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Monday, December 26, 2011

The Imaginative Conservative: Beauty and the Beholder

The Imaginative Conservative: Beauty and the Beholder: by John Willson Beauty, n. The power by which a woman charms a lover and terrifies a husband. Ambrose Bierce My Imprimis arrived to...

Saturday, November 12, 2011


3rd Mar Div: LAVA DOGS
For some people  marriage is a word and for others a sacrament but for many it is a sentence!!!  May your bonds be light, friend, and may you both delight in the sacrament of marriage and all the Four Loves this encompasses.  If you have that the loves Hugh Heffner partakes in are small and silly by comparison. 
Eros, as I am sure you know is just the icing on the cake; it is sweet but it is not nourishing by itself.  Friendship is warmth and comfort and joy.  In fact, I think I have had more comfort and joy from my dogs than from most women -except of course Mrs. Munro.  Happy is the man with a good, loving and loyal wife!
The great thing about dogs -and good wives and husbands - is their absolute fidelity until death. 
I also think this is the best quality of a Highlander or U.S. Marine also besides his undaunted courage and work ethic -absolute fidelity until death and beyond.  
THE LEAL AN' TRUE MON:WWI Scottish Highlander

A Leal an' True Mon I knew and loved: my grandfather Thomas Munro, Sr. in Salonika, Greece 1917. He taught me what honor, courage,  and justice were.  He struggled with moderation (temperance) and the demons of No Man's Land and the trenches. He killed hundreds of men and saw many thousands die and be killed.
Fidelity is not just one value or virtue but I think, with courage, a cardinal virtue or at least an essential part of justice which is a cardinal virtue.   Where would justice be without fidelity?  Socrates showed that every time of virtue (courage, justice, wisdom) naturally coexist with true sophrosyne (moderation).  Sophrosyne is a very difficult word to interpret but Cicero helps; in Tuscalan Disputations 3.8 he translates sophrosyne as TEMPERANTIA (temprerance), MODERATIO (moderation), MODESTIA (modesty) and FRUGALITAS (thrift or frugality a basic understanding of economics that resources are scarce and so must be husbanded).

For it is true love to be loyal to someone or something that is dead or far away and cannot longer help you in anyway whatsoever except perhaps spiritually.   The past is no more and the future, of course, does not yet exist. Yes, the past is dead.  Except in our memories and except in the relics of the past that surround us. There is always memory though we sometimes think of memory of being fragile and short-lived. But important things like great loves and great losses and great dangers and great joys we do remember as they seem to be impressed deeply and broadly in our neurons. To think is to use what we know and what we know is what we remember.  

We must ask ourselves that would liberty be if free minds were not faithful to justice, the truth, the law, customs and history?   What would truth be without the fidelity of the truthful? One has to only think of the censors of Winston Smith's 1984 or Solzhenitsyn's Gulags or the tormentors of Raoul Wallenberg (both Nazi and Communist).  What gives fidelity its value is thing or person that one is loyal to.
The SS swore absolute allegiance to their Fuhrer and their fidelity was horrible in its criminality and in fact though no one can deny the SS, upon the whole, were courageous and loyal they were most unjust and most intemperant.

One should not change a wife the way, for example one changes a shirt  or trades in a car for a "new model" as the old joke goes.   I have heard a Frenchman say that no one bathes twice in the same river or loves the same woman twice.  According to this hedonistic calculation women have only so many good years -their best are from age 19-30- so even an attractive 33 year old woman is past her prime and is not longer the woman she was, at say 25, or before she had children. 

Ingrid Bergman in her early twenties circa 1937
  Therefore, so the Frenchman says, why should I be loyal and loving to a woman who "no longer exists"; if she were eternally 25 I could love her equally but since she is not I will be satisified with what is left as long as it provides me some pleasure! This is an attitude, I think that only a rich and spolied Frenchman could have (or his American, Spanish or British equivalent).  I see here the mentality of Hugh Heffner here and I must say it scunners the mind and the heart of any Leal Mon (a loyal and true Highlander).  We all age though perhaps it is true that women are more beautiful than men by nature and age more rapidly than men.

Ms. Bergman in her late 30's

Ingrid Berman in Autmn Sonata (1978) about 62 years of age

 But if my wife sacrifices her figure and her beauty and risks her health by bearing our children that does not make me love her less but more.  There is an old Irish poem "Beauty 'tis like the rainbow. When the shower is past its glory is gone. But beauty remains for the bard.  He sees her in youth, unchanged, unmarred and loves her all the more."   I loved my mother dearly because to her I owed my life and she reared and educated me until I was strong enough to take care of myself.  She sacrifced her life and her health and her career advancement for her children and grandchildren and also I think for the community around her to which she dedicated herself with true civic virtue.  I love my wife because not only was the object of my love from youth but also because she is my faithful companion in life, in sickness and in health and the mother of our children.   They say there are couples who are "faithful in their fashion" (that is to their love, their pleasure and their common freedom) but to me that is no fidelity at all. If we want to understand marriage and conjugal fidelity we have to understand what marriage is.  I am a traditionalist and marriage to me means the legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife. Marriage to me means openness to children;  I suppose I am a simple man but I could never understand a woman who wanted to marry but wanted to "plan" or "put off children" for some "golden future time."  When faced with such a response I would bluntly ask a young woman's age and to which she would respond 26, 29, or 31 and I would say, and you think you have all the time in the world to have children?  I would say you are marrying late in the day. In the Auld Country, lassie, you would be considered a spinster already. This approach, needless to say was not successful in winning many hearts but it was successful at breaking off  hopeless relationships with persons whose worldview were so different from mine. 

For a marriage to work husband and wife must have things in common especially a worldview.  This does not mean they are exactly the same race, culture, nationality or religion but I have come to understand that these things are very important.  One can overcome differences but differences add to the difficulty one finds in marriage in any case.  I believe that husband and wife should agree to practice the same religion, for example, and this religions should be the religion of the most sincere of the two.  But it is possible for a couple to practice two (similar) religious faiths and to have two cultures and languages peacefully coexist in the same household.  But it is very dificult and not the norm.  Mere sexual union or cohabitation do not make for a couple certainly not a marriage.  A marriage presupposes fidelity, love and duration.  I may begin with the fire of passion but passion alone, beauty alone and sexual attraction cannot sustain a marriage.  Passion at its best can provide the memory of something that was great and glorious. 

But what makes marriage endure is a mixture of friendship, trust, gratitude plus physical companionship which of course includes sexual contact but mostly is just that joy in physical companionship that we also enjoy in our favorite pets.  Love between girl and boy begins with fun and friendship (perhaps on the side of the female) and on the side of the boy with an electric lust.  Willliams James said that Romeo wanted Juliet the way filings want the magnet.   I have never known a man to pursue a young woman with whom he did not have a strong sexual attraction.  In fact for most men once that conquest is made they quickly forget the dame.  This is why young ladies, if they are smart, will ration their sexual favors only to the truly worthy.  The brute male of little virtue -and such men are legion- has a very simple epicurean philosophy of life: "Find 'em. Feel 'em F**k 'em and forget 'em. "  The very essences of  infidelity and unfaithfulness and of a false man without honor.  One does not seduce a maid without lies and deceit.  

I have done many sinful and wrong acts in my life but one thing I have never done is deceived or harmed a young woman merely to satisfy my own lust.  I have treated them with respect even when I knew I could have overpowered them or seduced them with some convenient lies.  But a man of honor stops when the young lady says, "please stop" or says "I am a virgin".    To have been so honored -to be offered the body of a willing young virgin- was, at the time, a great temptation but also the offering of a gift.   One forgets the casual sexual encounters one may have had but one never forgets the innocent young virgins one could have had but one kissed on the cheek, held her trembling hand and walked her home in the dark to her family, untouched.   I like to think that those young girls -if still alive an well- because I am talking about 35 and 40 years ago- remember me with fondness and without hatred for I treated them with respect and without deceit even though I greatly desired (at the time) to have sexual intercourse with them.  But as I have since learned such feelings are just passing moments of infatuation and lust and are not love merely a pathway to love.

 I have tried to be a Leal an' True Mon (a Highland Gentleman) and thus treat the fair sex with respect and with all the Honour due this most beautiful, this most worthy, most essential and most gentle sex.

A U.S. Marine is loyal to the Corps but above all swears allegiance to the U.S. Constitution that is "We the People" not the president and not the Marine Commandant.  In the novel SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (1962) by Fletcher Knebel and Charles Bailey  ; it is a Marine (Col. Jiggs Casey) who remains loyal to the president and Constitution when he becomes aware of a Fascist conspiracy in the Pentagon led by an Air Force general who seems to have been a composite of General MacArthur, General Edwin Walker and General Curtis Lemay. 

The film script of SEVEN DAYS IN MAY is quite literate (by Rod Serling). It has a wonderul line which is the essence of virtuous fidelity. 
The General (Burt Lancaster) and the Marine (Kirk Douglas)

 The Air Force General (Burt Lancaster) said  "Do you know who Judas was?" and the Marine (Kirk Douglas) responds, "Yes. He's a man I used to work for and respect, until he disgraced the four stars on his uniform." 

SEVEN DAYS  IN MAY was a favorite book of John F. Kennedy though he never saw the film version having been assassinated before the film was released.  It has some quotations which are eerie in retrospect : "Why, in God's name, do we elect a man president and then try to see how fast we can kill him?"

Marine Col. Jiggs Casey remarks with true Marine Corps  irony when a high ranking senator makes fun of his numerous decorations as "fruit salad":
"On the contrary, Senator, they're standard awards for cocktail courage and dinner-table heroism. I thought you'd invented them. "   Fredric March as the president says to the ambitious would be American caudillo: "Then, by God, run for office. You have such a fervent, passionate, evangelical faith in this country - why in the name of God don't you have any faith in the system of government you're so hell-bent to protect? "  He is challenging his word, his integrity and his fidelity and of course proving it is all a shame. All the general has is naked ambition: Caesar aut nihil (top dog or dead).   Jiggs by the way opposed the Nuclear Treaty and the president's policy towards the Soviet Union but he remains loyal to his oath as a Marine:
The president (Frederick March)  says "So you, ah, you stand by the Constitution, Jiggs?

Colonel Martin "Jiggs" Casey (Kirk Douglas): "I never thought of it just like that, Mr. President, but, well, that's what we got and I guess it's worked pretty well so far. I sure don't want to be the one to say we ought to change it."  They even joke about the virtue of fidelity together using the president's dog as an example: the president (Frederick March says) "Trimmer is a very political dog. He doesn't have many principles, but he's loyal to his friends."   Col. Jiggs reminds others of the cost of service and the need for remembrance "You're just like a lot of civilians, Mr. Todd. After every armistice, you want to put us away in mothballs, like the fleet. When it comes to a little dying... "

What makes a Marine stand out is his ethos "once a Marine always a Marine." What makes a Marine is absolutely fidelity to duty and love of country above self.   A Marine is always faithful to his Corps, his country and his comrades. A Marine is civic virtue and patriotism personified.  The Marine's virtue is a virtuous, vigorous and intentional fidelity.  The good Marine knows the only way to a good society is through good individuals who know there is no "I" in team. The good Marine knows he will die, he will not live forever but he hopes America will live, if not forever, for a long long time.  We know one day there will be a final battle or the sad final disbandment of the heroes.  And when the evening comes at last and there is peace on every hill how peaceful will be our sleep for we saw not the sacred flame extinguished .  We saw not our Colors struck in our time.
We know every nation has its age of ascendancy and its age of decline.  We know that billions of years from now the earth will not exist and the stars will blink out one by one.   But we know one thing more important: love IS IMMORTAL.  Individuals are more important than the State because individuals ARE IMMORTAL. Marriage is a more important than an individual.  Marriage is the basis of family, education and in a larger sense our civilization, our faiths and national culture.   To me education is all about the deepening of the mind and strengthening memory so that our children -all the nation's children can grasp the keys to our heritage an immesurable , inexhaustible secret treasure which has the power to transcend even Sergeant Death.  As St. Paul said to the Corinthians "What is seen is transitory; what is not seen lasts forever."    True love waits and true love remembers because it is faithful.   And true love never forgets and never dies. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Lionel Trilling

Like President Obama but also many “prize winning authors” since 1968.

“Today we relive Don Juan Manuel's tale -later retold as the Emperor's New Clothes- over and over. We pretend all people, all cultures all genders are absolutely equal in quality and in fact that PC works are what we must read because they are PC. Of course, multiculturalism and PC Affirmative Action authors and poet laureates are just one big lie just an exercise in propaganda. And as Orwell or Trilling would have told us, propaganda and lies make for the deadest literature of all.” (RICHARD K. MUNRO)⦴

By today's standards Lionel Trilling represents, perhaps, the tired old naive liberalism of the 1950's and early 1960's when liberalism was dominant in America. However, despite Trilling's excessive faith in liberalism he was a true exemplar of true liberal learning like his great contemporaries, Gilbert Highet, Mark Doren, Moses Hades, Allan Nevins and Jacques Barzun who amazingly is still with us at 100+.

Trilling was also almost entirely uncontaminated by PC thought, Affirmative Action multiculturalism which let's tell the truth elevates junk and mediocrity on a quota basis.

No wonder kids don't want to read. If I were a youth subject to today’s testing regime and today’s PC literature I think I would run away from school and certainly never darken the door of any university liberal arts department. Like the scholars in Fahrenheit 451 I would flee with my classics to some remote area to keep alive the flame of true culture and high literature.

I am a great reader but I avoid almost anything current that comes out of the Nobel system or PC liberal arts departments of our universities. Life is too short and there are such great classics. Most of our best writers, today are independent writers so it seems to me in this tarnished silver age we still have great non-fiction authors.

But most contemporary poetry and fiction falls flat as far as I am concerned with a few exceptions such as Ian Pears. I don't think Ken Follett is really a first class writer but at his best he comes close to matching in consistent quality of output of Kipling,Stevenson,Bryce,MacDonald, Bronte,Trollope, Boswell, Gibbon,Twain, Theodore Roosevelt,Bret Hart, Wells, Dickens or Scott or Conan Doyle. I used to think George Orwell's fiction was uneven but now -re-reading Orwell it all seems like gold and of course he had his masterpieces too and his essays and letters are among the greatest ever written by anyone in any language.

Theodore Roosevelt, president,naturalist and American author

But just match any post 1950 English language author to Conan Doyle for example or Dickens or Shaw or even Austen, or French literature, Flaubert, Verne, Zola, Gautier,Hugo, Balzac and so forth.

Then there is the great opus of Russian literature pre-1914 Tolstoy,Pushkin, Chekov, plus all the works of Solzhenitsyn, all the great romantic Spanish drams of the Golden age or 19th century (several made into operas by Mozart such as Don Giovanni -a play by Tirso de Molina- or by Verdi such as the Duque de Rivas' Don Alvaro La Forza del Destino)followed by the great Spanish playwrights and poets of the first half of the 20th century, The Quintero brothers, Benevente, Garcia Lorca, Machado. Then there is German literature as well, Thomas Mann, Goethe, Heine,Mommsen, Niebuhr, Ranke.

With men like Trilling or Gilbert Highet or Allan Nevins one always knew one was reading LITERATURE by people who knew their prose and poetry like modern Ciceros. The wide learning of a Trilling or Highet -men who were conversant with politics and history to a high degree plus classical and world literature or of an Allan Nevins whose vocabulary and literary allusions in his historical works show a man who knew his Gibbon, his Shakespeare, his Scott, his Dickents,his Twain, his Lincoln, his Theodore Roosevelt (yes TR was one of America's great prose writers and essayist equally a match to Winston Churchill and the superior author to Jefferson who was talented but relatively unoriginal and unproductive. As an original thinker and writer Jefferson is highly overrated -especially when one compares him to Theodore Roosevelt.

We have no one like TR today nor Mark Twain either nor Robert Sherwood or even Hemingway at his best. Hemingway is a classic example of a modern author who just cannot sustain excellence. Hemingway, at his best (1926-1950) is very, very good and still highly accessible. But -and I have read almost all of his fiction, letters and prose- Hemingway is not consistently as great an author as Conrad or Dickens or even Conan Doyle. My chief criticism of modern authors is that they are careless writers who seem not to have read very much. Once I tried to stay abreast of "current literature" but I found so much of it to be squalid, turgid and mediocre with some exceptions as I have mentioned plus others such as Anthony Burgess. The great thing about Trilling was that Trilling was truly learned and truly had great taste at time when men could be discriminating in their tastes and judge work ONLY by its literary beauty, originality, and general merit.

Today we relive Don Juan Manuel's tale -later retold as the Emperor's New Clothes- over and over. We pretend all people, all cultures all genders are absolutely equal in quality and in fact that PC works are what we must read because they are PC. Of course, multiculturalism and PC Affirmative Action authors and poet laureates are just one big lie just an exercise in propaganda. And as Orwell or Trilling would have told us, propaganda and lies make for the deadest literature of all. Trilling lived at time when a man could tell the truth and exalt in and know the limits of art. We are very glad to have him, still, as an untainted if somewhat overoptimistic old style liberal. One remembers when reading Trilling what is was like to when it made sense to be a (moderate) liberal because moderate liberals of the 1950's and early 1960's were manly, patriotic, proud of being American and part of what was then called Western Civilization. Most children today do not even know what Western Civilization is and in most places in the West -the USA probably being an exception- knowledge of the Bible is at its lowest since probably AD 200. I meet unbaptized and completely deracinated Russian, Spanish, Italian immigrants who have never heard of Noah, or the Psalms or Ecclesiastes, or Aaron or even Moses let alone Luke, Matthew, Paul etc. Men of the right often complain that immigrants from Latin American are destroying America because they are uneducated, have no values, do not share our culture etc.

We in America are very lucky that most Latin American immigrants DO NOT SHARE the non-culture of present day British or European immigrants. I work with Hispanic Youth groups and am amazed that most Hispanic youth 1) know and respect the Scriptures and Christian traditions 2) genuinely enjoy poetry and often recite it by heart 3) their songs and musical traditions are not (yet) completely divorced from their literary traditions and so at their best are surprisingly literate. I don't think it is all great by any means but at least it is not horrible post-modern aggressive noise like so much contemporary American popular music. Latin culture is actually (still) quite civilized in its music and manners.

The reason it is, I believe, is because they still consider themselves to be part of Christendom and value their language and ancient culture heritage. Latin Americans still have a deep sense of the sacred and a knowledge that there is such a thing as truth and right and wrong. English-speaking peoples and many Western Europeans seem to have lost all interest in their heritage, their religion and hope for the future hence their inability to man up and even have the children necessary to guarantee a future for their languages and nations. I cannot help but think so many "permanent" nations of today will merely be geographic or historical expressions by the 22nd century. That sort of knowledge and wisdom is something that would have intrigued Trilling and he would have been interested in that because he was not under any illusion that he was living one great summit of Western Civilization but was merely a small part of its great story.

Trilling always had the confidence to believe in himself, in America, in democracy, in Lockean tolerance in Western Civilization. Reading Trilling today reminds of a time when most Americans even intellectuals believed in America and in the old verities with a feeling of genuine optimism for America's future. Their optimism like Trilling's was based largely on an edifice of the truth mixed with some mild polite ficitons (such as that someday we would achieve merely by merit true equality for all). Today we are wiser. We know all Americans are equal but some are more equal than others.

Today we know there ARE HEREDITARY CASTES and TITLES OF NOBLITY that grant some persons preference and privilege part of the creeping unconstitutionality of our Bold State with its Liberal Elites and activist judges.

President Obama is a perfect example of a PC Affirmative Action brat whose entire political, intellectual, academic life is essentially an exaggeration and a lie based on a life of constant preference and a comfortable, easy rise via mediocrity, gut courses, inflated grades (what WERE his grades???) ghost writers and rapid promotion via Affirmative Action.

One always knows one is in the presences of an Affirmative Action Brat when he or she boasts “I have never applied for a job in my life; I have constantly been recruited.” No wonder people like Mr. Obama really believe they are God’s gift to the earth and the greatest thing to happen since Isaac Newton or at least A.J. Cronin or Booker T. Washington.
In their vanity they think they are truly great, historically great.

But in reality they are great in the way Lord Corwallis was great.

Lord Corwallis was great at hanging Irish patriots at least

Corwallis, of course, at least KNEW he bought his commission and in his moments of candor gloried in the preference his status as primogenitor in an Anglican world governed by Test Acts .

That is what the “Protestant Cause” meant to people like Cornwallis: wealth and preference usually without any pretence of merit only class privilege. That was the “Old Affirmative Action” for “White Anglo Saxon Males” (chiefly of course first born sons and heirs –no bastards or Irish need apply)

The Affirmative Action Brats of today –in literature, business and politics- of which Mr. Obama is most splendid example of what is, now, probably a permanent hereditary “title” of nobility –meaning people like Obama get preference based on the theory that there was discrimination in the past which has to be made good today and “forever more”.

Which means true excellence and merit in America is dead or dying in many fields of endeavor especially literature but also in business, government, finance, law, medicine. Obamacare, if it endures will probably be the end of the American era of dominance in medical technology and developments. Gradually our obsession with “fairness” , a “level playing field” (instead of a “square deal” for all), and racial and gender quotas will destroy and stifle our cultural life and our industrial productivity. More and more the mediocre and the non-producers will gobble up the best jobs and the most financial aid while taxing and discriminating against the productive and truly creative elements of American society.

Soon all insurances and all our medical programs as well as our schools and universities will be run by clones of Mr and Mrs. Obama. Big Brother would be less of a threat to human freedom than such an insidious lie as what is being foisted on Americans today. In fact, the growing Bold State is, perhaps, a stealth form of leveling and Socialism that will one day wipe out families, private lives, private religion and even free thought and speech.

Not a boot in the face of humanity forever but vapid teleprompter speeches on autoplay forever and a pauperized general public whose paper dollars will blow away in the wind like so many Weimar marks and whose happiness and confidence will be slowly crushed by confiscatory taxation and a debt load that can never be paid only repudiated and defaulted on until we in America are poorer and more miserable than Argentina or Weimar Germany.

Mr. Obama is no Hitler nor a Stalin; no he is more like helpless and hapless the president of a Banana Republic or Honorius a Roman emperor who enjoyed dreaming and reigning and partying but had not the slightest idea how even to defend or pay for a single legion or a single villa. Trilling would have understood what I am getting at and where I am coming from. He too would have been astonished that our first Black president was not a Frederick Douglas or even a Ralph Bunche or a Martin Luther King but someone more akin to Reconstruction Era politicians, Haitian presidents of old or even Boss Tweed.

Of course that is not fair to Boss Tweed. The Solyndra bankruptcy and the total losses of the Obama administration will probably dwarf anything Boss Tweed ever did.


October 22, 2011⦴

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Blaming Britain (and in the subtext "capitalism") for the Irish Potato Famine and claiming it was a "holocaust" as bad as anything the Nazis did is old hat for extreme Irish nationalists. They almost always fail to note that there was a Potato Famine in the Scottish Highlands at the same time which led to hundreds of thousands moving to lowland cities or emigrating. They also fail to notice that many Britons contributed to famine relief funds, a fact pointed out by Andrew Roberts. Queen Victoria was not aloof from these trials as can be seen by her personal letters and the personal interest she showed in alleviating the suffering of famine victims contributing large sums for charity and famine relief. The famine was very real. As as a descendant of Irish and Scottish Gaels a strong memory of the Great Hunger (An T-Acras Mor) was part of our heritage. We often debated the causes and the policies of the governments at that time but the main conclusion was that it was absolutely fatal for any society to be based so heavily on a monoculture such as became the case in rural Ireland and in the Scottish Highlands.

Thomas Keneally is of course a novelist looking for sensational stories and I think one last chance to knock Britain the Commonwealth which he despises. But Keneally goes beyond any of the "Famine was deliberate school" to link Britain to other great famines such as the Bengal Famine of 1943-1944 and the Ethiopian famines of the 1970's and 1980's.

But Andrew Roberts is right these were not the greatest food shortages in modern history.

There is no doubt that Stalin's collectivization induced famines were among worse and largest and most unnecessary famines in all history. The Kulaks were efficient and productive farmers; they were killed for reasons of ideology and revenge and Stalin's paranoia more than anything else.

Greater in scope and numbers of victims has to be Mao's Chinese famines in the 1960's. In the Great Leap Forward the hills were denuded of trees to smelt iron and entire populations of birds were eradicated on orders of the Communist Party. This led to huge infestations of insects which devastated crops.

We all know of the hunger and famine in Nazi occupied Europe, particularly Russia but even Hitler's "Great Hunger" was brief compared to Stalin's and Mao's.

And in the case of the great totalitarian dictators famine was used as weapon and it was government policy to confiscate food and to deny food aid to victims. It was never British policy in 1943-1944 to confiscate food from civilians or to deny them any food aid in Bengal. As Andrew Roberts points out the Allies were in a desperate life and death struggle with Axis forces in Burma. Yes, they could have chosen not to supply Allied Troops and allowed the Japanese Militarists to conquer Bengal. But can anyone believe -can anyone actually believe!!!- that the Japanese policy towards starving civilians would have been benevolent? Their record in China, on the Death Railway, Allied POW's and in their occupied countries makes such a notion impossible for any fair and rational observer to even consider that anything Britain and her allies did could compare to the vastness of Axis war crimes.

It was never British policy to confiscate food from civilians and denying them food aid in Ireland during the famine years 1845-1851. And it is a great stretch to include Ethiopia in this mix because Britain was no longer a major player in that region of Africa nor a dominant world power.

Keneally's greatest calumny of all is not against Britain or her Commonwealth but against Prime Minister Winston Churchill. To this man and to his leadership we in the West owe our very freedom. It was he, not Stalin, who defied Hitler and made it possible for the Allies to hold on until the full strength of the United States could be brought to bear. To even consider placing Churchill on the same level of murderous terror and ruthlessness as Hitler, Stalin or Mao is contemptible and of course places into doubt Mr. Keneally's objectivity and accuracy as an author.

To write such lies and calumnies is to be on the level of a far-left or far-right propagandist with no respect for the facts and no attempt at finding the truth.

"Starved for evidence" is right. Thomas Keneally may be right that we must investigate famines and unavoidable human tragedies and learn from them. No rational person could be joyous at the suffering and starvation of millions. But there is a vast difference between catastrophes that are a direct and deliberate policy of a government and policy and catastrophes that are acts of God that no one could have predicted and that no one really wanted.

By the way, my wife and I have belonged to Children International for over 25 years and are sponsoring and have sponsored children in the Bengal region of India. We are not indifferent to the suffering of others in our own land and in distant lands. We know it is not enough to share the crumbs from the feast. We make a real sacrifice to make sure our monthly contributions are paid and we also make voluntary donations for Easter, Christmas, our sponsored child's birthday and also special needs requests. We know our sponsored children by name and correspond with them. We can never forget the hungry, the thirsty and the orphans of empire. But we do not dwell on thoughts of blame, hatred and revenge. Instead we live a life of service and dedicate a portion of our modest income to charity.

We can question to what extent governments are responsible for famine relief, farm policy and foreign aid. But to me the historical lesson is clear: the greatest man-made famines in the world have been induced by Totalitarian governments of the Far Right and the Far Left not by corporations like Nestle, American presidents or British Prime Ministers. The real question we should ask ourselves is why certain economic systems are unable to feed their own people and how authoritarian governments actively use food coupons and famine as a weapon of revenge. That is a famine story I would like to hear more about.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Self-Reliance and Individualism have their limits.

The brave man is not afraid to serve, voluntarily a greater cause than he for the common good. Note I said voluntarily.  I recognize my debt to others and the civil society in which I live.  God made us strong only for a while so that we can help others.  One cannot only think of one's self but i also believe in the virtue of self-reliance because I know that in self-reliance is great strength, joy and dignity.  But I am also wise enough to know that one man alone is not enough; united we stand -as free men with a free choice-divided we fall.   The virtue of self-reliance and individualism if taken the extreme is a flawed ideal that constricts our social, national and our personal emotional natures.  No man is an island; we live and flourish in communities.  It is in the context of a civil society and its social structures that great things can be done and achieved never forgetting the right to individual freedom, individual conscience to worship God (or not) as one wishes in one's private life.   I believe very strongly in the private life, my private religion and my private languages but i am also a citizen.  I have individual rights but I also have duties to perform for my school, my community, my state, my nation and my house of God.   If you do not know such virtues or such community spirit then I pity you.  You are missing out on the chance to help others and be helped by them and to gain the love and gratitude of your neighbors and your fellows.   RICHARD K. MUNRO


A Munro sleeping on a rock
Auld Lang Syne: The Leal and True Men arrive:
France August 1914 THEY SHALL NOT PASS!!!
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An Eternal Bond:WWI Jocks and Doughboys

Dear Sir:

I want to thank you for your thoughtful and moving tribute to the Doughboys. Indeed “Pershing’s army has finally retired from the field. The drum is stilled….”

I am descended from World War II and World War I veterans and I have an especial love and respect for the Doughboys.

My father and uncles served in the American forces during WWII but my Scottish grandfather served in a Highland Regiment –the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders- from August 1914 until May 1919. His name was Thomas Munro, Sr. (1886-1963) and he received the Military Medal for Valour during 2nd Ypres (1915). He was one of only three men in his company to serve the entire war without being killed or seriously wounded.

One of the happiest days of his life was when they got the news that the United States had declared war on Germany in April 1917. He was stationed at Salonika at the time and all the talk was that the Balkans could be abandoned to prepare for a last ditch defense against the Germans on the Western Front. My grandfather survived 2nd Ypres –barely, and Gallipoli and the Struma Valley but he probably would not have survived 5th Ypres. He knew then the Allies would win the war and so he had this photo taken and sent to my grandmother with the note; “Dear Mary, running to catch the post. With America in the war victory cannot be far off. Your loving husband, Thomas.” He always felt he literally owed his life to the Doughboys.

He and his Scottish pals volunteered en masse in response to the declaration of war following the violation of Belgium’s neutrality by Germany. They were encouraged by Scottish Chiefs and their sons and nephews and notable Scots like Arthur Conan Doyle whose brother-in-law, nephews and brothers all enlisted (they would all be killed or die of their wounds).. One of the most famous people to enlist in the Argylls and to encourage others to do likewise was Harry Lauder’s son Captain John Lauder who was later killed in action after having been seriously wounded twice. Later Harry Lauder wrote “Keep Right On To the End of the Road” in honor of his son, the Argylls and all the Allied soldiers who experienced the Calvary of the Western Front.

Over 200,000 men enlisted in Glasgow –a number that seems incredible today- but not all of the men were Glaswegians or even Scottish. I would estimate that at least 50,000 were overseas Scots or people of Scottish sympathies of blood. We should remember many Americans as well as Canadians were in the war from the very beginning. My grandfather grew up playing shinty in the Highlands (he never played football or soccer) but during the war he played baseball in Salonika in 1917 with the Americans and Canadians in the Allied Forces there. So there were Canadians and Americans in the Argylls as well as Italians, Irish, English, Scandinavians, Jews, Catholics and Protestants.

My grandfather’s best friend was called American Johnny Robertson by everyone because he was a naturalized US citizen. Robertson just happened to be in Glasgow at the time of the declaration of war and so got caught up in all his enthusiasm. Robertson, whose photograph can be seen in the Edison museum with Thomas Edison, was an electronics and communications expert. He was a master of improvisation and of keeping phone communications between the front and the rear. I never knew him of course he died in 1941- but my father and grandfather knew him very well and my father saw the letter of recommendation signed by Thomas Edison that “American” Johnny always carried with him. I own books that belonged to Johnny Robertson –called “Uncle Johnny” by my father which Robertson had given to my father in 1938 before he returned to Scotland after a second long sojourn in America that began in 1920. He and my grandfather were roommates and travelled all over America working on various construction projects in New York, Baltimore, Galveston , Texas and other places.

Today we sometimes think World War I was all for nothing and the men who enlisted were naïve but to those men they were defending the lifeline of their country for if Belgium and the channel ports had fallen to the Germans and their U-Boats the British Isles would have been in a precarious position as we were later to see during WWII. They knew Kaiserism was a real danger to the peace, freedom and independence of the English-speaking peoples as well as others.

Hence the dogged determination by the British and Commonwealth forces to hold on to Ypres. Over 250,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers would give their lives in the desperate defense of the Ypres Salient. My grandfather and his Scottish pals helped hold the Ypres Salient at 2nd Ypres; they arrived at the Western Front in January 1915 and the fighting started to heat up gradually in March 1915 until it exploded in a terrific battle of hellish proportions that saw the first wide-scale use of poison gas by the Germans. Some of the fiercest fighting took place from April 1915 and early May specifically from May 8 to May 13th. The Argylls spent 36 straight days in combat without any relief and much of the time individual companies were cut off and virtually surrounded without any officers or NCO’s.

Privates like Colin Campbell Mitchell, Sr., took command and organized strong points, rationing food and water and resupplying themselves at night from the bodies of dead soldiers. He was later given a battlefield commission in the Argylls to captain. The Argylls had very few machine guns but the men had four or five rifles a piece –usually the Smelly, the Lee-Enfield Mark III with the spitzer .303 high velocity ammunition. They were lucky to be armed in abundance with the best bolt action infantry rifle ever produced. A reasonably trained soldier could easily get off 15 rounds a minute but in the top British regiments most of the soldiers were trained to shoot over 20 rounds a minute even reaching 30 rounds in a crisis situation. As guns and ammunition were plentiful this gave the British and Commonwealth troops a decisive advantage especially in defense where the Germans could not utilize their heavy machine guns. There were many stories of squads holding a flank using multiple rifles against hundreds of attackers.

None of the allied troops had any gas masks to begin with and their only defense was blankets, rubberized tents and urine impregnated handkerchiefs. One of the reasons the Argyll positions were not lost is that medical students from Glasgow University were quick to indentify the gas as chlorine gas and rapidly improvised a defense. The urine impregnated handkerchiefs acted as a primitive filter and gave soldiers a few minutes of extra protection. In the first days their only tactic was to take cover in shelters that were as air tight as possible and hope that the winds or rain would blow away the gas. Individual soldiers would venture out protected only by motorcycle goggles and medical gauze impregnated with urine. Later they got supplies of chemicals to do the same thing and supplemented with captured German gas masks. The leader of the Argylls during the most desperate days was Captain Dick Donald Porteous (called “Port” by the men); he was killed in the very last stage of the battle by a German sniper on May 10, 1915. My grandfather said Captain Porteous was a great and beloved man and that he could have been as great as Churchill. So many talented and good men were lost in that terrible war.

Today 2nd Ypres is largely forgotten but the heroism and resourcefulness of the soldiers of the 81st Brigade and the 27th Division which included Indian troops (“Dins”) , the Black Watch, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the Highland Light Infantry matched anything in the annals of human warfare including Balaklava which was the signature Thin Red Line moment of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

But all that sacrifice would have been for naught if had not been for the Doughboys like Frank Buckles, Joyce Kilmer (killed in action), Col. “Wild Bill” Donovan, (Medal of Honor), Marine Sergeant Major Dan Daly (Twice awarded the Medal of Honor).,Alvin York (Medal of Honor), Eddie Rickenbacker, Quentin Roosevelt (killed in action and now buried next to his brother another Doughboy Gen Theodore Roosevelt Jr who died after D-day –also awarded the Medal of Honor.) and Major Whittlesey of the Lost Battalion (Medal of Honor). Behind them was a force of Doughboys almost 2,000,000 strong. The fact that only about half of them reached Europe is beside the point. Their mere existence and their readiness to cross the Atlantic to go Over There completely demoralized the Germans and at the same time gave the Allies the courage they needed to hang on just a little longer until relief finally came.

Britain, the Democracies of Europe and the world owe a very great debt of gratitude to the American fighting men of the twentieth century. We should remember their fortitude and their selfless devotion to duty in the cause of liberty.

It is not an exaggeration to say the whole of Western Europe and the Free World is their monument. NE OBLIVISCARIS: do not forget. And to the Doughboys I give personal thanks and pledge to honor their memory the rest of my life. I had only one grandfather growing up (the other was killed in August 1918) but I was blessed to have at least one and get to know him, love him and hear his stories. Many other sons and grandsons were not so lucky.

Richard K. Munro


Why do people riot, loot and steal?

Why do people riot, loot and steal?

.by Richard K. Munro on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 7:08pm.Richard K. Munro

Urban "Youths" at play
Sorry to say but this doesn't look like New York's Finest; they seem demoralized and underequipped.

People who have three square meals a day, free education, free healthcare, cheap public transportation, free or subsidized housing do not riot like san cullottes due to a lack of material necessities. They steal because they are greedy and amoral and have TOO MUCH free time on their hands. Idleness is the devil's workshop is an old saying. How true. They are uncontrolled because they are a spoiled entitlement mob expecting more bread, more booze, more holidays and more circuses (entertainment). Hard working decent people of honor would be ashamed to act as they do (I am sure still most British people are horrified and ashamed at the behavior of this state-subsidized underclass).

Monday, August 8, 2011

Reading is a very special and inestimable pleasure

Two well-known Shakespearean actors: Maurice Evans & Charlton Heston
"Human see, human do."

George Taylor (Charlton Heston): "Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape." quoted in the current blockbuster.
Most famous quote by a Shakespearan actor in the 20th century (Maurice Evans as Dr. Zaius)

Maurice Evans had fun in Hollywooed for laughs and lucre
"Dr. Zira, I must caution you. Experimental brain surgery on these creatures is one thing, and I'm all in favor of it. But your behavior studies are another matter. To suggest that we can learn anything about the simian nature from a study of man is sheer nonsense. Why, man is a nuisance. He eats up his food supply in the forest, then migrates to our green belts and ravages our crops. The sooner he is exterminated, the better. It's a question of simian survival."
Also "The Forbidden Zone was once a paradise. Your breed made a desert of it, ages ago."

Reading for pleasure is a vital part of reading development. In order to read well one must have an adequate vocabulary and the discipline to concentrate. One does not develop vocabulary by watching TV sit-coms. One does not develop vocabulary having casual conversations. One develops vocabulary and cultural literacy by a steady habit of reading and when one is young, in particular, by being read to. I enjoy recorded books occasionally as a change of pace but for me they could not replace books because, frankly, there are not many quality recorded books and certainly the range is very small. Book reading seems today almost as much a minority pleasure as in Fahrenheit 451. Yet, in the end, reading and writing are both inestimable pleasures. One is foolish not to give reading a try.

Of course, some of the reading we do will not be for pleasure. Reading tax information or reading an application for a passport. However, I believe reading is a habit and the pleasures of reading are developed by choice and whim. If you enjoy reading adventure or about hunting and fishing or sports or military history great. As a boy I was an avid reader of sports biographies and comic books. Then I graduated to science fiction. I read the entire collections of autors I liked. And of course science fiction led me to read H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, Steven Vincent Benet, Jules Verne, and Joseph Conrad.

You don't have to be a specialist. You can develop an amateur interest in the subject and as you become an aficionado you will enjoy it even more. I also believe there is a place for reading aloud. Some prose and some poetry is best when read aloud. Recently I was hiking round the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. As it is my habit I also carry some small books with me to read in a spare moment. I have not yet graduated to Kindle or Nook. I enjoy having a physical book which I can carry with me and where I can underline the words. I enjoy reading the WSJ on line when I am on vacation or in a remote location. There it is a delight to have access in a place where there are no kiosks. Nevertheless, I prefer reading the newspaper and when I like articles I can keep them. They are already printed out. One thing people do not mention is that the permant book like the permanent magazine article or the printed encourage re-reading. Re-reading fine literature is one of the great pleasures of reading. On-line articles have the great virtue of being easy to share and interactive, which is wonderful in its own way. But I rarely re-read or closely read on-line articles. If I like a book review I print it out to keep for future reference.

The 20th century scholar, author and teacher Gilbert Highet gave good advice on reading: Highet recommends to readers to read for pleasure and mature their reading pleasures. Highet believed it was important to choose an “important author” and read all of his or her work. He argues that such a regimen helps readers to “escape from themselves.” It certainly will develop taste and stamina for reading. Highet felt “it is also valuable to push directly through the works of a good author, trying to see them as a single creation, appreciating their wholeness and their uniqueness and leaving the details for later study.”

I have followed his advice with a few authors, Conrad, Hemingway, Orwell, Twain, Camilo José Cela, Emile Zola, Cervantes, and a lot but not quite all of Chesterton, or Dickens or Shakespeare. Of course, I have followed Highet’s advice with his own work. Many of his books remain in print; The Classical Tradition, The Art of Teaching, Man’s Unconquerable Mind are enduring books. I consider Highet’s best essays on par with anything Orwell or Chesterton wrote. Most of his books and essays are still are in print. A great anthology could be compiled just publishing his numerous book reviews. I have read dozens of them from the 1950’s and 1960’s.

In addition, Highet, suggests reading about “one single important and interesting subject: for instance, the paintings of the cave men; or the agony of modern music; or the rebirth of calligraphy; or recent theories of the creation and duration of the universe.” Once again, not everyone is going to have the same tastes but one of the purposes of reading widely is to acquaint yourself with different subject areas. Surely one or another will be more interesting to the individual reader. As a teacher I have always tried to encourage extra credit and individual choice in reading as much as possible.

Highet also believe it was important to read across a whole variety of genres, not merely fiction or merely non-fiction but also travel writing, biography, history, poetry, drams, stories, novels. Highet said “we might read a large selection of poems and prose passages selected in order to illuminate one single aspect of the world. One such volume would go into a pocket or a handbag and yet last all summer.” Ravitch’s American Reader or his English Reader are some good modern examples but there are also the excellent Norton Anthologies. The Library of America has a wonderful series of anthologies, American Sea Writing, Reporting WWII, True Crime: an American Anthology, Baseball: a Literary Anthology and The Lincoln Anthology.

Reading Highet –who wrote this over fifty years ago is sometimes poignant because he often shows to me how he is closer to Victorian Scotland than we are.  Also he also has become from being my contemporary to becoming a historic figure for us living in the 20th century.  Highet wrote most of his best work 50 and 60 years ago.

Highet wrote: “ might decide to spend the summer with a single great or at least a single interesting man. For example, every doctor should know The Life of Sir William Osler by Harvey Cushing, and after reading that fine book he would enjoy himself if he went on to read Osler’s own writings. Osler never tired of complaining that most doctors had minds too limited and too confined to the physical symptoms which they observed in the routine of their practice. He kept trying to enlarge his own mind and spirit, and his books will therefore enlarge the mind and spirit of his readers, whether they are of the medical profession or not.”

It seems to me Mr. Highet lived in a happier, more sane world in which scholars and teacher could safely assume SOME of their students, neighbor and readers would be broadly educated and have wide interests beyond their own narrow field. Highet assumed there were a well-read general reading public who would seek delight and entertainment as well as enlightenment in the books they read. Highet was sure that if they read and re-read “Great Books” and the best of modern literature he or she would find self-improvement to their liking.

Personally, I cannot imagine a life without books, without literature and without poetry and song. Pop culture and the movies are mildly entertaining but very superficial. The best that can be said for them is that they are an easy shared pleasure.

But even entertaining films like The Rise of the Planet Apes have their literary precursors. La Planète des singes 1963, (Planet of the Apes)of course was first a French novel by Pierre Boulle. Boulle’s book was also influenced by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, H.G. Well’s The Island of Dr. Moreau.

In this last novel there is an a wise “Ape-Man” - A who considers himself equal to men and capable of “big think.” Even earlier than H.G. Wells is Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island (1874). Also influential was Stephen Vincent Benet’s famous short story “By the Waters of Babylon” (1937) originally called the “Place of the Gods”.

Benet’s work, which was written as a reaction to the Nazi fire-bombing of the Spanish city of Guernica is fascinating because at first one is not certain of the time and place. We find out that the Place of the Gods is actually the bombed out ruins of New York City. It is also fascinating because it was written long before the development of the Atomic bomb or missles yet Benet’s seemed to know that once world war broke out advances in military technology would be ever more dangerous and might even destroy most of humanity. The complete story can be read on the internet.

From Richard Connell's famous story; here I saw the movie first. The movie is fairly close to the book except they added a sexy Fay Wray to make it more interesting and to allow for a more chipper dialogue.  Many adventures add a romantic element to add drama and make it more appealing.
There is nothing wrong with reading comic book versions or abridged versions; they can be very entertaining and may lead the reader to read the original later.  I cheerfully admit to having read most of the classics from age 5 to 12 in the Classic Illustrated version.  I read some of them dozens of times.
Flight from the Plaent of the Apes (In German); a book dervied from the movie
The idea of human decline and the fall of civilization due to war, disease or uncontrolled science is a theme seen over and over again. One of the reasons it appeals to people is that we are all fascinated by the very real possibility of the fall of our civilization and the possibility of a “New Dark Age made more sinister and more protracted,” as Churchill himself remarked during WWII. “by the lights of perverted science.” Here there are a plethora of thrilling stories: Well’s The Time Machine (1895) and his The Shape of Things to Come (1933), Nightfall (1941) by Isaac Asimov, or his Foundation Trilogy (1951) “There will come soft rains” (1950) by Ray Bradbury. Then there is I am Legend (1954). Another fine thriller is The White Plague (1982) by Frank Herbert. Film, it seems to me, is very dependent on literature for its best stories and inspiration. In other words even your movie going pleasure is improved by a knowledge of classic film and classic books!

We recall Cicero's speech, Pro Archia, with its famous defense of literature and quoted by Petrarch, Jefferon, Gibbon, Toynbee, Highet and countless others. . Haec studia adolescentiam alunt…"These studies sustain youth and entertain old age, they are an ornament during prosperity. They offer a refuge and solace in hard times; they delight us when we are at home but do not hinder us in the world outside. They are with us in the evenings, in our wanderings and travels and when in the country..."

Petrarch was very fond of this quotation and whenever Cicero used the phrase "litterarum lumen", "the light of literature", Petrarch drew a sketch in the margin  of a candle  (still used as a symbol for enlightenment today).
Sometimes it is good to read serious literature and other times it is good to slum and enjoy more popular genres such as sports, survival literature, adventure or romance. All reading is good in that it sharpens the mind and improves one’s fluency and enriches one’s vocabulary and cultural literacy. Nonetheless, one need not read Moby Dick every day nor write it; one can merely correspond with friends and read as the whim suits.

In conclusion, we may not all be Joseph Conrads or Hemingways or Andrew Roberts or Stephen Ambrose or Edith Wharton but we can write book reviews, blogs and letters.

And this too is part of the Republic of Letters.

And we can read and share our reading experiences with others -for our own edification as well as for others.

Reading is one of the greatest and most lasting pleasures for those wise enough to cultivate this habit.

If you want to be a reader it really is very simple and not that expensive.
Just read. And by all means read for pleasure as much as you can.

Yes, I often tell my students “Try it! You might like it.”

Or as Unamuno said: “leer, leer, leer!” READ, READ, READ.

Wise advice by the most prolific of Spanish authors.

Note: (Cicero Pro Archia

Poeta 7.16).

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Inner excellence matters more than physical appearance

I am presently visiting Phoenix, Arizona where my son and daughter-in-law are residing at present. It is an amazing oasis in the middle of what must have been a burning desert only 100 years ago. I thought Bakersfield, California was hot but Phoenix makes Bakersfield seem tame by comparison as Phoenix is more Texas-like in its 100+ degrees every day (109 day after day). One effect this has is that when one goes for a walk (I have no car) one has to have some water, sun screen (60+ or more) and a hat. It is interesting to visit with so many young people and hear their views and to meet both  athletes and business people. When one comes to a place like this, which is rather far from the centers of culture and far from the sort of people one usually consorts with one is taken aback at times.

Of the young people I met -all college graduates- not a single one reads the daily newspaper or subscribes to a single magazine. What news they get they get from the Daily Show and the Internet but it seems to me they are far more interested in 1) gossip 2) popular culture which includes vampire shows and pop music 3)professional sports and or gambling and 4) sex and pornography (not necessarily in that order). All of the young men in question had his own very attractive "squeeze" (some married some not) but still the talk turned to a discussion on collections of hard core pornography. The kind that makes Playboy seem like Shakespeare! It appeared there was a fascination with hedonism of all kinds particularly the sexual but also food and drink and simple animal pleasures. Everyone was having a Good Time and it seems every lust and appetite was being satisfied and new stimulants for lust were being invented. It appears to me that much of the wealth of America is being squandered before my very eyes on women, drink, drugs, sports, gambling and other modern circuses.

We always talk about education and the future but we must consider the very real possiblity that the American people might just commit suicide. People respect education in a way because they know it is a necessary outward sign of a person of means but that doesn't mean they really like it. Suppose our economic problems were solved and the work week were shortened and vacations of six weeks or more were guaranteed. Which would these people prefer? Art? Music (fine music? Books? or video games, gambling and pornography? I know the new Planet of the Apes film is about to premiere. can't help thinking we MUST be closely related to apes because so few of us understand that hedonistic pleasures are not the same as happiness.

Ingrid Berman in her 20's circa 1943
Irish actress Maureen O'Hara still spry in her 90's
A young actress without any English, French or Italian (she later added these to her native Swedish and German):
INGRID BERGMAN circa 1937 about 19 years old
I thought of the young women I saw last night. As I said they were all very attractive, far above average I would say and all less than 25 years of age; perhaps one or two was 27 or so. Females must be especially burdened by the attention they receive for their pretty faces, curling locks and slender appealing figures. From the time they are young such women must have been flattered by males and evaluated heavily only in terms of their physical appearance.

Unfortunately, if a woman only tends to her looks and physical appearance because she figures that is the way to get a man's attention she may let her inner gifts and talents atrophy. Such a woman puts all of her efforts into enhancing and maintaining her physical beauty at the price of distorting her natural self to pleasure others, chiefly males. Despite all the furor of Equal Rights and Feminism some things have not changed at all especially here in the provinces.

I think it is mistake many people make -and this includes men as well as women. They put all their efforts in managing their physical appearance and the impression they make on others. I could not help but think that some of these young women ten or fifteen years hence will be discarded for "newer models". The lucky ones will have at least gotten married to someone with some money and thus gained some security. Yes, the world may reward us for wrong or superficial reasons -such as our youth and physical beauty- but what really matters now and in the long run is character and culture -who we are inside and who we are becoming.

All of us seek the happy life and a secure life but many confuse the means -wealth and rank- with life. The really worthwhile things are family, children, friends, faith, good books, time spent together with shared leisure -swimming, going to a ball game, telling stories, singing, laughing, cooking family recipes passed down from lip to ear and to tongue, watching fireworks and hiking in the Grand Canyon. The things that make life worthwhile are sound, healthy virtuous activities not the external means that seem to produce it. We are all tempted to buy the fanciest car, the special shoes and the stylish shirt. I saw shirts priced at over $100 each. I saw shoes and accessories priced at over $500 each. But I must say I was very happy with my discounted cotton shirts from JC Penny and my comfortable, well-fitting New Balance (American-made) walking shoes.

But just when I was about to write off an entire generation of Americans I found myself renewed at the ball park.

 There I saw the great mass of Americans lower middle class, middle class and upper middle class, enjoying a common moment of leisure. There I saw many families with young children -2, 3 or even 4 -this isn't Madrid or Rome or Berlin or New York. One of the most touching moments was when they had a romantic frame on the scoreboard for kisses and they moved across the stadium crowd for couples from 18 to 80 and asked them to show us all a kiss. Then they focused in on a pretty young Hispanic woman and a muscular young American with a short crew cut -he might have been an off duty soldier- and he asked her live not for a kiss but on one knee "WILL YOU MARRY ME and MAKE ME THE HAPPIEST MAN IN THE WORLD". The young woman was completely surprised and doubly surprised to be on television and on the big screen of the scoreboard. She literally had to wipe the salt tears from her eyes and gave a big , almost shy smile to the entire crowd and then said yes (THE ENTIRE CROWD CHEERED "YES") and then kissed him. The lucky man then took out an engagement ring and placed it on her finger. My son said to me, "Well, Dad, what do you think of that?" And I sad, "I hope they live happily ever after!"

Some people become very pessimistic that young people are impossible, that illegal immigrants are going to destroy this country, that the Black hate the White and the White hate the Brown etc. But when you go out teach the people as I have, and go to their weddings and baptisms, and see them at their pastimes you have to feel very, very optimistic. Because when it comes down to it the melting pot is still bubbling on.

John F. Kennedy said: "And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future."

My mother used to say that "life and love were just a brief moment in time, so let us forgive each other and let us love one another while we can." When we walk down the street with our son -who is now 26- I remember when we walked out of the Polo Grounds and the old Yankee Stadium three generations of my family. And as the generation of leaves so are the generations of men! It is hard to remember now the loved and the lost but we must remember them with gratitude and tranquility for I was very lucky to have had them as mentors and companions if only for a brief moment in time. Yes, we are all mortal that is a certainty. What lies beyond is not; it may be described as a fond hope.  As Jake Barnes said: "Isn't it pretty to think so."  My father, ever the sceptic said, "I vote yes for all the good it will do me."

I recently re-read MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING by Viktor Frankl. I first read it almost 40 years ago and I think I have read it at least once every five years since then. It was not the edition I was used to but a new edition belonging to my son which he had bought at ASU. The older book had a different introduction by a psychologist a certain Dr. Gordon Allport; this edition (2006) had and introduction written by a clergyman, Rabbi Harold S. Kushner. Kushner wrote: "terrible as it was, his experience in Auschwitz reinforced what was already one of his key ideas: Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning. The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life. Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person), and in courage during difficult times.

I think the reason so many teachers are happy despite everything is that their work is very, very significant. They are not usually rewarded in a material sense but the teacher's true rewards is the love and gratitude of his or her disciples. And I think teachers find joy when they have to be courageous during difficult times.

Think back to Columbine when a teacher sacrificed his life to save his students.

Frankl's love for his young wife -torn from his breast before even a final kiss were possible-is very, very moving: "That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of us wife. Occasionally I looked in the sky, where the starts were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife' image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth -that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: THE SALVATION OF MAN IS THROUGH LOVE and IN LOVE. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world may still know bliss, be if only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way -an honorable way- in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved {MUNRO: I would say BELOVEDS}, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory."


"My mind still clung to the image of my wife. A thought crossed my mind: I didn't even know if she were still alive. I konw only one thing -which I have learned well by now. LOVE GOES FAR BEYOND THE PHYSICAL PERSON OF THE BELOVED. IT FINDS ITS DEEPEST MEANING IN HIS SPIRITUAL BEING, HIS INNER SELF. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importantance." ...nothing could touch the strength of my love, my thoughts, and the image of my beloved....."

Yes, Dr. Frankl suffered and was very unlucky. And he would say that suffering is of itself meaningless. We give suffering and sacrifice meaning by the way we respond to it. In our lives there will be forces beyond our ken and beyond our human control. There will be storms, floods, fires and acts of God and acts of the Godless. All our human posseessions could be smashed or taken from us. All those we love might be killed or separated from us forever. But if we live there is one thing , one freedom that no one can take away from us. That is how we respond to the storms, temptations and travails of life. Rabbi Kushner said, following Frankl, "you cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always, control what you will feel and do about what happens to you."

Argyll and Sutheland Highlanders arrive in France, August 1914:
The many Scottish Pals Aye the Floors o' the Forest are a' weed awa

They suffered over 6,000 killed and 25,000 casualties.  My grandfather lost his brother, his brother-in-law, most of his best friends, over 10 first cousins, all of his commanding officers and NCO's from 1914. All of them. 1914-1918 was a journey of the cross for an entire generation of Scottish manhood; after 1918 over 400,000 Scots (10% of the population and 30% of the youth emigrated most never to return.++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
We count our blessings.

I like to put quotations on my bulletin boards. I think I have found a new one for this fall. Teachers all over America must do what men and women will do and must suffer what teachers -especially American teachers must. But no matter what happens or what indignity we suffer we can control how we behave, how we feel and do something about what happens to us and our schools. We are not sticks upon strings adrift without pattern or hope; we are human beings and we are swimmers, strong swimmers. We can endure, we can reach the shore and we can carry on despite everything.