Tuesday, September 20, 2016

An Ineradicable Need

     Among my other oddities, I’m an aficionado of the traditional music of England, Ireland, and Wales. Much of it is as good, lyrically and melodically, as anything written by a well known composer (and scads better than most contemporary pop). In my days as a semipro entertainer – no, there’s no reason you would have heard of me – I incorporated a lot of it into my repertoire. My audiences usually enjoyed it.

     It stands to reason that the known compendium of British Iles Traditional music, compiled from a period at least eleven centuries deep, should contain much that’s excellent and little that’s disposable. Time is the best of all filters. It winnows out that which has no staying power, preserving only what has merit. But there’s another reason as well: traditional music reliably expresses the highest convictions and aspirations of those who produced it.

     A friend once told me that it’s considered a settled dictum that every item of British Iles Traditional music will concern itself with one or more of the following subjects:

  • Sex
  • Violence
  • Drinking
  • The supernatural

     And yes, occasionally you’ll stumble over a B.I.T. folksong that involves all of them. However, what’s on my mind at this unreasonably early hour are the many that involve the supernatural, from hauntings to Almighty God Himself.

     As I pondered this emphasis, it began to seem a confirmation of something I’ve long believed: that men desire (and, when humanly possible, will insist upon) justice. That is: we believe in justice, both as an attainable state among us and as a process to be exercised when the rules of right and wrong are violated. Moreover, we desire justice so ardently that when temporal justice fails, we continue to believe in eternal justice: a justice that will be done in the hereafter, inexorably.

     Even the darkest of all the songs in the Childe Catalog of British Iles Traditional music incorporates this theme:

In Bruton town there lived a farmer,
Who had two sons and one daughter dear.
By day and night they were contriving
To fill their parents' heart with fear.

He told his secrets to no other,
But unto her brother this he said:
'I think our servant courts our sister.
I think they has a great mind to wed.
I'll put an end to all their courtship.
I'll send him silent to his grave.'

They asked him to go a-hunting,
Without any fear or strife,
And these two bold and wicked villains,
They took away this young man's life.

And in the ditch there was no water,
Where only bush and briars grew.
They could not hide the blood of slaughter,
So in the ditch his body they threw.

When they returned home from hunting,
She asked for her servant-man.
"I ask because I see you whisper,
So brothers tell me if you can."

"O sister, you do offend me,
Because you so examine me.
We've lost him where we've been a-hunting.
No more of him we could not see."

As she lay dreaming on her pillow,
She thought she saw her heart's delight;
By her bed side as she lay weeping,
He was dressed all in his bloody coat.

"Don't weep for me, my dearest jewel,
Don't weep for me nor care nor pine,
For your two brothers killed me so cruel-
In such a place you may me find."

As she rose early the very next morning,
With heavy sigh and bitter groan,
The only love that she admired,
She found in the ditch where he was thrown.

Three days and nights she did sit by him,
And her poor heart was filled with woe,
Till cruel hunger crept upon her,
And home she was obliged to go.

[“Bruton Town,” as performed by Pentangle]

     Of course the materialist and the atheist will sniff at such a belief. Yet it appears in countless other songs from the Childe Catalog. It reminds us that even if temporal justice should fail us, the ultimate justice rendered in and by eternity will not.

     But we must not forget what I had my most beloved character tell his confessor as the end of his life loomed:

     The Friday afternoon confessions were seldom well attended. Schliemann hadn't had a penitent in more than ten minutes. His mind was beginning to wander when a new shadow appeared on the confessional screen.
     "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned."
     The old priest sat straight up.
     "I'm sorry it's been so long since I've been by, Father."
     "I've been worried, Louis. Are you all right?"
     There was a long silence.
     "No. This will probably be my last confession."
     A cold hand slipped around Schliemann's heart and squeezed.
     Oh, my God.
     The priest listened in silent agony as Louis recited a litany of minor faults and self-indulgences.
     He always confesses to the same things. Never anything serious. He's about to face the Particular Judgement, and I have yet to hear anything about two killings committed in his front yard.
     Louis fell silent, waiting to hear what his penance would be.
     "Anything else, Louis?"
     "No, Father, I'm done."
     I can't let it pass!
     "What about the two men you killed?"
     A hiss came through the screen. The shadow head pulled itself a little higher.
     "What about them, Father?"
     Schliemann's throat was dry. "I seem to recall a commandment on the subject."
     "As do I. But did it forbid killing, or murder?"
     "The text says, 'Thou shalt not kill.' "
     "That's the English text. What was the Aramaic? Or the Hebrew?"
     Schliemann started to expostulate and stopped himself. A twitching was developing in his right elbow. It made him want to jerk his arm.
     "Actually, Father, it isn't two men, it's four. And all for the same reason: because I caught them practicing the abuse of the helpless. I don't tolerate that sort of thing."
     "You don't tolerate...when and where were the other two?"
     "About eight years ago, on a back street on the fringe of the city. They were raping a teenage girl, holding a knife to her throat." Louis's tone was conversational. "I killed them both and walked the girl home."
     "How is it that a man of your size and gentility knows so much about violence as to be able to kill two men at will? You weren't carrying your shotgun that day, were you?"
     "No, Father, I wasn't armed."
     There was a pause.
     "Call it a gift. I'm not exactly what I appear to be. I never have been."
     "And you feel no remorse for any of this? My God, Louis, what kind of man are you? Have I ever known you at all?"
     "I may not be exactly what I appear to be, Father, but I am a man." The words were droplets of molten iron. "Twice, when there was no one else to do it, I've acted in defense of my kind. To do so, it was necessary that I kill. Was it horrible? Yes, just as it should be. Did it leave me with nightmares? Yes, just as it should have. If the necessity were to recur, would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat. And that, too, is as it should be."
     Schliemann had had all the words shocked out of him. The twitch had traveled down from his elbow to his hand, whose fingers were dancing beyond his control. Something seemed to be happening in his ribcage, too.
     "The Church doesn't have much to say about earthly justice, Father. I've always wondered why. Maybe the notion of divine justice is as much as it has to give us. But justice in this world is a human artifact. Either it's made by individuals or it doesn't exist. I have made my share of it, and I don't regret it in the slightest. Now you've heard about all of it, though I never intended that you should. Does the Church cast me out for this?"

     If there is to be justice in this world, men must make it. We must make it. But there’s more and worse: Whenever we decline to make justice, injustice will reign – and should injustice pile sufficiently deep, all justice will be extinguished.

     There’s been a lot of injustice recently, so much that our individual practitioners of injustice for power and profit have become extremely brazen. The following video from Bill Whittle gives us an example thereof:

     Hillary Clinton has gotten away with the violation of the laws concerning the security of classified information. Whether you like them or not, they are federal law, and they bind everyone equally. However, to be a Clinton is to be above the law, at least in the Clintons’ eyes. However they contrived it, Hillary got away with it – and the Clintons got the attorney-general and the director of the FBI to collaborate with them.

     This was made possible by our tolerance of previous injustices, in particular our tolerance of the politicization of the Justice Department and the many injustices Bill Clinton committed while he held the Oval Office. It appears irreversible. All we can do now is refuse Hillary Clinton the presidency.

     I have no doubt that should she fail to gain the prize, Mrs. Clinton will rant and rave about having been cheated of it. The unjust can always rationalize away their failures. The amazing part of that is how swiftly they leap to proclaim that they’ve been treated unjustly...and how readily their allegiants will swallow and parrot the claim.

     There’s nothing to be done about that. If Donald Trump prevails on November 8, we’ll be forced to endure it. Perhaps we should regard it as part of our penance for having tacitly acquiesced to so many injustices up to now.

     Tolerance has become the favorite shibboleth of the Left. It’s the word they use to cow us out of our sense of injustice, particularly an injustice committed by one of their mascot-groups. Consider the stabbing rampage in St. Cloud, Minnesota as an example. Here’s what Mark Dayton, the Democrat governor of that state, said to Minnesotans immediately afterward:

     “I ask everyone in the St. Cloud area and throughout Minnesota to rise above this atrocity and act to make religious and racial tolerance one of the ways in which Minnesotans again lead our country.”

     More than sixty Americans have died at the hands of Islamic terrorists in calendar 2016 – and Mark Dayton dares to tell his constituents to be tolerant! The political ineptitude of the statement aside, could there be any clearer demonstration of the Left’s penchant for deflecting the odium from a mascot-group member and blaming the innocent victim? Has Dayton ever read Adam Smith to the effect that “Mercy toward the guilty is cruelty to the innocent” – ?

     Well, that’s the Left for you. Injustice is their stock in trade, and no exceptions shall be made – especially when one of the groups they’ve chosen to shield is on the wrong end. And unfortunately, that stock is selling rather well.

     If we need justice, as I believe we do, the current trend cannot continue without rendering us less than human – beasts of predation and prey in a world in which human life is “nasty, brutish, and short.” I can’t put it any more plainly than that. No one can.

     I’ve written before about the “vigilance committees” of the territorial West. They were a response to the public perception that the “authorities” were either uninterested in justice or were actively creating injustice. Those who participated in the committees were migrants and the sons of migrants. They’d moved westward for freedom, for opportunity, and to escape the political corruption rampant in the rapidly urbanizing East.

     There’s no frontier to which we can flee, today. Nor are we well supplied with the sort of men who voluntarily took up arms to enforce justice despite the effort required and the danger involved.

     Forgive me for producing such a pessimistic piece, Gentle Reader, but at the moment it’s not looking good for these United States.


Anonymous said...

Our Creator has somehow hard wired us with a sense of justice. Very young children easily know when things are not fair even though they have no intellectual grasp of justice.

JWM said...

I am sure then, that you are familiar with the 70's band, "Steeleye Span", and the recordings done by Tim Hart and Maddy Prior. I don't have a working stereo, but I still dial them up on Yoo Toob from time to time. King Henry anyone?