195 Comments

Thanks Rod, for the two extra newsletters!

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Woah. Just…woah.

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Thank you so much for writing this, Rod. And for making it shareable. In the wake of the alarming response across the West to the barbarity of Hamas, I am working on a followup piece to one I wrote a while ago regarding "the rhyme of history." I came here looking for a piece from you that I could embed, and this one is perfect. Providence for the win.

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Oct 28, 2023·edited Oct 28, 2023Liked by Rod Dreher

As a Gen-Xer writing on a Gen-Xers' blog I just wanted to point out one difference between the atrocities of the past vs the atrocities of the present and the future:

We were subjected to many hours of instruction, multiple plays, TV shows and movies etc about the Red Scare and how evil it was to condemn and banish people based on their legitimate political beliefs—and then we've sat by and watched the same phenomenon reappear in the guise of DEI, where rigid ideological litmus tests are now applied for employment (not to mention racial quotas), and where many people have lost their jobs over stating an unapproved thought;

We were subjected to many hours of instruction, multiple plays, TV shows and movies etc about the evil and stupidity of judging people by the color of their skin, only for another racial classification system to appear a generation or so later, where now the biggest social faux pas is not granting certain peoples extra moral points for being a member of a protected victim class and where we're all judged by skin color for things like employment and college acceptance;

We were subjected to many hours of instruction, multiple plays, TV shows and movies etc about the evils of Jew hatred, its history and all is barbaric manifestations, only to see so much of our enlightened progressive caste defend (or at least obfuscate and contextualize) a brutal Jewish pogrom out of the Middle Ages, and this by the same people who got years of moralistic mileage out of a handful of fools w tiki torches and the same people who cry "anti-Semite!" if you dislike George Soros.

We've had 50 years of full-spectrum propaganda that claimed to be training us to be more humanitarian and less discriminatory and warning us about the dangers of joining deranged mass movements—and this has all been swept away within a decade and replaced by Who/Whom.

I guess my point is that you can dress the angry tribal ape in fancy clothes and send him to years of academic seminars about tolerance and compassion, but the angry tribal ape is always there, always waiting, and every society is always at risk of being burned down by a return of the angry tribal ape.

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Dreher's post was brilliant, so much so that I should have taken notes. To start, I don't support torture of any kind. I am fine with public hanging and an end to the twenty year appeal process that has become the norm in America. Two young men who deserved public hanging and even lynching were the Carr brothers of Wichita who raped and murdered four young white adults about twenty years ago. The Carrs might have gotten off free if one of the bullets shot at the skull of one of the young women had not struck a burette in her hair and miraculously bounced off. She played dead, waited for the Carrs to leave, and ran naked for a mile through the Kansas snow to safety. The Carrs still live which shows the lack of justice in the American justice system.

Lynching parties in American history tended to be equal opportunity. I accept Dreher's figure of 4000 blacks lynched since the Civil War but I believe an equal number of whites were also lynched. I don't like the idea of lynching just as the fictional Atticus Finch did not. But life was much more coarse a century ago and justice was not always easily available.

Humans are capable of great evil. Some "great" men have killed millions. Genghis Khan. Tamerlane. Lenin. Stalin. Hitler. Mao. Pol Pot. As rotten as the current system is, the world has seemed to have tamed our evil side except when it comes to the lives of the unborn. The terror raids in Israel by Hamas has horrified most humane people with 1400 butchered. Normal people condemn the murder raids. Yet some morally insane people support the crimes of Hamas.

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War is vile and horrible. America after Vietnam developed the idea of the sanitary war, mass bombing from the air, even of civilians. This was around in WW2, of course, culminating in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is embodied in the quest for drones and high -tech warfare.

The truth is war ends up personal and up close. Those that push others to war usually sit comfortably far from the war, like the Hamas leaders in London and Qatar. Obama dropped 27k bombs on 7 countries in 2016 alone, besides drone strikes.

Once the dogs of war are unleashed, hell on earth comes, with the terror and atrocities. Maybe some try to limit those, but others use that as a tool of war.

For all this, we should stop trying to be the world's hegemon. War will happen, but we don't need to cause it to go worse. And should try to avoid it with all efforts.

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Very moving and insightful. Thank you.

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Oct 28, 2023·edited Oct 28, 2023

Good post, but not as great as it could have been had it been brought up to date. But then some things are more difficult to confront.

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Anyone, ANYONE, who says something like "Well, I would never do THAT" has never looked into their own heart and mind and hearts and really looked at what is there. We are all capable of anything. It is only through the grace of God that we are able to constrict evil within us as much as we do.

"We have to cross the infinite thickness of time and space – and God has to do it first, because he comes to us first. Of the links between God and man, love is the greatest. It is as great as the distance to be crossed. So that the love may be as great as possible, the distance is as great as possible. That is why evil can extend to the extreme limit beyond which the very possibility of good disappears. Evil is permitted to touch this limit. It sometimes seems as though it overpassed it."

Simone Weil: Gravity and Grace

"Learn the discipline of being surprised not by suffering but by joy. As we grow old . . . there is suffering ahead of us, immense suffering, a suffering that will continue to tempt us to think that we have chosen the wrong road. . . . But don’t be surprised by pain. Be surprised by joy, be surprised by the little flower that shows its beauty in the midst of a barren desert, and be surprised by the immense healing power that keeps bursting forth like springs of fresh water from the depth of our pain."

Henri Nouwen

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“ They embrace evil within themselves, and sacralize it.”

That statement hits hard! It’s forces me to ask, how do I do this? So many today speak of our “shared humanity” but only to support their fleeting ideology du jour. Few dare to admit this nagging evil inside in every heart…including their own…unless of course it’s only to be found in “my enemy.”

I’ve been dwelling lately on Dostoyevsky’s Father Zozima and his haunting theme: “There is only one salvation for you: take yourself up, and make yourself responsible for all the sins of men. For indeed it is so, my friend, and the moment you make yourself sincerely responsible for everything and everyone, you will see at once that it is really so, that it is you who are guilty on behalf of all and for all.” This only works and makes sense “in Christ” and because of Jesus Christ and from His love. This is a hard teaching but it does draw me to the idea of my “brother’s keeper” or more like, if I’m honest, how I refuse it as did Cain. To live life in such a manner must come from the same vein from which Solzhenitsyn made his famous statement. If these things are indeed true (I believe they are) and we began to humbly act upon them, how might our world be transformed…starting as it must with each one of us.

Continuing in this artery, then I’m seeing this all connected under an umbrella of Sobornost. At least what I know of it. It’s a concept that is difficult to define fully but beautiful nonetheless in what it evokes, in where it beckons us to return. All of this just keeps gnawing at me. I can’t let it go even though I struggle to understand the wisdom and certainly to live in the way. It’s like knowing something true, good and beautiful is at work in you (and in the world) but you just can never quite keep all the cupped water in your hands. I must be satisfied for now with wet hands and counting on God’s new mercies each morning. I know you struggle mightily with many things and fall short like all of us but thank you Rod for pointing us to the higher law and a yearning for God’s wisdom, truth and healing love.

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Oct 28, 2023·edited Oct 28, 2023

I agree with every word of Rod's here. But if you nonetheless believe the wokesters have already concluded that we the unenlightened are less than human - or less the perfection of humanity, as they believe themselves to be - then it's like: What then.

Those so possessed by a cause would commit atrocities for that cause. Does that mean political violence is inevitable in the US; and if it does, might that require us to cross that line of good and evil in our own hearts?

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Thanks for another excellent piece, Rod.

This week I've been reading and watching accounts of the living conditions in Gaza and the West Bank.

Can one adequately compare suffering in some kind of "oppression Olympics"? I don't think it's very useful. I guess the best one can say is that there are many ways to treat people with inhumanity. The Inquisition. Chattel generational slavery in the Antebellum South. The Trail of Tears. Wounded Knee. The Warsaw Getto. Auschwitz. An abortion mill. A pediatric gender clinic. Budapest in 1956. The Gulag. Gaza.

All examples of people not treated as fully deserving human beings.

And of course, being a victim does not exempt one from being a victimized. Indeed, in many ways, it makes it even more liekly--nearly inevitable, as the rage that builds in the heart can come flooding forth, destroying all in its path.

Since I came from the Evangelical World, I still have many friends there, who post on social media, nearly always this day in full-throated support of Israel doing whatever it takes to liquidate Hamas. There might be passing "thoughts and prayers" about innocent Palestinians who are victims, but sometimes not even that.

And from Muslims, I see full-throated support of the Palestinians, recounting the numerous injustices inflicted on them by Israel and her allies. Again, occasional "thoughts and prayers" for the innocents, but sometimes not even that.

Another thought...

A few days ago I was reading about Nat Turner's Rebellion and it's aftermath, which resulted in far more death for African Americans (slave and free) than the death they dealt out, as well as a crackdown of rights for African Americans, slave and free, in Virginia and the rest of the south. It was treated as proof positive by many of the animalistic nature of Africans...who rose up little more than half a century after white Americans rose up against what they thought was an intolerable system.

I wonder if afterwords, slaves were asked "Yes, perhaps you have a point about your slavery, but first, do you condemn Nat Turner and his attrocities?"

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Great post. Another link to lev Kopelev. He powerfully describes his own descent into barbarism during ussr terror.

https://williamfvallicella.substack.com/p/lev-kopelev-on-the-horrors-of-communism

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Thank you again for this article. I was fortunate in college to have professors who taught the truth about human history. One of my professors witnessed a lynching as a small boy in Mississippi and made sure were knew what it was all about.

I still think that Rene Girard is essential to understand the religious significance of our human history of brutality and atrocity. What is frightening is his explanation of why scapegoating persists. It persists because it "works," at least for a time. The devil is banished for a time. A community in which memetic rivalry has pushed it to the edge of anarchic violence identifies a scapegoat. The subsequent lynching provides the catharsis that enables to community to return to balance. It is the Bible that at first little by little, but in the end decisively, exposes the fact that the scapegoat is innocent.

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It’s a hard thing to admit our humanity and hence complicity in the ugliness of the world. For an effort to grapple with that: https://open.substack.com/pub/anthonyhoward/p/never-should-adults-slaughter-children?r=12sbah&utm_medium=ios&utm_campaign=post

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Yesterday in the Pillar's substack, Ed Condon had an excerpt from one of Franz Jagerstatter's letters from prison. Jagerstatter was a conscientious objector who was executed by the Nazi's in World War II. In one of the clips from the movie, A Hidden Life, Franz sought counsel from his priest. However the priest said Franz should consider the consequences of objecting to the war and the priest told him, "your sacrifice will benefit no one". But Franz had to listen to his conscience and was eventually thrown in prison for refusing to fight.

While imprisoned he wrote many letters to his wife and children. I was so moved by Jagerstatter's words, "Out of my own experience, I can say that life is painful when one lives as a lukewarm Christian. To exist in this way is to have more the existence of a vegetable than truly to live. If a person were to possess all of this world’s wisdom and be able to claim half of the earth as his own, he could and would still be less fortunate than a poor person who can claim nothing in this world as his own other than a deep Catholic faith. I would not exchange my small, dirty cell for a king’s palace if I was required to give up even a small part of my faith.”

I pray that I would always choose good over evil. And if subjected to the test that I would have the courage of Franz Jagerstatter.

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