Author Archives: Tom Piatak

It’s Still a Grand Old Flag

A popular singer-songwriter I’ve never heard of, Macy Gray, has written an op-ed saying it’s time to replace the American flag. She trots out the now standard leftist tropes about the flag’s not representing all Americans, since it is part of a shameful, irredeemably racist past, and she wants a new flag that is not “divisive” and that all Americans can be proud of.

I disagree, of course, and note that Ms. Gray’s hoped for new flag would be at least as divisive as Old Glory, since it would be a purposeful repudiation of the American past, the people who made that past, and all of us who still take pride in that past.

But I will say this: what she is proposing is entirely consistent with how we have been acting from the death of George Floyd right through the adoption of Juneteenth as a national holiday, an adoption preceded by essentially no debate.

And unless we do develop some spines, Old Glory’s eventual demise is inevitable.

As for the rest of Ms. Gray’s argument, I’ll give the final word to a great American songwriter as portrayed by a great American actor. I’ve watched this scene many times, since Cleveland’s UHF station used to show the movie in which it appears every Fourth of July. I stand with George M. Cohan and James Cagney: it’s still a Grand Old Flag. I also suspect this scene will trigger Ms. Gray, but, to quote a great American film made three years before this one, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Also Called June

Confronted by the sheer amount of media hoopla over “Pride Month,” I am reminded of Sam Francis’ quip about another month-long observance of a political agenda that was then being assiduously promoted by the media: “Black History Month, sometimes called February.”

What began with “gay pride parades” in a handful of cities is now a month-long celebration of something that is no longer limited to “gays” but includes every coupling imaginable except the one coupling that actually matters for the survival of civilization: marriage between a man and a woman, something known simply as “marriage” until the last 15 or so years.

After all, the difference between heterosexual coupling and the many arrangements between homosexual men, lesbians, men and women who have undergone multiple surgeries in an effort to become something they are not, and all the rest covered by the ever lengthening rainbow of LGBTQIA+dom could not be more stark: take one hundred heterosexual couples and deposit them on a desert island, a century later you will find a growing human society. Take one hundred couples of the type we are commanded to celebrate for the month of June and place them on a different desert island and a century later there will be only ruins.

Different societies have drawn somewhat different conclusions from this fact, ranging from vigorous prosecution of proscribed sexual acts to varying degrees of tolerance, but no society before ours has done what we are doing: so thoroughgoing is the celebration of “pride” that growing numbers of young people are claiming to be part of the rainbow, undercutting the very argument that was used to overthrow marriage in the first place. Born that way? Maybe not. Or at least not always.

Where does this end? Our geopolitical rivals are hardly following our lead, despite the rainbow banners festooning myriad American embassies. China is dealing with declining birthrates by encouraging couples to have three children where, not long ago, they were coerced into having only one. Vladimir Putin honors mothers of large families with medals and public recognition.

I certainly understand why even many conservatives have come to accept much of what was unthinkable only a short time ago. But I do wonder, a century from now, what the discernible differences will be between those societies that embraced “pride” and those that didn’t, and how many will still be celebrating “pride.”

After all, the future belongs to those who show up. And the way to make sure your nation’s people show up is to strengthen marriage, an institution that naturally, though not inevitably, produces children, not to redefine “marriage” to encompass other arrangements that don’t.

Our Unpleasant New Religion

The apotheosis of George Floyd leaves little doubt that Wokeism is our new religion. There is literally a shrine to Floyd in Minneapolis, where devotees claim miracles have occurred. The shrine has its own rules, too, rules which make clear the strict racial hierarchy of the new creed: white people are allowed to visit the shrine, but they must be careful to defer to the “BIPOC” (Black, Indigenous People of Color) at all times.

Wokeism is also a state religion, as the pronouncements of numerous politicians make clear. It is even proclaimed with zeal by not a few ordained Christians, who seem to find denouncing their yet to be wakened congregants easier than proclaiming “Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

But it is hard to see what Wokeism offers the majority of its adherents, who are white. Most ancient religions glorified the ancestors or the ancestral lands of their adherents. Christianity offers the possibility of eternal life. But Wokeism denounces its followers’ ancestors and their home and promises no eternal reward, only more and more recrimination in this life. I cannot think of a single major religion that offers so little to those who follow it.

This point was driven home to me by something small: I watched in astonishment as fellow Clevelanders vied with each other in an online forum to see who could most vigorously decry Chief Wahoo and anyone still harboring fondness for the mascot that had represented Cleveland’s baseball team for decades. In attacking Chief Wahoo, they were attacking their city and its past and all who had ever worn Chief Wahoo or cheered on those who did, including, presumably, parents, siblings, and even their younger selves. There was not a trace of affection for that past, only a zeal to obliterate any vestige of it. Being Woke did not seem to make any of these people happy. Instead, it seemed to put them in a state of rage.

Wokeism is thus not only a false religion, it is a thoroughly unpleasant and indeed unnatural one. Generally speaking, individuals who hate themselves and are enraged by the remembrance of their past do not fare well in life. Can it be any different for nations?

November 4, 2008, All Over Again

The unsurprising news that a Minneapolis jury voted to convict Derek Chauvin has unleashed a wave of self-congratulatory twaddle about “justice” from the political class unseen since the date mentioned above. Twelve years from now, though, it is likely to mean as little.

November 4, 2008 is the date Americans elected a man with the unlikely name of Barack Obama as their president. We were told, over and over, that this changed everything.

But last summer, after what should have been a local crime story in the Twin Cities became an international cause celebre and a symbol of what America is, was, and ever shall be, we learned that Americans might as well have elected David Duke on November 4, 2008. The election that we had been told changed everything actually changed nothing. America was still systemically, irredeemably racist.

By treating the Derek Chauvin trial and conviction as something other than an ordinary criminal trial with little greater import, we are making it all but certain that it will end up having as little lasting positive impact as November 4, 2008 did. Indeed, we are likely exacerbating racial inequalities by further destabilizing minority neighborhoods.

If, as a result of the media hype and political frenzy, police come to believe that courts and politicians will always side against them whenever there is a violent confrontation with a black suspect, they will stop enforcing the law in black neighborhoods, stop working for urban police departments that cover black neighborhoods, or both.  The result would be an explosion of criminal activity in the areas left unpoliced, to the detriment of all who live there.

Rather than amplify and politicize every questionable action by law enforcement involving a white cop and a black suspect, we would be better off to leave such matters to local governments, governments that likely have blacks in numerous positions of authority, just as the Twin Cities did.

And we would also be better off placing hope for racial reconciliation in a process that was underway well before November 4, 2008. More and more, ordinary Americans have people of different races among their friends and within their families. It is this human interaction, far away from speechmaking and television cameras, that has the potential to keep America and Americans together. More of the speechmaking and television cameras, though, will almost certainly push us apart.

Conserving Nothing on Principle

There is no political type I find more annoying than Never Trump “conservatives.” Taken as a whole, they are smug, self-righteous, unable to comprehend the nature of political power, and unwilling to use political power to advance the interests of ordinary Americans, whom they regard with indifference or contempt.

It is this last point–their unwillingness to use political power to help ordinary Americans–that they call “having principles.” They spend an inordinate amount of time praising each other for being “prinipled.” Indeed, their intellectual output consists almost entirely of attacking any effort to aid Middle Americans, smearing any politician inclined to champion them, and congratulating each other on resisting any effort to turn conservative politics into something that would actually benefit conservative voters.

Their impact on the American right has been wholly negative: they have done nothing to conserve anything worth conserving, they have provided no real opposition to the left, and–other than enriching themselves–the only thing they have accomplished is to hinder the progress of conservative figures who actually cared about preserving the country they inherited and the ideas that would make that possible.

Those in their camp have written that Middle Americans ought to be replaced by immigrants and their communities ought to disappear. I don’t agree with these prescriptions for any Americans, who ought to be able to expect the government to favor them over foreigners and their communities over the foreign interests that have helped to hollow out America’s industrial base.

But, in the case of the Never Trumpers, I might be willing to consider violating my own America First princples and see all their jobs outsourced to Uzbekistan or some such place.

The Best We Can Hope for is Paul VI

The best advice I can give my fellow Catholics as we move through the final weeks of Lent toward Easter is this: focus on your own spiritual preparations, on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and not the goings on in Rome.

Monday’s surprising affirmation of orthodoxy in the matter of same-sex unions has produced little defense among conservative Catholics, because Francis has done everything he could up until this point to demonstrate his contempt for us. It has produced little defense among liberal Catholics, because their allegiance to Francis has been entirely transactional. Francis has engendered virtually no personal loyalty in his eight years as pope.

Some orthodox Catholics, embittered after eight years of a pope who told young people at the beginning of his pontificate that he wanted them to make a mess in the Church, look at the many messes Francis has made and expect him to somehow walk back Monday’s pronouncement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Some even suggest that was the plan all along.

I don’t think that’s the case. I remain grateful for Monday’s reaffirmation of what Christians have believed since our faith began, and even allow myself to hope that it may be an instance of Jesus’ assurance to the first pope, the assurance that is proudly emblazoned around the dome of St. Peter’s, being fulfilled.

But it’s depressing to realize that the best we can hope for is that Francis is another Paul VI, a pope who desperately courted the secular left, profoundly alienated many conservative Catholics, and who, at the end of his pontificate, found himself virtually friendless after he refused to cross lines he didn’t think he could cross.

Friday, we Catholics, conservatives and liberals alike, observe the feast of St. Joseph, named the patron of the universal Church in the 19th century. The successor of Peter is desperately in need of St. Joseph’s prayers. As are all of us who sail in the Barque of Peter, including those who find themselves thinking of jumping ship. Kyrie eleison.

Roma Locuta

Credit where credit is due. The Vatican today released a document, approved by Pope Francis, making it clear that the Church lacks the power to bless same-sex unions. The statement was issued by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and it is reminiscent of other documents issued by the Congregation’s Prefect, Cardinal Ladaria Ferrer, S. J.: it is logical, concise, crystal clear, balanced, and orthodox.

The entire document is well worth reading, and I urge you to do so. The document consists of an answer to a question posed to the Congregation, known as a dubium, an explanatory note, and an accompanying commentary.

Particularly important is this statement from the accompanying commentary by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, noting that the belief that the Church could bless same-sex unions “implies a power that the Church does not possess, because she does not have the power over God’s designs, which would otherwise be rejected and denied. The Church is not the arbiter of these designs and the truths they express, but their faithful interpreter and witness.”

In approving this document reaffirming perennial Christian teaching on the topic, Pope Francis is pushing back against very powerful cultural currents and disappointing many of those who have been among the strongest supporters of his pontificate. For all of this, Pope Francis deserves great credit.

A Dreadful Mistake

Eight years ago, the Cardinal electors made a dreadful mistake. Even I, a mere lawyer in Cleveland, knew that Benedict XVI wanted Angelo Scola to succeed him. That is why he had moved Scola from Venice to Milan.

Eight years later, I can see many arguments for the case that Francis has strengthened one faction in the Church against other factions in internecine squabbles that do nothing to attract people to Christ. I see no argument at all for the case that he has strengthened the Church as a whole or is drawing more people to Her. You never hear about the “Francis effect” any more because there is none.

I am open to counter-arguments, if you have them. I don’t.

The Cardinal electors have made mistakes before. The Church survived. The Church will survive Francis. I’m certainly not going anywhere. Still, I wish Benedict XVI had never resigned.

Francis to Avoid Orban?

In many ways, Hungary’s Viktor Orban has emerged as the leading Christian statesman in Europe. While many talk about helping the family, Orban’s policies have actually helped increase the number of Hungarians getting married and the number of Hungarian babies being born. And while many talk of helping persecuted Christians, Hungary has actually set up a fund to help. When Pope Francis visited the rebuilt Syriac Catholic cathedral in Qaraqosh– the largest Christian church in Iraq–he was visiting a church rebuilt in part by donations from that Hungarian fund.

It seemed odd, then, that Pope Francis stressed in his press conference on the plane flight back from Iraq that his visit to Budapest in September to say the closing Mass at the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress would not be a state visit to Hungary. The unavoidable conclusion was that Pope Francis wanted to visit Hungary but not its Prime Minister.

And the reason for the Pope’s apparent reluctance to see Orban is clear: Pope Francis wants Europe to welcome mass immigration, and Viktor Orban does not. Indeed, Orban’s success in reversing a declining European birthrate that Pope Francis has also decried suggests that the prospect of unlimited mass immigration might be one of the factors depressing the European birthrate. People may be more likely to have confidence in the future, and to express that confidence by having children, when they believe their children will be the ones shaping that future, and not the millions who would come to Europe if they could.

I hope I am wrong about this, and that Orban and Francis have a long and fruitful meeting in Budapest in September. As a Catholic, I obviously think that the Calvinist Orban could learn something from the Pope. But as a Westerner, I also think that the Pope could learn something about what it takes to preserve the nations of the West from Orban.

Still A Giant Among Pygmies

Sixteen years ago today Sam Francis died. What an immense, ongoing loss. As I wrote in December 2019 in Chronicles, Francis’ essays and columns from decades ago are a better guide to what is happening than virtually anything now being written. And there is no better way to wean someone from the jumble of cliches, platitudes, irrelevancies, and non-sequiturs that comprise the corpus of respectable conservative thought than by introducing that person to Sam Francis.

So, if you want to advance the cause of truth and strike a blow against the mediocrities who hounded Sam in life, consider observing this somber anniversary by sharing something Sam wrote with a friend or colleague. Just don’t be surprised when your friend asks for more.

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