Category Archives: Writings

More is at Stake Than Manners

Donald Trump is often boastful, frequently coarse, even vulgar. He is not a model of virtue, or decorum, or even good manners. As a result, many people who have voted for Republican presidential candidates in the past plan on voting for Joe Biden. This impulse is certainly understandable. But it may not be wise.

The Democrats have given many signals that they view this election as the chance to secure political power for a generation. They are contemplating increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court to make it less conservative. FDR was the last President to consider doing this, after he had annihilated Republican presidential nominee Alf Landon by winning every state except Maine and Vermont. Despite this overwhelming victory, and Democratic control of both the House and the Senate, FDR was forced to back down from his plan to “pack the court” because there was a strong consensus that changing the structure of the Court in order to make it more amenable to the President was broadly inconsistent with the spirit of republican govermance.

Then there is the filibuster. Although not part of the Constitution, the requirement of a supermajority to end debate in the Senate has long acted as a check on the power of what might be a fleeting legislative majority to enact radical legislation. But a few months back Barack Obama denounced the filibuster as a relic of Jim Crow.

The fun and games don’t stop there. Democrats are talking about conferring statehood on the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The main reason for this is that Democrats figure that putting these two new stars on the flag means four additional Democratic senators for many years to come.

The Democrats are also broadly committed to giving citizenship to the great majority of illegal aliens living in America and to lessening, even eliminating the sanctions for unauthorized entry into the United States.

These proposals may sound altruistic, but they have a political basis. The Democrats have benefited greatly from the demographic change brought about by mass immigration. That is the chief explanation, for example, for why California is now a reliably Democratic state. From 1952 through 1988 California chose the Republican candidate for President every time, except in 1964. Since 1992, the Democrats have won the Golden State’s electoral votes every single time. For all intents and purposes, California is now a one party state. The Democrats would dearly love for mass immigration to turn the entire country into a one party state, too.

The Democrats now openly support measures that were beyond the pale not long ago. They believe in second graders being able to change their sex, as Joe Biden explained in the townhall meeting that took the place of the second debate. They want Christian organizations to set aside their religious convictions and to follow today’s secular morality instead, even when that secular morality is no more than a decade or two old. They believe that American society is shot through with “systemic racism” and that all whites, no matter how modest their circumstances, benefit from an unfair “white privilege.” And they believe, as Kamala Harris explains in this new video, that government should ensure that everyone ends up at the same level. Such a belief is antithetical to a belief in freedom, as Americans have always understood it:

The choice is stark. And maybe more is at stake than manners, decorum, or even personal virtue.

At a Morning Mass in France

This morning, a Muslim murdered three people at morning Mass, in Nice, in France. One of the worshippers, a 70 year old woman, was apparently beheaded.

These people were killed for one reason alone: they were Catholics.

Such a thing is beyond my comprehension.

Also beyond my comprehension is this: the lack of anger among so many of my fellow Catholics, including among our bishops.

What happened in Nice wasn’t a “tragedy.” It was an atrocity. What happened in Nice doesn’t call for “dialogue.” It calls for condemnation. The murderer wasn’t someone who failed to understand his Islamic faith. He was someone who understood it all too well. The murderer also wasn’t a Frenchman, whatever his citizenship may have been. He was an alien, who never should have been allowed to be in France.

Men of the West, wake up!

The Old Desperado is Gone: Jerry Jeff Walker, RIP

BY Wayne Allensworth

The old desperado is gone. Jerry Jeff Walker, suffering from throat cancer, passed away on October 23 at age 78.  We won’t see his like again.

Walker, or just plain “Jerry Jeff” to his many fans, was a folk singer who honed his craft in Greenwich Village in the 60s and wrote perhaps his best known song, Mr. Bojangles, after spending a night in a New Orleans drunk tank. The song was covered by a number of performers, including Bob Dylan, and helped launch Jerry Jeff’s career. 

That song also displayed some characteristics that marked a number of other tunes he recorded during a career that lasted more than 50 years—a poignant sense of the transitory nature of our lives mixed with a joy for living that was second to none.

Nobody could say Jerry Jeff didn’t like to have a good time.  That winsome grin of his told stories of its own. 

He made his big personal and professional move when he came to Austin in 1971. He was certainly the only New York import I can think of that Texans of the time actually approved of.

It was a time of musical ferment.  Willie Nelson left Nashville to make music his way in Austin, and the wave of musicians who landed on the banks of the Colorado in the Texas state capital created something new, something that came to be called “outlaw country.”  It was raw and fresh, a sound created far from the corporate board rooms of the music business, distant from the heavy orchestration of what had been called “the Nashville sound.” 

People like Jerry Jeff, Waylon Jennings, Nelson, and many others revitalized country music.  Call it “outlaw” music or “progressive country,” or “Texas music,” or what have you, it was authentic, and it was American.

No less an authority than Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson, who was very much a part of the 70’s Austin music scene, has said that Jerry Jeff was, apart from Willie Nelson, “the most important musician” in town at the time. He not only wrote his own songs, he popularized the work of other important songwriters like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Rodney Crowell, Townes Van Zandt, Michael Martin Murphey, and Guy Clark.

Jerry Jeff’s smoky, boozy voice belted out rollicking favorites like Ray Wiley Hubbard’s Up against the Wall, Redneck Mother, cracked during soaring runs in his great good time anthem Sangria Wine, and whispered to us of the fleeting nature of our lives in songs like Guy Clark’s Desperados Waiting for a Train and his own powerful composition, Wheel, inspired by the scene of an accident that killed Jerry Jeff’s grandfather when he was a boy of 15.  Gary P. Nunn’s London Homesick Blues became the tune all of us young Texans in that era had running in our heads when we were far from home:

I wanna go home with the armadillo

Good country music from Amarillo and Abilene

The friendliest people and the prettiest women

You’ve ever seen

Backed up by his Lost Gonzo Band, of which Nunn was a member, Jerry Jeff’s signature album was 1973’s ¡Viva Terlingua! (All of the songs mentioned in the previous paragraph are on that album.)Recorded live in Luckenbach, Texas, the album covered everything that Jerry Jeff and his band had to offer.  Light-hearted, whimsical joy, lamentations, and wistful memories.  All of it was on that record (You can listen to the album here).  One minute, you might think Walker and his band were too loaded to go on, and the next Jerry Jeff spoke softly to us like a Hill Country bard.

A particular favorite of mine is Jerry Jeff’s rendition of Desperados Waiting for a Train.  The song begins with a fiddle playing Red River Valley.  As is so often the case in country music, Desperados is a story song, the story of boy and his relationship with an old man, a man the boy sees as “one of the heroes of this country,” a man who teaches the boy about life and death.

The man ages and fades as the boy grows up, the two of them waiting for the train they know must come someday for the old man and for us all:  

A day before he died, I went to see him
I was grown and he was almost gone
So we just closed our eyes and dreamed us up a kitchen
And sang another verse to that old song
“Yeah, Jack, you know that son of a bitch is comin’ “

Like desperados waitin’ for a train
Like desperados waitin’ for a train

There is so much more I could say about Jerry Jeff, so many more songs worth mentioning. They are all out there, waiting for a new audience. 

He was a hard living, wild and wooly original.  Ray Wiley Hubbard once told his friend, “I never thought I’d live long enough to see you live this long.”  But now, the old desperado is leavin’ Texas for the last time.

We’ll miss you, Jerry Jeff.  The train has come and gone.

Wayne Allensworth is a Corresponding Editor of Chronicles magazine. He is the author of The Russian Question: Nationalism, Modernization, and Post-Communist Russia, and a novel, Field of Blood

Jerry Jeff and the Lost Gonzo Band perform Desperados Waiting for a Train:

Swamp Creatures vs. Nuns

Yesterday, President Trump spoke at rallies in several states, including Ohio. At the Ohio rally, three young nuns, all wearing habits, were standing in the area behind the President. Given their placement behind Trump and their distinctive dress, they could not be missed.

The sight proved more than at least one denizen of the Beltway could bear. Peter Vroom, a former Republican congressional staffer, current Beltway consultant, and part of the Swamp’s resistance to Trump, took to Twitter to publish pictures of the nuns and identify the location of their convent, while unctuously pointing out that he wasn’t including their names. The effect, of course, was the same: anyone angered by these nuns’ attendance at the Trump rally now knew who they were and how to reach them.

In giving vent to his malice, Vroom was simply following the lead of his new party. One of the many groups to have benefited from the Trump Administration has been the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have opposed the Obama Administration’s requirement that employers pay for employee access to contraception, including abortifacients. The Trump Administration granted religious employers, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, an exemption from this requirement. And the Sisters have successfully defended this exemption in court, winning a Supreme Court victory against three Democratic state attorneys general who sued the nuns in an effort to require them to pay for drugs that could be used to kill an unborn child shortly after fertilization. Democratic nominee and self-professed Catholic Joe Biden agrees that nuns should be forced to pay for abortions, and has vowed to rescind the Trump Administration’s exemption for religious employers.

But, then again, Biden wants all of us to pay for abortion. He has vowed to end the Hyde Amendment, which has prevented taxpayer funds from paying for abortions since the 1970s. The Hyde Amendment used to be regarded as a sensible compromise: Americans who regard abortion as the equivalent of murder weren’t being coerced to subsidize it and Americans who didn’t share that conviction remained free to procure abortions. Indeed, Biden regularly voted to renew the Hyde Amendment when he was in Congress.

Today, though, Biden and the party he leads believe no unborn child should ever be given legal protection from abortion and no American should ever be excused from paying for abortion. Biden even bragged to the New York Times‘ editorial board that, by helping to block Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court, he had secured the right to abortion for a generation. A strange boast for a man who says he’s Catholic to make, since the Catholic Church teaches unequivocally “that abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. . . .No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church.”

So profound is the Democrats’ commitment to abortion that Biden has refused to rule out packing the Supreme Court, if that is what it takes to prevent Roe v. Wade from being overturned.

Those young nuns no doubt knew all this. They also had the good sense to know that a principled and unwavering commitment to guaranteeing legal protection and financial support to the mass killing of unborn children is a far graver matter than a politician’s coarse demeanor, much less his unwillingness to endorse the Swamp Creatures’ elevated view of themselves and avaricious sense of entitlement. May Christ bless those brave followers of His, and may He hear their many prayers on behalf of innocent unborn children.

A Terror of Living

By Wayne Allensworth

The sprawl of the DFW “Metroplex” sometimes takes on the aspect of a vast concrete hive, the intricate, winding curves of interlocking freeways like tunnels channeling the inhabitants of that supersized apiary to their various destinations.  Gray office buildings seem to fly by, their long rows of standardized window panes signifying the locus of cells for drones who sit in cubicles staring at screens, wondering where their lives have gone. 

A society that truly has atomized.  The normless state of anomie.

Is this all there is?  Is this what we wanted? 

The things one thinks of when driving to a funeral.

The deceased, we’ll call her “Mrs. B,” had attended our church regularly until her condition deteriorated to the point that she became what used to be called a “shut in.”  Then came the corona virus scare.  And the elderly Mrs. B was left alone in terrible isolation, buried in a tiny “assisted living” apartment by a cruel “lockdown.”  

Mrs. A, a kind-hearted woman who had taken it upon herself to aid the old people of our congregation, would sometimes stand outside the widowed Mrs. B’s window.  She would tap on it, attempting to speak through the glass while Mrs. B, confined to wheelchair, strained to hear her voice.

I couldn’t help but think that there had to be some better way to manage the wellbeing of such as Mrs. B, the dangers the corona virus presented to people like her notwithstanding.

My own elderly father has simply ignored the virus, saying he’d take his chances and see his grandchildren and great grandchildren as often as he could.  What would his life be without their tender presence?   A little ray of light since my mother passed on over five years ago. 

But I digress.

Before the lockdown, Mrs. B, a reader of Chronicles magazine, a publication that I have been associated with for nearly thirty years, had enjoyed my weekly visits.  Our discussions concerned what had appeared in the magazine, the writers, society and culture, religion, and history, personal and otherwise, subjects that appealed to a literate and thoughtful person.

I had enjoyed our time together, and for just a little while, before Mrs. B tired, she would seem to light up, to become animated and lively.   

Now I have a box of books to remember her by. The books seem like a collective talisman, something connecting the possessor to a wonderous world that is fading quickly in a post-literate age.  

Sifting through the volumes, I find Dostoevsky’s The Possessed (I think I see them all around nowadays), Jean Raspail’s prophetic The Camp of the Saints, Robert Nisbet’sseminal The Quest for Community, and, to my mind, a most poignant volume entitled “Image of America: Early Photography: 1836-1900.” 

In that volume, I see the images of our ancestors, unsmiling and serious, jubilant, and weary, but so alive.  Gold seekers on the Yukon trail in Alaska.  A group of survivors of an Indian massacre.  A Virginia county fair.  Scenes from the Colorado River. 

It seems to me that is not only an inordinate fear of death that has drained the vitality of secularized post-modern people, but a terror of living.  A terror fed by the utopian notion that we must seek to stamp out every bit of perceived risk around us, making a complete, fulfilling life impossible.

I see the flags ahead. 

Mrs. B’s mortal remains are to be interred at the DFW National Cemetery, alongside those of her husband. 

The cemetery is rows and rows of simple markers for ordinary Americans.  I stop and look down at a marker for a navy veteran, a marker that matches all the others, telling of a branch of service, the conflict that particular veteran had served in, the dates of birth and death.  Perhaps a brief sentiment.  The marker I focus on reads “Loving Son.”

The day is overcast, the crowd quite small. 

The group quietly arranges itself around the pavilion.  Our Pastor reads a brief graveside service, and somewhere during our transition from the Lord’s Prayer to the warm, effecting lyrics of Abide in Me, the sun breaks through the clouds and I feel its heat on my black coat.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;

The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.

When other helpers fail and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Driving home, the clouds clear off entirely, and the gray drabness of the concrete landscape dissipates.  On an overpass ahead, I see a banner hanging from the rail.

It reads:  Jesus or Hell.

Wayne Allensworth is a Corresponding Editor of Chronicles magazine. He is the author of The Russian Question: Nationalism, Modernization, and Post-Communist Russia, and a novel, Field of Blood

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