Nathan Bedford Forrest | Abbeville Institute

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Source: Nathan Bedford Forrest | Abbeville Institute

While Nathan Bedford Forrest, the “Wizard of the Saddle,” is fascinating in his own right [*], this essay is even more important for what it says about our own time. Following are a few of the more prescient words:

“So in a very literal sense the Civil War was the first World War. It not only created a powerful nation of organized resources and potential military might, but the greater world wars took their pattern from the American one, even to the trench system Lee set up at Petersburg. These wars were internecine, all of them; but it was not in this that we find the crucial resemblances. In view of a common Christian culture, wars within Europe would of necessity be internecine, but at least at one time there were Truces of God. What this country brought to Europe was unconditional surrender…

“The result of these wars has been the self-exhaustion of Europe, the loss of prestige before the world, and another possible shift in power from West to East. We seem to accept this with a fatalism strangely foreign to us [indeed it is, given the history of Europeans prior to this age]. The battle of Lepanto was fought and won by a Christian prince [to which I would add: as was the battle at the Gates of Vienna!]. Since that time Christendom, if we can still call it such, has been free of danger [until recently], but there is a strange resemblance between that time and this. The Christian princes were divided among themselves as in our world wars; they were threatened by their own invention, the firearm, which the Turk added to the first use of the disciplined regiment.

“We have only to remember Spengler’s warning as to the folly of teaching the techniques by which the West had overwhelmed the world and wonder [is not this also true today, given that the third-world population explosion which threatens to overwhelm the West was made possible due to Western advances in agriculture and medicine?]. Will the time come when we will pray for another Lepanto? There is no Christian prince today strong enough to take a stand. This country [the U.S.] is presumably strong enough at least to risk a defense, but to stand always on the defensive is to prepare for defeat…”

I am reminded of the words J.R.R. Tolkien placed in the mouth of Boromir, prince of Gondor, in The Lord of the Rings: “Gondor wanes, you say? Yet Gondor stands. And even the end of its strength is still very strong.” True enough; yet only with the aid of the Riders of Rohan was Gondor able to break the siege by the forces of Mordor – and even then, were it not for the destruction of the One Ring and consequent overthrow of the Dark Lord, Sauron, that victory would have been but a respite.

Where are our Riders of Rohan, our Winged Hussars? And how shall we unmake the “One Ring” of our own age?

 


 

* And no, to get this old shibboleth out of the way, Forrest was not the founder of the KKK, though he was elected – in absentia, and with neither his knowledge nor desire – its head. Rather, he used his considerable moral authority to disband that first incarnation of the Klan, when it had ceased to be a protective organization, and become one engaged in mere vigilante and often criminal activities.

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Why the lunatic fringe wants to ban Zulu | Daily Mail Online

 

There are, in the annals of cinema, few scenes more likely to have men of a certain age sobbing into their handkerchiefs than that wonderful moment in Zulu featuring Stanley Baker

… what will be left of Western culture? For if Zulu isn’t safe, if Laura Ingalls Wilder is not safe, if even the slightest hint of political incorrectness is enough to disqualify you, then nothing and nobody is safe.

Source: DOMINIC SANDBROOK: Why the lunatic fringe wants to ban Zulu | Daily Mail Online

“Even today, 54 years after its release, Zulu has lost none of its power. It is a film about men under fire, of course. But it is also a film about heroism, fear and sacrifice.

“Set during the Zulu War of 1879, it is a patriotic film, but not a jingoistic one. When the Zulus sing one last song to honour the courage of the British defenders, or when Lt Chard gazes wearily over the piles of African dead, there is rarely a dry eye in the house.

“But some people see things differently…”

Yes. This:

“I am not alone, I know, in feeling nothing but contempt for the disingenuousness, mean-spiritedness, sanctimony and intolerance of these people. I’m not alone, either, in feeling utterly infuriated by the cowardice of the authorities, who are incapable of realising that appeasement only encourages them to find a fresh target.

“What I find really depressing, though, is that this is becoming such a familiar story. The activists make a fuss. The rest of us scoff, sigh or shrug them off as maniacs.

“But the authorities, terrified of being branded racist, give ground. And so, almost without anybody noticing, we take one more step towards a culture defined by the suffocating narrow-mindedness of the lunatic fringe…

“Where will it end? Well, it will never end. And because these censors have no sense of humility, they cannot conceive that people in the future will doubtless find us guilty of prejudices invisible to us today.

“By then, though, what will be left of Western culture? For if Zulu isn’t safe, if Laura Ingalls Wilder is not safe, if even the slightest hint of political incorrectness is enough to disqualify you, then nothing and nobody is safe.

“The truth is that these people are the enemies, not just of tradition or even of tolerance, but of the imagination itself.

“They talk endlessly about celebrating difference. But what they want to do is to suppress difference, control the imagination and rewrite history. And that, of course, is why they must be fought.”

Or as C.S. Lewis so aptly put it, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.”

Of course, today the “omnipotent moral busybodies” care nothing for the good of their victims; they are motivated largely by hatred, thinly veiled behind a veneer of put-on offense and pseudo-compassion. They are “omnipotent” only to the extent that they are not opposed. And they are “moral” not at all.

Laura Ingalls Wilder: the conversation continues

An old and cherished college friend sent me the linked article, below, with this notation: “Interesting article and perspective from ALA’s office of intellectual freedom of the (former) LIW award.”

ALA Laura Ingalls Wilder Award ALSC


Will some librarians consider it right to purge her works from library collections? We hope not.

Source: Laura Ingalls Wilder Award – when is it censorship? – Intellectual Freedom Blog


Following is my reply:

It is indeed an interesting article and perspective, and I’m glad the conversation is continuing. There is a lot in that article with which I agree. And of course, the ALSC has a perfect right to rename their award if they want to, regardless of my or anyone else’s opinion of the action!

But just as James LaRue points out – accurately – that books must be taken in their entirety, and in context, so too, I believe, must actions. And I cannot help but take this action in the context of a time in our social history in which nearly every icon of our past is under attack, one way or another.

This most recent spasm of historical iconoclasm began in the summer of 2015, when that despicable nutcase killed those poor people in Charleston, SC; and it began with attacks on Confederate flags, rapidly spreading to other iconography: street, park, and school names, and then monuments. But it didn’t end there. The Confederacy was just low-hanging fruit. I haven’t kept as precise and voluminous records as I should have, in retrospect, but some examples that come immediately to mind:

The statue of Teddy Roosevelt – our most progressive President at least until his cousin FDR, and possibly until JFK – was attacked, where it stands in front of the Museum of Natural History in NYC. The very gravesite of Andrew Jackson, certainly a controversial figure but also an American President and the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, has also been attacked, and his picture on the $20 bill is to be replaced. Thomas Jefferson’s statue has been defaced on the very campus of the university (University of Virginia) he founded; here in Maryland, the statue of Francis Scott Key has been defaced, and the National Anthem he gave us attacked (completely erroneously) as racist.

In 2016, students at Yale University’s English Department (!!!) launched a petition calling on the English department to abolish a core course requirement in “Major English Poets” to study canonical writers including Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton, saying that the reading list had too many white male authors. Ummmmm… to what demographic do they think that major English poets belong??? That was the most high-profile, but not the only, report of such doings I recall reading. I find myself wondering what Nancy and Del, or Bob and LeRoy, even Ira [former professors we shared – liberals all, but in the old-school sense], would think about all this…

There are similar attacks on culture, history, and heritage going on throughout the West. I could, with a little brain-searching and research, probably come up with dozens of additional examples; these are just those that came to me with a few minutes’ thought. But it is within the context of these sorts of shenanigans that I interpret the decision to strip Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from that award.

Yes, the essay you linked makes some good points, and, as I say, I agree with a number of them. But it is possible to come up with good, noble-sounding, perhaps even nobly-intended, justifications or rationalizations for each and every one of the incidents I described above, and many more than I did not mention. But taken as a whole, looking at the big picture, what I see is the history, heritage, and culture of the West – indeed, Western civilization itself – under attack. Sustained, persistent, intentional.

I would be fundamentally and vigorously opposed to the destruction of any culture! I am certainly opposed to the attempted destruction of my own. In the larger scheme of things, removing Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from an award is not going to make or break Western civilization. But making that decision, even for the best-intended reasons, is another stone removed from the wall. Keep taking enough out, and how long before the whole structure tumbles?

Her response was very gracious:

“I do see what you’re saying. And wish I knew the answers… if there are any. And I will always love and respect you my dear friend!”

I replied,

“It is very mutual, my dear friend! And we are living in a time concerning which people many centuries in the future may scratch their heads… or shake them, with sadness. I very much fear that if we continue as we seem to be going, we are on the cusp of a new Dark Age.”

Her response was sober, and sobering:

“I think we both hope you are wrong about that! But I have to wonder…”

Indeed we do. We do indeed…

Scrubbing Laura Ingalls Wilder Is A Dangerous Step Toward Ignorance | The Federalist

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Pretending things that make us uncomfortable never happened isn’t going to make America better, or make American children more informed.

Source: Scrubbing Laura Ingalls Wilder Is A Dangerous Step Toward Ignorance

I do not fully agree with this article, because I do not fully agree that we need to continually apologize for, or even “contextualize,” everything that occurred in our past that makes some present-day observers squeamish. But I certainly do agree with the title (“Scrubbing Laura Ingalls Wilder Is A Dangerous Step Toward Ignorance”)!

And I also agree with the comment of a dear Facebook friend (who is also a follower of this blog; she may choose to identify herself if she wishes), who wrote, in response to a Wall Street Journal article which, unfortunately, is behind a firewall,

“Those who refuse to acknowledge history are doomed to repeat it. This is ridiculous. I should have expected this, I suppose, when they began badmouthing Twain’s work. The Little House books teach a great deal about the time they were written, in an entertaining way so that people will actually remember. Modern mores are already taught now, and people should be trusted to be able to filter through, seeing the changes in time periods as far as attitudes go. Ignoring history doesn’t make it go away.”

To which I can only add, “give ’em an inch and they’ll take a mile”… “don’t let the camel’s nose in the tent”… whatever image you use for it, the truth remains: if you start to permit people to alter, suppress, or remove history, there’s no telling where you’ll end up. Nowhere good, that’s for certain!

It started with Confederate flags, then moved to renaming schools, streets, and parks, then to removing monuments. It started with the Confederacy, but has expanded to include Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, Francis Scott Key – even Washington and Jefferson. And in literary terms, English poets, Mark Twain and, now, Laura Ingalls Wilder.

These are people who do not understand, or even try to understand, removing, altering, or destroying that which is not understood; people placing the worst possible construction on works and people which and who are complex and multi-faceted. Simplistic responses from – pardon me for saying so, but it’s true – simple minds.

It is depressing and disillusioning. What has happened to this country? We used to be so much better than this!

History isn’t a ‘useless’ major. It teaches critical thinking, something America needs plenty more of | LA Times

History isn't a 'useless' major. It teaches critical thinking, something America needs plenty more of

Why are college students turning away from studying history as preparation for a future as citizens and workers?

Source: History isn’t a ‘useless’ major. It teaches critical thinking, something America needs plenty more of | LA Times

The humanities strike back!

Of course, the author feels that he has to defend history (and the humanities generally) as being excellent preparation for “real-world” careers such as business and technology – which they are, without question – rather than pointing out, except obliquely, their necessity for constructive thought and good citizenship in the polis, the public square, especially in a representative democratic-republican society which absolutely requires an informed citizenry. Nonetheless, this is an encouraging article.

While currently an almost minuscule proportion of degrees awarded – as this article points out – I am seeing the beginnings of a stir of push-back, as more and more people begin to realize, or promote, the idea that the humanities do, in fact, have value, both in themselves and for the way in which they teach people to think critically and constructively. I will never forget one of my favorite college professors noting that “the most important thing a college education can give you is a good crap detector.” He was and is correct!

With respect to history in particular, however: it does indeed teach critical thinking, and is valuable for that reason; but it also teaches vital content. As the inscription literally graven in stone above the entrance to the National Archives puts it, “What is past, is prologue.” Learning our history provides us with the tools to make sense of the present, and to shape a coherent and constructive course into the future. That we seem all-too-often incapable of doing either is an indictment of our willingness to abandon historical knowledge!

And of course, failure to learn our history cuts us off from our roots. As I have commented previously, a society is very like a great tree, in that if it is separated from its roots, it is far more likely to wither than to blossom and bring forth fruits and new growth. Indeed, one can say that that withering is absolutely inevitable – the question being not “if,” but only how quickly!

There is evidence that the pendulum is beginning to swing back in a more conservative / traditional direction, with respect to socio-political matters. Let us hope and pray that it swings back in the academy, as well.

This Day in History: the sinking of the White Star liner RMS TITANIC

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The steamship RMS Titanic sank in the early hours of April 15, 1912, in the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg during its maiden voyage. Of the 2,240 people on board, more than 1,500 lost their lives in the disaster.

Source: Titanic | Sinking and Survivors | HISTORY.com

In the wee small hours of April 15, 1912, 106 years ago today, the mighty RMS TITANIC, pride of the White Star Line and one of a class of luxury ocean liners that were the biggest on the sea at their time, slipped beneath the waters of the frigid North Atlantic after hitting an iceberg. Previously billed as “unsinkable,” the TITANIC’s hull was divided into multiple watertight compartments… but they only went partway up.

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Titanic: Belfast Built

She was designed to survive the breaching of four of those compartments. Unfortunately, when she sideswiped an iceberg, late on the night of April 14th, five compartments were breached. The cascading effect of water pouring over the top of the breached compartments and into the next dragged the bow down and made her eventual sinking an inevitability. Over two-thirds of her passengers and crew went down with the ship, drowned, or died of exposure in the ice-cold water. The loss of the TITANIC is still one of the greatest peacetime maritime disasters in history.

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RMS TITANIC begins her final plunge – from the James Cameron movie “Titanic”

Equipped with a powerful Marconi wireless set, TITANIC was in touch with many – including her sister-ship, the RMS OLYMPIC, racing to the site but too far away to arrive in time. Indeed, the only vessel near enough to have effected a rescue before TITANIC went down, the SS CALIFORNIAN, had shut down her Marconi station after a brief exchange with TITANIC and thereafter ignored her – even when, in her last desperation, she began firing distress rockets. Incidentally, the actions of CALIFORNIAN’s captain, Stanley Lord, were later found by both American and British courts of inquiry to have been unprofessional and negligent, and while formal charges were never filed, his career was – understandably! – over.

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TITANIC fires distress rockets as she settles low into the water.

Only Captain Arthur Rostron, of the Cunard liner RMS CARPATHIA – a much smaller, slower, and older ship than TITANIC – was close enough to attempt a rescue, and did so. Racing at full speed – indeed, at a speed several knots higher than her rated maximum! – CARPATHIA sliced through the cold Atlantic waters that had just claimed the “unsinkable” TITANIC, launching her own rockets to reassure TITANIC survivors that help was on the way, and dodging at least five icebergs – that her lookouts detected. Captain Rostron (a religious man, which was unusual among ship-captains of the era, and known as “the Electric Spark” for his energy) would later reflect, “another Hand than mine was on the tiller, that night.”

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Captain Arthur Henry Rostron – Brief Portrait of a Hero

Yet even with CARPATHIA’s almost superhuman efforts, they arrived as dawn was breaking, an hour after the TITANIC had sunk. It was well that they got there when they did, though, as the survivors – dressed for ballroom dancing, or for bedtime, not for surviving in freezing temperatures – would surely have begun succumbing to hypothermia had they been forced to remain in the lifeboats (tragically few in number, and even if they had all been launched, at maximum capacity, insufficient for the number of passengers and crew) for very much longer.

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TITANIC’s lifeboats row toward RMS CARPATHIA

Though there were many technical issues that contributed to the disaster – brittle steel in the hull-plates, the aforementioned “watertight” compartments that didn’t go all the way up to the main deck, insufficient lookouts with insufficient binoculars, and an inexperienced officer-of-the-deck on duty, at night, in iceberg-infested waters – TITANIC and those aboard her ultimately fell victim to the hubris of the age. Her loss was the beginning of the end of many things.

Banning Civil War Re-Enactments Will Only Increase Ignorance, Prejudice | The Federalist

Civil War Reenactors – Confederate

It’s a mistake to ignore the complexities of history in the name of social justice. Obscuring the past will not make our country better or more just.

Source: Banning Civil War Re-Enactments Will Only Increase Ignorance, Prejudice

“The rush to obscure the past will not make our country better and more just. It is a tremendous mistake to refuse to examine the complexities of history in the name of social justice. It is culturally suicidal to reduce life into the binary categories of ‘correct’ and ‘unmentionable.’ Furthermore, it is a mistake to fail to recognize the benefits that historical reenacting can and does bring to America.”

It is truly disgusting, depressing, heart-breaking, and yes, anger-inducing to see the depths to which we have plunged as a society in only a couple of years, to the point that the idea of banning reenactments – living history – is even thinkable.

The ignorance, arrogance, and authoritarian attitudes demonstrated by (some of) those who call themselves “liberal” or “progressive” are a disgrace to the terms. Such people, and such a worldview, have more in common with Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, or today’s ISIS than they do with classical liberalism or progressivism.

And it is appallingly ironic that some of those who claim that it’s possible, even admirable, to be “non-binary” where “gender” is concerned, have no trouble insisting on, as Ms Mussman accurately phrases it, reducing life into the binary categories of “correct” and “unmentionable.” If we continue down this path, we are doomed as a society. Doomed.

In such an environment, this essay by Anna Mussman is a ray of light and hope. Her list of the benefits of reenacting / living history to society are perfectly on-point. Kudos to her for writing this excellent essay! I just wish I didn’t have the sinking feeling that she’s preaching to the choir…