Reel Talk: Created Equal; Clarence Thomas, In His Own Words

One of the most reticent justices on the United States Supreme Court is Justice Clarence Thomas. He’s also my favorite justice because more than any other on the court, he is a proven and consistent constitutional originalist.

I also like him because, unlike most of the sniveling anti-racist political agitators of our day, he actually lived through the worst aspects of racial segregation, poverty, and struggle. In spite of the disadvantages, he excelled. He did so on the strength of his grandfather’s stellar parenting, and his own intelligence and determination, coupled with hard work. Against all odds, he rose to the upper echelon of American political life.

Recently, a documentary outlining the story of his life and ascendancy to the Supreme Court was available to rent for .99 on Amazon Prime. I decided that one dollar was a small price to pay to hear Thomas tell his story. It was also interspersed with the highlights of his career along with the climax of his notorious 1991 Senate confirmation hearing. People often forget that Clarence Thomas, and not Brett Kavanaugh, was the first conservative justice whose nomination was blindsided by a #metoo accusation long before Twitter was conceived; back when hashtags were still known as pound signs.

This moving retrospective, in Thomas’ own words, was equal parts informative, poignant, and reflective. It’s worth a look. See the trailer below.

My review of Clarence Thomas’ memoir can be read here.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you are able spend it with your families and loved ones.

Friday Faves: Florida’s hidden gems

Freedom-loving Americans are looking at my home state of Florida in a different light these days. Following the actual science shows that the current levels of restriction, economic hardship and suppression of liberties may not be warranted by the current health crisis. As a result, states like Florida and Texas are being viewed as potential havens by people who want to resume living semi-normal lives.

People often view Florida as a place with a dull, flat landscape and oppressive heat that they are willing to endure for the freedom of being ale to live as they please. I don’t blame them for believing this. We’ve been relegated in the minds of most America to three things: Mickey Mouse, Daytona Beach, and Florida Man, none of which are particularly endearing characteristics. True, it is very hot here six months of the year, and the landscape is void of mountains. However, it’s also a balmy 78 throughout most of the winter.

A little known reality about the state of Florida is that our landscape is anything but dull. There is a reason why the Spaniards named this place “the land of flowers”, and it’s not because of an ugly, lifeless landscape. Of course, to experience it you have to exit the interstates and wander off the beaten path, something few tourists bother to do. I’d never bothered to do it, which is why I was approaching middle age before I realized the wealth of natural beauty surrounding me for my entire life.

One development of the initial lock down is that as our church stopped meetings, we began exploring creation and Florida’s natural beauty most every Sunday. Using sites such as Florida Hikes and others, we have walked hundreds of miles of some of the most beautiful hidden gems of terrain on the Florida peninsula.

We’ve gone to beaches that make Daytona Beach look like a dump by comparison. We’ve been reminded that vast swaths of Florida are still quite rural, that cattle country in alive and well down here (learn here that Florida, not Texas, has the oldest U.S. cattle ranching history), and that our spicy varieties of life reveal tourist traps for the plastic fakery they are. There are times when artificially generated fun is enjoyable, but the equating of my home state with artificially generated fun is to miss the reality that God’s fingerprints are here as much as they are anywhere else.

This week, I decided to share some things most people would never consider when asked what they know about Florida. Some of these are places we’ve explored in recent years, and others are on our list of places to visit some time in 2021. First up is cattle country.

We visited Lake Okeechobee area last year, and the scenic beauty of the ecosystem was breathtaking. It’s also one of the biggest cattle ranching areas in the state. The following two photos are from Trip Advisor, but they mirror very closely the things we saw while we were there.

Southwest Florida, besides being friendlier and even more freer than the mostly free rest of the state, is the home of one the thing I’ve enjoyed most as we’ve toured Florida off the beaten path. The Edison-Ford Estate, where Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone spent winters working 100 years ago is a wonderful place to explore. The gardens, the labs, and the old architecture is worth a visit. And the southwest beaches, trails and parks are nice also.

From my amateur photo collection
from my amateur photo collection
Statue of Edison. Cool or Creepy? I like it!
Lil’ Old me down at the base of a massive Kapok tree on the estate.

Up further north from the Southwest corner of the state are a few quaint towns along beautiful lakes and riverbeds.

Most of the beaches down here are what you expect from Florida. Pretty flat sand dunes, but I really enjoy them anyway. However, not all of our beaches are without individual character:

There is one more place our family is making plans to visit on the not too distant future: The Florida Caverns State Park. Yes. You read that right; Florida Caverns. They have a campground there as well, and we plan to make good use of it when we visit.

Photo credit
Photo credit

I could dig through my photos from the past year and post more, but I’ll not bore you. Wineries, hills, Bok Tower Gardens, and countless other state parks, landmarks and natural wonders. We’re a lot more down here than Mickey Mouse and a state where you are still free to go to the gym or out to eat.

But it helps if you know where to look.

Word Nerd Wednesday: Federalism

I suppose I’m in the mood to wax political even though I originally planned to use dipsomaniac as the word of the week. However, in light of wholesale attempts to undo our foundational principles, I decided to change course.

Here’s the thing. It doesn’t really matter all that much if you like our system of laws, or if you agree with our founding principles. They are what they are. As much as it pains me, I also accept that just as the original colonists decided to break free and establish a system by which they would be governed, the citizens of America today are free to use that self-same system.

They are free to use the ballot box to overthrow federalism in favor of anti-federalism. My concern, and I say this with full confidence, is that no more than 25% of our citizenry has any idea what federalism is, or the role it plays in the way we live our day to day lives. All of this is my preface to explore federalism as our Word Nerd Wednesday pick.

Federalism: A system of government in which power is divided between a central authority and constituent political units.

The best way to appreciate the intricacies of our federalist system is to read The Federalist Papers, but who expects the average citizen to do that? I don’t. However, the above definition is a fairly simple explanation of what we’re supposed to be doing. I’m a red-blooded, Protestant American, so I’m completely down with the ideals of federalism. I think it’s worth breaking this definition down into identifiable parts.

In the above definition, the central authority is the federal government in Washington, D.C. The constituent political units are the 50 states. In my state of Florida, the seat of government for our particular political unit is in Tallahassee, FL.

Why does federalism make sense? Two words: local control. More than that, the idea of local control isn’t as new as many would have us believe. I can prove that even as far back as the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, local control was a thing:

Obtain for yourselves men who are wise, discerning, and informed from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ And you answered me and said, ‘The thing which you have said to do is good.’  So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and informed men, and appointed them as heads over you, commanders of thousands, hundreds, [i]fifties, and [j]tens, and officers for your tribes.

 “Then I ordered your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen and judge righteously between a person and his fellow countryman, or the stranger who is with him.  You are not to show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. Deuteronomy 1: 13- 17

In other words, the simple truth that rules, laws, and order are best managed locally rather than from entities far away is hardly a novel concept. It should be fairly obvious. In a country as large and as regionally diverse as the United States, the ways and preferences of California are almost alien from the lifestyle preferences of people in Kentucky. Federalism recognizes this and says that each state should set its own local statutes, and that only the *big stuff* should be heard at the federal level.

So, for those people who seem obsessed with asking the federal government to “do something!” about every problem big and small, and who don’t seem to understand those who rail against such measures as power grabs, this is why. The latter still believe in the founding principles of federalism, and don’t want to have someone in New York City telling people in Greenville, SC how to live their lives.

I hope you enjoyed and were educated by this rudimentary exposition of the principles of federalism.

Poetry: Lochinvar

If you’re like me, you need a break from the current madness. Thankfully, in our house, homeschooling provides myriad opportunities to think about the transcendent. In an ugly world, meditating on the Good, the True, and the Beautiful is a refuge from the storm; an escape to the island of sanity.

To that end, let’s look at some poetry. Last week, our children examined Lochinvar, by Sir Walter Scott. It’s a fun, melodious poem that I’m going to offer here in its entirety:

O young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword he weapons had none,
He rode all unarm’d, and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.

He staid not for brake, and he stopp’d not for stone,
He swam the Eske river where ford there was none;
But ere he alighted at Netherby gate,
The bride had consented, the gallant came late:
For a laggard in love, and a dastard in war,
Was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar.

So boldly he enter’d the Netherby Hall,
Among bride’s-men, and kinsmen, and brothers and all:
Then spoke the bride’s father, his hand on his sword,
(For the poor craven bridegroom said never a word,)
“O come ye in peace here, or come ye in war,
Or to dance at our bridal, young Lord Lochinvar?”

“I long woo’d your daughter, my suit you denied;—
Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide—
And now I am come, with this lost love of mine,
To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine.
There are maidens in Scotland more lovely by far,
That would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar.”

The bride kiss’d the goblet: the knight took it up,
He quaff’d off the wine, and he threw down the cup.
She look’d down to blush, and she look’d up to sigh,
With a smile on her lips and a tear in her eye.
He took her soft hand, ere her mother could bar,—
“Now tread we a measure!” said young Lochinvar.

So stately his form, and so lovely her face,
That never a hall such a galliard did grace;
While her mother did fret, and her father did fume,
And the bridegroom stood dangling his bonnet and plume;
And the bride-maidens whisper’d, “’twere better by far
To have match’d our fair cousin with young Lochinvar.”

One touch to her hand, and one word in her ear,
When they reach’d the hall-door, and the charger stood near;
So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung,
So light to the saddle before her he sprung!
“She is won! we are gone, over bank, bush, and scaur;
They’ll have fleet steeds that follow,” quoth young Lochinvar.

There was mounting ’mong Graemes of the Netherby clan;
Forsters, Fenwicks, and Musgraves, they rode and they ran:
There was racing and chasing on Cannobie Lee,
But the lost bride of Netherby ne’er did they see.
So daring in love, and so dauntless in war,
Have ye e’er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?

I loved this for a host of reasons. One of those is that Lochinvar is totally my type of guy. He sees what he wants, and he goes and gets it. Yeah, there are sometimes problems with that approach to life, but this is poetry, not life.

Live a little, people!

What do you all think of Young Lochinvar?

Reblog: Election Day Thoughts

Joshua Gibbs offers, with aplomb and beauty, boldness and subtlety, his thoughts on Election Day 2020. I will not assault you readers with fanatical rantings after my prolonged absence. Instead, I’m simply re-posting his thoughts since they so perfectly mirror my own.

Man was created to seek glory. He was created to love the glory of God and to mirror God’s glory through the pursuit of beauty, truth, goodness, and holiness. The glory of man is derived from God and the glory of God is underived. “Only God is good,” teaches Christ, which means the goodness of creation reveals God.

When one human being encounters another human being who is glorious—and this glory comes from beauty, power, strength, talent, skill, wealth, knowledge, or prowess—he will want that glory. He will seek it out. There are only two ways for a man with no glory to seek out the glory of another man:

1. By imitating the glorious man

2. By liquidating that man’s glory and taking it for himself

When modern men encounter great accumulations of glory, they rarely respond by imitation. Rather, their first inclination is to liquidate that great accumulation of glory and redistribute it. Over and over again, modern men liquidate and redistribute, liquidate and redistribute. They do it with power. They do it with money. They do it with truth. 

Imitation is too difficult, takes too long, and is subject to all the inequalities which nature, luck, and inheritance bring.

Modern men are slow to learn that glory cannot be liquidated and redistributed. In liquidating, glory is destroyed. Glory only exists in accumulations. The same is true of power. The same is true of wealth. The glory of a beautiful woman cannot be liquidated and redistributed without mutilating the woman. The most glorious part of a pyramid is the highest stone, and that glory cannot be liquidated and redistributed among every stone without leveling the pyramid.

The man who encounters great glory and attempts to imitate it, though, understands that existence itself is a great ladder which leads to God. When we imitate greater glory, we climb that ladder. The man who imitates great glory is creative, constructive, productive, active. He begins with the impulse to make, not to destroy. He repents. He changes himself as opposed to demanding others change.

The only genuine way to seek glory is by imitation. Everything else is violence. Every act of imitation is an act of becoming.

Amen. 

Everyman

Everyman by Anonymous. The first known performance is recorded in 1510.

You can read this play in its entirety, at this link.

“You can’t take it with you”. We’ve all heard this saying, and we all know what it means. A close corollary is similar:  “No man laments on his death bed: ‘I wish I’d spent more time at work’.”

These themes are expressed in the short play Everyman, written by an anonymous author during the medieval period. You may recall that our children are studying medieval literature this year, and this most recent offering from their literary adventures is highly compelling. They’ve also read The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, as well as King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, which I may review at a later date.

Everyman outlines the journey that well, every man, must travel. To be born is to begin our sojourn toward the end of life. This might happen at a ripe old age, the best case scenario, or it could occur earlier. Whatever the day, it nearly always arrives at a most inopportune time.

When death comes to notify Everyman that his time is up, and that his end is imminent, he is understandably shaken. In his distress he implores death to give him more time, but is denied. The language is not modern, but flows more easily once you get the rhythm of it:

DEATH:

But to the heart suddenly I shall smite

Without any advisement.

And now out of thy sight I will me hie;

See thou make thee ready shortly,

For thou mayest say, this is the day

That no man living may escape away.

Once Everyman accepts the inevitability of his fate, he begins to take inventory. He wonders if he can take his possessions with him. Death makes it clear that his things were only loaned to him for this life. They are not his to take to the next life. At this point, all the elements of his life and humanity enter the picture. Fellowship, represented by his friends and acquaintances come first. They offer him whatever he needs, up to and including assisting in the darkest of deeds. So he asks them to come with him, but of course, Fellowship denies his request.

 

FELLOWSHIP

Now, in good faith, I will not that way;

But, if thou will murder, or any man kill,

In that I will help thee with a good will.

EVERYMAN

Oh, that is a simple advice indeed:

Gentle Fellowship, help me in my necessity;

We have loved long, and now I need,

And now, gentle Fellowship, remember me.

FELLOWSHIP

Whether ye have loved me or no,

By Saint John, I will not with thee go.

 

Everyman then encounters and entreats all of the elements of his life: Kindred, Strength, Knowledge, Beauty, Goods, and Wits. None can accompany him to what is next, save one thing. His good deeds make themselves known as well, and hold slightly more power than the rest of the elements of his life.

This is without question a “big C Catholic” play, but it its message is both universal and powerful. It’s a quick read, worth the 45 minutes. It is good for us to be reminded of the temporary nature of this world we so heavily invest in. Today more than any other, the urgency of this balanced view of life looms large. No one has lamented on her death bed, “I wish I’d cared more about political shenanigans”.

Take some time and give it a read. Whether you are religious or not, it speaks to the universality of our fragile existence and our ultimate lack of control over it all.

 

 

 

Quotable Literary Quotes: Booker T. Washington

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I’ve been ruminating on the work, life and philosophy of Booker T. Washington ever since I posted this Jason Whitlock video as my last Friday Fave. To that end, I thought it would be good to begin the week with some of the most profound quotes from his autobiography, Up From Slavery.

His thoughts on education:

“Education is not a thing apart from life—not a “system,” nor a philosophy; it is direct teaching how to live and how to work.”
 
This shouldn’t be novel, but it feels like it in this current zeitgeist. More:
 
“The ambition to secure an education was most praiseworthy and encouraging. The idea, however, was too prevalent that, as soon as one secured a little education, in some unexplainable way he would be free from most of the hardships of the world, and, at any rate, could live without manual labour.”
 
I loved that, because it speaks well to our current situation, where education is not a means of personal development in life or training in productive citizenship, but as a way to get out of having to work hard. Shame on us for propagating a hatred of hard work!
 
I recognize that in a cognitive economy, manual labor is prohibitive as a means of making a living. However, that’s a different matter from raising an entire generation of people who are unwilling to engage in manual labor, both due to lack of skill as well as on principle.
 
On the subject of the role and limitations of government:
 
“Among a large class, there seemed to be a dependence upon the government for every conceivable thing. The members of this class had little ambition to create a position for themselves, but wanted the federal officials to create one for them.”
 
He offers an alternative solution:
 
“How many times I wished then and have often wished since, that by some power of magic, I might remove the great bulk of these people into the country districts and plant them upon the soil – upon the solid and never deceptive foundation of Mother Nature, where all nations and races that have ever succeeded have gotten their start – a start that at first may be slow and toilsome, but one that nevertheless is real.”
 
Washington again points out the place which is a truly level playing field, in the real world, in the dirt, working hard. More:
 
“I have begun everything with the idea that I could succeed, and I never had much patience with the multitudes of people who are always ready to explain why one cannot succeed.”
 
So much for victimhood, but when you read Up From Slavery, it becomes painfully apparent why Booker T. Washington is held in low regard by many progressives. Despite the amazing work he did with the newly freed slaves and the exceptional accomplishments he achieved The Tuskegee Institute, his failure to fully embrace a narrative which denied the God-given agency of black Americans still relegates him to the fringes of the historical black American record. And that’s too bad.
 
Hope this provided food for thought.
 
Happy Monday, all!
 
 

 

Word Nerd Wednesday: Train Wreck

This installment doesn’t warrant much in the way of explanation or commentary, so here goes. We’re resorting to slang this week, so consider this fair warning.

Train Wreck: describes something that is so bad that you don’t want to keep watching or following but you just can’t look away from it.

For example: Last night’s presidential debate was a total train wreck.

It was actually three old men yelling at each other, but I think that about covers it…

Friday Fave: A Brief Political Detour

I don’t have a lot to say about the politics of the day. My latest book review probably reveals plenty, but I ran across a video from the insightful Jason Whitlock of Outkick, and I decided to share a snippet of it here. I will add a link to the entire video for those who may be interested.

However, in the interest of expediency, I am offering a small 2 minute portion that beautifully encapsulates my political stance in this contentious election year. It’s a great rebuttal to those people who insist that people of particular ethnicity (or sex or age or whatever) must belong to a particular school of thought.

 
I couldn’t have said it any better, honestly. You can find Mr. Whitlock’s full rebuttal to the WaPo hit piece on him and his colleague here.
 
Edited to add: Not sure why my embedded video didn’t show up in the post, and my IT guy is at work. So, you’ll just have to click the link. But I promise it’s worth the 1 minute, 20 seconds. It really is. He even mentions Booker T. Washington not once, but twice! Twice! In 80 seconds.