the Moving of the Holy Spirit—than about digging into the hard Truths of the Gospels.

At least, that sometimes seemed the case to my thirteen-year old self, who often wondered what my problem was when I wasn’t getting caught up in everything the way the rest of the congregation was.  But then one of my aunts—probably my Aunt Marilyn, though it could have been my Aunt Cheryl, the best one-eyed piano player in Aiken County—introduced us to Ravi Zacharias in Sunday School.  We did a study using the youth version of Zacharias’s Jesus Among Other Gods, a masterpiece of Christian apologia.

Suddenly, here was a man who debated Ivy League philosophers—and got the better of them!  For a bookish teenager who didn’t always respond to the emotive side of faith, Zacharias was a powerful role model.  Here was a man who thought critically about faith, and who used his intellect to defend ours.  The fact that he came to Christ out of a totally alien culture and religion further demonstrated the power of the Holy Spirit to reach anyone.

I should note that, while the church services were often heavy on emotion, our Sunday School classes were where the deep digging occurred; we didn’t just shut off our brains.  Southern Pentecostalism—probably as a result of its strong Scotch-Irish roots—is inherently skeptical of all worldly claims.  The default position towards the world’s wisdom is critically analytic.  There’s also a scrappy outsider mentality, which, at its best, serves to embolden our tenacity, even if it makes us wary of potential faith allies.  In other words, it wasn’t all just pew-hopping and thirty-minute altar calls:  that plucky skepticism of worldliness is one of the best qualities of my religious upbringing.

But I digress.  Zacharias drew others to a deeper understanding of their faith in Christ.  White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany—talk about a spunky Scotch-Irish fighter!—gave a tearful interview to CBN News in which she detailed Zacharias’s influence:

When asked where the tears were coming from, she explained further. It goes back to her days developing her faith at Oxford University in England of all places.

“To have someone from an academic place, as an apologist could equip you with those arguments where you didn’t have to check your brain at the door when you became a Christian where there is the intellectual foundation for everything we believe,” McEnany explained. “There’s prophecy. There’s the human cell. There’s the amazing creation of the human body and all of its complexity and the planet, the universe.”

“And he put a philosophical and academic rationale for the heart that I had for Christ, but gave me the ability to go to Oxford, where there are renowned atheist scholars who try to say there’s no intellectual undergirding for Christianity,” she continued. “Ravi Zacharias, who happened to have an office at Oxford was the person who provided the counter to that, the intelligence behind why we believe what we believe.”

Amen.  Ravi Zacharias’s influence will reverberate through the lives he won for Christ, and his bold, intellectual defense of Christianity will continue to win souls.

Rest in Peace.

Memorable Monday: Veterans’ Day 2018, Commemoration of the Great War, and Poppies

Today is Veterans’ Day in the United States.  Veterans’ Day began as Armistice Day, which ended the First World War in 1918.

The past century was not great for Western civilization.  Most of the horror of the long twentieth century stemmed from the Great War and its mostly senseless destruction.  The sense of nihilism that engulfed the West—a civilization that was bestrode the world with confidence and panache—metastasized into the identity crisis of its nations today.

The piece below is adapted from a talk I gave to the Florence County, South Carolina GOP last year at its November 2018 monthly meeting.  I still think it’s one of the best Historical Moment talks I ever gave, but that’s mostly due to John McCrae’s powerful poem “In Flanders Fields“; the poem is reproduced in full below.

Thank you to all of our veterans for their service.

—TPP

Yesterday Americans, Europeans, and the world commemorated the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War, what we call the First World War.  The Armistice that silenced the guns of one of the most brutal conflicts in human history was signed in the wee hours of 11 November 1918, but did not take effect until 11 AM—the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  That bit of numerical symmetry, while memorable, cost an additional 2738 lives, with 10,944 casualties—a pointless denouement to a destructive war.

Peace would ultimately come to Europe—after three prolongations of the Armistice—in 1920 with the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles (the United States, refusing to join the League of Nations, negotiated a separate treaty with Germany, the Treaty of Berlin, in 1921).  That treaty, which the Germans called the Diktat because of its severity, and because it pinned the war solely on the German Empire, was a reflection of the Armistice signed three years earlier.

In preparing tonight’s remarks, I came across an article that describes the first meeting between Marshall Foch, the commander-in-chief of the Allied forces, and Matthias Erzberger, a middle-aged German politician who had come to sue for peace.  The Frenchman looked stonily at the German peace delegation, and said, “Tell these gentlemen I have no proposals to make.”  Rather, Marshal Foch had a number of demands to issue, thirty-four in total, including Germany’s agreement to pay heavy reparations.

In hindsight, we know the folly of trying to squeeze blood and treasure from the turnip that was a starving, reduced Germany—and the radicalism it, in part, inspired.  But we have to understand, as best we can, the bitterness and weariness the Great War wrought.  Millions of men in Europe had lost their lives, or were maimed for life, fighting in the war.  The republican governments of France and Britain were not willing to accept peace without something to show for it; their people (and voters) would not have accepted it.  Indeed, Marshall Foch told his staff he intended “to pursue the Feldgrauen [field grays, or German soldiers] with a sword at their backs” until the moment the Armistice went into effect.  One cannot help but wonder that the fighting in this final hours was motivated, in part, by a mutual bloodlust, and an opportunity to settle scores one last time before the clock struck eleven.

From the grime and death of the Great War, however, grew new hope—a hope for peace, yes, but also a hope that humanity could avoid such a devastating conflict again.  That hope—and the enduring hope for a world built on peace and understanding—is poignantly symbolized in the flowering of the churned up “No Man’s Land,” the pock-marked area between Allied and German trenches.  Immortalized in Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields,” poppies were first flowers to bloom in that graveyard of Western civilization.  To this day, the crimson of the poppies serves as a reminder of the men who made the ultimate sacrifice for their countries, and that even in death, life endures.

I will close this somewhat grim Historical Moment with a brief reading of that poem; it can commemorate the men there far better than I:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

May We Never Forget

Today’s Number of the Day from pollster Scott Rasmussen is a poignant 9/11 memorial:  204 New York City firefighters have died due to illnesses from that fateful day.  That’s in addition to the 343 NYFD firefighters who gave their lives on September 11, 2001 (the NYFD maintains a list of “line of duty deaths” dating back to 1865; deaths 809 through 1151 were the result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks).  Rasmussen also notes that 2977 people died in the attacks.

Read More »

Memorial Day 2019

It’s Memorial Day here in the United States, which marks the unofficial start of summer.  More importantly, Memorial Day is a federal holiday set aside to remember veterans who have fallen in combat.  The United States observes two other days dedicated to veterans:  Armed Services Day, which honors those men and women currently serving in the armed services; and Veterans’ Day, which honors all American servicemen and women, living, dead, retired, active, etc.

We often hear encomiums this time of year about the numbers of men and women who have died to preserve our freedoms.  These tributes are, of course, true (and, one hopes, heartfelt), and are worth reiterating.

I end every year of my American history courses urging my students to remember how precious their patrimony is, and that liberty is a fragile thing that must be preserved.  I, too, mention the “men and women who gave their lives so that we might be free.”  I then follow that up with noting that, while they hear that sentiment expressed often, they now know (having completed a year of American history) how true it is.

Nevertheless, it’s easy to forget the magnitude of that sacrifice.  In an age where wars are so distant and remote they barely register for us anymore (remember:  we’re still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan), it’s easy to take our soldiers for granted.  It’s easier, still, to forget the sheer number of combat deaths—750,000 in the American Civil War alone.

To that end, I’ve elected to spare you any further pontificating, and present instead this Wikipedia entry on “United States military casualties of war,” which breaks down the numbers succinctly.  Yet even dry statistics and bar charts speak volumes.

God Bless America!

–TPP

Veterans’ Day 2018, Commemoration of the Great War, and Poppies

The following remarks were delivered to the Florence County Republican Party at its 12 November 2018 monthly program, which was dedicated to honoring veterans.

Yesterday Americans, Europeans, and the world commemorated the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War, what we call the First World War.  The Armistice that silenced the guns of one of the most brutal conflicts in human history was signed in the wee hours of 11 November 1918, but did not take effect until 11 AM—the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  That bit of numerical symmetry, while memorable, cost an additional 2738 lives, with 10,944 casualties—a pointless denouement to a destructive war.

Peace would ultimately come to Europe—after three prolongations of the Armistice—in 1920 with the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles (the United States, refusing to join the League of Nations, negotiated a separate treaty with Germany, the Treaty of Berlin, in 1921).  That treaty, which the Germans called the Diktat because of its severity, and because it pinned the war solely on the German Empire, was a reflection of the Armistice signed three years earlier.

In preparing tonight’s remarks, I came across an article that describes the first meeting between Marshall Foch, the commander-in-chief of the Allied forces, and Matthias Erzberger, a middle-aged German politician who had come to sue for peace.  The Frenchman looked stonily at the German peace delegation, and said, “Tell these gentlemen I have no proposals to make.”  Rather, Marshal Foch had a number of demands to issue, thirty-four in total, including Germany’s agreement to pay heavy reparations.

In hindsight, we know the folly of trying to squeeze blood and treasure from the turnip that was a starving, reduced Germany—and the radicalism it, in part, inspired.  But we have to understand, as best we can, the bitterness and weariness the Great War wrought.  Millions of men in Europe had lost their lives, or were maimed for life, fighting in the war.  The republican governments of France and Britain were not willing to accept peace without something to show for it; their people (and voters) would not have accepted it.  Indeed, Marshall Foch told his staff he intended “to pursue the Feldgrauen [field grays, or German soldiers] with a sword at their backs” until the moment the Armistice went into effect.  One cannot help but wonder that the fighting in this final hours was motivated, in part, by a mutual bloodlust, and an opportunity to settle scores one last time before the clock struck eleven.

From the grime and death of the Great War, however, grew new hope—a hope for peace, yes, but also a hope that humanity could avoid such a devastating conflict again.  That hope—and the enduring hope for a world built on peace and understanding—is poignantly symbolized in the flowering of the churned up “No Man’s Land,” the pock-marked area between Allied and German trenches.  Immortalized in Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields,” poppies were first flowers to bloom in that graveyard of Western civilization.  To this day, the crimson of the poppies serves as a reminder of the men who made the ultimate sacrifice for their countries, and that even in death, life endures.

I will close this somewhat grim Historical Moment with a brief reading of that poem; it can commemorate the men there far better than I:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 

Three Years of Excellence

Father’s Day—16 June 2018—marked three years since President Donald Trump’s now-legendary descent down the golden escalator at Trump Tower, following by his controversial but true-to-form announcement that he would be seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for President.

I was, initially, a Trump skeptic, and I voted for Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the South Carolina primaries the following February.  When Trump first announced, I wrote him off—as so many others—as a joke.  I appreciated his boldness on immigration, but I still thought the PC Police and the campus Social Justice Warriors were firmly in control of the culture, and that no one could speak hard truths.

I also remembered his brief flirtation with running in 2012, and thought this was just another episode in what I learned was a long history of Trump considering a presidential bid.  At the South Carolina Republican Party’s state convention earlier in 2015, I asked two young men working on Trump’s pre-campaign (this was before The Announcement) if he was really serious this time.  The two of them—they looked like the well-coifed dreamboat vampires from the Twilight franchise—both assured me that Trump was for real, and I left with some Trump stickers more skeptical than ever (note, too, that this was before the distinctive but simple red, white, and blue “Trump” lawn signs, and definitely before the ubiquitous “Make America Great Again” hats).

I even briefly—briefly!—considered not voting for Trump, thinking that he was not a “real” conservative.  I still don’t think he’s a conservative in the way, say, that a National Review columnist is (although, the way they’ve gotten so noodle-wristed lately, that’s a good thing; I’ve just about lost all respect for David French’s hand-wringing, and Kevin Williamson went off the deep-end), but rather—as Newt Gingrich would put it—an “anti-Leftist.”  That’s more than enough for me.

But my conversion to Trump came only belatedly.  I can still find a notebook of notes from church sermons in which I wrote, “Ted Cruz won the Wyoming primary.  Thank God!” in the margins.

Then something happened—something I predicted would happen on the old TPP site—and I couldn’t get enough of the guy.  It wasn’t a “road to Damascus” epiphany.  I started listening to his speeches.  I read up on his brilliant immigration plan (why haven’t we taxed remittances yet?).  I stopped taking him literally, and began taking him seriously.

And I noticed it happening in others all around me.  Friends who had once disdained the Republican Party were coming around on Trump.  Sure, it helped that Secretary Hillary Clinton was a sleazebag suffused with the filth of grasping careerism and political chicanery.  But more than being a vote against Hillary, my vote—and the vote of millions of other Americans—became a vote for Trump—and for reform.

Trump made politics interesting again, too, not just because he said outrageous stuff on live television (I attended his rally in Florence, South Carolina before the SC primaries, and I could feel his charisma from 200 feet away; it was like attending a rock concert).  Rather, Trump busted wide open the political orthodoxy that dominated both political parties at the expense of the American people.

Take trade, for example.  Since World War II, both Democrats and Republicans have unquestioningly supported free trade.  Along comes Trump, and suddenly we’re having serious debates again about whether or not some tariffs might be beneficial—that maybe it’s worth paying a little more for a stove or plastic knick-knacks if it means employing more Americans.

That’s not even to mention Trump’s legacy on immigration—probably the most pressing issue of our time, and one about which I will write at greater length another time.

Regardless, after over 500 days in office, the record speaks for itself:  lower taxes, fewer regulations, greater economic growth, greater security abroad.  At this point, the only reasons I can see why anyone would hate Trump are either a.) he’s disrupting their sweet government job and/or bennies; b.) they don’t like his rhetorical style, and can’t get past it (the Jonah Goldbergite “Never Trumpers”—a dying breed—fall into this group); or c.) they’re radical Cultural Marxists who recognize a natural foe.  Folks in “Option B” are probably the most common, but they’re too focused on rhetoric and “decorum”—who cares if he’s mean to Justin Trudeau if he gets results?  The folks in “Option C” are willfully ignorant, evil, or blinded by indoctrination.

As the IG report from last Thursday revealed—even if it wouldn’t come out and say it—the Deep State is very, very real.  That there were elements within the FBI willing to use extralegal means to disrupt the Trump campaign—and, one has to believe, to destroy the Trump presidency—suggests that our delicate system of checks and balances has been undermined by an out-of-control, unelected federal bureaucracy.  Such a dangerous threat to our republic is why we elected Trump.

President Trump, keep draining the swamp.  We’re with you 100%.