Saturday, December 3, 2016

“Bring Back Our Country!”

     First, a blast from the past: a piece I posted at the old Palace Of Reason about fifteen years ago:

     Ever seen Federico Fellini's movie Amarcord (I Remember)? It's not the muddled mess so many of his other films were. It's a memoir of his childhood in a small Italian town, during the years before World War II. It's simple in focus and execution, beautifully written, and acted, directed, and filmed with an artless grace that raises it to the pinnacle of the film-maker's art.

     The Italians have a word for it: sprezzatura. The art that conceals art.

     Why Fellini made this movie, I can't say. I can say that, having seen it recently for the first time in thirty years, it's prompted me to do a little remembering of my own.

     I did most of my growing-up in Orangeburg, a small town in Rockland County, New York, in the Fifties and early Sixties. It was a place most modern children would disbelieve in, unconditionally.

     The doors had locks: snap locks that you could force with a credit card. However, this was before credit cards, and the locks didn't get that much use anyway, because who on Earth would intrude into someone else's home uninvited?

     A home with a television in it wasn't a rich man's home, but two televisions marked a household as well-to-do, and perhaps a little more materially indulgent than was really good for a family with minor children. A color television was an object of wonder. I've never forgotten the thrill of seeing Bonanza in color for the first time.

     Yards were kept neat and clean. Maintaining them was regarded as a civic duty. One homeowner let his lawn go unmowed for three weeks, and thereby earned a visit from a group of his neighbors, who wanted to know what had happened that he couldn't keep up with his responsibilities.

     Children of all ages wandered the neighborhood without fear. Parents were confident that their neighbors, and their neighbors' older children, would look out for the young that hadn't yet come into their full senses. A driver that honked at a child who was a little slow to cross the street risked being shucked out of his automotive armor and disciplined in public.

     I remember one universally beloved little girl, named Janie, whose innocent enthusiasm for life was the delight of our block. I once caught Janie toddling across my back yard, looking for my younger sister Donna, bursting with eagerness to tell Donna something that had just occurred to her. She'd hopped out of her bathtub and scampered across her back yard and into our own to do so. She was wearing what one usually wears in the bath. Archimedes might have blushed; Janie didn't.

     It was an overwhelmingly Catholic community. There were five Masses each Sunday morning, and all of them were attended to capacity and beyond. The parish priests were regarded as higher authorities than any elected functionary. When our pastor was elevated to Monsignor, we young ones were stunned that the town didn't hold a parade.

     Most of the children attended the parish's grammar school, St. Catherine of Alexandria. Despite St. Catherine's huge class sizes -- classes of fifty were the norm -- standards were high, and the pressure to get in never slackened. The local public grammar school was regarded as a refuge for the children of lazy parents, who didn't care how their kids were taught; it had many unoccupied desks. Competition among the latter-grade students at St. Catherine's was intense; we all wanted to go to the local Catholic high school, Albertus Magnus, and we knew there weren't places enough for all of us.

     The big excitement in my life was school. I didn't understand kids who hated school. It was a place I almost couldn't stand to leave at the end of the day. I wasn't alone in that.

     The town's "bad apples" swore, smoked behind the local convenience store, and flung spitballs in class when they thought they weren't being watched. The rest of us were told they were bad apples. We weren't told they were misunderstood or had self-esteem problems. When detected, they were corrected, in no uncertain terms. Their parents came in for even more opprobrium than they did.

     There were unpleasant episodes, of course. A family not far from us had domestic troubles. She slapped him one night, and he responded by shoving her through a screen door, which occasioned a visit to the local hospital for her, a visit from an impromptu decency committee for him, and departure from town for the two of them, soon afterward.

     Then there was The Divorce. It shocked the entire community. The idea that parents wouldn't find ways to bridge their differences and keep their home together for their kids wasn't just unthinkable; it was an insult to the whole concept of marriage and family. It bespoke a lack of self-discipline and incomprehensible priorities.

     I suppose I should mention that the parents that divorced were mine.

     The highest honor any child could aspire to was to be picked for the chorus that went to Rockland State Hospital to entertain during the Christmas holidays. Success in Little League was a distant second.

     In those years, Orangeburg's residents were working-class white and Hispanic families. I don't remember any blacks. I don't know what to make of that. Draw what conclusions you will.

     I was considered a little odd, because I had no interest in learning how to shoot.

     I remember the milk truck, the bakery truck, the dry cleaner's truck, the sharpener truck, and the Charles Chips truck, all of which came to our door, and all of whose drivers were treated like old friends. In some cases, they were old friends.

     I remember cap guns, and games of Cowboys and Indians, and huge snowball fights conducted with an innocent ferocity by pugilists from eight to eighty.

     I remember thinking that the Palisades Interstate Parkway must surely be one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and that heaven itself could hardly exceed the delights of Palisades Amusement Park.

     I remember my father, down on his luck and himself after my mother left him, spending much too much time in a local gin mill. I remember him cashing check after check at that saloon, and the owner, who knew those checks would bounce right over the Moon, accepting them anyway, putting them into his cash register and never saying a word. That saloon owner eventually got every penny my father owed him. I wonder if he'd known that he would.

     I remember adults who had standards they weren't afraid to enforce without needing to invoke the authority of the law. I remember lawyers who tried to counsel their prospective clients not to sue. I remember journalists who could be trusted.

     I remember loving America wholeheartedly and with no reservations. We were the good guys. I remember fearing nothing and no one, certainly not the government. I remember being confident that the world could only get better, now that the good guys were in charge.

     I remember coming home after five years in college and two years in Hell, and looking at my town, and knowing it had changed out from under me, that I no longer belonged to it, nor it to me. And I went away, and did not return.

     And I, who have set these things down, have wept many bitter tears for my country and what she has forsaken. I am of the last generation that remembers our days of strength and virtue, and my years are growing long. I and my contemporaries are entering the twilight of life. When our memories fade, there will be nothing but the cold and the dark.

     But for now, I remember.

     That was the America I remember from my youth: the Fifties through about 1964. Take a moment to recover from it, if you like. It always takes me a while.

     The political season in which we’re currently immersed features two visibly opposed camps: one ascendant, one despondent. Yet despite the differences between them politically and the contrast between them effectually, they have an important commonality: both are the consequences of a desire to bring something back. Moreover, both camps think of what they want to bring back as “our country.”

     The ascendant camp looks at present-day America and sees a nation near to terminal ruin. What it wants to bring back bears many similarities to the remembrance I resuscitated above: an America in which Americans – particularly white Christians – could feel safe, valued, and free.

     There’s precious little safety for anyone, these days. Precious little freedom, too. Have an early-Saturday-morning irony on me, if you will: my remembrance is of a time shortly before proprietary communities, gated and secured enclaves which promulgate their own regulations and enforce them upon their residents, began to proliferate. Those who move to such communities know they’re sacrificing still more of their freedom. They do so for the incremental improvement in safety, particularly for their children, that those communities seem to offer.

     Of course, by the lights of today’s Main Stream Media and its editorial voices, a white Christian American is responsible – personally – for essentially all the troubles of the world. Lower than pond scum. Practically a Nazi. He has no right to his opinions; indeed, he should be punished for them. He must be made to cringe before his betters and humbly beg pardon for his sins. He should be grateful that they don’t relieve him of his life after they’ve stripped him of his rights and property.

     But I mustn’t get off course. The despondent camp wants to bring something back, too: the America when the Left dominated all mass communications. The era when its pronouncements went unchallenged because there was no medium through which to challenge them.

     Have a few links:

  1. Cillizza and Other Journos Whine
  2. Virginia Schools Ban “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Huckleberry Finn”
  3. The Left’s Doomed Effort To Coerce The Right
  4. The Empire Strikes Back: The MSM’s 3-Point Plan to Recapture The Narrative

     And of course, we have the pogroms in progress against conservative sentiments on Facebook and Twitter, and the innumerable corporations being pressured – in many cases successfully – to refrain from advertising at sites that have a right-of-center editorial posture.

     The temper of the Left, particularly among the members of its media annex, is plain: they believe that to return to power, they must recapture their earlier dominance of mass communications. In this, the Left is almost certainly correct. It’s a thread that runs through more than just their whining. And as you can see from the links above, they clearly mean to do it.

     Link #4 provides a few details:

     First, a blatant attempt to pathologize dissent–especially the Alt Right. Soon after the election, the Leftist Think Progress blog announced that the Alt Right should only be called “white nationalist” or “white supremacist”. [Think Progress will no longer describe racists as “alt-right”, November 22, 2016] The AP dutifully echoed this pronouncement days later, warning journalists not to use the term and instead to stick to pejoratives. [AP issues guidelines for using the term ‘alt-right,’ by Brent Griffiths, Politico, November 28, 2016]...

     Secondly, a meme has been invented about so-called “Fake News,” which will be used to shut down dissident media outlets....

     Thirdly, the Trump victory is clearly leading to increased attempts at outright repression. Or, as Editor Peter Brimelow told the NPI conference: “What we are going to see in the next few years is an intensified Reign Of Terror.”

     This is a must-read article. It provides a wealth of supportive links, and deep insight into the adversary’s objectives, via the technique I’ve repeatedly prescribed.

     From the above, we can see quite plainly the shape of the America the Left wants to bring back. That America, one needn’t be as old as I to remember.

     President George W. Bush once created a furor by telling a gaggle of reporters that they shouldn’t assume he got the news from them. He was characteristically gentle about it, even more so than in the justly famous whack across the chops he gave David Gregory:

     ''I wonder why it is you think there are such strong sentiments in Europe against you and against this administration?'' Mr. Gregory asked Mr. Bush in English, ''Why, particularly, there's a view that you and your administration are trying to impose America's will on the rest of the world, particularly when it comes to the Middle East and where the war on terrorism goes next?'' Turning to Mr. Chirac, Mr. Gregory broke into French and asked him to comment on the same question.
     Perhaps Mr. Bush thought the French question was directed at him, or perhaps he thought Mr. Gregory was showing off. Whatever the case, Mr. Bush, his voice dripping with sarcasm, said ''Very good, the guy memorizes four words, and he plays like he's intercontinental.'' (Mr. Gregory offered to go on in French, but that only made things worse.)
     ''I'm impressed -- que bueno,'' said Mr. Bush, using the Spanish phrase for ''how wonderful.'' He added: ''Now I'm literate in two languages.''

     It was a moment to savor...yet it pales in comparison to the demolition job President-elect Donald Trump has been doing on the pretensions of the Main Stream Media. And it’s imperative that Trump continue his campaign, unto those media’s total destruction.

     The Left’s three most potent weapons are the entertainment industry, the educational institutions, and the so-called news media. If these can be neutralized, and a sufficiency of alternatives can be provided, the incoming Trump Administration will have a much better chance of carrying through on its agenda. But make no mistake: the Left will defend its bastions with total ferocity, while doing everything it can to delegitimize the alternatives the Internet, talk radio, and low-cost cablecasting have made possible.

     Two visions of America are locked in mortal combat. One at most can prevail. Indeed, it’s possible neither will survive, given the possibility of a fragmentation of the Republic. What would follow might include a mass movement of population between “red” and “blue” regions, akin to the mass exodus of Bengalis into India after the political upheavals of 1970 and 1971.

     Each vision is founded on a conception of a past America. Both are largely accurate. (That says nothing about either one’s desirability.) And both have millions of allegiants. What those allegiants are willing to do – and to sacrifice – to have the America they yearn to restore will determine the sort of future America we and our descendants will enjoy or endure.


Old Mike said...

I'm of the same boomer cohort and feel blessed to have known that America. It is exactly as you have described. I well remember my excitement and apprehension when receiving the envelope which would tell me if I passed or failed the competitive entrance exam to attend St. John's College High School in Washington, D.C. in 1963. It was a source of pride not only to me but for my family as well. Ah, yes. Family. There's the rub. The glue that held it all together. The idea that the current generation owed a debt to the previous generation and paid it forward to the next generation. The crux of Western Civilization. Long before we learned of muslim Revolutionary War soldiers and muslim settlers crossing the Great Salt Desert in wagon trains. You have to hand it to the communists. There is no such thing as too great a lie.

Paul Bonneau said...

Your description of life in Orangeburg reminds me of my own experiences at around age 10 in Merrill, Wisconsin. People with German, French and Scandinavian backgrounds, more Catholic than not, some R's, more D's, but all conservative. I spent a lot of time on my own exploring all over that town and in the surrounding woods, even in the depths of the hard winters there.

It's amazing how intolerant the left has gotten, while they still somehow imagine themselves paragons of tolerance.

I just wrote this article, that fits somewhat into what you have written here.

Anonymous said...

I too grew up in the 50's. What a wonderful time to be a kid.

It is all gone. The last straw was on New Year’s Eve 2011 when Obama quietly signed the McCain/Republican NDAA. The ‘tree of liberty’ was taken to the saw mill. I said, ‘We need a divorce’.

Now 15 years later it is much worse. DC and the Blue Cities are pockets of gangrene. It is triage time. We need new Republic(s). Or we can kick the can down the road and soon no one will be left who remembers what we lost.

Anonymous said...

I am glad that I got see the America described, and that I will probably check out before the competing agends come to fruition.

GenEarly said...

It was much the same in NC, except Protestant rather than Catholic, and all conservative Democrats that "Liked Ike". Sunday "blue laws" for business, Black middle class businesses that prospered from segregation, "Race" mattered, but not on an Individual basis, as Blacks and Whites were overwhelmingly polite with each other, and was how I was raised to behave.
"Manners" are the glue that holds a society together, and was the focus of the 60's progreSSive resurgence from it's earlier demise in the early 1900's.
This election is the last stand of the remnants of a long dead Republic.
In our rush to the future from the 50's we definitely "threw out the baby with the bathwater."

Tim Turner said...

"Each vision is founded on a conception of a past America."

I'm not so certain that's true, Fran. From Obama's "fundamental transformation" of America to this year's riots against an election, I believe the left and the 50% of its American followers are not voting for - or believing in - a past America. They are hoping and dreaming of the "next step."

It doesn't matter what that next step is. It looks ugly and despotic to 30% or more of the people in this country. And whether they are white, or conservative or Republicans doesn't matter. If push comes to shove, they won't be fighting "for America," I believe.

They'll be fighting for their lives and beliefs. And "America" will be just a memory to them. Something already gone. Something buried in diversity and social justice.

They may be on the same continent as their adversaries. But *where* they are - or go - won't matter nearly as much as how they get there. And yes, weapons - even nukes - will be part of the equation. Because it's always been thus. "Don't fuck with me or I'll shoot your goddamned ass. Now leave me alone and get OUT."

America will be a footnote, like Athens or Rome. What those people create may look nothing like a democracy or a republic. It will be the best their thinkers of the time can create.

But even if it's a small resistance movement in the hills of Appalachia, it will be the best hope for mankind. George Soros and the Frankfurt School and the Council on Foreign Relations be damned to eternal hell, forever.

And yeah, repeal the 16th and 17th amendments.

Col. B. Bunny said...

Many fine comments here.

Your description of Orangeburg is poignant, Fran. I had a taste of that normality in the southern African hinterlands as a boy but saw nothing like it afterwards back in the States, only new suburbs and impersonal cities. There's an emotional dearth that people grow up in in urban and even suburban areas. I think the left is as successful as it is because righteous calls for personal responsibility do not also reflect an understanding of that hole in many lives. As Mary Baker Eddy observed even long ago, "give us this day our daily bread" can be paraphrased as "feed the famished affections." Of course, the progressives and other modern zealots do nothing of the sort providing all kinds of FX and stim but filling no hearts in the process. As ridiculous as "safe spaces" are it may be that even such an absurd concept succeeds at a very basic level because of lives being lived in spiritual wastelands. Art could be used to uplift and build understanding of the human condition but, as we know, it's used to degrade, titillate, and deceive.

There's an interesting essay on the Rockland State Hospital here though it's not relevant to your story. Just tempis fugit stuff.

Bill Whittle has his usual interesting take on things. He talks about how to fight the tide of leftist malevolence here. He says that the coming battles will be media battles.

Al Liguori said...

Well, you didn't publish my comment, but WRSA did.

Francis W. Porretto said...

That's correct, Al, I didn't. I have no patience for anti-Semitism.

Old Mike said...

Neither have I Fran. Been a conservative Roman Catholic all my life. Where these folks get the idea of blaming the "eternal" Jew is ludicrous. Anyone who's devoted a serious amount of scholarship studying the world's historical ills will tell you it's the Irish.

Linda Fox said...

I'm of the same era, and you have described my childhood well.
I remember the scandal that erupted when one of the neighborhood's family domestic crisis leaked out. There was none of this "You go, girl!" attitude. The ladies thought she had lost her mind - they also expressed their skepticism about her morality (long in question, this hardened their attitudes).
My mother - really, one of the most kindly women I've ever known - bucked the group to befriend a neighbor, who was a 36-year old divorced woman raising her teenage brother. Now, I'm sure that my mother might have suspected that the young man was the woman's illegitimate son, not a brother. Nonetheless, as she had observed that - other than her non-standard living arrangements - the woman was a good neighbor, she made a determined effort to include her in events. Eventually, the woman became part of the social circle.
Same in the next neighborhood, where we landed after my grandparents moved to Florida, and they needed someone to rent their house. Good people - neighborhood more sedate (more elderly people), but shared values. Didn't matter what the religion, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim (yes, one of the families was of that faith). They shared values and mores.