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. 

Blackout Reveals the Emperor’s Nakedness.

Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its second Escape from the Democrat Plantation, by Candace Owens. Published September 15, 2020. Hardcover, 320 pages.

I looked forward to reading this book for many reasons, but learning new information was not one of them. I “left the Democrat plantation” over two decades ago, when I was in my early twenties. I knew that there would be scant little here that I don’t already know. Candace Owens stands on the shoulders of giants, black intellectuals that I first encountered when she was but a tyke. Those giants are men like Dr. Thomas Sowell, Dr. Walter E. Williams, and the esteemed Larry Elder.

Owens is important because she offers these perspectives in a simple, straightforward way to a new generation, yet without insulting its intelligence. The Emperor of Progressivism is naked, especially as it relates to delivering any kind of benefit to the black community, and she calls that out. For anyone willing to look past emotionalism and demagoguery, to look for evidence and at hard facts, this is obvious. Too many people aren’t willing to do that, and the black community is poorer for it, both literally and figuratively; culturally and economically.

Candace Owens is often ripped on for growing and changing from the girl who experienced a documented racial incident to a woman who figured out that leftism really doesn’t give a darn about black people. There are few black people who haven’t experienced racism at some point.

The fact that there are individual idiots among us is not breaking news, and it doesn’t mean we should have to pledge our blind, lifelong allegiance to a party that mostly pays lip service to fighting racism. Especially when a mere scratch of the surface clearly reveals that they are the true racists, using the black community as a vehicle for political power. But this is about the book, and I am digressing. This was one of my favorite quotes:

Prior to the abolishment of Jim Crow laws, black Americans had never been granted true freedom. Segregation made it so that we were still oppressed through various limitation. Blacks were not free to choose where to educate themselves, where to live, or even whom to socialize with. Unfortunately, however, LBJ continued his address by stating, “But freedom is not enough. You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying, ‘Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.'”

Here he is wrong. Dangerously wrong. Being freed was enough for black America. The year 1964 should have represented a new beginning, when we began assuming full responsibility over our own lives.

After outlining some of the things we should have felt free to do on the strength of our own competency and ability, Owens continues:

Against this reality the president who granted us our rights told us, in the same breath, that we needed help from white Americans to get ahead. Miraculously, just as soon as we were given personal responsibility, it was taken away. In the darkest of ironies, after 345 years of having our personal responsibility stripped from us by governing white society, we allowed that same society to take it right back. Their method for taking it had certainly changed. Rather than callously telling us that we couldn’t be responsible for ourselves, by outwardly barring and banning us from various institutions, this time, they began telling us we shouldn’t be responsible for ourselves because it was unimaginable that blacks would suddenly be expected to perform at their level.

This is spot on, and it’s glaringly obvious to anyone willing to look past the faux empathy and nauseating white guilt to see what has really been going on for the past 60 years. Spoiler alert: The Democrat party didn’t “switch”.  Love her or hate her, this is a smart young woman.

I liked the book, overall. There were a few points of opinion on which I disagreed with Owens, but the overall thrust of her book is well presented, and most importantly, well sourced. The final 19 of the 320 pages consist of notes so that the reader can check the quotes, stats, and historical information present for themselves.

I do think the book could have done well with a fairly ruthless editor. There were instances where the friendship of commas would have been valuable. There were a few minor literary faux pas, but the average reader would hardly notice them, and are not certified copy editors. Since the book is written for the average reader, these are perfectly forgivable. I only mention them because I recognize that some people who read this blog are the types who will notice minor verbiage issues and sentence structure. In the grand scheme however, these are insignificant.

The fact that we live in an age where distortions, half-truths, and outright lies are being used to manipulate black Americans to a regressive rather than a truly progressive future makes this book important for millennials and younger generations to read. It’s a prescription for black Americans, but I would argue that it is an enlightening book for all Americans. I can hardly believe we are having serious discussions about socialism and praising the virtues of forced segregation. Make no mistake: that is exactly what we are doing. The fact that black students and activists are forcing it doesn’t make it any less forced.

In short, I recommend this book. It breaks down and strips bare the truth of what we are being sold as black Americans, and Americans as a whole.

4 out of 5 stars.

Word Nerd Wednesday: Ignominy

This week’s word is ignominy, inspired by this quote:

In the town I was in, there were no such back-alleys in the literal sense, but morally there were. If you were like me, you’d know what that means. I loved vice, I loved the ignominy of vice. ~ Dimitri, The Brothers Karamazov

I am still crawling through The Brothers Karamazov, and loving it. The story is compelling and worthy of contemplation, so I am taking it slow. It’s taking longer than I’d like, but I have other responsibilities tugging at me, slowing me further. I  also feel obliged to read the books my children are assigned in their literature class. In other words, it’ll be a while before I finish The Brothers Karamazov.

I look forward to discussing it in great detail and from myriad perspectives. There is much to discuss here, beginning with the quote above, where Dimitri describes his uncontrollable thirst for vice, including his relishing the ignominy that accompanied it. I suppose we should define ignominy:

Ignominy:

1. disgrace; dishonor; public contempt.

2. shameful or dishonorable quality or conduct or an instance of this.

Upon first read this portion of Dimitri’s confession to his young, devout brother Aloysha, my reaction was shock at the pleasure Dimitri seemed to take in being a disgrace. He didn’t just accept ignominy; he loved it. He loved not only the moral morass in which he existed, he loved the infamy.

I wondered if there is such a thing anymore as ignominy; shameful or dishonorable conduct. I know we have shameful and dishonorable beliefs these days. But there is scant a man can do, and nothing a woman can do, that would rise to the level of ignominy.

Just one of those things I paused to think about.

 

A Most Southern Cookbook

This is post is inspired by the latest post from my favorite food blogger, a scrumptious breakfast sandwich she came up with after perusing this book:

I think this book has been on my bookshelf for about ten years, but it may be closer to fifteen. When I found it, I didn’t know that Edna Lewis was a legend in the southern culinary world. I haven’t purchased any of her other books, but it definitely on my to-do list.

Besides the fact that my roots are Georgian and Louisianan, the thing that most draws me to southern cooking is that it’s the closest thing to a uniquely American food tradition, in the way that jazz is a uniquely American art form.

Southern cooking was born of southern poverty, from people both black and white, who took using the scraps and raised it to a culinary art form. There are some southern dishes I simply won’t eat, such as chitterlings (pronounced “chit’lins” by Southerners) or blood sausage, but I appreciate them nonetheless.

That my children have embraced southern cooking pleases me. It’s not often that younger generations are interested in the traditions of the prior generations. Of course, over time, we’ve switched to healthier versions of the dishes we love. I don’t use shortening for just about anything, for example. Well, at least not until Thanksgiving and Christmas. Making a pie crust with what produces the flakiest crust once or twice a year isn’t gonna kill us, after all.

Edna Lewis’s dedication to wholesome ingredients and food made from scratch was a thing long before the clean eating movement was born. She was, as she was known, the grande dame of Southern cooking.

I don’t use cookbooks very often, but some books are worth keeping for the legacy they impart. The Gift of Southern Cooking is one of those books.

Word Nerd Wednesday/Quotable Literary Quote Double Play

We live in a world that is, by every observable measure, going insane.

It occurs to me with every obvious incongruity, shouted maniacally and accepted as gospel truth.

It occurs to me whenever I see banality celebrated as genius, vulgarity hailed as art, and beauty denigrated as bigotry.

I think of it when I hear pleas for virtue dismissed as weakness and acts of vice lauded as justice.

What manner of madness is this? Did I miss something important when I looked up from the grindstone of daily family life, where right and wrong, sane and insane meant something totally different than they appear to mean now?

So I decided to look up the word sanity; just to make sure I hadn’t missed one of Merriam-Webster’s famous updates:

Sanity: The quality or state of being sane. Especially soundness or health of mind.

So it does still mean what I thought it meant. Soundness or health of mind used to mean an observable congruence, coherence, and harmony in thinking and reasoning.

Most days, I think I’m pretty sane, but what my troglodyte parents taught me is no longer considered good sense. It made me think of a quote I once saw quoted,  but never knew where it came from. I did some clicking and learned that it is attributed to Kurt Vonnegut:

A sane person to an insane society must appear insane.~ from Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut

picture credit 

*I have never read Welcome to the Monkey House. If anyone has, feel free to weight in because it isn’t in my queue.