Archive for the ‘ The Historical Muse ’ Category

Does Anyone Remember?

Today used to be George Washington’s birthday. Yes, I know it still is, but how many people are aware of it nowadays? Instead, we have Presidents Day, always celebrated on the Monday of the week and apparently dedicated to all presidents regardless of merit. Washington had merit; some of the others have had very little.

I mean, do I really have this urge to celebrate the presidencies of Millard Fillmore or Chester Alan Arthur? Am I supposed to rejoice in the progressivism of Woodrow Wilson, the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt, or the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson? Should I extol the lack of Christian character in John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton, to name only a few who demonstrated that lack?

There certainly are presidents I admire. Washington served his country without regard to personal desires. He led an army for eight years without pay; he came out of a comfortable life to lead a nation as its first president. Everything he did set a precedent, particularly his model for stepping down after two terms.

My appreciation for Abraham Lincoln grows with each new piece of research on him. Grover Cleveland was, as one biographer tagged him, “an honest president.” Calvin Coolidge understood constitutional limitations and decided not to run again for the office in 1928 because he didn’t want the position and the power to change his character for the worse. Ronald Reagan, in my view, was the most effective president [in the positive sense of actually doing something worthwhile] of the twentieth century.

I wouldn’t mind if we celebrated all of those presidents on their own birthdays. Of course we used to do that with Washington until the 1970s when Congress decided to create three-day weekends for a number of holidays. In the process, they excised a special recognition of our first president. I like three-day weekends as much as anyone, but the decision to relegate Washington to the dim recesses of our history was inexcusable. We do still see representations of him occasionally on Presidents Day when actors dress up like him to sell cars—but that’s about all.

Why do most people not miss it? Perhaps there’s a dismal reason educationally:

Am I kidding? I wish I were. Generally speaking, we don’t know our own history. My experience teaching American history at the university level confirms this sad diagnosis.

Anyway, for those who remember who George Washington was, have a happy Washington’s birthday.

Funding an Abomination

Planned Parenthood was in the news this past week. An undercover sting videoed a PP clinic manager in New Jersey coaching two individuals presenting themselves as a pimp and an underage prostitute on how to cover up their illicit business.

This type of thing is not unusual at Planned Parenthood. A few years ago, someone recorded a phone conversation with a clinic employee in which the caller said he wanted to donate to the organization, but he wanted his money to go toward reducing the number of black babies being born. The employee said that would be no problem; they could direct the money as he wished.

It’s hard to believe that many people still don’t grasp the nature of this organization. It is the foremost provider of abortions in the world, yet the name itself—Planned Parenthood—sounds so good. I mean, who could ever be in favor of chaotic parenthood? Sometimes, if you win the semantic war, you can create an image that looks respectable when, in fact, you may be one of the most reprehensible agencies on the planet.

Planned Parenthood qualifies as a reprehensible agency—easily in the top ten in reprehensibility, if that is a valid word.

All one has to do is investigate the founder, Margaret Sanger. She was a full-blown eugenicist, a pseudo-science popular in the early twentieth century that believed in creating superior people through the right kind of breeding. What, specifically, did Sanger promote?

  • The elimination of what she called “human weeds.” Is that any way to talk about human beings made in the image of God?
  • The cessation of all charity. After all, if you help those human weeds, they will only proliferate, which is bad for society.
  • The segregation of “genetically inferior races.” For Sanger, blacks qualified as one of the inferior races. She started the “Negro Project,” the purpose of which was to stop blacks from having too many children. She didn’t wish to see such an “inferior race” propagate itself.
  • To accomplish her goals, she advocated birth control methods, not simply for parents to choose when to have children, but to ensure that only the “best races” would have the most children. As techniques advanced, birth control was joined by abortion as a legitimate means for controlling designated populations.
  • Complete sexual freedom, undermining the institution of marriage and promoting promiscuity. Currently, Planned Parenthood teaches young people to “explore” their sexuality without guilt. Nothing is out of bounds if you really want to experiment.
  • Socialism—she desired the government to step in and direct society.

What a list. Could she possibly be one of the worst individuals in the history of our nation? Here’s a fascinating photo of Sanger speaking to a group that should be easily recognized:

Historically, Planned Parenthood has been a blatantly racist organization. Presently, it pushes sexual immorality of all types and seeks to demolish all Christian morality in society. Yet our federal government continues to fund this abomination. As we seek to cut back on government spending, might I offer a suggestion?

There are Republican congressmen who are trying to defund all abortion providers. They need our support. Pray that they succeed.

Reagan Symposium

Yesterday was Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday celebration. Yes, he wasn’t here to participate in the remembrance, but I believe he was watching.

A major event took place at his presidential library and both Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney spoke at the Young America’s Foundation [YAF] building in Santa Barbara. The YAF owns the Reagan Ranch.

 I couldn’t be at either of those events, but I did attend a fine Reagan Symposium at Regent University in Virginia Beach. This is an annual event that attracts the best Reagan/conservative scholars in America.

The most well-known speakers, due to television exposure, were Michael Barone and Bill Kristol. Stephen Hayward, who has authored two massive volumes on the age of Reagan, was there, as was George Nash, arguably “the” historian of modern American conservatism. His seminal book, The Conserative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945, is one of the texts in my Ronald Reagan and Modern American Conservatism course. I was pleased to have the opportunity to speak with him.

The theme of the symposium was a discussion of the concept of American exceptionalism. In what ways might America be considered exceptional? How does one define that term? What was Reagan’s understanding of the uniqueness of America and what it has offered the world? It was an excellent sharing of viewpoints—glad I could be part of it.

Ronald Reagan’s reputation has only grown over time, as even those who didn’t like him have to admit, however grudgingly, that he had a well-informed worldview and a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve as president.

Happy birthday, President Reagan.

Egypt, Islamism, and a Grim Future

What are we to make of the uprising in Egypt? I am not an expert in Egyptian affairs, but a little history lesson might help here as we ponder what might happen next.

Egypt was one of the earliest enemies of the state of Israel. The wars in 1967 and 1973, in particular, were primarily between Egypt and Israel, although other Arab countries joined in. In both cases, Israel came out on top, especially in 1967 when it gained a lot more territory once the war ceased.

Anwar Sadat, who took over for the deceased Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1970, made a historic decision after the 1973 war to make peace with the idea of the existence of Israel in the Middle East. This culminated in the famous Camp David Accords in 1978, where the two countries officially established diplomatic ties. That made Egypt the only Arab country to acknowledge the right of the Jews to have their own nation. This well-known photo marked a new path for Arab-Israeli relations:

Sadat’s actions made him a pariah in the Arab world. Three years later, while reviewing the military, he was assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist transnational movement and the largest political opposition party in Egypt:

Sadat’s assassination was a major blow to the Israelis and to the United States, Israel’s strongest ally.

His successor, Hosni Mubarak, has now been in power for 30 years. He rules as a strongman with a military that has been loyal to him throughout his tenure. He continued Sadat’s relationship with Israel [strained at times] and has been an ally [of sorts] of the United States, working for a peace settlement in the region. But life in Egypt is pretty bad for most of its citizens; poverty is the rule, prosperity the exception. That certainly has fueled much of the current protest.

The key to a proper analysis of the situation is knowing how much to attribute to a general outcry against Mubarak’s heavy-handed rule and how much might be the result of agitation by the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to impose Sharia law on the nation and lead Egypt into full participation in the worldwide Islamist jihad against the West.

Mubarak, without doubt, is no great leader. His goal is staying in power and enriching himself. On that basis, I find it difficult to support him. However, if he should fall, what will emerge? Will it be the Muslim Brotherhood as the ascendant power in the state? If so, that will be a disaster not only for Egypt, but for the Middle East and success in the war on terror.

Change is not always beneficial.

If Mubarak is unable to maintain his position, we have to hope that others not associated with the radicals rise to power. If the military resists radicalism, that is possible, but the trend toward the jihadists may be difficult to stop.

Even if the radicals don’t take over, any new government will probably be more antagonistic toward Israel and America. The portent for the future is grim.

Journalism's Golden Age Never Existed

Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center had an excellent article yesterday dealing with the lack of coverage in the mainstream media of abortion news. He cited two events in particular. The first has to do with the atrocious activities of the abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who regularly practiced severing the spinal cords of babies born alive during abortions. Except for a few stories on Fox News and CNN, one would search in vain to find any real treatment of this tale of horror, whether on television or in the print media.

What makes it even worse is that this is undoubtedly the very tip of that proverbial iceberg—this is happening in many places,  but not being reported.

Gosnell’s indictment is unusual. But would it be so unusual if media  sources were doing their jobs?

Then there was the annual pro-life march in Washington on that most dismal of all anniversaries, Roe v. Wade. If not for a few news outlets, most Americans would be unaware that it occurred. Yet it constantly draws from 100,000 to 200,000 each year. Shouldn’t that be a major story?

Rather than try to duplicate Bozell’s efforts, I simply encourage you to read his article for the details.

Many commentators wonder what has happened to journalism. Why has it become so lopsided? In truth, I’m not so sure journalism ever has been the paragon of news virtue that so many believe it was. Was there really a Golden Age of Journalism and a pinnacle from which we have fallen, or have there always been issues with journalists?

Where do find such a Golden Age? Is it to be discovered in the early years of America when political parties set up their own newspapers to promote their particular points of view and disparage the other side? Could it be in later years when the practice of journalism became more “professional”? Weren’t the professional journalists the ones who turned the 1925 Scopes Trial into a national circus, skewering those who didn’t want evolution taught in the schools? While I am in favor of a free press, journalism has undermined itself repeatedly.

There have always been egregious examples of biased and/or sloppy journalism. The difference now may be that it is being celebrated and promoted as “the right way” to proceed:

What are you paying for when you send your child to college to study journalism?

I’m not convinced that journalists today are worse than their predecessors, but I am totally convinced that the teaching of journalism has become systematically corrupted. We have now institutionalized the bias.

Starting a New Year with Ronald Reagan

On this first day of a new year, I’m not going to say too much. Instead, I’m just going to let Ronald Reagan encourage and challenge you.

I believe standing up for America also means standing up for the God who has so blessed this land. We’ve strayed so far, it may be later than we think. There’s a hunger in our land to see traditional values reflected in public policy again. To those who cite the first amendment as reason for excluding God from more and more of our institutions and everyday life, may I just point out, the first amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values—it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny.

The American people are hungry for your message, because they’re hungry for a spiritual revival in this land. When Americans reach out for values of faith, family, and caring for the needy, they’re saying, “We want the word of God. We want to face the future with the Bible.” …

We’re blessed to have its words of strength, comfort, and truth. I’m accused of being simplistic at times with some of the problems that confront us. But I’ve often wondered: Within the covers of that single Book are all the answers to all the problems that face us today, if we’d only look there. “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of our God shall stand forever.” …

I pledge to you that America will stand up, speak out, and defend the values we share. To those who would crush religious freedom, our message is plain: You may jail your believers. You may close their churches, confiscate their Bibles, and harass their rabbis and priests, but you will never destroy the love of God and freedom that burns in their hearts. They will triumph over you.

While America’s military strength is important, let me add here that I’ve always maintained that the struggle now going on for the world will never be decided by bombs or rockets, by armies or military might. The real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; at root, it is a test of moral will and faith.

Reagan: The Principled & the History Makers

As we close the book on 2010, and as we consider the challenges that loom, some select quotes from Ronald Reagan may help us focus on our responsibilities. There are some quotes from Reagan with which many people are familiar, but I’ve chosen to pull out some that are less well known, yet just as insightful.

Just two months into his presidency, right before the assassination attempt, he spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference dinner:

We’ve heard in our century far too much of the sounds of anguish from those who live under totalitarian rule. We’ve seen too many monuments made not out of marble or stone but out of barbed wire and terror. But from these terrible places have come survivors, witnesses to the triumph of the human spirit over the mystique of state power, prisoners whose spiritual values made them the rulers of their guards. With their survival, they brought us “the secret of the camps,” a lesson for our time and for any age: Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid.

That last line is the key. As we think of the battles ahead, we need to believe that. At a commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Heritage Foundation, he exhorted his audience that they had to face the reality of the world situation:

We must never be inhibited by those who say telling the truth about the Soviet empire is an act of belligerence on our part. To the contrary, we must continue to remind the world that self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is folly, that whatever the imperfections of the democratic nations, the struggle now going on in the world is essentially the struggle between freedom and totalitarianism, between what is right and what is wrong. This is not a simplistic or unsophisticated observation. Rather, it’s the beginning of wisdom about the world we live in, the perils we face, and the great opportunity we have in the years ahead to broaden the frontiers of freedom and to build a durable, meaningful peace.

 When laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery, Reagan spoke of principles and common sense:

Peace fails when we forget what we stand for. It fails when we forget that our Republic is based on firm principles, principles that have real meaning, that with them, we are the last, best hope of man on Earth; without them, we’re little more than the crust of a continent. Peace also fails when we forget to bring to the bargaining table God’s first intellectual gift to man: common sense. Common sense gives us a realistic knowledge of human beings and how they think, how they live in the world, what motivates them. Common sense tells us that man has magic in him, but also clay. Common sense can tell the difference between right and wrong. Common sense forgives error, but it always recognizes it to be error first.

I added the emphasis at the end.

I’ll conclude today with a pithy, yet valuable, Reagan perspective—one we would do well to remember:

History is no captive of some inevitable force. History is made by men and women of vision and courage.

Let’s go out and make some history in 2011.