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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

“Valkyrie” is a wonderful monument to a great man

You could not endure the shame; you resisted; you gave the great, eternally vital sign of

change, sacrificing your glowing lives for freedom, justice, and honor.”

(“Freiheit , Recht und Ehre”)

Translation of the plaque in the center of the courtyard at the Memorial to German Resistance in Berlin;,

where a firing squad murdered four army officers for their role in the most famous plot to kill Hitler on July

20, 1944.

I saw “Valkyrie” today. Not only was it a NON-FLOP it was actually one of the best WWII era films I have seen in years. “Valkyrie” portrays (accurately) a German Resistance movement as very serious affair and not merely a last minute disorganized effort by a few. The film documents in total three very serious attempts to kill Hitler in 1943 and 1944 including the July 20 bombing. This was nothing new for me because I have made a study of Nazi Germany and the 20 July plot but for most people –even those who have heard of the assassination attempt- there is a depth of detail which many will find informative and surprising. “Valkyrie” has first class performances by an ensemble cast of top rate British and European actors. “Valkyrie” captures to a “t” the desperation a well as the moral bankruptcy and mental exhaustion of a failing Nazi Germany.

Some reviewers complain that the Hitler portrayed here is not ‘exciting’ or charismatic enough. “Downfall” got a big press and was a good film but I did not like the focus on a more “human” Hitler which almost –it seemed to me- to be sympathetic to him. “Valkyrie”, by contrast, showed the Nazi leaders to be cowardly, mean, corrupt, mediocre and out of touch. Mussolini was not allowed a bit part either; Hitler meets with him off screen and his lieutenants dismiss the Duce as a “cheap Dago”. So much for Axis unity! Many World War Two films emphasize Nazi efficiency and therefore glorify, inadvertently, Nazi Germany as an effective and efficient state. “Valkyrie” did not do this.

But many reviewers seem to forget that by 1943-1944 Hitler was rarely seen in public and lived a life of seclusion and was gradually descending into what could be described as a complete breakdown. The director purposely did not dwell on Hitler at all. I found this refreshing. Not much “Heil Hitler” in this movie; “High” Hitler is more like it. The Hitler of this film is not attractive or charismatic in the least but is depicted as a pathetic and perhaps doped up Fuehrer who is too lazy and incompetent to read thoroughly the orders he was signing. This is a suicidal Hitler who had not too long to live regardless of the outcome of the war. I think the film completely demythologizes Hitler and for that I say: Bravo!.

The only thing lacking in “Valkyrie” was a real star turn by Tom Cruise. Mr. Cruise, nonetheless, was perfectly competent but I can imagine this role being done by Alec Guinness for example or James Mason or Jack Hawkins. I just know THEY would have made Mr. Cruise’s good lines really memorable. But I give Mr. Cruise credit; he does a very workmanlike job. He did not overact or attempt to make himself look physically taller or more glamorous in any way but allowed himself to be shown as scarred and visibly disabled.

The script was first rate and great care was put into this film to create an air of authenticity and historical accuracy. “Valkyrie” shows how many ordinary Germans were just cogs in huge totalitarian machine and were almost quite literally what the Cubans used to call ‘hombres de siete nalgas” that is to say people who were fence sitters who wanted to survive regardless of who came out on top. It shows that some members of the plot had to be virtually blackmailed into working with the plotters and that many conspirators had cold feet at various times. As it became clear the assassination attempt had failed people began to drift away and abandon the plotters to their fate. This is historically accurate and did show that some people had some courage but most lacked the overwhelming fortitude needed to stand up the feared Gestapo and murderous SS to the very end. Except perhaps one: Stauffenberg himself.

If I had been involved in the film, personally, I might have given more emphasis to the devout Catholicism of Stauffenberg and his family. But that would reflect perhaps my own personal prejudice and may not have made a better or more believable film. The director preferred (no doubt for commercial reasons) to imply Stauffenberg’s Catholic faith via his loving wife and family, using Christian motifs and shooting a scene in a bombed out Cathedral. I strongly object to the reviews that say that the film downplayed Stauffenberg’s Catholicism or that it showed the German officers or policemen or the Germany Army in a romanticized light. Let us remember that many people who cooperated with the plot paid for it with their lives. All in all, I think the film did a believable job at characterizing Stauffenberg’s moral repugnance for the Nazi Regime and its crimes.

Stauffenberg was a hero and a very , very brave man and the film did him honor. Of course, tragically, he failed and Hitler lived nine months more. If the plot HAD SUCCEEDED, however, much of Europe may have been spared- not to mention the 80,000 Americans killed in the Battle of the Bulge? But we must pause and think about it. How many civilians, Jews and POW’s would have been saved IF the plot had succeeded? The number might have been in the millions. I have a Waffen SS helmet that my uncle personally liberated in January 1945 from a bombed out postal warehouse (he made me promise never to wear it or display it). It had been in a box stamped DIED FOR GREATER GERMANY. My uncle served in the 10th Armored Division in the Bastogne pocket and was awarded a Bronze Star V with Valor. He personally attested to the ferocious killing power of the Germany Army right up to the end of the war. He also helped liberate death camps and slave labor camps. Trying to kill Hitler and make a separate peace with the West was not a small thing it was a very big thing and a noble thing. Stauffenberg knew the risks and was prepared to lay down his life for his country and as he said for the greater cause of humanity.

“VALKYRIE” is a very fine film and I would rate it THREE STARS and ½ . Valkyrie was so good it really will have to be on anyone’s list of the top 50 movies ever made on a WWII theme. Not as great a film as “Patton” or the “Bridge over the River Kwai” but on the level of “TORA TORA TORA” which is very good indeed. “Valkyrie “ was a better movie than the very entertaining but childish -by comparison-“The Longest Day” or the cheaply made Hollywood bio-picture of the 1951 “The Desert Fox” (which also had as a subplot the 20 July plot) That film featured Luther Adler as a very memorable but typically violent and maniacal Hitler. “Patton” was a tour de force by George C. Scott but as World War II buffs will remember there were some historical inaccuracies in so far as uniforms and German weaponry. “Valkyrie” by contrast left no stone unturned to make the film authentic in every detail from the Wolf’s Lair reconstruction to authentic Ju-52 transports and Messerschmitt fighters. Much of the film was shot in the actual buildings and locations.

Every educated person should know about how easy it is to sit back and criticize collaborators with the Nazis and other dictators and how extremely hard it is, and dangerous, to oppose a modern totalitarian state. “Valkyrie” captures the terror and doom and sometimes faltering courage- of the conspirators very well. “Valkyrie” is a film worth seeing and in fact will reward multiple viewings. Stauffenberg’s daughter called this film a success. I agree. “Valkyrie” is a wonderful monument to a great human being, a loving husband and father, who did a true man’s part. “You could not endure the shame; you resisted; you gave the great, eternally vital sign of change, sacrificing your glowing lives for freedom, justice, and honor.” Yes, indeed.

RICHARD K. MUNRO, Bakersfield, California December 29, 2008.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Great and Wise authors; SAKI


While shepherds watched their flocks by night
All seated on the ground,
A high explosive shell came down
And mutton rained around.


THIEPVAL MEMORIAL: Burial place of Saki (H. H. Munro) Note the date here is November 14, 1916; I have seen other sources that say November 16.

Casualty Details
Initials: H H
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Lance Serjeant
Regiment/Service: Royal Fusiliers
Unit Text: "A" Coy. 22nd Bn.
Age: 45
Date of Death: 14/11/1916
Service No: 225
Additional information: Younger son of the late Col. Charles Augustus Munro (Bengal Staff Corps), and Mary Frances Munro. An Author ("Saki"), Special Correspondent and Journalist. Enlisted in 1914.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Pier and Face 8 C 9 A and 16 A.

Saki was the pseudonym of writer Hector Hugh Munro (1870-1916). Born in Burma, but raised and educated in England, he began his writing career because poor health precluded more strenuous occupations. He borrowed the nom de plume "Saki" from a character in The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam made famous in the Fitzgerald translation. It was a favorite poem of my parents and I have always loved it the way I love Burns and Shakepeare's sonnets.

Yon rising Moon that looks for us again--
How oft hereafter will she wax and wane;
How oft hereafter rising look for us
Through this same Garden--and for one in vain!

And when like her, oh, Saki, you shall pass
Among the Guests Star-scatter'd on the Grass,
And in your joyous errand reach the spot
Where I made One--turn down an empty Glass!

“The young have aspirations that never come to pass, the old have reminiscences of what never happened. “ Saki is very funny. He seemed to see right through the hubris and pretence of Edwardian society particularly upper class English society. He anticipated the almost complete collapse of the Anglican Communion (remember even Tony Blair became a Roman Catholic). He wrote some drama but is primarily, as you know a master of the short story genre. I have been lucky enough to be able to teach him (every other year). The story I usually use is “The Interlopers”. "The Open Window" may be his most famous, with a dramatic and ironic closing line :"Romance at short notice was her specialty" It has been quoted many times and remains amusing.

Es ist nicht genug, zu wissen, man muss auch anwenden. Es ist nicht genug, zu wollen, man muss auch tun." – (Goethe) Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre. It is not enough to know, one much use one’s knowledge. It is not enough to desire one must DO.” Saki had an unusual cosmopolitan background(like so many Scots or overseas Scots because that’s what he was). He was born in Burma to a class of people higher than my own; they were the junior officers and we were the NCO’s and privates.

Saki was a great favorite of Chesterton and I think Chesterton wrote an introduction to one of his posthumous books. Chesterton’s brother as you may or may not know, enlisted in the British Army and like Kipling’s only son and like Sir Hector Munro’s only son (the chief of the Clan Munro) was killed in action as was Saki. I think I sent you the memorial page if I didn’t I can send it again. He is indeed remembered with honor. He was killed in action November 16, 1916 by a German sniper. That is a fact I have known almost all of my life; we always toasted the lad’s …who fought with heart and hand to burst in twain the galling chain. And kept free our native land. …Aye To do a true man's part -To free my land I'd gladly give The red drops of my heart."

Saki did a true man’s part. NE OBLIVISCARIS…do not forget. I do not and I shall not.

These are some favorite stories I highly recommend. “the Interlopers” is also almost prescient. It takes place in the Balkans and it is about the rivalry of two proud men over control of a certain border land. The Germanic (Austrian?) family Ulrich von Gradwitz are the lairds with legal title dating back centuries. But Georg –I forget the last name but it is Slavic- is the resentful “native” in the sense his people stole the land by force in an earlier era (when the Eastern Roman Empire fell appart). If you think about it how many wars have been fought in that regions between the Ottoman Turks, the Slavs , the Russians, the Austrians, the Romans, the Visigoths, the Dacians etc. etc.!!! This story has a dramatic exciting finish. What gives the story strength it that it deals with the ultimate price and folly of pride to POSSESS and HAVE PRESTIGE? In a way it is an anti-Imperials story the foreshadows the complete destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the tragic suicide of Europe 1914-1918. But as you know I am no pacifist; I believe Belgium (which was neutral) and France (which was invaded) and Britain (which guaranteed the Independence of Belgium had to defend themselves. The British knew it would be real threat to their security if the industries and channel ports of Belgium and France were occupied by a hostile power with a strong submarine force. Rolling over to the Prussians (as they did in 1940) would not have guaranteed peace or freedom. Appeasement is, as Churchill described it, like feeding crocodiles. When you are in a fight to the death with a Croc the only thing to do is fight back and scratch its eyes out.

“ The Interlopers”reminds me of another allegorical Tolstoy story “How much land does a man need”; the Tolstoy story was much admired by Hemingway and Joyce which is great praise indeed because both men were masters of the short story so they really knew excellence when they saw it. .Anyway READ this story. It is one of the greatest short stories I have ever read. The best of Saki is very good indeed.

I love his cat story “Tobermory” ; it is simply charming almost science fiction.

(Tobermory is a town on the isle of Mull and is featured in I KNOW WHERE I AM GOING one of the greatest movies every made about the Scottish Highlands and the character or Highlanders and their relationship with the English. Roger Livesey and Wendy Hiller. First rate with some nice Gaelic singing. It was my mother’s favorite movie of all time and naturally since her story in a way paralleled the Wendy Hiller character. She gave up everything to be with the young, penniless Scottish immigrant who had ‘naught to offer” , “nae gold frae mine, nae pearl from sea” and “nor was he of high degree” but he loved her and had a leal heart and promised to be true to her till death did them part. And he kept that promise. My parent’s entire life was one of the greatest love stories I have every known.

We need more love songs about marital bliss and the growth of AFFECTION (storgic love) FRIENDSHIP (philla love), and ALTRUISTIC LOVE (Caritas or Agape love); naturally in marriage PHYSICAL ATTRACTION and PHYSICAL LOVE (Eros) are part of the package, the icing on the cake so to speak.

But the greatest part of EROS as far as I am concerned is TRUST in the intimacy and the memory of the UNION and its FRUITS (the children you share together). But I must say all writers seem to have their limitations and Saki does not write about heterosexual love in any extraordinary way. Perhaps he was not capable of it; I do not know.

Another story which is absolutely amazing is “The Toys of Peace”. The mother is very PC and she refuses to give her sons toy soldiers or guns or swords or ships for (Christmas? Or Easter or their birthday I don’t remember). They are instead given a cultural gift which is a model of a museum and a public library with figures of public intellectuals, scientists and poets.

Many of his references are very sly for example he alludes to John Stuart Mill (a utiliarian/utopian) and poetess Felicia Hemans.

Hemans was well-regard lyrical poet of the romantic era and she was a fixture in Victorian anthologies of poetry and is mentioned in the Oxford Book of quotations. Saki teases the reader and makes fun of the mother very subtly. The PC mother obviously DOES NOT know the works or themes of Felicia Hemans. The effect would be like Jane Fonda quoting Edmund Burke! Her most anthologized poem is about LOYALTY and OBEDIENCE to a FATHER and an OFFICER. “Hold until relieved!”

This was the watchword at 2nd Ypres, El Alamein, and Pegasus Bridge (Normandy 1944)

“The boy stood on the burning deck” or Casabianca

The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle's wreck
Shone round him o'er the dead.

Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud, though child-like form.

The flames rolled on–he would not go
Without his Father's word;
That father, faint in death below,
His voice no longer heard.

He called aloud–'say, Father, say
If yet my task is done?'
He knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of his son.

'Speak, father!' once again he cried,
'If I may yet be gone!'
And but the booming shots replied,
And fast the flames rolled on.

Upon his brow he felt their breath,
And in his waving hair,
And looked from that lone post of death
In still yet brave despair.

And shouted but once more aloud,
'My father! must I stay?'
While o'er him fast, through sail and shroud,
The wreathing fires made way.

They wrapt the ship in splendour wild,
They caught the flag on high,
And streamed above the gallant child,
Like banners in the sky.

There came a burst of thunder sound–
The boy–oh! where was he?
Ask of the winds that far around
With fragments strewed the sea!–

With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,
That well had borne their part–
But the noblest thing which perished there
Was that young faithful heart.

Young Casabianca, a boy about thirteen years old, son of the admiral of the Orient, remained at his post (in the Battle of the Nile), after the ship had taken fire, and all the guns had been abandoned; and perished in the explosion of the vessel, when the flames had reached the powder.

Edition: Hemans, Felicia Dorothea. The Poetical Works of Felicia Dorothea Hemans London: Oxford University Press, 1914. p. 396.

A. J. Languth wrote an excellent biography of him; SAKI which details his war experiences. It also is the only book I had ever read that talks about his bisexual or homoerotic tendencies. Of the truth of that lifestyle I don’t know and I don’t care. It matters no to me if Saki were a saint or a role model or a good cook or a bad cook. What matters is he was a patriot and he put his life on the line for his counrty. What matters is he was a writer of great talent. If he had lived (he was only 45 when he died) he may have written one of the great books about WWI. As it is the whole world is his monument not just the lonely grave at THIEPVAL.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Speaking in Tongues

Bible Story - Speaking in Tongues: On the day of Pentecost, "tongues of fire" descended on the heads of Jesus's apostles, allowing them to speak in languages they did not know.

Sextra Credit:Cougars Preying in the Classroom

Mary O' Hara circa 1980

This is a MUST READ article.

According to a major 2004 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education – the most authoritative investigation to date – nearly 10 percent of U.S. public school students have been targeted with unwanted sexual attention by school employees, and in those cases, 40 percent of the perpetrators were women.


Titled "Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature" by Virginia Commonwealth University Professor Charol Shakeshaft, the report brought to light staggering statistics.

Compare the numbers with the much-publicized Catholic Church scandal.

A study by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops concluded 10,667 young people were sexually mistreated by priests between 1950 and 2002.

Shakeshaft's study, however, estimates that roughly 290,000 students experienced some sort of physical sexual abuse by a public school employee between 1991 and 2000 alone.

If female employees are responsible for 40 percent of those crimes, that means America could be facing an average of more than 11,000 instances of women abusing students in school each year – in other words, more cases in one year than were reported in 50 years of Catholic priest abuse.


The first warning sign is a kid spending a lot of private time with the teacher," Schoener said. "The second: text messaging and emails that go back and forth. At the grade school, junior high, high school level, most teachers are discouraged from a lot of Internet interaction. Frequent emailing and text messaging are questionable. It would be a rare occasion where a teacher would need to be in that level of contact with a student."

Schoener also warned that parents be clear on the purpose and the chaperoning of all field trips and events outside of school.

Finally, Schoener said, the boundaries of a teacher's role need to be clearly set.

"A teacher's job is not to counsel students past a point," Schoener explained. "Even if the kid really needs help and it's legitimate counseling, it's rare that a teacher should be doing a lot of counseling. That's the school counselor's job. If there are a lot of private meetings, you have to ask yourself what's going on."

MUNRO’s commentary:

I never give my home phone or personal email to a current student ( teach high school students and am a catechist in my parish).. All internet interaction should be via your school computer and your school account and should reflect school business.’

Field trips are very problematical though in my experience the problem is not the chaperones or teachers but the students themselves. In today’s world ‘have private bedroom, have morning, noon or night, will have sex.” A great many of my students have sex in the morning at vacant homes while parents or relatives are away. Oh, it’s possible that they are studying for AP tests or saying the rosary together but under the circumstances not likely. The point is students don’t need predatory teachers to have sex. We have predatory senior and juniors in abundance.’’

Gilbert Highet mentioned long ago that a teacher’s job IS NOT to counsel students for the simple reason that a teacher does not have the energy to do this and do his or her educational task.

Nonetheless, counseling, encouragement and exhortation is absolutely necessary for today’s marginal or at-risk students. It goes with the territory. But teachers and students CANNOT be colleagues and CANNOT be and SHOULD NOT BE considered peers. The military knows officers should not fraternize with enlisted men and with good reason: it is prejudicial to good discipline. Teachers should show great self-discipline themselves particularly in the beginnings of their careers when the age differential is not that great. Debra LaFave, for example, was a very youthful 23 with a stunning figure. There is no question she sexually aroused many of the young men she met. She could have used that power to her advantage as a teacher because young men would have gone out of their way to please her, to attend her class and to be successful academically in her class. As a married woman, Mrs. LaFave, should have been totally inaccessible to ANYONE let alone her students. That is the example she should have set for her students. If she really loved and cared for her students, her school and her community she would not have wanted to harm her students. Affection (storgic love) is natural between students and teachers and helps bond the class with the teacher. There is nothing wrong with teachers being friendly and kind with their students; I think, on the contrary, if a teacher is not kind and does not care for his or her students that person SHOULD NOT BE A TEACHER. One cannot care for ALL the students in the same way and, yes, sometimes students MUST BE REMOVED from a classroom or from a school FOR THE COMMON GOOD. And, speaking as a Christian, in the Roman Catholic tradition, teachers must forgive their students and MUST LOVE them as fellow human beings and as future adults and citizens. But if a teacher truly loves a child he or she would not want to see that child come to harm. Eros must be tamed and restrained, however. Just as we would not urinate on the front wall like a dog in front of our entire class we should not act our and follow upon our every bodily instinct. The highest moral obligation in America today is “have sex, drink, eat and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Most young Americans partake “exuberantly in the pleasures” of the belly as if there were no tomorrow.” Two results of this are:

1) an alarming increase of obesity among all ages but most shockingly among teenagers and young adults. A major factor –in my view- is the consumption of alcohol and junk food at secret rendezvous, usually the vacant home of parents or relatives but also the back seat of cars or the far side of that grassy knoll in the park which cannot be observed from the street.

2) The other result of course is the massive rise of STD’s what we used to call VD. Diagnoses of genital chlamydia have risen since the 1990’s by over 70%, gonorrhea, and syphilis by over 50%s and genital warts by over 20% . Oral contraceptives, while providing the greatest protection from unplanned pregnancy, offer no protection against sexually transmitted diseases.

An American sociologist quote by David Shaw in the Pleasure Police (1996) "Don't people realize every scientific study shows that the single best thing you can do for your health is have fun?" This sort of attitude leads to a culture where liquor is always chosen over learning and having entertainment and childish fun is preferred to poetry, arts, books and (good) music. I am quite aware young people have music of a kind but, for the most part, this music is thin stuff just part of their hedonistic sexual lifestyle. One would think that graying 65 year olds would be embarrassed to be gyrating to the blaring booming music of Mick Jagger etc in pants two sizes too small but we live in a age of little shame and even less common sense.

For example, women have never been drafted into military service in the United States and women are not required to register by the Selective Service. This makes good common sense because men and women are different. The Selective Service law, written in 1940, specifically refers to “male persons.” In the 1980 case of Rostker v. Goldberg, the registration of women was examined by the Supreme Court and the Selective Service law as clearly discriminatory as it is was NOT seen to violate the due process clause of the Constitution. We can pretend that Congress was not influenced by a traditional way of thinking about women and young girls and Congress can pretend and NOW can pretend but all would be lying. We are influenced by societal norms and traditional values. If America forcibly drafted women, especially into the combat arms of the military, it would mean the destruction of the private life and break-up the rhythm of the home and family life. The consequences of such a brutal and, in my view, totalitarian act by the State would be almost beyond ken. Minority languages, cultures and religions would be wiped out. Healthy distinctions between the sexes would be wiped out. Homes would become merely billets and duty stations. The harm such a policy would cause to children, education and our entire civilization would be irreparable. Indeed a society which would forcibly pressgang women into military service would not be worth defending. It would be an evil society and every man of honor should want to raise his hand a fight such a society to the last cartridge and to the death for the sake of his family, his culture, his language(s), his religion, his family’s right to freedom , a private life and the sacred right of parents to raise children as they wish. André Glucksmann wrote: “A totalitarian way of thinking loathes to be gainsaid. It affirms dogmatically, and waves the little red, or black, or green book. It is obscurantist, blending politics and religion. Anti-totalitarian thinking, by contrast, takes facts for what they are and acknowledges even the most hideous of them, those one would prefer to keep hidden out of fear or for the sake of utility. Bringing the Gulag to light made it possible to criticize and ultimately reject "actually existing socialism." Confronting the Nazi abominations and opening the extermination camps converted Europe to democracy after 1945. Refusing to face the cruelest historical facts, on the other hand, heralds the return of cruelty. Yes, as Burn wrote ‘but facts are chiels that winna ding,/An downa be disputed.”. The English translation is ‘But facts are little fellows that will not be overturned,/And cannot be argued with’. The facts are that the role of women in our society to educate and raise children is vital and we destroy this role at the risk of destroying our entire civilization and society.

(See April 2006 )

By the way, I am not raising the specter of a straw man but am talking about policies which have actually been discussed at the highest level of the U.S. government. See for example:

We live in a society where for the most part there is no such thing as sin or lust or excess and the major goal of many people is to have a good time. Every lust is satisfied and new lusts and titillations are constantly being invented. We have forgotten that modesty is the true beauty of womankind. The most horrible and the most ugly thing about a temptress like Debra LaFave proof that beauty is only skin deep -is her total lack of restraint, modesty and faithfulness to her husband her reckless lack of consideration for others. She knew she has sexual power of men and she used it to satisfy her personal pleasure and wantonness. To me it is just another case proving women can have –for a period of time while they are sexually attractive- a great power over the male sex of any age past puberty.

It could well be that so many years of internal peace, wealth and material success have smothered and snuffed out civic virtue and private morality. I doubt very many of my students even know the word wanton or wantonness and if they did they would disagree with it. I would argue that what has sustained America –and other Western countries as well- has been their civic virtue, their heroism in peace and war, their restraint, their deep consciousness of Right and Wrong, their respect for marriage, their respect for womankind and children, their purity of motive and for want of a better word, nobility. The Gael of old called this uaisleachd, the Spaniard called it nobleza de alma (nobility of soul). We might call the self-respect and generosity, we might call it integrity, we might call it civic virtue or even gravitas, to use a Latin word. However we call it, this ineffable virtue, this civic virtue, this sense of honor, this love of country, this loyalty to family and our faith community, we in the West have it much less than our forefolk though I would argue that America still has it in relative abundance and this is our great strength more so than our coal or oil reserves. Baghehot remarked “there is a character to an age and a character to nations.” We need to cultivate the manifold loves, not exalt one (eros). We need to cultivate the manifold virtues that make character and make for a happy life, not just the desire for material success. It is good to work hard. It is good to make money and to save but it is better and more sensible to live modestly with goodwill, generosity, kindness and hospitality towards others. It is better to love and be loved than to possess.

Speaking as a teacher of young people and adults, I believe adults should only date -or to use an older word court- other adults. Dating has become almost synonymous with sexual activity which is too bad because it is only by to used that dated word again –courtship- that a couple many develop the philia love that will sustain their relationship when the bloom of youth and beauty fades. Every dog has his day but it is a mistake to make a god of Eros that is to say sexual love. This way lies madness, unhappiness and I think in the long run great loneliness and bitterness for both men and women alike. There is such a thing –as I tell all my students as the joy of trust and marital bliss.

As the Bard of Ayr sang: “To make a happy fire-side clime, to weans and wife, That’s the true pathos and sublime of human life.” Burns was no prude and he loved the pursuit and conquest of the fair sex but even he realized that sexual pleasure was nothing compared to the manifold loves found in marriage and family life.

Within living memory, young people were not adults until their majority –age 21. One of the results of making 18 year olds adults has been to lower the age of consent so that college teachers and even high school teachers could have consensual sex with persons who are legally adults. This has had the effect of encouraging sexual contact between adults and mature teenagers. There are many 17,18 and 19 year olds who could pass for 20 or 21 with the proper dress and makeup. And since it is established that it is natural for persons to be sexually aroused (in most cases by persons of the opposite sex) sexual contact is always a temptation and always a possibility.

I have known high school teachers to marry their former students. In all the cases I know the age different was not great –less than seven years- and in each case I know the older partner was a male. I believe but I do not know that they did not seriously begin to date until the student had graduated from high school and junior college I will not even speak of college professors and their mores but suffice it to say

I am old enough to recall my parents speaking of the America they grew up in ,as immigrants, an grew to adulthood in the 1930’s and 1940’s. America upheld a certain degree of 'moral standards' there were things that, even in Hollywood, were best kept in the 'closet' such as the true sexual proclivities of Charles Laughton –that charming and brilliant actor- and his faux marriage to Elsa Lancaster There were always scandals, rumors and gossip but no one outwardly discussed their 'sexual preference' because, after all going to prison was, well, just not a good thing. Did anyone need to know Rock Hudson was a flaming homosexual who loved wild orgies and very young boys? Leo Katcher ( the brother of Ed Katcher, Ruth Rosenberg and Gladys Bletter) my father’s business partner and closest friend Herb Katcher regaled us at the old 1407 club –now Abigail’s I believe- with tales of Mr. Hudson’s escapades ,some of which he personally witnessed, in the finest hotels in New York. As I recall as Leo Katcher explained it, Mr. Hudson’s agents was pleading that none of the reporters break the news so as not to destroy Mr. Hudson’s career circa 1959. I can’t help but think in retrospect that Leo Katcher may have had the goods on actors like Tyrone Power and Hudson and that might have helped him get on in show business. He certainly was in the know as my father used to say. He was a West Coast correspondent for the New York Post and wrote numerous screen plays and also wrote an excellent biography of Bakersfield worthy Earl Warren I read a number of years ago I always admired Tyrone Power –he volunteered for the Marines in WWII- but who needed to know the sordid details of his personal (reportedly bisexual) private life? Whose business was it to know that Errol Flynn was a complete reprobate and drunk who liked his whisky very old -15 years or more- and his sexual conquests very young? Let me enjoy the romantic hero of Robin Hood, Dawn Patrol, The Charge of the Light Brigade and They Died with their Boots On. I suppose I am very old-fashioned and a traditionalist but Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Jean Simmons, Elizabeth Montgomery, Shirley Jones and Maureen O’Hara -in their screen personas anyway- were to me very glamorous and classy. The very feminine womanhood they portrayed and the romance they engendered was far more pleasurable, more entertaining and probably sexier than seeing every current sluttish actress alive rutting like dogs in heat while displaying their surgically crafted 30 or 40 something bodies for the entire world to see. (And to my continuing delight, happiness and comfort, I married a Spanish lady de nobleza y carácter whose views on such matters are the same as mine. Go seek your pleasures where you will etc.)

When people went mad after Janis Joplin I was applauding Mary O’Hara, the Irish harpist who was a delightful person and an excellent conversationalist. She was a very accessible person, especially in the Mass a night after her concert. If she recognized you from the audience she would sit to have coffee with you in the Parish Hall. Not the greatest voice nor the greatest physical beauty in the world but a delightful woman and extremely appealing especially in person. A few hours in the physical presence of such a woman is a reminder that Hugh Heffner knows very little about love indeed. In his pursuit of ¼ of it over and over again he misses the best ¾. It seems to me all he knows about is the” old in and out” that is to say rutting like a wild animal. I have been blessed to have known the affection and the love of many women and men without having slept with any of them. I think it not too much to say that Mary O’Hara was possibly one of the greatest characters I have ever met and I have met more than my share of good and godly persons. Meeting her was almost like meeting Mother Teresa or Elizabeth Anne Seton in person. That is how profound an impact she had on me. She had a great spiritual glow and exuded a spirit of love and kindness. It was simply unforgettable it was faith, charity, humanity and womanhood in its full bloom. What is “the old in and out’ that “expense of spirit in a waist of shame” compared to that?

T & A –and I am not talking about tardiness and absenteeism- has always abounded in theatre, the arts and film but I have to admit that I prefer the glory of the human voice lifted in fine song over any air-brushed cheesecake photo. I never could understand the popularity of Playboy; just a lot of wanton lasses, no-talent models and aspiring actresses. People just like ex-teacher Debra LaFave. The first thing to realize about our society and Western society in particular is Anything Goes. This is why we have genocide, infanticide, that Holocaust and holocausts present and holocausts to come. We, ain’t, my friends ‘seen nothin’ yet. I have visions of Ypres 1918, Berlin and Manila 1945; the first was endured by my grandfather, the next was experienced by my uncle and the last by my father. Their descriptions left a profound impression of the true suicidal folly of mankind and the deep tragedy of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. And I have read Steven Vincent Benet’s “By the Waters of Babylon.”

We are in a race for our lives between education and total annihilation whether we know it or not and the real battle, I am convinced, is in the home and the classroom not the battlefield.


(December 20, 2008, on the banks of the San Joaquin River –California, USA- as the sun is shinning this quiet Saturday morning)

IN CASE the hedonist allusion passed over you here is a refresher:

In olden days a glimpse of stockings,
Was looked on as something shocking,
Now heaven knows,
Anything goes.

Good authors too who once knew better words,
Now only use four-letter words,
Writing prose,
Anything Goes. JEWEL A version known to be contemporary with Cole Porter.

Read for example this book or at least the book review of David Shaw’s book the PLEASURE POLICE:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Andrew Paterson a Fallin Worthy (Sterlingshire) KIA 1918

Forgotten for almost 90 years…

“Montay was reached in the Pursuit to the Selle on the 10th October, 1918; and on the 28th and 29th the cemetery was made by the 33rd Division and given the name of Selridge from its position above the river valley. It contained originally 60 graves, dating from the 10th October to the 1st November, the majority belonged to the 6th or 12th Lancashire Fusiliers or the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders”

Private Andrew Paterson :


Killed just as the big push towards victory was starting. “Greater love hath no man than to lay his life down for his friends.”


“in the eyes of Christ the ever young, no less than a king of realms far flung” Aye, now in the land o’ the leal.


In memory of all the lads and all my grandfather’s Scottish pals and his kith and kin of the Argylls, the HLI and Black Watch, in the 27th Division, whom he never forgot and whose absence in his life was a sorrow and a loss he had to bear for over fifty years most of which was spent in exile from his native land taking delight only in his nine grandchildren.

2nd Ypes, Gallipoli, Palestine, Egypt, Salonika, Derian, Struma Valley and Constantinople (1919)

(THOMAS MUNRO , SR., MM 2n Ypres: August 4, 1914 – November 30, 1919 ASH) “Up the Ants; the men of Company A his Scottish pals…..” Over 7,000 killed and over 20,000 casualties in that one Regiment alone. Many companies had a 200% or 400% casualty rate; over 90% of my grandfather’s company of 1914 were killed, wounded or invalided out by 1918.

They were in my Auld Pops’ words “THE FINEST LADS IN THE WAARRRLD, AYE.”