Thug cop, righteously outraged citizens…then come the professional anarchists to set everything afire.

So — a bad thing happens. Happens to an African-American man. We’ve watched it. Been enraged and disgusted. (I’ll bet non-African Americans have suffered the same brutal injustice at the hands of a thug cop and we don’t know at this point the motive of this particular thug cop in a city I somehow believed might be generally more congenial on all  scores only because it is in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s pacific, as in “peaceful and friendly” mid-west “where the dark fields of the republic roll on under the night.” But it’s either very significant or not that the victim was black. In the wired, camera-ready age, such things don’t escape public view, and it’s good that they don’t. (Let me modify that — many abuses do still undoubtedly escape public view, just fewer of them. ) Then, The Outside Agitators — such as ANTIFA — converge. The criminals and anarchists take to the streets to exploit the situation.  They burn and loot. Shades of Detroit, L.A., Watts, Rochester, etc.,etc.etc. 170 business damages or destroyed in this episode — that can be updated by the hour. A police precinct burned down — and left undefended. Leaders retreat from the role of leadership, cowed into inaction. Fortunately,  that seems to be changing. The home of the rogue jerk thug cop surrounded and food kept from being brought in even to  his family (not that it is lawful to starve an accused criminal — and his family — to death). The attorney general’s house surrounded:  intimidation, vigilantism, black racism ( one call recorded by cameras, “Kill all the Whites”.) Feckless pathetic politicians, race-bating charlatans such as Al Sharpton rush in.

I recall being at a drive-in movie in Fresno, California during the summer of ’67, a summer of much rioting in the nation. I’d walked to the concession stand in the middle of buy something and was walking back to the car where my friends and fellow employees at Kings Canyon National Park were waiting to enjoy the main featured  movie. Suddenly on the big screen — they still had newsreels at the movies in those days — were scenes of Detroit burning during race riots there, an episode that helped begin that city’s decline. Then on the same big screen came a black-and-white image of President Lyndon Johnson addressing the riot situation. Echoing over the swarm of cars at the drive-in came LBJ’s words, “burning and destroying buildings has nothing to do with civil rights.”

This was the President who’d ushered with much political skill and maneuvering the monumental Civil Rights Act. Historians have said he was perplexed that he could do some much and then face this. He probably came to understand, as we must understand, that it isn’t all about racism. It’s about political anarchy and a belief that violence and upheaval  usher in a new world order that generally falls outside anything we’d recognize as democracy, equality, racial harmony or justice. And it’s also kids of every race seizing the opportunity for destruction and trash all forms of authority. Listen to the lyrics of much rap music over the last generation. But it’s also about the “professionals” who know enough to exploit to the breaking point every civil unrest.

This is a tragedy redux. It will not end, ever, I fear. And I’m full of fear — as mass mayhem — that it bound to erupt down here in Florida, for what self-respecting trouble-making, race-baiting anarchist wants his neighborhood to escape the plague — falls into the middle of a pandemic which it shall also almost certainly re-ignite.

Pray. Then act. Or, at least, write or speak your own protest against criminal professional protesters.


…and nothing but a glance, very brief, in which I raise the question, was Barrack Obama a great President? I see ABC News has a poll saying that. Greatest President of the lifetime of those polled. Hmmmm.

Well, his was one of those Presidencies — there have not been that many, really, or perhaps none — in which the elites, Hollywood, those who play hard at identity politics decided this dazzlingly fine and personable liberal young speaker got to walk, boat-to-boat, on water, get the Nobel Peace Prize, t-shirts, Oprah. He was above criticism in their mind from the start, every bit as much as, in their mind, Trump is beneath contempt. An example of what I call the physics of politics — for every action there is an equal and opposite RE-action.

But while I liked President Obama, spoke with him briefly just once before he was elected and can well understand why people would contrast this natural “consoler-in-chief” unfavorably with the blustery, uncouth incumbent, I can’t see that he did anything except saddle us with an unworkable health care plan and push the Democratic Party culturally left — a journey it is continuing. Where are the  guiding, stable principles? For instance — one tender example — on what grounds, other than a glance at the polls, was he ever against gay marriage? And one what grounds, other than a glance at the polls, justified his shift on such a profound, paradigm-adjusting issue?

It seems to me he ruled by executive order. This has become popular in the time of Congressional gridlock. But Congress is often gridlocked because we are in the middle of a shatteringly important social-cultural shift that threatens to pull us apart. There are days I think the modern American Presidency, not unlike the modern Papacy, has become too complex for one person.

As Kevin D. Williamson put it back in December of 2016, Obama ruled with a pen and a phone. He was great, as Clinton was great, to those who measure greatness by the force of your speech. In substance, in all kindness, I don’t think we’ve seen greatness for a while.


Happy Memorial Day. My father died on Memorial Day when Memorial Day was always May 30, regardless of the day of the week. I think my father died on a Friday. He was an Air Raid Warden during the war, having four children when war broke out and being over thirty and working in a business vital to the war effort, i.e., he was a coal and oil salesman. So he did not have to become a uniformed military. I shall write more about him when that anniversary — that actual date — comes around. He died in 1964, the day after the greatest triumph of my teenage life and a distinguished moment in all of my life. More, later.

Meanwhile, as a veteran, I salute all my fellow veterans. I was, being in Korea, technically in a war zone and potentially very dangerous area. But I was insulated from the real danger so much of my generation endured in Vietnam. The danger lingered in friends like Bob Ryan, a captain in the Americal Divison who stepped on a mine in March, 1968, barely saved his foot, though toward the end of his life he was in danger of having it finally amputated — but died likely of complications from Agent Orange exposure. Bob died in February, 2017. I miss him. He was a good friend. A veteran who, like so many, was anti-war. War isn’t, really, a thing to be for, ever. Sometimes, the enemy forces our hand. Sometimes we crack out of turn. Either way, it’s a tragedy.


…and I refer to the fact that Joe Biden has committed to picking a woman as his veepee running mate, strangling off the pool of possible talent for a post that will need the best person, irrespective of gender. But this is our modern identity politics at work.

I try not to state the obvious here. Far better to spend time watching a red-winged blackbird or feeding the dog than to worry about Joe B.


One day in high school, I was wandering through the book section of a downtown Boston Department store. I think it was the late-lamented Jordan Marsh. Or maybe it was Filene’s ( are they also in the “late” category? I’m not even sure. Alas, I’m out of touch with what is memory or what is present reality in that particular hub of the Hub that goes by the name, in Boston, of Downtown Crossing. )

The high schooler then shopping for, maybe, neckties or maybe just enjoying exploring the retail heart of the city, was just beginning to acquire an interest in reading books and, thereafter, keeping the books, read or unread, forever. Such a book was The Journals of Kierkegaard.  I stood there, age 17 or maybe 18 ( Oh Lost Years!!) and recalled that this Soren Kierkegaard had provided the epigraph for a novel I’d just felt grown up enough to read by the (late) Walker Percy. So — I bought this book of 19th Century journal entries and commenced to leaf through it and extract digestible, comprehensible bits of daily life ruminations by this fascinating, brilliant, rebellious and restless, melancholy, uncompromising  Dane who did not live a long life — he was only 42 at his passing, possibly from a form of tuberculosis, after collapsing in the street.

The department store, the book section (those were the days before Barnes & Noble, etc.) are gone. But — I still have my battered, yellowing copy of Kierkegaard’s journals. Not sure if I ever read it cover to cover. But from the underlinings and highlightings it’s clear that I got acqainted with it. In subsequent years I bought a combined volume of Fear and Trembing and  A Sickness Unto Death by Kierkegaard. I gave both an extensive, repeated thumbing through, and, regrettably, gave that two-punch away before moving to Florida. Yes, I do regret that.

At any rate, here is Kierkegaard writing on August 16, 1847: “I now feel the need of approaching nearer to myself in a deeper sense, by approaching nearer to God in the understanding of myself.”  I doubt that my 17 or 18-year-old self saw that particular quote that day in the downtown department store, but I was probably beginning to feel that need Kierkegaard was feeling.

All these years later, I’m still feeling it — and still liking the idea of getting to know Mr. Keirkegaard better. The isolation of a pandemic would be a good time for that. I’ve not known another soul called Soren — and am drawn to a philosopher who also identifies as Christian but who dives deeply inward often to explore that faith. In an undated entry in 1843,  the good Soren wrote, Nulum existit magnum ingenium sina aliqua dementia is the worldly  expression of the religous proposition: whom God blesses in a religious sense he eo ipso curses in a worldy sense. It has to be so, the reason being firstly, the limitation of existence, and secondly the duplicity of existence.”

Wow! (Got to bone up on my Latin, too.)


Let us now praise maligned, neglected American prophets, one of whom sat in the Oval Office not long ago and saw what we are seeing now and for which we should have been better prepared. No,no,no, not HIM. I speak of George W. Bush.

In the summer of 2005, the then-President was on vacation in Crawford, Texas and was reading an advanced copy of a new book about the 1918 pandemic.( My accounts don’t mention the name of the book, damn it. I’ll find it!) Bush was overwhelmed by what he was reading and appropriately fearful that what brought the planet to its knees early in the last century could happen again, quite easily.  He instructed members of his government to come up with a plan, prefatory to a “national strategy.” And staff members did, indeed, work on a plan for the next three years, according to reports.

“If we wait for a pandemic to appear,” Bush said in a speech, “it will be too late to prepare. And one day many lives could be needlessly lost because we  failed to act today.”

So — what happened? To that plan?

Meanwhile, in a recent press conference, President Trump was asked if he had any interest in reaching out to former Presidents for help in dealing with the pandemic.  His response? “I don’t think I’m going to to learn much.”

Pause, think about that answer. Just think about it.

If Trump loses in November and, as a consequence, unleashes on us the rolling leftward failed strategies of the Obama years on all fronts,  it will be because of the arrogant, stupid, ignorant things he’s said and the  transparently ludicrously egotistical attitudes he’s adopted. I state the obvious.

Fact is, he’s right about many things (just ask him). But …..well, just stick with ignorant. Add a need for common sense.  And the national interest. Of course you reach out. Period.

Meanwhile, again — what happened to that Bush-suggested “national strategy”? I, for one, would like to hear from the former President on that. We’re suddenly hearing a lot from Obama. Please, G.W., balance out the ledger here.


In the early days of the Eighteenth Century, after many a universal cataclysm, the British essayist Joseph Addison, writing in the May 19, 1711 issue of The Spectator, offered a bit of a paean to his fellow mortals engaged in commerce. “I am wonderfully delighted to see such a body of men thriving in their own private fortunes and at the same time promoting the public stock; or in other words, raising estates for their own families by bringing into their country whatever is wanting, and carrying out of it whatever is superfluous.”  Similar sentiments run through my mind when I see 21st Century businesses “stepping up”, as we are fond of saying, to help alleviate deprivations brought on by Covid 19 as it beleaguers The Family of Man. Sounds like capitalism at its best and most generous.



In the summer of 2007 — time flies — Edwin Faust, a writer, married father of three, New Jersey resident and news editor for a daily metropolitan newspaper (don’t know which one), reflected on his faith. His was and presumably remains a very traditional brand of Catholicism. I don’t know him. I know that people like him — and me — who prefer a more traditional liturgy, even in the traditional Latin, are often viewed as rigid, reactionary and spiritually hidebound. Not the case.  We simply prefer the reverent sense of sacred mystery and quiet solemnity to be found in the ages-old practice of the immemorial liturgy. Many people far younger than me feel the same way. The “new order” Mass — new since about 1968 or so — is, in most instances,  perfectly fine and valid and in recent years priests have taken pains to restore a serious sense of reverence to it.

I don’t feel any particular competence to be judging such things. It’s widely acknowledged that there have been periods of improvisation and silliness in liturgical practice and that the jejune, often trite and banal influences of pop culture have invaded the sanctuaries. This is especially true of the music. The happy-clappy, toe-tapping affective or emotional melodies and tonalities continue in many instances to win out over the spiritual and devotional in parishes still under the superficial influence of modern culture. I suspect a lot of people who don’t go to church stay away because they feel they can get more enrichment from a good Sunday morning walk in the woods. I confess I often feel the same way. A considerable degree of spiritual gravitas, not to mention a sense of divine obligation, has been lost. Some modern services can move one to tears, sort of like a Hallmark movie. But I prefer to have my soul, not my tear ducts, moved. So much for that. Just my opinion.

Anyway, Mr. Faust counseled, “we should proclaim our faith when opportunity allows and prudence counsels it, but we should not do so angrily,  nor should we become preoccupied with politics. So much time is wasted in fruitless agitation….A man generally has his hands full earning a living, raising a family, managing a household and saving his own soul. I think he might justly exempt himself from having to formulate domestic and foreign policy for the United States of America according to Catholic principles…. I sometimes reflect on the irony that Vatican II , an avowedly pastoral counsel (i.e., not meant to alter doctrine, just improve spiritual outreach to the world) triggered a doctrinal crisis, while Traditional Catholicism, in defending doctrine, brought about a pastoral crisis.

(Note: Vatican II was the major church conference between 1962 and 65 — encompassing, as it happened, all my high school year — which inadvertently unleashed enormous confusion, squabbling, division and loss of vocations in the church, partly because if fell right into the middle of a worldwide secular cultural and sexual revolution.)

Faust continues:

And when our churchmen want to make their peace with this world of depravity, rather than oppose it, this leaves us….temporarily orphaned, but it doesn’t leave us without recourse….Every day we have an opportunity to remove from our lives all that keeps us from God, so I can say as Saint Paul said, “I live, but not I,Christ lives in me.”

Wonderful spiritual advice, chanced upon in my pile of mental and material junk this Saturday morning.

I know — but have not seen in years — a once-very devout Catholic guy who formerly manifested a good deal of evangelical fervor. He drove St. Paul’s point home to me one evening over coffee at a Dunkin Donuts. Sometime afterward I learned that he had pretty much abandoned the practice of the faith and spent his Sunday mornings flying model airplanes. That’s good clean fun but not a great substitute for religion. Our faith can be a fragile, precious possession too easily lost.  I sat listening on that Dunkin Donuts evening, myself  a person of struggling faithfulness,  suspecting that this somewhat younger companion of mine had not yet been entirely subjected to the sharp teeth of life’s buzz saw — or fully matured emotionally. St. Paul would have told him he needed to “finish the race” — and advance from a childhood faith, then adolescent faith to an adult faith. (I think we encounter that exhortation in Corinthians I.)

Yes, we must keep the faith — as busy, sin-prone, tempted adults. And I must go to any Mass I know to be valid, even if the liturgy or especially the “pretty” music, annoys me a trifle. The supernatural graces are the same. And I’m aware that I’m given sometimes to overstating the problem (though, forgive my pride, not by much.)

Mr Edwin Faust continued — actually concludes — It is only by erasing that little ‘I’, that hard nut of egotism that can taint even our noblest aspirations, that Christ will live in us and in those we want to share in the life we have found. Or, I would add, in the life for which I am still searching as I join others in the search, trying — often failing — to lead by example.

Mr. Faust’s article, by the way, from which I’ve culled these excerpts, is called: “Finding Our Place in Salvation History or How to be Happy in the Present Moment.” 

It appeared in the Summer, 2007 issue of The Latin Mass magazine.




Pandemic idleness can lead one into previously overlooked nooks and crannies of “the stacks,” meaning, in this case, my personal, neglected library of things published or posted, on paper and in cyberspace.

So it is that I learned, sitting here this afternoon, that late last year, the staff of a London aquarium — I don’t know which one — somehow deduced that two female penguins in their charge had come together as a couple. So they gave the pair an egg to hatch and decided that when the baby penguin was born, it would not be assigned a gender.  Instead of the  red or blue tag customarily used to indicated it as male or female, it would wear a neutral purple one.

However, according to “reports” ( one in The Washington Examiner among them) the aquarium staff admitted that future breeding of the baby penguin will be determined based on “the gender its biology determines.”

Biology determining gender? What a concept!