SubscribeStar Saturday: Decline, Part I: Afghanistan

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Events of the past few years give one the distinct sense that the United States—and, indeed, Western Civilization—is in a steady decline.  As I wrote in an old post:

We’re no longer the Roman Republic, but we’re not the Roman Empire in the 5th century, either.  We’re more like the Roman Empire in the 2nd or 3rd centuries:  coasting along on the remnants of a functioning system, with a play-acting Congress shadowing the motions of republicanism.

We’re in what might be called the “decadent” phase of our existence:  past generations forged a nation from their sweat and blood; their successors solidified and consolidated on those gains, creating a powerful economy and culture, and winning major wars; their successors are currently coasting along on the fruits of their ancestors’ efforts.  But a culture, a nation, a civilization can only coast for so long before it loses all momentum entirely.

The recent unpleasantness in Afghanistan is a stark illustration of our current decadence—and our blind arrogance.  We believed we could plant a functioning democratic republic in a land that has been war-torn and riddled with autocratic warlords since time immemorial with an investment of twenty years of blood and treasure.  Instead, we botched a pull-out, abandoning American citizens and military equipment in the process, allowing the Taliban to seize control of the entire country in a leisurely weekend.

Ironically, The Pretender Biden was probably the perfect patsy for American withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was about nineteen years overdue.  Every administration has known we needed to get the heck out of a place known as “The Graveyard of Empires,” but no one wanted the bad optics of a withdrawal.  Biden is so senile and mentally foggy that he probably still doesn’t realize what he did, and certainly doesn’t feel any shame about abandoning Americans to the Taliban.

But even given our incompetent, mentally hobbled executive, the withdrawal from Afghanistan—quite necessary, I think—was botched so terribly, it condemns the entire US government and our military leadership.  Any ten-year old could have said, “Yeah, get all the weapons and people out first, then withdraw the last of the American troops.”  Instead, we did the exact opposite.  Ripping off the Band-Aid and getting out of Afghanistan was necessary, but did we have to rip the skin clean off the arm?

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)

Binge-watching The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs has introduced me to some obscure and forgotten flicks.  Several of the films the freedom-loving Texan screens are deservedly forgotten, and even hard to watch, with only Joe Bob’s off-the-cuff rants and film history knowledge keeping me going.  Others, however, are real gems—rough-cut and a little sooty, but gems nonetheless.

One such film is Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988), a post-apocalyptic sci-fi action-comedy starring wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.  Piper is better known for his role in They Live (1988), the John Carpenter classic in which Piper’s character discovers a pair of sunglasses that show the world for how it truly is.  They Live—with its infamous six-minute fistfight—is the better film, but Hell Comes to Frogtown is really delightful.

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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.

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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.

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More Tech Censorship

Another round of tech censorship is upon us.  The Trump campaign has been banned from streaming service Twitch (which I thought was just for gamers and girls with big boobs).  A bunch of conservative and Right-leaning personalities have been banned from YouTube, including Gavin McInnes, who built his own platform at Censored.TV.  Immigration patriot website VDare may lose its domain registrar, forcing the website to the Dark Web and TOR browsers.

Probably the most shocking is the digital defenestration of Stefan Molyneux, the grandiloquent Internet philosopher.  Molyneux’s Freedomain Radio touts itself as “the world’s number one philosophy show,” and Molyneux’s output is ponderously prolific.  Within hours of major news events, Molyneux will have long “The Truth about [Insert Controversial Figure or Event Here]” videos uploaded, meticulously researched and supported with fact-filled PowerPoints.

Lately, though, Molyneux has been posting videos of his daughter’s tadpole pool, or of the two of them building a turtle garden.  He’s also been livestreaming Doom—controversial in the Tipper Gore era of schoolmarmish censorship of video games and music, maybe, but not thirty years later, and certainly not grounds for deplatforming.

So why did the Left decide to destroy Molyneux’s livelihood?  The simple answers:  because he’s Right-wing, and because they could.

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Thalassocracy

The Internet is a funny thing.  Anyone that’s ever gone down a Wikipedia hole realizes that, pretty soon, that one thing you needed to look up can turn into a two-hour deep dive into barely-related topics.

It’s also weird.  There’s so much content—so much that we can’t really quantify it—you’re bound to stumble upon something interesting.  It is, perhaps, a sad commentary of the human condition that, given unlimited access to information and knowledge, we use the Internet primarily for mundane purposes, and frequent the same dozen websites everyday.

Of course, that’s also the problem of abundance.  People can’t handle that many choices, and there are only so many spare hours to cram in unorganized knowledge.

That’s how I came to stumble upon the topic of today’s post, thalassocracy, or “rule by the sea.”  I recently purchased a very nerdy space exploration strategy game called Stellaris (itself a recommendation from a member of Milo’s Telegram chat).  Stellaris has a steep learning curve, so it’s a game that basically requires the player to do homework to figure out what they’re doing (my race of peaceful, space-faring platypus people has surely suffered from my ignorance).

That homework assignment (no, seriously, it’s a fun game!) sent me down a rabbit hole on the game’s wiki, and one of the in-game events involves a group called the Bemat Thalassocracy.  I’d never heard the term before, and searched out its meaning.  That brought me to a website called Friesian, which is apparently a site promoting the philosophy of Jakob Friederich Fries, an eighteenth-century philosopher opposed to that ponderous windbag Hegel.  The website dates back to 1996, when it began as a community college website.

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Birth(day), Death, and Taxes

“Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes,” the old saying goes.  But we are also born, those of us fortunate enough not to fall prey to the abortion industry.  Today marks my thirty-fifth birthday.  I celebrated by paying $162.57 in vehicle property taxes to Darlington County, South Carolina.

Yesterday, I purchased a new vehicle, my first new car in thirteen-and-a-half years, and only the third I’ve ever owned.  It’s a 2017 Nissan Versa Note SV.  The other two were a 1988 Buick Park Avenue Electra, which I bought from my older brother for $800, after my grandparents gave it to him one year, and a 2006 Dodge Caravan, which those same grandparents gave to me as a college graduation gift (after the Buick was totaled when a lady ran a yield sign and smashed into me).

The Buick is long gone, but I kept the Dodge.  I figure it’s worth more to me as stuff-hauler than I would have gotten in trade-in value.  Of course, that means maintaining insurance on both vehicles, and paying taxes on each.

Well, I awoke today to the news that our military assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleiman last night.  When I first read that Soleiman was “assassinated,” I was picturing a fate similar to the death of the “austere religious scholar,” the ISIS guy, al-Baghdadi: covert operatives swooping in under cover of darkness, swiftly and surely relieving the general of his life.

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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.

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